In my own personal Bible study I just finished the Gospel of Luke. As so often happens, I started off reading in one translation, but pretty soon I find myself reading in other translations, and often cross-checking between them. In this case, I started in the new NIV, but soon was reading a lot in my NASB 1977, and as I went along I was cross-checking in just about all the different translations I own.
Generally I have been extremely pleased with the new NIV. I use it and highly recommend it. But lately in my reading it sometimes almost seems…uh…sort of dull. When I cross-check with other translations, particularly with the more formal-equivalence translations, I am usually extremely pleased with the comparative accuracy in the new NIV. Nearly all the nuances that I pick up on in the formal translations are there in the NIV, too. Plus, I can see the examples of the latest scholarship, and am comforted that we have such an accurate, yet easy-to-read translation. I find the new NIV a very good Bible to use for serious Bible study.
But there seems to be something wrong. The NIV just doesn’t “grab” me.
Maybe I’m expecting too much. But one thing I really enjoy about the old 1977 NASB, and perhaps to a lesser extent the updated 1995 NASB, is that I’ll be reading along, and all of a sudden something will reach out and grab me. Not literally, of course, but something I read will really get my attention, like I never read that part before. I find myself using that old NASB77 more and more, instead of the new NIV.
Could it be that the new NIV is just too good? Is it that there just aren’t enough questionable (or surprising) renderings in it to keep me interested? Has the CBT done too good a job?
Darren Gruett said:
I remember hearing someone about 20 years ago say that reading the NIV was like reading a newspaper. Having basically only used the NIV I did not understand that remark at the time, until a few years ago when I started using the NASB. Suddenly, the Bible started to come alive and grab me in whole new ways, and I began to hear things in the text that had eluded me previously.
I think that part of this is due to the fact that the NASB employs a wider vocabulary in capturing the nuances in the original text, and it uses a more complex sentence structure, connecting thoughts and ideas differently than in the NIV, which tends to break them apart into separate sentences. The end result is that the NASB reads at an 11th grade level while the NIV around an 8th grade level.
There is one other thing that I have really come to enjoy about the NASB, and that is the ambiguity in the text. I cannot say how many times I have read something in the NASB (Leviticus 18:10 comes to mind for some reason) where I was unsure of what it meant, only to turn to the NIV and have it all explained clearly. For me, a big part of the enjoyment in studying Scripture is figuring out what it means, rather than having the translators render the meaning into the text.
Gary Zimmerli said:
Good points, Darren!
I’d just like to mention that I think there are far worse examples of “dumbing it down” than the NIV, by the way.
I agree about the ambiguity, and the Leviticus verse is a great example. What bothers me when I see a formerly-ambiguous passage explained like that is, does it REALLY mean that or is that just the translator’s own interpretation based on his own theology? I agree that it can be more enjoyable finding the meaning yourself, but it bothers me that dumbed-down passages could be all wrong and lead us to incorrect understandings. Plus, I also enjoy the sentence structure of the NASB, especially for study purposes. It’s especially fun to see it in the older NASB77. On the other hand, it can make it more difficult for public reading. (But I’ve heard that done well also.)
Darren Gruett said:
I agree with you completely. Many translations do not read above an 8th grade level, including the ESV, so the NIV is not in any way alone in that respect. And it is by no means a bad translation. Of all the dynamic equivalent translations available today it really is the best.
Gary Zimmerli said: