Friday, October 19, 2007

Why do People think the NIV is better?

It is a perennial amazement to me that many folks actually believe that the NIV is a "better" translation than some of the older translations, such as the KJV.

As a translation, it really is not better. It frequently attempts to convey the sense (as determined by the translation committee) at the expense of the literal expression. When it does this, it mixes the roles of translators and commentators.

Certainly, we must agree that sometimes judgment as to the sense is required when making translation, but the NIV is quite free in many places. This fact was immediately demonstrated by advocates of the traditional translations, but it seems that the word is not out there.

Likewise, we must agree that one could do far worse than the NIV. There are translations that employ deliberation mistranslation (such as the New World translation) and gender confusion (such as some of the feminist translations). There are also translations that are little more than paraphrases of an earlier English translation.

One thing that complicates the analysis is that the NIV relies on the so-called "critical text," rather than the more traditional "majority," "Byzantine," or "textus receptus" texts. In consequence of reliance on the "critical text," in some places the NIV omits material that ought to be included, though some of the omission is at least partially made up through the use of footnotes.

Another thing that complicates the analysis is that the KJV uses some terms that have become non-standard or archaic, or for which the meaning has changed over the years since the KJV was published. Typical anecdotes along this line recount the congregational bafflement over "Suffer the little children" in the KJV text. "Why would God want little children to suffer?" was the punchline question of the humorous account.

Thus, because of the challenges associated with building a varied vocabulary and understanding the beautiful intricacies of the language, some people have attempted to find versions that lack the flower language and challenging vocabulary of the KJV.

Neither of those issues, the translation source document or the wording style, is really a translation issue per se, though both issues are well connected with the translation procedure. The former is a pre-translation consideration, and the latter is a matter of expression - which is well within the freedom of the translators.

This author is not one to call it the New Idiot's Version, but the NIV is simply not that great. If one must have less flowery and precise words, more modern vocabulary, and translation based on the questionable critical texts, then go with the ESV or the NASB, not the NIV.

Please do not get this author started on the TNIV.



Anonymous said...

I wot not you are talking about.

Albert said...


What is thine position? Is the Textus Receptus superior?

Turretinfan said...

Based on the review of the various passages I have considered, I conclude that where they differ, Stephanus' second edition is better attested than the NA27.

Then again, as I've noted in other posts, that's because I reject some of the basic underlying assumptions used in the creation of the NA27.

Ah well.


Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Turretinfan,

I'd be interested in your credentials as a critic of textual criticism - not because I necessarily disagree with you (I don't, in some ways at the very least).

How about sharing with us something of your educational background? :-)



Turretinfan said...

Sorry, RdP, no personal info.

I pointed out what I did in the previous comment simply to note that I am not making a blanket comment or a final conclusion.


Isaac said...

What is your view of the NKJV? Would you recommend that if someone did not want to use the KJV that they should go to the ESV or NASB before using the NKJV?



Turretinfan said...

Dear Isaac,

I hadn't thought to list the NKJV. I haven't heard anything great about it. On the other hand, I have not heard anything worse about it than about the NASB or ESV.

It's not really a new edition of the KJV with less archaic English, and yet many folks see the name and mistake the relationship between the KJV and the NKJV.

Perhaps that's why I haven't rushed to recommend the NKJV. I'm confident that it is more or less as good as the NASB or ESV, but my confidence is based on lack of complaints to the contrary.

My two cents,


Isaac said...


Thanks for the reply, I have just one more question to ask. If you were asked to recommend a great study Bible which one would it be? Or would you say no study Bible, but just the KJV with the cross referenced Scripture verses?

I ask because I am wanting to learn and grow in the faith and do not want to get sidetracked by having a poor translation or poor study notes to wade through.


Turretinfan said...

Both John Gill and Matthew Henry have excellent commentaries on the entire Bible, and both are freely available (their copyrights having already expired).

John Gill

Matthew Henry

As far as a study Bible goes, the Geneva Study Bible is quite good, and the text is quite close to the KJV.


Isaac said...

Geneva Bible Study, my google search has told me what about it but apparently there are some poor translations or copies out there. Where would be a good place to get one? I found a site and it seems like it is the real thing. It looks like the big difference between the ones the sell are some come with a cross on the cover and some do not.

Turretinfan said...

If I were buying one today, I'd probably be inclined to order it here: CVBBS

Then again, it is a bit pricey there (around $42).

You can also review it for free (but much less readably) online (link).