Thursday, September 03, 2009

NIV1978 – NIV1984 – TNIV2005 – NIV2011

Zondervan and Biblica have recently issued a press release indicating that the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) has begun revising the (T)NIV with the goal of publishing a new edition of the NIV in 2011. Here are my early observations:

Observations from reading the press release:

1) This is going to be a revision, not of the TNIV, published in 2005, but the NIV, first released in 1984, but last updated in 1997.
“The global board of Biblica today announced its intention to update the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, the first time it has been revised since 1984.”

I'm not sure there is any other clear way to understand the phrase, "the first time it has been revised since 1984." According to the press release, this is a revision of text of 1984.

2) On the other hand, the CBT wants us to understand that:
“The 2011 NIV will represent the latest expression of the CBT's translation work. Previous expressions included the 1978 and 1984 editions of the NIV and the 2005 TNIV.”

Since in the second statement it is not clear how these various 'expressions of the CBT's translation work' relate to each other, I think I’m reading the press statement correctly by representing the relationship between the various editions as represented by the graphic on the lower right and not on the lower left.

That being said, it is also clear that the CBT is not going to ignore all the work they did on the TNIV for this revision. That is to say, even though they seem to be indicating that the base text for this revision is the text of the NIV of 1984, they are going to utilize the TNIV in this process. As Dr. Doug Moo, the Chairman of the CBT, says in an interview that took place after the press release was distributed,
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.

So, even though the 2011 NIV will be a revision of the 1984 text, the CBT would like feedback on the TNIV 2005 text. Here, it seems the way this is being communicated has become a little fuzzy, even though Dr. Moo states,
“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!”

That sounds good, but what is this ‘final decision’ that was made two weeks ago? Since it is clear that it relates to the plans as outlined by the press release, namely to revise the NIV of the 1984 text, what are we to make of the following statements?
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.

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.

There are simply too many contradictions to keep up. The text could not have been ‘frozen’ since 1997 and at the same time have been revised annually. Per the CBT, the only text that has been revised annually has been the text of the TNIV.

So what do I make of all this?

It’s clear that the text of the NIV released in 1984 has been laying dormant for some time. It’s clear that the TNIV has been updated annually. I think it is clear that members of the CBT were tasked with reviewing every aspect of the TNIV in June. It is also clear that plans were made to release a major revision in mid-August that would carry the name of the NIV again and that the TNIV name would be laid aside.

What’s not so clear is why the press release seems to indicate that the NIV2011 will be based on the NIV1984.

I hope, any honest reader, looking to read me fairly up until this point, will recognize that I’ve not tried to pass judgment in this account. I’ve merely tried to make sense of the statements coming out of Zondervan, Biblica and the CBT.

With that said though, I do wonder about motives at this point. Given that the TNIV was so contentious with its use of gender-neutral language, and the poor sales performance of the TNIV, and the fact that the NIV has remained a best-seller even after the introduction of the TNIV, and the fact that American Bible buyers are for the most part oblivious to all the intricacies of modern translation theory, it sure would be easy and in Zondervan’s best interest to simply drop the TNIV title, drop the NIV1984 text, and slap the old NIV title on the ‘newly-revised’ TNIV text.

This way, they will save the cost of maintaining two separate translations, drop the contentious ‘T’, and legitimize their annual revision process. For my part, that’s all fine, but if the idea is to state clearly what is happening, I’m afraid the goal is not being met. To be clear, I really don't know which model from the graphic above fits. Maybe neither.


Christopher said...

Testing BOLD comments

Doug said...
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Doug said...
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Doug said...