We won’t be able to offer a complete review of the © 2010 NIV here at IL, but as we are able, we’ll critique it little by little.
As I was doing some sermon work for Advent 4 (John 1:19-28 - Historic Lectionary), I noticed a subtle change in wording in the new NIV.
- John 1:19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.
- John 1:19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leadersa in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.
The same change had been made in the widely rejected Today’s New International Version (© 2005), but the 2010 version adds the following footnote that was not in the 2005 version:
- a John 1:19: The Greek term traditionally translated the Jews (hoi Ioudaioi) refers here and elsewhere in John’s Gospel to those Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus; also in 5:10, 15, 16; 7:1, 11, 13; 9:22; 18:14, 28, 36; 19:7, 12, 31, 38; 20:19.
The phrase “the Jews” (hoi Ioudaioi) occurs 59 times in the Gospel of John and 48 times in the Book of Acts. The 2010 NIV alters this simple phrase 30/59 times in John and 20/48 times in the Book of Acts.
Whenever “the Jews” are spoken of kindly or in a neutral way, the phrase “the Jews” is left alone.
Whenever “the Jews” are persecuting Jesus or his disciples, the phrase is altered or qualified. “The Jews there” (Jn. 6:41). “They” (Jn. 8:52). “The Jews who were there gathered around him” (Jn. 10:24). “His Jewish opponents” (Jn. 10:31). “The Jews gathered there” (Jn. 19:4). “The Jewish leaders insisted” (Jn. 19:7). “Other Jews” (Acts 17:5). “Some of them” (Acts 17:13).
There is also a subtle change in translation in Matthew 27:25:
- All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”
- All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
Since the Greek has no verb here, one must be supplied. The KJV, NKJV, ESV, NIV 1984, NASB, and Luther 1545 all translate with a form of the subjunctive: “Let it be…”
The change to “is” is, again, a subtle change, and we would have no argument against it as an isolated grammatical decision, since we don’t believe that the Jews gathered there on Good Friday invoked some sort of divinely inspired perpetual curse on all those of Jewish descent in the future. This verse has been misused by some as a twisted sort of approbation of the mistreatment of Jews over the centuries.
But when viewed in the light of all the other changes in language in the NIV 2010, this change seems to indicate a hypersensitivity to the perceived anti-Semitic nature of this verse. “His blood is on us and on our children!” keeps any perceived curse in the present tense, that is, to those Jews gathered there on that day and their immediate children.
The problem with all these changes is that none of them is called for grammatically. In many cases, the plain Word of God is being added to or changed, not for the sake of good English grammar, but for the sake of political correctness. This is unacceptable.
We all know there is no perfect translation of Holy Scripture. And we may not all agree that the NIV is the best translation for use in our churches. The updated translation is providing our synod with a wonderful opportunity to evaluate other translations, and to move in a different direction if the new translation fails the test.
I hope the translation committee takes the anti-Semitic hypersensitivity into account as they carry out their critical evaluation. We’ll continue our critique as issues are identified.