I’ve been anxiously awaiting the new NIV, which debuted today. The print edition is scheduled for March of next year and will retain the name, “NIV” (not “NIV 2011”). As much as I appreciate the RSV and ESV, the NIV is still my favorite translation, especially when it comes to the Old Testament. I was disappointed with the TNIV’s over-extension of a “gender-accurate” method, which often enough distorted the text (see below). On the positive side, the TNIV included some needed textual updates. As many of you know, the TNIV was almost a complete failure, despite several high-profile evangelical endorsements. Why? A far greater number of evangelical leaders rejected it and exhorted churches to do likewise. The Reformed wing of evangelicalism was nearly unanimous in trashing the TNIV, and the Dispensational wing mostly ignored it. Several major Christian bookstore chains refused to stock it, following the example of (SBC-owned) Lifeway.
The point of contention was gender-accuracy. As readers of this blog may know, I’m not exactly Wayne Grudem’s biggest fan, but he rightly pinpointed numerous instances where the TNIV’s gender-neutrality distorted the text. Some of his examples are stronger than others, and, yes, many are not terribly important. I’m not sure how happy Grudem will be with the new NIV. It rightly adopts gender-neutrality in several places, especially Paul’s address to “brothers and sisters.” Yet, the new NIV often resorts to the original NIV (1984), or opts for a third/mediating translation, in most of Grudem’s examples. For your convenience, here is a selection from Grudem’s list, with the new NIV added.
VERSE: Genesis 5:2
NIV: He created them male and female…. And when they were created, he called them “man.”
TNIV (2005): He created them male and female…. And when they were created, he called them “human beings.”
NIV (2011): He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind”[a] when they were created.
- Hebrew adam
VERSE: Psalm 8:4
NIV: What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
TNIV (2005): What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
NIV (2011): what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?[a]
- Or what is a human being that you are mindful of him, / a son of man that you care for him?
VERSE: Psalm 34:20
NIV: He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
TNIV (2005): He protects all their bones, not one of them will be broken.
NIV (2011): he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
VERSE: Proverbs 13:1
NIV: A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.
TNIV (2005): A wise child heeds a parent’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.
NIV (2011): A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.
VERSE: Matthew 7:3
NIV: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye …”
TNIV: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye …”
NIV (2011): “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
VERSE: John 14:23
NIV: If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
TNIV (2005): Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
NIV (2011): Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
VERSE: Acts 20:30
NIV: Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
TNIV (2005): Even from your own number some will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
NIV (2011): Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
VERSE: 1 Corinthians 15:21
NIV: For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
TNIV: For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being
NIV (2011): For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
As you can see, a lot of the TNIV’s most egregious translations have been corrected. For example, it’s irresponsible for the TNIV to use “parent” instead of “father” in Proverbs 13:1. Both grammatically and contextually, “father” (not “father and mother” or “parent”) is the proper translation. This is ancient Israel, not 21st century America. Likewise, Acts 20:30 should be reflective of the male leadership (elders) at the time. In another example, 1 Corinthians 15:21, the TNIV loses the Christ-Adam parallel by replacing “man” with “human being,” thus distorting Paul’s redemptive-historical train of thought. In these instances, the new NIV rightly continues with the original NIV’s translation. However, in John 14:23, both the TNIV and the new NIV replace the personal “him” with a general “them.” This may not be as important as the other examples, but I prefer to know whether a personal or general reference is being used. Jesus is using the personal, “him,” which functions differently as a means of exhortation. Moreover, “they” or “them” diverts the attention away from individual indwelling (the point of the text) to corporate indwelling (which is taught elsewhere but not here). I wish the new NIV had retained the original NIV in this example.
The best example of a textual update/revision is the ever-controversial Romans 3:21-22. I’m really happy with the new NIV’s rendering. Like the TNIV, the new NIV changes the original NIV’s “a righteousness from God” to “the righteousness of God.” On this point, N. T. Wright is correct. However, “through faith in Jesus Christ” is retained, with “through the faithfulness of” in a footnote — also a good choice.
It may be too early to say, but I’m mostly pleased with what I’ve seen in the new NIV. I wish John 14:23 had retained the singular reference, but no translation is perfect.
I just noticed that the new NIV uses “flesh” for sarx, instead of “sinful nature.” See, for example, Romans 8:3-4. This will greatly help the NIV’s case for being a translation suitable for scholarship. The NASB, ESV, and NRSV all use “flesh.” No other term can substitute without sacrificing the embodied aspect of sin and, thereby, important implications for Christology and atonement.