Why no NIV Apocrypha?

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.

9 thoughts on “Why no NIV Apocrypha?

  1. Insofar as they are able to affect the views of other publishers, Biblica UK is committed to using the full Bible, including the Apocrypthal books included in the current Anglican lectionary.

    Graham Smith
    Biblica Ltd

  2. Graham, thank you for your interesting comment. Do you have a translation of these apocryphal books available? If so, where did it come from? Or are you planning one? I realise that you can’t speak for publishers, but I’m sure there are people interested in publishing NIV with Apocrypha if the text is available.

  3. I am not Catholic, I am a christian of Southern Baptist faith, however; I personally like a Bible with all the books of the Apocrypf/Deuterocanonical books incluuded! I like the NIV and would love to see it also published with these books included! Why not offer both?! I would be first in line to purchase the NIV 2011 update with the A/D books included!
    Personal size, large or giant print!

  4. Candace, I agree that it would be useful to have such a Bible available for those who want it. But I hope you are aware that this would be a major undertaking. It would take several years of a translation team’s time, and funding, to prepare an adequate version matching the rest of NIV. Only then can they start considering issues like “Personal size, large or giant print”.

  5. Pingback: deuterocanonical books

  6. Remember there are 67 million Catholics in the United States alone. That’s quite a market. About 1.2 billion Catholics on the planet.

    Many American Catholics, like me, find the ‘official’ New American Bible to be a lousy-reading translation. I am a Catholic, and I generally very much prefer the way the NIV reads.

    The closest alternate for Catholics is the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition — http://www.amazon.com/Ignatius-Bible-Revised-Standard-Catholic/dp/0898708338 — but I don’t know how much traction it’s gaining. Scott Hahn, a former Protestant who is doing much to popularize scripture reading among Catholics — it’s about time for that — seems to like it.

  7. David, I am with you. I am glad to hear that there are Catholics who like NIV. But I have no say with the publishers – although they just might be reading this comment thread. I would advise you to make your point to the CBT, Zondervan and Biblica. If you can’t find their contact details I might be able to find them for you.

  8. Especially interesting to publishers might be the surging Catholic men’s movement (e.g., catholicmenforjesuschrist.com based in New Jersey). I just came from a rally of 1,200 men at the cathedral in Palm Beach Gardens that was organized largely by the man who spearheaded the New Jersey group. It is so exciting. Projector screens came out of the walls at the cathedral and men were singing praise songs together. There were speakers who emphasized regular reading of Scripture and personal devotions. I’ll be truly pleased when the deacons and priests walk over to the lectern with an open leather-covered Bible in their hands 🙂

  9. David, that is good and exciting news. I certainly hope that good appropriate Bibles are made available to these people. But I wonder how important the NIV Apocrypha would be. I guess if these people are strongly attached to official Catholic teaching they will want a version approved by the Catholic hierarchy – and if they are not they won’t mind very much if the deuterocanonical books, obscure to most lay people, are missing. I say this not to put you off trying to get an NIV Apocrypha but only to suggest reasons why a campaign might not be successful.

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