Thoughts & Predictions on the 2011 NIV (and a Requiem for the TNIV)

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This Just In: the NIV to be Updated as "NIV 2011"; TNIV to be Discontinued

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“Of making many NIV Bibles there seems to be no end, and a lack of TNIV Bibles wearies my soul.”
(With apologies to Qoheleth and Ecclesiastes 12:12)

I took an online survey from Zondervan tonight for a YANIVB. What’s a YANIVB? Well, YANIVB stands for “Yet Another NIV Bible.” While the TNIV seems to be losing ground everyday, it seems that there’s no end in sight for new NIV Bibles.

The Bible in question here? Well, it’s based upon the work of Lee Strobel and called The Case for Faith Study Bible. It’s so early in development stage that if you run a Google search on this Bible right now--even if you put quotation marks around it--you won’t get any hits. At least if you run your search within a close timeframe for my writing this post.

The main thrust of the survey was to select which cover I liked best:

Incidentally, I liked the top right cover best and the bottom left cover second best.

Of course, as you would guess, I’ve got a HUGE problem with this Bible. No, it’s not the theme. For what it’s worth, I think Lee Strobel is a great guy, and I’ve given away some of his books. My problem with this Bible is that it’s a NEW Bible released with the NIV as its text rather than the TNIV.

I really don’t understand this. The NIV continues to cannibalize sales of the TNIV and lessen the latter’s chance of acceptance. It is clearly shortsighted for Zondervan to keep the NIV as its flagship translation to the neglect of the TNIV, to continue to promote NEW products based around the NIV while new TNIV projects are few and far between. One day the NIV will slip from its spot as bestselling translation, but it won’t be the TNIV to take its place because the TNIV will have died from neglect by that time.

But do you want to know what makes creating Lee Strobel’s Bible around the NIV most egregious?

Well, if you go over to, click on the “Who’s Reading It” tab, and then click on the “Who Recommends It” tab, guess who appears FIRST!

Thats right! There’s Lee Strobel, front and center, stating “I’m thankful to have the TNIV as one more valuable tool in reaching the next generation.”

Well, too bad, Mr. Strobel, we’re going to make you use the Bible of the last generation: the NIV!

I’ve said over and over that Zondervan needs to put strong testimonial power behind the TNIV for people to consider it. Lee Strobel and The Case for Faith Study Bible would be a perfect match for the TNIV. And yet, before it ever even sees print, it becomes another wasted opportunity for Zondervan to move its resources behind the TNIV. YANIVB is what it becomes. When will the tide turn?

Of course, for all of Lee Strobel’s wish for the TNIV to become a valuable tool in reaching the next generation, and for all of Zondervan’s original marketing of the TNIV as a Bible for the 18 to 34 crowd, can anyone tell me why The Student Bible has been revised since the release of the TNIV, and yet still remains an NIV Bible?

Here’s a new slogan: “TNIV: The Best Bible No One Ever Read.”

HT: Jay Davis

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A Horse Bible? Really?

Coming in May: The Wild About Horses Bible in the NIV. Described on Zondervan’s product page with this copy:

What girl doesn’t love horses? Filled with beautiful features and photographs, horse lovers will be inspired by this NIV Bible


Note that I’m posting this on April 7, not April 1. Seriously.

The Wild About Horses Bible is aimed at girls ages 9-12. So, let’s get this straight: we have soldiers’ Bibles, nurses’ Bibles, firemen’s Bibles. And now we have little-girls-who-love-horses Bibles.


And yet, after four years, I still can’t get a wide-margin TNIV!

Is the niche for a horse Bible really greater than the one for a wide margin TNIV Bible? Really?

I mean, I’ve asked for a wide-margin TNIV for a number of times. I know lots of other people who have, too. But we’ve always been told the potential market for such a Bible simply isn’t big enough. So do you mean to tell me that a larger number of girls ages 9-12 have been beating down Zondervan’s doors for a horse Bible? Really?

Maybe there’s warrant for a Bible like this. Technically horses occur 200 times in the NIV. Of course, goats occur 173 times and sheep show up 208 times. When will we get a sheep Bible, too? Seriously?

Thanks to Jay Davis for alerting me to this.


Sometimes You Just Can't Go Back...So Much for the NASB

A few years before I met Kathy, I dated a girl in high school whom I liked very much at the time. But teenage romance is always more complicated than it should be, and she and I broke up--despite the fact that really, deep down, I was still quite fond of her. A year after dating someone else, I called up the first girl and asked her out again. Things were familiar enough between us--that is, we didn’t have to spend a lot of time getting to know one another--but it was awkward nonetheless. Time had moved on, and so had we. We simply couldn’t go back to the way things were, so we parted ways a second time--this time for good.

And such is life.

Kathy sat me down on the couch this morning, and in no uncertain terms told me, “You can’t teach with whatever translation you’ve used the last two Sundays anymore!”

“Why not?” I sheepishly asked. Although I knew better. I had read the word “booty” from that Bible in front of forty people in our Bible study to the snicker of some and to the red face of my wife. Who uses that word anyway--pirates?

She went on to tell me that every time I read anything from my Bible, it was hard to understand and too different from anything anyone else was reading from. She said, “No one could even follow you!”

I reached for the Bible to which she was referring. I opened it up and showed it to her. “But I like this Bible. It has wide margins. I teach better when I use it.”

“Better for you, maybe, but not for anyone else. So you have to decide--are you going to teach in a way that’s easier for you or easier for those listening to you?”

Here’s what happened: two weeks ago, I did the unthinkable--I went back to my NASB for teaching our Sunday morning Bible study. I taught from the NASB for almost two decades, and then in 2005, while teaching a half year study on Romans, I realized I was spending more time explaining the English of the NASB than explaining what Paul actually said in Romans. I have always been an advocate of modern language translation, but I always felt that in a teaching setting, I would be able to use something a bit more formal. I quit doing that in 2005.

Since then I’ve used a variety of translations--going first to the HCSB and then the TNIV as my primary teaching Bible, but also using the NLT quite a bit and even the NET Bible.

...But I was frustrated. Part of my method all those years involved taking notes in a wide margin edition, and then using that edition when I’m teaching. I carried notes on paper, too, but the subset in my margins were little reminders of the most important information to get across.

Two decades ago, my goal had been to study biblical languages to the point that I no longer needed translations at all. I always carry at least my Greek New Testament with me, but I have two problems with totally abandoning English translations: (1) I simply don’t have every word in the NT in my working vocabulary. Yes, I can prepare a passage beforehand to teach from. But the first time I think of another passage to look at, or the first time someone says, “What about this verse?” I look at that and can translate everything except those two words. So it’s never been practical on the fly to try do that exclusively--at least not yet. And (2), I’m hopefully a bit humbler now, but I recognize that my “on the fly” translation, even if I know every word, is not necessarily better than a standard translation produced by a committee made up of people who are surely smarter than me.

So I continue to use both, using a translation as a primary text when I’m in front of others.

After abandoning the NASB, the translation I’d used since I was thirteen-years-old, I assumed I’d be able to get one of these more modern translations in a wide-margin edition. No such luck. So I thought I’d be patient and wait, but now after three and a half years, still no luck.

Sunday before last, I did what I had been tempted to do many times before, I taught from my trusty old Foundation Press wide-margin NASB. It felt good. I felt like I was spending time with an old friend. And even teaching from Isaiah 38-39, I managed to get away with it, partly by letting people in my class read sections that were...what can I say...a bit awkward sounding. But I made it, I felt like I was a better teacher, and I planned to go on and use my trusty NASB for a second week.

Then this past Sunday, we were running short of time as is often the case. With only a couple of minutes to go, I offered to read vv. 11-12 of Isaiah 53. As I begin to read...As a result of the anguish of His soul...I can already see it upcoming in v. 12 in my peripheral vision. My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities... This is what I noted in my preparation that I absolutely must not read publicly...Therefore, I will allot Him a a\portion with the great... I tried to think of all the other translations that I looked at ahead of time. What word did they use for ‏שָׁלָל? Spoil (HCSB, ESV, JPS, NKJV, NRSV, REB), spoils (TNIV, NET) was right there swimming about my brain, but I couldn’t remember. And then I read it... aloud:

And He will divide the booty with the strong

I heard chuckles. I could see heads lifting up, including my wife’s. I knew what they were thinking. Did he just say... ? Surely not. No one except for teenagers and pirates say that.

So, the heart-to-heart talk this morning came as no surprise. She had all the conviction of Sarah telling Abraham that Hagar had to go, so who was I to argue with her?

So, I’ll go back to my non-wide-margin Bibles, and wait hopefully that one day, I’ll get a wide margin Bible in a modern translation. But what do I use this Sunday? For the last couple of years, I’ve used TNIV on Sundays mostly, and the NLT during the week. But sadly, I have doubts about the staying power of the TNIV. So maybe this is simply the time to switch.

I use the NLT with my college students midweek because not all of them are believers, and the NLT has the most natural conversational English of any major translation. As I used it tonight with a class, I had to ask myself why I couldn’t use it on Sunday mornings, too? And I don’t have a good answer for that. So maybe this is the crossroads in which I simply need to make the NLT my primary public use Bible. I may have been held back by nothing more than my own traditionalism, but after listening this past week to Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book, I’m more convicted than ever to present the Scriptures in common, ordinary language, and not the language of heavenly-portals-loud-with-hosannas-ring.

But what do I use? There’s still no wide-margin NLT. I’d certainly want the 2007 edition. So what are my options?


Renaissance TNIV Reference Bibles Are Starting to Arrive

A number of folks who won these high end leather TNIV Bibles here on This Lamp and over at New Leaven are reporting that they have received theirs in the mail. Sadly, ironically, mine has not arrived yet Sad

But I held one in my hand at ETS, and they are quite nice!

For folks posting about theirs see these links:

συνεσταύρωμαι: TNIV Reference Bible Has Arrived!

New Leaven: High Marks for Zondervan and TNIV


TNIV Gate Keeper Profiles, Part 3

This post is the 3rd part of a series in which the winners of Zondervan’s Renaissance Fine Leather TNIV Reference Bible tell their own story of why they use the TNIV.

Jeremy O'Clair
Church of Christ, College-level Bible Teacher
Tallahassee, Florida

I've been using the TNIV for about three years now. At my (then) seminary, our dean passed out TNIV Bibles to all the seminary students interested in having a copy -- a simple black hardback. Since it was a relatively new release I decided to give it a try and came to like the overall clarity of the translation. I started out reading through the Bible with the TNIV audio online (Genesis, Exodus, etc.), and really liked how clear and understable the translation was for me. Of course, I would check it against the original Hebrew or Greek if there was a passage I wanted to investigate closer through a word study or exegesis.

In summer 2007 I taught a class on Galatians using the TNIV while interning at my parents' church; then after moving to Tallahassee last fall I also taught Galatians, with the TNIV, at the church I attend, teaching the college class. Since then we've worked through 2 Peter and some history of the Bible. I'm now co-teaching through the book of Romans while I use the TNIV and the other teacher uses his NRSV -- so it should be interesting how the class turns out when comparing the two translations!

The gender inclusive language is another reason I use the TNIV. I like the rendering of the generic masculine nouns (such as anthropos, adelphoi, etc.), but how the TNIV, naturally, retains gender specific words such as ἀνήρ/aner and γυνή/gune. I've been trying to enlighten people on this subject, with the TNIV in one hand, and Greek text in the other, looking at this translation preference in many passages (there weren't mere brothers in the congregations but there were brothers AND sisters!).

Basically, the readability of the TNIV really works for me. For the most part the readings have been quite smooth. But if there is a reading that might seem too glossed over, I'll check the original languages and inform my audience of the translator's task when it comes to translating Scripture.

Debbie Fulthorp
Pastor, Grand Canyon Assembly of God
Grand Canyon, Arizona

My husband and I co-pastor the Assembly of God church inside the Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim). We believe that our church is in a strategic location to reach nations for Christ. We feel that we are not only pastoring a church, but the community God called us to. Because of that reason, we prefer to use the TNIV Bible. We minister on a regular basis to people who are unchurched, and may have never heard the story of Jesus, let alone read the Bible. We have found that using the TNIV circumvents questions about various passages and also uses language non-English speakers can understand. For example, through divinely appointed relationships we were able to give one of the Royalty in Thailand a Bible. Another girl who was Muslim, recently dedicated her life to Jesus. The TNIV is perfect for those who have not been in the church because they can understand that ALL PEOPLE can come the the cross regardless of gender, nationality, age, or economic status.

On a more personal note, I love the TNIV because I am a pastor. I experienced the TNIV my first year in seminary, before I fully understood that God could call a woman to be a pastor. Studying the Greek texts and comparing the TNIV side by side at various texts, brought me one step closer in my journey towards following the will of God for my life. I had no idea God could use me as a pastor, but through studying the TNIV and comparing Greek texts (at the time only New Testament was available) gave me the theological underpinnings for the ministry God placed my husband and I in today.

I love the TNIV because it has given us so many doors for ministry, sharing the gospel to men and women unbiasedly where they can understand it.

My husband and I as well as our church are gatekeepers as we minister together in one of the most transitional places of ministry. We might be a small missions church, but we see the Gates of the Grand Canyon National Park as our place of ministry where every nation, tribe and tongue should have a chance to know God through hearing His Word and experiencing Him through personal relationship!

Feel free to interact with Jeremy & Debbie in the comments.

Other posts:
Part 1
Part 2


TNIV Gate Keeper Profiles, Part 2

This post is the 2nd part of a series in which I profile the winners of Zondervan’s Renaissance Fine Leather TNIV Reference Bible (see a preview of this Bible here).

Dan Masshardt, Pastor
New Cumberland, Pennsylvania

I had been a fairly consistent NIV user since High School, although I have always utilized other translations. Then two years ago my seminary gave a hardcover copy of the TNIV to students from the publisher. I was quickly hooked and it has been my translation of choice ever since.

I pastor a medium sized church and now use the TNIV for all of my public teaching and preaching as well as my primary Bible for study. I listen to the TNIV in my car and at home on CD as well. There are both practical and intellectual reasons for liking the TNIV so much.

Practically, it is similar enough to the NIV that so many people still using that translation don’t feel lost when I read and teach from the TNIV. Also the “gender accurate” language means that I do not constantly have to explain that “this applies to women too.” The translation is easy to read and understand what is being communicated. The challenge is now in interpretation and understanding the content of the message, not working through wooden or outdated language.

While some may not notice, it is helpful to look into many of the updates made to the NIV translation and see that now we have even more accuracy than before. Enhanced accuracy in a package that is highly readable is tough to beat.

For these reasons and others, I enthusiastically recommend the TNIV to friends and members of our congregation. I love the Reference Bible personally, but will recommend the TNIV Study Bible as well as the audio format for a long time to come. Thanks to the translators and publishers for all their hard work to serve the Church!

Greg Cohoon, Sunday School Teacher
Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church
Greensboro, North Carolina

I have been teaching an adult Sunday School class at my church for the past 4 or 5 years. It's a class that I "inherited" when the previous teacher moved. The class was formed about 15 years ago out of a desire for adults to have a class for in-depth Bible Study and developed along the lines of simply going through the Bible verse by verse, starting in Genesis. We typically cover about a chapter per week. The structure of the class is a hybrid lecture/discussion, where I encourage class participants to share insights they have about the particular passage being studied. In addition to encouraging and guiding discussion, I provide lecture on various aspects related to the passage: historical information, literary form of the passage, simple word studies, etc. The resulting mix is a somewhat scholarly treatment of the material, with discussion of how the truths revealed in each passage are applicable in our daily lives. When I started teaching, the class was near the end of 2 Chronicles. We are currently in the middle of Isaiah. I like to joke that we are working through a 75-year reading plan.

I don't precisely remember how I discovered the TNIV. I suspect that I discovered it as a module in my Accordance Bible Software. I rely on that software heavily to prepare my Sunday School lessons, as it allows me to easily compare different translations as well as have a huge wealth of study tools available for preparing my lessons. I'm a firm believer that all Bible translations are imperfect, so I greatly appreciate the ability to compare a variety of translations when studying and teaching. The most popular translation in my class is the NIV, so using the TNIV when teaching was a natural choice that would sound familiar to my students as well as being different enough to remind us that we are studying from a translation. I currently use several translations in class, with the TNIV and ESV being the two I use most often. It's always exciting and interesting when translation differences help spark a deeper study of the particular passage being examined. I like that by exposing the class to various translations, it gives us an opportunity to discuss translation philosophies and engage in simple word studies on a regular basis. I especially like that by using the TNIV, I am able to present a translation that is very familiar to my class, while introducing a fresh take.

I mentioned my use of Accordance Bible Software in my preparation. While it is very convenient to have a powerful computer program to assist in preparation, I've still found that nothing beats actually holding a book and turning the pages for studying God's word. In class, I always read the text from a Bible, not from a computer. I'm really looking forward to being able to incorporate this nice Bible into my teaching routine.

Feel free to interact with Dan and Greg in the comments.

Other Posts:
Part 1
Part 3


TNIV Gatekeeper Profiles, Part 1

This post will be the first part of a series in which I profile the winners of Zondervan’s Renaissance Fine Leather TNIV Reference Bible (see a preview of this Bible here). I’m starting this series later than I intended, so I will profile two winners in each post.

Note: There are still two winners who haven’t responded to my email that I sent a few days ago. If you haven’t responded please do so soon. If you didn’t receive my email, let me know as well.

Kevin Womack
Pastor, Fletcher Hills Presbyterian Church
El Cajon, California

I first discovered the TNIV right before the first New Testament edition was released. I was just finishing up my Master of Divinity degree at Bethel Seminary's San Diego campus. Dr. Mark Strauss, New Testament professor there, had done some work on the new translation and gave a few presentations about it to anyone who was interested. Since the TNIV's release had been surrounded by a bit of controversy (gender-neutral issues, singular "they" issues, even accusations of the use of "father/mother" God) I was interested in learning more about it from a scholar I knew and trusted.

Mark's presentation was convincing enough for me to start reading the TNIV alongside my long-trusted NIV. At first I would simply reference the TNIV's more accurate and understandable rendering of a passage during my teaching and preaching. But, it didn't take long for me to begin preparing my sermons and classes primarily from the TNIV. In my opinion, it's simply a better translation (how I wish that the translators would have gone with their original plan of releasing this as the revised NIV... think of the controversy that could have been avoided!).

I've found myself incredibly frustrated by the attacks that have been launched against this translation, mainly because the majority of those attacks are waged by folks who haven't even read the TNIV. If they had, they'd know that what they were saying wasn't true. I have been challenged by a few of the honest, academic critiques but still feel that the TNIV is the most accurate and accessible translation currently available.

When I first began to use the TNIV I served as an Associate Pastor at a Presbyterian Church in downtown San Diego. About five years ago I became the Senior Pastor of Fletcher Hills Presbyterian Church in East County San Diego. I preach 40 Sundays a year and teach another 20-30 times each year (not counting the regular smattering of devotions and other informal teaching occasions) and I use the TNIV for all of my teaching and preaching. Of course, I study a number of different translations as I prepare, but I always use the TNIV as the text I read and preach from in the pulpit.

Members and visitors to our church ask on a pretty regular basis which translation I'm using. For many, they're following along in the NIV and wonder if I'm just a poor reader (since I always seem to "miss" words as I read and add others when compared to their NIV texts!). Others are looking to purchase a new Bible and want to know what their pastor recommends. I always recommend the TNIV because I believe it is the most accurate of the more accessible translations currently available. If they're asking about what to buy their children, I recommend the same unless the child is earlier elementary age in which case I recommend the NIrV (another excellent translation).

I'm thankful to Zondervan for publishing this translation. I'm looking forward to seeing more editions of the TNIV that feature paper that's a bit thicker for folks like me who enjoy to highlight in their Bibles and take extensive notes. I'm very grateful for the free TNIV Reference Bible that will be sent to me. It will receive extensive use!

Dan Thompson
Pastor of an Assembly of God Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I have pastored Assemblies of God churches for 20 years. We have used the TNIV as our primary text for about two years. We read from a common text every week and the TNIV is our translation of choice. I actually ran an experiment of sorts when I was deciding on which translation to use. I used the TNIV for a month, then another translation for a month. We have different readers each Sunday.

I noticed the TNIV went much smoother in public reading than the other translation. I have stayed with the TNIV since that time.

I was not a fan of the NIV, but after hearing Gordon Fee give his views of the translation process for the TNIV, I decided to look again. For one, I like the gender inclusive position it carefully takes. For another, the small passages that had needed work in the NIV did get work in the TNIV and the small differences were good to see.

I love the TNIV reference Bible because it is finally a "regular" Bible for "regular" guys like me who just want a basic leather Bible with plenty of room for notes. Okay, it doesn't have plenty of room for notes, but at least it's a decent size without funky colors. Thanks you Zondervan.

The new Bible with an even better cover would be well used for years to come. Thank you for the opportunity to win a free Bible that I guarantee will be well used. As proof, I will be willing to send photos of my new Bible's interior every few months to show how I am getting it marked up!

Feel free to interact with Kevin and Dan in the comments.

Other Posts:
Part 2
Part 3


THIS JUST IN: A Remaining Renaissance Fine Leather TNIV Reference Bible

One of our ten winners in the Zondervan Renaissance Fine Leather TNIV Reference Bible giveaway has given up his spot.

That means that if you meet the criteria as outlined at the original post, this tenth copy could be yours. You’ll need to respond to THIS post, not the original.

Be quick.


Rise of the New Living Translation

Go get yourself a cup of coffee. This is going to be a long one.

Originally, this week, I was planning to post a preview of the upcoming NLT Study Bible based upon the Genesis sampler I received in the mail over a month ago. I was informed yesterday however, that I would be receiving an advance copy of the entire Bible sometime within the next few days, so that review can wait and I will expand it to cover the entire Bible. Nevertheless, there have been a number of NLT-related issues and trends I’ve been noticing and a number of thoughts have been going through my mind lately. I wondered initially whether I should include them in the review of the NLT Study Bible or treat them separately. I’m going to use this post to do the latter.

THE ELUSIVE COMMON BIBLE. I’ve been collecting and comparing translations of the Bible since my early teenage years. Even after studying biblical languages, I still have a love for English translations, carrying both an English Bible and a Greek New Testament to church on Sundays. Related to that, I’ve watched the trends of what Bibles people carry and read, and I’ve studied the history of English translation development. We live in an age in which we are spoiled by so many translations of the Bible--from every translation methodology and for every niche market. The offset of this fact is that it is now nearly impossible for the church as a whole to embrace ONE Bible as a “common” Bible in the way that the venerable King James Version reigned supreme for nearly three centuries.

And yet even without a common Bible, there is always a preferred Bible, a most often selected, best-selling Bible version. The first Bible version to dethrone King James was the Living Bible in the 1970’s. But this coup was short-lived and the KJV soon regained its kingdom. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to note that the first contender to the KJV for best-selling translation was a Bible that was its complete opposite. The Living Bible wasn’t actually a translation at all, but a paraphrase produced by one man (and later checked by a committee) who had no direct knowledge of the biblical languages. But by the 1970’s the King’s English was quite foreign to the average Christian. Although the Living Bible had many critics at the time, no one argued the fact that it was much easier to understand. And at the time, most Christian homes contained one of those green hardback paraphrases whether it was carried to church or not (and many of them were carried to church).

The Living Bible was certainly not the first Bible to come along with more readable English. Many Bible versions were produced throughout the centuries claiming to the successor to the 1611 “Authorized Version.” Noah Webster and J. N. Darby both attempted to improve upon the KJV in the 19th century. Both of their Bibles were improvements, in the opinions of most, but they never saw widespread acceptance. The 1881 Revised Version and 1901 American Standard Version both sought to replace the KJV as the standard translations for English-speaking Protestants, but while technically translated with more accuracy than the KJV, they did not reflect the beauty of the KJV’s style and never gained wide reading outside primarily academic circles.

In the mid-twentieth century, the Revised Standard Version replaced the KJV for many mainline Protestants, but most Evangelicals looked upon certain renderings in the RSV with suspicion. Thus, the KJV was still able to retain its dominion for a couple of decades more, but its reign as best-selling and most read translation was drawing to a close.

ROYAL DETHRONEMENT. Ultimately, it was the 1978 NIV that would finally and permanently unseat the KJV from the #1 spot. The NIV had a number of things going for it that made it successful where other contender translations had failed. Unlike the Living Bible, the NIV was an actual translation from the Greek and Hebrew texts and was produced by a committee of translators. Reading level was seriously taken into consideration in developing the NIV. The average American reads at a 7th grade reading level and newspapers generally read at that level, too. Considering the fact that the New Testament was written in Koine (common) Greek, why should a Bible be difficult to read? Why should it sound like it was written in a bygone era? Further, unlike the Modern Language Bible, the NIV committee employed stylists that helped keep its translation consistent. While not trying to achieve the majesty of the KJV necessarily, the NIV committee did achieve something that other contenders had not: an accurate, consistent, and readable translation of the Bible. I don’t remember now exactly when it occurred--either in the late eighties or sometime in the nineties--but the NIV became the best-selling, most-used, and most read translation. For millions of people, it opened up the Scriptures and made them readable for the first time.

But let’s be realistic. The NIV is not going to be the Bible of choice for the next three centuries like the KJV was. No translation will ever last that long again because the English language changes too quickly in the modern age. Sadly, the 1978 NIV already sounds a bit dated. And although it is still the best-selling English translation of the Bible, I would suggest that over the next decade another translation is going to replace it in the top spot. I don’t have access to NIV sales figures, but I would guess that its sales are already on the decline. If they aren’t, they will be soon.

WHAT’S NEXT? So what are the contenders? The English Standard Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Todays New International Version, the New Living Translation (second edition)--these are all major 21st century translations. If I had been propheticlly looking at this list twenty years ago, it would have been easy to suggest that the TNIV, as an update to the NIV, would be the inheritor of the NIV’s mantle. Even up until recently, I thought it still could be. But I’m less and less certain of that fact.

The TNIV suffers on two fronts: (1) It was the target of a major disinformation campaign that has led to its rejection by many of those who should have been in its target audience; and (2) neither the TNIV’s copyright owner, the International Bible Society, or its major United States distributor, Zondervan, have ever given it precedence over the original NIV in terms of promotion and emphasis.

In regard to the first issue, 50% of stores that belong to the Christian Booksellers Association, including major chains such as Lifeway, refuse to carry the TNIV. Supposedly the TNIV’s primary offense is inclusive language; however, these same stores that won’t carry the TNIV will carry the NLT, the Message, the NCV, the NRSV and others that do contain inclusive language. Further, translation such as the ESV, NASB95, and the HCSB all contain more inclusive language than even the original NIV. This is a heinous double standard. Changing these misconceptions will also require a major re-education campaign on the part of Zondervan and the IBS.

As for concerns with the International Bible Society’s and Zondervan promotion of the TNIV, in March of 2007, I wrote an open letter to both organizations here on This Lamp expressing my concerns. IBS never responded, but Zondervan flew me up to its headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I met with editors and marketers--all warm, friendly, and welcoming. I didn’t meet anyone who wasn’t absolutely adamant that the TNIV was the future. I also came to understand better why the company was not in a position to completely remove the NIV from the market. Fine. But there’s evidently a breakdown somewhere.

Run this little experiment. Go to and search for “New International Version.” Then to narrow your results, click on “Books” under “Any category” on the left. Now, change the drop down on the top right to “Publication date.” I count 29 new NIV Bibles already projected for 2009. Run the same search for “Today’s New International Version.” The result? Nothing. You will find results counting new editions for 2008, but in comparison to the new NIV editions for this year, you’ll definitely see where Zondervan’s emphasis is. You ask anyone at Zondervan and they will tell you that the TNIV is the future. But the company simply doesn’t seem to be willing to put that into practice. I’m certain that they fully intend to eventually switch emphasis to the TNIV, but my fear is that by the time they do this, it may be too late for it to matter.

INTERESTING RECENT DEVELOPMENTS. Now, let me show you another interesting indicator of what may be the shape of things to come. Below is the August 2008 translation bestseller list from Christian Booksellers Association. These figures reflect sales from the month of June, 2008.

Now, anytime I show CBA translation charts, I always feel obligated to offer a disclaimer. These charts do not reflect the huge number of Bibles sold in non-member stores and bookstore chains including Barnes and Noble and Borders and such. They do not include the sales of retail outlets like Wal-Mart and online retailers like of which sell large numbers of Bibles, also. Although some Catholic stores are CBA members, the majority are not; so Catholic translations are never well-represented here. Also, keep in mind that as I have already pointed out, roughly 50% of CBA stores refuse to carry the TNIV, so although it does not show well here, that doesn’t mean that it’s not selling elsewhere. Translations such as the NRSV may also have higher sales that are simply not reflected here. The JPS is a fine translation, but it’s never going to make this list. Okay...

Nevertheless, the above figures do represent an extremely large number of Bibles sold in stores, especially Bibles that Evangelicals are buying. Since we don’t have any actual numbers, obviously the charts are open to a good bit of interpretation. Years ago, while working in a bookstore, I saw a document with some actual numbers. The first three entries counted for the vast majority of all sales. And by the time a translation ranks in the bottom half, we’re usually talking about sales in the single digit percentages.

First let’s look at the charts in regard to the TNIV. The fact that it ranks on dollar sales, but not on unit sales probably means that there aren’t that many inexpensive TNIVs in bookstores. So there aren’t many people buying low cost editions in CBA stores for evangelistic purposes. But what’s surprising is that the TNIV has completely dropped off the units sold chart. So, while it is not carried in every one of these stores, it at least used to still show in the units sold list. The August chart doesn’t mean that the TNIV is not selling in the stores that are carrying it, but it does mean that it has recently been selling less. And I’m sorry, but it boggles my mind that the International Children’s Bible would outsell the TNIV!

But now, let’s look at the chart in regard to the New Living Translation. For the last few years, the NIV, KJV, NKJV and NLT have remained in the top four positions (the HCSB was in the 4th spot after its release for a little over a year). The KJV and NKJV often go back and forth between second and third place, but the NLT is usually ranked fourth.

The unit sales chart has the most significant change. For the first time to my knowledge, the NLT has topped both the KJV and NKJV in unit sells, setting it second only to the NIV. And in dollar sales, it is ranked third and above the NKJV. To my knowledge, the NLT--which has always done fairly well on these charts anyway--has never done this well.

This week, I noticed another interesting development. Over at the NLT Blog, in what was almost an aside comment, it was noted that “Christianity Today, International will be making the NLT the default translation on their websites.” I assume that the NLT is replacing the NIV as the default translation. In my mind, this is an incredibly significant development as Christianity Today, in many ways, represents mainstream Evangelical thought. So it speaks volumes not only to the fact that the NLT was chosen as default translation, but also in regard to the versions that were passed over.

NLT UNDER THE RADAR. Suddenly and seemingly unexpectedly, signs are starting to point to the New Living Translation as a major contender for the spot of top English translation that the NIV has held onto for the last two decades. How did this come about?

Perhaps the success of the NLT can be chalked up to the patient persistence on the part of Tyndale House Publishers as well as near nonstop fine tuning of the translation itself. When the New Living Translation was initially released in 1996, it was far more to the right on the dynamic equivalence scale than it is now. The first edition had many phrasings that still echoed Ken Taylor’s original Living Bible. But with the release of the second edition of the NLT in 2004, a lot of the more dynamic readings were tightened up, active voice replaced passive voice in many passages, and the more questionable renderings were mostly removed. Echoes of the original Living Bible are now all but gone from recent editions of the NLT. I still consider the NLT a dynamic translation, and the best of its breed, but it has now moved much closer to the middle, much closer to the kind of translations I would normally categorize as median translations, containing elements of both formal and dynamic methods, based upon the communicative issues of a particular passage.

In 2007, the NLT was revised yet a third time. But the changes are not as startling as the shift between the first and second edition (see my review of the NLT for discussion of the changes in the second edition). In fact, Tyndale is still referring to the 2007 edition as a second edition, but adding 2007 to the 1996 and 2004 dates. With each revision, the NLT has become...well, I don’t want to say “more literal,” because it’s certainly not a literal translation in the traditional sense of meaning. But it has certainly become less dynamic.

I do not yet have a full 2007 text of the NLT, but when I received the Genesis sampler of the NLT Study Bible, one of the first things I did was to compare the changes in the text from the 2004 edition. As already mentioned, the changes are not on the same level of the change between the 1996 and 2004 editions, in which the NLTse was almost an entirely new translation in my opinion. But the changes reflect a honing of the translation, a fine-tuning of the details if you will. Consider that in Genesis 1-12, there are only 7 verses out of 287 that have been changed from the 2004 edition. That results in a 2.4% change from the 2004 NLTse.

