Wednesday, August 10, 2011

NNIV, Good or Bad? Why?

I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not, but here we go!

I've been following many blogs and comments on the NNIV (or the NIV 2011), and there's a little love, but a lot of hate. And personally, as I've stated in a previous post (, I haven't been in the habit of reading any Bible translation in general (I read the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek). So it's hard for me to get behind many who strongly favor this or that translation, because all of them fall so short in so many ways.

Actually, the more I look at the NET (, the more I like that one. But that's a post for another day. This is what gets me. A lot of people saying in general why they don't like the NNIV without giving compelling specific verses. Many just cite "gender neutral language" or "obscures messianic prophecies," etc.

This post is my invitation to all the list ONE specific verse (or a few passages, I suppose, if necessary. But be CONCISE!!!) that the NNIV treats exceptionally well or exceptionally bad. Then we can look at it and get some discussion going. Let's see how this goes...


  1. Genesis 4:1 "Adam made love..."

    This is not "contemporary English." I've rarely heard that phrase past the early 90's, though more so from songs in the 70's and 80's. Why don't they translate "had sex," or "slept with," or "f-----"? Any of these would be more in keeping with "contemporary English," and conform to the dynamic equivalency ideology of modern translations. The best translation of course is "Adam knew his wife Eve," but of course dynamic equivalency has to stick its stupid little head into this mess and fail even at its own standards. I'm not really sure that many parents want their young children to be learning these phrases. "Made love" is kind of impersonal much like the first and third suggestions above. "Slept with" implies more intimacy, but "knew" implies so much more, and is the best equivalent word we have in English, as far as I know.

    Footnotes are about as important as the actual translation. Therefore I reject the rendering of Isaiah 7:14. The translation is correct, but the footnote is liberal trash.

    Personally I would like an absolutely literal translation--not one that uses bad English, or sounds like Yoda, but one that takes the original and translates literally into proper English. If there is an idiom, translate it literally. Pastors and commentaries can explain the idiom. As Dr. Gene Veith said, something to the effect of, if the Jews felt their emotions in their kidneys, I want to know that. Don't translate it as emotions coming from elsewhere, like the heart, as we Americans do. With all due respect to Dr. William Beck (I hope this reference is correct), I do not think a "coffee and doughnuts" milieu is the type we want for our translation, unless the context were to warrant it. I cannot think of any context where this would be.

    The original NIV wasn't all that great anyway. Too much of that crap about "sovereign God" (used well over 200 times). I thought God was supposed to be gracious. Besides if He is sovereign, then He must control everything and be responsible for everything, right? That doesn't explain why evil exists, since God is not responsible for evil.

  2. I went through the NIV's changes in the Book of Philemon. It wasn't an exhaustive look at every verse, so I didn't catch any inherent weaknesses, just changes.

    It's available to see here.

    I noted only one bad NIV translation in the book -- Philemon 1:7 "Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people."

    This is not accurate. Their 'hearts' have been refreshed through you. It's important to note that God's good work is done through us. We are merely God's tools.

  3. Thanks for your post, anonymous.

    Genesis 4:1 and such cases in which ידע refers to copulation of some sort are tough. Of course, there’s intimate sex between married couples, such as Genesis 4:1. Then, the same construction is used for rape as well, like in Genesis 19 in Sodom.

    The more I think about it now, the more I might favor “had sex” if you want a translation that’s consistent (for better or worse) when the verb refers to a sexual union of some sort, given the above cited example.

    I agree that footnotes are important, and the NNIV cites quite a bit of them. Much ink has been spilled about Isaiah 7:14 by both Christian and Rabbinic thinkers for obvious reasons, but the point I’d highlight is that even if the Hebrew or Septuagint text of Isaiah 7:14, for the sake of argument, refers to a female who hasn’t had sex, then it’s not a slam dunk there for a virgin birth. I’d use Matthew’s Gospel to support that because someone says that a virgin will give birth, a very natural assumption is that she’ll get married, have sex, then give birth (not to mention the immediate context of what Isaiah is warning Ahaz in regards to Israel’s exile)...

    I think most people would prefer such a “literal translation,” but it’s not that simple to do since there’s much more to account for than dictionary meaning (such as style, readability, effect, word connotation, etc.) with any translation, as anyone who’s fluent in more than one language realizes. In the most recent Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Professor Nass published part 1 of a series that shows how the ESV in reality does NOT provide such a “faithful” and “literal translation.” I’m very intrigued to read the rest of the series.

    How to translatie אדני יהוה is difficult as well. I think many might say in rebuttal to your comment, “Can God’s grace be sovereign?” “Can’t God be in control of everything, yet not responsible for evil (aka, maybe our reason can’t explain it?)” But it’s a good point, nevertheless. Lord GOD I suppose is decent, but what I’ve always wanted (and the Spanish Reina Valera does this. I’m not of any other...) is an English translation that reads what it “literally” says, Lord Yahweh. Why do most (if not all?) English translations follow the Rabbinic tradition of reading the Tetragrammaton as “Lord”?

  4. Thanks for your work, Benjamin.

    It seems that the NIV is the only popular English translation that doesn't translate δια σου as "through/by you." Translating it in that way let's Paul's style come through better. Good point.


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