A thought on the new NIV

I used the NIV for a couple of decades, got tired of it, switched to the NRSV for three years and am now using the HCSB as my primary translation and NLT as my secondary, which is the first time I’ve had a secondary translation that’s always close by in addition to using many others for comparison. (These are the same as Rick Mansfield who is quoted below but this is just coincidence.)

So I don’t have much interest in the new NIV. It’s nearly the same as the 1984 NIV and the TNIV. I’m sure it has some improvements and compromises here and there. I’m neutral on the gender neutral (or gender accurate) issues and aside from that I liked every change I saw in the TNIV. But one thing that bugs me is they still have a need to stick to the 400 year old English with John 3:16. They are just scaredy cats when it comes to that verse–no two ways about it. I try to keep things positive here but this just irks me. Will that many people not buy this Bible because this well-known verse is finally changed to modern language?

Rick Mansfield explains it very well and I too look at this verse when a new translation comes out for the same reason.

I look at John 3:16 in a new version, too, but not for the same reason. I always hope that it corrects traditional wording and communicates to a modern audience what the words that the gospel writer originally intended. When William Tyndale translated οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον as “For God so loveth the world…” (adapted by the KJV translators as “For God so loved the world…), his rendering was perfectly acceptable for his time. But for today’s audience, the meaning is wholly misunderstood.

People tend to read this verse as “God SOOOOOO loved the world…” but that’s not what it means. The word οὕτως, which is translated as the so in John 3:16 does not mean the understanding I described in the previous sentence. It means “referring to what precedes, in this manner, thus, so” (BDAG). Therefore, it’s not that the traditional rendering is incorrect. Tyndale intended his use of so to be understood in this regard, but today it’s almost always misread.

Every time a new revision of the NIV is released (and remember the 2011 edition is not the first revision; there have been two before it), I always hope that John 3:16 will be corrected from it’s potential to be misread. However, it remains untouched in this new version. Incidentally, the HCSB and NET Bible get it right, while the NLT actually reinforces the misreading!

Rick Mansfield, This Lamp

Here is the NIV (which even kept the antiquated word shall) and two that get it right:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (HCSB)

For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (NET)

At what point can people let go of this? The HCSB and NET are not freer, thought for thought, dynamic equivalent, or whatever term you’d like to use. They aren’t as formal (equivalent) as some, but they are more on the literal end, or between the two philosophies which I suppose would be median translations, but don’t quote me on that and just ignore it if it’s gibberish.

The same goes for softening certain words like servants vs. slaves, which I won’t go into but is another reason I like the HCSB. (We are slaves of Christ, bought at a price.)

Sorry for the negativity. I most likely won’t be posting about the new NIV again because of lack of interest, although it’s a great translation and is very interesting and exciting to those who are considering switching. I also don’t think this issue is leading people astray or changes any important doctrine. I would just like to get into the 21st century as far as the language our Bibles use. We are so blessed to have so many to choose from and nobody is making me read it, but I do have to hear it and read it when it’s quoted. Then take some deep breaths.

7 Responses to “A thought on the new NIV”

  1. 1 Esteban Vázquez

    As you know, I couldn’t agree more regarding this issue. It baffles me that nearly all contemporary translations refuse to translate this verse clearly, and it galls me that NCV, CEV, NLT, and perhaps others translate it flatly wrong. To my knowledge, only HCSB, NET, and God’s Word Translation get it right, and I would switch to any one of them if I could only appreciate other aspects of these translations as much as I do this one.

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    ISV is another that gets it right. I’m surprised NLT didn’t go ahead with it since it’s a new translation and they made some other bold choices like using the word slave where appropriate instead of servant and some other various choices here and there.

  3. 3 mARK

    It was kind of funny reading this post after your memory ones as I was reminded as to why I could never get into the NIV originally. Having spent many years with the NKJV I became so used to its style I couldn’t handle reading the NIV (Knowing more about translation philosophies I now understand why). J 3.16 is one verse everyone knows a particular way and it seems even the best of translation teams can’t let go. Having said that, I agree with you that the English text should best represent the Greek and not our memory!

  4. 4 Scripture Zealot

    Sad thing is most people would probably think they got it wrong and want to switch Bibles, or that’s what they’re afraid people would think.

  5. 5 Esteban Vázquez

    Thanks, Jeff! I always forget about ISV. (As an aside, I always get really excited whenever I read the introduction to the ISV, only to be disappointed by the execution when I turn to the actual translation. It happens every time!)

  6. 6 Scripture Zealot

    You’re welcome. One of the people who worked on it voiced some displeasure but those stupid human benes are always making mistakes.

    That’s one of the reasons I still use e-Sword (because of the free ISV module). I know you do too.

  7. 7 Scripture Zealot

    The NJB gets John 3:16 right too. How could we miss that?

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