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A Review of the New International Version 2011: Part 4 of 4

Conclusion

In sum, what can we say overall about the NIV 2011? First, it is a well-thought out translation, with checks and balances through rigorous testing, overlapping committees to ensure consistency and accuracy, and a publisher willing to commit significant resources to make this Bible appealing to the Christian reader. The commitment of the CBT, Biblica, the NIV translators, and Zondervan is truly stunning. A serious investment of money and manpower has produced this translation. And why? To encourage the believer in Jesus Christ to seek his face in the scriptures, and to grow in grace because of what he or she sees. The obvious dedication of all the principals to the Bible as God’s Word must not go unnoticed. This is a translation by believers for believers. And precisely because the translators represent various denominations and countries, as well as positions about the role of women in the church, the NIV 2011 has an incredibly strong foundation. The unity that is the NIV produced from such diversity speaks well for the health of the Church today. The translators model what believers are to be like.

Second, the scholarship that produced this version is excellent, both in text and translation decisions. The textual basis and rendering of difficult expressions in the original are bold features that warrant our gratitude. This is no fly-by-night operation. Unspeakable effort has gone into the production of this version of the Bible, with thousands of decisions being made by individuals and committees, all under the purview of the prime mandate of the CBT. For this, believers everywhere can and should thank God for the NIV, because it is what it purports to be: the eternal word of God in the language of English-speaking people today.

Third, there are problems with this translation, of course. But there are problems with every translation. Not a single one is perfect, though some are significantly better than others. The New World Translation, because of its strong sectarian bias and downright impossible renderings of the text in many places where the original text contradicts the core beliefs of this group, is far and away the worst translation in English dress. On the other end of the spectrum are some gems, and the NIV 2011 is one of them. Although it is easy for people to become pseudo-informed about Bible translations through the Internet, a far more valuable exercise would be to find a good version and read it. And for readability, the NIV 2011 has no peers. Debates over which translation is better ultimately are a major distraction whose fire the Enemy loves to stoke. As with the handful of other exceptional translations, the NIV 2011 definitely should be one that the well-equipped English-speaking Christian has on his or her shelf, and one that they consult often for spiritual nourishment. Tolle lege!

25 Responses to “A Review of the New International Version 2011: Part 4 of 4”

  1. Great job Dan, I really enjoyed your insight into the new NIV. I shall pick one up and stand it alongside my ESV study bible. You are quite correct in that we should not be distracted aruguing over which bible has the best translation….but I would recommend one to lean on well-educated peers such as yourself because their does appear to be some more accurate than others.
    Again, thanks for sharing and giving us your insight.

  2. Thanks for this series, Dan. Well done. Helpful perspective.

  3. Excellent. Thanks for this.

    I suppose another post about those translations you feel are among the best is coming soon? That would be fun to read.

  4. “the NIV 2011 definitely should be one that the well-equipped English-speaking Christian has on his or her shelf, and one that they consult often for spiritual nourishment.”

    Dan,
    Was this an intentional nod to the singular they? :)

  5. Great review…thanks for your insights!

  6. Thanks for the review. Hope to see you offer a review of the HCSB sometime soon.

  7. Did I miss where u talked about the niv translation of 1 Tim 2:12 as “assume authority”?

  8. Glad that was Michael who said that. The criticism of the NIV2011 is not that it is a bad translation overall, but that it has some particular flaws, significant flaws–for which the overall quality does not compensate. In fact the overall quality makes the situation worse, by being the spoonful of sugar that makes the “medicine”(?) go down. The sugar is not the issue–it’s whether the medicine is medicinal or something else. Dr. Wallace, your review talked at length about how sweet the sugar is, but gives very short shrift to the vital question of the medicine in question.

    The allegation is that it encapsulates an agenda–an extraneous agenda–and weaves that into the fabric. It is thus like a GMO–the genes have been fiddled with, and since it will soon be (as it is already becoming in your review) just plain THE NIV, maybe we should talk about this alleged alien gene, rather than how good the thing tastes.

  9. Daniel B. Wallace July 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    So, Marv, let me get this straight. You want to throw out the whole NIV because you think that “assume authority” in 1 Tim 2.12 is incorrect?

  10. No, that isn’t what I said. What I did say is that this verse and others within the group of verses under dispute within the so called gender debate: Rom. 16:1, Rom. 16:7, I Cor. 14:33-34, have been the focus of criticism in regard to the NIV2011. Now, you may believe that these matters are overblown, and perhaps you are right, but in view of their being in active discussion at this moment, it appears a significant omission that you do not deal with them.

    A single verse or a few verses might make a difference, yes, in whether one is ready to embrace a particular translation. There are plenty to choose from today–it’s an embarrassment of riches. Anyway, Dr. Wallace–let me put it this way–you’re not just anybody–having undertaken to evaluate this translation, would you please consider covering these matters that not a few people would like to hear you speak on?

  11. Check out Rodney Decker’s review on his blog. He has a PDF to a 50 page review of the NIV’11. He addresses these issues.

  12. Thanks for a balanced and edifying review!
    The first time I read “Jesus” in Jude 5 in the ESV, it seemed to leap off the page and I immediately thought of 1 Corinthians 10:3-4. Powerful!