And God said, "Let bright lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. They will be signs to mark off the seasons, the days, and the years. Then God said, "Let great lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them mark off the seasons, days, and years. Then God said, "Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days and years.
For God made two great lights, the sun and the moon, to shine down upon the earth. The greater one, the sun, presides during the day; the lesser one, the moon, presides through the night. He also made the stars. God made two great lights, the sun and the moon--the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. God made two great lights--the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars.
Then God said, "Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life--the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals." Then God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, to be like ourselves. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground." Then God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.
there were no plants or grain growing on the earth, for the LORD God had not sent any rain. And no one was there to cultivate the soil. neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth. The LORD God had not yet sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil. neither wild plants nor grains were growing on the earth. For the LORD God had not yet sent rain to water the earth, and there were no people to cultivate the soil.
A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into four branches. A river watered the garden and then flowed out of Eden and divided into four branches. A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into four branches.
When Terah was 70 years old, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. When Terah was 70 years old, he had become the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. After Terah was 70 years old, he became the father of Abrah, Nahor, and Haran.
And sure enough, when they arrived in Egypt, everyone spoke of her beauty. And sure enough, when Abram arrived in Egypt, everyone spoke of Sarai’s beauty. And sure enough, when Abram arrived in Egypt, everyone noticed Sarai's beauty.

Interestingly note that in Gen 2:10, the NLT reverts back to the original 1996 reading. Since writing my initial review of the NLT, I’ve been contacted by a number of NLT1 holdouts. Some people simply prefer the 1996 edition, and my own wife is one of them. Overall, it is more dynamic (though not in Gen 2:10) and that speaks to some people in a greater way. Personally, I have no problem with that, although I believe the changes made in the 2004 edition and now the 2007 revision as demonstrated above are changes for the better.

Over the last few years, I’ve found it quite interesting to watch the TNIV receive criticism in regard to inclusive language when the NLT had used much of the same kind of language almost a decade earlier. I even asked one of the NLT translators about this--why the NLT had remained virtually unscathed while the TNIV took a beating from its detractors. He felt that the TNIV had been a lightning rod for controversy and this allowed the NLT to scoot by a bit under the radar.

And under the radar it is. The NLT has continued to gain readers while improving the translation itself while many have really not realized such changes were going on. Consider that the 2004 update, as radical as it was, barely received mention by Tyndale itself. In fact, when I began planning my review of the NLT in 2006, I was totally unaware the extent of the changes. And I would not have even known about the 2007 revision had a reader of This Lamp not informed me by email.

But if I’m a proponent of the NLT and have been slow to find out about changes to the text, evidently it’s even harder for the detractors. Tim Challies sought to further propagandize the ESV earlier this month by knocking down a few translations he doesn’t like. Evidently, though, he had no idea that the copy of the NLT he was quoting was two editions out of date.

Want further evidence of the NLT’s under-the-radar status? Check out the Wikipedia entries for the ESV, TNIV, and the NLT. The NLT is older than the ESV by five years and the TNIV by nine. The articles for the ESV and TNIV are substantive because they have both been magnets of controversy and have each had their share of supporters and critics. The NLT, on the other hand, doesn’t even have a full article. It’s a stub, and an out of date one at that. Some of the links don’t even work.

Want more? Consider the interview with J. I. Packer from 2006 in which he heartily endorsed the NLT. He even described the NLT as “brilliantly done.” This should be ironic considering Packer was the general editor of the ESV, a translation which in many ways was created to be everything the NLT is not. But it’s not ironic because Packer is not really recommending the NLT as a primary translation. Rather, he thinks of it as a secondary translation, something perhaps to be read beside a more traditional translation like the ESV. He may even think of it in the same vein as the original Living Bible which many used as a simple commentary to the KJV. But the people I see using the NLT are not reading it as a secondary translation. And I can guarantee you that Tyndale is not promoting it to be anything but a primary Bible.

What made the NIV king of the hill beyond its merits as a translation? Well, there were a number of significant editions of the text that were released in the eighties including the NIV Study Bible, the NIV Student Bible and an NIV version of the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, written by top Evangelical scholars demonstrated that the NIV was worthy as a commentary base. The Goodrick-Kohlenberger numbering system tied the NIV’s text to its Greek and Hebrew roots and paved the way for resources like the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Today, there are more modern commentaries based upon the NIV than any other translation.

But now, Tyndale is setting the NLT up for the same kind of reference integration that the NIV has enjoyed. A system known as the “Tyndale-Strong’s numbering system” has been developed to connect the text of the NLT to the original Greek and Hebrew text. In the forthcoming NLT Study Bible, these Tyndale-Strong’s numbers are included right along in the cross reference column next to the text. The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary series and the expanding Tyndale Reference Library relies on the NLT text as well.

Another healthy sign for the NLT can be found in the two NLT-related blogs that have appeared recently. One blog is related to the NLT in general and the other specifically for the forthcoming NLT Study Bible. This is an excellent idea and a wonderful way for Tyndale editors to interact with NLT readers. I made similar recommendations to Zondervan regarding the TNIV as early as two years ago, but an ongoing publisher-based TNIV blog has never become a reality.

Personally, I’ve stated for some time that the NLT is fully capable of being used as a primary English translation for serious study and teaching. Steps are now in place with the growing number of NLT-related resources to make this a reality. And as has been pointed out recently, the NLT translators are no slouches themselves, but rather the cream of Evangelical academia.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE. In discussing some of these observations with Wayne Leman via email yesterday, he stated “A major translation comes along every few generations and it can become a default translation. The KJV was one of these. The RSV was one, at least for NCC churches. The NIV was one. Now, [in my opinion], the NLT is one. I know that many will disagree with me, but that's okay.” Wayne, who gave me permission to quote him, knows what he is talking about as he is a Bible translation consultant himself and a founder of the Better Bibles Blog.

In my experience, the average Christian really doesn’t pay that much attention to translation issues. I’ve discovered that many people carrying a Bible often can’t tell me what translation they are using without looking at the spine. So, what makes a translation like the NLT rise in popularity, especially among a dozen or so other Bible versions vying for acceptance? I have a hunch that when a person walks into a store looking for a new Bible, he or she opens them up and simply reads various passages. This is where the NLT has the advantage. Without a doubt, of all the major contemporary translations, the NLT’s English sounds the closest to contemporary speech. While some would criticize the NLT for this, we must again remember that the New Testament was originally written in the common speech of the day, not the more formal styles that were used for other, more “official” purposes.

Wayne also wrote yesterday that, “Christian readers today appreciate a Bible version that actually reads as they write and close to how they speak. There have been enough idiomatic English versions around for several decades, so that Christian readers know what good English sounds like in a Bible. If Christian readers have a true choice to purchase a Bible--and don't have to follow the dictates of some ideology--they will often purchase a Bible with good English, at least as a supplement to one that has worse English and is used as their church's pew Bible.”

Readers of This Lamp know that over the past few years when asked for a recommendation for a primary English Bible, I’ve suggested the HCSB, TNIV or NLT. In my own use, the TNIV has been my primary Bible over the last two years, although when I give a Bible to someone who tells me the Bible is difficult to understand, I find that most often I give the NLT. And I’ve done this for well over a decade. In fact, now that I think about it, I’ve given away more NLTs than any other translation in the last ten years, and I have done so because of its superior readability.

I have been teaching from the TNIV the last two years because 70% of those whom I instruct are carrying NIV Bibles. That’s in addition to the fact that I find the TNIV to be an excellent translation. Further, I’ve found that usually a median Bible is best for teaching; although I’ve said that I could use the NLT if enough people in a Bible study or classroom also had the NLT. I’ve often used the NLT in formats that were less interactive such as sermons and devotionals. But the day may be coming in which a majority carries the NLT. If that happens, it would only make sense that I would teach from the NLT. Of course, Tyndale currently lacks a decent NLT reference Bible for teaching or preaching akin to something like the TNIV Reference Bible.

This coming Sunday, I still plan on teaching from the TNIV. But I really wonder what I’ll be teaching from in five years. Could it be that the majority of us will study with the NLT in hand?

I’d really like to have a discussion about this. Let’s avoid the “my translation is better than your translation” kind of nonsense. I don’t believe that for one Bible version to succeed another one must fail. I still recommend reading translations in parallel. Regardless, I believe current trends point to the NLT continuing to gain momentum which may eventually lead to its place as the most used Evangelical translation in a number of years. And it may even be able to reach beyond the walls of Evangelicalism. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.


Zondervan & This Lamp to Give Away TEN Renaissance Fine Leather TNIV Reference Bibles

Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to read my preview of the upcoming Renaissance Fine Leather edition of the TNIV Reference Bible. If you’ve been coveting one of these Bibles, first go and repent for coveting. After that, you can get excited about the possibility of getting one of these Bibles absolutely FREE.

That’s right--Zondervan has offered to give away ten copies of the Renaissance Fine Leather TNIV Reference Bible (a combined retail value of nearly $1,000) to ten qualifying individuals. What must you do to qualify?
  1. You must be a “Gatekeeper.” What’s a gatekeeper? A gatekeeper in this context is someone who regularly preaches or teaches the Bible in a church or educational setting. For the purposes of this giveaway, if you are a pastor, other minister or teacher of adults and you instruct from the Bible on at least a weekly basis, you are considered a gatekeeper. You should also have been in this position for at least three months.
  2. You must already use the TNIV as your primary Bible. This is a really nice edition of the TNIV Reference Bible, and Zondervan is being very generous to give these away through This Lamp. So, this is a Bible that’s meant to be used, not one that becomes an addition to your collection of translations.
  3. In the comments of this post, tell us why you are using the TNIV translation as your primary teaching and/or preaching translation. We’re looking for at least a couple of paragraphs here, not “Because I think it’s really cool.”
  4. Qualifying winners agree to a follow-up email interview regarding the use of the TNIV in your ministry. Between now and November, I’ll contact you with a few questions based on your post here in the comments. That interview will become the basis of an actual main post here on This Lamp.
  5. You cannot qualify if you’ve already been deemed a recipient of the similar giveaway on TC Robinson’s website. No double-dipping! And TC emailed me his list of winners!
  6. Sadly, United States residents only.
If you think you’re the right person to preach or teach from one of these high-quality TNIV Bibles, by all means leave your post in the comments. We’re not even looking for the ten best here, just the first ten qualifying. Be certain to leave your email address when you post your comment so that I can email you for your mailing address later and then pass it on to Zondervan.

If you have any questions, let me know. I’ll post a list of the ten winners once it is finalized.



Preview: TNIV Reference Bible, Renaissance Leather Edition (with photos) [UPDATED]

Late in 2007, Zondervan released the original TNIV Reference Bible, which I felt was the first “serious” TNIV Bible for teaching and preaching. For the most part, the TNIVRB was well received. It had a higher quality binding than many of Zondervan Bibles, and it was very affordable--at the time it could be obtained through many outlets for less than $20. But one feature many still wished for was a higher quality cover. Although the TNIVRB laid flat when held open (which any Bible with a stitched binding should), the cover itself was bonded leather and there were a few folks who simply wanted something a bit higher in quality.

Later this year, Zondervan will release another edition of the TNIVRB, this time with a much nicer cover, described as “Renaissance Fine Leather.” There’s a movement in publishing circles away from naming the animals from which the leather is obtained [I’m still waiting for “genuine dairy cow”], but the new “Renaissance Fine Leather” is
probably calf. I’m waiting on confirmation, and if this is incorrect, I’ll edit this post to reflect it.

Update: Okay, here’s the scoop. The Renaissance Fine Leather is cowhide. It is not calf, goat, or pig. I’ve been told that what makes it special is its “Soft supple feel, complemented with stitching accents, & sewn binding.” Further, “the soft supple feel is achieved by the case construction, which has flexible endsheets without a stiff cover board. Some [Renaissance Leather] Bibles also have foam to give it more structure, but maintain the flexibility. So instead of using a thin bookbinding leather and then attaching it to a stiff board (like 99% of Bibles), we use a thicker leather and let the material itself become the cover.”]

The new edition of the TNIVRB has these features:
  • November release*
  • Over 10,000 references
  • Bound in our new premium hand-crafted Renaissance Leather*
  • Single Column
  • Black letter
  • Topical ties at bottom of page
  • TWO ribbon markers*
  • MSRP: $99.00*

*indicates features pertaining only to the new edition.

I was sent some photos of the new Bible from Zondervan today, which I am reproducing here. Be sure to click on an image to see it in its original size.

This does, indeed, look to be a very fine Bible. It was described to me in correspondence with these words “I wish you could touch this leather. Smooth as butter. Supple. Exquisite.”

Now, I know that Zondervan has promised to give away some of these Bibles through TC Robinson’s New Leaven website. But today they also contacted me and have generously offered to do something similar through This Lamp.

I’ll spell out the particulars in a day or two, so be sure to stay tuned for more...


Guest Review: The Bible Experience Companion Bible

My ongoing review of The Bible Experience audio Bible has sparked a lot of discussion both on This Lamp as well in private correspondence. A couple of weeks ago, a youth minister in California contacted me with some questions about the TNIV. After our discussions, he went to his local Christian bookstore and not only bought his first TNIV Bible, but also a copy of The Bible Experience. Since he bought the TNIV Bible Experience Companion Bible, I asked him if he would review it here since I don't have a copy. He's asked to remain anonymous, but his thoughts on the Bible Experience Companion Bible are below.

Being my first TNIV purchase I mainly picked up The Bible Experience Companion Bible because it had (IMO) the best looking cover of all the Thinline versions. Hey, I'm a 20-something year-old youth pastor. It matters. Having said that, the text setting is exactly that: a regular TNIV Thinline Bible. The differences are minor: On the top inside corners of each page there are corresponding Disc/Track info. I'm finding this very helpful because while I'm reading, I would grow curious as to how they might have dramatized this scene and I can quickly pop in the correct CD and hit play. And in the evening I would continue my Bible reading by picking up where I left off, except I would listen to it -- drifting into sleep under God's "voice." Then, in the morning I can look in my Companion Bible and pick up reading where I had left off on the CD (dozed off?).

[I wouldn't recommend reading along while listening to the Bible Experience. Since your eyes take in the words faster than they're reading, it "feels" like they're reading it very slow.]

I also appreciate that the Companion Bible comes with a written intro as to how the Bible Experience project came about. I like the thorough listing of who read what part -- the Talent Index. The pro's of this feature is that if I want to quickly locate a Psalm or a Proverb read by my favorite preacher, I can quickly find it. The downside? I don't want to know that it's Cedric the Entertainer reading a part, because it makes me ROFL and I have trouble suspending my disbelief. Same goes with Samuel L. Jackson. Yeah, remember his Scripture-quoting-hit-man in "Pulp Fiction" ?

I guess the only thing missing from this Bible is that the Talent Index replaces your traditional Concordance. But, hey, that's what you have the Internet for, right?

One final observation: In all my previous Bibles, the scripture printed on the Dedication Page has been "The flowers fade and the grass withers, but the word of the Lord stands forever." In this Bible it is: "Go, and make disciples of all nations." Any observations? Is it a recognition of the shifting motives of the new generation, who are more likely to engage with a Cause rather than a Study? The first quotation has a sense of tradition, and Bible-study, etc. While the latter has a ring of action and a call to adventure. I would love to hear people's thoughts on this blog.

Thanks to Rick for inviting me to write a guest blog. And most of all for kindly answering my questions about the TNIV so that I could make the wise choice. I can now say that I'm an NIV-to-NASB-to-ESV-to-TNIV "convert." You could say, I've come full circle.

- R.S., Los Angeles, CA

Related Reviews:
The Bible Experience: Pentateuch
The Bible Experience: Historical Books


Worthy of Note 01/30/2008

Iyov has posted a review of the new ringbinder wide-margin NRSV New Oxford Annotated Bible.

Says Iyov:

So, with all that extra page space, there is plenty of room for making ample annotations. The paper is significantly thicker than typical Bible paper, so there is much less bleed through from a pen. And, I can add extra paper anytime one wants (in the fashion of Jonathan Edwards' Blank Bible). If I make a mistake, I can always remove the page and replace it with a photocopy from my bound edition of the NOAB. If I want to slip in an entire article, or a copy of a page in original languages -- there is no problem. It seems to me that this is the ultimate in flexibility.

I'm glad to see this finally released, although I doubt I'll personally buy one. Regardless, I've got a number of larger blog projects I'm working on, one of which is an update to last year's survey of wide-margin Bibles. I'm glad that I'll be able to include an entry for the NRSV this year.

J. Mark Betrand has written "A (Bible) Reader's Manifesto." Says Bertrand:

But we find ourselves at a point in history when we've never had so many choices, and yet the options are mostly arrayed along a horizontal spectrum -- a thousand different flavors of the same basic thing. I'd like to see more vertical choices, and that might require a shift in perspective. Instead of speaking to end-users as consumers, we might have to start thinking of them as readers.

What is most significant in the post is Bertrand's five-point "Starting Points for Marketing High-End Bible Editions." I can only hope that publishers will pay attention.

James White announced today that he will face Bart Ehrman in a debate early next year on the subject "Can the New Testament Be Inspired in Light of Textual Variation?" This will no doubt be a debate to watch/hear and then discuss.

My esteem for White dropped significantly a few years ago due to the way he handled a theological disagreement with another individual whom I respect very much. I felt his approach to the issue was uncharitable, far too public, and lacking in the kind of collegiality that should characterize Christian scholarship. Nevertheless, White is usually in natural form when he is engaged in formal debate. However, I often believe that White is rarely pitted in his debates against opponents who are equally skilled. At the very least, Ehrman should provide a worthy opponent to White and this is a subject in which both are well-versed.

Christianity Today has released its list of the "
10 Most Redeeming Films of 2007." Some entries on the list may surprise you, but it's a very good list. I remember when we used to do more movie reviews and discussion around here.

Finally, in the
I JUST DON'T GET IT DEPARTMENT: 2008 marks the 30th anniversary of the New International Version of the Bible. I've seen references on two other blogs (see here and here; oh, and also here) that Zondervan is planning a special wide-margin, high-end leather edition of the NIV Study Bible as one of the many ways that the NIV's 30th anniversary will be celebrated.

This is in spite of the fact that so many of us have asked for one decent wide-margin edition of the TNIV (the so-called TNIV Square Bible is flawed in three areas: (1) it's paper is too thin for annotations because it is a thinline, (2) the user doesn't have wide margin access to the inner column of text, and (3) the binding is subpar). If the TNIV is truly an improvement to the NIV (which I honestly believe it is), then why does Zondervan (and IBS, Cambridge, and Hodder) keep pushing the NIV and publishing new editions? If in ten years the TNIV turns out to be an also-ran translation, it will only be because publishers didn't know how to fully transition away from the NIV.

My suggestion for celebrating the NIV's 30 year anniversary?
Retire it. (My apologies to everyone I just offended, including my friends at Zondervan.)

I would like to find simply ONE decent wide-margin, high quality (see Bertrand's post above for the meaning of high-quality) Bible in a contemporary 21st century translation (HCSB, NLTse, TNIV, or NET). I'm still writing down notes in my wide margin NASB95, but the first translation of those I've listed that is released in a single-column, non-thinline, wide-margin edition, I will make my primary translation for preaching and teaching for the next decade. You heard it here first.


Haran or Harran?

The TNIV has updated the spelling of the Babylonian city of Haran to Harran. Is this justified? Does it matter?

And have the maps in TNIV Bibles kept up? [No! ...and

See my newest post,
"Keeping up with Harran" at the TNIV Truth blog.


The Bible Experience: Pentateuch

Back in December, Zondervan sent me a review copy of the MP3 edition of The Bible Experience. Around the same time, Tony Kummer, from Said at Southern issued a Bible reading challenge to read through the entire Bible between the second week of December through the end of January. I decided to take the challenge, but in a different manner. Since I had the newly received TBE in hand, and because I'm usually in the car for at least an hour a day, I decided to take the challenge by listening through the Bible.

Before I received
The Bible Experience, I had actually been listening off and on to an earlier recording of the TNIV that was simply a plain reading since the beginning of 2007. But I haven't been listening solely to that. I also listen to podcasts, lectures, sermons, and audio books on my commute. But by taking Tony's challenge, I decided to listen solely to The Bible Experience until I completed it, and offer periodic updates on This Lamp.

Now, I should be honest and say that I'm not going to finish by December 31. I am near the end of 1 Kings, and I actually finished the Pentateuch right before Christmas (so this review is late in coming). But it's been very enjoyable to listen to the Bible in large portions (the way it was originally intended).

As for
The Bible Experience itself, I have to say that it's the best dramatized Bible I've ever heard. It's not perfect, but it sets the bar for such things pretty high. I'll be honest. In general, I don't like dramatized Bibles. Why? Well, because usually they're cheesy and not well done. Normally it's like this: "Then the door closed." [Thud]. The Bible Experience is subtly different with [Thud] "The door closed." In The Bible Experience, the background sounds and effects anticipate the narration and dialogue. It's very much like listening to a movie audio track without the picture.

The MP3 Edition. The Bible Experience is roughly 89 hours long. That's at least ten hours longer than the average audio Bible that is a straight reading. If you were to buy the full edition on CD, it would cost you retail $124.99 and comes on 79 CD's. 79 CD's--that's crazy! It makes much more sense in my opinion to get the MP3 edition which comes on only eight CDs (and one bonus "making of" DVD) and sells for retail $69.99. This is a much more sensible way to go, and it makes it much easier to transfer The Bible Experience to your iPod, iPhone, or other MP3-capable player.

The eight CD's contain 1217 separate MP3 files. The first CD contains installation instructions for moving the files to your computer and installing them either in iTunes or Windows Media Player. I was especially pleased to discover instructions specifically for Mac users as we are usually forgotten.

I sync segments of
The Bible Experience to my iPhone and listen to it in my car via a cassette adapter.

The Pentateuch. I knew The Bible Experience was going to be powerful from the very first chapters of Genesis. The combination of music, sound effects, narration and acting is a powerful combination and as mentioned earlier, extremely well done. I'm not familiar with Matt Gibson who provides the voice of the narrator, but his voice is very well suited to what is obviously the largest task of the project. His speech is clear and almost soothing, a very good choice for a story teller. As mentioned, I'm not familiar with Gibson, but his voice reminds me of the actor Dennis Haysbert who currently is the spokesman for Allstate commercials. My only real complaint against Gibson is when he occasionally mispronounces a name, but I suppose I can blame the director for that.

For the uninitiated, the cast of
The Bible Experience is composed entirely of African American actors, celebrities and other well-known figures. Some have better abilities as voice actors than others. Pastor Paul Adefarasin provides the voice of God throughout the Old Testament. According to a profile on, Adefarasin is Nigerian which in the cast of mostly American voices gives God's voice a noticeable distinction. I'll admit that at first Adefarasin's voice seemed so soft, I had to turn up the volume of my car stereo to hear it. But now that my ears are attuned to Adefarasin's distinct accent, I have no trouble hearing him. Another voice that seemed too soft spoken was that of Abraham's voiced by T. D. Jakes. I never got used to Jakes' voice and frequently had to turn him up.

Some voices are instantly recognizable such as Robert Guillaume as Noah. Someone like Guillaume comes across very well which no doubt reflects his ability as an actor. And Potiphar's wife, voiced by Mo'Nique sounded downright sultry when she propositioned Joseph. However, Danita Patterson's line as Zipporah in Ex 4:25 "Surely, you are a bridegroom of blood to me" fell extremely flat and without emotion.

I know many will disagree with me on what I'm about to say, but personally I feel the worst casting that I've heard so far is Forest Whitaker as Moses. I've very much enjoyed Whitaker's performances elsewhere in the past, but his voice is not "old" enough for Moses, and even worse, Whitaker delivers an absolutely flat performance. Deuteronomy, in which Moses reads the Law to the Israelites was practically unbearable and the only point in listening to
The Bible Experience that I was tempted to fast forward or skip a few chapters (however, I did not). Whitaker failed to deliver any emotion whatsoever until Deuteronomy 27, when finally he started to sound like a preacher in rhythm with a congregation. But in what was surely a director's mistake, the refrain "Then all the people shall say, 'Amen!'" was not voiced by the crowd.

Listening in large blocks to an audio Bible offers the listener great insights that might be missed otherwise. Moses' question to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?" in Ex 3:13 is significantly set up by the fact that the name of God is conspicuously absent from most of the Joseph narrative. This was something that I could hear, but it's harder to read and spot such things.

And I have to admit that my face contorted as I winced in reaction to Genesis 34:25 as the narrator says "while all of them were still in pain" [from their circumcision] and the listener can hear men actually groaning in the background!

So far,
The Bible Experience is just that--an experience. In spite of some criticisms, I again state that it is the best dramatized Bible I've heard, and one I highly recommend. I'll report some more when I complete my listening to the historical books of the Old Testament.


TNIV Reference Bible: Hands On Review

The official word from Zondervan states that the TNIV Reference Bible's official release date is January 2008. However, Christian Book Distributors is showing availability "on or about" December 10 (as of this writing, CBD did not have any copies yet). The TNIVRB has been a highly anticipated Bible for a number of reasons. The complete TNIV translation has only been in circulation for about two and a half years, andI started teaching primarily from it in the latter half of 2006. However, my greatest complaint at the time was that I couldn't find a copy of the TNIV that didn't draw attention to itself. That is, I couldn't find one that wasn't in neon colors, let alone one with a simple traditional look and feel. Further, I had difficulty find a text layout that I liked. I prefer a single-column text with wide margins for taking notes. Yet, at the time, I couldn't even find a single-column edition of the TNIV.

Then, in September of 2006, I laid eyes on proofs for two different editions of the TNIVRB that were being circulated by Zondervan. One contained the single column text which resulted in the final copy, but the other was a two-column text with cross references in the middle. I quickly cast my vote with the editors at Zondervan for the single-column text. Of course, I made a number of other suggestions, too, including those elusive wide-margins and also suggested moving the cross references to the inside of the page. Zondervan hasn't taken those two suggestions to heart yet, but I'll keep pushing. Besides my vote for the single-column text, the only other influence I feel I had on this edition was to
press for a non-thinline edition. Unfortunately, this change in plans pushed the publication of the TNIVRB from October to now, and raised the price by about $5. Nevertheless, after quite a bit of waiting, the TNIVRB in its final form arrived in my mail today, a generous gift to me from my friends at Zondervan.

Zondervan aims the TNIVRB at pastors, students, and teachers. Further, their goal was to make the Bible high quality but sell it as low of a cost as possible to get it in as many "gatekeepers'" hands as possible. Therefore, the TNIVRB does not come in the tradition box that most high-end Zondervan Bibles include, but rather a cardstock slip cover. But as for the Bible itself, it appears to be very high quality. Currently, there's only one edition--black bonded leather--but that leather feels quite solid. More importantly, the binding is smyth-sewn so that the user won't have to worry about chunks of pages coming unglued.

I suppose I was most surprised about the size and weight of the Bible. As already mentioned, I lobbied Zondervan strongly not to make the TNIVRB a thinline Bible. After gaining support from other TNIV fans in the blogosphere, Zondervan announced in May of this year that the TNIVRB would measure in at about 1.25" thick. Well, when I got my copy in hand this evening, I immediately thought it looked thicker than that, so I measured it. I can tell you that the TNIVRB is actually about 1.5" thick, and I can't tell you how excited I am about that. This means thicker paper was used in the TNIVRB which will allow for less bleedthrough of text from underlying pages or personal notations.

Further, the TNIVRB feels good in the hand. It has just the right weight when holding it open, Billy-Graham-style in one hand.
I like the TNIVRB because it both looks like a Bible and feels like a Bible! As shown in the picture above, it lays flat when laid on a surface. I don't mean that it merely stays open; it lays flat. Does it lay flat at Genesis 1? Well, not quite flat, but it stays open, which is more than I can say for my TNIV Study Bible that I wrestled with while teaching out of Genesis at church last Sunday. And I'm sure given some time, and once the cover absorbs the natural oil from being held in hand, that it will even lay flat at Gen 1.

As mentioned already, the cover is a black bonded leather. This is complemented by silver lettering and gilding of the pages' edge. The spine itself doesn't contain hard corners, but is semi-rounded which contributes to its look of high quality. The text on the spine is fairly simple. "Holy Bible" runs sideways, while "TNIV" and the current three-tiered Zondervan logo sit perpendicular and occupy the bottom 25% of the spine's area. A single black ribbon is included for marking one's place.

According to the publisher's website, the TNIVRB runs at 1,408 pages. Some pages, such as those designating the Old and New Testaments, and even sections of books within those categories have been seen in some other editions of the TNIV. But most of the TNIVRB is brand new layout. The main text pages themselves contain layout and text that looks anything but rushed. Frequent section headers help to set off pericopes, allowing the text to flow with plenty of free space. The main text font measures at 9 points and is adequate for a Bible of this size. In comparing pages in the final product to the proofs I saw in 2006, it may be that Zondervan slightly enlarged the type from the original concept as slightly less text appears on the pages in the published TNIVRB. Such changes are always welcome.

Thankfully, all text is BLACK, meaning no red lettering (I can hear the applause coming through the internet now).

Cross references run along the outer edge of the page and a new feature, "Topical Ties" run along the bottom. The Topical Ties treat subjects in the text along 700 or so categories. The reader is guided by markers demonstrating earlier or later texts which focus on the same subject. Unfortunately, an index to these topics is not included, but I would think it might be helpful if something like this were made available online.

Heavy note-takers, such as myself will find the TNIVRB mixed for note-taking. Some pages have a lesser number of cross references in the margin allowing for notes, but more "well-travelled" passages contain a full margin of notes that often spill over into the bottom of the page. Poetic sections, however, offer ample room for notations.

Nevertheless, between the cross references, Topical Ties, and parallel passage notations under section headings, the TNIVRB is the
ultimate reference Bible. According to the slip cover, there are over 100,000 cross references alone. And Zondervan is claiming that the TNIVRB is the most comprehensive reference Bible available.

Following the last book of the New Testament, one finds the standard two TNIV appendices: a table of weights and measures and a listing of revised spellings of proper names. The concordance runs for nearly 70 pages and contains 2,464 word entries and over 11,000 scripture references. A "Dictionary of TNIV Terms" follows the concordance. From what I gather, this dictionary has appeared in selected previous editions of the TNIV, but I don't believe I'd seen it in any copy I've owned. These are words that the modern reader might come across in the TNIV Bible that may not seem familiar. This is similar in concept to the HCSB Bullet terms, but without the bullets in the main text. Finally, one finds 7 full color maps in the very back of the TNIVRB.

In the final analysis, the TNIVRB is the edition of the TNIV I wish I had been using from the very beginning. Nevertheless, late is better than never. Everything about it says this is a quality product, and while it isn't everything I finally want in an edition of the TNIV (I'm still holding out for wide margins), it will replace my TNIV Study Bible as my public TNIV of choice. I know a lot of people have been waiting for this Bible, and I'm glad to say that there are no final "gotchas." The TNIVRB is everything it was promised to be. I can readily recommend it to anyone wanting a regular reference edition of the TNIV, and it will be the edition that will receive the majority of my use.


A Reader's Greek New Testament, 2nd Edition: Hands On Review

What No One Wants to Talk About
There's a dirty little secret among ministers throughout Christendom: most of them have let their biblical languages slide after graduating seminary. It's sadly understandable, I suppose. Learning a language is hard enough, but maintaining that language takes time and discipline. It's not that ministers are undisciplined (well, maybe some are), but when they get out of school and into the "real world" of ministry, they find new obligations and demands upon their time. Reading the Bible in Greek or Hebrew is replaced with an occasional word study to get at the "meaning" behind key biblical words.

That's where a book like
A Reader's Greek New Testament (from this point forward, simply RGNT for the general work and RGNT1 and RGNT2 for the respective editions) can help fill the gap. I'm told there are 5,347 distinct words in the Greek New Testament. The average student taking elementary Greek will only learn a little over 300 vocabulary words in that first course. This accounts for roughly all words that occur in the Greek NT 50 times or more, or approximately 80% or so of words occurring in the NT. A second course related to syntax and exegesis will increase the number of learned vocabulary falling somewhere between 30 and 10 occurrences. The key feature of A Reader's Greek New Testament is the vocabulary apparatus at the bottom of the biblical text which gives definitions for all Greek words occurring 30 times or fewer.

This is a handier tool than one might at first realize. You see, there's another dirty little secret, and this one is among even the most trained academics and theologians:
very few scholars ever memorize all 5,347 words. I've sat under quite a few professors in my time, some of whom are quite well known in the world of biblical studies. However, I could probably count on one hand the number of individuals I've known who could "cold read" any passage in the NT and do so well. I admit that years ago I tested this out on more than one occasion on more than one professor. I began to pick up on the fact that when we had a focal passage for study for a day, a professor could read from the Greek quite smoothly. But as soon as a question was asked about another passage, stumbling and stuttering began as an attempt was made to read the unplanned text. Again, I can count on one hand the individuals I've known who seemed to be able to smoothly read aloud any passage from the NT without advanced preparation.

I won't be a hypocrite. I admit up front that I don't have all 5,347 words memorized either. It's a worthy goal, but I haven't reached it, and frankly at the moment I'm not even attempting to. At some point way back, I worked my way through one of those boxes of 1,000 Greek vocabulary cards. Those boxes will get the Greek student down to about all words that occur 10 times or more. I use my Greek almost daily, but I haven't reviewed all 1,000 vocabulary cards in a long time. If I had to guess, I would assume that as of this moment, my current mastery of Greek words falls somewhere below that 30x mark and above that 10x mark.

