Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The LORD (no longer) Our Righteousness in NIV 2011

I just stumbled across this passage today in the NIV 2011, since we've now entered the Advent season and are considering these Old Testament prophecies of the coming Christ.

Whether you grew up with the KJV or the NIV (1984), you always knew the name by which the coming Christ would be called: "The LORD Our Righteousness" (Jer. 23:6 KJV, NIV).

Not anymore.

Jeremiah 23:6 in the NIV 1984:
    In his days Judah will be saved
    and Israel will live in safety.
    This is the name by which he will be called:
    The LORD Our Righteousness.
Jeremiah 23:6 in the NIV 2011:
    In his days Judah will be saved
    and Israel will live in safety.
    This is the name by which he will be called:
    The LORD Our Righteous Savior.
I can find no textual reason in the Hebrew (or any of its variants) for changing "Our Righteousness" to "Our Righteous Savior." Here are various English translations of this phrase:

    NIV84: The LORD Our Righteousness.


    ESV: The LORD is our righteousness.

    HCSB: Yahweh Our Righteousness.

    NASB: The LORD our righteousness.

    NLT: The LORD Is Our Righteousness.

    GOD's WORD Translation: The LORD Our Righteousness.

    Vulgate: The Lord our righteous one. (Dominus iustus noster)

    Luther: The LORD, who is our Righteousness. (HERR, der unsre Gerechtigkeit ist)

But once again, boldly going where no man (oops, I mean "no one") has gone before...

    NIV 2011: The LORD Our Righteous Savior

Any confessional Lutheran will quickly see the connection between this name for Christ and the doctrine of justification. Christ, the God-Man who was born under Law (Gal. 4:4 NKJV) and fulfilled all righteousness in our place (Matt. 3:15 NKJV), has become for us "wisdom from God — and righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30 NKJV). Christ is our righteousness before God, and his righteousness is that which is imputed to the one who has faith in Christ (Rom. 4:23-24 NKJV).

But this foundational teaching of Scripture is obscured beyond recognition by the NIV 2011's rendering of Jeremiah 23:6. Worse than that, it is completely removed from the verse.

Someone will argue, "But no false doctrine is being taught in the new NIV's translation!" Really? Is it not a false teaching to remove the true teaching of a divinely inspired verse of Scripture?

WELS, is this really the Bible translation you want to recommend to the saints? (Oops, can't say "saints" anymore in the NIV11. I mean, to "God's people"?)


Joe Krohn said...

Nice work, Pastor Rydecki. This is troublesome. I hope people see this is of the devil and where it is headed. This translation is spearheaded by those who believe in a limited atonement. Soon the logic will go like this: 'The will of God is for all men to be saved...the righteous savior saved will not surely die. There are those who are teaching an imputation of forgiveness to the individual regardless of faith already...


Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Rev. Rydecki,

It's clear that you simply need to learn to appreciate the sedes doctrinae argument. You see, as long as at least two verses in a new version of the Bible still clearly teach a given doctrine, well then, all the rest of the verses which may teach it, or support it, are superfluous. What are they needed for, especially if the new version makes the rest of the verses unclear, and not useful to support any doctrine? They aren't needed at all! Again, in a new translation, as long as there are at least two verses for each doctrine which clearly articulate it, and as long as none of the other changes directly overthrow those clear teachings, then commentators and reviewers can say with a clear conscience, "this new translation does not impact the sedes doctrinae of our Confession." But what about all the places where a new translation may be less than fully accurate -- even deliberately so? Well, everybody knows, translators must pick and choose, so we simply must live with it. And we've already been told by our scholars that a translation won't be accuarate no matter what, and that we simply have to accept inaccurate Bibles. So why not replace accuracy with another noble criterion? Besides, how important is accuracy in every instance compared to readability anyway? Don't we expect that as pastors and theologians preach, teach, and write, being the language experts that they are, they just simply correct those errors as they come up? So in the end, a little inaccuracy is really no big deal. Right? --Well, as long as it reads smoothly.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


You got me there. Good points.

Here's an idea: Since most of the Bible is just fluff and open to various conflicting translations anyway, why don't we just let the seminary tell us what our key proof passages (sedes doctrinae) should be, and then just read and reread those few passages that really matter and discard the rest?

(Dear readers, we're sure you realize that this is sarcasm with a purpose: to highlight how ridiculous some of the claims are that support adopting a translation that fails the accuracy test so miserably.)

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Thank you Rev. Rydecki. I'm not always very good at sarcasm, so I'll say it straight.

