- This post doesn’t deal with the gender issues of the new NIV – it only looks at other mostly overlooked changes.
- I’ve also done an analysis of every single change change from NIV-tNIV-NIV2011 here: NIV2011 Changes
The Bible is my favorite use of the technology of writing, so I’m glad to see that the NIV 2010/2011 is now posted on BibleGateway.com. You can compare the versions directly (thanks to commenter Stanley J. Groothof), and after a few clicks you can find a PDF with an overview of the changes.
The changes that get the most attention are usually the ones related to “gender neutral” issues, such as rendering the Greek word adelphoi, which literally means “brothers” as “brothers and sisters” when the translators thought the original text referred to the entire body of believers. These are very important and worthy of debate and discussion, but there are also a lot of other little changes that probably won’t get much press. I think these little changes are also worth bringing up such as this one about Joseph’s robe:
Joseph’s ‟richly ornamented robe” (Genesis 37:3) suggests a garment with decorations hanging from it, but drawings and descriptions of comparable clothing from antiquity now suggest that ‟ornate” is the best adjective to use. Joseph’s ‟richly ornamented robe” (Genesis 37:3) suggests a garment with decorations hanging from it, but drawings and descriptions of comparable clothing from antiquity now suggest that ‟ornate” is the best adjective to use.
This kind of research and change is really interesting, even if it means all the children’s books will need new illustrations)
When the NIV was first translated, the meaning of the rare Greek word harpagmos, rendered ‟something to be grasped,” in Philippians 2:6 was uncertain. But further study has 3 shown that the word refers to something that a person has in their possession but chooses not to use to their own advantage. The updated NIV reflects this new information, making clear that Jesus really was equal with God when he determined to become a human for our sake: ‟[Christ Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.”
Sometimes a single word like “grasped” that needs a little explanation seems better than a longer phrase like “used to his own advantage.” That said, it does seem less open to confusion, even if it leaves out subtlety.
And one shouldn’t be as easily able to misapply Philippians 4:13 now that it reads, ‟I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (i.e., to be content in all circumstances, whether in riches or in poverty), rather than ‟I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
If the verse numbers weren’t there to split 4:12 from 4:13, think of all the T-shirts and bumper stickers that would never have existed. I hope this change makes it so that 4:13 will no longer be divorced from it’s context.
1 Corinthians 11:10 now reads, “It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head.” The expression “a sign of” before “authority” in the 1984 NIV did not correspond to anything explicitly in the Greek and is increasingly recognized as an inadequate rendition of this verse. Whether Paul wanted the women in Corinth to wear an external head covering while praying or prophesying, or simply to have long hair, or maybe even to wear a partial face veil, the point is they should be able to control what they do or do not have on their heads.
Where they added words to Phil. 2:6, here I appreciate that they’ve taken away words that aren’t there and could lead to faulty interpretations. The PDF linked above has a full list of changes to the hot-button gender passages.
More uses of “spirit” and related forms, especially in Paul’s letters, are now capitalized. Ancient Greek did not make any distinction between upper-case and lower-case letters, so we cannot now for sure whether “spirit” (pneuma) should be capitalized or not. The sense of scholarship today is that “spirit” was not widely used in the ancient Mediterranean world for the disembodied part of a human being. The committee therefore decided to capitalize “spirit” whenever a reference to the Holy Spirit made good sense in a given context.
I think this is helpful for the average reader.
‟Forefather” has all but disappeared from the English language as a generic term, being replaced by ‟ancestor.” Even in Evangelical sermons and writings, ‟ancestor” is more than twice as common as ‟forefather.”
I wonder if this is really necessary when we refer to the “Founding Fathers” in regards to the United States.
‟Saints” often becomes ‟God’s people,” ‟the Lord’s people,” ‟the Lord’s holy people” and the like. Most people today think of a particularly good person when they hear the word ‟saint,” whereas in the Bible it translates terminology that regularly refers to all believers. Sometimes the context suggests an emphasis on God’s having declared them holy or the process of their becoming more and more holy, so a variety of similar expressions were used depending on the context.
Again, this does seem helpful for the average reader even it if misses some of the richness of the word “saint.”
Certain uses of ‟Christ” are now ‟Messiah.” This was true particularly in the Gospels and Acts, where the word seemed to retain its titular sense of the coming deliverer of the Jews rather than its more common New Testament usage, in which it seems to be virtually equivalent to a second name for Jesus.
In the previous example, they replaced a technical term “saints” with a broad description. Here it seems they are doing the reverse, using a more technical term “Messiah” in certain places.
Most occurrences of ‟sinful nature” have become ‟flesh.” Especially in Paul, sarx can mean either part or all of the human body or the human being under the power of sin. In an effort to capture this latter sense of the word, the original NIV often rendered sarx as ‟sinful nature.” But this expression can mislead readers into thinking the human person is made up of various compartments, one of which is sarx, whereas the biblical writers’ point is that humans can choose to yield themselves to a variety of influences or powers, one of which is the sin-producing sarx. The updated NIV uses ‟flesh” as the translation in many places where it is important for readers to decide for themselves from the context whether one or both of these uses of sarx is present.
I’m very happy about this one, because in college I was wrongly taught that I have two different “natures” – a redeemed nature and a “sin nature” – based on the NIV. Hopefully, this kind of error will be less frequent with a direct translation.
2 Corinthians 5:17
1984: ‟Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Updated NIV: ‟Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
A footnote gives as an alternative, ‟Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” This time it is the Greek that is elliptical, reading simply ‟new creation.” Is it the person in Christ who is the new creation? Yes, of course. But if that’s all Paul meant, there are other more natural ways he could have said it. Given his overall theology that the coming of Christ and the new era he inaugurated began the period of the restoration of all things that would culminate in new heavens and new earth, it is likely that Paul is making a much more sweeping claim than just the salvation of the individual believer. A new universe is in the works!
This is one of those passages where I wish the NIV 1984 was right since I love what it says, but from studying Greek I know that the NIV 2011 is really the more accurate translation. I appreciate the NIV team’s willingness to sacrifice something that sounds good for something that’s more accurate.