NIV 2011

A graduate student recently asked me for an opinion on the recent revision of the New International Version of the Bible. I didn’t have much to tell him, but here’s what I said in case others are interested:

I don’t know NIV 2011 as well I probably will after a while, but on the whole I like it. It appears to back away slightly from the dynamic-equivalence approach of NIV 1984, especially in the controversial translation of σάρξ as “sinful (human) nature.” In general it leaves more for the reader to decide, and that’s good.

As for inclusive language, NIV 2011, TNIV, and NRSV all do the same thing in general: inclusive language for people, non-inclusive for God, and that’s good too. But in particular NIV 2011 does something better than NRSV (and TNIV?) when they keep singulars singular. I mean this: to take a Greek original like, “Every man who . . . ” and pluralize it as “All who . . . ” destroys the individual focus of the original.

NIV 2011 avoids pluralizing in those cases by reverting to the “singular they.” Recent research shows that expressions like “Everyone who does this will save their life” did not arise recently out of a concern for inclusive language. Instead, they have shown up in English for hundreds of years, replaced only fairly recently by the pedantic “Everyone who . . . his . . . .” I too am a recent convert to the singular they, and it solves a lot of problems.

On the whole, then, NIV 2011 looks good to me. More info appears here.

UPDATE: Even the King James Bible uses the singular they, twice that I know of:

  • “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:35, emphasis added).
  • “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3, emphasis added).

Hey, it’s in the Bible! The Authorized Version at that!

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5 Responses to “NIV 2011”

  1. Rick Walston Says:

    Interesting comments, Carl. I just had a discussion this week about the “singular they” with two English teachers here. I raised the issue because I see so much misuse in student papers. I have steadfastly held to the older grammatical style, but see the benefit in loosening that for certain situations, which you have correctly identified. I didn’t realize the plural is not a new construction, but is actually a part of the history of the language.

  2. cbridges6159 Says:

    The older use of plural they was new to me also, Rick. Many examples, going back to the 14th century, appear here: http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/linghebr/sgtheirl.html.

  3. Marco W. Says:

    Thank you Dr. Bridges. It’s good to know there’s a new translation out there worth looking into. You wouldn’t happen to have a favorite German translation, would you? 😉

  4. cbridges6159 Says:

    Ha! I just signed up for your newsletter. Say hi to Amy for me.

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