February 14, 2006

J.I. Packer on the NIV

Better Bibles Blog has a segment from Suzanne McCarthy's recent interview with Dr. J. I. Packer regarding Bible translations. In it, Dr. Packer states quite nicely the problem that I have always had with the New International Version:

[The NIV] is an in and out version, when a literal translation is clear they give you a literal translation. When they think they are confronted with a form or words which, if literally translated, or should I say, directly translated, wouldn’t communicate very well, without warning of what they are doing they go off into paraphrase.

The NIV tends to give up on any attempt at literalness whenever things get difficult, and this can be quite misleading. The problem is that the degree of interpretation done by the translators (and translators must always do some interpretation) and the degree left to the readers is not consistent, and so the reader cannot distinguish what the text actually says from what the translator thinks it means, and therefore can't determine how broad the range of possible interpretations is.

Of course, the problem could be solved by reading the NIV and the NASB at the same time, but I would like to think that there are some translations that are both readable and consistent. The NKJV is quite readable (for me) and consistent in its translation, but it is traditional to a fault and difficult for people not familiar with "church English." What I've seen of the ESV makes me think that it is even more extreme in these matters (whcih I think is a bad thing). As regular readers of this blog will be aware, I am continuing to evaluate the Holmann Christian Standard Bible. I still haven't spent enough time with it to know for sure what I think, but so far I like pretty much everything I've seen. I discussed my first systematic look at it here.

Posted by Kenny at February 14, 2006 01:35 PM
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