Why isn’t the NIV the best version, since it was compiled by so many eminent scholars, as described in the preface on page vii? After all, weren’t these bespeckled individuals "working directly from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts"?
I think part of the reason is because today’s celebrated, schooled, lettered (and oftentimes bespeckled) theologians are not on the cutting edge of revelation. I’m taking Jesus literally here: "‘I am acclaiming Thee, Father...for Thou hidest these things from the wise and intelligent and Thou dost reveal them to minors."
That was Matthew Mt. 11:25. As gravity is a natural law, so is this a spiritual one. Consider Peter and John at Pentecost, who, though "unlettered and plain" (Acts 4:14), stunned the Sanhedrin with spiritual insight. There is no Bible College on earth that can teach the things Peter and John learned from Jesus.
By admission of the translators themselves, the NIV was intended only to be only another translation. The translators sought nothing new, but rather to "preserve some measure of continuity with the long tradition of translating the Scriptures into English."
The translator of the Concordant Version, on the other hand, (which, in my opinion, is the most accurate version available) writes, "There are many translations. Some seem to think that the CV is only another of the same kind, dependent on the authority or scholarship of the translator, instead of an entirely different combination of a concordance coupled with a uniform, literal translation..." What a difference.
Most other translations besides the CV, especially the NIV, rely on "the authority or scholarship" of the translator. That is why the preface to the NIV, in its first two paragraphs, mentions that its committee was " composed for the most part of biblical scholars from colleges, universities and seminaries." (That sinks it, in my view.) It also mentions, a few lines down, that they were "distinguished." (Distinguished by who? is my question.) In light of Matthew 11:25, this should raise a red flag for the child of God. "What is high among men is an abomination in the sight of God" (Lk. 16:15).
In contrast to this, the translator of the CV writes, "We will not allow anyone to depend upon our ability or lack of it. We will not come between them and God’s revelation." How was this accomplished? By fixing the definition of a word by it’s divine usage, then placing that definition, or word (the duty of definition is assigned to one English word) consistently throughout the text, wherever the corresponding Greek word occurs. Thus was born a translation based strictly on the meaning of the Greek elements as determined by their inspired usage, not by the interpretation of a "learned" expositor.
From the Concordant Version preface: "Since men carry over the truth into another language only so far as they grasp it themselves, no translation can be fully satisfactory. The compiler of the Concordant Literal New Testament, the late A.E. Knoch, was painfully aware of his shortcomings in this regard. He therefore sought to emphasize the necessity of shielding himself against his personal views, his inherited tendencies and traditional errors. This led to the development of the concordant method of translation."
Again, by using a concordance and tracing a word throughout Scripture, a translator can produce a translation based on facts rather than an interpretation of them.
"The concordant method of studying the Scriptures uses a concordance to discover the meaning of a word...such an approach requires consideration of every element and observes every letter...It attempts to exhibit actual facts from the original language, rather than an interpretation of them."
Any mention of the use of a concordance to fix word definition is conspicuously absent from the preface of the NIV, let alone the application of that definition uniformly and consistently throughout the text.
But since the NIV was not designed to be a new translation, it is unfair to overly criticize it on that point. It did what it set out to do. The translators willingly sacrificed word-for-word fidelity for style. From page vii of the preface: "From the beginning...the Committee on Bible Translation held to certain goals for the NIV: that it would be an accurate translation and one that would have clarity and literary quality and so prove suitable for public and private reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing and liturgical use."
Too bad the committee didn’t say: "This will be an accurate translation, who cares whether it’s easy to memorize." Too bad the committee didn’t say: "This will be an accurate translation, liturgical use be damed." No, but the committee said that it would be an accurate translation and accomplish these side marvels. Hmm. Someone from the committee ought to run for president.
Also, from the preface to the NIV: "A sensitive feeling for style does not always accompany scholarship. Accordingly, the Committee on Bible Translation submitted the developing version to a number of stylistic consultants." These made "invaluable suggestions", which were "tested for clarity and ease of reading by various kinds of people- young and old, highly educated and less well educated."
I have a problem with that. I have a problem, first of all, with some people thinking that God’s Word requires "stylistic consultants." I have a problem, second of all, that a book I think contains mature, undiluted truth from the superior, intelligent God was potentially tested by a high-school drop-out. Couldn’t that be the force of the phrase "less well educated?" I don’t mean to sound snooty, but if a guy drops out of high school, or hasn’t applied himself to at least learn to read properly (having preferred Nintendo and Nickelodeon to scholastic application), maybe he shouldn’t be a scriptural consultant. Would we seek such a person to troubleshoot the economy? Design a jet engine? Remove a brain tumor? Then why on earth run ancient Hebrew and Greeks manuscripts by him?
