A guest post on Biblegateway from Biblica CEO, Carl Moeller.
We’re living in a time when words are cheap.
From the moment we wake up, all through our days, until we fall into bed, we’re bombarded by opinions, ideas, information, and advertising. While this makes it easier than ever to be informed and engaged in the world, it makes it much harder to sift out the good from the bad, and to spend our time in the Truth.
And what happens when that great Truth–the Bible–comes under attack? Many people have a lot of devious reasons to attack the Bible; usually in an attempt to undercut our faith. When we’re surrounded by “miracle cures” and “conspiracy theories” every day, it’s easier for seeds of doubt to take root–even about our most sacred text. But we must be very cautious about helping to circulate myths in social media, or elsewhere.
The best remedy for the virus of media myth is to be informed. The lamp and light of our faith is rock solid. In fact, this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the commissioning of the NIV Bible. That’s when 15 evangelical scholars–called the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT)–began pouring over the best Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic manuscripts available to translate the Bible into modern English.
People often ask me why we need a “modern translation” at all? First, every English Bible relies on translation. If all we had to read the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts, we would be in trouble. We rely on scholars to help us make sense or these original texts, so that God can speak into our lives.
I believe strongly in the NIV Bible. I believe in the scholarship that produced and continues to steward the NIV. The original scholars who translated this work were truly giants, in both spiritual commitment and intellectual knowledge. The scholars who continually monitor and refine the text extend this legacy by devoting their tremendous expertise and care to its stewardship.
As CEO of Biblica, the ministry that first sponsored the NIV and continues to translate and distribute the NIV around the world, I can say we take the ongoing translation process very seriously. The very reason Biblica exists is to profess and share the authority and trustworthiness of God’s Word with the world.
There are many biblical translations and paraphrases that serve different purposes. For me, these four attributes sum up the NIV and secure its central place in our scripture reading: it’s accurate, clear, beautiful, and trustworthy.
Accuracy is the bedrock of the translation effort. Its authority is based on its scholarly, intentional approach. From the beginning, the translators have been committed to getting the words right. That means being rigorous in determining the meaning of the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic Bible texts, while at the same time rendering the Bible’s original meaning in natural, everyday English.
Accuracy is also ensured by the Committee’s choices about what to include, and making updates based on source materials. While this can cause confusion at a surface level (because chapter or verse numbers may change), the process is actually positive. Like all good Bible translations, the NIV omits statements that were added later and were not part of the original texts. Since the era of the KJV, we now have hundreds of earlier and more reliable manuscripts. Most modern translations use these manuscripts, as well as detailed footnotes to elaborate on any changes. It’s worth noting that the original books of the Bible had no chapter or verse divisions. These were added later. So, as information is clarified or updated, that numbering system might change. But that reflects an improvement in accuracy, not manipulation of the text.
The message of the NIV comes through in clear terms. Experts in language will tell you that direct, word-for-word translation is completely nonsensical. We make adjustments whenever we speak a second language, when English idioms and structures don’t make sense. Choosing language that conveys the clear meaning of a biblical text requires a deep understanding of source languages, as well as current vernacular. The CBT meets for a week every year to ensure the NIV reflects the latest biblical scholarship and any necessary changes in the English language. Those changes are reflected in periodic updates to the translations, such as occurred in 2011.
The language of the NIV balances beauty and clarity. While the King James Version is deeply poetic, the NIV strives to convey the deep beauty of God’s message in an accessible way. This is not merely aesthetics. As the translation committee reviews and affirms the text, they ensure the precision of the language. Precision is the essence of beauty. NIV renders clearly and succinctly very difficult passages. Getting to the central meaning of the text is truly beautiful.
The NIV is trustworthy. As I mentioned before, the NIV was conceived and translated by a group of scholars who are committed Christians and believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. Biblica is privileged to serve as the worldwide publisher and copyright holder. We take this stewardship very seriously. We exist to bring God’s word to people around the world–not to sell books or to make a profit. We carefully choose licensing partners–such as Zondervan, Bible Gateway, and Hodder Faith–to help us get Bibles to people around the world. But, the Committee on Bible Translation is the only entity that can influence the text. This yields a unique level of integrity for the text itself, as there are no outside influences.
While I’m a huge fan of the poetic beauty of the King James Version, it simply doesn’t connect with many readers–especially new Christians. Many concepts are presented in language that only Christian “insiders” would understand. So, while it’s one of many translations I use, I firmly believe that most Christians benefit from more accessible language.
And, language is constantly changing. For example, we understand “suffer the little children” as Jesus’ beautiful invitation for all children to have full access to him. People without a church background might be confused that Jesus who would want children to “suffer.” Phrases like this simply don’t carry the same meaning as they did hundreds of years ago. We are proud to give these timeless truths a fresh voice–without sacrificing an ounce of truth.
So, as you see and hear critiques, questions, and even rumors about the NIV, we invite you to dig deeper into its rich history at www.biblica.com/en-us/the-niv-bible. Our mission is to give everyone access to this “ancient book” and its life-giving message that never changes. We offer people Bibles that connect with their hearts and help them know Jesus better. We believe the Bible has the most valuable message of all time and we are grateful for the privilege to share it with the world.