Another New Bible in English
Today the Committee on Bible Translation, which is responsible for the NIV translation, has released an “update” of the NIV. This was, in days gone by, the de facto standard translation in the LCMS, though in recent years the ESV has become more common via, initially, the Psalter text of the Lutheran Service Book, and from there it seems that Concordia Publishing House has adopted the ESV as the “house” translation.
But, many still use the NIV. There are some rather substantive changes in the text (apparently it will just be called “NIV” — you’re sort of stuck after you call something “New” and then update it several times over the years — “Newer”? “Newest”?). I won’t go into the details of most of these; the principles of editing and some examples are helpfully provided by the editors. I strongly encourage you to take a look at these. A few of the key principles are that 1) language changes — “alien” to most people means E.T. or creatures that burst out of bellies, it doesn’t most often mean “foreigner.” This seems to be the most common reason for a change. 2) Historical study and scholarship allows us to be more certain about the meanings of Greek and Hebrew words. One that will set people off, no doubt, is to hear on Christmas Eve: “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” “Guest room” more accurately translates κατάλυμα, but most churches will have to get rid of the innkeeper costume from the Christmas Pageant. There were no Motel 6s in the first century, and Joseph’s problem was not failing to provide a credit card to hold his reservation but finding no room in someone’s house. 3) This is not identified in the provided document, but there are also some changes made as the result of reaching a different decision about textual variants. So in Mark 1:41 Jesus is “indignant” at the question of the leper, not “moved by compassion.” I happen to agree with this choice, but get ready to explain an angry Jesus to your Bible study class. 4) General accuracy. Ambiguity often leads to inaccuracy. My favorite fix is Philippians 4:13, which now reads “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” rather than “I can do all things . . .” There goes one of your best “name it and claim it” verses. So many Inspirational posters will have be torn down and bookmarks and coffee mugs tossed out that there may be a landfill crisis on the way. The entire Christian trinket industry may fold as a result.
It is not necessary to comment on every change; some you will like, and some you will not (although perhaps the choice should not come down to “what you like”?). For those whose orthodoxy meter is set to look for only one passage, it is still a “virgin” that will conceive and give birth. What is more interesting (and important) is whether or not this is all a good idea. Language changes, culture changes. But do we need a new, updated translation every 15 years or so? What about memorizing Bible passages? And what does this do to the authority of what we are reading, and upon which we base out teaching and preaching? For those whose Greek and Hebrew is up to snuff (and up to date) this isn’t that big a deal. But I can imagine some very disconcerted faithful Christians asking “what does this mean?” Any answer?