The Value of the RGNT
I picked up the first edition of the RGNT based mostly on the sheer novelty of the fact that it represented a different Greek text than the "Standard Edition"; that is, the Greek text underlying the NIV Bible (more about that in a moment). But the more I used it, the more I saw the value of what it was designed for: the RGNT allowed me to read the NT in Greek without having to constantly look up words that I didn't know the definition of off the top of my head. They were simply defined at the bottom of the page. Of course, there's value in consulting the lexicons for more in-depth treatment, but I would suggest that very few non-specialists who learn Greek (or at least take Greek classes) ever really read Greek. Instead, they simply muddle their way through. I've been there myself, and it's taken quite a bit of study to proceed further. But the RGNT will help anyone with a basic foundation in Greek studies actually read the NT in its original language.

Although for years I'd carried with me one of those "standard" Greek texts (first the UBS 3rd edition, and later the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland text), I found myself picking up the RGNT more and more after I bought it. I especially grabbed it for non-academic purposes such as church use. I found that when teaching a Bible study, if I was asked a question that required consulting the Greek text (which happens now and then), I was able to stumble around
less on those cold readings if I had the RGNT. So I would imagine that over the last couple of years, when carrying a Greek NT with me, the RGNT has been my choice at least 50% of the time.

The value of the RGNT is fairly universal. Certainly, it's a great tool for the person in ministry, who's out of school, but wants to continue using his or her Greek skills. It allows a pastor to realistically work in actual Greek for exegesis when preparing a sermon because less time is involved. For the student who has recently begun studying Greek, it's a great way to stay in the Greek text and rely less on outside aids. Of course, I've warned folks that the average professor is probably not going to allow it for an exam. But even beyond new students and graduated students, the RGNT is an immensely practical resource for looking to the original languages first as opposed to a translation. Some might be tempted to call it a crutch, but I would contend that the more a person used the vocabulary apparatus at the bottom of the page, the
less it would be used over time as new vocabulary was mastered.

The Underlying Text
It's very important that anyone considering the use or purchase of the RGNT know that text itself varies slightly from the accepted, so-called "Standard" eclectic Greek text. For those unfamiliar with this, the average Greek NT bought off the shelf today, whether a UBS 4th edition or a Nestle-Aland 27th edition, does not represent a single Greek manuscript, but is rather an amalgam of what is considered the best and most reliable readings from the manuscript evidence. But sometimes opposing variant readings have such strong evidence that scholars disagree over which variant represents the original. There are formal, but not always rigid rules for making such decisions and this process is known as textual criticism. Bible translators use these standard texts when creating or revising a translation of the Bible, but I suppose the third dirty little secret today is that every translation on the shelf contains some renderings in which the translation committee disagreed with the decision of those who put together the standard text. But until the first edition of the RGNT, it was difficult determining with any translation how many times a committee went rogue against the decisions in the standard text.

The first edition of the RGNT was released in 2003 containing a
reverse-engineered Greek text reflecting the translation decisions found in the NIV Bible. So how many times did the NIV translators opt to go with variant readings? Evidently, the magic number is 231. Is that good, bad, on par with other translations? Who knows? This had never been done before (to my knowledge). The newly released second edition also features an underlying Greek text, but not for the NIV. Rather, the underlying Greek text of the RGNT2 is based upon its successor, the TNIV. Regular readers of This Lamp will correctly assume that I'm very pleased with this decision. I've been concerned in the past that Zondervan was still holding on too tightly to the NIV rather than giving deference to the newer and more accurate TNIV. Not only is this change of translations between editions forward-thinking, the RGNT2 represents one of the first reference work related to the original Greek associated with the TNIV, further legitimizing academic use of this translation.

But wait--there's more. One might expect the number of deviations in the Greek text underlying the TNIV to remain close in number to those in the NIV. Not so. Would you believe that the number of deviations from the standard text in the TNIV is
285? That means there is well over 50 separate instances in which the TNIV Committee on Bible Translation made decisions for readings that differed from their predecessors who worked on the NIV. Are these decisions good ones? Well, that will have to be examined, but at least now with RGNT2, we know where they are.

Further, this will settle some questions about the differences between the TNIV and NIV once and for all. For instance, a while back I wrote about the difference between the two translations in their rendering of Mark 1:41 (see
here and here).

Mark 1:41
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

At the time, I wrote to the International Bible Society hoping that my question about the extremely different rendering would be passed on to the TNIV CBT. However, and IBS intermediary answered the email himself and went to great length to defend a decision to translate σπλαγχνίζομαι/splagchnizomai (the underlying Greek word translated in the NIV as "filled with compassion") as indignant in the TNIV. It didn't make much sense to me then, and as I looked at the issue a bit more, I discovered that there was another variant to Mark 1:41 that included the word ὀργίζω/orgizō (be angry, be furious) instead of σπλαγχνίζομαι/splagchnizomai. Upon receiving the RGNT2 in the mail this week, one of the first things I looked up was Mark 1:41 and I was not all too surprised to see that the TNIV does in fact use the variant that contains ὀργίζω/orgizō. Originally, upon receiving the RGNT2, my plan was to sell the first edition. However, I now believe it would be valuable to hold on to both for just these kinds of comparisons.

Improvements in the 2nd Edition
In addition to updating the textual basis, a number of other improvements have been made in the RGNT2. I've complained before that I didn't care for the italic Greek font in the RGNT1. Most will be pleased to know that the text has been completely reset in a non-italic font. Unfortunately, I'm still not satisfied with the new font, but I'll speak more to that below.

The RGNT is known for including vocabulary words at that bottom of the page for all words that occur 30 times or fewer. But what if the reader forgets the definition of one of those words that occur more than 30 times? I'll never forget the time I was in a class about a decade ago and it was my turn to recite a text and I completely blanked on a very basic, frequently occurring word (ποιέω/
poieo). Well the new RGNT2 includes a "mini-Lexicon" (it's actually called that) in the back that includes all those words occurring 30 times or more. It's a good way to review vocabulary as well. All definitions, like those in the apparatus with the text are taken from Warren Trenchard's Complete Vocabulary Guide to the New Testament. The mini-lexicon takes up only 6 pages, much fewer than I would have imagined.

Four color maps relating to the New Testament have been added. These maps will be recognizable to anyone who's bought a Zondervan Bible in recent years, but they are certainly a welcome addition. Old Testament quotations within the NT text are now referenced in a separate apparatus at the bottom of the page. This second apparatus also includes notations to differences in the standard NA/UBS Greek text as well as a few minimal textual notes such as "Later MSS Add... ." Again, no one is going to be able to do hardcore textual criticism with this New Testament, but the improvements in the RGNT2 help to make it a more complete package for most situations.

Like the previous edition, the new RGNT2 comes in an "Italian Duo-Tone" cover, which is a very leather-like imitation leather. Personally, I like the cover just like I did in the first edition. It feels immediately soft like a leather that has experienced a good amount of use already. I'm not sure any of us know what these new kinds of imitation leathers will look like in 20 years, but I'm not concerned. And I especially appreciate the lower cost (about $23 on

What I found very interesting, though, is that contrary to early advertisements promoting a marker ribbon, no such item is included. In fact, as of this writing. the box cover image on both AND the Zondervan website (reflected at the top of this post) promises a marker ribbon. Evidently, the ribbon was cut at the last minute, but still done in time to update the box cover which now sports only two "Changes to Second Edition" in the copy on the front of the box (the new supposedly easier to read Greek font and the full-color maps).

I might also point out, too, that when I did my earlier
"first look" (i.e not hands on) review of the RGNT2, I speculated based on released PDF files that this new edition might have wide margins. Sadly, it does not.

A Reader's Edition That's Difficult to Read

One of the supposed improvements in the second edition over the first edition of the RGNT is the new non-italic typeface (seen in actual size to the right). It's true, I've never liked italic Greek typefaces or saw the need for them. My first Greek New Testament years ago was a USB 3rd edition that had an italic, but readable typeface. However, I thought the 4th edition italic font was horrible and I've never used it. I have generally preferred instead to use a Nestle-Aland 27th edition Greek New Testament with non-italic type. I was never fond of the italic type in the RGNT1, but the work itself was so very practical that as described above, I've used it regularly over the last two or three years.

I was excited about the prospect of non-italic type in the RGNT2. Yet, when I saw the type of the main body text, I was astounded. I believe I said aloud, "My goodness, it's actually worse." The strokes that form the characters in this Greek font are so very
thin that in my opinion, the second edition is even more difficult to read than the first. If you think about it, this completely contradicts the concept of a supposed "Reader's Edition" because what Zondervan has produced is a work that is difficult to read! I can only imagine that extended time spent with the RGNT2 would seriously make one's eyes ache.

And to illustrate the oddity of this thin Greek font, all I have to do is point to the English font in the introduction of the work. It looks like it is probably about a 10 point Times-based font. It's easy to read. But it's in stark contrast to the thin letters in the Greek text. And to add even further evidence to the impracticality of this font, I should point out that the compilers of the RGNT2 chose an entirely different and
thicker (i.e. normal) font for the Greek in the mini-lexicon. If they had used the same Greek typeface in the main text that they had used in the lexicon, I would have no complaint.

I showed the new edition to one of my Greek students with the original edition for comparison. I waited for a reaction. He looked back and forth at the two editions and then he asked, "Wait a the new typeface
smaller?" I'm not so sure it's smaller, but it's definitely thinner. In fact because of the new typeface that takes up less space, the second edition comes in at 11 pages shorter than the first edition--and that's including the mini-lexicon in the second edition!

I can only speculate that the desire to have so few pages comes from what I see as a preoccupation that Zondervan has with thinline Bibles. Personally I can't stand thinline Bibles because compromises have to be made to reach a smaller size and that usually means small, cramped type and pages that are way too thin. And, of course, think paper leads to text bleed-through from underlying pages. All three are true for the RGNT2, and all three make this edition even more difficult to use than the first.

I complained to Zondervan about the thinline format because of the sacrifices in the type and paper, but Zondervan's marketing shows that people really seem to prefer thinline Bibles. I'm sure they do. They are compact and easy to carry, but personally, I don't find them practical for regular/heavy use. If I were to make a publishing rule regarding such things, I'd say never produce thinline reference works.

Further, in regard to my complains about the type, I was told that at the recent SBL & ETS conferences, attendees were given the chance to compare the two editions:

"I can say this that the vast majority of those at the convention who looked at the two editions preferred the second edition's font over the first as being much easier to read. Even though the first edition was $5.00 cheaper than the second edition and we had lots of both editions at the conventions, we sold out of the second edition first at both conventions, and 'from my perch' I made sure that people looked at both fonts if they were unaware of the first edition."

My hunch is that people looking at the two simply prefer the non-italic type in the second edition over the italic type in the first, but time will tell. It's a different issue altogether when one is actually trying to use a work like this as opposed to simply looking at it in a conference booth.

I'm going to really attempt to use the second edition despite my initial misgivings. I didn't like the italic type of the original edition at first, but it grew on me. However, I don't know if that will be possible with a font that's simply difficult to read.

No Longer the Only Game in Town
About a year or so ago, I had a professor from a seminary extension contact me about the original RGNT. He was using it in his Greek classes, but he had heard that the United Bible Societies were going to sue Zondervan over their Reader's Edition in spite of the 231 places where it diverged from their text. He was so concerned about this, he had been buying up extra copies of the RGNT for his future students to buy from him. He wanted to know if I had heard about any of this. I had not heard about it, but I didn't believe at the time that any such lawsuit was be tenable in a court of law because the UBS text is made up of an arrangement of public domain ancient manuscripts. Later on I would find out that such an idea for a lawsuit had indeed been considered, but eventually abandoned because of the exact reason I suspected.

Nevertheless, there is a new
UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader's Edition to compete with Zondervan's. Granted, it's $20 more expensive than Zondervan's (UBS prices are out of control in my opinion) even at discounters, but it may end up giving Zondervan's RGNT2 a run for it's money. I have not held one in my hand yet (when I do, I'll offer yet another review), but based on PDF's, I wonder if they haven't built a better mousetrap. My concerns about the typeface in Zondervan's RGNT don't look like they will be an issue in the UBS edition based on what I've seen. I would invite you to compare the PDF sample for the UBS Reader's Edition to the PDF sample for the Zondervan RGNT2 and let me know your thoughts. I should also point out that the UBS text is about 200 pages longer than the Zondervan version and it is definitely not a thinline.

Concluding Thoughts
Zondervan has developed a wonderful concept with its Reader's Greek New Testament which is aimed at allowing a person with at minimum basic Greek skills to simply read the New Testament in its original language without having to consult a full lexicon every few words. Most of the additions to the second edition are welcome and for the most part improves upon its predecessor. I especially like having the text that underlies the TNIV. Since I teach out of the TNIV at church, the RGNT2 would seemingly make for an excellent complementary resource. Unfortunately, the ghastly thin typeface in the second edition threatens to defeat the purpose of this being a reader's edition because it's simply difficult to read. If the new UBS Reader's Edition begins to cut into Zondervan's sales, I hope they will consider resetting the type as quickly as possible. Unfortunately such projects never take place quickly, and I wouldn't expect anything different from the current RGNT2 for at least three years or more.


Intelligible Is Not Preferred If the Rendering Is Inaccurate: Matthew 16:18-19 in the TNIV

Lest anyone think I'm overly critical at times of the ESV and never of a translation like the TNIV, let me offer a couple of brief translation-related notes from yesterday's Bible study.

Our focal text for the day was Matthew 16:13-28. As I do on most Sundays, I was teaching from the TNIV. When I'm teaching, I prefer not to have to undermine the translation I'm using in order to clarify actual meaning in the text. But the TNIV was lacking, in my opinion, in two very important places in our study. Had I been thinking, I probably should have grabbed my HCSB when I walked out the door as it was much better.

First, I'm not fond of the rendering in v. 18: "and the gates of
death will not overcome it" (emphasis added). The original NIV simply had Hades here, transliterated from the Greek. On the one hand, hell (KJV, NLT) is too strong of a translation. But in my opinion, the TNIV's death lacks a certain amount of punch. Hades certainly does carry the meaning of death, and at times could be legitimately translated simply as death or grave (Acts 2:27 for instance, although here the TNIV ironically uses "the realm of the dead"). But my concern with death in Matt 16:18 is that the reader will miss the spiritual aspect of Jesus' words. Yes, I know that theologically speaking, all death is a spiritual event. But many don't realize that and merely see it as a physical act at the end of existence.

I perfectly realize that Hades by itself isn't any clearer and many will still need explanation, but again, I feel that death simply doesn't say enough while hell overreaches. I know that many readers will disagree with me and see death as a fine translation. Please realize, I'm not calling it inaccurate, just less effective and incomplete. But that does lead to the next issue where I believe there is an actual inaccuracy in the TNIV (and the majority of translations in use today).

I was disappointed in v. 19 to see that the future perfect aspect of binding and loosing that is in the Greek (δεδεμένον and λελυμένον, respectively) were ignored in favor of a fairly traditional rendering: "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” But if misery loves company, very few translations render this correctly. In fact, only three major modern translations even attempt to bring out an accurate understanding of the passage:

“...and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (NASB) “...and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.” (HCSB) "Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven." (NET)
Certainly, the alternatives above are a bit more awkward, but the difference theologically is enormous, and more importantly, they are more accurate. So, since I have said before that "literal is not more accurate if it's unintelligible," I might also suggest that intelligible is not preferred if the rendering is inaccurate.

It cuts both ways.

Final note: alternate (and more accurate) renderings for v. 19 are found in some translations including the ESV and TNIV:

Or shall have been bound . . . shall have been loosed (ESV)

Or will have been. (TNIV)

TNIV Truth: Can the TNIV Be Used for "In-Depth" Study?

Over at TNIV Truth, a reader asked this question:

Can someone please explain to me how you can use the TNIV for in-depth study? I love the TNIV, but I am having a hard time using it for deep study because of the dynamic equivalence. I don't know if this is a mindset or an actual problem.

To read my response, click here.


TNIV Truth: Dig Deeper

To read why I like this ad for the TNIV Study Bible, as well as my thoughts on work still to be done, read my latest post at TNIV Truth.


First Look: A Reader's Greek New Testament, Second/Revised Edition

Four years ago, Zondervan published the first edition of A Reader's Greek New Testament. A second edition is set to be released sometime in November.


I've always found A Reader's Greek New Testament (RGNT from this point forward) to be an extremely practical resource. The RGNT addresses the issue that while there are over 5,000 distinct words in the Greek NT, the reality is that many of this words only occur a few times or even in single occurances. While it's an admirable goal for a student of Greek to memorize every word, it's not a reality for most. Most introductory grammars, in fact, only cover a little over 300 words, but these words occur so frequently that they account for roughly 80 of the entire New Testament. But that remaining 20% is still enough from keeping the average person who has a familiarity with Greek from sitting down and reading the New Testament in its original language as easily as one might read an English translation. In fact, in my experience and observation, I've known personally of only about two or three people who can really read the Greek NT without stumbling. Oh, sure, the dirty little secret is that any of us can read a passage just fine when we've taken the time to work through it ahead of time. But as soon as someone asks us a question about a different passage--one that we haven't prepared beforehand, we stumble and stammer as we try to read it in a quick and efficient manner.

The RGNT is noted for including lexical forms for all words of the Greek New Testament that occur 30 times or less. If this sounds like a crutch, think again. The reader still has to know his or her Greek grammar fairly well to use this resource. In fact, I tend to carry the first edition of the RGNT with me to church on Sundays. If I need to look up something quickly, and come across a word that's not part of my working vocabulary, I can look at the footnote at the bottom of the page. It's not realistic for me to carry a lexicon with me to church, and I usually don't have my MacBook so that I can access such tools in Accordance. Perhaps one day, I'll make time to memorize all 5000+ words in the Greek NT, but for right now it's not a practical goal and the RGNT is an ideal solution.

The other distinct feature of the RGNT first edition has to do with its textual basis. Most might assume that this is simply an edition of the current UBS/NA eclectic Greek text with a special apparatus. Not so. The Greek text in this edition is actually one that has been retrofitted, so to speak, to match the text that underpins the New International Version. The reality is that every translation committee makes decisions that sometimes causes them to choose a different textual route than the majority opinion of the UBS/NA committees. The RGNT first edition has about 200 instances, all noted in the footnotes, where its text differs from the standard text.


New Greek font. I don't know if the font itself is actually a different font, but the main difference from the first edition is that the text in the second edition is not in italics. And I say, "Thank goodness!" My major complaint about the first edition of the RGNT is the italicized text that is extremely difficult to read. I have no idea why some publishers of Greek texts like to do this. The UBS 4th edition Greek NT uses a horribly thin italicized text also making it difficult to read. Thankfully, Zondervan changed this policy in the RGNT 2nd edition.

However, the font itself does look slightly smaller than the original edition. I've made a comparison in the graphic below that displays the first page of Matthew's Gospel on the left in the first edition and with the second edition on the right (note that the image below is not actual size).

The observant reader may notice that there's slightly more text (most of Matt 1:12) on the second edition page. Therefore, the font is either tighter or smaller. Zondervan offers a PDF sample of the RGNT2 featuring the first five pages of Matthew. The second edition ends with Matt 3:17 while the equivalent page in the fist edition ends with 3:15. Two verses--is that a big deal? Probably not, but there is definitely an attempt to use fewer pages. Why? Because while there are more features in the RGNT2, but there are actually fewer pages than the first edition. Therefore, an attempt was made to conserve space. And while I wish Zondervan had not chosen to use a tighter/smaller font, I will say that regardless, the new text is much easier to read than the italicized text of the first edition.

But that brings us to another issue, and frequent readers of This Lamp will have to pardon a familiar complaint that I've discussed many times before. This New Testament, (presumably) like its predecessor is a thinline. How do I know this? Well, in spite of the fact that complete measurements have not been released, we do know a few things. I'm guessing the dimensions are a bit wider because the outer margin on each page is wider (see more below). We also know that although there is about a twenty page difference in the two editions, the weight is comparable (1.065 lbs. for the first edition vs. 1 lb. for the second edition). Thickness measurements for the second edition have not been released, but the first edition is 7/10 of an inch thick. Since the two editions weigh virtually the same, I can only assume that the second edition will be just as thin.

So what's wrong with a thinline Bible? Lots of things. First, thinner paper is used that causes bleedthrough of text from underlying pages. If you look at the scan on the right from the RGNT first edition, which I have enlarged for the point I am making, you can easily see text from the other side of the page. But if you look carefully, you will note that it's not just the text from the back of the page; you can also make out text from the next page. And I'll tell you the truth--the bleedthrough is much worse to the eye than what is picked up by my scanner. Fortunately most of the time our eyes can adjust to bleedthrough after a while, and we simply filter it out. Regardless, it can also be an unnecessary distraction. Second, thinline Bible tend to use fonts that allow for more text on the page in addition to using a smaller point size in general. Many thinline Bibles end up looking very crowded in their layouts, and all of this creates a page that is harder to read. Third, the pages of thinline Bibles are often simply not good surfaces for making personal notes, and certainly not for highlighting as such personal additions will bleed through to the next page.

Personally, I hope that one day, publishers will get over their infatuation with thin Bibles and realize that the target market for a resource like this does not mind having a book that is somewhere between one inch and one and a half inches in thickness. I'm sorry, but cramming 576 pages into 7/10 of an inch is ridiculous.

A wider margin? Now let me make a careful distinction here. The second edition of the RGNT is not a wide margin Bible. However, if the PDFs are representative of the final product, the margin of the second edition is significantly wider than that of the first edition. When looking at the PDFs, I immediately noticed the change in the text's outer margin. Turning on the rulers in Adobe Acrobat, as shown in the image on the left, quickly demonstrated that the margin is slightly greater than 3/4 of an inch, an improvement over the 1/2 margins of the first edition.

Again, this is an area where I with publishers would realize that those who buy products such as the RGNT appreciate not just thicker paper, but also wide margins for making notes, Regardless, whereas, the first edition's anemic margins were useless for any annotations, the new wider margins begin to approach a minimum width for note-taking,

Mlnl-Lexlcon. For those occasions when the reader forgels one of those words that occur more than 30 times, a new mini-lexicon has been added, presumably in the back of the RGNT.

Maps. Four new color maps have been added to the second edition of the RGNT. Already UBS/NA Greek New Testaments tend to have basic contextual maps inside the front and back covers. With the addition of these maps to the RGNT, this resource begins to take the feel of a standard reference tool and even a one-stop instrument for public use.

And the rest. Like the first edition, the new RGNT comes in an Italian Duo-Tone binding, I've stated before that I like this material just as much as actual leather. Assuming that these covers are going to hold up over decades-long use, I find them to be a very adequate substitute for real leather, especially if this keeps the price down. Perhaps Zondervan could put a disclaimer on the copyright page: "No cows were harmed in the publishing of this New Testament."

And of of course, the RGNT second edition will continue to offer lexical forms of words that occur less than 30 times in the Greek NT as well as noting where the text diverges from the UBS/NA texts. I'm pleased that they continue to keep these notes on the same page as the NT text, in footnote fashion, rather than by some other means.

I'll have more to say about the RGNT2 after I get my hands on one in November, Butfrom what l can already determine, it is already looking to be a great improvement over what was already a very practical and useful resource.


Missing My Wide Margin NASB

I've noticed an interesting trend in my habits over the past few weeks: I've gone back to using my wide margin NASB a lot more lately. I haven't done this for public presentation, but I've done it when needing to carry an English Bible for my own needs lately.

Frequent readers of This Lamp will remember that although I've always been an aficionado of Bible translations, I used the NASB for almost two decades in teaching and preaching settings until I became convicted a couple of years ago that the formality and literalness of the translation itself was getting in the way of what I was trying to teach. Since then, I have primarily used the TNIV in public, but I've also used the HCSB and NLT to a certain extent as well. And often even when needing to carry a translation to a setting where I wasn't presenting, I tended to pick up my TNIV.

But yesterday is a good example of this "change" in my habits. I've been meeting a friend of mine for breakfast for a couple of years now, and we usually read a book together and discuss it over bagels. Over the last few weeks we've been reading Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship. Yesterday as I was heading out the door to meet for breakfast, I grabbed a Bible as I always do. But instead of grabbing the TNIV Study Bible which has been my practice for a few months, I picked up my wide margin NASB.

Why would I do this? It's because of my notes. Right now, our reading in Bonhoeffer is right in the middle of his exposition on the Sermon on the Mount. Because I've both preached and taught through Sermon on the Mount on different occasions, I have a wealth (to me) of personal notes written in the margins of that Bible, some of which were copied from my earlier 1971 NASB before I transcribed them to this newer '95 update.

Doesn't the TNIV Study Bible have notes? Sure it does. But the notes in my NASB are my notes. These notes are the facts and insights that stuck out to me. These notes are the triggers I used to discuss the text when I was teaching it last. The TNIV Study Bible is the first study Bible that I have ever consistently carried with me. It's notes are helpful, but I find that I don't automatically turn to them. I look at them if I need to look something up and hope that the information I need is there.

After using other Bibles for over a year and a half now, I have to admit that i really miss my wide margin NASB. And I don't think it's the NASB that I miss so much, although I will always have a great familiarity with it. What I miss is the ability to refer to my notes, to refer to a tangible experience of having spent time--studied and wrestled--with a particular passage before. I don't have notes on every page of my Bible. But the notes that I do have are footprints that I was there, evidence that I stopped and camped out a while, as opposed to merely passing by.

I stay in a continuing conundrum. I really do feel committed to public use of a contemporary translation. And I would prefer a gender-accurate, non-Tyndale translation when presenting in front of mixed audiences. But no usable wide margin edition of a contemporary translation exists that meets these factors. There is no wide margin NLT and the only wide margin TNIV offering limits writing space to one column on a two column page and has paper too thin for extensive use. I might be willing to settle for the HCSB even though it is not gender accurate, but the pages in its only wide margin offering are so thin that they curl when writing on them.

At this point, I would like a new wide margin Bible (leather, of course) in a contemporary translation--any translation. I'm willing to transcribe my notes even a third time. TNIV? NLT? NET? HCSB? Something else? At this point, I'm not even overly concerned with the exact translation, in spite of the fact that I have my personal favorites and feel some are better suited for teaching than others. Whichever publisher first delivers a wide margin edition in one of these translation wins--at least with me.

Every Sunday morning when I leave for church, I push aside my wide margin NASB in favor of the TNIV Study Bible. Despite the fact that as I've studied a passage that I will be teaching I've taken diligent notes in the margins of my NASB, I've been forced to create a subset of these notes in the anemic margins of the TNIV Study Bible or in whatever white space I can manage. But the temptation to grab my trusty NASB and run remains. And I wonder if this temptation is growing stronger?


TNIV Truth: TNIV on the iPhone

Want to access the TNIV natively on the iPhone (and a few other translations, too)?

See my newest post at TNIV Truth.


Comparing Apples to Pupils: Zechariah 2:8 in the HCSB, NET, and NLT

[Note: Zech 2:8 ENG = Zech 2:12 HEB;
 also all Hebrew below has been transliterated as RapidWeaver seems to continue to have difficulties correctly rendering Unicode Hebrew]

I've stated on a number of occasions how much I respect the HCSB translators' decision to regard accuracy over tradition in many of the translation's renderings. In my review last year of the HCSB, I remarked that although the HCSB courageously breaks with traditional wording of a favorite verse like John 3:16, it does so strictly for the sake of better communicating the meaning of that verse which is easily misunderstood in most translations.

And so it is with Zech 2:8 which was part of our Bible study yesterday at church.

Zechariah 2:8
Traditional Renderings
Accurate Renderings
For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. (KJV) For the LORD of Hosts says this: “He has sent Me for |His| glory against the nations who are plundering you, for anyone who touches you touches the pupil of His eye. (HCSB)
For this is what the LORD Almighty says: “After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye— (TNIV) For the LORD who rules over all says to me that for his own glory he has sent me to the nations that plundered you–for anyone who touches you touches the pupil of his eye. (NET)

I was teaching from the TNIV, but the Explore the Bible study book we use in our class has the HCSB as the default translation. During my preparation before the class I observed the differences in the two translations' renderings of the Hebrew vava. The TNIV uses the traditional "apple" while the HCSB uses the better "pupil." Undoubtedly, the TNIV's phrase, unchanged from the NIV, is a holdover going back to the KJV.

Using Accordance, I scanned the KJV to determine that this translation uses the English word apple for four separate Hebrew words in the OT:
  • ’ishwon: Deut 32:10; Ps 17:8; Prov 7:2
  • tappuach: Song 2:3; 8:5; Joel 1:12
  • vat: Lam 2:18
  • vava: Zech 2:8
Although some of these renderings in the KJV might be more justified than others (especially those on Song of Solomon), none are really accurate considering apples were not grown in Israel during biblical times (see ABD, "Flora"). Of course the translators of the 17th century KJV most assuredly did not know this, but there's really no excuse for modern translations to hold on to the rendering simply for the familiarity of the phrase "apple of his eye."

If anything, "apple of his eye" seems to communicate something slightly different in our culture than what was intended in the text. I did a quick survey of my class yesterday as to the meaning of "apple of his/my eye" and most responses were of the "cutesy" variety, often noting the idea of a daughter being the apple of her father's eye.

In Zech 2:8, vava literally means "gate" of the eye; but ultimately, that's too literal for understanding in English. The meaning here is essentially the pupil as the HCSB and NET correctly translate it. McComiskey notes:

In this analogy, the eye is Yahweh's [...] As the eye is extremely sensitive to touch, so God is sensitive to what threatens his people. The statement develops further the important postexilic theme that God will protect his people and allow no hostile intervention. (The Minor Prophets, vol. 3, p. 1061)

In other words, to mess with God's people is like poking a stick in God's eye, so watch out!

One more note: the NLTse translation of Zech 2:8 bypasses the apple/pupil issue to focus on the meaning of the phrase:

After a period of glory, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies sent me against the nations who plundered you. For he said, “Anyone who harms you harms my most precious possession.

But more important than that, of all the most recent translations, only the NLT attempts to correct the tiqqune soferim found in this verse. That is, the ancient Hebrew scribes were offended at the idea of poking a stick in God's eye, so the wording was changed from "my eye" to "his eye." Thus, in the end, according to one's opinion and evaluation of the dynamic rendering "my most precious possession," the NLT may turn out to be the most accurate translation of Zech 2:8 of those surveyed here.

For another look at a tiqqune soferim, see my post on Hab 1:12.


Inspired By...The Bible Experience Wins Audiobook of the Year

In case you missed the early announcement post by Ben over the weekend at TNIV Truth or if you haven't seen the official press release from Zondervan, the TNIV audio Bible Inspired By...The Bible Experience has won the "Audie" audio book of the year. Here's an excerpt from Zondervan's press release:

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., June 4, 2007 – The most ambitious and bestselling audio presentation of the Bible ever produced, Inspired By… The Bible Experience (New Testament), has been named Audiobook of the Year, the most prestigious award for excellence in audiobooks, by the Audio Publishers Association (APA).

The award recognizes the audiobook that made the greatest impact on the audio publishing industry. To date, the New Testament edition of Inspired By… The Bible Experience has sold more than 300,000 units in eight months to become Zondervan’s fastest-selling new Bible, outselling perennial bestsellers. The combination of the product’s original score, theatrical production, world-class talent and use of the most accessible Bible translation, the TNIV (Today’s New International Version), also earned Inspired By… The Bible Experience a second Audie in the Inspirational/Spiritual category. The winners were announced during the Audies ceremony on Friday, June 1, in New York City.


TNIV Truth: Thick Not Thin

As I've reported over at TNIV Truth, it was announced today that the new TNIV Reference Bible will NOT be a thinline. As an added bonus, we also found out today that the binding will be smyth-sewn. Good news all around.


TNIV Truth: Thick or Thin?


Is the upcoming TNIV Reference Bible going to have a standard thickness or is it going to be a thinline?

No one seems to know, but over in my newest post at TNIV Truth, "TNIV Reference Bible: Thick or Thin?" you have an opportunity to make your opinion known.


Review: Writing of St. Paul, 2nd edition by Meeks & Fitzgerald

Below is a guest review from This Lamp reader and occasional contributor, Larry.

Writings of St. Paul, 2nd ed., Edited by Wayne Meeks and John Fitzgerald, (Norton 2007) (Amazon price $14.50).

[Note: because of the recent appearance of this work, I’ve decided to change my order of presentation of academic study Bible reviews. Previous reviews discussed the (Oxford) Jewish Study Bible and the New Oxford Annotated Study Bible, 3rd Augmented Edition. See my introductory remarks in my first review.]

There are many ways to read the Bible. One way is to attempt to understand the “original authorial intent” of the Bible – often called a historical-critical reading. A related, but distinct way is to attempt to chart the way that various readers have understood the Bible. Both of these methods have value, but in the complex portions of Scripture, we may never have a clear consensus of the meaning of Scripture, so the most we can hope for is to understand how different groups have read it. The Writings of St. Paul (2nd edition) (WSP) is an excellent introduction to reading the writings of Paul through the eyes of groups varying from his contemporaries to our contemporaries.

