Monday, March 1, 2010

The NIV: Not great literature.

The NIV is literal enough and conveys some meaning, but its a very flat translation if you know the languages. Also, it tends to "represent" what the translator thinks the author means and then not preserve the original word choice or order very well. There are many intertextual reference in Scripture which therefore get destroyed in the process.


  1. The value of the NIV was allways its general acceptance as a common conservative protestant text. It is not good litterature. Frankly,the ESV which is based on the old RSV should become the new standard. Are you familiar with the Beck (AAT) version? What do you think of that translation?

  2. Yes, it's unfortunate. Years ago I would bring it along to bible studies in NRSV crowds to provide some variety and because the NRSV way of altering the text to satisfy the editors' delicate sensibilities had made it untrustworthy in my eyes. But in almost every comparison, the NIV translation was flatter and less literary than the NRSV. And as you mentioned, the NIV can be untrustworthy in a thousand tiny subtle ways instead a few more explicit ways. I will definitely check out the ESV. I've only read a couple of specific passages so far.

    By the way, what's your favorite NRSV political correctness failure? Mine came around in the lectionary a few weeks ago, in Daniel where "one like a human being" comes down on the clouds.

  3. Yes, I am familiar with Beck. It's very literal, though mixed in are a few paraphrases. Mike- The ESV is the version that we in the LCMS have been using alot of lately. It's what the Lutheran study Bible uses. I like it because it's contemporary, but some what literal. It's a little bit harder a read if you're reading it out loud and are use to the flow of the NIV.

    BTW, I would encorage you to look at the Lutheran study Bible, you might enjoy it.

  4. Sadly, all translations obliterate some intertextuality. But yes, NIV is definitely worse. I personally use the NAS for its adherence to the text (even with notes that sometimes give a "more literal" reading). But with the church using ESV, I feel like I should use it more.

    With Beck, I'm not over-familiar with it, but I once led a Bible study at my field-work church on Nahum using Beck, and it was brutal. The whole book was paraphrased seemingly for the purpose of obscuring the point.

    Granted, Nahum isn't one of the central portions of the canon, but the fact that the Beck transaltion was essentially a one-man endeavor comes through in the more obscure books that Beck probably didn't know as well.

  5. I have been reading the NASB for over 25 years. I have lost track of how many times a pastor or bible study leader, reading from the NIV, would comment that the translation was a bit off and give the word that should have been used, only to find that word in my translation!

    I was greatly dismayed at the update, though. I love my Thees and Thous and Thys throughout the Psalter. You and yours is just not the same.

    After searching fruitlessly for a new-old NASB, I have about decided to have my rather battered, broken spine, torn cover bible rebound so that I can continue to use it without losing any of the pages that are perilously close to coming undone.

    I have the new Lutheran Study bible and am amazed at its resources, but I savor the language of the NASB.

    Of course, people laugh at me because at every bible study I lug my NASB, KJV, and ESV bibles, along with the Book of Concord...just in case.

    The fervor of a new convert...a starving ex-Protestant feasting on Lutheran Doctrine like a glutton.