Over at New Leaven, our friend TC Robinson has asked advice about which Bible translation to use in a new church plant. He has narrowed it down to two choices, the TNIV and the NLT. So far, most of those commenting are recommending the TNIV.

It’s really a tough decision. Both Bibles are good; I don’t think he can go wrong with either one. But if he’s talking about buying pew Bibles, as I think he may be, that means this is the translation that will be in the pews for probably at least ten years. And I’m sure that means it’s the translation that he’ll be preaching from.

I’m in a United Methodist church. Our pew Bibles are the NRSV. That’s what the pastor uses and that’s what the church gives to our third graders and our confirmands. I don’t care too much for it, but the Bibles we have in the pews have lots of life in them yet, and the church isn’t about to pop for new ones for probably quite a few years yet. So if I want to influence my church’s decision, I will have to wait a while.

In the PCA church-plant I was involved in, the pastor used the NASB, but we didn’t have pew Bibles. Everyone brought whatever they had. (Notice my avoidance of the generic “he”.)(That was an inside joke.)

Why would a pastor choose the TNIV over the NLT, and vice versa?

The NLT is certainly being well-promoted by Tyndale House Publishing, that’s for sure! They are doing many things right, including their excellent new NLT Study Bible. They are trying hard to get people to choose it as their main, first choice Bible rather than a second or third Bible. Indeed, I am currently using the NLTSB as my own first choice for the time being.

But as Brent over at the Christian Monthly Standard has said, it’s really a matter of trust. The NLT is so new and different to me, that I haven’t yet developed that trust I need to use it as my only Bible. I continue to run across renderings that are different enough from what I’m used to, that I keep going to other, more traditional translations to see how they render that particular passage; and I also frequently check out my online Greek and Hebrew resources to try and determine how accurate some of those renderings are.

I am pleased to be able to say that as I continue to do this and continue to use the NLT, that trust is growing.

The TNIV, on the other hand, doesn’t cause me so much uncertainty. The vast majority of the TNIV is the same as the NIV; and most of the places where it’s different I have checked out and found to be not only acceptable, but usually superior. The thing that concerns me about the TNIV is the lack of promotion I have seen on the part of Zondervan. They have not yet seen fit to drop the old NIV in favor of the new TNIV, and in fact the TNIV often seems to be treated like a poor, unruly stepchild. Still, Zondervan insists they’re behind the TNIV 100%.

Do you want to be using a translation in your church that the publisher does not promote and may even disown? I hope it never comes to that, because the TNIV is so good it deserves to be promoted with all of Zondervan’s resources.

Let me offer a sort of compromise, if I may. How about buying the NIV? The publisher is still pushing it with all their vigor; and the truth be told, it’s still an excellent translation. Sure, it doesn’t use inclusive language like the TNIV and many other relatively new translations, but it’s a very elegant translation while remaining very easy to read and understand. The NIV is the translation the Spirit has used many times in my life to clarify a number of doctrines and to speak to my heart.

With there being so much uncertainty right now about what the future of the TNIV will be, you would have an excellent, elegant translation which is being heavily promoted by the publisher; and then years down the line when we know what has happened with the TNIV, you can decide then which translation to go with the second time around, and it would still be a natural to make the move from NIV to TNIV if that is what you choose.

For what it’s worth.