The Story on Gender and the NIV (1984), TNIV, and NIV (2011)

I keep coming back to the NIV translation of the Bible. The (now discontinued) TNIV and the 2011 NIV (which supersedes the TNIV) are constant companions in my Bible reading and sermon preparation.

Bruce Waltke anticipates that the NIV will be “ever more precise and always in the language of the people” as it continues to evolve. 50 years ago the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) convened.

 

CBT (image via Zondervan)
CBT (image via Zondervan)

 

The first three speakers in the following video–Doug Moo, Karen Jobes, and Mark Strauss–are all ones whose works I’ve consulted (literally) in the last two days!

 

 

There is an utterly fascinating history of how the translation has changed over the years. I am particularly interested in the discussion about how gender works in translation. I’m with Bruce Waltke on this one:

If you use “man” and part of your constituency is hearing it as male, and it wasn’t intended to be male, that’s bad translation.

So get this:

For the coming [1990s] edition, the CBT decided that where the Greek or Hebrew clearly referred to all people—male and female—the translation would have to find accurate contemporary English language to make this clear.

But before the CBT could release the update, a Christian magazine learned what the CBT was planning and published an article condemning the shift in language, initiating a firestorm of controversy.

Some Christians were unhappy about what the CBT was planning. They accused the CBT of a “feminist” agenda when, in reality, the only agenda CBT had was to accurately reflect the meaning of Scripture in modern English. But the heat of the controversy made it hard for people to understand what was really going on.

The issue became so heated that the International Bible Society (now Biblica) decided that it was not in the best interest of the translation to continue and chose not to publish the revisions. In the United States, Zondervan would keep printing the 1984 edition of the NIV.

Finally, in 2005, the TNIV was born. But the publisher wanted to unify the now two separate editions, paving the way for the 2011 NIV.

Read the whole history here–it’s not a quick read, but it’s quite interesting. And it’s also sad how parts of the Christian community pushed against what would be not just a gender-inclusive, but a more gender-accurate translation.

There are tons of NIV Bibles available, many of which are detailed here. I’ve had a chance to compare a number of the Bibles, so feel free to ask in the comments if you want to hear more… or share your own thoughts on the NIV translation.

 


 

It seems I’m blogging fairly regularly about Zondervan and its products. They have been gracious to provide copies of various products for my review purposes.

The NIV’s 50th Anniversary

NIV Wheel Graphic

 

Whether it was for summer camp or Bible quizzing, I grew up memorizing the (1984) New International Version. And, yes, I’m still quite fond of the unfortunately discontinued TNIV. Now Zondervan no longer publishes the 1984 NIV, nor the TNIV–instead, the 2011 update to the NIV is the current version.

You might not realize that the NIV is 50 years old this year. Here’s a recent press release:

In 1965, the Committee on Bible Translation took on the most massive translation project of modern times: to prepare a contemporary English translation of the Bible from the best available original manuscripts. Since its release in 1978, the NIV has become the world’s most read and most trusted modern-English Bible translation with over 450 million copies distributed worldwide. Upon the 1978 release of the NIV, readers were ecstatic that they could finally understand the Word of God in contemporary language.

This anniversary got onto my radar screen when I came across the new NIV 50th anniversary app. What I didn’t know till the other day is that the NIV Study Bible is the best-selling study Bible in the last 30 years.

Here’s a video with some recognizable names discussing the work of the Committee on Bible Translation, who produced the NIV:

 

 

You can read more about the NIV here.

 


 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: A Zondervan rep approached me with an invitation/encouragement to post about the NIV, and offered to send an NIV Study Bible. I plan to post about that in due course, too, once I receive it. While I do appreciate the 2011 NIV over the 1984 NIV in a number of ways, said “Material Connection” has not diminished the place in my heart that the TNIV will always have.

Of texts, translations, and readers

From A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (Lust/Eynikel/Hauspie):

When preparing a lexicon of the LXX, one is faced with several basic questions related to the fact that most of the books of the LXX are translations. This lexicon is supposed to give the meaning, i.e. the English translation equivalents, of the words used in the LXX. However, which meaning should be given, the one intended by the translator or the one understood by the readers for whom it was intended? Is reference to be made to the underlying Hebrew or Aramaic, or is the search for meaning to be confined to the Greek? These questions are interrelated and connected with the special character of “Septuagint Greek.”

This made me think of something I just read in Roy E. Ciampa’s chapter, “Approaching Paul’s Use of Scripture in Light of Translation Studies,” in Paul and Scripture: Extending the Conversation, edited by Christopher D. Stanley.

The point is that translations need to be analyzed not only in terms of their relationship with the source text but also in terms of (a) how the target text’s place within its adoptive literary system (as well as the social, religious, and other systems of which it is a part) relates to the source text’s place within its adoptive literary and other systems, and (b) how the place of the author of the source text within his culture and context relates to his place within the target text’s culture and context, and so forth.

Readers and how they understand texts are an issue, too.

Ciampa says in another place:

Paul’s interpretative method is closer to the idea of an indirect translation—one that that only partially resembles the original text and its meaning, retaining only those parts that are relevant to those to whom his interpretation is being transmitted. He may be aspiring not to complete interpretive resemblance with the original but only to partial resemblance, making alterations in order to adapt the text and its message in ways that optimize its relevance for his congregations.

The questions raised by each of the three above quotations are all reasons I am interested in studying the Septuagint, and now the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament. I’m learning that it’s so much more than just, what text did the NT writers have at hand, but also: how did NT writers use a text (whether Greek or Hebrew) to fit the needs of their writing and their audience? It’s a lot to unpack, and some of it is near impossible to know. But exploring questions like these strikes me as time well spent, even if I’ve unearthed more questions than answers for the time being.