Recently I asked my good friend Andy if he might be willing to share on this blog his experience of discovering the benefits of reading Today’s New International Version (TNIV) of the Bible. Hear him out. I love what Andy says about this experience.
Andy: Having always maintained the King James Version was the Bible for me, I had been using it for forty years and was very reluctant to accept any other version until I was introduced to the TNIV—no small chore I might add. In conversing with a chap via email, I found my friend, Ken, always quoted from the TNIV (Today’s New International Version). I in turn used the KJV but this friend kept challenging me to try the TNIV and at times got into some serious debate regarding scriptural passages. I decided I would use the TNIV to back up my position on several issues just to prove that I was as comfortable in either version.
Ken: Plus, Andy may have gotten tired of me replying to his emails by asking if he always spoke in Elizabethan English or if he only sounded that way when he was typing emails which included quotes from the KJV. Was he debating me or Shakespeare? If me, then I wanted to let him know that while I could understand his old English, it seemed odd to me. I’d ask Andy if he really was old enough to speak this archaic form of English. For me this issue comes down to a simple principle. I believe there’s a lot to be said for clarity.
Ken: I think my friend Andy would agree—there’s a lot to be said for clarity. Sometimes reading the Bible may leave us puzzling like the man in the Clarica commercial, but I don’t think we should be puzzling over what the English words mean. Let’s puzzle over what God’s Word meant back then and what it means to us today. In trying to show me he could be just as comfortable in the TNIV as in the KJV, I think Andy may have discovered that even he was more comfortable in today’s English. And in my mind, that only makes sense. Even Shakespearean scholars do not go about their daily lives speaking Elizabethan English.
Andy: Since then I have purchased two copies of the TNIV so my wife and I would be on the same page when we have our devotions. We are very near completing the OT and look forward to commencing with the NT. One major note is that it is much easier reading in 21st century English.
I have encouraged another friend of mine to obtain a copy of the TNIV as well. I highly recommend the TNIV to complement any serious Bible student’s library and not to gather dust but make use of it for study. This now is my study Bible even though when I read passages in it, I keep my KJV handy for reference.
Ken: After 40 years of use, I understand this, but I also know that Andy presents his ideas from Scripture with greater clarity and precision today. I’m very happy for Andy and his wife. God’s Word was not ever meant to sound “old.” God speaks to us in our own language and idiom. When you think about this, it really is odd that we would expect God to speak to us only in Elizabethan era English. From every indication we have in the Bible, God spoke the language of the people of the day: the Hebrew of Genesis is different than the Hebrew of Habakkuk, certainly different than the Aramaic chapters of Daniel, and the Greek of John’s Gospel is markedly different than the Greek of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The King James Only movement seems to misunderstand the very nature of language: it is always changing. And good Bible translation is always about making God’s Word clear in today’s language.
Before you go out and buy a new TNIV Bible like my friend Andy, I should let you know there’s big news. The TNIV is out of print (discounted sales possible) and so is the NIV. Why? They are about to publish the NIV 2011, but they’d prefer we just call it an updated NIV (which I suspect is actually a revised and updated TNIV). Here’s part of what the Committee on Bible Translation had to say about this updated NIV:
Since its first emergence as a complete text in 1978, the New International Version (NIV) has stood as the modern pioneer of a different approach — an approach that mirrors the balance of priorities held by the KJV translators four hundred years ago. The NIV tries to bring its readers as close as possible to the experience of the original audience: providing the best possible blend of transparency to the original documents and comprehension of the original meaning in every verse. The NIV is founded on the belief that if hearing God’s Word the way it was written and understanding it the way it was meant were the hallmarks of the original reading experience, then accuracy in translation demands that neither one of these two criteria be prioritized above the other.
Built upon this philosophy, the NIV has experienced much the same reaction in the church and beyond as its beloved predecessor whose values it seeks to emulate. Thirty years after its first publication there are more than four hundred million NIV Bibles in print.
But, unlike its predecessor, the NIV was designed from the very start with a built-in mechanism to defy the attritional effects of time. Since 1978, the NIV translation team has continued to meet, year after year, reviewing developments in biblical scholarship and changes in English usage — revising the translation to ensure that it continues to offer its readers an experience that mirrors that of the original audience, and periodically releasing those revisions in updated editions of the text… A lengthy revision process was completed in 2005, resulting in the separately published Today’s New International Version (TNIV). The new 2011 updated NIV builds on both the original NIV and the TNIV and represents the latest effort of the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) to articulate God’s unchanging Word in the way the original authors might have said it if they had been speaking in English to the global English-speaking audience today.
The new updated NIV won’t be available in print until 2011, but you can check it out now at Bible Gateway. You’ll find that from this point on at this blog, I will be quoting from the NIV by default, except as always, I will quote from an alternative translation when I feel it captures the sense of the passage better. I take seriously the responsibility to always do my best to make clear what God’s Word is really saying to us. In light of what Andy has shared with us, I look forward to the positive impact the updated NIV will have on people today.
What are your thoughts on Bible translations? Has anyone else made the move from the King James Version to NIV or TNIV or NLT? If you want to know more about my evaluation of Bible translations for today, please see my post Fresh Strawberries.
Andy has indicated that he would be happy to respond to any comments as would I.