Here lies The New International Version 1984. Beloved translation to a generation that sought after God.
Who did it?
The NIV 1984 Bible is all but gone. I don’t know if it’s a homicide or suicide. I don’t know if I should phrase that it started falling ill in 2010 and now died at the end of 2012. I don’t know if we intentionally or unintentionally let the enemy change an integral translation that fed the souls of many for 28 years. Its traces can still be seen on biblegateway.com and in popular mobile Bible applications such as Lifechurch.tv’s Youversion. You can also snag one from Christianbook.com’s NIV 1984 Closeout sale. But it’s all but gone from giant online retailers like Amazon.com and when I visited my local brick and mortar Christian book store last week they told me that NIV’s United States publisher, Zondervan, ordered them to turn in all 1984 versions in exchange for 2011 equivalents. As one of my beloved translations of the Protestant’s Bible I will miss it.
The debate on Bible translations
According to my Rose Publishing Bible translations pamphlet there are at least 20 popular English translations of the Bible. They all have different manuscript textual sources and historical motives for translation. A combination of Bible Study (2 Tim 3:16-17) and the Holy Spirit’s guidance (Luke 24:45) is the key to leveraging the Word in the way that God intended. If the factors of Bible Study and the Holy Spirit weigh significantly, then how much weight should be given to a specific translation and if an observation is made that a new generation isn’t leveraging the Bible as they should then is the weakness due to current translations? My answer is that we have to analyze the motives and the differences produced from a new translation. There are genuine linguistic reasons to always ensure that the Bible is clearly understood. After all Christianity doesn’t hold the divinity of The Word to a particular language as Islam does to Arabic and the Quran and Judaism does to Hebrew and the Hebrew Bible. The King James Version was written hundreds of years ago in early modern English which is no longer spoken. Also, translations will always differ as long as their manuscript textual basis differs. The King James Version’s OT was written with certain available Masorectic Texts. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were found they became factors in subsequent translations such as the Revised Standard Version and New Living Translations. In short I understand why we can justify new translations when new manuscripts are found and the English language changes. But we haven’t experienced a significant linguistic shift since 1984 and I haven’t heard any news about concrete critical archaeological manuscript findings. And I’d like Bible scholars out there to comment on revelatory and meaningful recent discoveries in hermeneutics and exegetical approaches that merited application to the NIV1984. Yet the NIV 2011 translation team states this:
“The changes we have made in the update maintain and strengthen this focus, reflecting progress in biblical scholarship, developments in English usage, and an ongoing concern for clarity.” – Source here
The resulting NIV 2011, among other things, has obvious questionable gender pronoun changes. The Unlocking Femininity Blog eloquently addresses this in the old but rich post from 2011: Words Matter: Why We Can’t Recommend the NIV 2011.
Where do we go from here
I was alarmed when I first heard the buzz around the new translation two years ago. Perhaps I just thought that Zondervan would always allow purchase of the 1984 version. I don’t know. For me it’s more evidence of the time that we’re in. The Bible has to be written on our hearts (Jer 31:33) and we must pray fervent prayers that we will fulfill the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) with the integral translations that we have now.