Why? Oh, because it’s only fair. Because the guy might file a discrimination suit if we don’t. Rather than leave the translation of Scripture to those who have at least mastered the language (never mind they be "learned expositors"), in this liberal age we consult a person who hasn’t even graduated from high school, to make sure God’s mature vocabulary suits him. If it don’t? Well, CHANGE GOD’ S MATURE VOCABULARY. Such a method might be excused if we were seeking an easy-to-read translation rather than a consistent and honest transferal of God’s thoughts into human language—but hardly otherwise. If I want the truth bad enough, I’ll get it God’s way and become whatever scholar I have to become to do it. I think the "less well educated" should have to do the same. I don’t want anyone, let alone a translator, to ever have to water down God’s intended revelations so that I might, in any condition, feel smart. Rather, let me have to attain to the revelation. At the risk of redundancy: I truly resent the fact that a precious, albeit difficult, nugget of truth may have been expunged or altered because a less well educated person didn’t get it. Yet this, apparently, is what happened in making of the NIV.
From the Concordant Literal New Testament, page 617: "Tickling the hearing is condemned in the Scriptures (2 Timothy 4:3), and should not be the determining factor in the transmission of a divine revelation. Familiar, finely phrased error will appeal to the ears, but inspired, precisely translated truth should be the pattern accepted into the sound mind. The concordant method seeds to establish the truth of the Word, not to adorn it for appeal. Truth itself is both desirable and beautiful. The Concordant Literal New Testament is not intended to be a modern ‘easy reader’, but, if what is read is accurate, it is worth studying."
It bothers me, too, that the NIV is even associated with recognized bodies. Yet the New International Version "had its beginning in 1965 when, after several years of exploratory study by committees from the Christian Reformed Church and the National Association of Evangelicals..."
While some would insist that spirituality is walking about in a mystical fog—not overly concerned about the details of faith—the truth is that God appeals to logical minds. Jim, you’ve got the most logical mind I’ve ever seen. I think it will be easy for you to grasp these things. Me? It has taken me ten years to come to a working understanding of all this, the details of which still elude me. I’ve but entered the fringe of God’s revelation to man. Well, I ain’t no polished scholar, that’s for sure, but I am a stubborn bastard, by the grace of God. This He has used to advantage.
I used to beat people in one-on-one basketball whose skills were technically superior to mine. I did it by out hustling them; I did ridiculous things that they never thought of doing, like diving into walls to save the ball, following every shot, running myself into an anaerobic grave. I had to do it that way because I didn’t have the technical tools to win.. You, on the other hand, have the tools and the hustle, all given you by the spirit of God. The results of this, I’m certain, will be to the immeasurable benefit of your family and the glory of God.
Speaking of Greek Manuscripts (which I believe I was doing before I digressed), it’s curious that the NIV translators fail to mention which Greek manuscripts they used. They merely state, in the preface on page viii: "The best current printed texts of the Greek New Testament were used." If they had consulted the oldest known manuscripts (the Codex Sinaiticus, the Codex Alexandrinus and the Codex Vaticanus), you’d think they would have bragged about it. But perhaps they did not use them, as I believe there are some 200 other manuscripts available, though none nearly as ancient as these I have mentioned.
But what if they did use those manuscripts? Why would the NIV still not be a good translation? Well, as the underlying purpose of the translation was stylism and ease of reading, it wouldn’t have mattered if the translators had the original manuscripts themselves on the table. What we need to ask is: What did the translators intend to do with that they had? What was the translators’ purpose?
I note this, too, from page vii of the preface: "Where existing manuscripts differ, the translators made their choice of readings according the accepted principles of New Testament textual criticism." I don’t know what the "accepted principles" of New Testament textual criticism are, but this, to me, underscores a fact we’ve discussed—one that even the translators admitted—that the NIV was not meant to step from the mold of its predecessors. The only difference between this version and previous ones can be gleaned (and was intended to be gleaned) from the title: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. It was the first version to cull scholars from every corner of the globe. As far as I can see, that’s the only difference.
If I seem to be slamming the NIV, then my purpose has been fulfilled.
Please don’t think I’m telling you what to do, to get rid of the NIV and adopt the CLNT. I’m your servant, not your master. I’m only saying that the Concordant Version so crackles with life and truth that the ornate translations of men pale before it. I’m not saying that you should discard your NIV, because maybe it would be profitable to compare some passages from it to the CLNT, to see the differences between them for yourself. Yet, if you were to move to London, you could only mentally translate kilometers into miles, and vice-versa, for so long, until you finally began thinking metrically. To read the Concordant Version is to begin thinking scripturally, to become vitally acquainted with a pattern of sound words, the very words God chose to reveal Himself. This is why Paul exhorted Timothy (and us all) to "have a pattern of sound words" (2 Tim. 1:13).
Grace and peace,