Intrigue, power struggles, mistakes, cover ups, gender language debates, and huge amounts of money at stake, welcome to the seedy underbelly of the world of Bible Translations!
Mark you calendars now because NIV 2011 has officially been announced. Biblica announced yesterday its intention to update the most popular Bible translation in the world, the NIV. Some will say its about time, some will say why in the world, and others of us are simply amused at the wrangling and bungling that has gone into the NIV revisions over the past decade and a half.
The reality is that the NIV is updated all the time. The Committee on Bible Translation meets regularly to explore new scholarship and ways to update and improve the translation, we just don’t know about it or always see the changes. Of course there have been some well known attempts at updates since the early 70′s when the NIV was originally published.
There was the NIVi (New International Version Inclusive Language) that was released in England but caused such an uproar in the states that it was never released here. (The uproar was over the use of gender inclusive language, not for God but for example in places where the word men was used to describe men and women). Then there was the TNIV which came out in the ’90s. Of course when they were planning on releasing the TNIV there was also a huge backlash.
When I was a student at Wheaton James Dobson called the school and demanded to have a very sharp and harsh letter he wrote be printed in the student newspaper in response to a very well thought out and even handed article a professor had written about the production of the NIVi and the TNIV. The professor had gone so far as to question why Dobson was so strongly opposed to these new translations. As a matter of fact, Dobson and other leaders were so concerned about the updates to the NIV Biblica was working on that they threated to boycott Zondervan and make a big stink over it.
Well the TNIV came out and it is a good revision, evidently a very good one because now they are adding further revisions to it and simply calling it the NIV again.
Why should we care about any of this?
- The NIV was originally produced almost 40 years ago. It is a great translation, but it can be better and the scholars who have produced that translation want to improve it. This is a good thing.
- By not branding the new translation as anything other than the NIV it will put to bed much of the debate of minor gender inclusive language changes, which make up a very small percentage of the overall updates the TNIV had anyways.
- Zondervan will sell a ridiculous amount of these NIV 2011s and so we have to at least question whether or not there is any financial motivation in this. The reality is that most people who will buy a new one will already have multiple Bibles to their name.
- So many people don’t have access to the Word of God at all, or in a language which helps them really understand it. We have such extraordinary access to the Word of God that we argue and make big deals about making our understanding of it marginally better. Shame on us.
- Your input is important. Go to this link and offer your thoughts on the revisions or this whole process to Biblica.
- Like the food you eat, you may not think about the process it took to get that Bible to your table or bedside stand, it is good for all of us to recognize the immense difficulty and commitment required of the people who translate and work to safeguard the Bible for us.