September 3, 2009
PALOS HEIGHTS, Ill. (BP) -- A revision of the New International Version of the Bible will be available in 2011, according to a joint announcement Sept. 1 by Zondervan, Biblica and the Committee on Bible Translation. The revision will mark the first complete update of the NIV since 1984.
Zondervan also said the new translation's publication will mark the end of the TNIV, the controversial version released in full in 2005 with gender-neutral language.
"As time passes and English changes, the NIV is becoming increasingly dated," Keith Danby, global president of Biblica, formerly the International Bible Society and Send the Light, said during a news conference at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., site of the first meeting of the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) in 1965.
"The NIV charter anticipated this, and it obliges us to respond. If we want to maintain the NIV as a Bible that English speakers around the world can understand, we have to listen to and respect the vocabulary they are using today," Danby said.
A 15-member independent panel of translators from various denominations and different parts of the world, the CBT -- a self-perpetuating committee -- was formed for the purpose of creating and revising the NIV. Biblica is the translation sponsor and copyright holder of the NIV, and Zondervan is the publisher.
The first version of the NIV was released in 1978, and since then it has become the most popular modern English Bible translation in the world, with more than 300 million copies.
"Since the NIV was first published in 1978, English has become the primary international language of commerce and communication," Douglas Moo, chairman of the CBT, said. "As a consequence, the pace of change in English usage has accelerated. This reality imposes on us greater responsibility to make sure that the NIV changes with it in order to maximize understanding.
"As a committee, our response to this challenge has always been to follow the example of the original Bible writers who wrote in forms of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek that reflected the language spoken by the ordinary working people of their day," Moo said. "Just as the New Testament is written in 'Koine' or 'common' Greek, our aim with the NIV Bible is and always has been to translate the Bible into what you might call 'Koine' or 'common' English.
"The new 2011 NIV is all about maintaining and enhancing the original values of the NIV for today's readers. We're looking for a translation that is above all accurate, that says what the original authors said in a way they would have said it had they been speaking English to the global English speaking audience today," Moo said.
The committee also seeks a translation that offers clarity, where understanding of the text comes naturally for the readers, and one that is suitable both for in-depth study and outreach, Moo said.
While seeking to meet the needs of a broader audience of English speakers in the international market, Moo said the CBT also takes into consideration the problems caused by revisions that are too frequent.
"We recognize at the same time that people often will buy a Bible, they will use it as their Bible, they'll memorize it, churches will buy Bibles to put in their pews, and I think we have to balance very carefully the need to keep the Bible up to date in terms of where English is with the reality that people don't want to have to be buying new Bibles every two or three years," he said.
Much discussion during the question and answer session Tuesday focused on the gender-neutral TNIV.
"Whatever its strengths were, the TNIV divided the evangelical Christian community," Moe Girkins, Zondervan's president, said. "As we launch this new NIV in 2011, we will discontinue putting out new products with the TNIV."
Randy Stinson, president of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood -- an organization critical of the TNIV's changes -- applauded the move to discontinue the controversial translation.
"It is very humble of Zondervan and Biblica to admit mistakes and acknowledge the controversy that they brought to the evangelical community over the past several years," Stinson said in a news release. "We are grateful for the godly approach to try to reconcile this. We are hopeful for the new product. I don't have any reason to believe that they are not sincere about their willingness to revisit the more than 3,000 gender changes to which we were opposed."
Stinson said he has been in conversation with Moo and believes that the concerns over the accuracy of gender-neutral language will be taken seriously. Some of the changes, Stinson and others charged, drastically changed the meaning of the text.
During the press conference, Moo said he could not predict whether the 2011 version, set to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the King James Version, would follow more closely the 1984 NIV or the TNIV.
"The relationship between what we anticipate the 2011 NIV to be and either the TNIV on one hand or the 1984 NIV on the other is very hard to determine right now," he said.
The CBT, he said, is committed to a thorough review of their text and is proactively seeking scholarly input as well as feedback from "ordinary NIV Bible readers" for the 2011 version. (Comments can be made at nivbible2011.com.)
"I would say that we on CBT are very conscious of the fact that we have in our view introduced many fine changes into the text of the NIV over the years, many of which found expression in the TNIV," Moo said. "You should expect those changes that we think were appropriately made and now appear in the TNIV to be found as well in the 2011 NIV."
One question raised during the press conference pertained to whether the committee would make changes to the text in order to bow to social pressure concerning homosexuality.
"No. I think I can answer that very clearly no," Moo said. "That's true not only for that issue but other so-called hot button issues of the time. As translators, our purpose is to reflect what God's Word says as accurately as we can on the basis of the best scholarship.
"We are all committed evangelicals, believing in the authority of God's Word," he said. "The importance of every word in God's Word is very dear to us, and that's what our mandate is. We cannot bow to any particular current pressure group and try to fit the Bible into a cultural mode. Then the Bible loses its ability to speak to us and change us."
Girkins said Zondervan's goal is for the 2011 version to be a unifying translation among international readers, and she noted that when the publisher changed its products from the '78 version to the '84 version, the transition took about two years to complete.
"Again, there will be a transition period. I don't know how long that will take. I imagine a couple of years, but we do not intend to continue to publish the '84 or the TNIV editions in the long term," she said.
Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, expressed optimism about the updated NIV translation. LifeWay's subsidiary, B&H, publishes the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
"We are grateful for the recent announcement of the Committee on Bible Translation for the renewed focus on the NIV and its update to be released in 2011," Rainer said in a statement released to Baptist Press. "Focusing efforts in this direction, rather than continuing efforts on the TNIV, will be received positively by many in the evangelical world. We pray for the Committee on Bible Translation in these efforts and for Zondervan in its distribution of the updated NIV."
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