An Anti-TNIV Conspiracy?

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.

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6 thoughts on “An Anti-TNIV Conspiracy?

  1. Nice post.

    I went to one of Orlando’s largest Christian bookstores looking for a TNIV a couple of months ago. Finding none among the thousands of other Bibles in what seemed like every translation known in the English world, I asked the manager if they had any available. He told me they did not and then whispered: “We could order one for you.”

    Shameful.

    I might have to order another TNIV just to show my support. If I do, it will be the Cambridge Popular Version or the R.L. Allan’s. Zondervan’s TNIVs are not that great.

  2. My understanding is that Christian bookstores were asked by the most vocal anti-TNIV people to boycott the TNIV. They believed so strongly that the TNIV was an example of a Bible version that is on a slippery slope toward feminism or liberalism that they felt it appropriate to call for the boycott. That call, plus unrelenting public attacks on the TNIV have caused so much doubt in the minds of conservative Christian booksellers that they have essenntially decided to honor the boycott. I have asked more than once why our local Christian bookstore did not carry the TNIV and was told, “It’s a corporate decision.” Of course that is a non-answer.

    In this case, logic and careful study don’t t really matter. It doesn’t matter that The Message is far less accurate than the TNIV, nor that the NLT has the same kind of gender-neutral (I call it gender-accurate) language. It’s the *perceptions* that matter. The perception is that the TNIV is a bad version. There have been Christian journal articles saying so, and evangelical Christian media leaders have said so, so it must be true.

  3. “There have been Christian journal articles saying so, and evangelical Christian media leaders have said so, so it must be true.”

    Wayne,

    Your post is chilling, especially the last couple of sentences. If that is true, then we evangelicals are just a bunch of unthinking, uncritical sheep. Apparently we will follow anyone perceived as an authority, even if they lead us over a cliff.

    Thanks for commenting.

  4. Could be a conspiracy. Could be censorship. Might be a case of “selling what we have in stock” rather than restocking with something new. While this flies in the face of typical marketing strategies that we all need the “shiny new toy”, in the current economy it may simply be a financial decision. Making a sea-shift of usage is quite a challenge…I must have dozens of “The New English Version” around the house and they seem to be at every church and church camp I frequent. Yet, that 1970’s edition didn’t last in terms of usage (like many 70’s trends, now that I think of it). In reality, unless there is some kind of groundswell to promote a new translation, it probably will never “gain traction”. I think if the Bible in the pulpit doesn’t match the Bible in the pew racks, there won’t be a groundswell of support.

  5. well, the change from the NIV to the TNIV is comething like 6-8% (not a lot). But like you I do like the TNIV. It is a great translation to read and understand. As Wayne stated, there has been an intentional disinformation campaign against the TNIV and (sadly) so far… its working.

  6. I never warmed to, nor trusted, the NIV. Therefore, with that as a base, even tough I possess an large print TNIV, it has remained in its box, unopened, for almost 2 years. I consider it to be a much less accurate revision of the NIV, particularly with the introduction of gender-inclusive language. I do not use Bibles that use this language. So…if the TNIV sails out to sea forever, I will not shed a tear.

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