New NIV to be released in 2011

The New International Version of the bible is pretty much the standard translation used by more Christians than any other, although probably still less than 50%.  The standing of the translation was badly damaged by an attempt to produce a version revised in accordance with political correctness.  Known as the TNIV, this version caused immense offence. 

I learn today that the copyright owners intend to produce a new revision of the NIV itself, in 2011.  Suggestions for the new  version can be sent to nivbible2011.com, apparently.  The press release is here.  It makes no reference to the TNIV debacle.  

A USA Today report here gives more details, and Crosswalk.com gives more again.  Various comments were made during the press conference, in response to a question and answer session:

“Whatever its strengths were, the TNIV divided the evangelical Christian community,” Moe Girkins, Zondervan’s president, said. “As we launch this new NIV in 2011, we will discontinue putting out new products with the TNIV.”

The silence in the press release, and in the speeches given, this all suggests to me that the TNIV is being abandoned because it failed, not because the owners think they did wrong.  This means, of course, that they may try again.  I doubt the NIV will survive further attempts to corrupt it.

When I think about the NIV, and the idea of revising it, I frankly feel nervous.  I find that emotionally I don’t trust the revisers not to try to sneak an extra-biblical ideology into the text.  I suspect a lot of people feel the same.

So what is to be done?  If the owners of the text are serious about abandoning this enterprise, they need to take some serious steps.  First they need to acknowledge publicly that what was done was wrong; and I see no signs of this.  Next they need to change the composition of the board that oversees what happens, because those who did wrong once (wittingly or otherwise) will do it again.   Until we see change, how can we have confidence in the board?  Thirdly, they might consider simply leaving the NIV alone.  There is no pressing need to tinker, tinker, tinker.  In fact such tinkering damages the translation.  It would be better – far better – to leave the translation alone for 15 or 20 years, and get the text established. 

The whole business is very, very sad.  I grieve for what has happened, for how it has allowed the unbelievers to triumph over Zion.

To me, the whole business and the way it has worked out smells strongly of the Pit.  Who benefits from destroying the credibility of what was fast becoming the standard English translation?  The Body of Christ does not benefit.  No man seeking salvation benefits.  But perhaps Hell does.  Those who seek the ruin of us all do seem to benefit.  Their cause is advanced.  The dissention among previously close friends, the creation of mistrust and anger, the perception that the gospel is whatever people say it is… surely these are things that must be dear to the heart of the Enemy of us all?

It is easy to write as if those who chose to do this evil thing did so intentionally and open-eyed.  But I see no signs of this.  I think that it is most unlikely that they had any such intention, or intended to produce a “politically correct” bible at all!  On the contrary, I suspect they were led, step by step, believing that they were really doing the right thing, that God would be pleased and the gospel served, as if by an angel of light.  They probably never realised that a line had been crossed.  They probably never intentionally crossed it, but were led on from one thing to another, softly, gently, without ill-will.

Satan loves to do this to us. He loves to draw us on, to seduce us, without allowing us to ever quite realise that all these harmless little steps really amount to a massive change of direction which takes us out of our accustomed orbit around the Son and into the darkness.  Those approaching a cliff may do so by sleepy little steps.  But one of those harmless little steps will not be so harmless. Suddenly the cliff-edge gives way. Waking, we find, to our horror, that we are falling, falling towards the rocks, into sin and death.  Above us, as we fall in fear and misery, with certainty of pain ahead, there is demonic laughter at us.

This, I think, is what may have happened to the NIV team.  If so they weren’t the first, and won’t be the last.  But the first need is to recognise that they have been led into a serious sin, to repent, and take measures to deal with it.  Just going on, as if nothing had happened, will not serve, and will make things worse.

11 thoughts on “New NIV to be released in 2011

  1. A minor note first, the NIV is the most populat ENGLISH translation.

    On to the greater issue a new translation is necessary when the language to which it is translated has changed, or more specifically the accepted idiom. What is the accepted language can be different from what is the spoken language and as a matter of fact in Greek from ca. the 1st century AD to 1976 spoken Greek was considered too degenerate to be the official language. In 1871 Psixaris published a book called “To Taxidi mou” (My Voyage) with which he made a (successfull) plea to start writing literature in spoken Greek.

