Whats wrong with the NIV?

Discussion in 'Translations and Manuscripts' started by matthew11v25, Mar 14, 2008.

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  1. matthew11v25

    matthew11v25 Puritan Board Sophomore

    I started on the NIV when I was first introduced to the faith and then moved to the ESV/NASB.

    Pretending we are going with a CT translation, what are the main issues with the NIV (maybe provide links to translation problems)? and is the NIV REALLY as bad as Reformed Christians make it out to be?

    I have to admit I have been reading through the bible this year at about 20 pages a day and between reading the ESV and NIV, the NIV flows SO MUCH smoother in my opinion (though I may be a bad reader :) ) and I retain more.

    Is is bad to use the NIV as the main reading bible and ESV/NASB/KJV for actual study?

    any thoughts?
  2. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    The Dynamic Equivalence translation leaves a lot to be desired.
  3. Casey

    Casey Puritan Board Junior

    I'm not going to knock the translation too much -- but I do have a problem with the way it incorporates so much interpretation into the translation. A more literal translation allows the reader to make more decisions. All translation includes an element of interpretation because no two languages are exactly the same, but the NIV seems to put too much interpretation into the translation process, thereby excluding possible interpretations that one might rather follow. Sorry, I can't think of any examples of this off the top of my head right now.
  4. biblicalthought

    biblicalthought Puritan Board Freshman

    We used to joke about it, calling in the Non-Inspired Version (NIV)! :down:

    But as "BP" commented, the dynamic equivalency translations are less preferable than word-for-word (or as close as possible) translations if you depend solely on English translations.
  5. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    1 Timothy 1:16 (New International Version)
    New International Version (NIV)

    Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
    [NIV at IBS] [International Bible Society] [NIV at Zondervan] [Zondervan]

    16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

    This was one of the places I was a little annoyed with. There are many. Portions of text not translated and additions to others. Even from its own Eclectic text. The book of Philippians is a good translation in the NIV.

    I read this book years ago.Accuracy of Translation - By: Robert Martin - Christianbook.com

    It is mainly a critique of the NIV. Zondervan did a good job marketing this translation. Martin's book is worth anyones time to read because it discusses translation and what makes a good translation. This book is not about manuscripts and it is very small but enlightening read.
  6. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor


    If we are sticking with CT Bibles . . .
    IMO . . .

    More Readable - NLT, HCSB, NIV
    More Literal - NASB, ESV, HCSB
    Best Study Bible - Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (NIV), Reformation Study Bible (ESV), NIV Study Bible (NIV)
    My favorite Bible - Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (NIV)
    My favorite translation - HCSB

    Example of dynamic equivalent tendency in NIV - the NIV renders ἱλασμός (propitiation) in 1 John 2:2 as "atoning sacrifice." Not terrible. However, it tends to skew the translation in the direction of expiation rather than propitiation (as in ESV and HCSB). In other words, the wrath of a holy God is missed and only the wiping away of our sin is in view. I believe that ἱλασμός contains both ideas in 1 John 2.

    The TNIV goes even further, by routining translating "brethren" or "brothers" as "sisters and brothers." Note 1 Cor 7:24: "Brothers and sisters, all of you, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation in which God called you."
  7. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    The Holman or HCSB I find to be the worst of all of the DE translations. The church I work at uses the HCSB as the pulpit Bible and it is terrible.
  8. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor


    What don't you like about it? It reads smoothly, takes a conservative perspective, is NOT dynamic equivalent.

    Actually, they call their translation "optimal equivalence."

    Most charts locate the HCSB closer to the ESV than to the NIV on a continuum. The ESV is a tough read for me. My wife and I do our morning devotions and reading through the Bible in it. Frankly, I wish that the Spirit of the Reformation Bible was available in the ESV. IMO, it is the finest study Bible with the very best notes.
  9. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    The HCSB has a tendency to try and be over "relevant" in its translation. Look at Isaiah 49:1-7 in the NASB and the HCSB.
  10. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    I am not a fan of the NIV. However I would rather hear that someone was reading 20 pages a day in the NIV then 0 pages in the ONLY-PERFECT-VERSION (what ever you think that is).

    My point is simple, reading the word is more important than all of this. Once you are reading it, however you should be more critical/discerning. Stive for the "best" translation that you can find. But never make the striving more important than the reading.:2cents:
  11. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    Well said Kevin.
  12. CalvinandHodges

    CalvinandHodges Puritan Board Junior


    For a good conservative discussion on the NIV read:

    Robert Martin, Accuracy of Translation and the NIV. ISBN: 978-0851517353

    Get it cheap at Amazon.


