In a recent posting Open Scriptures I made a comment regarding the relationships between the three organizations (actually four) involved in the production and publishing of the NIV and TNIV. I believed, and still do, that the legal and contractual obligations between these partners has placed them above reproach. There were some comments which in effect questioned this. So, I contacted the Executive Vice President of Publishing and Editorial Operations at Zondervan, Stan Gundry, for his input.
The following is his reply published in its entirety with his permission. I have withheld his contact information for obvious reasons. However, he will be reading the comments to this posting. Also, if you wish to contact him directly, please contact me, and I’ll be glad to let you know how to contact him.
The Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) is an independent body of OT and NT scholars, generally representative of the denominational and theological diversity represented in English-speaking, international, evangelical (broadly defined) Christianity. Their remuneration and reimbursement for expenses comes from the International Bible Society (IBS, but recently they changed their name to Biblica; I will refer to it as IBS in this message). I have no reason to believe that they receive any kind of royalty or ongoing payment on the sale of either the NIV or the TNIV, and I am confident they do not. In fact, I have every reason to believe their pay would be considered by most people to be very modest–it is largely a labor of love and mission on their part.
By contract with IBS, the CBT controls the text of the NIV and the TNIV. This means that no one can revise, correct, update, or otherwise change these texts other than the CBT itself. In fact, the CBT itself cannot make any such changes to the NIV text as originally published without a quorum of the CBT present, and without at least a 75% majority of those present. The CBT is a self-perpetuating body and operates under its own very clearly defined rules. Even though I have known most CBT members for years, including many who have retired, even I do not know most of the rules or inner workings of the CBT. I do know there is a mandatory retirement age from the CBT, but retirees may attend and participate in their deliberations but they do not have a vote.
IBS holds the actual copyright to the NIV and TNIV, though they have no control over the text itself (that resides with the CBT as stated above). IBS in turn licenses the commercial publishing rights to commercial publishers–currently the primary publishers are Zondervan and Hodder (UK). The publishers must publish the text exactly as delivered by the CBT, including all footnotes, paragraph headings, etc. Publishers’ royalties are paid to IBS, and these funds support IBS’s Bible distribution and translation projects around the world. IBS does do a very limited amount of commercial publishing and/or distribution of these texts, but it is so small as to be inconsequential.
Zondervan does not have a representative who sits in CBT translation sessions, who participates in their discussions, or who has a vote at the table. When the CBT meets in West Michigan in working sessions, we do generally take them out to dinner once, but it is purely a social occasion and an opportunity for us to express our appreciation to them. We do occasionally correspond with or meet with the CBT chair or other members of the CBT, but these are never occasions where we attempt to tell them how they should be revising or updating the text, and if we were to attempt to do so, I can guarantee you it would be counter-productive. Such contacts with CBT members are opportunities for them to tell us what they are doing and what they wish we would do differently. The CBT is jealous of its scholarly independence and it protects itself from pressure groups who have an agenda. (Note how the 75% majority rule protects that as well.)
One of the bloggers expressed the view that Zondervan exercised considerable influence over the CBT, and he cited Bruce Ryskamp’s (Zondervan’s president at the time) participation in the meeting where the Colorado Springs Guidelines were initially framed as evidence of this. But here is the actual situation. Bruce is a business man and not a Bible scholar–he would be the first to tell you that. He attended as an observer. At the conclusion of the meeting, he was asked to sign the CSG. Initially he said, “No, Zondervan cannot abide by these guidelines because it publishes at least two translations that do not abide by these guidelines and it is not going to stop publishing them.” Eventually, Bruce did sign the original CSG, with the caveat to those present that he signed only as an observer. (BTW, in my files I have a communication from Wayne Grudem where he acknowledged to Bruce that this was indeed the case). Later that summer, when the CSG were reissued in a revised form (I trust your blogger friends do remember that within days of the original version it was pointed out that this original version had a serious error in it as it related to the translation of adelphoi), Bruce refused to sign the revised version and asked that his name no longer be associated with the CSG. He realized that his signature of the original version had been misunderstood and perhaps misused.
I know less about the inner workings of the RSV/NRSV translation committee and its relation to the NCC and its publishers. But I suspect it is quite close to the model I have described above for the CBT/IBS/publishers. I do know considerably more about the inner workings of other Bible translation committees and their relationship to the publishers, having been given this information first-hand by scholars who have worked on those committees. I regret to have to say that some of those committees not only have at least one publisher representative present and voting, but the sometimes the publisher even has the power of veto over committee decisions. And of course, when the Southern Baptists announced their plan for the Holman Christian Standard Bible, who could ever forget Al Mohler’s famous (or infamous) statement that the SBC would have a translation it could “control”? In many cases, the copyright to the translation is held by the commercial Bible publisher or the foundation with which the publisher is closely linked.
Even though I work for Zondervan, a commercial publisher, I strongly believe that the model that exists between the CBT, IBS, and the commercial publishers is the best way to protect the integrity of any translation. I know too much about what can and has happened in other situations to believe otherwise, even though it puts Zondervan at a commercial disadvantage relative to publishers who own the copyright to their translation.
Executive Vice President, Publishing and Editorial Operations