That is to say, according to the sedes doctrinae argument, this verse in Jeremiah is totally superfluous to the Biblical Doctrine of Justification -- that doctrine is clearly articulated in other parts of Scripture. And what this verse says, even though what it says is not supported by the Hebrew texts, or in other translations, is not necessarily wrong in what it says. You don't like it? Too bad, since now it is just a matter of opinion, or literary taste.

The same argument ensued with the NIV 1984, regarding the Greek term sarx, and the sinfulness of the flesh. In the NIV 1984, it was rendered in every case either as "body" or "flesh" to indicate only "flesh on the bones," not also the fleshly nature (sarx, can mean both the body, and the body along with the sin which inheres in it). It was a point of major controversy. Answer? Sedes doctrinae. "It is not necessary that sarx ever be rendered to indicate that it also means 'the fleshly nature', since the teaching that man is sinful is taught elsewhere in Scripture." Thus, gone is the distinction, or any attempt to render that distinction in contemporary English.

Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) said...

This is ridiculous. Any group that recommends this new NIV must lose credibility. Even Luther has the agent "Heiland" instead of the abstract "Heil" in Luke 2:30, and he has the abstract here, as you point out.

J Rehborg said...

Remember when at Reformation services in times past the song "God's Word is our great heritage" ... the line that said "Lord while worlds endure we keep it's teaching pure" ......

it seems to me that isn't sung as quite as often.

I just can't help but be reminded of a article here about a comment made at the convention that a change from the NIV would have a impact on NPH..... which struck me.

Again I refer back to my youth to when we used to sing "Oh, blest the house, whate'er befall" (625 the '41 hymn book) in which we sung .... "Unto their children's foremost need and weary not of care or cost, may none to them and heav'n be lost! "

To me it seems the our leaders have grown weary
and have redefined what "it's teaching pure" means and having a generation of leaders who never had to deal with a shortage of the money train.

Now "cost" has "befall" our church and things are being decided based on self preservation. I can't help but wonder much of this head-long acceptance of NIV 2011 is based on the cost factor it would have on the impact of NPH (as was stated at the conference..if memory is correct)

AP said...

Speaking of great Reformation hymns we often don't sing anymore, how about the last verse of Luther's "Dear Christians One and All Rejoice":

10. What I have done and taught, teach thou,
My ways forsake thou never;
So shall My kingdom flourish now
And God be praised forever.
Take heed lest men with base alloy
The heavenly treasure should destroy;
This counsel I bequeath thee.

Joe Krohn said...

I watched the stream that evening that discussed the NIV 2011 and how the board presented their opinion. I thought the arrogant demeanor of some was quite evident. This is truly disturbing. Yes, the negative presentation of the financial impact of not using NNIV was also duly noted...unfortunately.


Joel Lillo said...

I'll just stick my neck out here a little. Having used the NIV 11 in my Sunday readings over the course of the last few months, I'm finding myself liking it more and more. I've had a couple of quibbles with the wording, but that's been true of every translation I've used without exception. I find it very readable and find it very acceptable for use in my congregation.

--Joel Lillo

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

So, Pr. Lillo, which is it? You don't acknowledge the inaccuracies, or you do acknowledge them but you think an easy-to-read Bible is more important than an accurate one?

Joel Lillo said...


Find me a translation that is 100% accurate and I will use it. I find NIV 11 to be just as accurate as the other serious translations I have used: KJV, NIV 84, NASB, etc. There are errors in all translations to some degree or another. I don't think WELS would be practicing heresy by using this translation in official publications.

Joe Krohn said...

Pastor what degree are you willing to capitulate? You can't deny that the translations that seem to be increasing exponentially are also becoming less and less say nothing of pastors who take even more liberty with scripture and spinning it like the recent FIC article regarding Hosea. Hosea is book about repentance and not unconditional love. Hosea's God directed behavior was to put a stench in the nostrils of Israel as Hosea's situation was a caricature of themselves.

Daniel Baker said...


Don't you think that the first three chapters of Hosea are a living metaphor of God's unconditional love for Israel in spite of her spiritual prostitution and whoring? Just as Hosea was forced to stay with his harlot wife and raise her bastard children, so God stuck with Israel in spite of her sins. Not saying it's not about repentance too, for God certainly turned Israel over to the nations, but he didn't abandon her completely. And how could He, since He had promised the Christ to this nation?

I haven't read the FIC article you reference though, so perhaps I'm missing the nuance of your point.

Daniel Baker said...

I chuckled when I read the WELS Q&A treat the issue of the saint-less NIV2011:

Anonymous said...