  13. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    Most of the choices of words sound exegetically defensible and reasonable to me. Yes, it reads very smoothly for a more literal translation. That is its strength. But, if you want magisterial, there is no beating the KJV. Again, if I had an ESV with the notes for the Spirit of the Reformation Bible, I would think it was just about perfect.

    Unfortunately, with SO many Bibles out there, the horses have already left the barn and closing the door now won't do much good. Bible memorization is tougher in this environment. We have gone from having no common language Bible at the time of Luther to having so many, we don't have any common language in common.
  14. matthew11v25

    matthew11v25 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks for the input thus far. In general I understand the difference between dynamic and formal equivalence translations. Lately when I have been reading the ESV and NIV side by side they read identical in alot of places (unlike when I compare NASB and NIV), which prompted the question if the issues with the NIV were based on just a few questionable passages?

    The smooth read in the NIV is what I like best, unfortunetly the verses seem somewhat forgettable and do not stick in my mind like the KJV or ESV...

    i.e. the NIVs use of "today I have become your father" vs. "today I have begotten you" (ESV - Psalm 2)
  15. Grymir

    Grymir Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes, Matthew, your example using Psalm 2 is a great example of the interpretation being imposed on the text. Father vs. begotten.

    But yes, Kevin is right, the one you read is the best. (and here comes the ever so popular but). But it also depends on what you are using your Bible for. Some of the watered down versions (ie, niv, todays english perversion, etc) are O.K. for private reading. (AAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH I can't believe I'm saying that. Hold me back y'all!!) But if you are going to build doctrine or inform a liberal theologian of the errors of his ways, you would want a word for word translation that is precise.

    You picked up on this when you said that the verses are somewhat forgettable. The english is at a lower level and not as precise in it's meaning. I've used the KJV because soooo many times people ask, "what does it mean in Hebrew or Greek?" And the KJV is very accurate compaired to the originals. I don't know Hebrew or Greek, and I usually make them look up the meaning and the KJV usually carries the day. Which really helps open up the conversation.

    But I digress a little. No version is perfect (even though the KJV was let down on a golden cord by God :amen:) I belong to the King Jimmy is best crowd, not the KJV-only group. The other versions are used to help understand what the word of God is saying and what it means. Some of the modern versions are fine for helping to expound the meaning and to make clear what scripture is saying.

    So yes, which ever one you will read is good enough. (Well except some, like The (Some kind of) Message, or the good news). Anyway, just enjoy!
  16. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I also recommend Martin's Accuracy of Translation and the NIV, published by Banner of Truth. Martin has also questioned whether the ESV is sufficiently literal although of course it is preferable to the NIV and the RSV of which it is a light revision.

    Professor Dan Wallace has said of the NIV: "It is so readable that it has no memorable expressions, nothing that lingers in the mind. This is a serious problem for the NIV that is not always acknowledged."

    I think this quality is probably the main reason why I could never really get into the NIV. Early on in my Christian life I actually used to consult a Study Bible I have that uses the Living Bible from time to time before fully moving on to more literal translations like the NASB, NKJV and KJV.
  17. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    That is a point not often enough acknowledged by the supporters of the NIV. In so far as the ESV is a revision of the RSV (i.e., making it more conservative theologically), it will have a more formal feel to it than the NASB, NIV, HCSB, etc. Maybe that helps explain its amazing popularity in Reformed circles of late.

    What you are using your Bible for might be relevant. Are you looking for a quick read through the whole book hoping to gain some fresh insights? Use an easy reading Bible. Do you want to move slower in order to absorb scripture and remember it? Use a Bible with good cadance and gravitas.

    Like many of us on the PB, I am spoiled by my Greek and Hebrew studies. Dynamic equivalent translations and paraphrases just don't "do it for me" anymore. This is true of paraphrases (TEV) done by translators with unacceptable views of inspiration and dynamic equivalent works done by people with an evangelical view of scripture (NIV).

    While I do NOT worry that any of the English Bibles out today will teach heresy, some are just not careful enough for my tastes. The example I cited in an earlier post about propitiation in 1 John 2 is a case in point. Sure, I could explain the meaning of "atoning sacrifice" (NIV) or "sacrifice that atones for our sins" (NLT) as including both the idea of wiping clean my slate and assuaging the righteous wrath of a holy God. But, call me old fashioned, but I like that the ESV, NASB, and HCSB more corrrectly translate it as "propitiation."

