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A fair analysis of the new NIV

"A fair analysis of the new NIV" Continued...

These reasons tend to persuade me that the proper reading of 27:16-17 should include “Jesus” before Barabbas. This follows the NA28/UBS4 (Nestle-Aland 28th edition/United Bible Societies 4th edition), SBLGNT (Society of Biblical Literature Greek New Testament), NET (New English Translation), LEB (Lexham English Bible), NRSV (New Revised Standard Version), and TNIV against the ESV (English Standard Version), NASB (New American Standard Bible), HCSB (Holman Christian Standard Bible), NKJV (New King James Version), and NIV 1984. In my opinion, the NIV 2011 rightly retains the TNIV reading in these two verses. Though two of my favorite translations (ESV and NASB, favored largely due to the accuracy of translation) exclude this reading, it is likely that the NIV 2011 translation of Matthew 27:16-17 is superior.

The next positive translation example occurs in Philemon 1:6. This is actually the first verse I turned to when I began my examination of the NIV 2011. The NIV 1984 reads, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” The problem with this translation is that it can easily mislead the reader into thinking this verse is about evangelism. To “be active in sharing your faith” sounds like Paul is praying in verse 6 that Philemon and the church at Colossae will be evangelistic. In reality, Paul is praying for the fellowship (koinonia in Greek) of believers in the body of Christ. Though koinonia does involve the sharing of the faith in a fellowship sense, this is not at all how we use the phrase “sharing your faith” in the American church. “Sharing your faith” is almost exclusively used to describe gospel proclamation. Thus, Philemon 1:6 in the NIV 1984 is not a mistranslation, but a poor translation (so also in the ESV, NKJV, and NRSV).

The NIV 2011 follows the TNIV and translates Philemon 1:6 as follows: “I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.” This represents an important improvement over the NIV 1984.

Problems with the NIV 2011

While it is clear that the NIV 2011 has bright spots, bright spots alone are not enough to warrant the NIV 2011’s adoption as a reading/study Bible. Are there glaring deficiencies? And if so, are these deficiencies significant enough to relegate the NIV 2011 to a comparison Bible only?

Among the Bibles in my library, one I would never recommend for reading, study, or comparison would be the New World Translation (except, of course, for apologetics). Why would I make such a bold statement? Because, it is clear that the translation committee (I hesitate to call the NWT’s compilers “translators,” for there is some evidence that they were not proficient in the biblical languages) approached Bible translation with an agenda. Their agenda consisted of systematically dismantling the deity of Christ in the biblical text.

In this vein, John 1:1 was made to say that Jesus was just a god. The translator who employs an agenda upon the text is even more treasonous than the translator who tries his best to communicate the text but fails at various points. Even though I would never put the NIV 2011 in the same camp as the NWT, I do find disturbing the egalitarianism and gender-neutral language imposed upon the text that is manifested in a number of ways. Examples of this imposition will follow.

Problematic gender-neutral language

First, the NIV 2011, following the TNIV, employs gender-neutral language by neutering the masculine pronouns. Gender-neutral language is not illegitimate if the biblical text is speaking generically about human beings (e.g., Acts 17:25) but is suspect if the biblical text is referring to a specific sex.

Though gender-neutral language may not be an illegitimate translation practice for generic references of humanity, the translator might obscure the text’s meaning if it’s not employed carefully. This often happens when the translators take a masculine singular pronoun and translate it as a gender-neutral plural.

For example, the NIV 2011 translates John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” In reality, the pronoun translated “them” is actually a singular “him.” The point of the verse is that God calls and regenerates individual people, but the NIV 2011 adds a corporate element by making the pronoun plural. The verse now seems to say that God is calling and drawing a people to Himself, which is true theologically, but not the point of this verse.

Other gender-neutral translations in the NIV 2011 are more treasonous, especially when the text contains messianic undertones.


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