Archive for May, 2018

NIV 2011? No.

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

As a new forty-something Christian in 1989, I was introduced to the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, published in 1984. Our Senior Pastor recommended it, so when I went out to buy a Bible, I picked the NIV Study Bible. I found it readable and understandable. I didn’t get too hung up on whether it was a translation or a paraphrase or something in between. As a layman, I wasn’t qualified to evaluate the scholarship behind the various versions, so I consulted other versions, commentaries, and trusted Christian friends to guide my understanding of what I read in the NIV. In the intervening years, I’ve spent enough time reading, studying, discussing, and teaching the Bible that I have confidence in the usefulness and reliability of the 1984 NIV.

Not all of my reading and study time is spent with a print Bible. Over the years I have come to depend more on electronic forms, either online (e.g. biblegateway.com) or software installed on various devices, primarily E-Sword (Windows), AcroBible (Android), and PocketBible (most desktop and portable platforms). So when the 2011 edition of the NIV appeared online and as an option in my study apps, my curiosity was aroused.

As I read familiar passages in the 2011 edition, I noticed a very different tone. Part of it was unnecessary inclusive language that interfered with the literary flow of the text. Much of this language is just plain awkward, e.g. using they and their as singular pronouns. Such wording calls attention to itself instead of to the meaning of the text; it is the triumph of syntax over semantics.  But at least such foolishness doesn’t alter the fundamental meaning of the passage. Then I came across Matthew 15:25-28 in the 2011 edition. Here is how three older versions render the passage (emphasis added):

The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs." "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table."  [NIV 1984]

Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” [NKJV]

Then the woman came back to Jesus, went to her knees, and begged. “Master, help me.” He said, “It’s not right to take bread out of children’s mouths and throw it to dogs.” She was quick: “You’re right, Master, but beggar dogs do get scraps from the master’s table.” [The Message]

Then there’s this from the 2011 edition of the NIV (emphasis added):

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” [NIV 2011]

In the first three versions, the woman agrees with Jesus, accepts his analogy, and carries it a step further to explain her confidence that he could help her and might yet agree to do so. But in the 2011 edition, she directly contradicts Jesus and asserts that, as a matter of fact, it is right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.

This viewpoint rang a bell, reminding me of something I had seen a few years before in some PCUSA publication or web page. In her book Back to the Well: Women’s Encounters with Jesus in the Gospels (2004), Frances Gench, feminist theologian and Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, quotes another writer, Susan Ringe: "In this story, however, [in contrast to Jesus’ usual exchanges with hostile questioners] it is Jesus who provides the hostile saying and the woman whose retort trips him up and corrects him." Gench adds (you can almost hear her chortle) "in other words, she delivers the punch line and trumps him!"

Seven years later, the new edition of the NIV provided a rendering of the passage that fits the feminist interpretation suggested by Gench and Ringe. Did the editors read Gench’s book? It’s impossible to believe they didn’t. Were they influenced by it? Obviously. No thanks; I’ll keep using the 1984 edition.

Thankfully, I had bought the NIV 1984 for all of the software I use, so I’ve been able to keep it on all my devices. Biblegateway offered the NIV 1984 as an option for a while, but now you can only read the NIV in the 2011 version. I don’t bother; if a link sends me to a passage on their site, I read the ESV instead. Fortunately, print versions of the 1984 are available at ChristianBook.com. I don’t think software vendors are allowed to sell the NIV 1984 any longer.

Note: After writing this, I spent a little time Googling. Suffice to say, I’m not the first to find problems with Zondervan/Biblica’s politically correct cash cow.

Tags:
Posted in Christianity, Personal | No Comments »