So which, if any, translation do the Members of IL recommend?

Lee Liermann

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

We haven't yet polled ourselves on a positive recommendation for a Bible translation. For myself, I lean heavily toward the English Standard Version, both because of its relative accuracy and its use in CPH's Lutheran Study Bible and worship materials.

But NKJV is a good option, as is the NASB. Holman is a possible option. I personally think that we should choose the ESV and, at the same time, continue to work on our own translation for future publication.

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Mr. Liermann,

This is not a conversation we have had: Should IL endorse a translation, and if so, which translation shall we endorse? I think that it is one which we will need to have, however, and sooner rather than later. We'll be sure and inform our readers if/when we do... So, for now, I will speak for myself.

It is no secret, I am partial to the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Despite its age, it is still considered a very accurate translation. In terms of its literary quality, it is heralded as a masterpiece of the English language. Shortcomings in the KJV that we may observe today have very little to do with the skill or faithfulness of its translators, but are, rather, a result of changing English usage, and, in some cases, of the accumulation of additional Greek/Hebrew texts. However, these shortcomings are very well documented, language helps for the laymen in the form of lexicons and concordances have been abundantly available for over a century, and the bulk of theological writing in English over the past 500 years makes exclusive use of the KJV. I suppose I could make a compelling case for retaining it even today, particularly for individual use. But, despite our appreciation and reverence for the KJV, and its continuing usefulness, for over half a century WELS has seen the need for a new translation, and that remains the question under consideration. So I won't attempt advocacy for the KJV. At least not directly...

Instead, I'll state that if we insist that a new translation is necessary, then I favor the New King James Version (NKJV). I grew up on the New American Standard Bible (NASB), my wife on the New International Version (NIV 1984). Many years ago, as we studied our Bibles together during our courtship, and discovered many incongruities between the two, some of them irreconcilable, we resorted to the Bibles our fathers used in the home (the King James Version) for guidance in understanding those sections. The KJV very nicely navigated those difficult sections in precise English, though it also used rather advanced grammar. This began our interest in and fairly close examination of Bible translations, after which we settled on either the KJV or the NKJV -- for their precision and common heritage (both in English usage and textual sources). We liked the NKJV as a modern translation for its continuity with its predecessor, the KJV, and thus also the familiar ecclesiastical terminology it employs, retention of memorable poetic meter, especially in the poetical books, and usefulness in comparison with older theological and devotional works still in use, which use the KJV. We went with the KJV, however, because of its more widely available documentation, lexicogriphal helps, and broad use throughout the English speaking world over the past half-millenia. Today, among Lutherans, the NKJV is officially used by the ELS and the CLC. It seems to be highly regarded among the Lutherans in the AFLC (according to my unofficial poll), although I don't think they have an officially adopted translation for use in Association publications. The LCR still uses the KJV. I don't know about ELDoNA. LCMS uses the ESV, though they were participants in its translation. And I don't think the ELCA uses the Bible at all, anymore.

However, I could live with any of the top three Formal Equivalence (or "Optimal Equivalence," if you prefer) translations that are under consideration: the New King James Version, the New American Standard Bible (NASB), or the English Revised Version (ESV), in that order. I personally disdain and reject any Dynamic/Functional Equivalent translation on grounds of principle (and this includes the NIV 2011). In principle, this methodology is insufficient to produce a Bible that the layman can study independantly, and just as independantly arrive at reliable conclusions. Such requires a precise vocabularly, a faithful grammar, and lexicogriphal helps corresponding to that vocabulary and grammar.

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

One criticism of the Holman Christian Study Bible (HCSB) is its use of the term Yahweh in place of LORD in the Old Testament: "It's wierd," complains the TEC. Yes, it is weird, but so are alot of ecclesiastical terms. Unfortunately for the HCSB, Yahweh isn't one of them. It is important that ecclesiastical terminology be retained as much as possible -- especially that terminology which has been in consistent use for millenia -- for the purpose of reinforcing Christian catholicity if for no other reason. WELS has also complained, regarding the ESV, that its rendering in 1 Cor 11 does not support the principle of male headship in society, giving the ESV an egalitarian flavor that many find distasteful (amazing to me, since these same individuals don't seem to have any problem with the wholesale imposition of egalitarian gender neutrality over the entire translation of the NIV 2011). But for such shortcomings in the ESV, a bottle of white-out and a permanent marker should suffice to correct them. Given that I was raised on the NASB, I should have high confidence in it. It is a precise and faithful translation... for the most part. I'm sure it would be fine for Lutherans who can read it through the lens of Lutheran catechesis. But my experience with it has me a bit prejudiced. As a non-Lutheran, I didn't discover, and couldn't have discovered, Lutheranism in the NASB. The Lockman Foundation is dominated by Baptists -- at least it was when I was using the NASB, and it was lovingly described as such to me when I was young. As a result, some definate bias is evident in its various renderings, which had me confused for a long time. To be honest, my (then future) wife and I did not discover Lutheranism in the Bible, neither the NIV nor the NASB, until we switched to the KJV. As an example, compare 1 Pet. 3:21 NASB and 1 Pet. 3:21 KJV. They neither say, nor mean the same thing, strictly speaking, though a Lutheran may find it possible to "properly understand" the NASB here. A non-Lutheran would never see Lutheran theology in the NASB in this reference.