The Pauline Epistles form a genre unto themselves – aside from Jesus (who is the subject of the Christian Scriptures but not the direct author or any book in it), Paul is the leading character in the Greek writings of the Bible. Seven letters are clearly written by him, another six letters are attributed to him, there is an extensive New Testament apocryphal literature attributed to Paul, and a good portion of Acts is devoted to him. Paul may the single greatest contributor to Christian theology and the meaning of his works form the most virulent disputes in Christendom. The secondary literature on Paul – even in English – is so extensive that no single person can hope to read it all. But understanding the different ways in which Paul is interpreted is important, not only for the Christian faithful, but for anyone who wishes to understand this religious genius of Western culture.

Paul is difficult to read – his reasoning often appears inconsistent and his writing was to specific audiences who were familiar with Second Temple period Judaism or contemporary Hellenistic culture – under Roman political rule. Since most of us are not fluent in cultural references from this period, it is easy to misunderstand Paul.

Norton publishes a series of relatively inexpensive paperbacks featuring annotated texts and assorted essays with critical readings, called the Norton Critical Editions series. These are the “Criterion Editions” of the literary world – stuffed with notes and extra material. The selection of titles does not attempt to be a comprehensive survey of literature, but rather includes a variety of texts that are of interest in the undergraduate classroom. (Among the texts of interest to those in religious studies are St. Thomas Aquinas on Politics and Ethics, Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua, The Epic of Giglamesh, and Dante’s Inferno.)

The Writings of St. Paul, 2nd edition (WSP) is a revision of a 1972 classic by Wayne Meeks (which is still available from Amazon). This second edition is co-edited by Wayne Meeks (emeritus at Yale, former President of the SBL) and John Fitzgerald (University of Miami). The new edition is much larger than the older – it contains xxxv+710 pages (as opposed to xvii+454 pages in the older edition) and each page has more information – because it uses larger paper and a smaller font, each of the new pages is equal to about one and a half pages in the older edition. The second page is printed on thinner paper (which is perfectly suitable for taking notes – remember this is intended as a textbook), so this new edition is actually thinner than the old edition, and the new edition also has larger margins (a half-inch top and inside margins, three-quarters-inch bottom and outside margins).

The philosophy behind this work is to present the broadest possible set of views. Thus we hear from Paul’s opponents (e.g., the Jewish Christians often criticized by Paul, the Pagans) and those with radically different views of Paul (e.g., the Jews, the Gnostics). Thus this book has full representation of the opinions of heretics – and even for the faithful, this is useful; since it allows us to understand the nature of some of the disputes over Paul, both classical and modern.

The switch to the TNIV
The biggest surprise in this new edition is the textual basis – the first edition used the 1946 RSV translation (note that the first edition predated the appearance of the NIV and NRSV, although it postdated the appearance of the NEB and the NASB.) In the first edition, the editor writes (p. xi)

"The text is from the Revised Standard Version. It was chosen from the several excellent contemporary English versions now available because its relatively conservative mode of translation enables the reader to recognize certain distinctive features of Paul’s style."

The second edition uses the TNIV instead, a surprising choice since the TNIV is most closely associated with Evangelical circles. The editors write (p. xi)

“The text of the Pauline letters is from Today’s New International Version (TNIV). It was chosen from the several excellent modern versions now available ecause its relatively conservative mode of translation enables the reader to recognize certain distinctive features of Paul’s style, while still taking account of current discussions in biblical scholarship and aiming for both inclusiveness and accuracy in the representation of gender.”

Clearly issues of gender played a large role in the editors’ decision to use the TNIV. This inclusive approach forms a core desideratum of the authors, who are at pains to point out (p. 589) “whereas the first edition had no excerpts from female scholars, the second edition features contributions by seven women.” The second edition also features many more contributions by Jewish scholars and contemporary Roman Catholic scholars.

Overall, the TNIV works better than I expected as a textual basis. The Epistles are difficult reading, and the TNIV certainly reads more smoothly than the RSV and NRSV. Furthermore, Paul requires careful attention, but his writing is rarely characterized as elegant. Paul writes in a rough, sometimes crude, Koine style, and thus is robust enough to retain its character in a translation that sometimes uses paraphrase (in contrast to more formal passages in Scripture, such as the Psalms.)

The editors do not always agree with the text of the TNIV. In some cases, they use their footnotes to assert an alternative translation. (For example, they prefer the RSV’s rendering of Romans 9:5. This verse can be punctuated in several ways; the TNIV, RSV, and NRSV all punctuate this verse differently although each translation gives the other two alternatives in footnotes.)

One might wonder why the editors did not choose the NRSV. Although there is no explicit explanation, hints are given that the editors are often critical of the NRSV’s rendering. For example, the NRSV renders Acts 22:3 as

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cicilia, but brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law.

while the NIV has

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers.

The implications here are quite different – the NRSV seems to suggest that Paul only was “brought up” in Jerusalem when he entered Gamaliel’s yeshiva, while the NIV implies a much closer connection with the center of mainstream Jewish thought. The editors discuss the pros and cons of either translation, slightly favoring the NIV’s rendition (which remains largely similar in the TNIV.) (Interestingly, neither the NRSV nor the TNIV include a textual note discussing the alternative reading.) The editors include a variety of apocryphal legends, including one from Paul’s Jewish-Christian critics (paraphrased by Epiphanius, Bishop of Salmis,) that Paul was a convert who was spurned in marriage and thus became radically anti-Jewish – although the editors unambiguously reject this legend asserting that Paul was a “a Hebrew [born] of Hebrews.”

For me, an interesting effect of this edition was that more academic “framing” of the TNIV caused me to see the TNIV in a more neutral light. With more academic footnotes (that in some cases make textual emendations to the TNIV’s translation) the TNIV seemed less like a doctrinaire Evangelical translation and more like a neutral translation. Of course, this is a double-edged sword, and those who want a strictly Evangelical presentation of Paul may not care for the WSP. But for those who wish to understand in a more academic framework the ways in which Paul has been read – both by supporters and by critics –this more neutral framing is essential.

Parts 1&2: Paul’s Letters and Pauline School Letters
The work begins with an introduction that surveys sources and Paul’s biography, and then follows with Part 1, Paul’s letters sorted by likely date of composition: 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans, Philippians, and Philemon. These works are accompanied by lengthy introductions and generous annotations that often discuss Hellenistic or Jewish references or matters of language style. However, given the unusual ordering of the books and formatting that makes chapter and verse symbols similar, it can be hard to quickly look up a specific passage. Then follows Part 2, six letters traditionally attributed to Paul, with introductions explaining why Pauline authorship is controversial, again organized in terms of date of likely composition: 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, 1&2 Timothy, and Titus.

Part 3 Pseudo-Pauline Works
These pseudepigrapha are identified as clear forgeries. The Correspondence of Paul and the Corinthians appears in the Acts of Paul and is an “orthodox forgery” to combat heresy. The Laodicean Epistle is a cento of Pauline epigrams primarily drawn from Philippians. The Correspondence of Paul and Seneca builds on the similarity between to two great classical figures and lead to Jerome’s inclusion of “our Seneca” in his On Illustrious Men. (Seneca chides Paul for his rhetorical style, while Paul exhorts Seneca to be a “herald of Jesus Christ” to the imperial household.) Two apocalypses follow, based on the famous passage 2 Corinthians 1-4 when Paul ascends to the third heaven. The Apocalypse of Paul (excerpted) is, according to Syriac legend, the written record of this revelation (this was one of the inspirations for Dante’s Inferno.) The Gnostic Apocalypse of Paul is a Nag Hammadi codex which recounts Paul’s travels to the fourth through tenth century. Note that the Prayer of the Apostle Paul from the Nag Hammadi library is not included (since it is not attributed to Paul but a petition that invokes him as an authority.)

Part 4 Views of Paul in the Ancient Church
This section begins with excerpts from the sections of Acts dealing with Paul (in the TNIV translation) and analyses of the Lukan account by Irenaeus (2nd century Bishop of Lyons) and by separate pair of differing scholars: Daniel Schwartz (Hebrew University) and Jacob Jervell (University of Oslo). The analysis of Acts concludes with a very interesting (and engagingly written) discussion of the Bar Jesus episode (Acts 13) by Susan Garrett (Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary).

Next the text presents apocryphal accounts: Jerome’s discussion of Paul, Tertullian’s claim that Jacob foresaw Paul’s life, an account of the risen Christ predicting Paul from the apocryphal Epistle of the Apostles, a physical description of Paul from the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, a description from Clement of Alexandra which interprets Phil. 4:3 as a reference to Paul’s spouse and gives an account of it, a description of Paul’s daily schedule from Ambrosiaster, a story of the of baptized lion (I remember hearing this as a child) from the apocryphal Acts of Paul, another extract of Clement of Alexandria where he quotes an apocryphal account of Paul consulting pagan oracles, a lengthy extract of a panegyric from Chrysostom on Paul as the Paragon of Virtue, and an extract from the apocryphal Acts of Peter of Paul’s missionary journey to Spain.

Apocryphal accounts of a martyr’s death for Paul appear from an extract of Clement of Rome’s work in the Apostolic Fathers and from the apocryphal Acts of Paul.

Jewish-Christian opponents to Paul are represented in extracts of paraphrases of their comments from Abrosiaster and Epiphanius. Direct attacks appear from a long extract from the Preachings of Peter [depicting Paul as the “messenger of Satan”] and the pseudo-Clementine Recognitions of Clementine. J. Louis Martyn (Union Theological Seminary) analyzes Paul’s Galatian opponent, Martin Hengel (Tubingen) analyzes the Lettter of James as an anti-Pauline polemic, and David Flusser (Hebrew University) discussing Jewish-Christianity enmity in the Didache.

Pagan opponents to Paul are represented by extracts from Emperor Julian’s Against the Galileans, and an anonymous Hellene’s attack on Paul quoted by Macarius Magnes in Monogenes. But then follows a fascinating discussion of how the Gnostic Valentinus and his school interpreted Paul favorably – with an extract of Theodotus arguing that Paul was the Gnostic Paraclete, an extract from Elaine Pagel’s (Princeton University) Gnostic Paul, and a discussion from Irenaeus.

Marcion’s dualistic interpretation of Paul is represented by extracts from Irenaeus’s Treatise of Irenaeus of Lugdunum against the Heresies and Tertullian’s Against Marcion, followed by Marcion’s epigrammatic Antitheses as reconstructed by Adolf von Harnack and von Harnack’s analysis itself.

There then follows a discussion of Paul’s celibacy and asceticism with extracts from the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla and a detailed technical analysis by Dennis MacDonald (Claremont Graduate University) of the Pastoral Epistles with a discussion of the role of women and asceticism.

There is a brief extract from the apocryphal Acts of Phileas in which Phileas’s execution is described and in which he defends Paul.

We then have extracts from the Orthodox fathers interpreting Paul from Origen, Irenaeus, Victorinus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, and Ambosiaster. Bernadette Brooten (Brandeis) analyzes the Patristic interpretations of Romans 1:26.

Part 4 concludes with an extract from David Rensberger’s Yale Ph.D. dissertation analyzing the use of Paul’s letters in Second Century Christianity.

Part 5: Law versus Grace and the Problem of Ethics
The role of grace versus law is explored in extracts by Origen, Abrosiaster, Pelagius, Augustine, Theodoret of Cyrus, Martin Luther (from his lectures on Galatians), and Karl Barth (from his own summary of his book Christ and Adam). While the outlines of this debate is likely to be familiar to most readers of Rick’s blog, it is still a pleasure to read the careful exegesis directly from the “horses’ mouths” of these profound interpreters.

Part 6: “The Second Founder of Christianity”
This section revolves around the 19th century German debate on Paul. The question was: did Paul cause Greek philosophical theology to replace that of Jesus? The original provocateur was F. C. Baur – the founder of the Tubingen school – and an extract from his Church History of the First Three Centuries is given. Baur argued that Paul had changed Jesus’s message from a Jewish one to a Greek one. Nietzsche, in an extracts from his Dawn of the Day and from his Antichrist, argues to the contrary Paul was a Judaizer – locking the universal message of Jesus into the straightjacket of “rabbinic” myth. George Bernard Shaw, in an extract from his Preface on the Prospects of Christianity (from his Androcles and the Lion) argues similarly, only with humor and without the dark metaphysics and racial trappings of anti-Paulism. Adolf von Harnack, in an extract from What is Christianity? partly agrees Baur that Paul removed the Jewish “husk” from Jesus’s message, but presents the transition as direct and linear rather than dialectical. Wilhelm Heitmuller in an extract (translated) from Zum Problem Paulus und Jesus argues convincingly that the Hellinization of Christianity had already taken place before Paul and that Paul was converted to a Hellenistic form of Christianity (with sacraments, cultus, and atonement doctrine). This work was quite influential, and particularly influenced Rudolf Bultmann.

Part 7: Pauline Christianity and Judaism
Paul’s writings established a tension between Christianity and Judaism that was perhaps only dissolved in light of a full understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust. These four articles by Jewish scholars present a range of responses to Paul, in works by David Daube (UC Berkeley), Burton Visotzky (Jewish Theological Seminary), Daniel Boyarin (UC Berkeley), Alan Segal (Columbia), and Paula Fredriksen (Boston University). I found these essays very interesting – they explore the Jewish foundations of Pauline’s writing; especially interesting to me was Segal contrast of Paul’s mysticism with Jewish mysticism of the period. Segal argues convincingly for him as a type of Jewish mystic.

Part 8: Reading Romans
It is not hard to see why the Letters to the Romans is influential – it is the closest in form to a theological treatise. This part considers two passage from Romans, one passage being 7:1-25 where the pain of self-contradiction and the human plight form an essential part of the road to conversion. The second passage is Romans 13:1-7 which has influenced Christian forms of government.

A school of thought popularized by E. P. Sanders, James Dunn, and N. T. Wright called “the new perspective on Paul” has attracted wide attention in the Evangelical community as a contrast to Calvinistic thought; the theory proposes that when Paul speaks of justification he is not criticizing Judaism’s legalism as much as arguing for the status of gentiles in the Church. While this line of thinking has certainly penetrated public consciousness, I am not fully convinced that it is a first-line issue for New Testament scholars. (My own opinion is that the advocates of the “new perspective” are rather sloppy in their handling of rabbinic sources and don’t have a clear understanding of Second Temple Judaism.) First, it seems to me that many of the ideas underlying the “new perspective” were already present in criticism; I question the novelty of their work.

Sanders, Dunn, and Wright are not present in this anthology; books by Sanders and Dunn are listed in the bibliography (Wright does not even merit mention in any of the essays.) But to some degree, ideas from the “new perspective” are present in this part and in the next part. (For someone interested in a detailed anthology of views on Romans, including the “new perspective,” I can recommend another anthology, The Romans Debate Revised Edition edited by Karl Donfried.)

The section dealing with Romans 7 has extracts from Theodoret of Cyrus, Krister Stendahl (Bishop of Stockholm and Harvard), Paul Meyer (Princeton), and Stanley Stower (Brown). The section dealing with Romans 13 has extracts from Origen, Schelkle (Tubingen), Wilfrid Parsons (Georgetown and Catholic University), Martin Luther; Jonathan Mayhe,; and Ernst Kasemann (who was arrested by Gestapo – and then held by the Soviet troops, later of Tubingen).

Part 9: Sampler of Modern Approaches to Paul and His Letters
This section is among the most interesting, giving a wide sample of highly diverse modern approaches to Paul, including a discussion by Rudolf Bultmann of his mythologizing and demythologizing theories (extracted from Kerygma and Myth); Nils Dahl contrasting Paul’s treatment of Jesus with the story of the Akedah, the binding of Isaac; Gerd Theissen’s (Heidelberg) The Strong and the Weak in Corinth, a pioneering sociological analysis; two feminist pieces: an extract from Elisabeth Fiorenza’s (Harvard) classic In Memory of Her and an extract from Jouette Bassler’s (SMU) The Widow’s Tale; a trio of articles continuing the mythologizing approach from Bultmann by Abraham Malherbe (Yale), Hans-Josef Klauck (Chicago), and Margaret Mitchell (Chicago), the archaeological approach of Peter Lampe (Heidelberg); and an essay by Dale Martin (Yale) arguing that Paul rejected marriage as the appropriate context for the expression of sexual desire – that in contrast Paul’s real goal was the extirpation of desire. The book concludes with a shortened version of Wayne Meeks’s The Christian Proteus.

Missing from the second edition
The contents of the first and second editions are available online, so one can quickly see which essays are new and which are old. It is worth noting that the besides the TNIV translation, most of the apocryphal works are taken from J. K. Elliott’s new (1993) translation The Apocryphal New Testament.

A number of works that appeared in the first edition are omitted in the second, these include pieces Karl Barth, Leo Baeck, Martin Buber, Adolf Deissmann, Soren Kierkegaard, Hans Schoeps, Albert Schweitzer, Hans von Sorden, Philipp Vielhauer, and Maurice Wiles. While it is understandable that some essays had to be removed to make room for new material, it is less forgivable that there are still references to the pieces in the first edition in the introductory section essays – much like an amputee feeling phantom pain from his missing limb.

Despite these minor quibbles, this work still remains an excellent academic introduction to Paul and the way various groups have read Paul. It surprised me with its choice of the TNIV as a textual base, but it implicitly suggests that the simpler renderings of the TNIV are more appropriate for the college classroom. The book is hardly a comprehensive survey (such a survey is probably impossible within the confines of a single volume) but it has the merit of allowing students to directly read extracts from classic works (rather than a pre-digested summary of them in a typical textbook presentation) and of showing how diverse reaction has been to Paul. There is enough in this book to anger any reader passionate about religion – regardless of her beliefs – but for the reader interested in the history of our understanding of Paul, the work is compelling – a page turner.

Feel free to react to Larry's review and interact with him in the comments section for this post.

TNIV Truth: TNIV Bookshelf

The TNIV is only two years old, but we're already starting to see a number of books being published using it as a default Bible translation. For more details and a list of currently known books, see my post at TNIV Truth.

| Completely Revamped

A few weeks have passed since Zondervan's promise to roll out a completely revamped website. Well, last night the new site went live, and I can tell you that it's a great improvement over the previous (and neglected) site. The new site is much easier to navigate and is more focused in its content.

Take some time to explore it. I know that the folks at Zondervan were working on the site well after business hours last night trying to work out the kinks. If you find an error or have a suggestion for improvement or simply want to offer your thoughts on the redesign, please use the feedback form on their site. Or you can email me and I'll pass it on.


TNIV Truth: Habakkuk 1:12 Revisited: The TNIV Angle

As a follow up to last week's post on Hab 1:12, I have written a very short blog entry over on TNIV Truth comparing the TNIV rendering of the verse to the NIV (and the NIVi).

TNIV Truth: New Preview

Zondervan gave me permission to post some screenshots of their soon-to-be completely revamped Check it out and get more information at my newest post on TNIV Truth.


TNIV Truth: Logos Drops TNIV Disclaimer

I've reported over at TNIV Truth that Logos has dropped their totally unnecessary TNIV disclaimer. This was actually brought to my attention by our very own This Lamp frequenter, Larry. Be sure to check out the full post over there.

Other frequent This Lamp readers may remember my original post on this subject back in March when I asked Logos to remove the disclaimer altogether.


TNIV Truth: Two New Scholarly Endorsements

Ben Witherington III and Kenneth J. Collins have been added to the growing list of TNIV endorsers. See their comments in my post at TNIV Truth.


TNIV Truth: Read through the TNIV in 90 Days

See my newest post at TNIV Truth.

TNIV Truth: 1 Peter 4:12

The TNIV makes a very necessary corrective to the NIV in 1 Peter 4:12. See my full post at TNIV Truth.


TNIV Truth: Hebrews 11:11

Is the focus on Abraham or Sarah?

In my newest entry, on TNIV Truth, I examine the differences between the NIV and TNIV in Hebrews 11:11. See my post, "NIV vs. TNIV: Hebrews 11:11."


TNIV Truth: Former ESV Advocate Now Champions TNIV, NLTse

In his recent post, "Just Another ESV Rant," Gary Zimmerli, owner of the Friend of Christ blog says that he's no longer recommending the ESV. From now on, he'll be recommending translations like the TNIV and NLTse.

For the full post, see my latest entry at TNIV Truth.


TNIV Truth: Do Modern Translations Dilute Biblical Pronouncements Against Homosexuality?

Do modern Bible translation water down biblical teaching on homosexuality? Are the NIV and TNIV part of a conspiracy to make homosexuality more acceptable? Was there a lesbian on the NIV translation committee? If there was, how much would it matter?

The answers to all this and more can be found in my newest post at TNIV Truth.


TNIV Truth: NIV vs. TNIV: Matthew 11:12

See my new post comparing Matthew 1:12 in the NIV and TNIV over at TNIV Truth.


Worthy of Note 3/19/2007

Those of you who are interested in issues related to Bible translations, be sure that you don't miss the following:

1. The new TNIV Truth blog. Ben Irwin, former employee of Zondervan, has a must-read post: "TNIV: Basic Idea or Details of Meaning?"
2. Kevin Sam's thoughts on the New Living Translation.
3. Gary at "A Friend of Christ" blog has begun to rethink his position on the TNIV.
4. ElShaddai Edwards examines Genesis 1:28 in the NLTse, HCSB, TNIV, and REB.


Zondervan Responds to TNIV Open Letter

In an off the record capacity, I have been in email dialogue with individuals from Zondervan since last Sunday after posting my "Open Letter to Zondervan and the International Bible Society Regarding the Promotion of the TNIV." Response has been very positive and there is promise of ongoing dialogue.

This afternoon, Tom Dean, (Senior Director of Marketing, BIbles) contacted me asking me to post some very specific and "official" responses to some of the issues I raised in the Open Letter last week.

Zondervan is absolutely committed to the long-term growth of the TNIV translation. As an integral part of accomplishing our mission of getting more people to engage the Bible more, we are working to continue to present it to the market thoughtfully and strategically.

However, the NIV is still the most read and most trusted English language Bible translation in the world. We have a detailed strategy for serving the enormous portion of the market that still prefers the NIV over all other translations with new and updated Bibles. In fact, the revenues that come from our NIV titles are what fund our efforts for the TNIV.

Product Mix
In response to the concerns of our retailers, Zondervan is addressing the issue of too many Bible on the bookstore shelves already. Therefore we are very careful in how many new Bibles we launch per year.

We recently launched the TNIV Study Bible as the most comprehensive Study Bible available to address our commitment behind the TNIV. And we launched the biggest new Bible of the year for Zondervan in the TNIV, The Bible Experience Audio New Testament. ( Soon, we will also be releasing the TNIV Reference Bible specifically for pastors and church leaders.

Many upcoming spring 2007 software releases will also include the TNIV. These include:

     • Understanding the Bible Library
     • The Teacher’s and Pastor’s Library 6.0
     • The Greek and Hebrew Library 6.0
     • The Basic Bible Library 6.0

When we launched the TNIV translation we spent an enormous amount of resources growing the list of endorsers and media impressions. As we look to future and sustaining the market share and growth of the TNIV, we have transitioned to a more product focused effort in our marketing strategies and tactics.

The result is one of the fastest growing translations in history, already landing at #6 on the best-selling translation list ahead of many translations that have been around for far longer. To date, we have now either sold or distributed more than 1.5 million TNIV Bibles worldwide.

TNIV Website
A significant revision to our TNIV website is currently underway. We are working with a top media company, RELEVANT media group ( to totally revamp our site and make it the most relevant possible for today's generation. Our goal is to go live with the new site by mid-April.

My thanks go out to Tom Dean, Stan Gundry and others for their generous response to my concerns last week. On behalf of myself and This Lamp readers, we look forward to the ongoing conversation and the continued use and acceptance of the TNIV, "the most readable and scholarly accurate translation available today."


Logos Responds to TNIV Disclaimer

I still find it odd that on the Logos Bible Software page for their TNIV module, they actually have a disclaimer about the translation:

SPECIAL NOTE: We understand, as does the publisher, that the TNIV is a particularly controversial Bible translation. Logos Bible Software does not endorse the TNIV, or any particular modern translation. We believe, though, that it is important to offer this translation in Libronix DLS compatible form for both its critics and supporters, and we would encourage you to look at it, as you would at any translation from the original, with a critical eye. Compare it to other modern translations, and, as you are able, to the original text. You may also wish to visit these two sites for more information supporting and criticizing this translation: and

It's odd to me, because no such disclaimers exist for other translations. And note the wording doesn't just say that the TNIV is controversial; it says that it's particularly controversial. What exactly does that mean, anyway?

So last weekend, I took it upon myself to suggest to the fine folks at Logos that they take the disclaimer down. I first clicked on support, and then I clicked on "email support" which created an email addressed to Here's what I wrote:

Why is there a disclaimer on the TNIV?

What exactly is controversial about this translation--inclusive language? If this is the case, then why don't you also put the same disclaimer on the NRSV, NLT, the Message, the NCV and any other translation that employed gender inclusive language years before the TNIV.

I would ask you to remove the disclaimer. There's no reason to have it if you aren't going to include it on other translations that follow the same guidelines. It's a double standard and simply says to the customer, "Don't buy this Bible."

Rick Mansfield

Late yesterday, I got a response--and not just from Logos, from from Bob Pritchett himself--the president/CEO of Logos. Looking back at my initial email, I sure sound like I had a saucy attitude Saturday afternoon. I really didn't mean to come across that way. Heck, I thought some guy in Tech Support would receive it. I had no idea it would go all the way to the CEO.

Here's what Bob said (with his permission for me to quote him):

I agree that there are other translations that are similar in many ways to the TNIV; however they simply haven't generated the recent controversy that the TNIV has. (Probably because they either aren't as new, or aren't based on the best-selling modern translation, the NIV, about which people feel very strongly.)

The disclaimer is a response to the amount of controversy, argument, and advocacy (on both sides) we've heard from our users; that's why it links to both a supporting and critical site. If we had this much correspondence on another translation, we'd probably put a note on it, too.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts,

-- Bob

I appreciate Bob responding to the email personally--I really do.

But I still don't understand the need for the disclaimer. I mean, when I bought my electronic copy of the TNIV from Accordance, there was no disclaimer on their site. In fact, on the Accordance site, one reads "The TNIV is an uncompromisingly accurate Bible translation in today’s language from the translators of the most trusted modern English translation, the NIV." However, back on the Logos site, one reads "According to Zondervan, "It combines uncompromising reliability, the clarity of today’s language, and the heritage of the most trusted translation, the NIV" (emphasis added). Kind of a "Well, that's what they say..."

I don't know. Like I said, it's just downright odd. Do we need the electronic equivalent of cigarette health warnings on Bible translations? Can't customers think for themselves? Granted, it's their company and they can put whatever they want on their web pages. But no other software company I know of is doing that. What if Zondervan said, "Well, it's our translation. Take down the disclaimer or not only will we withdraw the TNIV, we might as well withdraw the NIV (the best-selling modern translation), too. Lots of other software companies around."

And I still don't know--even after all this time--what really makes the TNIV controversial, let alone particularly controversial. Sure, it's an update to the NIV, "the best-selling modern translation...about which people feel very strongly." But the International Bible Society has promised that the NIV will be with us at least through the second throne judgement. So it's not like the NIV is in any real danger of being replaced by the TNIV. And as I said in the initial email to Logos, the inclusive language is not new. So what's all the fuss about?

You know, now that I think about it, the only high-profile folks I've ever heard make a real fuss about the TNIV are usually associated in one way or another with one of two other recent translations of the Bible--one of which I really, really like and one of which...well...I really d...

Could such objection to the TNIV be a conflict of interest?

And now that I'm really pondering things, didn't Logos partner last year with the folks from one of those recent translations to produce that...what's it called?....Reverse Interl....



First Look: The TNIV Reference Bible [UPDATED]

Zondervan has given me permission to release information regarding their upcoming TNIV Reference Bible (ISBN 0310938414).

- Black bonded leather
- 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
- Black letter [yes!]
- Cross references
- Topical/thematic cross references [see bottom of page proofs below]
- Single column text [yes!]
- Concordance
- Maps

Scheduled release: October 2007

Images of actual page proofs [note: keep in mind that this edition is still in the proofreading stage]:

image1.jpg (click on image to see actual size).

image2.jpg (click on image to see actual size)

image3.jpg: full page spread (click on image to see actual size)

A primary market for the TNIV Reference Bible is pastors and teachers, but it's optimal for anyone who has been waiting for a basic TNIV reference edition. The price is set at $29.95 which sounds very reasonable for a bonded leather Bible of this size. I'm not sure yet about the actual point size of the text, but as you can see by clicking on one of the images above, it is set with a clear and readable typeface.

The TNIV Reference Bible is already available for pre-order at When the page becomes available on Zondervan's website, I'll provide a link to that as well.

Zondervan now has a page up for the TNIV Reference Bible. I like the sense of boldness that the marketers have put into the description of this Bible. I'll highlight certain sentences to demonstrate what I mean:

The complete text of the TNIV—the most readable and scholarly accurate translation available today—in an attractive single-column setting with a full set of cross references. Also includes other convenient study features.

Perfect for pastors and teachers who have adopted the TNIV translation—it’s just what they requested in a reference bible: single column, full references, black-letter edition.

The TNIV Reference Bible is the perfect TNIV for a more in-depth study of God’s Word. The TNIV is the newest translation of God’s Word with the most up-todate scholarship available today, and is now available in this larger-format, single-column setting.

Because it is easy to read (no study notes or visuals to clutter the page), it is perfect for use anywhere from the college campus to the church auditorium to the airplane seat.

This is the first reference Bible available in the TNIV. The full set of cross references aid in studying the biblical text from Genesis to Revelation, and a helpful set of bottom-of-the-page topical ties creates a topically oriented study path to expand this Bible’s flexibility. A helpful concordance is also included—a must in any reference Bible. This black-letter edition of the TNIV is the best, most comprehensive reference Bible available today.

That's what I call good copy.

The price at now indicates a 34% discount at $19.79, a couple of dollars cheaper than the CBD price of $21.99.


A P.S. To the TNIV Open Letter: Electronic Editions

I would like to highlight an issue brought up by Larry in the comments on my "Open Letter to Zondervan and the International Bible Society Regarding the Promotion of the TNIV." He reminded me of slighting of the TNIV by both Zondervan and other electronic publishers when it comes to the TNIV:

Another opportunity for Zondervan and IBS to make an impact is in electronic versions. On the Windows platform, the four major bible software programs appear to be Logos, Bibleworks, e-Sword, and Pradis.

For Logos, most packages of the software (Bible Study Library, Leader's Library, Scholar's Library, Silver Library, Gold Library) include the NIV. However, the TNIV is an extra $40.

For Bibleworks, the NIV is included but the TNIV is not available.

For e-Sword, neither the NIV nor the TNIV is officially available, however, other competing translations (such as the ESV) are included for free.

For Pradis, a library sold by Zondervan, the NIV is included in virtually every package, but the TNIV is not included in every package.

It would be wonderful if Zondervan and the IBS could work with electronic publishers to make the TNIV available on an attractive basis to those who use electronic packages. Even if this is not possible, perhaps Zondervan and IBS could work with electronic publishers to remove comments that suggest that Zondervan recommends AGAINST the TNIV: for example, the comment on Logos's page that says

"We understand, as does the publisher, that the TNIV is a particularly controversial Bible translation." (emphasis added)

Incidentally, I sent an email to Logos over the weekend suggesting they remove the disclaimer found at the link above. In my opinion it is a double standard because the TNIV is no more controversial than the NRSV, NLT, Message, or NCV which Logos also sells, and no such disclaimer appears with these products. Others reading this may be interested to voice your concern about this double standard to Logos as well.

Zondervan would do well to ensure that the TNIV is on par with the NIV in Bible software offerings--especially in the ones that they publish. By neglecting the TNIV in Pradis packages, Zondervan continues to send mixed signals regarding its support for the TNIV.

On a positive note, on the Mac side of things, the TNIV seems to get better placement. It is part of the Zondervan Essential Bible Study Suite for Macintosh, (glad to know it's considered essential). It is also part of the Zondervan Personal Growth Bible Study Suite for Macintosh (and the NIV is not!). Both of these collections run in Accordance. Zondervan controls the content of these packages, not Oak Tree Software, the makers of Accordance. The TNIV Bible with notes is also available as a separate individual Accordance module for $30.


An Open Letter to Zondervan and the International Bible Society Regarding the Promotion of the TNIV

To my friends and fellow believers at Zondervan and the International Bible Society:

I suppose that normally when you receive a complaint from someone regarding the Today's New International Version Bible, it's on unfriendly terms from those who are hostile to the translation. It is very important to me that you understand that is not the case with this correspondence from me today. Personally, I believe that the TNIV is one of the most accurate translations on the market today. I reject the suggestion by some that the TNIV is a liberal, feminist, or politically correct translation. In my opinion the TNIV is a conservative, Evangelical translation that accurately represents the message of the original language texts in a style of English that is contemporary and easily communicable to modern readers.

Further, I regularly study, teach and even occasionally preach from the TNIV. I have explored and defended translational decisions regarding the TNIV in numerous posts on this blog. I have actively sought out other websites that spread misinformation about the TNIV in an effort to set the record straight whenever I am able. The reaction by some in the evangelical community to the TNIV have, in my opinion, often been misleading and at the very least uncharitable. Currently the TNIV is only one of three translations I recommend to people who ask my suggestion for a good primary Bible version to use (the other two are the New Living Translation and the Holman Christian Standard Bible). In other words, I fully support, endorse, and even promote the TNIV.

But I also have concern for what I perceive as a lack of attention (or at least not enough attention) in the promotion of the TNIV by Zondervan and to a lesser extent, the International Bible Society. This is not a new issue. I've had a number of private correspondences with employees at Zondervan and the IBS. Often the issue seems somewhat settled with promises of upcoming promotion or updates to information on the TNIV website that often never materializes. Although I have been assured a number of times over that you are completely committed to the TNIV, for some reason, these issues continue to gain my notice.

The most recent example, and the event that has prompted this particular open letter, is concern from a pastor who might be willing to make the TNIV the official Bible for his congregation but is concerned that the TNIV may not be around in five years. He has posted his concerns in the comments of a post at the Better Bibles Blog in which he writes:

[I]s this translation going to make it? Zondervan and IBS are taking such a tremendous amount of heat, I don't see Zondervan pushing this like they did the NIV. I emailed asking about a wide margin TNIV (other than that squared one they have) and they said they have no plans for one, even though they have a NIV and NASB wide margin Bible.

If I switch us to TNIV and then Zondervan doesn't support it, am I getting into something that won't be here five years from now...?

Incidentally, the other translation this pastor is considering adopting for his church is the English Standard Version. Honestly, I have no doubt that the ESV will be around five years from now because of the excellent marketing from Crossway. And if you really press me, I have no doubt that the TNIV will be around in five years as well, but sometimes I wonder at what level it will be around. I mean technically, even J. B. Phillips' New Testament in Modern English is still around, but it's not a major voice in Bible translations. And although I have received numerous reassurances from Zondervan about your commitment to the TNIV, I have to wonder why this issue keeps getting brought up.

Before I voice the specifics of my concerns, I should note a number of positive developments that I have observed.

First, I suppose we should all remember that the TNIV has really only been out in complete form for less than two years. In that time, despite serious campaigns to thwart its acceptance (unlike anything perhaps since the release of the RSV in 1952), the TNIV first hit the CBA top ten Bible version rankings in about a year and a half's time. That should be compared with the English Standard Version which took almost four years to see a spot in the top ten. Bible translations often take years to truly find widespread acceptance. In terms of translation adoption, the TNIV is really only in its infancy.

Second, two extremely significant editions of the TNIV were released last year: the TNIV Study Bible and the Bible Experience audio Bible. From my perspective, the TNIV Study Bible goes a long way toward demonstrating Zondervan's long term commitment to this translation. The Bible Experience has taken the TNIV to new markets and has been widely praised by its reviewers, some of whom weren't necessarily supporters of the TNIV in general.

Third, as I reported on my blog a couple of weeks ago, the TNIV has replaced the RSV in the new second edition of Wayne Meeks' Writings of St. Paul demonstrating its academic value and acceptance beyond the realm of the Evangelical world.

Fourth, I have begun to see more shelf space devoted to the TNIV in both secular and Christian book stores.

But in spite of the above developments, I still have some concerns about the way the TNIV is being promoted, or rather, my concern is that the TNIV is not being supported well enough. I have categorized my concerns under four broad categories.

Internet Promotion. First, in an internet age, the attention devoted to keeping the TNIV website up to date frankly just stinks., a Zondervan website for the version, has not been significantly updated in probably two years. And it's not that it's just been neglected, it's like a neglected house that is starting to fall apart. The most significant neglect is on the products page, promoted on the home page as supposedly being "the complete TNIV line-up." It's not. In fact, it hasn't been updated since it was first created as far as I can tell. On this page, the visitor will find no mention of the TNIV Study Bible. the Bible Experience, or the recently released College Devotional Bible. And to make matters even worse, upon a recent visit, I discovered that now there are graphics which are missing and do not load. And all the bizarre white space at the bottom of the products page make it look like a middle schooler's first attempt at a website.

I wouldn't dream of recommending to a person who is interested in the TNIV. In fact, a while back a Zondervan employee suggested that all such interests be directed to the main Zondervan site where all the current editions of the TNIV are listed. The problem with this is that the Zondervan website doesn't work well with any browser other than the six-year-old Internet Explorer 6, and it hardly works at all for Mac users running the native Safari web browser--but I suppose the main Zondervan website is a separate issue.

Months ago--last summer, in fact--I was told that an update to was forthcoming, that it was a project in progress at Zondervan. What happened? In the meantime, Harper Bibles, part of the same company that also owns Zondervan, has just launched a brand new site devoted to the NRSV. They've even got a podcast! And this, after I was told that the NRSV had such declining sales that it was barely even on publishers' radar anymore.

The IBS site,, fares somewhat better as it is an attractive repository of information about the TNIV including reviews, scholarly articles (although no new ones in a while), explanation of questioned passages, information about translators and more. But completely missing in action is the once frequently updated TNIV Blog. Since December, 2005, the TNIV blog has only been updated twice--once in October and once in November of 2006. And now, as far as I can tell, all links from other pages on to the TNIV Blog have been removed. If a visitor doesn't know the address or can't find it in a search engine, he or she will not be able to find it all, but maybe that's by design.

Now, I understand that employees at a company like Zondervan are busy and juggle many responsibilities. But falling behind on keeping the TNIV website up to date seems vastly different from simply abandoning it which is what it's beginning to look like. I assume that Zondervan is a much larger company, but you could really take a lesson from Crossway's website for the ESV. Their product page is always up-to-date, and their blog is second to none. I would suggest that the ESV website is the hands down best Bible version promotional website in existence. Tyndale's NLT website is a very close second, but they should really add a blog.

Neglect of Grassroot Support. This is another place where Zondervan could learn from Crossway. Their ESV blog is quite useful for highlighting how the translation is being used among individuals and churches. They even have a page of buttons and web badges for ESV users to put on their websites. I come across these on personal sites and blogs all the time. How come Zondervan doesn't provide such things for the TNIV?

But on a more serious level, I have tried to help Zondervan and IBS out in the promotion of the TNIV on a number of occasions, and after receiving initial response, nothing ever happens. Let me give some specific examples. After strongly trying to encourage IBS to continue the TNIV blog (including suggesting entry topics), I contacted both IBS and Zondervan offering to write a TNIV blog for either organization. I was willing to completely ghostwrite the blog anonymously, focusing on features of the translation, differences from the NIV, spotlights on translators and the like. From IBS, I didn't even receive as much as a "No, thank you." The folks at Zondervan seemed to take the idea seriously at first, though. I was told that my suggestion for a new Zondervan sponsored TNIV blog had been discussed in one of their meetings. They said they were open to my contributing to such a blog. Then I was told that a specific person at Zondervan would be in touch with me the following week to see about getting the process rolling, but I never heard anything more about it. That was about three or four months ago. I was willing to do all this for free, mind you.

Another situation is even more puzzling. As I said before, the concerns expressed here have come up from time to time. About five months ago, they had come up again, and an employee at Zondervan specifically contacted three of us who support the TNIV in response to an online conversation. Toward the end of his well-written response to the three of us, he included this offer:

I wanted to let you know that in the next day or so, we’re going to have audio and video clips of The Bible Experience available for people to post on their websites, blogs, etc. This includes a 60-second video trailer, an 8-minute “behind-the-scenes” video, and 4-5 different audio clips from the New Testament. If you’re interested in posting any of these to your blogs, I’d be happy to help make that happen.

Two of the three of us said we were interested. In response, we were told,

I’m going to ask [name withheld] to get in touch with you about posting the audio and video clips to your site. Since [this person is] on the marketing side of things, [this person] probably can help you out better than I can. In any case, thanks for being willing to put them up on your website.

And then neither one of us heard anything. Ever. You know, I thought this was a great idea. Here we had been concerned about the perceived neglect of marketing of the TNIV, so we were invited to help out. Both of us agreed to this person's offer, and then it never happened. I realize that people get busy and things fall through the cracks, but we're trying to help promote the TNIV--on a volunteer basis, no less--with free promotion and advertising--simply because we believe in this translation. I realize that This Lamp isn't THE most frequented site on the internet, but 250 hits a day isn't too shabby considering your average person with a family blog only gets about a dozen hits a day.

Lack of Professional Editions. I understand that supposedly the TNIV was initially aimed toward 18 to 34 year olds, but there's a large market beyond this demographic that will read and use the TNIV (I'm 39, by the way). In fact, anyone reading the NIV should be a potential target market for the TNIV. On a readability level, there's no real difference between the two. My biggest initial concern was simply finding an edition of the TNIV with a cover that didn't attract attention to itself (which I finally did). Now, I'm concerned that other than the TNIV Study Bible, I still can't purchase a reference edition or an edition with wider margins for notes. In my opinion, strictly targeting younger markets is too narrow of a focus. I need a copy of the TNIV which I can teach and preach from, one that I can write my own notes in. I realize that wide margin Bibles don't sell as well as other editions, but those who use wide margin Bibles often have influence over individuals who will be purchasing Bibles and what translations they choose. I regularly get asked from people in my classes what Bible I'm using. I seriously need a good edition of the TNIV in which I can add my own notes and use as the same Bible for both personal study and public use. I would at least suggest a limited/seasonal run of this kind of edition. Again, the market for those who use these editions might be smaller, but we influence the translation choice of the larger group.

Cannibalization. I know this is a taboo subject, and I also realize that of everything I've suggested here, that this will be the least considered. But the biggest barrier to the TNIV's acceptance is not its detractors; rather, it's the NIV. Frankly, I'm skeptical that the TNIV will ever gain widespread acceptance as long as the NIV remains in general use. This is a case where Tyndale really made all the right moves in the transition from the old Living Bible paraphrase to the New Living Translation. Before the NLT was launched in 1996, the old Living Bible was available in much more than the standard green hardback. There were reference editions, children's editions, and study editions--including the Life Application Study Bible. But in order for the NLT to be a success, Tyndale phased out every edition except the old green hardback which is still available today. I'm sure this may have even caused some financial problems initially, but today the NLT usually ranks the 4th or 5th spot on the CBA chart.

Zondervan could learn a lot from Tyndale on this issue. I fully understand the commitments that were made a decade ago to keep the NIV in print in response to the controversy over the NIVi. However, Zondervan could stay true to that promise and simply keep the old standard brown NIV hardback in print, and let every other edition transition to the TNIV. Yes, there would be some money lost initially, but as Tyndale has shown with the NLT, these things work themselves out.

The NIV has a wonderful and proud legacy. I am truly thankful for its place in translation history as the first contemporary language version to dethrone the old KJV. My fear, however, is that in 200 years, the NIV will still be the dominant Protestant translation. It's time to make the hard move and retire the NIV. The NIV came along at a time when it was fairly unique among translations. There are so many translations now that the TNIV, although a better translation than the NIV, has less secure footing.

I have no illusion that this will actually happen, but I thought I'd say it anyway.

In addition to the above issues being addressed, I would also like to see more aggressive marketing of the TNIV, especially the use of some of its better known endorsers. When detractors of the TNIV start listing high profile evangelical leaders who do not like the translation, I often surprise them by countering with the fact that individuals such as D. A. Carson and Timothy George endorse the TNIV. Or I'll mention that Douglas Moo was one of the translators. That kind of information often takes opponents of the TNIV by surprise. Granted, endorsers don't really have any direct connection as to how well a translation communicates the message of the original biblical texts, but I've found that such endorsements will often make someone opposed to the TNIV open to take an actual look at it. I would love to see advertisements with the gentlemen I've mentioned here, as well as others listed online in ads in such places as Christianity Today and other high profile advertising space. I believe such testimonials would go a long way toward creating more open minds.

I hope that you will take this letter as I intend it--an expression not just of concern, but of suggestions from a supporter of the TNIV. I would welcome any representatives of Zondervan or IBS to respond in the comments on this blog entry and join in with the conversation among the visitors to my site. I've said over and over that the TNIV is a highly accurate translation and a better representation of the original texts than its predecessor. I would hope to use it for the next decade or two, but I don't want to be alone in doing so.


Rick Mansfield

Be sure to read the PS to this open letter as well.


A Call for a TNIV Apocrypha

In my previous post, I wrote, "In my opinion, the TNIV Committee on Bible Translation should really consider completing a translation of the Deuterocanonicals if they want to continue to see expanded use of the translation in the wider realm of academic biblical studies."

In the comments section of that post, Peter Kirk challenged my suggestion for the necessity of a TNIV translation of the Deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha:

I'm not sure I agree, simply because once you go down that road, where do you finish? There is an open ended, nowhere clearly defined set of "apocryphal" books out there of interest to the academic community, including the pseudo-Pauline writings you mention. If academic use were really a priority for the TNIV team, they could start on this. But I doubt if it is. Why should it be? I don't think there is a lot of money in it, and they won't particularly be wanting to promote liberal scholarship. Also I guess that NRSV is adequate as a scholarly translation of the deuterocanonical books.Now meeting the needs of Christian communities with different canons might be a different matter. A TNIV translation of the deuterocanonical books might be helpful for promoting Christian unity with such groups. Again, whether the TNIV team wants to promote this kind of unity is up to them.

First, without getting into the whole issue of canonicity, I should say that I am a Protestant who does not view the Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal books as authoritative Scripture. Having said that, however, I would agree with Martin Luther who stated that these are "books which are not held equal to the Holy Scriptures but yet are profitable and good to read." In fact, I would suggest that it's impossible to fully understand the cultural context of the New Testament without reading these books as they fill in the historical gap of 400 years between the testaments.

Further, I believe that Peter's concern about the limits of what should be translated is a simple issue to resolve. In the previous post, I purposefully used the word Deuterocanoical instead of Apocryphal because the latter word can sometimes be interpreted as the larger body of pseudepigraphal and pseudonymous writings from the time in which the New Testament books were written. The first term lends itself to a specific body of writings. Let me make it clear that when I say it would be beneficial to have the TNIV Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) produce the Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal, I am specifically speaking of those books found in the Septuagint, but not in the Hebrew Tanakh.

I agree that academic use is not the main priority for the CBT regarding the TNIV. However, considering that the NIV, the TNIV's predecessor, became the standard translation for academic resources in Evangelical circles (there are currently more commentaries and reference materials based on the NIV than any other translation), I would think that academic acceptance of the TNIV would certainly be a goal of the CBT.

Further, although I cannot back this up statistically, it would not surprise me if the NIV is the most widely used Bible translations as well among non-Evangelicals, although the NRSV is used more widely in non-Evangelical academic resources. One reason that the NRSV is used more is because its inclusion of the Apocrypha makes it more accessible to the wider umbrella of Christendom. Plus an Apocrypha is needed for biblical historical-critical studies. The NRSV is now approaching two decades in age, and while this doesn't really take away from its value, the stage could easily be set for a new translation such as the TNIV to become a truly international version. But it would have to include the Apocrypha for this to happen.

Take for instance Zondervan's Archaeological Study Bible released last year. Although it was somewhat flawed because of a number of factual inaccuracies in the first printing, this was the kind of volume that simply screamed for treatment of the Deuterocanonical/Apocryphal books. In fact, despite it's large size, the lack of these books seemed somewhat glaring in my opinion. Of course, there is no NIV Apocrypha and there never will be. But it's certainly not too late for a TNIV Apocrypha to be developed.

Now this would certainly be groundbreaking for the International Bible Society, the sponsors and copyright holders of the NIV and TNIV. Unlike the American Bible Society, the IBS does not include Catholic Bibles with the Deuterocanonicals in its catalog. This would be uncharted territory. But think of the possibilities. What if the majority of Christians of many different denominational stripes were united by one major translation? The King James Version and the New International Version have come close to this, but a translation for everyone would have to include the option to have these extra books for those who wanted them.

Finally, it's not without precedent for a primarily Evangelical translation to have editions with the Apocrypha. Although it's not widely publicized, there are Catholic editions of the New Living Translation that are already available with these extra books.

Regardless, considering that I can't even get a wide-margin TNIV, I'm not going to hold my breath for an edition with the Apocrypha.


TNIV Replaces RSV in 2nd Ed. of Wayne Meeks' Writings of St. Paul

From the Norton Website:

The Second Edition of this perennially popular Norton Critical Edition is based on the Today’s New International Version of Paul’s letters, renowned for its inclusiveness and accuracy in representation of gender.

This thoroughly revised and expanded edition includes an entirely new introduction to Paul and the central issues surrounding his writings, as well as several newly included sections of writings from Paul’s time to the present, among them “Annotated Text: Pseudo-Pauline Writings”; “The Apocryphal Paul: Some Early Christian Traditions and Legends,” with writings by Jerome, Clement of Rome, and Ambrosiaster; “Paul and His Pagan Critics,” with writings by Julian, Theodotus, and Elaine Pagels; “The Second Century Paul”; “Reading Romans,” with writings from Origen, Theodoret of Cyrus, and Paul W. Meyer; and “A Sampler of Modern Approaches to Paul and His Letters,” with writings by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Abraham J. Malherbe, Peter Lampe, Margaret Mitchell, and Dale B. Martin.

A helpful Epilogue—“The Christian Proteus,” by Wayne A. Meeks—a Selected Bibliography, and an Index are also included.

Rick's comment: this is easily the most academic use of the TNIV to date, and one of the first outside Evangelical circles. In my opinion, the TNIV Committee on Bible Translation should really consider completing a translation of the Deuterocanonicals if they want to continue to see expanded use of the translation in the wider realm of academic biblical studies.

Meeks' 2nd edition of The Writings of St. Paul will be available in March.


A Limited Edition Wide Margin TNIV?

As I stated in the update on the previous entry, I now feel that the comments made by a Zondervan rep to Peter Humphris about an IBS published wide margin TNIV were either incorrect (on the Zondervan rep's part) or in reference to the Encountering Jesus New Testament. As it stands right now, neither Zondervan nor IBS have any definite plans for a a wide margin TNIV any time soon. And this is indeed a shame with renewed interest in wide margin Bibles as evidenced in the forthcoming ESV wide margin editions from Crossway and the wide margin Greek and Hebrew texts that will soon be available.

In the meantime, as also mentioned in the previous post, a third-party seller created an entry for a mysterious wide margin TNIV that I had never heard of. Initially there were two separate sellers offering this Bible, one for $50 and one for about half that price. The lower-priced item has now been bought (by a This Lamp reader perhaps?), but the $50 wide margin TNIV remains. I contacted the seller and asked for a picture. He sent this:

Intrigued, I replied back to the seller asking him to confirm that this was a TNIV and not an NIV Bible and I also asked if there was an ISBN for this item. His response:

Dear Buyer,

There is no ISBN for this particular item. It is however a TNIV. This item was published by Zondervan and the international bible society. It was copyrighted in 2005.

It is apparently a limited edition with this specific book being number 880. We found it in a marketplace in San Antonio and from what I can tell it is pretty rare. It is in like new condition and is a very strong book.

This is incredibly interesting to me that a wide margin TNIV was released for promotional purposes perhaps (?) but never to the general public. Regardless, the Bible pictured above would not meet my needs because there is no writing space next to the inner text which is a must if a wide margin Bible's text is in two columns.

But that brings me around full circle again. If something like the above Bible could be released in a limited run, why not a new printing of such a Bible from Zondervan or IBS. Often certain Bibles from Zondervan will have a "SEA" designation after them in their catalog. This means that it is a limited/seasonal printing that may or may not be printed again after the initial printing is sold out. I do know that there is a single-column TNIV reference Bible in the works (I've seen the proofs). If that particular Bible is not going to be a wide margin, why could there not be a limited run of them produced with wide margins to satisfy those of us who want them and also for the purposes of testing the market?

I know money is always the key issue in such things, but if the BIble pictured above could be produced in limited quantity, why not a single column wide margin TNIV?


Wide Margin TNIV Before the End of the Year? [Updated]

Scottish pastor and This Lamp reader, Peter Humphris contacted me this weekend to tell me that there's a possibility we might see a wide margin TNIV Bible before the end of the year. A couple of weeks ago he contacted Zondervan requesting such an edition and received a reply on Friday stating that the International Bible Society had the rights to distribute and sell a wide margin Bible. Further, the Zondervan rep (whom I will leave nameless at the moment) even confirmed that this edition was printed on regular Bible paper and was strictly black letter (excellent news on both counts).

This is very interesting because I have had a number of email conversations with folks from Zondervan who have stated repeatedly that although a wide margin TNIV is not outside the realm of possibilities, there is not one currently planned. From the way the person at Zondervan worded things, it almost sounds as if the Bible is already a project in the works at IBS. Peter was told to contact IBS for further information on the wide margin TNIV, and upon doing just that was told that there was no such listing on the upcoming new TNIV publications through October. However, the person he corresponded with said he would check into it and let Peter know.

Since hearing from Peter, I have also contacted both Zondervan and IBS myself in order to get some kind of clarification. I am currently waiting for a response, but will post on the subject as soon as I hear something.

The case for a wide margin Bible: I have been repeatedly told by more than one publisher that wide margin Bibles simply do not sell as well as other Bibles. However, I find that these editions are indispensable for serious study, and I even like to take notes in a wide margin Bible so that I can use it when I teach or preach. In spite of lackluster sales, I would suggest to the Bible publishers--especially publishers of new translations such as the TNIV--that the users of these kinds of Bibles are influential on the purchasers of other Bibles. An investment into something like a wide margin TNIV might be very beneficial to IBS and Zondervan because teachers and preachers using them can ever more readily recommend them to students and other church members. I've been teaching out of the TNIV for the last few months, but the lack of a wide-margin edition makes me rethink my choice on regular occasion.

Related Reading:
"A Survey of Wide Margin Bibles"
"More Thoughts on Wide Margin Bibles: Here's What I Want"

Update 1/29/07: I believe that a wide margin TNIV will remain elusive as ever for the moment. I'm not so sure that that the information provided to Peter was anything more than miscommunication.

IBS's current (2007) catalog mentions nothing about a true wide-margin Bible. I've been told that the IBS Encountering Jesus TNIV New Testament does indeed have margins wide enough for notes, but the chapter and verse numbers have been removed from the text, making it useless as a teacher's/preacher's Bible (besides the fact that the entire Old Testament is absent).

Meanwhile, the sharp eyes of one of our commenters on this post has spotted what is being claimed as a wide margin TNIV on Two copies are available, both sold by third parties. The Bible is said to be a hardback edition published by IBS, and it carries an ASIN number of "B000MBNJLO" which is odd because I can find no reference to that number anywhere else on the internet. Further, the Bible is said to only be 1144 pages which suggests to me that the print would not be large enough. A decent wide margin Bible is going to have somewhere around 1500 pages. I have emailed both sellers asking about type size and asking for screenshots of a spread.

I'll let you know if I hear anything significant.


TNIV More Literal Than the NASB?

Is the NIV/TNIV more literal than the NASB? Well, not throughout, but in places it is.

I thought about this last week as I was preparing for our Nehemiah Bible study on Sunday. Consider Neh 9:16--

But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff–necked, and did not obey your commands.” (TNIV)

But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly;
They became
stubborn and would not listen to Your commandments.” (NASB)

The phrase stiff-necked (NIV/TNIV) or stubborn (NASB) comes from the Hebrew phrase wayyaqshu ’et-‘orpam (I'm transliterating the Hebrew because sometimes the reverse-letter unicode Hebrew that I've used in the past doesn't display correctly in every browser). This phrase refers to a hard/stiff (qashah) neck (oreph) and alludes to the beast of burden who doesn't submit to his master's instruction to turn one way or another, but stiffens its neck and refuses to submit. In a sense, the Levite speakers in Nehemiah 9 are claiming that their ancestors behaved like stubborn animals in response to God's commands.

So here, the NIV/TNIV translates the Hebrew idiom literally while the NASB translates the meaning of the two-word phrase with the one word, stubborn.

Of course, there are lots of examples like this between these translations, but the most profound just might be 2 Tim 3:16--

All Scripture is God–breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (TNIV)

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (NASB)

The NIV/TNIV's rendering of God-breathed and the NASB's inspired come from the Greek word θεόπνευστος meaning literally "breathed of God." The context of 2 Tim 3:16 refers to the divine nature of the Holy Scriptures. Paul chose this word, which is also found in non-biblical Greek writings, to describe the origin of Scripture. θεόπνευστος essentially means "inspired by God," but it is rendered literally in the NIV/TNIV and dynamically by the NASB.

Now obviously, overall the NASB is more literal than either the NIV or TNIV. But I point this out because we need to keep in mind that the labels attached to Bible translations such as "literal" or "idiomatic" are not always rigidly true. The NASB is fairly consistent in its literal renderings, but this is not always the case (compare for instance the NASB and TNIV's translation of πορνεία in 1 Cor 5:1--the TNIV is much more precise). And often detractors of the NIV and TNIV claim that these translations are too interpretive. Again, they can be more literal in some cases than the translations that have a reputation for such.

All in all, a translation like the NIV or TNIV is neither wholly formal equivalent or wholly dynamic. The translators attempted to strike a halfway point. This is also essentially the same method used in the HCSB (called "optimal equivalence"). In the end, these kinds of translations get the best of both worlds--the preciseness of the formal and the readability of the dynamic.


Literal Is Not More Accurate If It's Unintelligible

Over the last couple of days, I've been having a friendly conversation about Bible translation over at Kevin Sam's blog, Word Alone. I first discovered Kevin's website after he had commented on my posts here on This Lamp. And when I say it's a friendly conversation, I'm not being sarcastic. Although I may disagree with a few of Kevin's points and some of his wording, he is to be commended for not falling into the trap of using unnecessary negative rhetoric, which I sadly find in many of these kinds of conversations.

One of the points that I had disagreed with Kevin on had to do with the claim often made by proponents of the ESV this their translation of choice is literal like the NASB but more readable. In my examination, I find this to be a highly exaggerated claim. My feeling toward the ESV is that it is weakened by its reliance on antiquated phrasings in the RSV (upon which it was based) and there's really no excuse that these have never been corrected. I often point to two representative verses as proof of my disbelief that the ESV is more readable than the NASB. One is Matt 7:1:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (ESV)

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” (NASB)

Try reading the ESV rending of Matt 7:1 out loud. The ESV employs an awkward use of a reverse negative ("Judge not"). The problem is that no one I know of speaks this way on a regular basis unless you want to count Yoda in the Star Wars movies (and he lived a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away). Even with the reputation that the NASB has for literalness and even woodenness, its translators had the sense to remove a great many of its uses of reverse negatives in its 1995 update (although some remain). Granted, you can find reverse negatives in just about any translation, but I would suggest that the ESV has more than any modern translation of the last 15 years or so because they were never removed when updating the RSV. This makes it less readable in these verses than the NASB and just about any other translation.

Another example I point to regarding the ESV's exaggerated claim of readability is a verse like Heb 13:2:

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (ESV)

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (NASB)

Just because a word is in the dictionary does not make it standard English. The ESV's retention of the RSV's archaic and antiquated unawares is downright odd. I can't imagine anyone outside of perhaps a hillbilly community still using unawares today. These are merely two examples, but they represent a great many more. Yes, there are some places in which the ESV is more readable than the NASB, but the ESV is incredibly uneven because of its dependence on antiquated words and sentence structures in the RSV. My goal is not to knock the ESV so much as to challenge the outrageous claims of some of its proponents.

In response to the above two verses I suggested, Kevin said that the TNIV had flaws as well and gave Rom 1:3 as an example:

In Rom. 1:3, it changed it to "regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David." In the ESV ... it uses "flesh." I think Paul wanted to use "flesh" to express the idea of "body." The TNIV might be a bit too loose in using "earthly life." It's only a possible intended meaning but not necessarily what Paul actually wanted to express in using "flesh."

While I do acknowledge that all translations have weaknesses, I personally don't see a problem with Rom 1:3 in the TNIV. The rendering "according to the flesh" [κατὰ σάρκα] in the ESV (and a number of other formal equivalent translations) while certainly reflecting a literal rendering, really doesn't communicate that much. Although there's part of me that likes a translation that renders σάρξ as "flesh" because it triggers in my mind the underlying Greek word, I know for a fact that for the average church-goer and for every non-church-goer, "according to the flesh" is a meaningless phrase. Most of my readers here know what "according to the flesh" means because they have the background for understanding it. But try to step outside your learning and think about the phrase from the ESV: "concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh." That is just unintelligible to those who don't have a knowledge as to what the phrase means because it reflects an idiom that is not in current English usage (especially outside the church). At best, use of "flesh" in this sense is insider church language, and I would still suggest that many sitting in an average Sunday School class couldn't give you an accurate explanation.

Obviously all Paul is saying is that Jesus was a descendent [υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος] of David only in regard to his earthly body. He's being very careful not to imply that David actually came before Christ because in reality, Christ is eternal. Therefore, the TNIV's rendering "who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David" fully communicates Paul's intention. Yes, the ESV is more literal in the strictest sense, but in way similar to the point I was trying to prove in "Grinding Another Man's Grain," if literal is unintelligble, it is certainly not accurate.

Also note that the TNIV indeed has a footnote to this verse that says "Or who according to the flesh" which I feel is an INCREDIBLY responsible way to handle the verse. It gives a very readable rendering in the text and a literal rendering in the footnote. The best of both worlds, wouldn't you say?

Now on a related note, I've been mildly reflecting on Mark Driscoll's announcement that Mars Hill Church (Seattle, Washington) would replace the NIV with the ESV as their primary translation. Now on the face of things, that's perfectly fine with me. Every church should use the translation that best works in their context. They have a right and obligation to sort through such choices. My problem lies not with the choice, but with Driscoll's rhetoric as he elevates the ESV over translations he considers inferior.

As one of his reasons for choosing a new translation, Driscoll states "The ESV upholds the truth that Scripture is the very words of God, not just the thoughts of God." The context of the statement comes from two paragraphs earlier in which he writes, "we should transition from the NIV (more of a “thought-for-thought” translation) to the English Standard Version (ESV, more of a “word-for-word” translation) as our primary pulpit translation." In my opinion the statement made by Driscoll which I have highlighted in bold above betrays a lack of understanding of the differences between formal and dynamic equivalent translation methods.

However, this is case in point again to the fact that the ESV cannot stand up to the claims made by its proponents. Take for example Rom 1:3 discussed above. The ESV does not translate that verse literally throughout. In fact, it doesn't translate a significant Greek word found in the original text at all.

Rom 1:3, [περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ κατὰ σάρκα] in English literally reads "concerning his son who was born [γενομένου] from the seed [σπέρματος] of David according to the flesh."

Therefore, the ESV isn't entirely literal in this verse either. The ESV's rendering of "concerning his Son, who was descended from David" completely omits either γενομένου or σπέρματος. I would have suggested they are leaving out the former, but according to the ESV Reverse Interlinear, it's the latter. Regardless, if, as Driscoll says, the "ESV upholds the truth that Scripture is the very words of God, not just the thoughts of God," why then does the ESV offer a "thought-for-thought" (dynamic equivalent) translation for "γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ" in Rom 1:3? Is the ESV shortchanging the word(s) of God? Is not every single word important? Is σπέρματος not inspired? According to Driscoll's own standards for why he chooses the ESV, the ESV itself cannot stand up. (Also compare with the NASB rendering of Rom 1:3 in which both Greek words are translated.)

Now, if you've read this blog for any amount of time at all, you'd know that I would have no problem with the ESV's rending of "concerning his Son, who was descended from David" any more than the TNIV's "who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David." Translation is more complex than simply looking up the definition of a Greek word and supplying an equivalent English word. Suggestion of such by Driscoll and others demonstrate a significant naiveté on the subject of translation method.

My contention is not with the ESV. But I do have great problems with the inaccurate rhetoric that I often hear from proponents and endorsers of this translation. I have favorite translations, and I have written about a number of them on this blog. While I talk of their qualities that I like and appropriate uses for them, I go out of my way to try to do so without needlessly putting down other versions of the Bible. I've probably been harder on the ESV on this blog than on any translation, but usually it's been in a context of addressing the audacious and often fallacious claims made for it by ESV supporters. This idea that literalness equals greater accuracy or literalness equals greater faithfulness to the original text is pure nonsense if the rendering is so literal that the author's intent and meaning is unintelligible to readers and hearers. Antiquated vocabulary and sentence structure do not give a translation greater authority--it merely limits readership in an contemporary setting.

The New Testament was written in Koiné Greek--the common trade language of the day--a language accessible by the masses. If a Bible version uses renderings that are not understandable to the masses, renderings that sound like they were written in any previous generation or written in some highly exalted form--regardless of how literally accurate--then that translation is not in keeping with the spirit or the manner in which the New Testament was written.


More on Mark 1:41 in the TNIV (and NEB/REB)

As I've already created a link in the previous post, Jeremy Pierce has a terrific blog entry from two years ago on this very subject about whether Jesus was compassionate [σπλαγχνισθείς] or angry [ὀργισθείς] in Mark 1:41. I was looking at this issue strictly as a text critical issue and had ignored the commentaries on the subject.

