The merriment of devils and the anger of the saints – the NIV saga continues

Would you like to rewrite the Moslem Koran?  Perhaps add a couple of modifying words to reflect our own views.  Maybe strengthen the bits about “protecting” non-Moslems, and, when it talks about holy war against unbelievers, add an adjective or two to make sure this is “spiritual” war?

Or maybe we could work over the Jewish bible!  Hey, if we hate the Israelis, we could “clarify” for them that the bits giving Israel the land are provisional, or “spiritual”, or something.  Or if we’re Zionistically inclined, we could make sure that all Jews know what their duty in occupying the land of Israel is. 

Would you instead prefer Barack Obama to make some “clarifications” to the bible, to reflect his political programme?  Or Tony Blair?  Or Margaret Thatcher?

Of course this is a policy that you wouldn’t do to any holy book in which you believed yourself!  If you believed that the Koran was from Allah, you’d hesitate pretty hard before mucking with it, whatever spin you put on your changes.  After all, Allah might throw you into hell.  He might get his people to kill you.  You believe in all this stuff, so it wouldn’t be good.

No, it’s something you’d do to someone else’s holy book.  You’d do it to them.  Make their book reflect your views.  And wouldn’t it be fun to do!  It would certainly show who’s boss — you — and that their god was powerless.  If you could do it to the Koran, and make the Moslems take your changed version and bow down to it, you could laugh every time you heard a minaret.  They’d be bowing down to you.

Of course this is satire.  No sensible person would want to abuse another in this manner.  You’d have to be quite a bigot to do this.

Unfortunately we live in an age beyond satire.  Juvenal remarked, “What can you do, when the man himself is more vile than anything you can think of to say about him?”  And this programme is being put into effect today. 

There is a new version out of the New International Version English translation of the bible.  Apparently, the old version has been withdrawn; if you want the NIV, you must take the new one.  The web sites have been changed.  The decision has been made.

So why is this being changed?  What are the changes?  Well, you will look on the NIV website in vain.  You will find, under the “FAQ” only words about the unspecified changes to the English language — although I must have missed these, because I don’t know of such changes in formal English.

Most translations of the bible achieve little.  But when the NIV appeared it succeeded.  It took hold in the Christian community.  It was trusted.

Ten years ago an attempt was made to corrupt it.  The text was rewritten to reflect the teachings of the contemporary political belief-system often called Political Correctness.  (Its advocates have never named their philosophy, since once you can name something you can oppose it.)   As we all know, among the principles of that ideology is a demand to remove from literature references to ‘man’ (equivalent to Latin homo, man as species) and replace them with ‘man and woman’ (Latin vir and femina).  As part of this dogma, they specify that God — these people are atheists — may not be referred to as male.  This creed has never been put to a vote and is instead advanced by the methods of backstairs politics.  This teaching is the faith of the establishment in our day, and most weeks I see some newspaper report of some poor soul who has fallen foul of its ever-shifting dogmas and lost their job.  Its proponents are not Christians, although some Christians are politically correct.

Anyway the corrupt version was issued; and US Christians resisted, for which we may be truly thankful.   Wayne Grudem listed a series of mistranslations, all designed to rewrite the bible into what — in the opinion of the PC — it should have said.  Sales of the NIV collapsed.  In a desperate attempt to remedy the situation, the old NIV was brought back and the new one renamed the TNIV.   The TNIV was a commercial failure, and failed to achieve the end of those who composed it.  Christians rejected it.  A few ministers conspicuously endorsed it, thereby indicating something about them to the rest of us. 

Corrupting the bible is a sin.  The ending of Revelation indicates as much.   The very idea of translating the bible according to the principles of some politically powerful contemporary ideology ought to horrify any Christian.  Do we follow Christ, or Caesar? 

It is easy enough to see the problem if we happen to disagree with that ideology!  Oh yes.  That isn’t a problem.  But we can kid ourselves, if we happen to agree with some potent contemporary ideology, and suppose that God must endorse it.  The classic example is “church and king” Toryism; but nevertheless, it is wrong and blasphemous to call Caesar our god and to bow before him. 

What worried me is that there was no repentance from those responsible, no acknowledgement of what an awful thing had been attempted.  As far as I know no-one was sacked.  The attitude I see is that the TNIV “failed to be accepted”, not “was wrong”.  Those who perpetrated this evil remained at their desks, to the best of my knowledge.  Today we see the fruit of their labours, in a new version.

So what is happening?  Is this an honest revision?  Or is it merely a case that the heretics, having failed to get their dogma written into the bible in one gulp, have decided to make the church eat this elephant a little at a time?  We all know how people get unpopular policies accepted; they do it one small step at a time.  Those of us enduring metrication in the UK can see this happening under our noses, undiscussed, low-visibility.  Is this the same, I ask?

A certain amount of textual corrections based on revisions to the Greek text are also included, which might otherwise be unobjectionable.   But I wonder whether it is desirable to keep revising a translation?  Each time we revise the translation, do we not give the impression that the Word of God is a moveable feast?  Textual critics fiddle endlessly, but their conclusions are never settled and may be reversed when times change.  Atheists jeer that the bible is not the Word of God because it keeps changing.  By contrast the NIV people give the impression to me of thinking in terms of an endless series of changes.

So I shan’t be purchasing this “new bible”.  The old one is fine, thanks.  I don’t need someone else’s idea of what the bible should say.  And … I hope the Lord punishes these people very severely indeed, if this is what is happening.  This is not a game.  This is the Word of Life, the only means of Salvation in a dying world.  And some creep wants to make it reflect the opinions of the Selfish Generation?

A set of lay comparisons is here.  It doesn’t look good to me, but who knows?


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