Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Fresh Appreciation of the NIV

With the replacement of the NIV with the ESV in our congregation, due to some statements by a Mr Mansfield in response to my thoughts on translation, and reading the NKJV with my son, I have been looking afresh at the NIV compared to the other best translations. I think over the recent years, being an ex-NIV reader who was struck by the defects of the translation, I have been focusing too much on these defects.

I am disappointed by the way that some idioms are translated in such a way as to lose the force of the original. On the other hand, I think there is much to be said for Mr Mansfield's comment that, "Both the NASB and the ESV [Tim: and the NKJV] are weighed down by the anachronisms of the Tyndale/KJV tradition" The advantage of the NIV is that it rightly makes dynamic equivalents for certain turns of phrase that are unnecessarily awkward if translated literally. In these cases there is no value in translating the idiom literally, e.g. what is lost by translating "the beasts of the field" as "wild animals"? In quite a few instances I prefer the translations that the NIV has made over the other versions. More so than I expected, because it has been a while since I've looked at it much.

There are other advantages that I have noted in the past: a few instances where the NIV gives a literal translation of the original, e.g. "God-breathed" in 2 Tim. 3:16 (which I'm glad to see that the ESV has absorbed); and the superior readability to the other translations, while still being generally accurate (although some have disagreed with me on this, including my wife, and I can see what they mean that the breaking-up of sentences in Paul's letters can be distracting).

The NIV, although being more dynamic at times than is helpful, is not to be compared at all with the Good News Version (which, if I remember correctly, was never intended for adults with English as a first language).

Nevertheless, although I have a greater appreciation of the NIV, it is more for its readability than anything else. It is a pity that in some instances the formal equivalence translations didn't ease off the literalness in some areas where they could without losing meaning. However, the readability doesn't make up for the information contained in the originals that is lost in the NIV. As my pastor said when addressing the question of the NIV vs. the ESV, the NIV may be more readable than the ESV, but the ESV is more accurate and accuracy is more important than readability.

I guess there's no such thing as a perfect translation...




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