Wednesday, December 01, 2010

NIV 2011

The NIV has changed. The version that seems to be in most healthy churches is no longer supported. They tried doing it a while ago with the TNIV, which made some minor improvements where the NIV was a weak translation, and switched to gender-neutral language where appropriate. It came under a lot of flack for that, though after listening to women who felt excluded by older language, I concluded it was best to use the TNIV for churches if buying a new set of Bibles.

Now the NIV 2010/2011 has come out, and seems to be replacing both the NIV 1984 (the familiar version) and the TNIV. It's already the default search on Bible Gateway... So I thought it would be worth making some general comments and then looking at how it fares with regards to some of my personal favourite difficult passages for translators...

Here's a helpful summary graph from John Dyer who has logged all the changes.

As you can see, 60% of the verses in the Bible are identical NIV 1984 / TNIV / NIV 2011, and Dyer reckons about 91% of the words are identical - the changes affect a very small proportion of the words, and even of the verses that have been changed, most were only a word here or there.

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood don't like it, but it's interesting how all their objections are to do with how it fits with their theology which is based on existing translations rather than on the Greek / Hebrew. The simple fact is that Greek allowed for gender-neutral language and modern English uses gender-neutral language, but the old NIV (along with the KJV, ESV, RSV, etc) did not.

1 Timothy 2:11-15

A woman [or wife] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; [or over her husband] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women [she] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
NIV 2011 (square brackets for footnotes)

11 A woman [or wife] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; [teach a man in a domineering way; or teach or to exercise (or have) authority over a man] [or over her husband] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women [she] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
TNIV

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women [she] will be saved [or restored] through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
NIV 1984

A genuinely controversial passage this one, with so much about church life hanging on whether the words mean "woman" or "wife" (same in Greek) and "have authority", "domineer" or "assume authority" (very rare word - we're not sure exactly what it means). CBMW think it should stay as the trad reading. I'm pretty sure they're wrong - it is genuinely controversial how to translate the passage, and I think the translation should show that, as both TNIV and NIV 2011 do.

I should probably say though, I prefer the TNIV on this one because it keeps the ambiguity over what the "assume authority" word means. Unless there's been new work on that that I'm unaware of.

Romans 8:5-9

5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man [or the mind of the flesh] is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind [or the mind set on the flesh] is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
NIV 1984

5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind controlled by the sinful nature [or mind set on the flesh] is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The sinful mind [or mind set on the flesh] is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but are in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
TNIV

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
NIV 2011

5 For those who are according to the flesh think things of the flesh, but those according to the Spirit [think] the things of the Spirit. 6 For the thought of the flesh is death, but the thought of the Spirit is life and peace. 7 Because the thought of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not keep the law of God, for it can't. 8 Those who are in the flesh can't please God. 9 But we are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in us. If someone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not [Christ's].
John's Clunky Literal Translation

My problem with the NIV 1984 reading is described here. TNIV tackles it a bit, but the NIV 2011 wins hands down for translating it so the problem goes away, though I'm a little uncomfortable with the introduction of "realm" in v9.

Hebrews 2 / Psalm 8

A bit of explanation here. The phrase translated "son of man" is used both as general way of speaking about any person, and also as a specific title for Jesus, because he is the Truly Human One. Psalm 8:4 is an example of using it to talk about people in general, but Hebrews 2 picks it up and uses it to talk about Jesus. Gender neutral translations really struggle with this (except for the NLT which translates Ps 8 differently in Psalms and Hebrews).

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,     human beings that you care for them? [or what is a human being that you are mindful of him, / a son of man that you care for him?]
Psalm 8:4, NIV 2011

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified:
   “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, 
   a son of man that you care for him? 
7 You made them a little [or for a little while] lower than the angels; 
   you crowned them with glory and honor 
 8 and put everything under their feet.”
   In putting everything under them, [or him] God left nothing that is not subject to them. [or him] Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. [or him] 9 But we do see Jesus...
Hebrews 2:6-9, NIV 2011

Not bad. They footnoted the more literal translation in Ps 8, then quoted that in Hebrews 2. They also correctly kept the ambiguity in v8 about whether we see everything subject to man or to Jesus, though they had to use footnotes to do it. Clearly better than the TNIV, but still a bit awkward.

1 Kings 12:10

The young men who had grown up with him replied, "Tell these people who have said to you, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter'-tell them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's waist.'"
NIV 1984, NIV 2011, TNIV

My little one is thicker than my father's loins.
literal

Here's my earlier discussion of the verse. Looks like the Bible translators still don't have the balls to do a decent translation that doesn't conform to people's unhelpful stereotypes of the Church.

Other Verses and Issues

NIV 2011 still ascribes a masculine gender to the Holy Spirit, despite the fact that the pronouns used in the original are masculine, feminine and neuter, depending on the gender of the word used to describe the Spirit.

Galatians 2:17, the NIV 2011 keeps the TNIV's unhelpful addition of the word “Jews”.

NIV 2011 has undone some of the difficulties arising from pluralisation in the TNIV (see Rev 3:20). I personally think that we should just accept that “they” can be a gender-neutral singular pronoun, but my English teacher wife disagrees!

NIV 2011 has also addressed some of the problems with NIV 1984 - that it always translated the same word as "teachings" if it was in a positive sense and "traditions" if it was in a negative sense. There's now some crossover (e.g. 1 Cor 11:2), but it's still not quite fair.

Conclusion

I should say, I don't care whether the translation fits with my theology or not. I want a translation that fits with the original text in a way that makes its meaning clear to speakers of modern English.

The TNIV was already my translation of preference because it is important not to alienate people who speak more modern English unnecessarily. Pretending that “he” is still gender-neutral does that, even though most churchy people are comfortable with slightly more traditional language.

The NIV 2011 seems to be an improvement on the TNIV. It isn't perfect yet, but translations aren't. However it's a very good translation, and it would probably now be my first choice translation for use in a church where the reading age was high enough to cope.

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