The NIV, A problem with adopting a temporary solution.

Should a congregation, synod, or denomination adopt a translation that is only intended to be in circulation for 10 to 15 years?

The New International Version, a translation produced by Biblica is intended by its editors and translators to be updated for the sake of modernizing the language in just such a span of time.

The first full NIV translation of the Bible was published in 1978. This translation was revised and published in 1984.

A new NIV was in the works with plans to publish in 1997. But that translation failed because the Church did not accept the theology of this translation in large part due to its use of inclusive language.

The 1997 edition was revised and released in 2002 with the full Bible published in 2005 as Today’s New International Version. This version also failed to meet the approval of the Church due to theological problems also stemming in large part from the use of inclusive language.

In 2009 Biblica began revising the TNIV, changing the name back to The New International Version and adding the year of publication: NIV 2011. This revision still has much of the inclusive language of the previous versions but also incorporated other changes to the text.

The practice at Biblica has been to make the old versions disappear. That means one can no longer purchase a 1978 or 1984 version, nor can one access these versions online.

If it had not been for the resistance of the Church to the version of 1997 the older 1984 edition would have disappeared by 2001 due to Biblica’s publication policy.

This means that the intended maximum lifetime use of the 1984 edition was 15 years.

If a congregation or synod chooses to adopt a translation that is intended to change so rapidly it faces the problem of theological review of the new versions. This is time consuming–and expensive because of the time.

Choosing such a temporary translation also means great expense in many other areas. Pew Bibles, confirmation books, catechisms, hymnals, liturgical books, Christian Day School curricula, and any other publications based on the old version have to be edited and re-published to fit the new version.

This period of editing and re-publishing can take 5 years or more. Which means that the useful life of those books is cut down to between 5 and 10 years.

Perhaps this is good business for the publishers. But it is a terrible practice for a congregation.

Grandparents who had memorized passages for Christmas, Easter, and confirmation class face the problem of having the words of Scripture changed on them. They no longer are able to speak the same truths in the same words as their children or grandchildren. They are even made to stumble over the words used in their weekly worship which were meant to become part of them like breathing itself.

This post is not meant to be an argument against making a better translation. What I intend is that congregations be aware of some of the ways they are setting themselves up for unnecessary problems and expense by not taking into account the publication cycle of a transitory Bible like the NIV.

I would like to suggest that stability in translation from one generation to the following generations is more edifying to the families, congregations, and the Church in general. I believe this has been demonstrated both from a spiritual and theological perspective (as exampled by the theological failures of so many revisions of the NIV) as well as from a simple economic perspective. The economic considerations are also worthy of considering in a time when many congregations find it difficult to pay for maintaining their church and their servant of the Word.

About Pastor Joseph Abrahamson

Pastor Joseph Abrahamson serves Faith Ev. Lutheran Church, Clara City, Minnesota (E.L.S.). He and his wife, Mary, have 10 children. Pastor Abrahamson is a graduate of Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary, and of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies. He has served on the Faculty/Staff at Bethany Lutheran College teaching Religion, Linguistics, Archaeology, and Self-Defense; and was on Staff at the University of Wisconsin as an Information Processing Consultant (Computer Geek) while doing graduate work in Semitics. Pastor Abrahamson served Clearwater Lutheran Parish (ELS) from 2001 to April 2015.


The NIV, A problem with adopting a temporary solution. — 67 Comments

  1. @Joshua

    Nope, I’m up near Milford.

    Sorry to see your Pastor (Schave) leave for St. L. Sure hope you guys can find an equally confessional Pastor to replace him. Would hate to see St. Paul’s go all happy clappy like so many of the rest of the LCMS churches in our region have done.

    @Rev. Vogts
    FYI St. Paul’s closed their school a few years ago.

  2. @Rev. Kevin Vogts #1

    That’s great. However, I think that in 2005, the school closed down due to lack of enrollment. Talking to some people who went to that school, towards the end, there were 3 students enrolled and they would give discounts to the school based off financial need.

    However, pray for St. Paul. In May, our pastor took a call to the Office of International Mission in St. Louis as Associate Executive Director. We have a vacancy pastor right now, but pray that we find a permanent pastor.

  3. @Marc from Cincy #2

    Pr. Schave was the pastor that did my adult confirmation class and he was the pastor when I was received into membership in the LCMS.

    I am sure, however, that we will find someone confessional. For starters, the members on the pulpit committee are solid, confessional Lutherans with one of them probably knowing the pastors that graduated from a particular seminary in Indiana. Also, we have a strong confessional laity here.

