I was in third grade in 1961, and our church presented me, and all the other third-graders, with a new Bible all our own. It’s a big deal for third-graders. My new Bible was black artificial leather with red page edges, and on the spine, it read, “Revised Standard Version.” We were Methodists, of course, and that was “our” Bible. All the churches I was familiar with used the RSV. Of course, when you’re eight years old, how many different denominations are you aware of? I was vaguely aware that there was also a version called the King James Bible, but from what I could tell, it really wasn’t much different from “our” Bible.
Today, I am almost painfully aware that, at that time, there were already quite a number of different translations available. And already at that time, there was a group of people exploring the possibility of making another translation, one which would come to be known as the New International Version, or the NIV. The group of scholars was called “the Committee on Bible Translation” or CBT, and their work was done, first under the auspices of the New York Bible Society, then the International Bible Society, and most recently named Biblica.
In 1973 the New Testament NIV was brought forth, followed by the complete NIV Bible in 1978. It soon became arguably the “official” Bible of evangelical Christianity. The CBT had done a good work. And they continued to do a good work, even putting out a 1984 “update” of the NIV. The Bible was a completely new translation of the Scriptures, not a revision of earlier versions of the old King James, as most had been up to that time.
Unfortunately, as so often happens, the CBT couldn’t leave well enough alone. And they had good reason to continue working on the NIV even after the 1984 update because the English language was changing, evolving, even as it continues to evolve today. As our educational system changed, people were no longer able to comprehend certain concepts that educated readers had little problem understanding in the past. So the CBT debated, studied, and met together time and time again, and decided that the NIV should be changed into a “gender-neutral” translation. Young women complained that, while they understood that “man was created in the image of God”, they didn’t understand the idea that they were included in the term “man”. They thought that women were NOT created in the image of God, but only men were. And this was just the tip of the iceberg.
So the CBT decided that they way to remedy this problem was to make the Bible “gender-neutral” and eliminate references to gender as it relates to God, and change references to men into such terms as “people” or “brothers and sisters”; even changing such things as pronouns like “he” when it refers to either males or females; and when they couldn’t make it work any other way, they switched the masculine pronoun “he” to what is usually referred to as the “singular they”. While well-intentioned, this led the CBT down a frustrating and terrible path.
After the original gender-neutral NIV was shelved, the CBT continued down their path to revision and brought out the TNIV (Today’s New International Version). While some embraced this version, most Churches did not. The seeds of this unrest had already been planted when the original gender-neutral NIV was prematurely shelved, and when the TNIV came out, very few wanted it. So the CBT, the IBS, and Zondervan decided to continue publishing the 1984 update of the NIV alongside the TNIV. That tended to keep the evangelicals in the NIV camp for a time. But then, when the CBT came out with the 2011 version of the NIV, which is actually a greatly improved and toned-down TNIV, it was decided that the 1984 NIV would no longer be published. That was the final straw for many evangelicals. God only knows if the NIV will ever recover.
Back in the middle-1990s, when it became clear that the NIV was changing, the seeds were planted for a number of new or different translations that aspired to replace the NIV. Probably the most obvious of these was the English Standard Version, or ESV, which was aimed directly at the NIV in the hopes of taking the NIV down. The ESV people made an agreement to get control of the Revised Standard Version, which they used as their base translation to make into a new version. Many people, especially of the reformed persuasion, jumped on the ESV bandwagon, and many are continuing to do so today. But I don’t believe this is the best choice.
Another translation that came about in the early 2000s is the New Living Translation (NLT) from the people at Tyndale. Many have gone over the NLT camp. The NLT is a simple, easy-to-understand Bible, but for serious study by typically-educated people, the NLT is really overly-simple, falling into a category we might call “dumbed-down”. While there are much worse simple translations out there, I can’t recommend it for most people, especially since the NLT is dangerously close to being a paraphrase. And paraphrase means it’s very open to the injection of the translators’ own interpretations into the text itself. When I read the NLT, I can pick out such instances myself.
While you may find yourself either consciously or unconsciously seeking a replacement for the NIV, I think I may have found just such a Bible. Back around 2002 the Southern Baptist Convention and Lifeway Stores brought out a translation that they had put together, with the intention of giving them a Bible that they could control and use in their own publications without being beholden to the people at Biblica and Zondervan. They published it through the oldest Bible publisher in America, Broadman and Holman or B&H, more commonly just called Holman. They called it the Holman Christian Standard Bible or HCSB. Recently that was changed to Holman CSB, and now, there is a new revision coming out in 2017 which they simply call the CSB. While the original translation had some unusual renderings that made it a little less desirable for many of us, the new CSB has corrected nearly all of those problematic phrases and words, and the more I read it, the more I am becoming convinced that we now have a good replacement for the NIV. Read it for yourselves at http://read.csbible.com/
Holman is publishing this Bible in quite a number of editions, from cheap to expensive, of course. I am planning on buying one soon, and I would like to get a real leather one, though I probably won’t be able to afford it. I highly recommend it to you, just make sure when you order one or look in the bookstore for one, make sure it’s the 2017 copyright so you’ll have the newest update. It is marketed as the CSB.