    I also appreciate that the translators of the NASB, ESV, and HCSB (BTW the three translations that Mohler says are the only ones he recommends for serious study purposes) all held to inerrancy. That cannot be said for many of the other translations. The RSV is marked by a penchant for conjectural emandations and liberal theology. Some of the others were translated by very "broad" evangelical teams.
  18. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I think it is popular for that reason as well as because of the prominent leaders like Piper, Grudem, Packer, etc. who endorsed it and were involved in its production. I would also say that it has a more "literary" feel than a translation like the NASB rather than being "more formal" unless what is meant by formal is something like what I would term a literary feel or a more literary style. Generally the ESV has been described as more literal than the NIV and more readable (i.e. less literal) than the NASB. But I have occasionally found what are essentially archaisms in the ESV that can sometimes make it harder to follow than the updated NASB, which at times actually uses more idiomatic English than the ESV or the NKJV even though overall it is considered to be more literal. I also think some of the difficulty people have reported having with the NASB is due to the fact that it has typically been printed in a verse by verse format rather than a paragraph format, although it is now available in paragraph format as well.
  19. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor


    Agreed. The reputations of Piper, Packer, and Grudem all went a long way towards convincing conservatives to opt for the ESV over the NIV. It didn't hurt that the controversy over the TNIV was simmering at the same time. Afterall, if the NIV copyright owners saw no problem with going to war with Dobson and World magazine over gender neutrality, then why should conservatives stay loyal to the old NIV in the face of a genuinely conservative effort such as the ESV?

    I have also noticed that some of the newer translations do not show a uniformity of style, despite the best efforts of the style editors. It seems as if they parcel out books to various specialists based upon their academic interests. Yes, the NASB sometimes reads smoothly and other times sounds like the Yoda translation (as has been noted on PB). Hey, there are times when formal correspondance happens to hit on an expression in Greek (or Hebrew) for which we have an almost identical phrasing in English.
  20. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Like Randy, I have also noticed that as well; though, on the whole, I am not a big NIV fan, it does have some gems.
  21. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    When (if) we ever get an "ideal" translation, Frankly, I hope its a little "uneven" stylistically.

    Why? Well, why should we expect Peter to sound virtually indistinguishable from Paul, or John, or Isaiah, or Jeremiah? They aren't the same as one another (often dramatically so) in the original tongues.

    OK, I understand there are real advantages to smoothing out those differences a little, so that reading through the Bible isn't as jarring. But, maybe it would be a good thing for folks to get that greater "sense" that this is a multi-human-author composition, given over a long period of time, in 2-3 languages. Perhaps the smoothness of one book--as the English translation gives you the sense of the writer's polish and facility; and the rustic "clunkiness" of "Greek-as-a-second-language" of an uneducated fisherman reflected in translation of another book--isn't that bad of a thing.

    Just musing...
  22. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    I think we could solve all this if we just started conversing in Greek and Hebrew :think:
  23. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    I would love to have differences reflect authorial stylistic differentiation rather than translator idiosyncratic quirkiness.

    Hey, if the NIV was our only Bible, it would be a VERY fine one indeed. But, it isn't so it isn't.
  24. Ivan

    Ivan Pastor

    Interesting. Could you please give me a citation?
  25. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Or you could say that someone who uses the NIV is "NIV positive." :lol:
  26. Ivan

    Ivan Pastor

    Wow, that's pretty brutal...but funny. :lol:
  27. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I agree that the plethora of translations generally is not a good thing. As you note, the horses have left already left the barn. Generally I've found it to be much less distracting to use the same version as is being used in the pulpit.
  28. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I have to admit to not being that familiar with the HCSB, (indeed, I don't even own one and never have) but it would seem it is much closer to the NIV, although it is more literal than the NIV and has retained key terms like propitiation. Arguably neither the HCSB nor NIV are dynamic equivalent in the way that the NLT, Good News Bible, etc. are but they are much more dynamic than the NASB or NKJV and try to stake out a middle ground between dynamic and formal equivalence. The HCSB also has a lot of marginal notes and the "bullet notes" appear to be helpful.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2008
  29. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Last edited: Mar 15, 2008
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