Farewell NIV

The NIV is going away. How weird is that? That is, the 1984 version is going away, the version that has dominated the Protestant landscape for several decades. The 2011 version is supplanting it.

I did my formative Bible study on the NIV (admittedly starting with an earlier version than the 1984 one). It’s the main version I used while getting my degrees in college.

Whereas the 1984 version made cosmetic changes to the earlier versions (so much so that I can’t think of any except for John 1:18), the 2011 makes widespread major changes, some for better, some for worse. (The official word from the publisher: “In this update, about 95% of the text remains exactly the same as the 1984 NIV that it replaces, based on the number of word changes.”)

What jolted me to the reality of the transition was this announcement from Accordance Bible Software:

At the publisher’s request, we are required to stop selling the NIV 1984 edition and the TNIV after January 16, 2012. That means there is just over a week left to purchase these Bibles if you would like them. This also applies to the bundles that include them.
We understand that many of our customers are interested in these versions, so please be sure to act now if you want to be able to use these Bibles in Accordance. After Monday, January 16, 2012, we will no longer be able to sell the NIV84 and TNIV.
We will also be required to stop supporting backups (Easy Install) for these Bibles after one year, so be sure to backup these files so that you will always have access to them.

Version replacement is common. Most KJV readers don’t use the 1611 version. It just caught me by surprise, I guess.

Do more people prefer the KJV?

OK, I fell for USA Today’s headline. “Bible readers prefer King James version,” it said. And the story itself even said: “82% of those who read the Good Book at least once a month rely on the translation that first brought the Scripture to the English-speaking masses worldwide.” Now, as Peter Kirk over at Better Bibles blog pointed out, unless the USA Today is talking about the Geneva Bible, that sentence isn’t very accurate. But it’s inaccurate for another reason: the Lifeway Research study on which the article is based doesn’t say that!

Here’s how Lifeway put it:

Among those who read the Bible regularly the percentage of KJV owners is even higher. A full 82 percent of Americans who read the Bible at least once a month own a KJV.

That’s a far cry from saying that 82% prefer the KJV. Lots of people own a King James Bible; how many of them read it? How many prefer to read it? That’s not reported. Which is why the USA Today headline was totally misleading.

I’m not looking to bash the KJV. I’m merely pointing out the fallacy, which I fell into, of relying on second-hand media reports. When possible, check the original source. As I’ve said before, I’m uneasy when someone says “Paul says…” or “the Bible teaches…” unless what is reported is a direct quote from the Bible. Because you always run the risk of someone misinterpreting a passage and reporting it as the truth from the Bible. Like USA Today did with this report from Lifeway.

Photo by Ove Tøpfer; from Stock Xchange

Talking About What We Don’t Understand

I rarely read those group e-mails that get sent out. If someone wants to send me something, they can send it to me personally. I especially avoid anything that says “Fwd:” in the subject line.

But the other day I read an article that a brother was sending to a lot of us who work among Spanish speakers. When I got to the bottom of the article, I realized that it had merely been copied from a web site.

The writer was attacking the “modern versions,” especially focusing on Acts 20:28. He was defending the 1602 Valera version in Spanish and the 1611 King James version in English — not realizing, of course, that these two versions disagree with one another on the translation of this particular verse. The article railed against Westcott and Hort and the Alexandrian texts that they followed, praising the integrity of the Byzantine texts. It accused later versions of wanting to deny the deity of Jesus by changing “church of God” to “church of the Lord” in this verse.

Unfortunately, whoever wrote this particular piece apparently hadn’t done their homework. Several Alexandrian texts read “church of God” in this passage. Several Byzantine texts read “church of the Lord.” And there are lots of variants from there. In English, it’s the King James that reads “church of the Lord” and the modern texts which read “church of God.” It just so happened that that trend was reversed in Spanish.

What I find sad is that people can be so intent on arguing about something that they will argue even when they have little understanding of the subject they are arguing about! I especially tire of this when it comes to versions, as accusations are thrown around about “they made this change to promote ___.”

I have long said that I in my years of study I have only found one version that made intentional changes while translating: the New World Translations produced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Admittedly, there may be some that I haven’t seen. And I know that the Conservative Bible Project is doing their level best to produce a “translation” that will match their views. But in general, translators are trying to do just that: translate.

