Almost a year ago I posted an open letter to the NIV translation committee highlighting some suggestions that would improve the NIV. I haven’t looked at it in detail but as I looked over the updated NIV that was made available online today I was disappointed to see that *none* of my suggestions were adopted. Here’s the scorecard:
Suggestion: “Eliminate erroneously tendentious translations…For instance, in Genesis 2:19 the NIV translates a very obvious narrative preterite (wayyiqtol) as a pluperfect to seemingly obscure the fact that the orders of creation between Gen 1 and 2 are different. I do not know of another instance in which the NIV translates a narrative preterite in this way and there is no ancient translation that I know of that the NIV translators drew from to lend support to this interpretation (the LXX translates this as kai + aorist clearly reading a narrative preterite).
Result: Keep the erroneously tendentious translation, “Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky.”
Suggestion: “Don’t avoid figurative interpretations and loose translation of idioms. There is no reason to interpret verses like Jonah 3:3 literally and invent an entire “city-visit” scheme to explain the “three-day walk” idiom.”
Result: Keep: “Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.” The TNIV abandoned Wiseman’s city-visit scheme which is good, I wish though that they didn’t add the “to go through it.” If they are going to idiomatically render this verse–which they did for the phrase “Now Nineveh was a very large city” (the Hebrew actually reads, “Now Nineveh was a city big to god/the divine realm”) then they should go all the way and just say: ”Now Nineveh was a very large city–it was huge!” Why idiomatically render the first half of a sentence and then literalisticaly translate the idiom in the second half?
Suggestion: “Fix inconsistent translations. It is very odd that the NIV translates the phrase, eshet hayil, as “a woman of noble character” in Ruth 3:11 and “wife of noble character” in Prov 12:4 & 31:10…Eshet hayil would be better translated something along the lines of “industrious or entrepreneurial woman” as this construction clearly means from the context of Ruth and Proverbs 31.”
Result: Keep the flagrantly inconsistent and theologically deficient (I have a forthcoming article on the theologically deficient facet) in Ruth 3:11 “a woman of noble character.”
Suggestion: “Don’t sanitize biblical language. There is a good bit of “earthy” language in the Old Testament and an accurate translation should represent this instead of suppressing it. For instance, the NIV translates the words of an Assyrian military commander in Isaiah 36:12b as “to eat their own filth and drink their own urine.” It seems to me that the words har’ehem and shenehem translated as “their excrement” and “their urine” are stronger than this since the Masoretes presumably deemed them not polite enough to pronounce in synagogue and they left a note in the margin of this verse to instead say “their elimination” and “the water from their feet.”
Result: Keep on sanitizing biblical language by keeping the euphemisms in place.
Conclusion: So, I am pretty disappointed with this new release. I didn’t expect that the translators would drop everything and hang on to my every blog post, but I did expect that they would do their job and competently fix and update a Bible translation. Now, I haven’t looked at other passages besides these, but the reason why I pointed out these passages a year ago was because they illustrate underlying ideological and methodological flaws in the NIV translation committee’s perspective, understanding of the Hebrew language, transmission history of the text, and historical and cultural background. These flaws are not particular to the NIV, they are common to most of the other translations as well. However, I thought that maybe with this update some of these would be mitigated but literalistic ideological idiosyncrasies and/or commercial interests won the day.
Let’s hope for a better outcome for the CEB Old Testament translation. With the translators that are involved with the project I am optimistic.