    On how the Bible should be written can envoke strong emotions in people. An attempt to publish a translation of the Bible into modern Greek in the 1890’s led to several days of riots in Athens with 3 persons dead. I doubt there is a standard translation of the Bible in modern Greek, those that read the Bible (and most Greeks do not, we learn it from the school book in school during religious education courses) are that socially conservative that they wish for a more archaic language than spoken Greek.

    I do not think that English (or should I say accepted English) has move enough to warrant something newer than the NIV but, you know, copyright does expire. I have a feeling that this along with PC was behind TNIV, this might be what is behind this project. Let’s see what will come out

  2. Psichari’s manifesto was 1888. And people were killed in the streets in rioting about a vernacular translation in 1901. This is the first link I could find. In fact, strictly speaking the Greek Constitution forbade translations of the bible, although I think that has now been bypassed. There certainly cannot be an officially used translation, although I think the Holy Synod did sign off on one translation.

    The point of the rioting was, from the 1890s on, there was dissension in Greece about which language was appropriate. Just as there is dissension about what you term PC language. Some thought it inappropriate; maybe even the majority back then; but not all. People think very differently about Puristic Greek now though: it’s a laughing stock, outside the Church.

    So much for my turf, which is Greek linguistics. I’m Of The World wrt your broader point, so I’m not the target audience; I won’t speak to it. I do think that the circumstance Ikokki raises a very interesting counterpoint to yours though.

  3. The constitution of 1975 does not place a limitation on the translation of the bible, considering that in 1986 the constitution was amended that official Greek is δημοτικη =demotic as described by Triantafyllides’ grammar and syntax and not καθαρευουσα (which is what I believe what you mean by puristic), having a translation limitation is a little ridiculous. The only limitation placed on the bible is that all editions published in Greece have to be approved by the Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece, something that is more of a formality. I have a version of the Apocalypse in modern Greek, published to coincide with the celebration of the 1900 years of the Apocalypse in 1994 which in the front has a letter by the secretary of the Synod saying: “we are very happy to authorise the publication of this version of the apocalypse although the only thing translator has submitted so far to us is his introduction”

    I got the dates a little wrong, sorry. Last time I was taught this part I was in high school, way over a decade ago. I was quoting from memory.

    Καθαρευουσα exists today in the newspaper Estia and declaration made by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Church of Greece uses demotic even on its official communiques. Also a large number of expressions used in administration are in καθαρευουσα as were a few of the books I was taught in the University, including our books in Botany and Genetics courses that have since been replaced. The ridicule of the 70’s and the 80’s has long subsided, today καθαρευουσα is seen more with a nostalgia, not to mention that the program of clearing the Greek language of foreign words continues leading at times to quite weird (if not comical) results. When your cellphone sends a text message it then says: “Ενα μυνημα εσταλλει” which as a commentator has noted, is pure Attic

  4. It started in the original NIV in 1978 with the revision in the eighties when they included in the revision committee a well know “evangelical lesbian” Virginia Ramey Mollencott. It was all down hill from there.

  5. The name of the person concerned appears to be Virginia Ramey Mollenkott (sp.). I’ve been doing a web search.

    This Google Search gives us a website for the woman here. This has the following item under “bio”:

    In 1973 she spoke at the first conference of evangelical feminists at the conservative Baptist Theological Seminary (Denver) and also wrote the introduction to Paul King Jewett’s theological book Man as Male and Female. In 1974, she gave the first women’s liberation speech at Malone College (Ohio), but was picketed by the students there “who brought newspapers to the chapel, opened them, and loudly rattled the pages while I was speaking.” In 1975, she spoke at the first national gathering of the Evangelical Women’s Caucus in Washington, D.C., and has delivered plenary speeches at almost every gathering of this organization since then. … Mollenkott is a member of NOW, the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press, and the Religious Coalition of Reproductive Freedom. She also serves as a manuscript evaluator for the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion; and was a member of the translation committee for the New International Version of the Bible (1970 – 1978); and of An Inclusive Language Lectionary (National Council of Churches). … She has lectured widely on lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights and has also been active in the transgender cause, serving as co-author of Transgender Journeys (2003). Mollenkott, who has one son and three granddaughters, earned her B.A. from Bob Jones University, her M.A. from Temple University, and her Ph.D. from New York University. Her partner is Judith Suzannah Tilton.

