Home > Biblical Studies, Brian's Blogs > Will 2011 Be the Year of the NIV?

Will 2011 Be the Year of the NIV?

It is hard to deny that 2009 is the year ESV (English Standard Version) with release of the wildly popular ESV Study Bible.  But a recent announcement from Zondervan about the NIV 2011 may make 2011 the year of the NIV.

The NIV has a very interesting history (read a great summary here).  It began with the dreams and frustrations of a man in Seattle who expressed them to his church and his denomination.  His primary frustration was that the English Bibles available in the 1950s were too difficult too understand.  His dream was to have an English Bible that was readable, even for the non-Christian.  This man’s denomination, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), heard his cry and referred the initial work to it’s main seminary, Calvin Theological Seminary.  (side note: I wonder of the ESV guys realize that the NIV may be more Reformed in origin…)

Anyway, this initial committee began consulting with many other biblical scholars and denominations and began the translation process.  The summary linked above talks about this process (including a lot of names and places) and provides one example of the scholarship involved: the final editing of Isaiah took 10 weeks at a pace of three verses per hour!  Finally the NIV was released and has since sold over 300 million copies.

I think in the midst of ESV exuberance, the NIV may have taken a hit this year.  Although I do not own an ESV (except for the free version I have on my Pocket PC), I appreciate the translation.  Any translation that comes from this group of scholars has to be good!  That being said, the scholarship of the NIV is just as quality.  Consider the current group responsible for the NIV 2011 (with one remaining Calvin guy!):

Ken Barker – Formerly Adjunct Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary.
Craig L. Blomberg – Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary.
Gordon D. Fee, Professor Emeritus of New Testament Studies, Regent College.
Dick France, – Formerly Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University, and Parish Minister.
David Instone-Brewer – Senior Research Fellow in Rabbinics and the New Testament, Tyndale House.
Karen H. Jobes – Gerald F. Hawthorne Professor of New Testament Greek and Exegesis, Wheaton College.
Douglas Moo, [Chair] – Blanchard Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College.
Mark L. Strauss – Professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary San Diego.
Paul Swarup – Pastor and Teacher, Christ Church Noida, Dehli, Uttar Pradesh, India
Larry L. Walker – Visiting Professor, Beeson Divinity School of Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama
Bruce K. Waltke [Senior] – Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Studies, Regent College; Professor of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary.
Michael Williams – Professor of Old Testament, Calvin Theological Seminary.
Ron Youngblood – Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and Hebrew, Bethel Seminary San Diego.

I realize that these are mortal men and women, but anything that this group comes up with will be a faithful, God-honoring translation of Scripture.

The major difference between the ESV and the NIV is the foundational translation philosophy.  The ESV operates from a “word-for-word” translation philosophy whereas the NIV operates from a “thought-for-thought” translation philosophy.  While both are important and necessary for good Bible study, I guess I lean towards the “thought-for-thought” philosophy for preaching, teaching, and devotional use.

Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss summarize this well in their book How to Choose a Bible Translation for All It’s Worth:

“The goal of translation is to reproduce the meaning of the text, not the form…the best translation is one that remains faithful to the original meaning of the text, but uses language that sounds as clear and natural to the modern reader as the Hebrew or Greek did to the original readers.”

Of course, Fee and Strauss would say this because they are on the NIV 2011 translation committee!  But, I think their words express the goal of every Bible translator across the globe who is seeking to translate the Word of God into a tribal language.  But I also think it is a worthwhile goal for the NIV 2011 in post-Christian America.  Therefore, I am looking forward to buying a new Bible in 2011.

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  1. Andrew Ford
    September 10, 2009 at 7:06 am

    The world is big enough for 2 or 3 or maybe more quality translations! What about the Holman Christian Standard Bible – we should add a review of this translation. I like all three and look forward to the 2011 NIV. It would be nice to see a side by side comparison of key passages.

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