Answers about the NIV update

It is a few weeks since I discussed here the announcement of the NIV Bible 2011 update. Now the consortium responsible for the update has released a set of FAQ answers, at least based on questions submitted at their website. Thanks to Joel and Suzanne for the tip.

I am pleased to see some kind of confirmation of my general understanding of the revision process. The independence of the Committee on Bible Translation is affirmed. The team clarifies that

The CBT has not “caved” in to any interest group in this decision.  Indeed to do so would fundamentally betray their mandate which is simply and solely to monitor developments in English usage and biblical scholarship and reflect them in the text. (Q1)

Members of the CBT are charged with the responsibility of monitoring developments in English usage and biblical scholarship and reflecting these developments in improvements to the text. This mandate leaves no room for following an external agenda … (Q29)

So, while they will not commit themselves on any specifics, they will not change the text because of external pressures:

If they see compelling new data on the state of contemporary English usage, or if a compelling exegetical argument is made – whether it involves moving backward or forward – the CBT will make the changes that are necessary. (Q7)

The update will be based on TNIV rather than directly on the 1984 NIV:

The CBT works with its “existing text,” which is the latest form of the translation that first appeared in the NIV and then later in the TNIV. They make revisions to this text based on their best understanding of the underlying Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. (Q27)

Presumably this implies that the TNIV text, with the minor updates already published, is the starting point for

no change to the text can be ratified without a 70 percent majority vote. (Q19)

The CBT are certainly not going to retreat to follow the Colorado Springs guidelines, with which they respectfully disagree:

The Colorado Springs Guidelines, however, do not reflect the range of opinions that was represented by the signatories to the original NIV charter, and it does not represent an accurate summation of the NIV translation philosophy. (Q13)

In the light of this post of mine I was interested to note that they accepted and answered this question:

Q17:  If you’re going to do this, at least donate $10 of every Bible sold to Wycliffe so people who still need one Bible in their own language can get one.

Since the inception, with each NIV Bible sold, Zondervan pays a royalty to Biblica so that it can continue to get the Bible, free-of-charge or at a very low cost, into the hands of less fortunate people around the world.

By the way, the person who asked for $10 from each Bible obviously doesn’t realise that many Bibles are sold for less than that in total!

Some people will be disappointed to read that

The Committee on Bible Translation has no plans at the present to produce a translation of the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books. (Q21)

But to the evangelicals who make up the target audience of NIV these books are simply off the radar.

This question and answer sums up the aims of the team:

Q25: Are you going to make this version as gender inclusive as possible so that a whole generation of young believers can know that they are all included in God’s love and Word, not just a few?

CBT’s mandate under the NIV charter is to maintain the NIV as an articulation of God’s unchanging word in contemporary English. To the extent, therefore, that gender inclusive language is an established part of contemporary English and that its use enhances comprehension for readers, it will be an important factor in the decisions made by the translators.

The NIV is, and always has been, conceived as a Bible for the whole church. Our aim is to create a Bible which allows diverse groups of people to get together and read it without any one having preferential access to the text whether they are young or old, whether they are well-educated or less-well educated, whether they are an experienced Bible-handler or an interested newcomer. So we won’t be trying to create a Bible that favors the needs of young believers over the needs of other groups, but neither will be creating a Bible that favors the needs of other groups over the needs of the young. We will be seeking to create a Bible that offers unobstructed access to the unchanging truths of God’s love and Word for all.

A laudable goal. We need to hope and pray that they can reach it.

21 thoughts on “Answers about the NIV update

  1. I’m sorry to hear about the continuing exclusion of the Apocrypha. Article VI of the Anglican 39 Articles says that the church ‘doth read’ the Apocrypha, even if it is not seen as on the same level as the OT and NT books. Readings from it have been included in Anglican lectionaries from the 16th century to the present day. I expect that its continuing exclusion from the NIV/TNIV will make the translation less useful in Anglican and RC circles, and the upcoming Common English Bible will probably be the beneficiary of that exclusion.

  2. Tim, I agree with you that it would be good to have an NIV translation of the Apocrypha. Perhaps they will do one eventually if there is enough pressure. But it is well down the priority list for any of the team. If there is enough continuing pressure they just might change their minds, but it won’t be ready for 2011.

