The NIV has updated the vocabulary of older English Bible versions a great deal. Over the years the CBT has attempted to strike a balance between using current English but not English that is so colloquial that it would not sound “reverent”. It has been part of the ethos (not a colloquialism!) of the NIV that it have an elevated, stately sound that would be suitable for worship, including liturgical worship.
Yet some of the vocabulary in the NIV is difficult for the proverbial “man in the street”. Some of its words are unfamiliar to many, perhaps most, native English speakers. The following website, which prefers the KJV to the NIV, compares vocabulary of these two versions:
A blog post yesterday criticizes the NIV and refers to this list. I do not agree with very much of the blog post, but I do think that we should all listen with humility to criticism, regardless of who gives it. Often we can profit from some parts of criticism.
The following words in the NIV, excerpted from the list in the blog post, are not in my most active vocabulary. Some of them I can understand, but would prefer a more commonly used equivalent. Some of them I do not understand at all:
abutted, adder, algum, ardent, armlets, astir, battlements, behemoth, belial, betrothed, bier, blighted, booty, brayed, breaching, calamus, capital (not a city), carnelian, carrion, chrysolite, citron, clefts, cohorts, colonnades, coney, conjure,
convocations, cors, dandled, dappled, debauchery, derides, despoil, dispossess, disrepute, dissipation, distill, dissuade, divination, dragnet, dropsy, duplicity,
emasculate, emission, entreaty, ephod, epicurean, estal, fettered, filigree, fomenting, forded, fowler, gadfly, galled, gauntness, gecko, goiim, hearld, henna, homers, hoopoe, ignoble, insolence, invoked, jambs, jowls, leviathan, libations, magi, manifold, mattocks, mina, mother-of-pearl, mustering, myrtles, naught,
odious, offal, omer, oracles, overweening, parapet, parchments, pavilion, peals (noun, not the verb), perjurers, pestilence, pinions, phylacteries, porphyry, portent, potsherd, proconsul, poultice, Praetorium, profligate, ramparts, rabble, rawboned, relish (not for hotdogs), rend, reposes, reputed, retinue, retorted, roebucks, rue, sachet, satraps, sated, shipwrights, siegeworks, sistrums, sledges, smelted, soothsayer, pelt, stadia, tamarisk, tanner, tetrarch, terebinth, thresher, throes, tresses, unscathed, usury, vassal, vaunts, verdant, vexed, wadi, wanton, winnowing.
Your mileage will vary, of course. Some readers of this blog have a much larger vocabulary than others.
As always, some will say that we should use the Bible to teach a larger vocabulary to people. Others, like myself, prefer that Bible translations use a vocabulary that is understood by a wide cross-section of native speakers, without limiting the vocabulary so much that it feels “dumbed down.”
How do you react to the less commonly used vocabulary of the NIV? Do the occasional rare or obscure words detract from the English of the NIV, which is, overall, more current than older English Bible versions?