    Obviously such a person would be an utterly inappropriate person to be on a translation committee; someone with an extreme non-Christian agenda to peddle, and a zeal to do so.

    It isn’t quite certain from this that in 1973, from this, that this would necessarily have been clear to everyone else. Her enthusiasm for promoting unnatural vice seems to date later than her involvement with the NIV; but her feminism does not.

    A further bio has disappeared from the web, but not from the WaybackWhenMachine, here. From this we learn that she had already separated from her husband by 1970:

    She separated from Fred Mollenkott in 1967….Still closeted, she was appointed by the National Council of Churches to the Inclusive Language Lectionary Committee …. Privately, she found identity and community with LGBT denominational organizations….Her process of coming out publicly as a lesbian in the evangelical and academic community spanned many years. Beginning in the mid-1970s, she began attending a conference for lesbian and gay Christians at Kirkridge Conference and Retreat Center and was a featured speaker the next year and every year since.

    This makes it clear that when she was appointed to the “inclusive language committee” she was already a militant feminist of several years standing, and a secret homosexual. Of course we must remember that all this is written from the perspective of where this pitiably foolish woman ended up, and does not necessarily reflect what was apparent to others — especially well-meaning others — at the time.

    And here is another site:

    In the mid-1970’s, while still closeted personally, Mollenkott began to advocate at church conferences in behalf of lesbian and gay Christians. … Mollenkott served as Stylistic Consultant for the New International Version of the Bible, and as a member of the National Council of Churches’ Inclusive Language Lectionary Committee, coming out to the NCC convention in support of the Metropolitan Community Church’s application for membership. … (This biographical statement provided by Virginia Mollenkott.) … Biography: August, 2002

    There is no trace of knowledge of Greek in all this. Her own claim, then, is that she was a consultant on style issues.

    Her obvious interest in interfering with the text for political reasons must have been clear even in the late 70’s, and does not speak all that well of the judgement of the committee.

    This site makes an interesting claim:

    2. A public letter issued by Kenneth Barker (undated but distributed in late 1993 or early 1994), Executive Director of the International Bible Society, says that they knew nothing about Mollenkott’s homosexuality in the early 1970s. That is possibly true, but I do know that others knew of it or at least strongly suspected it. I have heard from people who have known her since the 1950s, both personally and professionally, and her homosexuality was suspected even then. Dr. Donald Waite used to teach at Shelton College, where Mollenkott once taught. In his Bible for Today publication for March-April 1994, Dr. Waite gave the following report: Mollenkott’s perversity was known about long before the NIV was first published, so that one man (Arthur Steele) refused to accept the full presidency of Shelton College, Ringwood, New Jersey, where Mollenkott taught during the 1960’s unless she was removed from the staff….

    3. Even though Barker’s letter claims that Mollenkott was consulted only in a minor way in matters of English style, the fact remains that her name has been plainly listed in their literature for almost three decades under the heading Literary Critics and Other Consultants. Only recently were we told her role was inconsequential. Furthermore, Mollenkott’s own account differs from Barker’s. Barker is playing little word games. It would be a different story if Edwin Palmer were still alive; he knew me; had heard me speak and sent me sheaf after sheaf of translations to review over a period of three or more years, including several gift editions for the committee members when the work was first completed (Mollenkott’s reply to Robert Kasten, Jan. 20, 1995, cited from Why Not the NIV? by G.R. Guile). Mollenkott said, further: … they would send me big swatches of translations . . . many chapters at a time . . . perhaps several shorter books from the Old Testament or the New Testament. . . . I would write notes all over manuscripts which I was sent, both praising phraseology . . . and asking questions . . . something I would typically write would be, ‘Would the Greek or would the Hebrew permit this word which would seem to me to be much more understandable…(Ibid.). …

    In their letter to me, the NIV people denied that Dr. Mollenkott had any influence on the final product. However, they have not been consistent in their explanation of her input, for one letter from them says she was dismissed in the late 60’s and another from the same office says she was dismissed in 1972.

    Now Barker’s email is online here:

    It has come to my attention that false rumors are circulating, in both oral and written form, that the NIV is soft on sodomy (that is, homosexual sins). The alleged reason for this is that some NIV translators and editors were homosexuals or lesbians. These charges have no basis in fact. Thus they are simply untrue. And those who make such false charges could be legitimately sued for libel, slander, and defamation of character.