  13. Daniel B. Wallace July 31, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Marv, you mentioned Rom 16.1, 7; and 1 Cor 14.33-34 as texts in the gender debate that need to be covered. Here’s the NIV 2011 and my assessment:

    Rom 16.1: “Phoebe, a deacon”; footnote: “Or servant”

    Rom 16.7: “They are outstanding among”; footnote: “Or are esteemed by”

    1 Cor 14.33-34: “as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. (34) Women should remain silent in the churches.” footnote: “Or As in all the congregations of the Lord’s people, women…”

    My take is that the NIV 2011 is probably incorrect in all of these places. But there are many good scholars who disagree and think that the translations here are right on target. At issue is a matter of lexical import (Rom 16.1), lexical and syntactical analysis (Rom 16.7), and punctuation (1 Cor 14.33-34).

    It is significant that the NIV gives the alternatives in a footnote. And as for Rom 16.7, the alternative was not even acknowledged until ten years ago–which is a complementarian concession.

  14. Daniel B. Wallace July 31, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Marv, I also note that the NET Bible takes the opposite view of the NIV 2011 on each of these three texts, yet lists the alternatives in the footnotes. A lengthy discussion is found in the two Romans texts, and for Rom 16.1 the discussion concludes by noting the translation’s tentative status.

    In other words, we’re not dealing with a black-and-white issue here. These are difficult texts to interpret and there is no clear winner. A responsible translation lists the alternatives, which is exactly what the NIV 2011 does.

  15. Sir,

    I’m so happy to have stumbled upon your NIV review. I’m a lifelong reader of the 1984 NIV. For a time I read the NKJV and NASB, but eventually went back to the NIV because it was what I was familiar with. I was due for a new Bible and a couple weeks ago found my favorite style, the slimline……to my surprise, there were noticable changes that were somewhat distubing…..not because I disagreed with the revisions, but it just didn’t read the way I was used to. More an issue of familiarity I suppose. Your review has encouraged me to investigate the matter further and even perhaps take my studies even deeper.

    Thanks again,
    Mike

  16. Thanks for the review. I thoroughly enjoy your lectures and video on translation and manuscripts.

    One request though: It would be great to see a similar review on the latest HCSB edition. I have heard you say very little on the HCSB, but it seems to be a growing translation…ranking consistently close to the ESV in unit sales, etc (http://www.cbaonline.org/nm/documents/BSLs/Bible_Translations.pdf).

    The HCSB seems to aim for a translation philosophy that would place it quite close to the NET. It would nice to hear your perspective.

  17. I too am curious to hear a review on the HCSB . It was odd to me that Dr. Wallace didn’t compare the HCSB to the NIV 2011 since he wrote an article for the new HCSB Study Bible.

  18. Dan,

    Choosing from the plethora of translations is a daunting task for a perfectionist like myself. My brain has soaked in the NIV ’84 and, more recently, the NRSV. I now have a ministry to street people and need a version that is readable for them and accurate enough for my tastes. Your detailed survey of all angles on the NIV ’11 have settled the matter and eased my anxiety on some of its renderings. I’m sold. Very grateful for your forthright analysis.

  19. Thanks you for this post. I have been going through the NIV2011 this year debating whether to switch my preaching Bible from NIV1984 to the ESV or the NIV2011. I would like to see your thoughts on two different items that have bothered me.
    First, the switch from NIV1984 to NIV2011 seems to be a marketing play by Zondervan to avoid the sales disaster of the TNIV. Nowhere other than the small print on the publication page does the NIV indicate what you buy today is dramatically different what you could buy last year under the same name. In comparison, the NAS was honest enough to indicate “updated edition” for about ten years after their rework. I’m not sure I can support that kind of marketing.

  20. My second item didn’t fit on the previous comment. That is the omission of “selah” in Psalms, which seems to go against the belief in verbal, plenary inspiration. Though not every word needs a specific translation, as you point out in your comments on literal verses accurate translations, every word must be taken into consideration. Yet, this word was totally ignored.
    I have commented on these matters in my blog. but would appreciate your feedback.
    Thanks for your work
    Glenn Gilpin

  21. The feature I most dislike about the NIV is the tendency to harmonize parallel passages. For instance, “given thanks” at Mark 14:22, rather than “blessed it”. Were it not for this, the NIV would be on my desk rather than on a shelf.

  22. There is one pragmatic factor pertaining to the usage of the NIV (2011) that isn’t mentioned that often–with so many changes (whether worthy, or not, and most of them certainly are) it’s really no longer the NIV. It should have been called the Revised NIV, or RNIV, similar to the RSV becoming the NRSV. I wonder if not changing the translation name was a marketing decision…

  23. I really enjoyed your review! It was great to see the NIV 2011 compared to many other translations. I have to say I am puzzled why you didn’t include the NLT when comparing the NIV. The NLT is the 3rd most popular translation (http://www.cbaonline.org/nm/documents/BSLs/Bible_Translations.pdf) and one which many folks are likely trying to compare to the NIV 2011

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