Thursday, April 2, 2009
So over the past week I have been in three different bookstores, two Christian and one secular (but that carries Bibles). I love to browse through the Bible sections and soak it up, kind of as a way to see what the Bible market is doing. And I observed something about each of the three stores I visited: There wasn’t one solitary Today’s New International Version (TNIV) of the Bible in the whole joint. So what’s up with bookstores–Christian and secular alike–snubbing the TNIV?
Maybe it’s just a coincidence; Maybe it’s that there isn’t any market for the TNIV. Or maybe not. I also receive a paper catalog from a major Christian book chain (not related to either of the Christian bookstores I visited) and I have never seen the TNIV featured (or even pictured) in one of their catalogs. Even their annual “Bibles” catalog relegates the TNIV to a corner on the gift and award Bibles page–with no pictures. Ditto for yet another paper catalog I receive from a different Bible seller that also doesn’t advertise the TNIV.
So what’s up with that?
I have to say that I believe the TNIV is, in nearly every category, an improvement over the New International Version (NIV), its predecessor. Every time I have compared the NIV and the TNIV, the TNIV has been 1) mostly the same, 2) actually more accurate (“literal”) in many places, and 3) more clear when it does deviate from the NIV. I’ll grant that the TNIV does go out of its way sometimes to avoid gender specific language for human beings, which might be considered awkward by some. But other translations, like the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV; which, unlike the TNIV, is not an evangelical translation), the New Living Translation (NLT), and the New Century Version (NCV) all liberally employ gender-neutral language for human beings–more so than the TNIV. So why are they plastered all over the Bible catalogs and on the shelves of bookstores when the TNIV–which is an excellent translation–isn’t?
Others have speculated about this phenomenon, too. I don’t personally blame Zondervan, the TNIV and NIV’s publisher. But my conspiracy-theory mind starts to wonder why the Bible retailers are not carrying or advertising the TNIV. My anti-TNIV conspiracy theory goes like this: Many Christians grew to love the NIV. Without meaning to, they ascribed to the NIV what many people ascribe to the KJV–that somehow (even though it’s only been around since 1978) it is the Word of God preserved in English. And, therefore, to tinker with the NIV is blasphemy against God’s Word. Keep in mind that this is all hypothetical and subconscious–my own pet theory to which I am entitled. The 1997 Colorado Springs Guidelines on gender language for human beings crystallized the NIV’s established translation philosophy (not to mention they laid the foundation for the very popular–and TNIV competitor–English Standard Version [ESV]). So when the TNIV was announced–a translation that violates the NIV, even in the area of gender language for human beings!–a perfect storm was brewing.
I believe that evangelicals have not given the TNIV a fair shake; in fact, it seems like they have banded together, silently, to ignore this pest until it goes away.
Very sad, really. For those of us who support the TNIV, let’s make sure that we ask for the TNIV in bookstores and order it online. Let’s not let a good thing go away.