May 4, 2011 David Lang

Bibles on Borrowed Time

Monday it was something old (the 400th anniversary of the KJV), yesterday it was something new (the release of the 2011 NIV), so it stands to reason that today we should talk about something "borrowed." Yesterday I mentioned the fact that the publisher of the NIV wants to avoid selling competing revisions, so the 2011 edition is slated to be sold in place of both the 1984 NIV and the 2005 TNIV. Clearly, these two Bibles are living on "borrowed" time.

We are only permitted to continue selling the original NIV or the TNIV for a few short weeks, so if you want them you'll need to act fast. The good news is that the 1984 NIV is today's featured Bible in our Bible A Day Sale, so you can pick it up at a generous discount by getting today's coupon code from our Twitter page.

Why would you want these earlier members of the NIV family if they're being superseded by a new edition? One reason is so that you can compare the various editions and see what has changed. And since Accordance 9.3 has added the option to compare more than two texts at a time, you can have Accordance highlight the differences among all three editions.


As you can see from this example, the NIV11 renders Matthew 12:34 in more natural-sounding English than both the 1984 NIV and the TNIV. (Those earlier versions actually echo the rendering of the KJV, further attesting to the KJV's ongoing influence.) In verses 35 and 36, the 1984 NIV uses the generic masculine throughout, while the TNIV tries to be more gender-inclusive by rendering singular nouns as plural. The NIV11 returns to using masculine nouns in verse 35, but uses "everyone" in place of "men" or "people" in verse 36.

Making these kinds of comparisons can help you see the distinctives of each revision, and can also alert you to aspects of the original Greek or Hebrew which may be worth exploring. Once again, if you want to make these kinds of comparisons with earlier editions, you'll need to pick them up soon, because they're living on borrowed time.

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Archived Comments

Mark Allison

May 04, 2011 10:42 AM

Great post, but the I can't believe the NIV11 translators thought that ending a sentence with a preposition was a good idea! I don't know what they were thinking of...  :-)

David Lang

May 04, 2011 12:36 PM

Mark, that's certainly something to think on . . . er, I mean . . . wonder about . . . oh, wait, I mean . . . mull over . . . oh, gosh, uh . . . uh . . . consider!

Whew! ;-)

R. Mansfield

May 04, 2011 2:15 PM

I think that sometimes we want our translations to follow formal English rules, forgetting the nature of the original Koine Greek documents and also forgetting that a passage like the one above is a record of Jesus's speech. Would Jesus ONLY speak with formal rules? Would the NT writers only write following formal grammatical rules of the day? Surely not.

Mark Allison

May 08, 2011 11:26 AM

Rick, while ageeing that there is a sense in which a translation should reflect the character of the original, I think that there is also something lost when we trade the potential for the richness and eloquence of language at its best, for the desire to be utilitarian and accessible.

I love the way in which Adam Nicolson describes the thinking behind the translation of the New English Bible, when contrasted with the KJV. In his book "God's Secretaries," Nicolson writes:

"The flattening of language is a flattening of meaning. Language which is not taught with a sense of its own signficance, which is apologetic in its desire to be acceptable to a modern consciousness, language which in other words submits to its audience, rather than instructing, informing, moving, challenging and even entertaining them, is no longer language which can carry the freight the Bible requires."

Robert Nowell

May 11, 2011 2:42 AM

Will the NIV-G/K be updated to the NIV11-G/K? Will the old NIV and NIV-G/K be renamed the NIV84 and NIV84-G/K? Will there be a NIV11S with Strong's?

Helen Brown

May 11, 2011 5:08 AM

Tbe older modules will not be renamed. The NIV11 module is named just that, but decsribed simply as the New International Version.

We do hope to have the G/K numbers (not Strong's) for the NIV11, but have no further details on that at this time.