    Here are the facts. It is true that in the earliest stages of translation work on the NIV (in the late 1960s and early 1970s), Virginia Mollenkott was consulted briefly and only in a minor way on matters of English style. At that time she had the reputation of being a committed evangelical Christian with expertise in contemporary English idiom and usage. Nothing was known of her lesbian views.

    Those did not begin to surface until years later in some of her writings. If we had known in the sixties what became public knowledge only years later, we would not have consulted her at all. But it must be stressed that she did not influence the NIV translators and editors in any of their final decisions.

    It is unfortunate that Barker threatened legal action on a matter of such great concern; what was needed, rather, was evidence. But his statement is not at all unreasonable, and I am inclined to believe it. Mollenkott, as an enemy of the gospel, would of course tend to maximise her role.

    Another post in the same forum:

    The rumors circulating about her involvement with the translation of the NIV have been greatly exaggerated. Dr. Mollenkott was not on the translation committee. She was an English style proof-reader. After the translation committee finished their work, the manuscripts were given to several such proof-readers for stylistic matters, such as grammar, punctuation, etc. These proof-readers had no direct hand in the wording of the finished product. They read over portions for English stylistic issues only. The suggestions were given back to the committee of translators for review. Furthermore, at the time Dr. Mollenkott, was a professing Evangelical and did not come out of the closet until much later. It has been stated that if the committee would have been aware of her sexual orientation, she would not have been consulted for the project.

    Just wanting to get the facts straight.

    Don A. Elbourne Jr.
    http://elbourne.org

    This I do tend to believe. We have to remember that even the best of us are not infallible, and that homosexuals do seem to like to cosy up to the smell of religion (if not the reality). Tertullian records a bishop in his day who violated the Scantinian Law; if it happened ca. 200 AD, it can happen now.

    But the issue needs to be confronted squarely. I think that the facts deserve better than this sort of hearsay, because while the NIV is important, these rumours will continue to circulate unless properly addressed.

    Of course this leads us to the natural question; who precisely *is* revising the NIV now? Who is involved, and what is going on?

  6. Further to this, this link gives the translators and people:

    http://www.bible-researcher.com/niv-translators.html

    And the comments on this (in between some intemperate expressions) also quote Virginia Mollenkott on her role:

    http://betterbibles.com/2009/08/07/who-or-which/

    (Better Bibles is a pro-TNIV site, so has a vested interested in trying to minimise attacks on the NIV).

    It looks to me as if her role was in fact very minor, tho. In any project of any size, there will always be someone who is doing something dodgy, and really the chairmen of these projects cannot act as policemen even if so inclined.

  7. Sorry, I spelled her Virginia Ramey Mollenkott’s name wrong. Her father Robert(Bob) Ramey was a very committed Christian and taught at the Bible College that I attended, Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque IA which when he was there the college was located in Chicago Illinois. I never had him as a professor but my older sister did when she attended a few years before I did. He retired shortly before I got to the college.

  8. This is interesting news. I checked out the list of current members of the CBT, using the link provided by Biblica (formerly known as IBS). If a person were to look back (perhaps by using the WayBackMachine and looking for tniv.info or by accessing the materials accumulated by Tim Bayly) and make a list of individual scholars who endorsed or defended the TNIV when it was initially issued, and then make a list of current members of the CBT, one will notice quite a few names on both lists.

    Those names include Dr. Mark Strauss, who, I distinctly recall, stated in an online discussion about the TNIV that nothing is changed in the TNIV except that legitimately gender-inclusive language is featured. Looking back, it is extremely difficult for me to take that in and regard Dr. Strauss as both honest and competent. In light of the many other changes from the NIV to TNIV (at Mark 1:41, for example) he must be one or the other.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  9. I seem to remember that when the TNIV originally came out, it was presented to the public, not as the TNIV, but merely as a new revision of the NIV. The need to rebrand came about because the NIV sales started to collapse. Possibly I am wrong, but that is my memory.

    The problem is that confidence has been lost. Until that is addressed, which means changes of just the kind you mention, I have no confidence in the NIV2011. I don’t want to pick up a bible wondering if it has been “crocked”, and neither does anyone else.

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