Wednesday, September 2, 2009
It’s official: After a turbulent few years, Biblica, the organization formerly known as the International Bible Society, who holds the copyright to the all-time best-selling New International Version of the Bible (NIV), has decided to pull the plug on the Today’s New International Version (TNIV) and update the NIV.
Apparently, we should expect a new product in 2011 that will replace the NIV completely. But it will not go as far (re: gender language for human beings) as the TNIV did–kind of a via media that will hopefully please TNIV and NIV enthusiasts.
I often though the overall strategy for the TNIV and NIV was a strange one (shared by Biblica and Zondervan publishers). Zondervan released the TNIV with an expensive ad campaign to reach a younger generation. But as soon as the TNIV was criticized by conservative Christians who didn’t want anyone tinkering with their beloved NIV, the publishers immediately recoiled and made the TNIV a parallel-track, back-burner publication. Indeed, they even continued to release new specialty Bibles using the NIV, thereby cannibalizing their TNIV sales and choking off any chance that it would survive. Apparently they didn’t want to alienate their base by the appearance of being too politically correct. Rick Mansfield, who writes This Lamp, has a nice post about the TNIV/NIV controversy that I largely agree with.
In reality, the TNIV was a great update to the NIV. Most of the changes were sensible, based on how our language has evolved and advances in biblical scholarship. For instance, it makes sense to generally translate the ubiquitous New Testament word adelphoi as “brothers and sisters,” rather than just “brothers,” since the epistles were written for a mixed audience. My only qualm was when the TNIV went too far to avoid singular pronouns (the so-called generic he) and either pluralized or used a singular they/them/their. I do agree that singular they is now a mainstream part of our North American vernacular, but that doesn’t mean it’s good, proper English. I’m going to post feedback on the NIV Bible 2011 Web site, encouraging the translation committee (called the Committee on Bible Translation) to imitate the God’s Word (GW)* translation of the Bible when dealing with gender language (which, we can all agree, is the main source of conflict). For instance, see how Psalm 1 is treated:
Psalm 1:1a, 3a NIV Psalm 1:1a, 3a TNIV Psalm 1:1a, 3a GW
“Blessed is the man…” “Blessed are those…” “Blessed is the person…”
“He is like…” “They are like…” “He is like…”
In this case–and the Bible is fully of examples when an individual person is specified–the God’s Word does the best job in keeping the individual in focus without drawing unnecessary attention to the masculine referent.
I would encourage everyone who has an opinion to share it–thoughtfully, graciously, and kindly–at the NIV Bible 2011 Web site. Please pray for the Committee on Bible Translation, that they would be captive to the Holy Spirit and not the spirit of the age, whichever one it might be.
* As a side note, the GW is a very good translation that is largely unappreciated and underrated.