Friday, 4 March 2011

The New NIV

I baulked when my devotional reading a couple of days ago invited me to pray: 'let me be a "man of peace".'

OK, so she (it is a woman!) used inverted commas, but one of her texts is Psalm 37:37: 'Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace'' Has she never realised that there are more inclusive Bible versions?

Back in the bad old days I often used to challenge speakers or write to publishers to lament their lack of inclusion, with a variety of responses. A well-known evangelist went straight to the college book room to buy a new Bible; others were uncomprehending. But I may not have to get so exasperated for much longer. The new NIV has arrived!

Revising the NIV has been a difficult business. I can remember a meeting at Hodders back in the 1990s, which resulted in the 'NIVI' (1996) - the 'I' standing for 'inclusive' . It was intended as a revision, but became an addition to the 1984 NIV, because a conservative N American lobby was strongly opposed to it. Then in 2002/2005 we got the TNIV, again meant to be a revision, but becoming yet another addition to the 'original' NIV, which held its place in the popularity stakes and pew version.

Now, the 2011 NIV is the NIV! It's published this month, but is already available at

It's reassuring to read that the Committee on Bible Translation worked with Collins Dictionaries to look at changes in gender language. As a result, many of the gender language changes introduced in the TNIV were verified and retained, some revert back to the 1984 edition, and some have been handled differently.

To give some clues, plural is used to avoid use of 'he' or 'him'; 'mankind' is used, not 'humankind'; 'God and man' as a pair appears, but human beings collectively are 'people' , not 'men'; Junia is female and an apostle, and Phoebe a deacon.

So now scholars are eagerly assessing whether the new NIV is a success - and that will depend on one's starting point!

In a recent post for CBE, John Kohlenberger reckoned this is a major improvement to the 1978/1984 NIV. A review in Priscilla Papers is pleased too, though slightly worried that it could have been better. I think that in the current climate, the Committee have done well, and that we will be well served by this new edition of what has become such a popular translation in evangelical circles.

To look at test case passages try: Psalm 68:11; Romans 16:1-2; Romans 16:7; 1 Corinthians 11:2-12; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Timothy 3:11.

For more technical info go to BibleGateway for a link to the note from the Committee with more examples; or Robert Slowley has a site with full texts of the 1984 NIV, 2005 TNIV and 2011 NIV book by book and verse by verse.

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