Step 5: More from The Preface

Picture of More from The Preface

The NIV was produced by committees of competent translators from various backgrounds so that the final product would not seem to favor the doctrinal formulations of any particular Christian denomination.

Also, the translation work was checked again and again by different committees. The Preface states, "The translation of each book was assigned to a team of scholars. Next, one of the Intermediate Editorial Committees revised the initial translation, with constant reference to the Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. Their work then went on to one of the General Editorial committees, which checked it in detail and made another thorough version. This revision in turn was carefully reviewed by the Committee on Bible Translation, which made further changes and then released the final version for publication. In this way the entire Bible underwent three revisions, during each of which the translation was examined for its faithfulness to the original languages and for its English style." There were multiple reviews of each part of the text for both faithfulness to the original texts and for good English usage.

Although there have sometimes been gifted people who worked virtually alone to produce good Bible translations, in general I would advise shoppers to look for a Bible translation based on the best available original language texts and done by a group of people who cross check one another in order to protect the final product from each other's unconscious biases. Further, the text should be in good contemporary English so its expression flows in a clear and natural way.

I mentioned the NIV as an example in discussing the benefits of reading The Preface. That does not mean I am suggesting the NIV meets everyone's needs or is the best modern English translation. There are things I personally like about the NIV, but there are also things I do not like about it. Winston Churchill humorously said a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with. The NIV frequently ends sentences with prepositions. I was always taught that is poor English usage and I try to avoid it when I speak or write. I expect placing prepositions at the ends of sentences is a concession the editors made to what has been happening throughout contemporary society during recent decades, despite rules of proper grammar. Also on my "do not like list," sometimes the editors of the NIV made the decision to paraphrase technical words to make the meaning clear. That helps the modern reader understand concepts better, but leaves the reader without clues that two passages are related because both use the same word with a rather precise technical meaning.* Still, I have a copy of the NIV and do make use of it.

There is still more in The Preface. For example, it will tell you why you sometimes see LORD and sometimes Lord. The distinction is very important, especially at Psalm 110:1.

*In 1 John 2:1-2 the NIV translates the Greek word hilastarion as "the sin offering for the whole world." The English Standard Version uses the word 'propitiation' to translate the word. The word 'propitiation' is almost never used in contemporary English speech or writing. It refers to the forgiving character of God through an atoning sacrifice. Its contextual usage in the rest of the Bible refers to the sacrifice the high priest offered for the sins of the people on the Old Testament Day of Atonement. Certainly, "the sin offering for the whole world" is easier to grasp for the contemporary reader. The same Greek word appears in Romans 3:25 where the NIV translates it as "sacrifice of atonement." Both of these renderings present an accurate meaning, but the reader would not have sufficient clues that the same Greek word is translated in both passages.