Anglicised NIV 2011: the secret uncovered

Last night I suggested that the Anglicised NIV 2011 was “a secret publication”. Today, I am happy to uncover more of that secret, courtesy of Claire Portal of Hodder & Stoughton. In reply to my e-mail yesterday morning, Claire wrote to me:

Dear Peter,

I am afraid we have been experiencing technical difficulties with our website for a long time now and a complete rebuild is being planned.

We will very shortly have a new website www.hodderbibles.com which will host all the information you could need about the new NIV edition for 2011. We are planning for this site to go live towards the end of this month.

In the meantime, I have attached some information on the new NIV translation that I hope you find useful.

Best wishes
Claire

NIV 2011 trade mailing presenter p1The attached information is a trade mailing dated 24th January 2011, a four page and nearly 5 MB PDF of high resolution images. The image on the right is the first page of this presentation – click for a higher resolution version, fully legible, but not as good quality as the full presentation.

Here is most of the text of the presentation, to which I have added purchase links from Amazon.co.uk – at lower prices than the recommended prices in the following text. I have also added all of these editions to the Gentle Wisdom store.

The world’s most popular Bible translation

The perfect blend of accuracy and readability, fully revised and updated for 2011

Includes the latest advances in biblical scholarship and language use

The UK’s broadest range of editions means we have the right Bible for everyone

NIV: WHAT’S CHANGING IN 2011?

  • The NIV Bible has been fully revised and updated for 2011.
  • The chief goal of every revision to the NIV text is to bring the translation into line both with contemporary biblical scholarship and with shifts in English idiom and usage.
  • The majority of what has changed involves comparatively minor matters of vocabulary, sentence structure and punctuation. Other changes reflect the advances in biblical scholarship over the last three decades. All of these changes aim to move the NIV from the English of 1984 to the English of 2011.

Some examples:

LANGUAGE USE

  • The NIV 2011 edition avoids outdated language use by replacing the 1984 edition’s ‘alien’ with the more accurate ‘foreigner’.

GENDER-ACCURATE LANGUAGE

  • To accurately reflect the original writer’s intention to include both men and women, the NIV 2011 edition uses ‘brothers and sisters’ instead of ‘brothers’.

PROGRESS IN BIBLICAL SCHOLARSHIP

  • The NIV 2011 edition takes account of advances in Biblical scholarship and translates ‘kataluma’ accurately as ‘guest room’, where the 1984 edition used the word ‘inn’.

KEY TITLES

NIV Popular HB Bible 9781444701500 May 2011 Hardback £14.99

NIV Popular Burgundy HB Bible 978 1 444 70148 7 May 2011 Hardback £15.99

NIV Popular PB Bible 978 1 444 70152 4 May 2011 Paperback £11.99

NIV Popular HB Bible with Cross-References 978 1 444 70153 1 June 2011 Hardback £20

NIV Popular Cross-Reference Black Leather Bible 978 1 444 70154 8 June 2011 Leather £30

NIV Schools HB Bible 978 1 444 70155 5 June 2011 Hardback £12.99

NIV Popular Burgundy HB Bible 20 copy pack
978 1 444 70149 4 | May 2011 | Hardback | £180

NIV Popular HB Bible Pack of 20
978 1 444 70151 7 | May 2011..| Hardback | £160

NIV Schools Bible 20 Copy pack
9781444701562 | June 2011 | Hardback | £200

The NIV is the people’s Bible for 2011 just as the KJV was the people’s Bible for 1611.

MARKETING & PUBLICITY

  • National print and broadcast media campaign
  • National print and online advertising campaign led by major
    creative agency
  • Social media campaign
  • Unparalleled Christian market exposure
  • Wide range of point of sale material available
  • High profile partnerships with Biblefresh (Evangelical Alliance), Soul Survivor, David Suchet, Andrew Motion

CORE RANGE LAUNCHED FROM MAY 2011

GIFT EDITIONS LAUNCHED FROM SEPTEMBER 2011

HODDER FAITH SALES OFFICE: Contact Lucy Avery on 020 7873 6051 or lucy.avery@hodder.co.uk

Anglicised NIV 2011: a secret publication?

According to Amazon.co.uk among others, two weeks ago Hodder & Stoughton published an Anglicised edition of the NIV 2011 update:

NIV Popular Bible (Bible Niv) [Hardcover] …

Product details

  • Hardcover: 1280 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (26 May 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1444701487
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444701487
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 13.4 x 2.4 cm

NIV Popular Bible (Bible Niv) [Hardcover]The price is £10.69, and if you buy through this link to Amazon.co.uk, or through the Gentle Wisdom store, a small part of that price will come my way.