In his original post, Jeremy deftly notes

The scholarly consensus is that the original text reads that Jesus was angry here. Out of the six commentaries I read (and three more whose conclusions I know), only one takes the view that Mark here says Jesus was compassionate rather than angry, and he simply ignores the issue and assumes the translations to be right. All the others discuss the issue, give the arguments, and conclude that Jesus was angry. Scholarly consensus doesn't mean the view is correct. I don't subscribe to the head-counting method of biblical scholarship. Still, differing from the majority consensus requires a strong argument that they're wrong or some good reason to presume another view.

After reading this, I looked at my own commentaries on Mark. Now, I'll make a confession here that of the four gospels, commentaries on Mark are the most lacking in my collection with only about a half dozen representatives. But I had two serious contributions in which I looked up Mark 1:41 Both Robert Guelich (Word Biblical Commentary) and David Garland (NIV Application Commentary--I know the NIVAC is not an overly critical commentary, but Garland is a top-notch scholar and the Mark volume is perhaps the best in the series) consider that the better (original) reading should be angry/ὀργισθείς.

'Nuff said. I'm convinced.

Bible translations tend to be keepers of tradition and very slow to change even if a different rendering would reflect a more accurate representation of an original reading supported by current scholarship. This is further reason why I am using translations in the Tyndale tradition less. So having said that, cheers to the NEB/REB! In my previous post, I mentioned the REB as the only other major translation to go with the ὀργισθείς reading, but I should have known that I spoke too soon. See, this goes back to that habit of relying on electronic texts. There just is no NEB module in Accordance! So I got out my copy of the NEB and I was delighted (but not surprised) to read this rendering of Mark 1:41...

In warm indignation Jesus stretched out his hand, touch him, and said, 'Indeed I will: be clean again.'

A textual note in the NEB reads "Some witnesses read Jesus was sorry for him and stretched out his hand" obviously referring to the σπλαγχνισθείς variant. The REB follows in the same tradition with its less dynamic "moved to anger." This is further evidence to my claim of the significance of the NEB in the history of English translations. The NEB consistently nails correct renderings decades before other translations follow suit. And in this case, the TNIV is the only contemporary translation to deny the accepted Greek eclectic text with its use of "indignant" (although the NET, NRSV and NLT refer to the alternative reading in their textual notes) thus demonstrating its accuracy once again.

Although I would still like to see confirmation of this thinking from the TNIV Translation Committee, the question posed in my previous entry seems to have been answered.


Compassionate? Angry? Indignant? A "Gut Feeling" from Mark 1:41 in the TNIV

Back in December, I stopped by Kletos Sumboulos' blog, Amor Et Labor and read with interest his entry titled, "TNIV - Textual Variant in Mark." I've come across Kletos' blog before, and he historically has not been a fan of the Today's New International Version of the BIble. But according to this new entry, he had decided to give it another shot by reading the Book of Mark in the TNIV. Unfortunately, he only got about 41 verses in before hitting his first stumbling block: the preference for an alternative variant in Mark 1:41.

Kletos writes:

I was going to give the TNIV a chance, so I began to read in Mark. I got as far as verse 41 of chapter 1 where I read, "Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" So, I consulted my Greek New Testament (published 1994). The authors categorized this textual variant as a {B} meaning that the variant included in the text ("Jesus was moved with compassion..." - which is how nearly every other translation renders the verse) is "almost certain." The texts that support "indignant" were few and didn't seem to be more ancient than those that support the dominant translation.

Now, lest I cause some readers' eyes to glaze over and move on to some other web page in the blogosphere, let me nutshell the issue before going into a bit more detail. Here's the question: How would Jesus respond to a leper who begs to be healed--with compassion or anger? Most would instantly suggest compassion, but the answer may not be so easy. Consider how three different translations of the Bible have rendered this verse:


Mark 1:40 ¶ A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
M41 ¶ Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

Mark 1:40 ¶ On one occasion he was approached by a leper, who knelt before him and begged for help. ‘If only you will,’ said the man, ‘you can make me clean.’ 41 Jesus was moved to anger; he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I will; be clean.’ Mark 1:40 A man with leprosya came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
41 ¶ Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!"

In reality, there are some ancient texts that imply Jesus had compassion [σπλαγχνισθείς] and some that say he was angry [ὀργισθείς] at some level. If you've stopped to look this up in a translation other than the three listed above, odds are very high that yours says that Jesus had compassion for the man. In fact, until the TNIV, the REB was the only major translation I knew of that went with the other variant.

Kletos mentioned in his blog entry that "compassion/σπλαγχνισθείς" was {B} reading in the UBS Greek New Testament meaning that the editors believed "that the text is almost certain." I was at home when I first read Kletos' blog entry, and all I had on my shelves at home (I keep newer materials in my office at school) were the older 3rd ed. UBS Greek text and the first edition of Bruce Metzger's Textual Commentary. Both of these older works show σπλαγχνισθείς as a {D} reading suggesting "that the Committee had great difficulty in arriving at a decision." Further regarding {D} readings, Metzger writes "among the {D} decisions sometimes none of the variant readings commended itself as original, and therefore the only recourse was to print the least unsatisfactory reading."

If rendering the text as Jesus showing compassion was merely a {D} reading, then what's the big deal? One guess is almost as good as the other, and by textual critical rules, Jesus being angry/ὀργισθείς is certainly the more difficult reading (at least the way most of us think of Jesus).

Now, when I read Kletos' blog entry, I have to admit that while I was curious, this didn't bother me as much as it did him. I find these issues quite interesting, and to me a good understanding of the underlying issues goes a long way. Obviously, this is not the first time that a translation committee has gone with a variant reading, and all the more reason to read Bible versions in parallel. So, while I'm not losing sleep over this issue, the further I've looked at the above mentioned underlying issues, the less clear they become.

However, Kletos was certainly right to be startled. Upon looking at the 4th ed. UBS Greek New Testament and the 2nd ed. Textual Commentary, the reading had moved from a {D} to a {B} variant between editions!

Why? Beats me. There's no explanation for the upgrade.

And Metzger's commentary on the reading is word-for-word-identical in BOTH editions:

It is difficult to come to a firm decision concerning the original text. On the one hand, it is easy to see why ὀργισθείς ("being angry") would have prompted over-scrupulous copyists to alter it to σπλαγχνισθείς ("being filled with compassion"), but not easy to account for the opposite change. On the other hand, a majority of the Committee was impressed by the following considerations. (1) The character of the external evidence in support of ὀργισθείς is less impressive than the diversity and character of evidence that supports σπλαγχνισθείς. (2) At least two other passages in Mark, which represent Jesus as angry (3.5) or indignant (10.14), have not prompted over-scrupulous copyists to make corrections. (3) It is possible that the reading ὀργισθείς either (a) was suggested by ἐμβριμησάμενος of v. 43, or (b) arose from confusion between similar words in Aramaic (compare Syriac ethraham, "he had pity," with ethra'em, "he was enraged"). [pp. 76-77, 1st ed.; p. 65, 2nd ed.]

Is there any explanation between the editions as to why the reading went from a {D} to a {B}? Nope, not at all. And if it's so difficult to come to a firm decisions regarding these readings, why the change?

I should also point out that although the NET Bible opts for the traditional reading of σπλαγχνισθείς as evidenced by the rendering of "compassion," it takes the alternate variant serious in the accompanying textual note:

The reading found in almost the entire NT ms tradition is σπλαγχνισθείς [splanchnistheis, “moved with compassion”]. Codex Bezae (D), {1358}, and a few Latin mss (a ff2 r1*) here read ὀργισθείς [orgistheis, “moved with anger"]. It is more difficult to account for a change from “moved with compassion” to “moved with anger” than it is for a copyist to soften “moved with anger” to “moved with compassion,” making the decision quite difficult. B. M. Metzger (TCGNT 65) suggests that “moved with anger” could have been prompted by 1:43, “Jesus sent the man away with a very strong warning.” It also could have been prompted by the man’s seeming doubt about Jesus’ desire to heal him (v. 40). As well, it is difficult to explain why scribes would be prone to soften the text here but not in Mark 3:5 or 10:14 (where Jesus is also said to be angry or indignant). Thus, in light of diverse mss supporting “moved with compassion,” and at least a plausible explanation for ὀργισθείς as arising from the other reading, it is perhaps best to adopt σπλαγχνισθείς as the original reading. Nevertheless, a decision in this case is not easy. For the best arguments for ὀργισθείς, however, see M. A. Proctor, “The ‘Western’ Text of Mark 1:41: A Case for the Angry Jesus” (Ph.D. diss., Baylor University, 1999).

What most catches my attention in the above explanation is the reference to Proctor's analysis of the issue. Had someone on the TNIV Committee been convinced by the arguments in Proctor's work? I haven't seen the dissertation, but it's a recent work and the TNIV is certainly a recent translation.

Nevertheless, seeking to get answers straight from the source, I asked about the TNIV rendering of Mark 1:41 on the contact form at the TNIV web site. On Dec. 14, I received this reply:

Dear Mr. Mansfield,

Thank you for contacting International Bible Society regarding the TNIV’s rendering of Mark 1:41, changing “filled with compassion” to “was indignant.” You have clearly done some fine research already and discerned the difficulty posed by splangchnistheis. The verb basically means “to have the viscera moved”, viscera considered to be the seat of emotion. In the Hebrew/Jewish culture, this would refer to the bowels and intestines, and the seat of the more tender affections, such as compassion, while the Greek poets thought of the bowels as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger (according to Thayer’s Greek- English Lexicon). So which way should we go here?

This verb is actually the strongest of three words which might be translated as being compassionate, the others being sumpaschein and eleein. This one implies not only a pained feeling at the sight of suffering but in addition a strong desire to relieve or to remove the suffering. Hence the TNIV translators felt that compassion alone did not exhaust the meaning load of the term. They needed a slightly stronger English term to convey that the feeling was more than compassion, and so they settled on “indignant.” This conclusion is consonant with the fact that the feeling in Jesus’ heart at once turned to action.

Thank you for your kind words regarding the TNIV.

Sincerely, Eugene Rubingh, Translation Consultant, International Bible Society

If I was reading Dr. Rubingh's explanation correctly, it would seem that the TNIV translators (of whom Rubingh is not one of as far as I know) did not go with the variant meaning "to be angry" but had merely used a word in English, indignant, that captured the sense of σπλαγχνισθείς better than merely "moved with compassion." And as I thought more about the issue, I had to admit that the word indignant is not a mere synonym for anger. To be indignant implies "feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment." It's anger for a cause. One can be indignant about the injustices that come with life. Wouldn't Jesus look at this leper in Mark 1:40 and feel some kind of anger toward the disease that had made this man an outcast to society? Jesus wasn't feeling merely compassionate, although that was part of it. And it wasn't simply anger as rendered in the REB (granted, from an alternate reading). Rather, Jesus was indignant about the situation, so he healed the man.

Okay, I could start to get my mind around this. Understanding of the underlying issues trumped confusion once again, right?

Well, not so fast.

I emailed Dr. Rubingh back and asked permission to quote the above information which he graciously gave me in an email reply. As I was about to post my entry about the TNIV's rendering of Mark 1:41 on this blog (three weeks ago, mind you), I happened to look at the text in my copy of the TNIV Bible, and I noticed something that I hadn't seen before.

You see, I have this bad habit. Often when I look up scripture passages, I do so on the computer using Accordance. That is not the bad habit. My mistake often comes from not turning on the textual notes with the text itself. I had completely missed the TNIV textual note that read "Many manuscripts Jesus was filled with compassion."

This could only mean that the TNIV Translation Committee did not base the rendering of "Jesus was indignant" from σπλαγχνισθείς. That was the reading that the textual note refers to! Obviously, the Committee was convinced with the ὀργισθείς variant, although they wisely didn't simply render the word "angry" like the REB. At the very least, it reads better.

By this point I feared I was on the verge of pestering Dr. Rubingh, but I emailed him a third time in regard to the TNIV textual note which neither of us had referenced in our original correspondence. I haven't heard from him yet, but the holidays may have slowed his reply.

Nevertheless, I still don't have a definitive answer for the TNIV's rendering of this passage. Mark 1:41 is not covered in the "Passages Commonly Asked About" section on the TNIV web site. And in a brief Google survey, I found a number of references to the TNIV's preference in Mark 1:41, but no definitive answer for the decision. I do find the issue curious and extremely interesting. If anyone has any insight or inside info from the Translation Committee, please share it with us.

See also Jeremy Pierce's treatment of the subject: "Mark Tidbit 2: Jesus' Anger"
And see my follow-up to this post: "More on Mark 1:41 in the TNIV"


Stop Blaming the Innkeeper--the TNIV Gets It Right Again

While listening to the Christmas Story podcast from the Bible Experience (see previous entry), I happened to notice that the TNIV correctly translates κατάλυμα/kataluma as "guest room" rather than the traditional, but incorrect, "inn."

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no
guest room available for them.”
(Luke 2:7 TNIV)

I can still hear Jim Blevins, one of my old NT profs from way back, lamenting the fact that the Bethlehem innkeeper has gotten a bad rap all these years for supposedly being so heartless toward Mary and Joseph--making them stay in the barn rather than finding a room at the local Motel 6! The Bethlehem innkeeper has been the villain in Christmas pageants down through the centuries--but it was all based on poor translation!

Kατάλυμα/kataluma is better understood as a family guest room rather than an inn (and the first century inn wasn't anything like we think of as an inn anyway, but that's another subject). More than likely because Joseph, as well as many of his extended family, was traveling back to his ancestral village, the extra rooms in his relatives' homes were full. He and Mary may have also arrived late because no doubt traveling during the ninth month of pregnancy would have slowed their journey. One might wonder why one of Joseph's relatives would not have given up his spot in the guest room, especially considering Mary's condition. However, one can speculate that Mary may have been shunned by Joseph's family members who would have probably heard that she was pregnant out of wedlock.

Craig S. Keener notes in the IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (p. 194),

The word traditionally translated "inn" probably means "home" or "guest room"; with all Joseph's scattered family members returning home at once, it is easier for Mary to bear (or care for the child after birth) in the vacant cave outside.

But maybe it wasn't a cave. Ben Witherington III notes in the "Birth of Jesus" entry of the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels the following:

A second crucial point is how one translates kataluma in Luke 2:7. The word can mean guest room, house or inn. It can be doubted whether there would have been an inn in Bethlehem in Jesus’ day since it was not on any major road, and inns normally were to be found only on major roads, especially the Roman ones (but cf. Jer 41:17, which does not refer to a place in Bethlehem). Furthermore, when Luke wants to speak of a commercial inn he uses pandocheion; 10:34 refers to an establishment found on the major road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Also, when Luke uses the word kataluma in his Gospel (22:11 and par.; cf. 1 Kings 1:18), it clearly does not mean an inn but a guest room. It is also worth pointing out that the Arabic and Syriac versions of the NT have never translated kataluma as inn.

It becomes more likely that by kataluma Luke means either house or guest room, and the latter translation must have the edge precisely because in the vast majority of ancient Near-Eastern peasant homes for which we have archaeological and literary evidence, the manger was within the home, not in some separate barn. The animals as well as the family slept within one large enclosed space that was divided so that usually the animals would be on a lower level, and the family would sleep on a raised dais (Bailey). In this particular case, we should probably envision Mary and Joseph staying in the home of relatives or friends, a home which was crowded due to the census being taken, a home where Luke tells us there was no longer any room in “ the guest room” (noting the definite article before the noun). Consequently, Mary gave birth to her child perhaps in the family room and placed the baby in the stone manger. This means that a good deal of the popular conception of this scene has no basis in the text. In particular, the idea of Mary and Joseph being cast out from civilized accommodations and taking up temporary residence in a barn is probably based on a misunderstanding of the text.

Regardless, Luke 2:7 stands as another testimony to the accuracy of the TNIV for translating κατάλυμα correctly in contrast to the mistranslation in almost every other major Bible version (the NLTse gets it right by using the word lodging which could imply either meaning). I'm glad the translators finally caught up with what dear old Dr. Blevins had been saying for decades. And now we can finally give that poor old innkeeper the break he deserves.


Free Christmas Story Podcast from the Bible Experience

Zondervan has released a podcast of the Nativity story as a free excerpt from the new and popular audio recording of the TNIV, The Bible Experience.

Clicking on the image below (reproduced from Zondervan's website) will automatically launch iTunes. You do have iTunes loaded onto your computer don't you?

If you would prefer not to use iTunes, you can download an mp3 file, and you can also click here to see the "Making of" video.


Jeshua or Joshua?

I noticed something very interesting during my preparation to teach Ezra 1-3 this past Sunday. In Ezra 2:2 and 3:2, the name Joshua is mentioned in the TNIV. This is not the Joshua of the conquest in Israel's early history, but rather a priest who was part of the exiles who returned from Babylon under the decree of the Persian King Cyrus (Ezra 1:2 ff).

What makes this interesting is that most mainstream translations (KJV, NASB, NIV, REB, ESV, NRSV, HCSB, NLT etc.) render the name Jeshua instead of Joshua, and the Hebrew (‏יֵשׁ֡וּעַ‎) confirms this traditional rendering.

Then Jeshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. (Ezra 3:2 NIV)

Then Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. (Ezra 3:2 TNIV)

After a little digging on this priest with whom I was not overly familiar, I discovered that he is referred to elsewhere the Bible, specifically in Hag 1:1, 12; Zech 3:1-10; 6:11. And guess what? In each of these places, the same person is referred to as Joshua (‏יְהוֹשֻׁ֧עַ‎). How do we know it's the same person? Well, Jeshua/Joshua is almost always mentioned in connection with his father, Jehozadak the high priest. The real question might be why this person is referred to as Jeshua in Ezra and Nehemiah?

I did not come across any explanation in my reading as to why the name appears in the Hebrew differently, but I would welcome any insight. In the meantime, I could guess that Jeshua was probably simply a shortened form of Joshua, which is technically Yehoshua. Perhaps this is something similar to my name, Richard, being shortened by most who speak to me as simply Rick. But would the average English reader know that Jeshua is related to Joshua any more than someone from Japan might know that Rick is related to Richard?

The TNIV uses the more standard name Joshua and in doing so helps the reader form easier connections to other references to this person in the Old Testament. Is this a valid rendering for a translation committee to make? I believe so because it helps bridge the cultural and language gap between the Hebrew and English and communicates the meaning of the biblical text quite clearly. If that still bothers you--if you feel that the TNIV does not accurately translate the text in Ezra regarding the name of the priest, Jeshua/Joshua--keep in mind that if we really want to get picky, our translations would have to read Yeshua in Ezra and Yehoshua in the Haggai and Zechariah. The names in our English Bibles have been Anglicized--and quite a bit at that.

One more thing... although I have not done a wide survey of translations regarding the rendering of the name in Ezra, I found two other translations that streamline the name simply into Joshua: the Good News Translation and the Contemporary English Version.

And one final thing: the Anchor Bible Dictionary has a very good (but understandably brief) article on this priest who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon... but be sure to look him up under Jeshua.


Minister Switches from ESV to TNIV

Brian Wallace, Youth and Outreach Worship Minister at Hampton Presbyterian Church in Gibsonian, Pennsylvania, has blogged about why he has dropped the ESV and switched to the TNIV for "preaching, teaching, and recommending."

In his recent blog entry, "Why I Use the TNIV," Wallace describes his journey to using the new translation after using the NIV as a teenager and the ESV through most of seminary.

His basic reasons for using the TNIV boil down to accuracy and readability. Wallace notes that the TNIV translates Greek words such as ἀδελφοί / adelphoi as "brothers and sisters" when the context warrants it rather than simply "brothers" as more traditional translations are apt to do (to its credit, the ESV usually notes "brothers and sisters" as an alternative translation in the footnotes).

Regarding readability, Wallace finds this issue to be particular important to his target ministry group: junior and senior high school students. Wallace notes that "they’re not stupid by any means - but I need to be using a translation that uses langauge they can understand." As an example, he discusses Luke 15:17 from the parable of the Prodigal Son:

ESV: But when he came to himself, he said, "How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!"

TNIV: When he came to his senses, he said, "How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!"

Brian Wallace, who has studied both Greek and Hebrew says that not only is the TNIV his main translation for use with students, but also the main translation he uses himself.


Momentum Growing for TNIV

In less than two years after the release of the entire Bible in Today's New International Version (TNIV), the translation has cracked the Christian Bookseller's top ten list of best selling translations. The TNIV enters the top ten rankings for the first time as #7. Regular readers of This Lamp know that the TNIV is a highly recommended translation on this blog.

For those keeping track of translations released since the beginning of the new millennium, two points are with noting. First, the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), another translation recommended by this blog, has completely dropped out of the top ten list for the first time since it entered the rankings in 2004. Second, strictly for sake of comparison, the English Standard Version (ESV), now ranked #5, took about three and a half years to crack the top ten compared with less than two years for the TNIV. It may also be worth noting that the New American Standard Bible (NASB) now has one of the lowest rankings I can remember seeing.

The CBA rankings, while significant, do not paint the entire picture of Bibles sold. They do not include non-member stores, including large retail chains and The CBA rankings are probably best described as Bibles that a large number of evangelicals purchase in actual stores.

Congratulations to Zondervan, the International Bible Society and the TNIV Committee on Bible Translation for the new ranking that demonstrates the growing acceptance of this very accurate and readable translation.


The Evolution of John 1:18 [UPDATED]

I preached on John 1:1-18 tonight. During my preparation for the message, I happened to notice a new rendering for John 1:18 in the TNIV. I say new because I knew that 1:18 had been worded in more than one way already in the NIV tradition. After coming home tonight, I decided to trace the development of these renderings from the 1978 edition of the NIV forward. The progression since the original NIV is quite interesting:

John 1:18 in the NIV Tradition
NIV (1978)

No one has ever seen God, but God the only* Son,** who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

Notes: *Or but God the only begotten     **Some manuscripts but the only Son (or but the only begotten Son)

NIV (1984)

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only,* **who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

Notes: *Or the only begotten     **Some manuscripts but the only (or only begotten) Son

NIrV (1996; 1999 revision reads the same)

No one has ever seen God. But God, the one and only Son, is at the Father's side. He has shown us what God is like.

No notes.

NIV (Inclusive Language Edition, released only in UK, 1996)

No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only,* **who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

Notes: *Or the only begotten     **Some manuscripts but the only (or only begotten) Son

TNIV (2005)

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and* is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Note: *Some manuscripts but the only Son, who

The textual issue here is well known. Older translations used the phrase "only begotten Son" [μονογενὴς υἱός] but with the discovery of p66 and p75, many later twentieth century translations began using "only begotten God" [μονογενὴς θεὸς]. In Metzger's Textual Commentary (I have the 3rd edition; someone let me know if later editions read differently) the latter reading is given a B rating because p66 and p75 are older and μονογενὴς θεὸς is undeniably the more difficult reading. A concise but thorough explanation of the issues is found in the NET Bible notes. Interestingly, the HCSB is the only contemporary translation I've come across that reverts back to "one and only Son" [μονογενὴς υἱός].

The transitions in the NIV tradition are interesting because in the original 1978 edition, both Son [υἱός] and God [θεὸς] were incorporated into the text, although this was dropped in the NIV's final form (1984) in favor of the more accepted μονογενὴς θεὸς. And although the Inclusive Language Edition of the NIV in 1996 made no changes to the 1984 NIV regarding this verse, a year earlier, the NIrV went back to the 1978 NIV's incorporation of both textual traditions. Both traditions are also incorporated into the TNIV, although the emphasis surprisingly seems to be on the later textual tradition, μονογενὴς υἱός, translated as "the one and only Son."

I'd really be interested to know the reasoning behind using both "God" and "Son" in the rendering of the verse. Although the website offers a rationale for the wording in John 1:18, it's not specific enough to fully address this issue.

Incidentally, a number of other translations have also incorporated both Son and God into their rendering of John 1:18 including the REB, NRSV, NLT, and GWT, so the TNIV is in good company. However my only problem with using both traditions in the verse is that a translation has been created which could not possibly be reflected in any ancient manuscript. I'd be interested in anyone's insight into this issue.

Update (10/23, 9:30 AM): Be sure to click the comments link below for a solution to this problem by Suzanne McCarthy (whose mastery of Greek is far superior to mine). She says that the translations are not combining two textual traditions at all, but rather

Monogenes by itself is considered to be the "only son." It is read as a noun not an adjective in this verse. Have a look at John 1:14. So no one is combining two readings of a manuscript, at least not this time.

Be sure to read her entire explanation in the comments below. I do remember reading that μονογενὴς by itself could be rendered "only Son," but I didn't grasp that this is what the TNIV translators were doing in this verse. And I still find it very interesting that they delivered a similar rendering in the very first edition (1978) NIV, and then moved away from it by the 1984 release. Surely those debates must have been interesting. And obviously, this way of rendering John 1:18 is not a fully accepted solution since there is not agreement among all recent translations, but there is certainly an overwhelming consensus.

For the sake of comparison, here is the full Greek text for the verse for reference and the translations that have used similar renderings to what is done in the original NIV and TNIV:

Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.
No one has ever seen God; but God's only Son, he who is nearest to the Father's heart, he has made him known (NEB, 1970).

No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son, who is at the Father's side, has made him known (NIV, 1978).

No one has ever seen God; God’s only Son, he who is nearest to the Father’s heart, has made him known (REB, 1989).

No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known (NRSV, 1990).

No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father's side, he has made him known (GNT, 1992)

No one has ever seen God. God’s only Son, the one who is closest to the Father’s heart, has made him known (GWT, 1995).

No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is truly God and is closest to the Father, has shown us what God is like (CEV, 1995).

No one has ever seen God. But God, the one and only Son, is at the Father's side. He has shown us what God is like (NIrV, 1996/1999).

No one has ever seen God. But his only Son, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart; he has told us about him (NLT1, 1996)

No one has ever seen God. But the one and only Son is himself God and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us (NLT2, 2004).

“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known (TNIV, 2005).

Translations rendering μονογενὴς as an adjective modifying θεὸς (this cannot be called a "traditional" rendering because it only occurs beginning in 20th Century):

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known (NIV, 1984/1996).

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him (NASB, 1995).

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (ESV, 2001)
The only modern translation using the older (pre-p66 and p75) rendering:

No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son--the One who is at the Father’s side--He has revealed Him (HCSB, 2004).


Grinding Another Man's Grain

Collecting translations of the Bible is an old hobby of mine, and I often write about the differences between them on THIS LAMP [yes, my series on my favorite translations will resume soon--next week, in fact, for the GNB). Different versions of the Bible use different translation philosophies and attempt to meet specific goals. One decision that any translation committee must make relates to how literal vs. how free to render a passage. As I suggested in my blog entry from earlier in the week, "This Is Why," often very literal translations have difficulty communicating metaphors, imagery and idioms because in these types of literary constructions, meaning is not always deducible merely from the individual words.

Consider, for example, a passage I came across today while preparing a talk I'll be giving tomorrow morning to the men at my church. Since we won't be in mixed company, I'm going to address the growing issue of internet pornography. I'm using Job 31:1-4 as my opening text. But in looking at that passage in the context of the whole chapter, I was struck by the way various translations handle Job 31:9-10:

Job 31:9-10
If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
Or I have lurked at my neighbor’s doorway,
May my wife grind for another,
And let others kneel down over her.
If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
or if I have lurked at my neighbor’s door,
then may my wife grind another man’s grain,
and may other men sleep with her.
If my heart has been seduced by a woman,
or if I have lusted for my neighbor’s wife,
then let my wife belong to another man;
let other men sleep with her.

The three translations shown above represent the translational scale from fairly literal on the left to fairly free on the right with the TNIV right in the middle. Notice that in the second line of v. 9, the metaphor is not only retained quite well in the NASB, but also in the TNIV which renders it almost identically. In regard to faithfulness to one's wife, what would it mean to "lurk at my neighbor's doorway"? The imagery is very specific because it's not the same as "entering my neighbor's house" which would imply something far more. The NLT, therefore, spells it out for the reader: "I have lusted for my neighbor's wife." This translation is not unfaithful to the meaning of the idiom, but the idiom itself has been lost.

Verse 10 is even more remarkable and also relates to my post from last Sunday. Job is essentially saying, "If I have even looked lustfully at another woman besides my wife..." (remember the context of Job 31:1), "may she be given to other men in turn." But would one get that meaning from the NASB's rendering, "May my wife grind for another / And let others kneel down over her"? The wording in the NASB is technically correct, but the over-literalness of the rendering may not communicate the meaning to the average reader. In fact, "May my wife grind for another," might even be inferred as lust, although the actual meaning is much stronger. "And let others kneel down over her" is certainly a very graphic idiom depicting the sexual act, but how clear is that to the modern reader? In fact, to utilize one our modern idioms, you would almost have to have your mind in the gutter to understand 10b at all in the NASB.

On the other extreme is the NLT's removal of the idiom altogether with "then let my wife belong to another man; let other men sleep with her." Again, this rendering is not incorrect, but it loses the cleverness of the phrase so skillfully captured in the TNIV's "then let my wife grind another man's grain." The way this is worded in the TNIV the reader can read it, perhaps read it a second time, and after raising an eyebrow or two, really get the picture of what Job was saying. Even though the idea of "grinding another man's grain" is not an idiom contemporary to our culture, it should still be understandable to the average reader today because of the way the TNIV words it. The NASB's "May my wife grind for another" is too obscure in its literalness.

Essentially, each line in 31:9-10 contains its own idiom--even v. 9a, but we use heart in connection with affection even today, so even the NLT essentially retains the original wording here and rightly so. The idiom in 9b is retained in the NASB and the TNIV, but not in the NLT. The idiom in 10a is kept in the NASB, TNIV, but not in the NLT, but is only clearly intelligible in the TNIV because the NASB is overly literal. 10b's idiom is only retained in the NASB, but because it is not an idiom used in our culture and because of the NASB's over-literalness, it's meaning is mostly lost.

Personally, I like the cleverness of idioms when I can use them in a Bible study setting. I can't fault the NLT for inaccuracy in these two verses, but I feel like something from the text's literary power is lost in making everything so plain to us. For Job to state the words about his wife seem harsh enough as it is (they didn't seem to have a lot of affection for each other throughout the whole story), but it's even colder in the NLT. The TNIV seems to find the best happy medium for this passage by leaving three of the four idioms intact and not translating them too literally.

Side note: to be fair to the NLT, the translators do not always flatten out the meaning of idioms. For instance, Judges 14:18, "If you hadn't plowed with my heifer, you wouldn't have solved my riddle!" will be understandable to most regardless of one's agricultural background!


This Is Why

For almost two decades I taught from the New American Standard Bible. As a translation, I “connected” to it, when I was only 13 years old. It was a constant companion. And over the years, although I read other translations devotionally, I only taught from the NASB. I believed that a formal equivalent translation method--a word-for-word literalness--produced the best translation. So what if the NASB was on a higher reading level than most translations! So what if some people found the phrasings wooden! What was important was that it clearly communicated the original biblical language texts as closely as possible in the English language...right?

I'll admit that at least as far as five or six years ago from my own study, I realized that the NASB, while technically literal, was somewhat lacking in some places--especially in Old Testament poetic sections--when it came to bridging the language gap between the biblical culture and context and ours. Literal translations have difficulty communicating metaphors and symbolic imagery. It's easy for the meaning to become lost. But I continued teaching from the NASB nonetheless. Then my confidence in the NASB was completely shattered in early 2005 when in the middle of a half-year study on Romans I was teaching at my church, I realized that the translation itself was getting in the way. This was a study separate from any curriculum. It was all me. The problem arose, however, when I found I was having to explain the English of the NASB in order to explain the meaning of the biblical text. That was clearly an unnecessary step. Communication was impeded by the translation itself. Did that make sense? Translations are supposed to be bridges, but what if the bridges themselves are in disrepair?

I knew that there were two primary philosophies of translation: formal equivalent (word-for-word) and dynamic equivalent (thought-for-thought or meaning-driven). At the very least I knew that I needed to move a bit further down the spectrum toward dynamic equivalence. But how far? After spending weeks considering various translations, I settled on the Holman Christian Standard Bible for my Sunday morning translation of choice. It was a good bridge as a translation between the two methods because it was literal when it could be literal, but dynamic when that didn't work quite as well. Plus, our Sunday School literature uses HCSB. So I was teaching from the translation used in my class' quarterly.

And now we're in Hebrews. And I'm using curriculum this time. But sometimes I don't like certain turns the curriculum makes. Today's frustration came from the curriculum writer's decision to leave out nearly half of the verses in ch. 7. Hebrews itself is a complicated book in my opinion which may explain why very few ever touch it outside of the eleventh chapter. In my understanding, the writer is developing a carefully crafted, but complicated argument of why Jesus is better than the angels, the prophets, Moses, the High Priest, the Levitical priesthood, etc., and there's no possible way to go back to an earlier form of faith pre-Messiah.. I suppose that the curriculum writer chose to simplify things for the readers by leaving out a large section of the chapter. But in my opinion, he short-circuited the biblical author's argument in the process.