I’m going to try and do better about giving people the benefit of the doubt, especially those that disagree with me. I hope you’ll do the same.

It’s not your father’s Bible…

There was a time when I basically had one Bible that I used all of the time. It was a New International Version that had been given to me by some friends in California (whose pet dog had chewed up the Bible I received for high school graduation). I would always have the Bible with me and would use it for devotional reading, personal study, class preparation, as well as teaching and preaching.

Those days are gone. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve embarrassed myself at times by arriving somewhere to teach class or to preach and discovered that I didn’t bring a Bible with me! I no longer have a trusty, go-with-me-everywhere Bible.

Here are the main ways I read the Bible now:

  • Accordance: I use the Accordance program on my Mac for most of my work in preparing classes and studies. In the basic setup, I have 5 versions open side by side: New International Version, Dios Habla Hoy, King James Version (with Strong’s), English Standard Version, Reina-Valera 1960.
  • Bilingual New International Version-Nueva Versión Internacional: A friend in Stockdale, Texas, gave me this Bible. I use it for preaching on Sundays. There are copies of this same Bible available to those in attendance, and I can refer to passages by page number as well as chapter and verse.
  • BibleGateway.com: I use this site at times for a quick lookup of a passage. I also use it to print out the main text for my sermons. (Larger font works well for my middle-aged eyes)
  • PocketSword: I use this Bible app on the iPod when I’m teaching class at ACU. I often don’t have a convenient way to carry a full text, and this electronic version works well. Plus it’s easier for me to read without glasses. (Funny how that is becoming a recurrent theme in my choice of Bibles)
  • NIV Study Bible: Even though I have the full text of this study Bible within the Accordance program, there are times when it is helpful to look at an actual book

How about you? Has your method of reading the Bible changed over the years? Has your Bible version of choice changed at all? Do you think the next generation will be reading the Bible in traditional book form or some other format?

Mosaic Bible Blog Tour Comes To The Kitchen

OK, today is the day. The Kitchen is the official stop of the Mosaic Bible blog tour. We’ll be giving away a copy of the Mosaic Bible (which I reviewed yesterday). If you’re interested, just leave a comment saying why you are interested in owning the Mosaic Bible. I’ll draw at random from the qualified comments.

But before we get to that, we have a Q&A with Kevin O’Brien, the acquisitions editor for the project.

Kitchen: Please tell us about yourself and your role in the Mosaic project.
Kevin:
My name is Kevin O’Brien, and I am the Director of Bibles and Reference for Tyndale House. This is basically a fancy way of saying acquisitions and product development. I got to Tyndale in a bit of a roundabout manner. I have Master’s Degrees in Divinity and Theology, have done some doctoral work in philosophical theology, I am an ordained minister, have been a youth pastor, and just prior to coming to Tyndale was the book, Bible, and music buyer for Lemstone Christian Stores. (And more importantly I am married and have three kids).

My job is to both maintain our existing Bibles lines and to find compelling new Bible projects that both meet real needs and which are economically viable. This is not always as easy of a combination as it would seem. In the case of Mosaic, I received the original proposal for the project from David Sanford. I immediately appreciated the goals of the project, in fact they were very much in line with some goals that I had. At the same time, I didn’t think that the proposal as initially presented to us was quite right. Because the base idea was so compelling, I got several members of our editorial team together with others from our development and marketing teams to discuss what this Bible should look like. At the end of two days we had wrestled through the goals and the details to come up with what we believed was a viable Bible. The final form was largely put together by Keith Williams who eventually became the editor on the project. After we concepted the idea, I re-worked the proposal, sent it back to David Sanford and began the process of internally getting approval from our publications committee. As you know, Holy Bible: Mosaic is more than a bit unique, so it was not a guaranteed approval. In fact we did not get approval the first go around. We did focus group testing, made some changes and then were able to get the project approved. After approval it was my job to work with David and Keith to make sure that we had everything that we needed from a content standpoint, as well as working with our marketing, design and production teams to pull everything together. I was also able to be involved in writing some of the introduction with Keith which was a treat for me. It was a long but ultimately very fulfilling process.

