Essay / Education

Why the TNIV Bible is Important

Why the TNIV Bible is ImportantHere is the argument, such as it is, supplied by Zondervan (note: I have edited a book with Zondervan and think they are swell folk.) for why we need a new translation. My comments are in italics. Zondervan says:Part of the reason for this mass exodus is that today’s generation thinks differently than previous generation.I dispute this as a generalization. What do we mean by a different way of thinking? There is not a different way of thinking. An equally possible hypothesis: There are students who are badly educated, post-literate, and unable to make good arguments. There is a tiny group of post-modern scholars in evangelical circles, pushing ideas passe in most of the Academy, who provide a wash of academic respectibility for this disaster because it suits their desire to change the proposition sof theology. Of course it has nothing to do with translation any way. The Bible is what it is: it is not going to get more “story like” or less propositional to please today’s young adults.For example, they’re more likely to relate to stories and personal experiences than to traditional expressions of propositional truth. For them, authentic religion is a much about HOW they live as WHAT they believe.Well, good. Both ideas are important. I seem to recall people saying this about my generation as well. Why not teach them the value of both?While older forms of English may not present a problem for some readers, they can present barriers to understanding and fully engaging the Bible for today’s generation because they’ve grown up using more contemporary English.When was this not true? Why suddenly does this common place (language changes) demand a new translation? Every generation of young people has their own jargon and identity. Yet in American history, when the Bible was most respected and read, there was actually a giant gulf between the language of the Bible and that of the youth. This was true of every generation in the USA up to recent times. No one demanded their Bible speak as they did in order to go church. No one demanded a Bible in West Virginia dialect. No one demanded a Bible written in Flapper-speak.In addition, the TNIV translators were mindful of what they were working on: Today’s New International Version. It is intended for English-speaking readers no matter where they live.English usage keeps changing – between 1993 and 2003, Merriam-Webster made 100,000 changes and added more than 10,000 words and phrases to its collegiate dictionary. Thirty years have passed since the NIV was released. *This is a bizarrely irrelevant factoid. The question is: have the relevant words of standard English changed much? How many of these “new words” are in areas not related to anything appearing in the Bible (blog, wok)? Fundamentally, isn’t this about one major change: gender use? Wouldn’t the rest of the changes amount to a small modification of the old translation?A 2004 Harris Interactive Poll showed that 59% of 18-34 year-olds (churched or un-churched) said the Bible was relevant to their lives, yet more than half (53%) said they never read the Bible or read it less than once a year. Clearly there is a need to reach this audience. *Key question: how many of these kids read any book, let alone a book as hard as the Bible? Is there any evidence here, at all, that translation gets in the way of their reading the Bible? Does anyone who finds the NIV too hard or too dated really want to read the Bible really. . . though like learning a second language everyone says they do? Or have the ability? These questions are not answered. There are 32 million “spiritually-intrigued” 18-34 year-olds open to Christianity. * There are 8 million twenty-somethings on the verge of disengaging from the church. * Barna Research Group found that 40% of churched children stop attending church as adults. * 77% of 18-34 year-olds prefer the text of the TNIV; 72% of 18-34 year-olds find the TNIV text easier to understand. *I would love to see the controls on this study! I have heard that 72 percent of people prefer New Coke.In any case, would these people actually READ the text when it is released? Is the translation any good or overly paraphrastic? I assume 100% of my students would find a comix version of the Republic easier to understand, and even preferable, to a standard work, but I doubt they should go that way. The opinions of the market are simply not relevent, even if true. If the translation places too much “of our culture” between the reader and what is, after all, a very old book, then it is perhaps worse that useless to them. According to JET Market Research, 85% of 18-34-year-olds surveyed said they would like a copy of the full TNIV when it is released in 2005.Who said “no?” I am not a fan of the translation, but I will buy a copy. What exactly does this question prove?

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