So I saw my task this morning as one of making my class understand the writer of Hebrews' argument--without leaving out any verses--and in the end creating room for some kind of practical application they could leave with. It's easy to get bogged down in Hebrews and forget that last part. I wrote in this blog a few weeks back that the KJV rendering of Hebrews seems unintelligible in places. I believe this is probably due to the difficulty of the Greek. And while the HCSB was good, and certainly better than the KJV or even the NASB would have been, I was still having some doubts, even as late as this morning about whether I was using a translation that made Heb 7 crystal clear. Somehow between the translation, my teaching ability, and the power of God's Holy Spirit, I wanted my class to have a clear understanding of Hebrews ch. 7 by the time they left the study. And so at the last minute--right around 8:30, a half hour before we had to be at church--I switched translations. I grabbed my TNIV, a translation that I although I have promoted on this blog, I have only used in public for devotional purposes.

Don't tell my pastor, but in the middle of his sermon on Romans 6, I stole over to Hebrews 7 and familiarized myself with the TNIV text. I had looked at it during my preparation, but I had not originally been planning to teach from it. Then when we got to our class after the sermon I began walking my class (the best metaphor for it) through the end of Hebrews 6 and into the seventh chapter. The fact that I was using the TNIV didn't really become a factor until the end when I read the last passage of our study, Heb 7:20-28, myself because we were short on time. Now, it was probably because of momentum built from our journey through the text thus far (I believe they were understanding), but as I read from the TNIV, I felt like they were extremely engaged and fully understanding the words--which in the latter part of ch. 7 do serve as a powerful summation and application of the writer's arguments.

“And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:

          “The Lord has sworn
                 and will not change his mind:
                 ‘You are a priest forever.’”

         Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.
         Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
        Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”

                          (Heb 7:20-28, TNIV)

I actually heard amens and other verbal affirmations while I was merely reading the biblical text (with enthusiasm, mind you). There was an excitement in the room simply as I read the Scripture passage. Amazing--I don't know if I've ever had so many people in tune before with what was being read from the Bible, with only minimal comment from me. Now, while there are quite a few factors involved, I have to think that the translation itself--the TNIV--was a primary contribution to my class' understanding of Hebrews today.

And I didn't plan to write about any of this, although it's been on my mind and heart all day. Then I read Richard Rhodes' post tonight on Better Bible Blogs, titled "What's the Joke?" In this wonderful blog entry, he skillfully demonstrates why literal word-for-word translation is not always the best means for communicating meaning from one culture to another. He does this merely by trying to translate a newspaper cartoon from German to English. The entire article is well worth your time and demonstrates succinctly what's taken me a few years to learn through my experience teaching: literalness ≠ good translation.

Again, please read his entire post, but I must at least repeat his final thoughts here:

Our long use of translations that only approximate the meaning of the Greek (or Hebrew) has dulled our senses. It’s only in live cross-linguistic situations that we are confronted with the fact that language is regularly used with a precision we fail to appreciate from the inside. And it’s that precision that gets washed away in most Bible translations by our preference for literalness. Ironically, that preference all but guarantees that we will get it wrong.

If I think I'm teaching God's Word, but my students can't understand me, ultimately it's my fault. I have not actually taught; I've merely performed, and I've performed poorly at that. A Bible translation is like a tool. Certain jobs demand different tools, and some tools are right for the job while others aren't. I still recommend students of the Bible study in parallel with both formal and dynamic translations. But perhaps, for me, it's again time to go a little bit further down that translation spectrum regarding the tool...the translation I use on Sunday mornings.


Return of the TNIV Bible Blog

After an unusual silence for ten months, the official TNIV BIble Blog is back with a new entry. The new post relates to the TNIV Audio Bible which is now available online.

The TNIV Bible Blog is sponsored by the International Bible Society and the purpose of the blog is "to bring you timely and accurate information about Today's New International Version (TNIV) Bible." The blog ran initially from January 2005 through December of the same year until it went on hiatus. We're glad to see it back and hope for regular posts in the coming weeks.

The TNIV Bible Blog can be accessed at


Why the TNIV Is Not a Feminist Translation

Eventually, my schedule will loosen a bit and I can get back to writing some of my promised posts. In the meantime, however, I would direct you to Wayne Leman's recent entry over at Better Bibles Blog, titled "Complementarian TNIV." In this post, he demonstrates by putting the two translations side by side that the TNIV supports biblical manhood just as much as the ESV.

You need to read Wayne's entire post to see his argument, but let me cut to the chase and give you his conclusion. That should be enough to urge you to see for yourself how he got there:

The TNIV and ESV both make it clear that Jesus was a male, not some androgynous human. Both versions refer to God with masculine pronouns. Both versions retain the biblical language text wording of God the Father, rather than as generic God the Parent.

As far as I know, those who accuse the TNIV of being a feminist translation or being influenced by feminism cannot support that claim from how passages traditionally used to teach complementarianism are worded. The TNIV is an accurate translation and does not deserve the criticism it has received from its opponents. It does not deserve to be boycotted by Christian booksellers who seem to believe its critics rather than being Bereans (Acts 17:11) who study the Bible (or any translation of it) carefully for themselves to find out if what people claim about it are true or not.

Well said, Wayne.

For myself--a fairly conservative, complementarian, Southern Baptist--I have found the TNIV to be a translation extremely faithful to the original language texts. As I have said before, the TNIV is essentially a conservative, evangelical translation. The issue of gender inclusiveness/accuracy or even the method of dynamic equivalency is not a conservative/liberal issue or even a complementarian/egalitarian issue. Rather it is a difference in translation methodology. And there were certainly complementarians on the TNIV committee including Douglas Moo and Bruce Waltke among others. Further, this is a translation endorsed by scholars such as D. A. Carson, John Stott, and Timothy George and many more. I highly recommend that Christians everywhere, take a look at the TNIV for themselves.


Hebrews 4:8 in the KJV

Our Sunday School lesson this morning covered Hebrews 3:16-4:13. I've been very pleased with the Lifeway coverage of Hebrews because we've hit almost every verse--no jumping around as is often the case. However, in our lesson today, one verse was conspicuously missing: Hebrews 4:8.

The Lifeway Explore the Bible curriculum uses two translations as its base, the HCSB and the KJV and normally reproduces the verses side by side. Any quick look at Heb 4:8 in these two translations immediately demonstrates a problem:

For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken later about another day. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.

Obviously, there's going to be a big difference in the meaning of the passage based on whether the writer is speaking of Joshua or Jesus. What?! You don't remember the Old Testament story about Jesus leading the Israelites into the Promised Land?

For sake of comparison, here are a few other translations of the verse:

"For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day." (NIV/TNIV)

"Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come." (NLT)

"For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that." (NASB)

"For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day." (NRSV)

"For if Joshua had given them rest, God* would not have spoken of another day later on." (ESV)

Obviously, the majority consensus is for Joshua, not Jesus. And it certainly makes sense because the context of the writer's argument is an analogy that he's drawing from the Israelite's entrance into the Promised Land. So why the difference in the KJV?

Well, part of the problem with the King James Version is that in the New Testament the translators chose to transliterate the Greek versions of the names of Old Testament characters rather than matching up the spellings with what was used in the KJV Old Testament. So in Matt 24:37, Noah is represented as "Noe," Elijah becomes "Elias" in Matt 11:14, Isaiah becomes "Esaias" in Matt 3:3 and so on. Some of these the reader will catch, but such inconsistency between the testaments can and certainly has created confusion and even misinterpretation in the past. [Consider for example, the blunder made by Mormon "prophet" Joseph Smith in Doctrine & Covenants 76:100, where he writes, "These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch...." It hardly seems fitting for a so-called "prophet" to make such an error that would become part of their sacred and "inspired" writings, wouldn't you think?]

That brings us to Jesus and Joshua. The two have the same name. Jesus is the Greek form (Ἰησοῦς/Iesous) and Joshua is the Hebrew form (‏יהושע‎/Yehoshua) of the same name. So, technically, the KJV translators were being consistent in their method of keeping the Greek form of the names of the Old Testament characters when it came to Heb 4:8. But surely anyone can see the confusion that such a practice causes. The same kind of misreading is caused in Acts 7:45 which again reads "Jesus," when the context is obviously referring to Joshua.

Every major modern translation today has gone to keeping the names consistent between the testaments. And the TNIV has gone a step further in that the translators have chosen to update the spellings of certain names to bring them closer to their Hebrew originals. A chart of such spelling changes is in the back of every TNIV Bible.

Hebrews 4:8 is a perfect example of why I never recommend the KJV as a primary translation for serious study. Even the student who can plow through the Elizabethan English fairly well has a strong possibility of misinterpreting a verse like Heb 4:8 or Acts 7:45. Further, I've noted since beginning our study in Hebrews, as I've been translating some of it, that the Greek is more difficult in this book than most other places in the New Testament. And that is reflected in the KJV rendering of many of the passages in Hebrews which come across as nearly unintelligible (see, for instance Heb 3:16-18 in the KJV).

I suppose it would be controversial for some to hear that the KJV can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the text in a verse like Heb 4:13 or Acts 7:45. Maybe that's why the editors at Lifeway decided to simply leave that verse out of the study. But v. 8 is an essential part of the writer's argument. Plus, for the one or two KJV users in my class, bringing up the issue was a way to gently encourage them to use a newer translation. Therefore, we covered v. 8, and everyone understood that the reference was to Joshua.

| Now Available in TNIV

“I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.”
(Psalm 119:11, TNIV)

Robert Parmelee has created a very innovative approach to Scripture memory using the internet as a delivery system. The plan works like this: for $5 a year (a very reasonable fee considering all the work Parmelee has put into this), you get an email at the beginning of the week with a link to your memory verse for the week. That link takes you to a page just for you on the website that includes your verse and blanks for you to retype it (for practice).

The next day, a new email link will take you to a page with one word missing. On each successive day over the week, more blanks will appear for you to fill in from memory.

By the end of the week, you should be able to type in the entire verse without help.

You also get a personalized home page at the site that allows you to review all your old verses.

Bible verse are grouped according to various themes. Parmelee is also very open to suggestions for new themes as well, and in the future there are plans which would enable you to enter your own verses for memorization.

I first discovered through the ESV Bible Blog. I wrote to Robert Parmelee and asked him if he would consider making his verses available in the Today's New International Version. He was more than willing, but needed a text file of the translation. THAT was something I could help with, so a couple of weeks later, the TNIV has been plugged into his database and is now available to everyone.

This is perfect timing for me. Years back, I went through the Navigators' Topical Memory System and learned those verses in the NASB. As my use of translations has begun to change over the years, I've wondered whether I should try to re-memorize those TMS verses in something newer like the TNIV. Of course, switching the translation used for memorization can be a tricky thing; plus the TMS is not currently available in the TNIV (although I've suggested it to them). So, I think for the time being, I'll hold off on re-memorizing the TMS and use Parmelee's system instead. That should keep me busy for a while. has verses for memorization in the ESV, KJV, NASB95, ASV, NIV, and TNIV. Parmelee's also open to other translations if you want to use something else, and merely needs a text file of your preferred translation. Currently, I believe he is looking for a copy of the NKJV if anyone has access to it in electronic form.

Regardless of which translation you would choose, give a try. Scripture memory--following whatever method--is an excellent spiritual discipline to practice. You've only matured past it when you can recite the whole Canon by heart.

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night,
so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.
Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
(Josh 1:8 TNIV)


Zondervan TNIV Study Bible: All Editions Now Available

When I reviewed the Zondervan TNIV Study Bible a few weeks ago, only the hardback was available. Last week, I visited the local Berean Christian Store in Louisville, Kentucky, (formerly Wellspring Christian Book Center) and was pleased to find the largest selection of TNIV Bibles I've ever seen in one location. They had multiple copies of every edition of the TNIV imaginable--hardback, paperback, leather--and just stacks and stacks of the TNIV Study Bible.

Essentially, the TNIV Study Bible now comes in two sizes: a regular size (6.7 in. wide x 9.5 in. high) and a smaller personal size (6 in. wide x 8.8 in. high). Now if you really compare those dimensions, the personal size editions are not that much smaller than the regular editions. However, for many, they will be psychologically smaller when held in the hand. I personally don't mind carrying a large Bible, but for the believer who wants to carry a full study Bible, but in a more compact size, I would definitely recommend the personal size edition. And since the personal size edition is not really that much smaller than the regular size, I didn't see type size taking a real hit. I laid both sizes down on a counter side-by-side and felt either edition would be readable to the average user with standard eyesight.

As I looked at the various leather editions, two stood out. First, in the regular size I liked the one in black European leather (ISBN 0310934915). I'm not sure exactly what "European leather" is compared to other grades, but the leather on this Bible felt sturdy and was very attractive. Further, it was similar to some of the two-toned Bibles that have been popular recently, but instead of two different colors, it had two styles of leather--one part was smooth and one part had a rough, grainy look and feel. If I were getting a TNIV Study Bible in leather, this is the one I'd choose.

Then in the personal size editions, I really liked the "Italian Duo-Tone, Burgundy Camel" (ISBN 0310934680, pictured above). Normally, I am not a fan of two-toned Bibles, but I have to admit that I was rather attracted to the beige (or I guess, camel) strip of leather cutting through the midsection of this Bible. The strip of leather is actually sewn on top of the Bible's leather cover and holding it in my hand, it seemed to give the Bible extra support and really made it feel sturdy.

All of these editions looked quite nice, and I have to admit that although I've said I'm waiting for a wide-margin TNIV to fully transition over to this translation as my primary Bible, I believe that if I had a copy of the black European leather TNIV Study Bible, it might just serve as a reasonable substitute in the interim.

Here is a listing of the full line of the Zondervan TNIV Study Bible with ISBN's. The links will take you to

Regular Size:
- Hardcover (ISBN 0310934818)
- European Leather, Black/Black (ISBN: 0310934915)
- European Leather, Black/Black, Thumb-Indexed (ISBN 0310934877)
- European Leather, Sienna/Cashew (ISBN 0310934869)

Personal Size:
- Hardcover (ISBN 0310934737)
- Softcover (ISBN 0310934699)
- Italian Duo-Tone, Burgundy/Camel (ISBN 0310934680)
- Italian Duo-Tone, Burgundy/Camel, Thumb-Indexed (ISBN 0310934648)
- Italian Duo-Tone, Chocolate/Haven Blue (ISBN 0310934672)

Related: My Review of the Zondervan TNIV Study Bible


More on "Singular They": Step 2.5

In the comments from my recent blog entry on a singular they sighting at, I commented that there are three steps to changes in "acceptable grammar."

1. The change begins in oral speech and informal writing.
2. The change shows up in respectable literature.
3. The change is demonstrated in most grammar books as new editions are published.

The steps above are simply from my observation; but I do have a degree in English, so I've had enough experience in the area to see such things take place.

Not all forms of currently unacceptable English will eventually become acceptable. And just because something's used widely at a popular level still doesn't mean it will become acceptable. "Ain't" has not become acceptable in formal grammar and probably never will. The same goes for most slang. Currently, there's greater laxity toward things like split infinitives and prepositions at the end of sentences, but official acceptance is still slow. And in my opinion, there's nothing wrong with slow acceptance of changes. Ultimately these are rules that we agree upon as a civilized society, and they should not be made too quickly.

The English language, contrary to the wishes of traditionalists, is never static. When I was in college, I took a class in 1988 called "Advanced Grammar," which was actually a fairly enjoyable class despite the name. In that class, our main grammar was Descriptive English Grammar, written in 1931 by Homer C. House and Susan Emolyn Harmon. We used the second edition which was a revision by Harmon published in 1950. Our teacher chose this book because she said she liked it better than any of the current grammar books. However, during our instruction, she regularly told us to ignore this or that rule because it was no longer standard practice. I found this ironic since she had praised the merits of this book so strongly on the first day of our class. Nevertheless, it demonstrated that the English language had changed greatly between 1950 and 1988--so much so that we had to make annotations in our grammar book because it was out of date.

Language has also changed considerably since I was in college. When I was getting my undergraduate degree, masculine universals (man, mankind, he, his--used to represent both genders) were just beginning to be questioned. I remember sitting in an English class where we took a vote that masculine universals were fine and acceptable. The vote was unanimous or very near it--even from the most feminist spirits in the class (and there were a few). I naively thought we had settled the issue, but we had not.

Practically every grammar book published today has sections on sexist language that includes alternatives to words man, mankind, manmade, etc. Even the SBTS style guide has en entire chapter on gender language (see ch. 7, pp. 103-105) which is adapted from the Corporate Editorial Manual of Lifeway Christian Resources. And when addressing their congregations, I hear even the most conservative of preachers using "brothers and sisters," "his or her," and the "dreaded" singular they.

What possessive pronoun would you supply in the sentence below?

Someone left ____________ book in the room.

Very few these days will fill in the blank with his anymore. When I present this sentence to my students, almost all of them will write "their."

As I mentioned above, not all forms of communication in common use will become accepted as standard grammar. The singular they is different, however, because there's a need for it. Here are three reasons why it will become accepted in most standard grammars:

1. The use of "his" (a masculine universal) is no longer standard practice. I notice even the most conservative writers and speakers going out of their way to avoid it. Whether this is conscious avoidance or not, I do not know.

2. There is no inclusive pronoun in English language for reference to humans as there is in other languages, but the need for such usage is part of our day-to-day communication.

3. The use of the singular they goes back hundreds of years in English usage despite the rules of 20th century grammars. Therefore, it has strong precedent.

All of this brings me to the title of this blog entry. Whenever I teach a writing class, we go over this issue as soon as I hand back their first papers. Usually, a large sampling of the papers include the use of a singular they that does not agree in number with the subject in the sentence. I mark such "errors" not to take off points, but because I want my students to think through the syntax of the sentences they are writing. And I jokingly tell them I will quit marking such sentences when the grammar books change their rules regarding the use of the singular they--and I believe they will.

Well, don't tell my students this, but I've found a half-hearted allowance for this in one of their grammar books (actually, I'll give bonus points to the first one of my students who alerts me to seeing this blog entry). We use two books in the introductory writing class at IWU. In addition to a book from Thomson Press, we also use the Prentice Hall Reference Guide to Grammar and Usage (5th edition).* I was thumbing through it the other night while my students were working on an in-class assignment when I stumbled over what could be interpreted as permission to use the inclusive they.

If you have a copy of the Prentice Hall Guide, the reference can be found on p. 117. Surprisingly, this is not in a section on gender/sexist language but in pronoun reference, specifically on indefinite pronouns.

The writers note that "He was traditionally used to refer to indefinite pronouns ending in -body and -one." Then four strategies are presented "to avoid the exclusive use of the masculine pronoun when the reference is to both males and females. This includes the use of "his or her" (personally my least favorite solution) and changing the subject to a plural. But then I saw it: "Use the plural pronoun." An example was cited: "Everyone has their coat."

I was shocked. How long have I been using this book with my classes--three years now? However, then I noticed the disclaimer: "Some people view this as incorrect. Others, such as the National Council of Teachers of English accept this as a way to avoid sexist language."

So, it's allowed, but with a disclaimer--not quite 100% acceptance yet according to Prentice Hall, but acceptable to some nonetheless. Where does this fit in with the three stages of acceptance I described at the beginning of this blog entry? Well, the singular they is at least at a level two because its quickly becoming more used in print--the most prominent example I know of is in the TNIV Bible. Grammar books are starting to discuss it, but wide endorsement is not quite there (yet). But the recommendation to use their as a singular pronoun possessive in the Prentice Hall Guide makes me put its acceptance at a 2.5 (not quite a full "3" because the writers felt a disclaimer was necessary). When future editions of this book and other grammar and usage books allow for it without qualifiers, we'll know that the singular they has been fully accepted.

So in the meantime, I'm still marking it on my students' papers.

*I noticed in looking at that a 6th edition of the Prentice Hall Guide is in print (see link above). My guess is that my students have been receiving this for over a year, but I still have the old edition and didn't even know it was updated. I have requested a new copy.


2 Cor 5:17 (TNIV) Revisited: I Recant

Late last night, I wrote about my puzzlement regarding the TNIV's wording of 2 Cor 5:17 compared with translations of a generation ago such as it's predecessor, the NIV. Consider the two:

NIV: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

TNIV: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"

My initial hunch was that the TNIV translation committee, in their desire for gender-accuracy, simply ended up with a rendering that was less than desirable.

Not so.

Although I could defend the TNIV from a standpoint of the Greek NT, I felt that a connection was lost between the person "in Christ" and a person becoming "a new creation."

Through discussion in my the previous blog's comments, reflection on and off today over this issue, and a little bit of research that I probably should have done in the first place, I have a completely different conclusion: The TNIV's rendering of 2 Cor 5:17 is completely accurate (translationally and theologically) and has NOTHING to do with gender issues.

Rather, upon uniting with Christ (becoming "in Christ") through a salvation experience, the believer is not merely transformed, but becomes part of a larger new order, or new creation, initiated by God. Although there is truth in the individual becoming a new creation, this--evidently--is not the emphasis of the verse. Two comments on this verse are worth repeating below. The first is by Ralph P. Martin in the Word Biblical Commentary on 2 Corinthians, p. 152:

ἐν Χριστῷ governs the expression καινὴ κτίσις, "new creation," not τις, "anyone." So it is less than correct to interpret the v as describing a person's conversion after the analogy of new birth (John 3:3, 5, 7) ... The accent falls on a person ( τις ) entering the new order in Christ, thus making the καινὴ κτίσις an eschatological term for God's age of salvation (Bultmann, Theology 1, 306-308) ... Paul is talking of a "new act of creation," not an individual's renovation as a proselyte or a forgiven sinner in the Day of Atonement service. There is even an ontological dimension to Paul's thought (so Stuhlmacher, "Erwägungen"), suggesting that with Christ's coming a new chapter in cosmic relations to God opened and reversed the catastrophic effect of Adam's fall which began the old creation (Kümmel, 205). To conclude: ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις in this context relates to the new eschatological situation which has emerged from Christ's advent... .

In the New American Commentary on 2 Corinthians (pp. 286-287), David Garland discusses translational issues, in this case between the NIV and NRSV:

Translations usually choose between two options: "he is" (NIV), implying that the person is a new being, or "there is" (NRSV), implying that a new situation has come into being. The pronoun "anyone" seems to imply that Paul has individuals in mind. In the context he is talking about changing one's way of looking at things; and this change, which occurs at conversion, is a subjective experience...

On the other hand, Paul also conceives that Christ's death and resurrection marks a radical eschatological break between the old age and the new. Christ is the divider of history. Paul also never uses the noun "creation" to refer to an individual person (see Rom 1:2, 25; 8:19-22, 39), and the concept of a new creation appears prominently in Jewish apocalyptic texts that picture the new age as inaugurating something far more sweeping than individual's transformation--a new heaven and a new earth. The translation "there is a new creation" would mean that the new creation does not merely involve the personal transformation of individuals but encompasses the eschatological act of recreating humans and nature in Christ. It would also include the new community, which has done away with the artificial barriers of circumcision and uncirciumcision (Gal 6:15-16; see Eph 2:14-16) as part of this new creation.
Translating the words literally, "new creation," without inserting a pronoun would allow for both options since the eschatological reality of the new creation effected by Christ's advent makes possible that subjective change in individuals who become new creations in Christ. Paul's declaration is the corollary to his earlier affirmations that we are being transformed (3:16, 18; 4:16-17)--so much so that the believer becomes a new creation. The new heaven and new earth and the complete transformation of believers remain a future hope, but for Christians they are so certain to be fulfilled that their lives are controlled by this new reality that still awaits consummation. For individuals to become a part of this new creation, they must choose to be in Christ.

Going back to my original post, this explains the renderings of the HCSB, NRSV, and REB:

HCSB: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come."

NRSV: "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!"

REB: "For anyone united to Christ, there is a new creation: the old order has gone; a new order has already begun. "

Like the TNIV, none of these versions are attempting to a gender-inclusive renderings. As Garland describes above, leaving out the traditional pronoun allows for a wider interpretation for "new creation" than an exclusively individualized application. However, as I said in the previous post, "there is" still has a grammatically awkward feel to it. Perhaps this is why the TNIV translators went with "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come..."

Mystery solved. There's no real problem with the TNIV rendering of 2 Cor 5:17. The mistake I made in the previous post was to assume the changes made in the TNIV were of a translational nature and not an interpretational one. In looking at the changes in the TNIV, I assumed that this was gender-accurate rendering gone awry. And because of that assumption, I failed to research before I started writing--rarely a good idea. My mistake. I recant.

One more note: In the comments from the previous post, as other interpretational possibilities started to surface, I wrote, "So in spite of the title of the post, it's possible that there's not a problem at all. Instead, what we consider the 'traditional' translation may be merely a reflection of our post-Reformation tendency to over-personalize the Scriptures."

David Ker replied, "This is interesting stuff. There's a big difference in those two interpretations. Not sure of all the implications. I'd like to hear more about the 'post-Reformation personalization of Scriptures.' Are we moving (emerging?) toward a collective identity?"

Well, I'm not trying to sound emergent (nor NPP), but I believe most would agree that one of the few negative results of each believer having his or her own Bible following the Reformation and the invention of the printing press is that we tend to over-personalize the Scriptures. We look at a passage like 2 Cor 5:17, and rather than seeing a new creation that we can be part of, we see ourselves as the new creation, and of course this is reflected in our translations. We should remind ourselves that we are part of the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of me.

2 Cor 5:17 in the TNIV: Problem and Suggested Solution(s)

Note: This blog entry was briefly posted, and then pulled down in response to criticism in the comments with which I agreed. I have attempted to rework my solution, and will look forward to your comments or suggestions for an even better solution.

More than a decade ago, using the great Navigator Topical Memory System, I put to memory 2 Cor 5:17 in the NASB:

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature;
the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

Recently I came across this verse in the TNIV, which words 2 Cor 5:17 like this: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" I have to admit that I'm less than enthused over this rendering. In the effort to be gender-accurate, I feel the translators may have inadvertently blurred the connection between the person who is in Christ and that person being a new creation.

The concept in 2 Cor 5: 17 is simple: the person in Christ = a new creation. When I read the TNIV's "...if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come..." I wonder if if this rendering is clear enough in expressing the idea that the person in Christ IS a new creation?

Now, I should stop and be perfectly clear. If you've read my blog in the past, you will know that I wholeheartedly endorse the TNIV and feel that the controversy surrounding it is by and large a controversy of misunderstanding. Also, as I have explained before, I have no problem with gender-inclusiveness when handled responsibly in contexts relating to both males and females. Further, no translation is perfect, so if I find a particular verse in which I don't care for the wording, it shouldn't be taken as a reflection on the whole translation.

And most importantly, the current wording of 2 Cor 5:17 in the TNIV accurately reflects the Greek New Testament:

ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις· τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν, ἰδοὺ γέγονεν καινά·

What you'll notice back up in the NASB is that "he is" is in italics because these words are not reflected in the Greek, but certainly assumed. The Greek literally reads, "Therefore, if anyone [is] in Christ, a new creation." In fact, καινὴ κτίσις ("new creation") is even in the nominative case which in English is often placed at the beginning of a sentence, but here is functioning as the apodosis to the conditional phrase, ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ ("if anyone is in Christ"). But I still don't like it. I want the reader to be clear that if a person is in Christ, then that person IS a new creation.

One thing I note, however, is that 2 Cor 5:17 is a rather difficult verse to make reflect gender-accuracy. Look, for instance, at attempts from other translations:

HCSB: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come."

NLT1: "What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!"

NLT2: "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!"

NRSV: "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!"

REB: "For anyone united to Christ, there is a new creation: the old order has gone; a new order has already begun. "

The use of "there is" in the HCSB, NRSV, and REB instead of the traditional "he is" feels a bit awkward grammatically in my opinion and although stronger than the TNIV, is still not as clear in the equation as I want it to be. The NLT2 certainly seems to be an improvement on the NLT1, although some will continue to prefer the use of "creation" over "person" to emphasize the spiritual transformation that God brings about when an individual finds salvation in Christ.*

It is certainly no secret that after introducing a new version of the Bible, often a modest revision will quietly be release sometime afterwards. For instance, the NIV was completed in 1978, but the version you would buy off the shelf today was actually published in 1984. And the ESV, first published in 2001 is gradually being replaced by a revised text over the course of the next few months.

There are two solutions available to the TNIV translators if they wanted to improve 2 Cor 5:17 for some possible modest revision in the future. First, they could take a nod from the God's Word Translation, which in my personal opinion offers the BEST inclusive rendering of this verse I've seen:

"Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation.
The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence."

Obviously the TNIV Committee on Translation could render 2 Cor 5:17 similar to the GWT. However, when I first wrote this post, I noted that the translators had one other means in their translational tool belt, that frankly, I was surprised they did not use in this verse. Now I know why.

As I mentioned above, personally, I don't have a problem with gender-accurate translation when it's responsibly done. To me, this is translation philosophy and not actually controversial at all. Instead, in my opinion, the only truly controversial aspect of the TNIV is its use of the so-called "singular they." Now, I'll admit that it's been difficult for this former English major to come around on the use of a plural pronoun like "they" to refer to a singular antecedent as it's done in the TNIV's rendering of Rev 3:20,

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me."

But I'm coming around on it because I recognize our language is changing. And now that I've trained my ear to listen for it, I hear people from all walks of life and with all levels of education use a singular they when they speak, even those who have announced themselves opposed to the TNIV. Further, as it was gently pointed out to me, the singular they has recently become a topic of discussion in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002).

So I wondered why the TNIV translators didn't simply use a singular they in this verse? Thus, the TNIV version of 2 Cor 5:7 could read:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation:
The old has gone, the new is here!"

To me, this seemed like the perfect solution. It's simple and it makes the equation clear. Or does it? After reading a response in the comments, I was reminded why translations are often best done by committees and not sole individuals. The commenter pointed out that my new rendering could just as easily be misread so that the "they" might refer to a union of Christ and the believer together becoming a new creation.

Now we could certainly speak of the union between Christ and believers (Rom 6:3; Eph 2:6), which is part of what it means to be "in Christ." However, that still misses Paul's designation of the believer as a new creation and would almost be like saying, "the one who is in Christ is in Christ." I now understand why the CBT did not go with a singular they in this verse.

Going back to the drawing board, I want to revisit the rendering of the GWT which, as I said, was the best inclusive reading of 2 Cor 5:17 I have read so far. Taking a nod from another translation is nothing new. No translation is ever produced in a vacuum, and a careful reader can often see when new renderings get picked up from one translation and passed on to others. Therefore I would suggest a second solution combining aspects of the phrasing in the GWT with the simplicity of the TNIV:

"Whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
The old is gone, the new is here!"


"Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation:
The old has gone, the new is here!"

Comments and alternative solutions are welcome.

*A separate issue entirely relates to the phrasing "in Christ," itself, and perhaps I may come back to this on another day. To be "in Christ" is a concept that occurs throughout the New Testament, especially in Paul's writings. This concept is essential for understanding the believer's relationship to the Messiah, and the believer's role in the Kingdom of God. One could question though whether or not a contemporary reader might misunderstand what it means to be IN Christ, or worse read that as locality rather than as union. The NLT2 attempts to overcome this misunderstanding by using the phrase, "belongs to Christ." While I like this rendering, I don't know if the REB doesn't communicate it better with "united to Christ."

I've changed my mind on this issue. See my follow-up post: "2 Cor 5:17 (TNIV) Revisited: I Recant."



James Dobson repudiates the TNIV translation because of its use of gender accuracy in texts where the context is clearly aimed at males and females together. Meanwhile, Dobson's organization Focus on the Family is offering a book containing photography from Mel Gibson's movie The Passion which quotes biblical passages exclusively from the New Living Translation (NLT) in English (accompanied by Latin and Aramaic). The NLT is a translation that also renders passages using gender-accurate methods. Focus on the Family is asking for a $25 donation in order to receive the book ($16.49 at

The question is this: Why is the NLT okay, but not the TNIV?


Fine Leather Cambridge TNIV's Available through Amazon

If you're a fan of the TNIV like me, you may be frustrated that currently Zondervan does not publish any non-thinline text editions in leather (you can choose from a variety of non-thinline text editions in hardback, but if you want leather, you have to go thinline). And to make matters worse, leather text editions are available from Cambridge BIbles, but not in the United States because Zondervan holds exclusive publishing and distribution rights over here. Plus, sometimes you just want a BIble with a traditional looking binding (no neon or multi-colored patterns).

So I was surprised and delighted to see four of the Cambridge leather TNIV Bibles available through Amazon being sold as used items. However, if you follow the link, you'll discover that these are not used Bibles at all, but brand new Bibles that a British bookseller is offering to American customers. The cost is a bit pricey--from $97 to $114--but it includes the cost to ship the Bibles 10 to 14 day priority airmail, and you get fine Cambridge Morocco (see comments for description) leather. Right now, if you want a TNIV Bible in a grade above bonded leather and if you don't want a thinline at all, this is your only option.

For American customers the only real differences between United States and British editions have to do with spellings and punctuation. Oh, and according to Peter Kirk, these British editions use a different word for rooster (let the reader understand) and there's a small change in Hebrews 4:15. There may be other differences, but again, these are going to be minor. And you're not going to find better binding quality than in a Cambridge Bible.

