Pageviews last month

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The TNIV and Evil Sight

The Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) of the International Bible Society (IBS) came out with the New International Version (NIV--NT only) in 1973. By 1978 the whole Bible was published in a new edition, and revised again in 1984. Subsequent to that, the CBT tested the waters with the NIrV and the gender-neutral NIV before declaring that all future revisions would be confined to a "new translation," to be called the TNIV, and that the 1984 NIV would stay in print unrevised as long as there was a market for it. Rupert Murdoch's Harper-Collins publishing house retains retail distribution rights in the US to all English Bibles translated by the CBT. Meanwhile, IBS translations have been done in Spanish and Portuguese under the NVI brand name.

What provoked my earlier run of posts on the TNIV was the CBT's claim that it was translated into more accurate English than had been the NIV (and, of course, the KJV). The pinnacle of this claim was its use of gender-neutral inclusive language. I have shown this claim to be a farce. Language in the TNIV is not neutral, but neutered.

What has provoked this recent run of posts on the TNIV is the CBT's claim to express the Word of God in the language of today's young person--one who supposedly cannot understand the now-archaic language of earlier versions. I have shown this claim to be a joke as far as the Old Testament portions of the TNIV are concerned. Other than the global change from generic masculine to inclusive language, the NIV was left pretty much untouched, archaic language and all.

A prime example has come to view, which is the extremely archaic phrase, "evil in his sight." This idiom is an excellent example of the sort of archaic ecclesiastical language that the NIV itself was to have long since put to rest. But look where it pops up, unchanged, in the TNIV (only relevant portions of the following verses are shown):

Numbers 32:13
The LORD's anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.

Deuteronomy 9:18
Then once again I fell prostrate before the LORD for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the LORD's sight and so arousing his anger.

Deuteronomy 31:29
"In days to come, disaster will fall on you because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD and arouse his anger by what your hands have made."

1 Chronicles 21:7
This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.

Nehemiah 9:28
"But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight."

Psalm 51:4
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.

Isaiah 65:12
"You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me."

Isaiah 66:4
"They did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me."

Jeremiah 18:10
and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

Jeremiah 32:30
"The people of Israel and Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth," declares the LORD.

In most of the OT passages where some form of this idiom is found, the NIV had "evil in his eyes," which the TNIV left unchanged. The one is even more archaic than the other, being found in Wycliffe's editions of the 14th century. But what is fascinating about this is that the NIV and TNIV tend to have "eyes" where the KJV has "eyes," and "sight" where it has "sight." This despite assurances from the CBT that the NIV was a completely new translation, not a revision of the KJV--and that the TNIV gives a dynamic meaning to the text, not a literal equivalent--the Hebrew word being the same in either case!

It is becoming clear that today's Bible translators don't like to go to all the work of coming up with a new translation of the entire Hebrew/Aramaic Old Testament, and prefer to confine their creative energies to the Greek of the New. Thus the TNIV pretty much follows the NIV, which pretty much follows the KJV, whose partial switch to "sight" from "eyes" can be traced back to the Geneva Bible-- a switch, never brought to completion in the TNIV, from the usage of the Coverdale Bible, which in much of the OT portion, like Wycliffe's editions, was based on the Vulgate of Jerome.

Here we are reminded of that immortal poem by Sam Walter Foss:

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.

Since then three hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day,
By a lone dog that passed that way.
And then a wise bell-wether sheep,
Pursued the trail o'er vale and steep;

And drew the flock behind him too,
As good bell-wethers always do.
And from that day, o'er hill and glade.
Through those old woods a path was made.

And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about;
And uttered words of righteous wrath,
Because 'twas such a crooked path.

But still they followed - do not laugh -
The first migrations of that calf.
And through this winding wood-way stalked,
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
that bent, and turned, and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load,

Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half,
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street;
And this, before men were aware,
A city's crowded thoroughfare;

And soon the central street was this,
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half,
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout*,
Followed the zigzag calf about;
And o'er his crooked journey went,
The traffic of a continent.

A hundred thousand men were led,
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent,
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind,
Along the calf-paths of the mind;
And work away from sun to sun,
To do what other men have done.

They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move.
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!

Ah! many things this tale might teach -
But I am not ordained to preach.

*Archaic: a company or band of people; horde


  1. I have shown this claim to be a joke as far as the Old Testament portions of the TNIV are concerned.You must have missed the entire book of Proverbs then when you showed that. The translation of Proverbs is actually significantly closer to that commentary translation of Bruce Waltke (NICOT; 2004 & 2005), than it is to the NIV. If you compare the NIV & the TNIV in Proverbs, you'll see that the TNIV is 15.4% different.

    Other books?

    7.4% for Psalms
    8.5% for Ecclesiastes
    7.9% for Leviticus
    8.0% for Jonah
    10.3 for Zephaniah

    Not bad. And they're good changes too. I've check'em all in the OT.

  2. Fair enough, Mike. Amend that to read:

    I have shown this claim to be a joke as far as certain Old Testament portions of the TNIV are concerned.


One comment per viewer, please--unless participating in a dialogue.