Unreached People Groups Everywhere Rejoice over New NIV Translation

There’s a wonderful satirical post at Tominthebox: Unreached People Groups Everywhere Rejoice over New NIV Translation.

“From the deepest recesses of South American Jungles to the coldest corners of Siberia, native people groups everywhere are rejoicing over the latest announcement that the English-speaking world will be spending millions of dollars for yet another English translation of the Bible. The excitement erupted after Zondervan Publishers announced that it would be making a major revision and update to its New International Version, first released in 1978.”

HT: Eddie Arthur

It seems wrong that those who already have the Bible should be given more while those who have little… wait, this sounds like something I’ve heard before:

“For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matt. 25:29, NIV)

Sated yet thirsty As much as I support Bible translations for minority languages, I don’t think we can redress the inequities by taking resources away from the more developed language communities. Churchill’s words come to mind here: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” In other words, just because capitalism has resulted in an over-abundance of Bible translations for the few doesn’t mean that some sort of redistribution of resources is going to solve the problem of lack of access to God’s Word.

A wealthy translation project like the NIV revision is one way of getting a Bible done. The Bible Society model which is essentially a donor-driven aid program is another. I’m wondering if open-source translations might be the rising wave. High-quality translations in languages of wider communication are increasingly becoming available: NET, WEB, and WBTC are examples in English. Thanks to programs like Adapt It, mother-tongue translators can base their translation on a well-established translation and then adapt it to their own language. We actually used this method for several years to adapt the Chichewa translation into a first draft for Nyungwe.

Living water

I read a tantalizing quote in an article on the Wycliffe Bible Translators website. A woman in Papua New Guinea said, “Having the Bible only in English is like holding a cold glass of water that we can’t drink.” I feel compassion for such a person but at the same time I also feel slightly jealous. You see, I sit here at my desk surrounded by cold glasses of water. I can drink from any of a dozen Bible translations. Yet my soul is very often thirsty. Perhaps, the thirst that woman experiences is a good thing. Maybe it’s the prerequisite to a vernacular translation of the Bible being produced by a local church. And maybe my thirst will not be filled by the NIV revision or the Common English Bible or yet another study Bible. Maybe the Word is not the water. Instead a Bible translation might simply be the vessel for God’s life-changing message. In Psalm 42, the psalmist’s soul is thirsty for God. In the Beatitudes those who are blessed thirst for God’s justice.

With so many Bibles, why are we still thirsty?

7 thoughts on “Unreached People Groups Everywhere Rejoice over New NIV Translation

  1. Jonathan Morgan says:

    Because we haven’t left ourselves time to read them?

    Seriously, I think a crucial verse is:
    Luke 12:48 (ESV) 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

    While this is specifically applied to knowledge of Christ, I think it applies more generally. While all Christ’s followers have responsibilities to him, if we of the English world have much given to us (particularly the access we have to God’s word) then more will be expected of us. Are we ready to meet that expectation, or have the blessings God has given us become curses and led us away from him?

  2. Ruben says:

    The last part of your post resonated with me, I think we fall into the trap of being so immersed in reading and studying the Bible that we lose the real love and desire for God that we should have. In this case the Bible becomes an idol, something that takes the place of God. I year for that simple view that sees the Scriptures as a message and our hearts actually yearn for the One who sent that message instead of obsessing over the message.

  3. Tim Worley says:

    John 5:39-40 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life”

  4. Wayne Leman says:

    “From the deepest recesses of South American Jungles to the coldest corners of Siberia, native people groups everywhere are rejoicing over the latest announcement that the English-speaking world will be spending millions of dollars for yet another English translation of the Bible.

    I doubt that Biblica or Zondervan will be spending millions of dollars for the minor revision the NIV will experience this coming year. The NIV is still the most widely used English Bible among evangelicals. It has needed to be revised for quite a few years. I doubt that there will be a large budget for the revision.

    We have come to the point of diminishing returns for English Bible translations. ISTM that the only way to significantly increase the quality of future English Bible versions is for any new project to require each of its exegetes and stylists to attend an intensive Bible translation course as well as a scholarly course in English grammar. Stylists should attend English editing courses, as I did when I worked as an editor for a publisher.

    I do think that we should all step back and look at the English Bibles available to us now. There are a number which can serve church and personal study well. The English-speaking world is well-served with the many Bibles it has to choose from. Let us now encourage denominations, seminaries, and English Bible publishers to turn personnel (exegetical) and financial resources toward the job of meeting the Bible translation needs for thousands of remaining languages around the world ASAP. The number of these speakers is about the same as the entire population of the U.S. Imagine everyone in the U.S. unable to read the Bible in their own language!

    There have been some English Bible translation projects which have had multi-million dollar budgets. If we could transfer just one of those budgets toward the financial needs of Bible-less translation projects we could go a long way toward meeting Bible needs around the world. Wages for national Bible translators in other parts of the world are far less than salaries for English translators, so a dollar or euro goes a lot farther, gets more verses banged out for the buck!

  5. Charles says:

    I believe its because we spend to much time worrying about the precise wording of Bible that will not offend anyone and be hip and pc and post modern and long dissertations on the arcane nuances of Greek translations citing this lexicon and that dictionary that go on and on and on rather than spending time studying the Bible and trying to understand the big picture. God loves us, we should love others as he has loved us, we cannot cure ourselves, he can.

    Any new revelations that have changed the way we believe God feels about us in all these myriad of translations.

    I know people here make a living teaching translation and feel it is very important. The question was why do we have thirsty souls. Hope I haven’t hurt any feelings

  6. Ernst Wendland says:

    As someone who was deeply involved in the (chi)Chewa Bible translation for many years, I am happy to hear of yet another language project (Nyungwe) that it was able to assist via the Adapt-It program. I know of about ten other Bible translation projects that were also assisted by this translation in a “language of wider communication” in south-central Africa. If we could devote much greater resources (human and financial) to similar languages around the world that could serve as translation “models”, we would be much farther ahead in meeting the serious challenges that we are facing these days.

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