But no one seems to have told the publishers’ publicity department about this book they are publishing. There is no mention at all of this on the Hodder Faith website, even on their Popular Size Bibles genre page. And their browser page for the same genre shows no Bibles at all, which is probably because the database underlying their site has been non-operational for more than 24 hours. But Hodder Faith can’t just blame passing technical issues: I found a Google cache of their page for this Bible, dated 21st May, showing that they did intend some kind of publicity but also that this page has not been available for weeks. This morning I contacted Hodder Faith about their technical issue but have received no reply.

The NIV Bible must have been one of Hodder & Stoughton’s best selling books for more than 30 years. Sales may have been flagging in recent years, but this updated edition has the potential of re-establishing NIV’s strong market position for the next few decades. So it is very strange that Hodder Faith have not made a major event out of this release. Instead they seem to be attempting an oxymoron: a secret publication.

Amazon.co.uk is also taking pre-orders at a bargain price of £3.39 for a paperback NIV Anglicised Gift and Award Bible with the 2011 text, to be published on 21st July.

I haven’t seen the text of this Anglicised edition. I would expect the differences to be similar to those between the American and Anglicised editions of other recent Bibles, which I discussed in a 2007 post British and American Bible version differences at Better Bibles Blog. As NIV 2011 is quite similar to TNIV, probably the Anglicisation work is rather similar, but I hope they have avoided the mistake in the Anglicised rendering of Hebrews 4:15.

Is the Bible the best way to promote Christianity? 2

This post (sorry it took so long) continues from part 1, in which I discussed the Church Mouse’s suggestion that evangelistic strategies should be based more on the Bible text.

As I concluded in part 1, I stand with the doctrine of the perspicuity, or clarity, of Scripture, in other words, that ordinary people can and should be able to understand the basic meaning of the biblical text without having to depend on outside authorities, and without requiring special education. Obscure parts can be understood by comparison with simpler parts. This is not to say that every nuance of doctrine can be understood in this way, or that untaught readers can claim to understand the Bible better than scholars. The point is that people can understand the core meaning of every part of it, which includes understanding enough to be saved.

This argument that ordinary people can understand the Bible is not intended to undermine the church as a community. For fuller comprehension readers should compare their impressions with those of others. However, it may undermine the church as a hierarchical institution, as the Reformation did, by denying its monopoly on interpreting the Bible.

Of course this does depend on a good Bible translation being available in the language of those ordinary people, and this is the theme that has been promoted at Better Bibles Blog by many of us on that blog’s team. But this begs a number of questions that I will attempt to answer.

In my published paper Holy Communicative? (published in Translation and Religion: Holy Untranslatable? (Topics in Translation), Lynne Long (ed.), Multilingual Matters, 2005, pp. 89-101; a draft is downloadable as a zipped Word document) I discussed three barriers to understanding the text of the Bible. For an accompanying PowerPoint presentation I showed these barriers as piles of rubble, not separate walls, as the factors are not completely separable, and the barriers are not insurmountable:

Piles of rubble obstructing our understandingIn fact I would suggest that there are not three but six barriers to complete understanding of the Bible text.

Only the first three were relevant to the purposes of my 2005 paper: the linguistic, contextual and cultural barriers. A good Bible translation should overcome the linguistic barrier. Contextual issues, where readers lack important background knowledge, can also be overcome in a translation by making some implicit information explicit, and footnotes may also be helpful here. There is more controversy over whether the cultural barrier, caused by the historical and cultural remoteness of the text, should be overcome within the text: not many people accept the kind of updating of the historical setting found for example in the Cotton Patch New Testament. But for educated westerners this is probably the least serious of the barriers.

Another barrier that must be considered is the availability of the text in a form which the ordinary person can use. For people who read well, that implies clear print in the orthography they are used to. For those who cannot read or do not find it easy, it is necessary to present the text with suitable audio or video media. This is a large topic which I don’t want to go into further now.

The fifth potential barrier to understanding is the conceptual one. There are of course conceptual difficulties in understanding some of the deeper theological implications of some parts of the Bible. But I would hold that the basic concepts in the Bible can be understood by untrained people of ordinary intelligence, if presented to them in clear language – and as long as there is no spiritual barrier to understanding.

Yes, the final barrier to ordinary people understanding the Bible is a spiritual one. As the Apostle Paul wrote,

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV 2011)

A few verses earlier Paul described this barrier as a veil, but he also wrote that

whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

2 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV 2011)

So this should not be a factor for true Christian believers. But it is of course important when the Bible is being used to promote the Christian faith to outsiders. How can this barrier be overcome? Only through prayer, I would suggest.