Here are the Camrbidge editions currently available through

TNIV Bible Personal Edition Black French Morocco Leather - $97

TNIV Bible Personal Edition Burgundy French Morocco Leather - $97

TNIV Bible Popular Edition Black French Morocco Leather - $113.90

TNIV Bible Popular Edition Burgundy French Morocco Leather - $113.90

Personal editions are 6.1" x 4.1" with 6.5 pt. type. Popular editions (the better choice in my opinion) are 7.75" x 5" with 9.5 pt. type.

Zondervan Updates TNIV.COM

Today, Zondervan updated with a plug for the newly released TNIV Study Bible.

As seen above, Zondervan is calling this "The most note-worthy release in history." Quite a claim, but as I said in my review a few days ago, this is a very significant release for a number of reasons.

At the website, clicking on the graphic displayed above will take you to the main Zondervan description page for the TNIV Study Bible. The product details link at has not been updated yet to reflect the addition of the TNIV Study Bible, but hopefully, this information will be added soon.

Related: My review of Zondervan's TNIV Study Bible


Ecclesiastes 7:9

“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

(Eccl 7:9, TNIV)


Review: The Zondervan TNIV Study Bible

When you pick up a copy of the TNIV Study Bible you hold in your hands an excellent inheritor to a grand legacy. This Bible, an adaptation and updating of the venerable NIV Study Bible to the Today's New International Version is essentially the fourth edition of the work (excluding adaptations to the NASB and KJV) since the initial publication in 1985. But I used the word legacy didn't I? This Bible has every bit the feel of a great tradition built upon the work of those who have gone before. Upon opening to the initial pages of the volume, you will see a tribute page to three past members of the NIV Study Bible editorial board. There is also an acknowledgments page that reprints information from the 1985, 1995 and 2002 editions of the NIV Study Bible in addition to acknowledgments for the present volume. A colophon is found in the back right before the maps details the technical credits involved in putting together the TNIV Study Bible. Everything about this Bible indicates a great sense of achievement for the final product.

In comparing my 1985 NIV Study Bible to the new TNIV Study Bible, I notice that there have been a number of improvements to the layout. Dark red squares around chapter numbers allow readers to quickly fix their eyes at the beginning of the chapters. The boxes around page numbers and reference headings at the top of the page allow the reader to find the right page much much quicker. There are A's, B's, and C's in the study notes allowing the reader to quickly identify (A) Application Notes, (B) Background Notes, and (C) Character Information.

The font for the biblical text is slightly smaller than my copy of the first edition of the NIV Study Bible, but the difference is negligible. The font for the notes is sans-serifed unlike those in the NIV Study BIble, so that makes for darker print and easier reading.The pages are thin, but I have Bibles with much thinner pages, so this really seems to be a non-issue. Unfortunately the words of Christ are in red, something I really prefer a Bible not to have but at least it's not the bright red found in Bibles a generation or two ago, so I can live with it. However, I am greatly pleased that the editors decided to go with a single-column format instead of the two columns in the original edition.

If anything, what's most important is the content in the TNIV Study Bible. In comparing this Bible with my first edition, I notice about 300 pages of more content in the new Bible, which really would have been even greater if font size had not been reduced in the biblical text. The specs on the page report 2496 pages and that sounds about right. All of the notes (over 20,000), introductions (66), charts and timelines (39), maps (49 black & white in-text and 16 pages of satellite generated full-color maps) and tables have been updated to the TNIV, one of the most accurate contemporary translations available.

There are also seven essays scattered throughout the text on the following subjects:
1. The Conquest and the Ethical Question of War
2. Wisdom Literature
3. The Book of the 12 and the Minor Prophets
4. The Time Between the Testaments
5. The Synoptic Gospels
6. The Pastoral Letters
7. The General Letters

The reader will also find features such as an extremely detailed TNIV Harmony of the Gospels and a section on major archaeological studies relating to the New Testament. The person interested in Ancient Near Eastern literature will appreciate the annotated list of Ancient Texts Relating to the Old Testament.

Plus there are an incredible FIVE ways to find content: (1) an extensive TNIV concordance, (2) A biblical subject index (because sometimes you know the subject but not how its worded in the verse), (3) an index to the study notes, (4) an index to the black & white in-text maps and (5) an an index to the color maps. I don't think I've ever seen a Bible that approached finding information in so many ways.

The Zondervan TNIV Study Bible was just released this week. Since there was not a discount yet at Amazon, I tried to be a good Christian patron, but three of our local religious bookstores did not have it in stock (and of course, one particular chain I didn't even try because I knew they wouldn't have it). Fortunately I was able to procure it at one of our local Borders Bookstores. Of course, I imagine it will be in most regular outlets over the next few days and weeks.

I emailed Zondervan a few days ago asking why they weren't promoting it front and center at (there's no mention of it as of this writing). They sent me back a very friendly reply stating that they were waiting until all editions (leather, personal size, etc.) were released over the next few weeks and then they have a pretty big campaign planed for it as they see its release as a very big deal. Since there seems to have been very little promotion for the TNIV over the last few months, I'm very glad to hear this.

I bought a hardback copy (all that is available this week) because I plan to mainly use the TNIV Study Bible at home as a reference tool. Yes, this is a big Bible (almost 2500 pages and 3.82 lbs. according to Amazon), but it packs an entire library of information in about 2" of thickness. But if you plan to carry it to church or Bible study you might want to wait for one of the personal-size editions. This assumes, of course that your eyes are better than mine! Regardless of which size you prefer, I would unconditionally recommend this Bible for any believer at any stage of spiritual development. Take it with you to church or buy it as an extra reference Bible for your study. Either way, you can't go wrong.

The launch of the NIV Study Bible in 1985 was significant because up until then, most study Bibles had revolved around one person's or one theological system's interpretation. The NIV Study Bible was a huge contribution because it delivered biblical background, exegesis and commentary from dozens of the finest scholars in the evangelical world. As I look around at the scope of study Bibles today, I still see a lot more of the same, but perhaps even more specialized toward someone's perspective or a particular theological system. That's not to say that those perspectives don't have valuable points of view to offer, but in a study Bible I prefer the checks and balances of a more diverse approach. The title across the font of the TNIV Study Bible's dust jacket reads "Today's most comprehensive study Bible." Like it's predecessor, the TNIV Study Bible stands on solid ground as being exactly that and a fine inheritor to a great tradition.

Of Related Interest:
- My Review of the TNIV Translation
- Follow-Up to My Review of the TNIV

Bible Bias: An Observed Double-Standard

Kathy and I have been in Louisiana all week visiting family. Yesterday morning, after having breakfast with an old friend, I wandered into a local independent Christian bookstore and browsed the shelves for a few minutes. Having worked in three Christian bookstores over the years, including one in my hometown where I was visiting, I'm always interested in what's new, what's selling, and what's not.

I eventually made my way over to the Bibles. Pretty standard stuff--they had lots of copies of the NIV, KJV, NLT, NASB, HCSB, the Message, a few ESVs, and a small representation of the NAB. One recent translation I noticed absent from the shelves was the Today's New International Version. More out of curiosity than anything else, I asked the more authoritative-looking person working in the store if they carried any copies of the TNIV. She said they didn't have any in stock, but could order anything I wanted. Of course, I wasn't in the market anyway, already having two copies and inquiring simply out of curiosity, so I thanked her, but said it wasn't necessary.

Then, as if to try to demonstrate some knowledge regarding the TNIV, she added that they had received a few copies of the TNIV, but in "polling" (whatever that meant), the local pastors, the TNIV proved too controversial and was viewed with negative criticism. Therefore, they opted not to carry any copies, but she reminded me that any edition could be special ordered.

I looked again at the shelves and saw stacks and stacks of the original NIV, the NLT and the Message. Exactly what in the TNIV was so controversial? Was it the fact that the TNIV is not a formal-equivalent version of the Bible? If so, neither were the majority of the Bibles on the store's shelves. Was it the use of inclusive language for humans when the context of the audience was both male and female? Then why carry the New Living Translation and the Message, both of which do the same thing? Was it because the NIV is so firmly entrenched that people are resistant to any revision--in spite of the fact, that the TNIV is only 7% different from the NIV, and most of the changes are a vast improvement in terms of translational accuracy? Not to mention the fact that the TNIV is often less dynamic in places than its predecessor.

I knew the answer, of course. It was the second option regarding the firestorm of criticism over the use of gender-inclusive--or
gender-accurate (the term preferred by the TNIV translation committee)--language. But this is such a double-standard. The NLT in both the 1996 and 2004 editions have used inclusive language, and it far outsells the TNIV. The CBA sales results for July, 2006, show the NLT as the #4 best-selling Bible version while the TNIV isn't even in the top ten:

I find it disheartening to see a good translation like the TNIV suffer from a smear-campaign of misinformation even in my hometown. Maybe that's strong sentiment, but I don't know how else to explain why the TNIV would be shunned while the NLT would be embraced, when they both contain the same supposed controversial features. Why would a store not carry the TNIV because of inclusive language, but continue to carry the New Living Translation, the Message, the Good News Bible, the New American Bible, and the New Revised Standard Version? I simply don't understand.

To that effect, I very politely said to the woman running the store that anything controversial in the TNIV is also found in the New Living Translation. She shrugged her shoulders and said, "You're right, but some people can't even let go of the King James Version yet." She's correct, of course, but as we approach the 400th anniversary of the KJV, maybe it's time for us to move on..regarding a lot of things...


Follow-Up Regarding the TNIV

There's been some good discussion in the comments regarding my post on Today's New International Version. I should have the third post in the series (covering the New American Standard Bible) before the end of the week.

In case you haven't been able to follow the comments, there have been two significant threads of discussion. First Jeremy Pierce has challenged my assertion that no major English grammars allow for the use of plural pronouns for singular antecedents. He submitted the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey Pullum. Be sure to read Jeremy's blog entry, "The Singular 'They'" and my comments.

Then, Peter Kirk challenged my suggestion that an inclusive rendering of Psalm 34:20 was a regrettable choice. I've stated on a number of occasions that although I am accepting of a translation that uses inclusive language toward human beings when the context of the passage warrants it, I would prefer that messianic prophecies in the Old Testament retain a traditional (masculine) rendering.

In the interest of presenting both sides of the discussion, I would encourage you to not only read Peter's comments, but I thought I would also repeat here the "official" rationale from the TNIV website for the rending of Psalm 34:20:

The change from "his bones" to "their bones" reflects the concern of the translators that a passage that has in view both men and women (which this passage has; its reference to "the righteous" is generic, not, as claimed, to "an individual righteous man") be "heard" by contemporary English readers to have just that meaning. The Hebrew pronoun here is masculine singular, but that is simply in accordance with how ancient Hebrew writers treated generics. The Hebrew of the OT has grammatical gender whereas English has only natural gender. That is, in Hebrew (and Greek) many words are rather arbitrarily assigned grammatical gender. For instance, Hebrew nephesh (traditionally often rendered "soul") is feminine, while Greek pneuma (often rendered "spirit") is neuter. No conclusions about a "soul" being feminine or a "spirit" being a "thing" are to be drawn. And Hebrew also uses masculine singular pronouns to refer to masculine singular generic nouns (which are usually masculine) that refer to both men and women alike—which is certainly the case here. This is seen in the fact that Psalm 34 itself moves back and forth between plural generic forms (vv. 15-16) and singular generic forms (vv. 19-21). Clearly the singular forms are as generic as the plural forms and are intended simply as an alternative way to speak of righteous persons in general (including both men and women). So, consistently with their desire to present the Bible in gender accurate language, the TNIV translators have turned the masculine singular generic pronoun of the original Hebrew here into a generic plural.

But it is alleged that this has created an inner-canonical problem, since this verse is quoted in John 19:36 as applying to Jesus—that it is "fulfilled" in Jesus' experience. However, it should be noted, first, that it is not certain that John quotes Ps. 34:20. He may be referring to the provisions for the Passover Lamb, as found in Exod. 12:46 and Num. 9:12. But even if Ps. 34:20 is being quoted, the connection between the two passages is still clear enough. That Jesus is preeminently the Righteous One, and so fulfills the description of "the (generic) righteous" of Psalm 34, experiencing with them God's care for "the righteous," should be obvious to all careful readers of the Bible. Moreover, quotations of the OT in the NT are generally not exact, so that the shift from the plural of the TNIV of Ps. 34:20 to the singular of John 19:36 should not obscure the connection. Note, for example, how NT writers occasionally change OT singular references to plurals (compare Isa. 52:7 with Rom. 10:15; Ps. 36:1 with Rom. 3:10,18; Ps. 32:1 with Rom. 4:6-7). Do such changes "obscure" the connections between the OT and NT passages? Of course not. Moreover, entirely apart from the gender issue, the shift from singular to plural in this verse is actually a gain in that it makes clearer to the reader that the reference in Ps. 34:20 is generic rather than particular, and that in John 19:36 the author of the Gospel was applying this generic statement about "the righteous" to Jesus as the supreme Righteous One.

Fair enough. I understand and appreciate the reasons why the TNIV Committee on Bible Translation made this choice. I would have merely made a more traditional choice for this verse. I well remember back in 1991, in my first semester in seminary, taking John D. W. Watts for Advanced Old Testament Intro in which he made us write exegesis papers treating OT passages in their original context with absolutely no references to the New Testament. That's a great exercise, and I usually try to do this even today as an initial step in understanding an OT passage before I look at it in the whole context of the entire canon. However, in the end, as I stated in the comments, " a believer, I read [OT] passages ... through Christological lenses. I have no problem with translators making legitimate decisions to render a passage with this understanding. To me this is in keeping with Luke 24:27, 'And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself' (TNIV)." My disagreement over this or that rendering in no way takes away from my regard, use and recommendation of the TNIV.

Finally, I came across an unusual and questionably archaic word choice in the TNIV last night:

“He brings princes to naught
  and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.”

       (Is 40:23 TNIV)

I would guess the translators use "naught" as a stylistic choice so that "nothing" is not repeated in the English, although these are two different words in the Hebrew (אַיִן and תֹּהוּ respectively). But I wonder how many TNIV readers use the word "naught" on a regular basis, and I wonder if young readers even understand the meaning of the word? This is the only occurrence of the English word "naught" in the entire TNIV. Incidentally, the original NIV and the NRSV also use "naught" in this verse.


Today's New International Version (Top Ten Bible Versions #2)

I assume most people realize that Today's New International Version (TNIV), released in complete form in 2005, is an update to the New International Version (NIV). Therefore, I'm not going to spend much time on history. Further, I realize that there's still an air of controversy surrounding the TNIV. And I also knew that when I selected it as the #2 choice in my picks of favorite that I would raise a few eyebrows in some of the circles with which I interact. The fact that there's controversy at all saddens me. Personally, I believe the TNIV to be a very good evangelical translation of the Bible, and I honestly think that any controversy is overblown. The fact that I can list the HCSB--a translation that meets the Colorado Springs Guidelines--as my #1 pick and then I can turn around and list a Bible that does not meet those guidelines as #2 demonstrates my personal belief that there is room for both of these kinds of translations, and that they can both find use and purpose in the Kingdom of God.

In light of my willingness to use the TNIV, I believe it's only fair to describe here why I would be open to the use of a gender-inclusive translation--or as the TNIV translators call it, a gender-accurate version. Further, as I was looking at Wayne Leman's TNIV links page in comparison with his HCSB links page, I was reminded how much has been written in response to this new translation of the Bible. In fact, so much has been written regarding the TNIV, it's somewhat overwhelming. Therefore, I believe this is a good time to remind readers of my blog that my purpose in this series is not to provide exhaustive analysis of any of these versions. That has been done elsewhere by others more qualified than me. This series is merely my subjective take on a small sample of the large number of Bible translations in print, specifically ones that have been meaningful to me or have been used by me in one manner or another.

Why I find value in a "gender-accurate" translation. A month or so ago, a friend of mine (you know who you are) asked my opinion regarding a potential new Bible purchase. He was especially interested in all the recent translations that have surfaced over the past few years and thought I might have some insights. We discussed the positives and negatives of a number of them, but when I brought up the TNIV, he very quickly held up his hand and said, "I'm not interested in any of that Father-, Mother-God stuff." To say that there's a huge amount of misunderstanding regarding the TNIV's use of inclusive language would be an understatement. Even more disconcerting is that my friend is seminary-trained with a Master of Divinity degree. If he's been influenced with such disinformation, what does that say for the average Bible reader?

I suppose my first experience with an inclusive language translation was the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) published in 1989. Although I bought a copy, I did not use it all that much. However, when the first edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) was released in 1996, every student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was given a copy. A number of the faculty members at SBTS (at that time) had a hand in this translation, including Daniel I. Block, Robert Stein, Gerald Borchert, and Thomas R. Schriener. I immediately read through the NLT over the next few months, and also introduced it to my wife, Kathy, who uses it to this day as her preferred translation. Looking back, the inclusive gender issue in the NLT, and the NRSV before it, was not all that controversial--at least in my experience and in my circles. However, that changed in regard to the inclusive NIV (often referred to as the NIVI) released in Britain with plans for eventual release in the United States. There was a major uproar over this. I well remember reading the World Magazine "stealth Bible" issue. I ordered an NIVI from WH Smith, which at that time was billed as the of Great Britain, paying in the end about $40 for a text copy after international shipping was applied. Although I don't remember all the particulars now, in examining the inclusive NIV, I felt that it was actually more conservative in its approach to inclusive language than the NLT had been. What was all the fuss about?

To this day, I still don't quite get what all the fuss is about. Inclusive language has not been applied to God in any of these versions. Rather, when the audience or subject of a passage includes both males and females, an attempt has been made to make sure the translation reflects that in its language. For instance, it has long been noted that a Greek word like ἀδελφοί (adelphoi), often used by Paul in his letters and traditionally translated "brothers," also included women. Even more conservative recent translations such as the English Standard Version often acknowledge this in the footnotes with the comment "Or brothers and sisters" (see notes for Rom 8:12, 1 Cor 1:10, Gal 3:15, etc. in the ESV). Of course, part of the difficulty is that our language is changing. At one time words like "brothers," "men," and even pronouns like "he" and "him" could refer to both genders, but as a culture we have begun to move away from this. And sometimes it seems very much like a common sense issue. If you have two male siblings and two female siblings and you all have dinner together, would you say, "I ate dinner with my brothers"? Of course not. Some will counter that universals such as "brothers" or "men" in the Bible should be understood as referring to both sexes if the context warrants it, but could one then make the case that such use requires that the reader must then mentally translate meaning from a text to really understand it?

To be fair, the Colorado Springs Guidelines (which were originally drawn up in response to the NIVI) allow for quite a bit of inclusive language. If the context warrants it, translators may render ἄνθρωποι (anthropoi) as "people" instead of "men," τις (tis) may become "any one" instead of "any man," and pronouns such as οὐδεὶς (oudeis) can be translated "no one" rather than "no man." Why then do masculine 3rd person pronouns have to remain so in translation if the context clearly warrants a broader meaning? Many have noted, too, that certain Latin-derivative languages such as French and Spanish don't run into this problem in their translations because they have neuter pronouns that are used in reference to persons.

Further, I don't understand why the TNIV has received so much criticism for its use of gender-inclusive language when I don't remember the same amount of criticism anchored against the NLT, the NRSV, the Message, or even the second edition of of the Good News Bible, all of which employ gender-inclusive language for humans to one degree or another. And why would a bookstore chain not carry the TNIV when it carries these other versions? In fact, my copy of the NRSV that I bought in 1990 was published by Holman Bibles. Nor do I feel that it's fair to accuse the TNIV translators of trying to emasculate the Bible. Are scholars such as Douglas Moo and Bruce Waltke (both of whom are among the TNIV translators) really trying to feminize God's Word? I seriously doubt it.

I won't deny the fact that as someone with a degree in English, I was initially resistant to the changes we are witnessing in our language. What helped me on both an academic and an ecclesiastical level was D. A. Carson's Book, The Inclusive Language Debate: A Plea for Realism. This book was written in response to the controversy over the NIVI, and although I wish Carson would update it for the TNIV, his arguments are still applicable. To familiarize myself with both sides of the argument, I've also read Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress' The TNIV and the Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy. In the end, I'm more persuaded by Carson's line of thought.

In my opinion, this is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. With endorsements of the TNIV from D. A. Carson, Douglas Moo (a translator), Darrell Bock, John Stott, Philip Yancy, Tremper Longman III, Klyne Snodgrass, Timothy George, Lee Strobel, Craig Blomberg, and a host of others, no one can make the case that embracing the TNIV is a theologically left-wing move. Nor is this a Complementarian vs. Egalitarian issue because many of the supporters of the TNIV are Complementarians. Ultimately, this is a difference in translation philosophy, primarily word-for-word translations vs. meaning- or thought-driven translations. Differences of opinion in this regard are fair enough, but accusations against the motives of those who translated or support the TNIV seem uncalled for.

I do have one main reason for finding value in the use of a "gender-accurate" translation and it came from my five years experience teaching high school students. From 2000 to 2005 I served as chaplain and Bible teacher at a private Christian prep school. Three, maybe four years ago, I was teaching a sophomore class (15-year-olds) an Old Testament survey. While studying creation, one day we read Genesis 1:27, probably in the NIV.

Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

A female student in the back of the class raised her hand and made the comment, "Mr. Mansfield, I didn't know women were made in God's image!" I stared at her incredulously.

"What?" I asked.

"I didn't know that women were made in God's image until I saw the second half of this verse. All I've ever heard is that 'MAN is made in God's image.'"

I still couldn't believe what I was hearing. Was she kidding or serious? Was she just not the sharpest tack in the box? So I asked the rest of the class, "How many of you thought only men were made in God's image?" At least a third of the class (of probably around 24 or so students) raised their hands, and most of them were young ladies.

You should also know regarding this school that in general, these were very smart kids. They always ranked in the top five schools of the county in regard to their test scores, including the public schools. I was amazed that these sharp kids wouldn't realize that when they heard "Man is made in God's image" that it referred to both males and females. Unfortunately, our language has changed. We can't take for granted anymore that everyone--especially those in younger generations--understands masculine universals. Can you imagine what it did to these young ladies' concept of self to think that their male peers were made in God's image, but they were not? Such misunderstandings are extremely disturbing to me.

And that's the issue--this is a misunderstanding based on language. We already have the task of bridging God's Word across language and culture. My greatest concern is that we can communicate the Bible clearly and effectively. It doesn't matter if personally I would tend to be a bit conservative in my use of language. It doesn't matter if my preference in Bibles is a formal equivalent version. What's important is that my audience with whom I'm trying to teach God's Word doesn't have any extra impediment to their hearing the Gospel message. They need to hear it clearly and effectively in language, words, and terms that they understand.

Why I Like the TNIV. In 1993, D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge published a great little book called Letters Along the Way. This book is a collection of fictional letters spanning over a decade's time between a seasoned Christian professor, Paul Woodson (a combination of Carson's and Woodbridge's names) and a fairly new believer, Timothy. In one of the early letters, supposedly written in December of 1978, Dr. Woodson makes a comment to Timothy regarding what then would have been a newly published New International Version:

I read through the NIV New Testament when it came out a few years ago and resolved then that I would switch to the NIV when the whole Bible became available. It still feels very strange to me, but I am convinced we must use twentieth-century language to win twentieth-century people. I do not know what Bible you are using, But I do urge you to buy a modern translation.

This statement, merely by itself would be applicable to the TNIV (and to be fair, a number of modern translations). But listen to what the real Dr. Carson has said in support of the TNIV:

The TNIV is more accurate than its remarkable predecessor, the much-loved NIV, while retaining all the readability of the latter. I am deeply impressed by the godliness, linguistic competence, cultural awareness and sheer fidelity to Scripture displayed by the translators. Thirty or forty years from now, I suspect, most evangelicals will have accepted the TNIV as a ‘standard’ translation, and will wonder what all the fuss was about in their parents’ generation--in the same way that those of us with long memories marvel at all the fuss over the abandonment of "thees" and "thous" several decades ago.

Why do I like the TNIV? I like it (and support it) because I agree with Dr. Carson that it has great potential to become a standard translation not only in this generation, but perhaps even in the one to come. I believe that it will speak to a contemporary audience just as the NIV did over the past two and a half decades.

I'll be honest: I never completely bonded with the NIV--probably from my infatuation with the New American Standard Bible for so many years (to be detailed in the next post). However, I really like the TNIV the more I read it and use it. Some have said that the changes made to it (excluding the gender-inclusive issues) have actually made it a bit more literal than the NIV, and I've wondered if perhaps this is why I've warmed to it as I have. Regardless, it is still extremely readable and as mentioned above, I believe it has the best chance of speaking to American culture in the days to come.

A number of significant changes (beyond gender issues) have been made in the TNIV distinguishing it from the NIV. David Dewey, in his book A User's Guide to Bible Translations, notes the following improvements:

There are small alterations that make the TNIV more precise and generally crisper than the NIV. Some of these remove remaining archaisms; for example, Mary is said to be "pregnant" rather than "with child"; the "sixth hour" becomes "noon"; and the vocative "O" (as in "O Lord") is omitted. Others relate to advances in scholarship and the understanding of technical expressions. So for instance, the "basic principles" of the world become "elemental spiritual forces" (Col 2:8). "Christ" often becomes "Messiah" where this functions as a title; "saints" often becomes "people of God"; and "the Jews" becomes "Jewish leaders" where this is the sense ... One survey suggests that of all the changes made, other than those relating to gender, three out of four move the TNIV toward "a more essentially literal rendering" in comparison with the NIV.

I keep stumbling upon changes made in the wording as well. Note the differences in Phil 3:8--

Philippians 3:8
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ

Besides the minor alterations ("compared" becomes "because"; "greatness" becomes "worth") note the Greek word σκύβαλον (skubalon), which carries a fairly crude meaning in the original, is updated from "rubbish" to "garbage." This is certainly more natural language. In my entire life, I don't think I've ever personally known anyone who used the word "rubbish." I don't even think it was widely used in the U.S. in the seventies when the NIV first came out. More than likely, "rubbish" was probably thought of as more suitable for a Bible translation than a word like "garbage."

The other day, I stumbled across Prov 4:23:

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Now, granted, "wellspring of life" is certainly more poetic, but how well does it communicate to a contemporary readership? The newer reading in the TNIV leaves very little to question.

Concerns regarding the TNIV. Overall, because I believe the TNIV is an improvement over the NIV, and because I believe it fulfills the purposes its translators had for it, I don't have a whole lot of issues to complain about. What bothered me in the NIV, still bothers me in the TNIV, and that is primarily its simplified language. But that has more to do with me than the version itself. I'm assuming that the TNIV, like the NIV, is on or about a seventh grade reading level (the national average). This was done on purpose and word choices are made accordingly.

The TNIV, like the NIV before it makes minor interpretive choices for the reader that I don't always care for:

Proverbs 5:7
for we walk by faith, not by sight— We live by faith, not by sight.

In the above example, there's a wonderful metaphor in the Bible in which one's life is compared to a journey. This is found throughout both testaments, and especially in Paul. There's nothing inaccurate in the TNIV to state "we live" instead of "we walk," but I've always felt something was lost in that translational/interpretational choice.

I've stated before elsewhere, that if I were a translation editor, I would be slightly more conservative than most gender-inclusive translations by leaving messianic prophecies referring to Jesus in their traditional form. Note for example Psalm 34:20, which is quoted in John 19:36:

he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. (Psalm 34:20) he protects all their bones,
not one of them will be broken. (Psalm 34:20)
These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” (John 19:36) These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” (John 19:36)

The use of inclusive language blurs the prophetic nature of the passage. In my opinion, the choice to alter a verse like this is a distraction and brings unnecessary criticism to the TNIV. I've heard the opposing viewpoint--that an Old Testament passage needs to be treated in its own context, and I respect that. But I also read the OT as a Christian, and it's exactly these kinds of verses that root Christ throughout the Scriptures. I'm also aware that many quotations are slightly different anyway because most often the NT writers tend to quote the Septuagint instead of the Hebrew Scriptures; but again, I would leave such passages alone if I were running the committee.

From a grammatical standpoint, one of the most controversial aspects of the TNIV's implementation of inclusive language is the use of plural pronouns for singular antecedents. This is in keeping with the way we informally speak, but technically it's a grammatical error. Let me demonstrate with Rev 3:20 by using the original NIV, an early inclusive attempt in the NRSV, and then the TNIV:

Revelation 3:20
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me.

What you'll notice in the original NIV is that "him" and "he" are both singular pronouns for the singular antecedent "anyone." The NRSV in its attempt to be inclusive of males and females, changes from third person to second person with the use of "you." One could ask if a certain amount of meaning is lost in the NRSV by changing "anyone" to "you." Typical of the TNIV solution to this dilemma, the third person is retained, but note that "them" and "they" are plural and do not agree in person with the singular antecedent, "anyone."

Now, if it took you a minute to catch this, it's because we tend to naturally talk this way. Most of the time, we often avoid specifying a masculine pronoun in our speech when referring to an inclusive antecedent. However, by all modern English grammars with which I'm familiar, this is still incorrect English. I actually even used this as a teaching tool in a writing class recently.

And yet, having said all that, I'm aware--as I've said earlier--that our language is changing. It won't surprise me if in a decade or so major grammar guides begin to allow this mixing of person. Like I said--we already do it in informal speech. Yet it was still a bit shocking for someone like me who has taught writing on and off for a decade when I first saw it. And I've told my students that until I see such usage accepted in a grammar book, I'll still mark it off on their papers!

In regard to marketing, the TNIV came out with a pretty strong push, albeit much was defensive in nature due to the controversy; however, much now has died off. There is a TNIV blog, like the ESV blog, but it has not been updated since last December. In February, I left a comment at the TNIV website asking if there would be future blog entries. An unnamed person responded by saying there hadn't been anything new recently to add to the blog, but there would be forthcoming product announcements in the upcoming weeks. However, as of this writing, nothing new has materialized. I can't imagine that there's nothing to blog about in regard to the TNIV. Like I said of the HCSB, they could learn a lesson from the ESV Blog in this matter. They could put ME in charge of their blog, and I could give them three or four TNIV related entries a week!

The other complaint I've had about TNIV marketing is the lack of Bible covers that don't look like they were designed for a teenager. Although I finally found one, it's difficult to find a simple one-color leather Bible currently in the TNIV. However, there are some very nice leather editions available from Cambridge Bibles in the U.K. Unfortunately these will not be sold by Cambridge in the U.S. (I inquired) because of agreements with Zondervan. There are also currently no major study Bibles available in the TNIV, although the TNIV version of the classic NIV Study Bible is set to be released this Fall.

Finally, the greatest hindrance to the acceptance of the TNIV may not be the controversy over gender-accuracy; nor is it competition from other new translations of the Bible such as the ESV or HCSB. Instead, it's the NIV itself. Personally, I believe that the International Bible Society made a mistake when they promised to keep selling the NIV as long as there was a demand for it. I know that there was pressure from those opposed to the TNIV for the IBS and Zondervan to make this move. However, I would guess that the real factor is monetary. Anytime one looks at the current sales rankings for Bibles, the New International Version is still at the top. That's not near the top, but the very top. The NIV has become the new KJV.

IBS & Zondervan could learn a thing or two from Tyndale Press. When they released the New Living Translation, they moved quickly to phase out the original Living Bible. In fact, as far as I know, the only copy of the Living Bible still in print is the old standard green hardback. Zondervan should do the same thing and keep only a text edition or two of the NIV in print. I'm sure it was very costly for Tyndale to discontinue it's Life Application Bible with the Living Bible text as this had been a huge seller. However, such moves were necessary to move onto a better text. Realistically, though, I don't expect Zondervan to make such a move. The NIV so far outsells other translations, the immediate loss of revenue would be great, even if it was helpful in the long run for gaining acceptance of the TNIV.

How I use the TNIV. I've been using the TNIV with groups that tend to be in settings outside of church. In a Bible study at church, I might have 45 minutes to walk a group through twenty verses, but I don't always have that luxury in other settings. When using the Bible devotionally such as with my night classes that I teach at IWU, I find that the TNIV makes a natural choice. I also used it when I spoke before graduating high school seniors a couple of weeks ago.

What edition of the TNIV I primarily use. I finally found a one-color leather edition of the TNIV. I'm using a TNIV Thinline XL (Larger Print Edition, ISBN: 031093494X). It's black, bonded leather with silver trim. It's not perfect, but it feels good in the hand and has a readable typeface. Like all thinlines, text on other pages can be seen too easily through the paper.

For further reading (links to a variety of opinions regarding the TNIV may be found below):
Wikipedia Article on the TNIV
TNIV Website
About the TNIV
TNIV Endorsements
• Wayne Leman's TNIV Links Page
Better Bibles Blog TNIV Page (again, note especially the comments)
Bible Researcher TNIV Page
CBMW TNIV Resource Center

Follow-Up Regarding the TNIV (Added 6/7/06)

Redacted June 3, 12 PM.
Proofed June 4, 6 PM.

Of Related Interest:
- Follow-Up Regarding the TNIV
- My Review of Zondervan's TNIV Study Bible