I’m happy to continue accepting suggestions for the 2010 revision of the NIV. I need to receive all suggestions by Dec. 31 to forward them to the CBT on their time schedule. Post your suggestions at this website:
It is most likely that the CBT will use the TNIV as its starting base, rather than the NIV itself, so it would probably be best for you to suggest revisions to the TNIV text. If you don’t have a copy of the TNIV, its text is available via a link on the revisions suggestion website. Please read the instructions on that website carefully before submitting a suggestion.
4 thoughts on “NIV revision suggestions still welcome”
It may be that the TNIV will be the starting point for revision for the NIV2011 rather than the current NIV. However, I think it should be kept in mind that the NIV is still the #1 English language Bible in the world in terms of sales and the TNIV is not even in the top 10. The most important reason for this is certainly the non-acceptance of the gender language of the TNIV by NIV readers as a whole. If the gender language of the TNIV is retained – on the whole with only minor changes – it will be flying in the face of the language that NIV readers themselves have freely chosen as the most familiar, natural, and acceptable to them.
The language of the TNIV is of course normally accurate as to meaning and takes a good amount of ambiguity out of certain words, verses, etc. And, I am quite certain that the NIV2011 will be an accurate translation. However, whether it becomes a niche version like the TNIV became, rather than a generally accepted version like the current NIV was and still is, will depend almost entirely on how it handles gender language. If the NIV 2011 retains the mass pluralizations, the regularized use of the indefinite they, the non-usage of “man” generically, etc. from the TNIV it will almost certainly be rejected by the majority of current NIV readers – simply because it is not the English language that NIV users are used to in their own NIV Bibles nor is it the language that they use, on the whole, in their own lives.
I’m a long-time NIV user who believes that the NIV version has done more to increase Bible reading and Bible understanding than almost any other advance in biblical studies over the last 30 years. I also recognize the improvements of the TNIV over the NIV in certain aspects; however, the changes in gender language were simply too radical for the normal NIV reader. I myself have never been able to adapt myself to the TNIV gender language. It seems all too often unatural, forced, artifical, and yes, so obviously an attempt – consciously or unconsciously – at political correctness. I interact with a wide-range of people on an almost daily basis and no one whom I deal with uses gender language in normal life in the way in which the TNIV has regularized it. Yes, it fits well in many universities, seminaries and amongst certain groups of younger people. However, it does not fit well with the general Bible reading public as a whole – especially of readers of Tyndale/KJV versions and, more importantly, current NIV readers as a whole. In its attempt to not offend one group of people it has succeeded in offending huge numbers of the Bible reading public instead – again, including current NIV readers.
A few examples from my own reading of the Psalms just this morning of words and phrases from the TNIV which I simply do not think will be accepted by the majority of current NIV readers:
1. Psalm 1 – “Blessed are those” instead of “Blessed is the man.”
This pluralized beginning of the Psalm is then followed by unfamiliar, forced, and/or unatural langugae throughout the first half of the Psalm in order to correspond to the plural “Blessed are those”. But “Blessed are those”, while certainly true, is not what the text itself says. “Blessed are those” is an ‘application’ of “Blessed is the man” – not a translation of what the Hebrew actually says or means. This same type of pluralization, of course, is done throughout the Psalms, etc. Such a translation technique is not now, and almost certainly will not be, accepted by most NIV readers – irrespective of the case that can be made for using the application rather than the literal translation. Serious Bible readers today generally know how to make their own applications of a text – just as the ancient Hebrews did. A footnote as in the ESV can make this clear if deemed necessary. Of course, I don’t expect many contributors to this blog to agree with me on this. However, I also don’t expect many current NIV users to be willing to accept “Blessed are those..” And, that – acceptability – is the greater point.
2. Psalm 8:4 “what are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”
Who uses the word “mortals” today as a replacement for the traditional generic “man” in speaking English? I can hardly think of anything that sounds any more strange. The only times I read such a word is in other Bible translations such as the NRSV, the NLT, etc. But this is certainly not the way people talk in normal life.
In addition, though the term “human being” connects with people when used judiciously, overuse of it often results in unatural English. Anyway, when I hear it I often feel like I’m in a biology class or in a university setting – not in a normal life situation.
3. Psalm 12:8 – “who freely strut about while depravity is honored by the human race.”
Who talks like this? Again, with “human race” I think I’m in a biology class or a class on evolutionary theory or in my own field of late 19th century European history where racial theories were being discussed with a fervor. But I don’t think that the ancient Hebrews would have been thinking in any of these terms and I don’t hear people use “human race” in a context like Psalm 12 today.
4. Psalm 33:13 – “From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all humankind;”
Who talks like this? With “humankind” we’ve moved from Biology class to an Anthropology or Paleontology class. I know of no other context in which such language is used – again, except in other versions of the Bible like the NRSV or in the study Bible notes of the NIV Study Bible, etc.
Of course, as I said earlier all these English usages above do indeed fit in many universities, seminaries, etc. But this is simply not how the “common man” speaks English.
I sincerely hope that the CBT will not presume to translate in a way in which it believes we “should” speak English rather than in a way corresponding to the diversity of how the English speaking world does, in fact, speak – especially the common man. Most of all, I hope that it will translate in a way that corresponds accurately to number as well as to gender and then allows people to make their own applications of the text rather than making those applications for them.
Richie, thank you for your constructive comments on the NIV/TNIV. I would encourage you to post your concerns to the revision suggestion website for Psalm 1 and other passages. We have been assured by Doug Moo, chairman of the CBT, that every gender passage is on the table and will be reconsidered. I myself have suggestions for the CBT in this area.
I know that the CBT did try to use gendered English which the majority of native English speakers currently use. They are convinced, as I am from my own careful listening and field testing, that the indefinite “they” is currently used by the majority of English speakers in at least Australia, the U.K., the U.S., and Canada. I don’t know how much indefinite “they” is used in India, Nigeria, and other English dialect areas. But if evangelical Bible users are not ready for an English version which uses the indefinite “they”, even though many of them, including TNIV critic Jim Dobson, do regularly use it both in speaking and writing, then the CBT will need to take that into consideration. Bill Mounce, a strong complementarian, and the newest member of the CBT, has said that he himself uses the indefinite “they.” Yet he may not want it in the NIV revision. I don’t know if he has an opinion on that yet.
You are correct in not wanting the NIV itself to be widely rejected, as was the TNIV, over one aspect of English language.
Thanks, again, for your thoughtful comments.
I am glad to see the TNIV as the base work, even if every gender accurate passage is on the table. The OTHER improvements the TNIV made over the NIV (the ones that were lost in the gender debate) are the small improvements that truly made me a fan of the TNIV. Gender accuracy is nice, but I was not a fan of the NIV before the TNIV. Simply making the TNIV gender accurate would not have won me over.
Wasn’t the real problem with the TNIV that it suffered as a follow-up to the in-between revision of the NIV that chose gender equality over gender accuracy? Seems to me that many people confuse the two, over-reacting to the eariler version, and now all het up over the later. And then Zondervan seems to have hidden from the fight, without fully supporting the TNIV with strong marketing. An unfortunate circumstance, since as Dan Thompson pointed out, the TNIV is an improved translation over the NIV.
Surely the NLT’s success shows that English speakers are moving to gender-neutral language.