There are many stories going around, including some from personal friends of mine, of people in Muslim majority countries who have become Christians because they saw Jesus in a dream and then started to read the Bible. In some such countries Bibles are quite widely distributed, through unofficial channels, where expatriate Christians are not welcome. But Christians have been praying for those countries for a very long time, and these prayers are being answered as some people’s blind eyes are being opened to the light of the gospel.

But this discussion as started by the Church Mouse was about evangelism in Britain. In countries like this, with a fairly large Christian population and few restrictions on sharing one’s faith, there is no need for God to rely on miraculous intervention such as in dreams. The cultural barriers to the gospel can be broken down if we Christians are prepared to befriend our unbelieving neighbours, colleagues etc. The spiritual barriers will start to come down as we pray for these people. Then as we share the gospel message with them, from the Bible and in an appropriate way, there should be no remaining barriers to them accepting it.

Some may say this doesn’t work. Of course it is not an infallible formula. And I can’t say that I have proved that this works, largely because I have not really tried it and persisted with it.  But how many of those naysayers have tried it more than me?

So let’s use the Bible to promote Christianity, but not as a weapon to bash people with, rather as something we use within relationships of genuine Christian love.

Is the Bible the best way to promote Christianity? 1

The Church MouseA few days ago now the Church Mouse, an anonymous Church of England blogger, asked, Is the Bible the best way to promote Christianity in Britain? He suggested this on the basis of a survey which found that

8% considered [the Bible] very important and read the Bible regularly, 46% considered it important but don’t read it regularly, 42% considered it unimportant and 4% considered it dangerous.

These figures seem to refer to Britain, although the exact survey area is unclear. I have no idea how figures in other countries might compare. But the general principles of the Mouse’s post would presumably apply elsewhere, at least in the western world.

The Mouse argued from these figures that

46% of the population see value in engaging with the Bible more than they currently do.

Most evangelistic strategies don’t kick off with the Bible.  It is often seen as a bit difficult, and something you get to later when you’ve got some way down the road.

Perhaps this is wrong.

Eddie Arthur, Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK, was quick to comment that many evangelistic strategies do use texts from the Bible. But in his own comment in response the Mouse clarifies his issues with these strategies, that

The way [they] work is to say “Here is Christianity – why not have a look at that, and perhaps even see what the Bible says about it”. The question I’m asking is whether that focus should be switched round completely, and say “Here is the Bible – I wonder what that is about”.

Now of course there are people who present non-Christians with the Bible as an evangelistic strategy. The Gideons are perhaps the best known such group. I remember several mission initiatives in the UK which have included as a major strategy distributing Bible portions, such as John’s Gospel from the Good News Bible. The Bible Society generally prefers to sell their Bibles, at subsidised prices, but the general principle is the same. These groups seem to believe that unbelievers who read the Bible text are likely to become Christians, or at least that reading the Bible can be a significant step on this path. They generally offer little if anything in terms of explanatory notes or reading guides, and make no explicit appeals for Christian commitment.

There are others who argue that this is not a good evangelistic strategy. These people would generally argue that unbelievers cannot and should not try to understand the Bible on their own, but need guidance from others, such as pastors or professors. Although many who argue like this are Protestants who value the inheritance of the Reformation, their arguments often sound remarkably like those of the opponents of the Reformation, and of many Roman Catholics until recently, that the Bible should be handled only by a special class of priests and officially authorised teachers.

Now it is certainly a good thing when a priest, pastor or professor faithfully expounds the Bible. I rejoice that this happens regularly in many (but not all) churches, and in some academic environments. But in other cases these people who are supposed by some to be the gatekeepers for the Bible in fact keep the gate closed for those who hear it, by distorting the teaching of the Bible or by ignoring it.

So I stand with William Tyndale, who famously said to one of those bad gatekeepers

if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!

That is, I stand with the doctrine of the perspicuity, or clarity, of Scripture, in other words, that ordinary people can and should be able to understand the basic meaning of the biblical text without having to depend on separate authorities, and without requiring special education. But this post is already rather long, so I will leave a fuller discussion of this doctrine and its implications to part 2.

The Kingdom New Testament: N.T. Wright's new title

N.T. WrightI thank commenter Jonathan for alerting me to an interesting change in the title of N.T. Wright’s forthcoming version of the New Testament. The book title previously announced, including here at Gentle Wisdom, was:

The King’s Version: A Contemporary Translation of the New Testament

Now it has become the following, on the publisher’s product page:

The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation

The publication date has also been pushed back from 27th September 2011 to 29th November 2011. (Update, 3rd September: publication date is now given as 25th October 2011. Still not mention of it as Amazon.co.uk.)

Available from Amazon.com: The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation.

