Many were surprised today to hear that a new revision of the NIV Bible is under development, and that the TNIV is being discontinued. The NIV is still the bestselling English version of the Bible, but the TNIV has been controversial and has never really caught on.
Douglas Moo is Chair of The Committee on Bible Translation, which is responsible for the new translation. He’s been kind enough to answer some of my questions.
By the way, Moo says that one point is being lost in the media coverage: “The 2011 NIV is the latest iteration of the CBT translation work, whose last expression was the TNIV.”
Today’s announcement came as a surprise to many people. Why a new version of the NIV?
It has been 25 years since the NIV was revised — mainly because the International Bible Society, in response to severe criticism, “froze” the text of the NIV in 1997. The current CEO of Biblica (the new name for the International Bible Society) has admitted that that decision was a mistake. They have determined to return to the language of the CBT charter, which calls on the NIV to be revised periodically to reflect the current state of biblical scholarship and contemporary English. For a variety of reasons, the TNIV, produced by CBT in 2005, has been divisive and has not caught on with readers. It therefore made sense to return to the original NIV mandate and to call the latest incarnation of the work of CBT simply the NIV. Granted the advances in biblical scholarship over that last 25 years and the incredible changes in the English language, it is clear that a revision of the NIV is overdue.
Zondervan president Moe Girkins has promised that the translation process will be as “transparent as possible” as part of an effort to overhaul the NIV “in a way that unifies evangelicalism.” How do you hope to see this happen?
As we have made clear in the press release, Biblica and Zondervan are taking the initiative to state clearly and publicly their plans for this new Bible — within two weeks of the final decision being made! They are intent on deflecting any possible claim that the 2011 NIV was a secretive project or that the intention to produce such a revision was not clear. For its part, CBT is intent on making clear that it is following the same translation process that has been in place since the inception of CBT over forty years ago. And we are also seeking input from anyone who wants to make a suggestion about how the 2011 NIV might be improved over the latest published version of the work of CBT, the TNIV.
You’ve said that the issue of gender-inclusive language is “back on the table” and that the way the English language handles gender is in flux. How can the Committee deal with this issue in a way that avoids the controversies surrounding the TNIV?
I seriously doubt that we can avoid all controversy on this matter. Whatever decisions we make, some evangelical Christians will be unhappy. What we hope is that, even if people disagree with the decisions we make, they would recognize that we have made these decisions with integrity, trying our best to put God’s unchanging Word into the language that people are speaking today.
What does the process look like for the Committee on Bible Translation as they work on this new version?
We have our work cut out for us. We have been meeting annually to revise the text, but that process must be accelerated over the next year. In our meeting in June, we assigned a number of tasks to members to be working on before our next meeting in the summer of 2010 — including, as I have indicated, a thorough review of every gender change since the 1984 NIV. We will also be gathering and evaluating suggestions that are submitted to us before the end of this calendar year. Next summer we will meet to make final revisions — and then the phase of implementation (proof-reading, etc.) will begin.
How can we pray for you?
All of us on CBT are deeply aware of the significance of what we are doing. It is no exaggeration to say that we regard our translation work as a sacred trust. We want to “get it right”: to make the best decisions about how to reflect the Word of God in modern English so that the greatest number of English-speakers around the world will be able to read, understand, and respond to the Bible. Pray that God gives us the wisdom to do that.