Wednesday, February 01, 2012

NIV 1984, NIV 2011, ESV, or NASB?

I have been giving some consideration to changing to version of the Bible from which I preach on Sundays. When I entered the ministry in 1987, I preached exclusively from the NASB. My Bible College professors had drilled into my head that it was the most literal and accurate English translation. I suppose I will always be partial to the NASB, but when I moved to a different congregation in 1991, I switched to the NIV because nearly everyone in the church used it, and the Pew Bibles were NIV. I have preached from it ever since. (Once, in a campmeeting I reverted to the NASB and I stumbled over my words – they do not exactly roll off one’s tongue – the NASB is syntactically clunky).

Last year, Zondervan introduced an updated NIV (NIV 2011). It is quite a bit different from the previous version, primarily due to the “chickification” of the text (okay, the politically correct term is “gender neutral”).  For example, I’m preaching from James 1 this week – the old NIV renders verse James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy my brothers…”; the update says, “Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters…”. There are many such changes in James 1 alone. (I will save the debate on gender neutrality for another time, but I have to wonder if at its core, the driving force is about gaining greater market share). Since there is such a difference between NIV 1984 and NIV 2011, is now the time to change my primary preaching version? Some church members have the old version and some have the new one. I have been enjoying the English Standard Version (ESV). It lands halfway between the NIV and NASB; better accuracy without the awkward syntax.
I was just about ready to take the plunge and go with the ESV, but I think for now I will stick with NIV 1984. However, I think this provides me with a good opportunity to explain to the church about the different translations. I’m not as concerned about the particular version that they are reading as I am about the fact that they are reading.