Goodbye, TNIV.

Well, how’s this for a kick in the pants: Zondervan will “discontinue putting out new products with the TNIV” (Today’s New International Version.  via Brad Boydston).  It’s kind of a vague phrase: does it mean simply that they’ll continue to publish what they’re already publishing, but nothing new?  Or do they mean that they are ceasing publication altogether?  Either way, it’s bad news for the TNIV.

It’s a kick in the pants for a number of reasons: 1) it’s a fine translation embraced by a number of scholars and denominations (including my own–the Evangelical Covenant Church), 2) our church just purchased a good number of TNIV pew bibles, 3) it is my current translation of choice.

I guess it’s not that big a deal for those of us who already have a copy of the translation and are happy with it.  But if we ever need to repace it…I guess by that time the new revision of the NIV will be out.

Since its release, the TNIV has received a great deal of flack.  Inexplicably, the concern was mostly with with its gender-accurate language ethos, which the older NLT has gotten away with (and which all translations, to some degree, employ).  It was in a battle with the ESV (English Standard Version) as the new translation of choice and it appears that from a marketing standpoint (which is likely what this is all about), the TNIV lost that battle.  I find it odd that the translating committee would publish and promote a translation and then, four or five years down the road, decide that it was a mistake.  The mistake appears to be the way they handled marketing, not the translation itself.  Strange.  Why not just rename the translation?  The Good News people did it, why can’t these folks?

What bugs me is that I get the sense that this is a point for James Dobson, who led the campaign against the TNIV.  The NIV, it seems, has been enshrined by his ilk, much like the KJV was and is, as a “if it was good enough for Paul…” translation.  It appears as if the TNIV has been bullied out of the market.


I’ll continue to use my TNIV, with reference to the NRSV and any number of other translations I have at hand.  I suspect, as do the chairman of the translation committee and other commenters on the Christianity Today article, that the 2011 revision of the NIV won’t look much different than the TNIV (which, ultimately, wasn’t all that different from the NIV).

UPDATE: It looks like the initial Christianity Today piece was a bit sensationalist.  As Scot McKnight reads it, the 2011 NIV will be a revision of the TNIV.  I don’t get that from the CT article, but this interview with Douglas Moo, chairman of the translating committee, the 2011 NIV is next in a series of revisions 1970s NIV -> 1984 NIV -> early 2000’s NIVi (UK only–this was apparently the “mistake”) -> TNIV -> NIV (2011).  So that cools things a bit.  It looks like what they’re trying to do is set things up with a bit more transparency to try and avoid the backlash the TNIV experienced.  That’s still, as far as I can tell, a marketing thing, rather than a translation issue.

I do find it a bit odd that they appear to be soliciting opinions from not only scholars but also the public.  I’m not an elitist, but it seems to me that lay-suggestions (as they would be from me) would only be aesthetic suggestions.  But I guess that’s fair enough: as one commenter on Jesus Creed suggested, how about issuing the new revision in normal binding.  It was impossible to find the TNIV that wasn’t duo-tone or textured or be-flowered.  Another suggestion: make a non-red-letter edition available.  I think I’ll backtrack on my opinion of public opinion and email them right now.

As far as the bullying goes, here’s Brad Boydston’s take:

…I’m afraid that such a move is going to be perceived as a recognition of the primacy of the neo-reformed tribe, which is vying for dominance of the evangelical movement. In a nutshell, they oppose the TNIV because it uses gender inclusive language. Gender inclusive language tends to undermine the theological system they’ve established — a system which sees gender roles as a reflection of Trinitarian complementarianism.

Some of us resist such thinking on two levels. First, the system they’ve constructed involves a lot of unnatural gymnasitcs — and is internally inconsistent. Second, given the changes in American English over the past 25 years it is imperative that scripture be allowed to speak with a voice that resonates with contemporary readers. So, in areas where it is consistent with the clear intent of the biblical authors gender inclusive language is preferable.

That said, I will say that it’s quite something to stand up and say that a decade’s worth of work which you have recently completed wasn’t quite up to snuff.

4 thoughts on “Goodbye, TNIV.

  1. Ian H.

    Whatever – I think this will eventually blow up in the “conservatives” faces. Where before they had a clear choice between an inclusive language version (and let’s not kid ourselves – that was what most people had a problem with) and the “mainline” version, now the TNIV will be folded back into the main NIV and given the attitudes of the translation committee, I can bet that at least some of the inclusive language will be included, and therefore unavoidable for those who use the NIV.

  2. Steering Control Lock

    For as long as the latest one will not go beyond the boundaries of its original text, why not? What is important is, the “message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” being preached around the world. We really need some “Good News” these days.

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