Kitchen: What sets Mosaic apart from the multitude of study Bibles available today?
Kevin:
First, I would say that Mosaic is not a study Bible in the traditional sense of the term. We toyed with the idea of calling it a “Reflective Study Bible” and that kind of gets at it, but when we tested that idea we found that we were confusing people because of the standard idea of what a study Bible is. Mosaic is also not exactly a devotional Bible. It really is something in between the two. We wanted to create a Bible that would give people new ways to engage with Scripture that would really drive them back to the text. We weren’t looking to explain the text in the ways a traditional study Bible would, nor were we looking to create a 20 minute devotional experience. Both approaches are valid and useful for some people in some situations. Mosaic was not intended to fulfill those roles, however. We were really looking to create something that would be a guide for significant wrestling with the text and which would take into account the breadth and depth of Christianity since its inception. This was a very high priority for me personally and for the team as well. I think that we have come up with something that is not only unique, but which will serve the Church well for years to come. Ultimately that is the most important thing that we could do.

Kitchen: Can you describe the selection process for the readings and artwork that were included in Mosaic?
Kevin:
The selection process for the content was largely handled by David Sanford and his team. We reviewed the “project map”, made some tweaks and then it was largely up to David. Keith did the heavy lifting on our end -cutting things down to fit, choosing which of the quotes fit best, etc. We did have to scramble on a couple of things near the end when we realized that we were missing a century or two – I believe the 8th was the troublesome one. So Keith and I went to work looking for someone who would fit the timeframe as well as the content need. The art was a bit trickier. Keith and I worked alongside David’s team to come up with art that would fit the content needs, give diversity, and frankly, that we could afford – there are a lot of rights issues involved. We found things from all kinds of places including a really cool Bible from the 1800s that we have here at Tyndale. I am personally very happy that I was able to find Daniel Bonnell in South Carolina (isn’t Google a lifesaver?). I ran across Daniel’s work and knew that we had to get some of his pieces into the project. I was really excited that we got not only one but 5!

Kitchen: Why was the New Living Translation selected as the basis for the Mosaic Bible?
Kevin:
The short answer – because the NLT is the primary translation that Tyndale publishes. The NLT is owned by the Tyndale House Foundation, the non-profit foundation that owns Tyndale. It wasn’t simply that, however, as we do publish Bibles in the NIV, the NKJV, and the KJV (as well as an interlinear with the NRSV). The NLT makes a nice compliment to the variety of voices and images that we were able to include. The beauty of the NLT is that it speaks the language of the common person. It doesn’t sound like church if you know what I mean. And while we wanted to take into account things like the Church calendar and a connection to our larger shared history, we also wanted to remember that the New Testament was written in what was essentially the trade language. The first converts were fisherman and tax collectors – average Joes if you will. That was the goal of William Tyndale when he translated his Bible in the 16th century and it’s our goal with the NLT.

Kitchen: I could envision a broader Mosaic project, encompassing other types of media: music, video, etc. Has there been any talk of such an endeavor?
Kevin:
We have certainly had discussions about other media types for Mosaic. At this point we are starting a bit slow. We have devotionals for Advent and Lent (forthcoming) and an iPhone App that should be coming pretty soon. We will be looking at a variety of possibilities for further products in the future, but there is nothing definite right now.

Kitchen: If you could share with my readers one compelling reason why they should consider purchasing the Mosaic Bible, what would that be?
Kevin:
I think that the most compelling reason that I can give to buy Mosaic is this. The Christian story is much bigger than you or me. It is really easy as in the west, especially in America, to get fixated on our safe, suburban lives (OK, my safe suburban life). It is really easy to see what we have always seen and to hear what we have always heard. I grew up in a very fundamentalist Church. I was taught a lot of great things about the Bible. I memorized Scripture when I was young. But I was totally unaware of the larger swath of Church history. When I thought of Christianity in other parts of the world my thoughts turned to Sunday night slide shows from missionaries. It was totally beyond my comprehension that there are significant Christian thinkers and leaders from Africa or Asia. That I could learn something about God from art. I am very thankful for many parts of my upbringing, but the picture I had of Christianity was also very incomplete. And because of it, my view of God was much too small. I truly believe that Holy Bible: Mosaic will help to broaden the picture for many in the Church. It is the reason why I and so many others worked for over three years to get this project done. In the end it is not about me, but I am glad that I get to be a tile in the larger Mosaic of God’s redemptive plan.

Thanks for having me.

Kitchen: Thanks for joining us in The Kitchen!