In my post Answers about the NIV update I wrote the following:
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 issue has generated quite a bit of discussion. The Anglican priests Tim Chesterton and Doug Chaplin confirmed in comments that they were indeed disappointed by this news. Doug repeated his point in a post at clayboy, in which he noted the discrepancy between the CBT answer I quoted above and this which they also wrote:
The NIV is, and always has been, conceived as a Bible for the whole church.
There is indeed a discrepancy. If the NIV sponsors consider “the whole church” to include those churches which include within their Bible one or another selection of apocryphal or deuterocanonical books, then they really should include these books within their “Bible for the whole church”. Their current policy can’t help raising suspicions that by “the whole church” they mean only the evangelical church, suggesting a very narrow and exclusivist theology. I don’t think they really have this theology, but they need to try harder not to give the impression that they do.
The answer which the CBT and Biblica would probably give to this is simply that they don’t believe that the Apocrypha is part of the Bible. On that I would agree with them. I won’t attempt to justify my belief in this post, but I touched on my reasons recently in the slightly heated comment thread on another of Doug’s posts. Unfortunately CBT and Biblica need to look beyond this very reasonable belief if they really want to produce “a Bible for the whole church” – or else they should modify this statement to clarify that their version is intended only for evangelicals.
Zondervan, the commercial partners, might at least privately give a different answer, that translating and publishing the Apocrypha would not be commercially viable. But if so they might want to think again. The NRSV Bible, including in most editions a broad selection of apocryphal or deuterocanonical books, is the favoured translation in mainline denominational churches and in academic circles, and as such sells quite well. But, like the 1984 NIV, this translation is showing its age – and unlike NIV no update has been announced. The Common English Bible, an ecumenical project sponsored by the United Methodist Church, might take quite a lot of sales from NRSV. But a version of the updated NIV with the Apocrypha would also be a strong competitor for NRSV, and so allow Zondervan access to a significant market which it cannot penetrate with the NIV update as currently planned.
Probably there is not now time to produce a proper NIV Apocrypha in time for the 2011 update launch. But, despite my personal opinion of the status of these deuterocanonical books, I would suggest that Zondervan commission Biblica to start work on a translation of them for later publication.