Arrived today…

I received my copy of the International Bible Society’s new “presentation” (their word) of Today’s New International Version, The Books of the Bible. They call it a new “presentation” because they’ve made a number changes from the standard presentation of the Bible. From the website:

  • chapter and verse numbers are removed from the text (a chapter-and-verse range is at the bottom of each page) individual books are presented with the literary divisions that their authors have indicated
  • footnotes, section headings and other supplementary materials have been removed from the text (translators’ notes are available at the back of each book)
  • the books of the Bible have been placed in an order that provides more help in understanding, based on literary genre, historical circumstance and theological tradition
  • single books that later translations or tradition divided into two or more books are made whole again
    (example: Luke-Acts)
  • single-column setting that clearly and naturally presents the literary forms of the Bible’s books

The idea, in a nutshell, is smoother reading. I particularly find the single column and the removal of chapter numbers and heading and verse numbers appealing. I find them distracting—they give reading the Bible a bit of a stop-and-go feel, which I don’t like. It occurred to me after ordering The Books of the Bible that The Message kind of does this already. The Books of the Bible takes it further and is a translation, rather than a paraphrase.

Confession: I don’t enjoy reading the Bible. Caveat: I would like that to change. I realize a new format won’t necessarily make reading the Bible more enjoyable, but it may give it some newness. Part of my problem may be that the Bible has been with me since I was born. It needs some freshening up for me, in some respects. This type of format—combining some books, reordering the books, removing chapters and verses (the Psalms, naturally, retain their chapter numbers)—may just be that freshener.

That, or I’m just trying to justify the addition of yet another Bible to my already oversized Bible collection. How many translations and “presentations” does a person need anyway?

Incidentally, the TNIV (Today’s New International Version) has had some controversy surrounding its publication. For instance, some have questioned the extent to which the translators have taken the inclusive language issue. Several major evangelical leaders have denounced this translation (e.g. R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer, James Dobson, John Piper, among others), as have the Presbyterian Church in America and the Southern Baptist Convention. Several other evangelical leaders have supported this new translation (Don Carson, Bill Hybels, John Stott, John Ortberg [whom I thought was Presbyterian] and Phil Yancey, among others). The Christian Reformed Church and my denomination—the Evangelical Covenant Church—have supported the translation. Take that for what you will. The world in and surrounding the Bible is indubitably conflicted.

I don’t quite understand what little I know of the controversy, as the translators of TNIV haven’t done anything with inclusive language that wasn’t already done in the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) and the NLT (New Living Translation).  Some conservative Christians still don’t accept the NRSV (too “liberal”), but if I’m not mistaken, the NLT is almost universally accepted by evangelicals.  Bizarre.

10 thoughts on “Arrived today…

  1. Ian H.

    If God speaks King James’ English, that should be good enough for anyone!

    Seriously, my wife is a huge fan of the TNIV. Myself, I don’t see the big fuss on either side, but it has added two Bibles to our expansive collection – we got the New Testament sampler a year early as some kind of promo, then bought the whole thing when it came out.

    As a translator myself (albeit in a limited fashion), I get frustrated with people who say that one Biblical translation is superior to another because the second is “too interpreted”. All translation is interpretation, so you’re basically choosing which interpretation you agree with most.

  2. Marc

    Well said, Ian. One’s choice of “best translation” is a strong indication of one’s theological bent and one’s church tradition.

  3. Marc Vandersluys

    Hold on, hold on.

    Zondervan is a division of HarperCollins, a publisher of some fine books. HarperCollins is owned by News Corp, which is a public company whose CEO and largest shareholder is the Murdoch family.

    No need to feel dirty.

  4. Maryanne

    It’s still weird to me. What with FOX canceling Arrested Development and all. (It was also bizarre to me because my friend Derek and I were just talking about how much we can’t stand FOX and Murdoch. I called Derek about this and his response was “That’s it! I’m reading NRSV!”

  5. Marc

    That’s true. Rupe is (extremely indirectly) responsible for the cancellation of Arrested Development. That alone is deserving of your ire.

    That said, I have a feeling that Rupe had nothing to do with the translations.

    That said again, the NIV has historically been embraced largely by conservative evangelicals.

    I also like the NRSV.

    For what it’s worth, I didn’t by The Books of the Bible because of the translation but for the format. But it’s nice that it’s a translation that I didn’t already have (aside from the promotional copy of the NT to which Ian refers.)

    Also for what it’s worth, The Books of the Bible is published directly by the International Bible Society. Zondervan is not, as far as I know, involved with it at all.

  6. Maryanne

    By the way, The Books of the Bible sounds neat. It reminds me of what I’ve seen done with some versions of J.B. Phillips’ paraphrase, but taking it further. Neat.

  7. Toni

    One thing that I wish was different in many translations, is that the psalms would be laid out like normal text instead of having non-sensical breaks and interruptions. Poetry it may have once been, but after mangling into English it’s better to read it straight.

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