    Thanks for the link to the Common English Bible article. Perhaps they are hoping to have this ready for 2011 as well. If so it could be strong competition for the NIV update. But if these people had actually talked to Zondervan and Biblica they might have got what they wanted without the need for a complete new translation. Do they really think they will save enough in royalties to pay for the cost of a new good quality translation?

  3. I think one of the problems for the CEB folks is that the NIV/TNIV translators are limited to the evangelical tradition. The CEB folks want a broader spectrum. And I must say I agree with them in that.

  4. I’m certainly with Tim here. (No surprise!) It seems to me there is an obvious conflict between “The Committee on Bible Translation has no plans at the present to produce a translation of the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books” and “The NIV is, and always has been, conceived as a Bible for the whole church.” I don’t see the latter aim is possible while the former policy is in place.

  5. Doug, I see your point. Try making it to the CBT and Biblica. But the problem is that they, or most of them, don’t believe that the DC books are in any way part of the Bible, that they have any more place within its covers than the works of Augustine/Luther/Cranmer/Calvin/Wesley/Todd Bentley(!) (delete as preferred).

  6. In the end, I believe that the mere fact of not calling the 2011 NIV something else but simply the NIV, will trump the Common English Bible. For some reason I don’t like the name “Common English Bible.”

  7. Pingback: clayboy » How can NIV be a bible for “the whole church”?

  8. TC and Tim, my guess is that the CEB will do well in the markets where NRSV currently does well, mainline denominations and perhaps academic circles, but it won’t dent NIV’s sales much as they are mostly to evangelicals.

  9. From your discussion would i be right in reflecting that the translation of the Bible can be geared to an evangelical ear as it where or is it that the marketing of the NIV attracts the evangelical ear.

  10. Mick, my point is not that there is anything specifically evangelical about the NIV as a translation. True, there were some subtle things in the 1984 NIV, less so in TNIV. But the point is more that NIV has been promoted, translated and published by evangelicals. It is probably largely for those reasons that mainline churches and the academic community have been suspicious of it. Of course the absence of the DC books hasn’t helped. For the same kinds of reasons evangelicals have been suspicious of RSV, NRSV, TEV and CEV. Yes, there have been some translation issues (Isaiah 7:14 is an important one) but the real point has been suspicion of where the translation has come from.

  11. Thanks for replying. I think I must be a bit naive not taking into account the traditions that people come from. I do remember being told as a young christian that the NIV was the best translation and just went along with it. After being on your site for a while now I’m having to reassess where I’m at as the English words I’m reading may not hold the same nuances of meaning contained in the original. I have onsidered taking a couple of years out to bible college but considering that the people you’re debating with and the people I’ve heard speak have been, I’m not sure if each of them will have their own traditions to push. Keep on going your good to read…

  12. Mick, it can be a nightmare to find neutral understandings. Most Bible colleges, seminaries, university theology departments etc try to push their own line, more or less subtly. I wish I knew what to advise.

  13. Thanks for this post Peter, and the link to the FAQs re the 2011 NIV. It’s ironic/significant/coincidental(?) that this new edition will emerge in the very year that 400 years of the KJV will be celebrated!

    I’m currently working as a missionary in Peru, South America. Here the versions issue is just as complex in some ways – with the 1960 Reina Valera holding sway while the more recent NVI (Spanish NIV) is slowly gaining ground. I’m still getting to grips with Spanish and Spanish Scripture specifically, but will be interested to observe what gender decisions were made in the NVI – which followed the same translation guidelines as the NIV but has obviously been completed a lot later. For a lot of people the NVI came as a relief aside from gender concerns. The Reina Valera has used a continental form of the second person plural which isn’t used at all in Latin America, whereas the NVI renders with the normal conjugation.

    Anyway this is a rambling comment! Thanks again for this info.

  14. Andrew, that’s interesting. I suspect (from my knowledge of French and Italian) that gender issues in Spanish are very different from those in English, and probably less complicated and less controversial. But I’m sure that there are still some issues to resolve.

  15. Pingback: Retraction on NIV2011 Update « Participatory Bible Study Blog

  16. The CEB is targetted at mainline churches, but academics might give the translation a pass, since it’s dynamic-equivalent and will contain “emotive language”. NIV2011 looks promising (with the acknowledgement that it will be similar to the TNIV) but the exclusion of the DC books is definitely disappointing. We’ll wait and see.

  17. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom» Blog Archive » Why no NIV Apocrypha?

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