It’s been some 24 hours now since the big announcement regarding the NIV/TNIV/NIV2011, and I’ve been contemplating what the Bible translation landscape will look like in a couple years. I’m no expert on these things, of course, and I think there are others in the biblioblogosphere who will probably turn out to be better prognosticators. But here are a few of my ruminations.
First of all, the new NIV: if the CBT revises it the way I think they will, how much resistance will it get? Are they going to market it aggressively, or will they make the change very quietly? I’m concerned that all the hoopla they created yesterday will bring out the nay-sayers of all persuasions. The new NIV may have an uphill battle ahead of it, if they think they can just take over from the 1984 version. I hope they can, but I don’t know.
The NLT now has a year and a half, more or less, to become the most popular evangelical-type translation before the advent of the NIV2011. Will they do it? If people continue with concerns about the new NIV, they could very easily migrate to the NLT camp, and it’s not a bad place to be. The NIV1984 and TNIV are both lame duck translations now, since they will both be dropped. The team at Tyndale has been doing a lot of good marketing of the NLT recently, especially since the advent of the NLTse and the NLT SB. They are doing a lot of things right, IMO, and they could pull it off by the time we see the first copies of the NIV2011.
What about the ESV? I don’t foresee many changes there. Crossway will continue their excellent marketing strategy, though the translation will remain a stagnant, slightly warmed-over revision of the RSV. Crossway knows what they are doing, in spite of that. I expect the ESV to remain a strong player in this, probably taking pot-shots at the new NIV2011 right along. I will continue to find it difficult to seriously consider the ESV, but many will, and many will buy it.
Now, what about the mainlines and the NRSV and the new CEB (Common English Bible)? Is the CEB going to be marketed well enough to be taken seriously in this marketplace? And what’s going to happen to the NRSV?
I think the CEB, if the translation team and the publishers play their cards right, will be an excellent and exciting new translation. It will be easier to read, more along the lines of the new NIV. It will incorporate all the “inclusive language” that the mainlines have to have in their Bible, and it will have the Apocrypha. I think they will probably be quite successful in promoting it to “their” churches. But will they be good enough at it to overcome the “in house” perception that dogs the NRSV? It remains to be seen.
And what about the NRSV? What will become of it? Well, I think that since the CEB will be an easier to read Bible than the NRSV, the seminaries will perceive it to be less “accurate” than the NRSV, and so the NRSV will soldier on as the Bible of the mainline academia. While the CEB will probably become popular among the people in the mainline pews, it will be interesting to see if the clergy will be willing to accept it and use it in their preaching, or if they will stubbornly cling to their NRSVs, causing somewhat of a rift between the clergy and the laity in the mainlines.
While I think the CEB will probably be nearly as good as the NIV2011 (if not as good or better) unless the publishers do their homework and market it aggressively, it will find scant market outside of the mainlines. It will end up like the current GNT; a good translation, but mostly limited to the mainlines and cowering in the shadow of the mighty NRSV.
The NASB and NKJV will soldier on, with few people buying them outside of scholars and those who don’t know any better.
And of course there’ll always be the KJV. And KJV-ONLYs.