This is just my opinion. And I am just a layman. Which means my opinion is irrelevant. Therefore, I invite you to read Rev. Brian Keller's (WELS, MI District) excellent and very important essay on these issues: Evaluating Bible Translations: Alle Schrift von Gott eingegeben. I would also point you to his appendicies: Appendix A and Appendix B. Because I am certain that most people won't go to the trouble to actually read these works, I'll tell you the punch line. He states, that if we decide that it is necessary to go with a Dynamic/Functional Equivalence translation of the Bible, then, because of the interpretive task that is inherently placed on the translator throughout his work, such a translation really ought to be done by confessional Lutherans, if we are to have confidence in it. Otherwise, we should go with an Optimal/Formal Equivalence translation, which restricts the translator to the essentially academic (i.e., essentially non-theological and non-interpretive) task of choosing the best English word(s) and most equivalent English gramatical construction possible per word and sentence (even if such words/contruction are not common in contemporary "conversational" English). Among those Optimal/Formal Equivalent Translations, he lauds NKJV and NASB as highly literal, and the ESV, though a compromise between NIV and NASB in terms of readbility and reliability, as a translation which can be used with "a high dgree of confidence" -- much like the NIV 1984 was considered 35 years ago.

My Opinion,

Mr. Douglas Lindee

Pastor Spencer said...

Mr. Liermann,

I'll make my recommendation short. As I mentioned a while back in another comment, while in college I decided on the NASB. Only the NT NIV was out then, but I already didn't like it. My Greek and Hebrew profs all said that the NASB was quite faithful to the original languages, albeit sometimes overly literal and somewhat "stiff" in places. As Mr. Lindee mentioned, it does have a definite Baptist (Armininan) bias in a few select verses. But since I was born and raised in a Baptist family, I knew exactly what to watch out for, and this was/is not a problem for me, or the people I serve and teach. So, I've used the NASB and its various revisions now for nearly 40 years. Thus, my recommendation, in order of preference: NASB, NKJ, ESV, Holman. The latest NIV (2011) is in no way an improvement. If anything, it is worse than its predecessor, by far. If I want a paraphrase, I read The Living Bible. At least it is honest and up front about being a paraphrase.

My opinion.

Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the recommendations.

Lee Liermann

Anonymous said...

My objection to the NIV11 translation of this verse is that Christ is not pictured as our substitute sacrifice. We are righteous only through Him. Christ, our substitute, is our righteousness. The NIV11 version seems watered down. Geoffrey Jones

Anonymous said...

If you don't like the NIV 2011 translation of Jeremiah, you sure won't like its translation of Genesis 1:26...

And while you are at it, check out the same passages in the new Augsburg "NASB" study "Bible" - the ELCA has "updated" the NASB by making it more "inclusive" without telling anyone. Even sneakier than Zondervan with the NIV 2011. Who else introduces deception into the world, I ask you?? The ELCA has completely changed the good old NASB from a translation into a paraphrase.

Anonymous said...

And while you are at it, check out the NIV 2011 translation of Genesis 1:26 AND have a look at the Augsburg Press new "NASB" study "Bible" version of the same passages. Do I detect a conspiracy here to alter the Word of God?? Pretty sneaky. Change Scripture so it is more "inclusive" and not tell anybody about it. Who else introduces deception into the world? Zondervans' version of the NIV 2011 and the ELCA's version of the "NASB" can no longer be termed translations; they have both sunk into the category of paraphrase.
David Beatty

Anonymous said...

Banzai, you mention Augsburg Press using NASB in the new ELCA study Bible. That is not NASB that was used, but rather NRSV.

Rich Shields
Pastor, AALC congregation,
President, AALC Seminary

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