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Friday, November 5, 2010

New NIV Translators' Notes

I just read the Translators' Notes for the new revision of the NIV (PDF), and I had a couple of thoughts.

It struck me as odd that the notes seem to imply that the King James Version was the first translation of the Bible into English. That is FAR from the case, as even a quick look at Wikipedia's entry for the KJV shows. Over 200 years before the KJV, John Wycliffe made the first-ever translation of the Bible into English; William Tyndale did it 100 years after that, and there were several revisions of that translation before the KJV was undertaken. If you look at the first pages of your King James Bible, you will probably find the phrase "with the former Translations diligently compared and revised" right there. The notes aren't trying to mislead anyone; it just struck me as odd that all that history was glossed over so completely.

I did like the terms "transparency" and "comprehensibility" used to describe "formal equivalence" and "dynamic equivalence", respectively. "Formal equivalence" seeks "transparency" to the original texts (meaning, trying to make the English closely match the way the text was originally written), while "dynamic equivalence" seeks "comprehensibility" by re-wording sentences and even whole paragraphs so that the train of thought is clear to a modern English-speaker. (The other terms I've heard for it are "word-for-word" vs. "thought-for-thought")

formal equivalenceword-for-wordtransparencyNASB, ESV
dynamic equivalencethought-for-thoughtcomprehensibilityThe Living Bible, The Message

The NIV seeks to be somewhere in the middle, and I think in general it does a good job. I've come to prefer translations like the ESV that are a little closer to the "transparency" end of the spectrum, but it occurs to me that maybe a good Bible strategy is to have at least one "dynamic equivalent" Bible (the NIV is a good choice, or the HCSB) for times when you are just reading through the Bible, and at least one "formal equivalent" Bible for more intense study times.

The examples of changes in the new NIV that are outlined in the document look pretty good to me overall... it will be interesting to see whether this new NIV gains traction!

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