first impressions of the 2011 niv

The new revision of the NIV translation is now available online at Bible Gateway, and this has prompted some discussion. Facilitating discussion are a couple of sites listing differences between the various revisions of the NIV.

For first impressions it is most obvious to begin with the beginning — Genesis 1. The 2011 NIV follows the tNIV more closely than it does the original NIV, differing from tNIV primarily in its use of gendered language (preferring, for example, “mankind” over “human beings”). In most other respects the 2011 NIV is superior to the original NIV in Genesis 1: “vault” is better than “expanse” for the Hebrew רקיע, and the purposeful “so that” in 1:26 is better than the old NIV’s simple “and.”

If the changes in gendered language in the 2011 NIV satisfy those who vehemently opposed the tNIV for its attempt to employ more gender neutral language, the if the remainder of the text reflects similar improvements over the original NIV as those reflected in Genesis 1, the new translation should be a good upgrade.

Of course a single chapter comparison does not make a comprehensive assessment, and I’m already aware that the 2011 NIV preserves the tNIV’s poor translation of Eccl 11:1 (h/t John Hobbins). On that verse I may make a further comment in the coming days.

Of course for every bad choice there are also good ones. One immense improvement over the older NIVs as well as most other English translations is Mal 2:16. The older NIV presented the fairly standard:

“I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

The 2011 NIV has:

“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.

Why is this better? See my discussion in “Syncretism and Divorce in Malachi 2:10–16,” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 111/1 (1999) 68–86.

3 thoughts on “first impressions of the 2011 niv

  1. Hello Martin, I just skimmed your article, I wonder if you could comment on this suggestion. It seems to me that in your exposition of Mal 2:13-16 you suggest that the message was probably aimed at those Hebrew men who were divorcing their wives because of hatred, which was not an adequate cause for divorce. If this is so, would not a better translation of the above start “The man who hates and therefore divorces his wife…” or “The man who divorces his wife because of hatred…”?

  2. Hi Mark. The rendering in the 2011 NIV is quite literal, perhaps overly so, and so I think the sense is better conveyed by the translations you’ve suggested. I note that the ESV has adopted a less literal but perhaps more meaningful translation of the verse: “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her…” — although “does not love” for ‏שנא ‘hate’ does sound a little lame.

    Nonetheless, it is good to see these new translations breaking with tradition when the tradition is bad!

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