  4. Pr. & Dcs. Kim Schave are welcome additions to the Purple Palace. Dcs. Schave has been very stalwart in her defense of orthodox Lutheranism at the forum…

  5. I am so sorry to hear about St. Paul’s school closing. When my sister was there it was a huge school with a beautiful facility. Is there any hope of it reopening? Have the demographics around the church changed a great deal since the 70’s?

  6. @Vogts
    Demographics to a degree, I would guess, but I do know the same principal who saw St. Paul’s school shut down also was the last one at my alma matter in Maryland, where I grew up. That school also is gone and it too was thriving in the 70’s. (Demographics were a huge factor there.) I’m not informed enough to say he was the cause, but it is at least an interesting coincidence.

    Cincy is very heavily German Papist, and there aren’t too many of us Lutheran heretics around to compete with all the RC schools.

  7. @Rev. Kevin Vogts #6

    It might be possible to re-open the school, but not right now. Also, I don’t know how the demographics were in the 1970’s (Note: I was born in 1990 and grew up Baptist), but based off the LCMS website, the church has significantly changed demographics in the past 10 years (with the greatest net losses in membership being 2005 and 2007, and with the greatest net gains in membership being in 2010 and 2011).

  8. For what its worth, it is amazing what one can do with a bit of effort. Here is my example.

    I took two years of Spanish in high school and one year in college. A couple of years later I worked side-by-side with some Mexicans for three years and was able to get by conversationally. This poor ability of mine fell into dis-use 38 years ago.

    Six months ago I installed the BibleGateway app on my smart phone so that I could do some bible reading when away from my hardcopy bible.

    After noticing that BibleGateway supported a number of Spanish versions, I switched entirely to Spanish for all of my bible reading as a means of regaining some lost ground. For this purpose I installed the XYNOTEC English-Spanish DictDroid app on my smart phone. The bible app and the dictionary app are both free.

    I use the RVA on my smart phone, and RV1960 as hardcopy. I have completely read the New Testament in Spanish (with many return trips), and have read Genesis – Exodus plus Joshua – Kings in the Old Testament, along with some favorite Psalms.

    The RVA is the work product of a Lutheran Theologian and is older than the 1611 KJV and every bit as anachronistic, perhaps even more so. But not being a native Spanish speaker, I cannot say this authoritatively.

    I have read on some blogs that many bi-lingual people prefer the RV to the KJ from the standpoint of accuracy. I believe this to be true. Spanish disspells a lot of ambiguities that are common in English.

    Here is a bonus, just one of many that I could supply.

    The RVxxx never says that “Elizabeth gave birth to John”, or that “Mary gave birth to Jesus”. Instead, “Elizabeth gave John to the light”, and “Mary gave Jesus to the light”. Think about this in terms of the womb being a dark place, and the birth process as a going from darkness to light. Then consider the teaching that in our new birth we go from being children of darkness to being children of light.

    Put it all together and one sees that the concept of the new birth is seamless in Spanish, but disjointed in English.

    I plan to stick with the RVxxx for the near future because there is a lot that it can teach me (even as one who is well read in many versions of the English bible).

  9. Nicholas :

    Marilee Litwa :My Bible will always be the KJV. My granddaughter is learning the old way, just so someone will know later on.

    I wouldn’t go this route. The KJV really is too antiquated in its language for continued use today. It is also not based on the oldest and most accurate Biblical manuscripts. The KJV translators were also not aware of what is now known as the Granville Sharp rule:

    Quite correct. The KJV, as grand and traditional as it is, is not without its faults, and I’ve had to exercise patience with people who are KJV-only or KJV-preferred in their thinking, as many of them tend to snub other Bible translations unfairly.

  10. So that there be no misunderstanding on the part of those unfamiliar with the Spanish language in general or Spanish language bibles in particular.

    In my previous comment, “RV” is an abbreviation for “Reina-Valera”, not Revised (Standard) Version.

    I apologize for this (perhaps important) omission.

    As an aside, there appears to be as much controversy with the various Spanish language versions of the bible as there are with the various English language versions. I am not competent to take sides on this issue. My choices were made for the sake of convenience only.

  11. Is there a faithful English translation of Luther’s Bible? If so, is there an online version?

  12. @J. Dean #13
    There are a couple. Beck, and GWN.

    Your qualification of “faithful” is the issue:
    I think that some suggest a new Lutheran translation for a couple of reasons:
    1) to avoid copyright issues — problems with Beck and GWN
    2) to avoid lots of significant changes in the text — problem with GWN
    3) to avoid the problems of dynamic equivalence translation — problem with GWN

    Some of us are uncomfortable with Beck for some other reasons: e.g., he seemed to have trusted M. Dahood’s judgements on Hebrew poetry more that he should have.

    What would you want from a “Lutheran” translation?

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