The old title had come in for quite a lot of criticism, for example in comments on the linked post at Better Bibles Blog. The new one, it seems to me, is much better. Any comments?

The King's Version: N.T. Wright's New Testament

HarperCollins has announced:

N.T. WrightThe King’s Version

A Contemporary Translation of the New Testament

By N. T. Wright

On Sale: 9/27/2011

No more details are given, but Timothy of Catholic Bibles speculates that

it will simply be the New Testament translation he did for the For Everybody series of commentaries published by Westminster John Knox Press.

Well, there is hardly a need for yet another English New Testament translation, but it will be fascinating to see what Wright comes up with. But why the title “The King’s Version”? Who is “The King” here? Not Wright, I hope. But I guess this is just a marketing ploy. Thanks to Eddie Arthur on Twitter for the link.

Literal Bible translations: crutches for bad teachers?

ESV BibleT.C. Robinson, at New Leaven, quoted Daniel Doleys writing about why he moved back to teaching from the ESV Bible. I was being a bit mischievous when I commented:

This guy is simply showing that he doesn’t understand how language work[s] and doesn’t understand the ESV. … I’m sorry to say this, but by returning to ESV Daniel is simply helping himself continue to teach and preach badly.

Of course I didn’t write anything like this without explaining my reasons, which I have omitted in the quotation above. And in a further exchange of comments with Daniel I accepted that the example he had given was not really one of bad teaching.

Nevertheless, I would claim that literal Bible translations like the ESV are often used as crutches by bad preachers and Christian teachers.

First I need to explain what I mean by “literal Bible translations”. Henry Neufeld has rightly objected to a misuse of the word “literal”. As this word is so often abused it might be better not to apply it to Bible versions, and use the more technical term “formal equivalence translation”. But that would confuse many people – and make the title of this post too long.

Anyway, I am referring here to versions at one end of the translation spectrum: ESV, NASB, RSV, KJV, NKJV and some others which are classified as more or less “literal” or “formal equivalence”. The Good News Bible, CEV and NLT are among those at the other end of the spectrum, “meaning-based” or “dynamic equivalence”. NIV is somewhere in the middle.

Now I certainly don’t want to claim that all preachers and teachers who use literal translations are bad. Some of the very best preachers use versions of this type. But there are also many bad preachers and teachers out there. And many, not all, of them prefer literal translations. There are at least two reasons why:

First, preachers can simply explain the passage and pretend they have preached a sermon. Sadly it is common for pastors, especially less well educated ones, to reject meaning-based Bible translations because they would be left with nothing to say. These preachers have been used to reading a Bible passage from a version which their congregation does not understand clearly, because it is written in unnatural and perhaps old-fashioned language, and then spending a long time explaining its meaning. Maybe this is all there is to the sermon, or there is only a token attempt to apply it to the hearers’ situation. But if the meaning is clear when the passage is read from the Bible, as it surely should be, then there is little or nothing left for the preacher to say.

Second, and this is what I was getting at in my response to the New Leaven post, literal Bible translations encourage teachers to focus on unimportant details while missing the broader flow of the text. Daniel Doleys’ example about the phrase “in the eyes” in Judges can serve as an example here. Daniel complained that NIV was inconsistent in its translation of this phrase – but seemed to have failed to notice that his preferred ESV is also inconsistent. But should such phrases be translated consistently? If the meaning and context is the same, preferably yes. But part of the argument for literal translations is that each word in the original language should be translated consistently even when the meanings and contexts are different. Some bad teachers want this because they love to discuss how specific words are used with some kind of semi-mystical meaning through the Bible or a part of it – without taking into account that these words are perfectly ordinary ones like “eyes” used in many different ways.

Now I accept that there is a place for looking in detail at how each original language word is used in different senses and contexts within the biblical texts. But this kind of study should be done from the original language texts, and the results should be shared among biblical scholars. Only bad preachers try to impress their regular Sunday congregations with insights of this kind, supposedly based on an original language word but often in fact mainly derived from translations and concordances in English, or whatever else their mother tongue might be.

So it is perhaps not surprising that most ordinary congregation members prefer meaning-based translations while their pastors try to persuade them to use more literal ones. After all, the pastors don’t want their flocks to understand the passage too clearly, or they might feel redundant!

What is the answer here? Preachers and teachers need to realise that there is much more to a good sermon than exegesis, explaining the meaning of the text. They may have to do that, of course, whatever translation they are using, but they should make that task as simple as possible by using a clear and natural Bible version. They should also realise that finding themes and connections between texts, while fascinating for scholars, is rarely helpful for general congregations. The heart of a good expository sermon must always be applying the Bible passage to the needs of the hearers. And the best translation to use is the one which makes that task most effective.