Have mercy on those who memorized the classic NIV

by Marvin Olasky
Posted on Monday, March 25, 2013, at 3:00 pm

CORRECTION: I chose the wrong example. Zondervan and Biblica’s TNIV (2001, 2005) begins Psalm 1 as “Blessed are those” and starts off verse 3 as “they,” but the 2011 NIV revision offers a compromise version: “Blessed is the one” and “that person.”

I’m glad the individual emphasis is back in that particular verse, yet theologian Wayne Grudem and others report that, in moving from the 1984 NIV to the TNIV, translators 608 times changed from the singular to the plural to avoid use of “he,” “him,” and “his”—and the 2011 NIV retains 385 of those changes. For example, in John 14:23 Jesus says, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” The 1984 NIV has the emphasis on the 1-to-1 bonding that then occurs: “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” The 2011 NIV collectivizes it: “My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” 

I’d still like the 1984 version to be available online for the benefit of memorizers.    

ORIGINAL COLUMN (posted March 23, 2013, at 2:29 p.m.): Let’s say you memorized long ago New International Version (NIV) verses like Psalm 1:1: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” But, 25 years later, your memory’s playing tricks on you: Is it “sit in the seat of jokers” or “sit in the seat of mockers”?

Better hold onto your battered, duct-taped NIV. Now that the re-translated NIV has been out for two-and-a-half years, the classic NIV has disappeared from stores, and now it has disappeared online. In late winter, readers who had relished electronic access at BibleGateway.com or YouVersion.com discovered—poof!—that what they had grown up with was gone.

Readers asked Bible Gateway what happened, and received this answer: “The NIV’s worldwide publisher, Biblica, has requested that we remove the older 1984 and TNIV editions from Bible Gateway, and we are complying with their wishes.”

The Bible Gateway site states, “Older editions of the NIV are no longer available on Bible Gateway or any website, but the Committee on Bible Translation (who is solely responsible for the translation of the NIV) and Biblica (the worldwide NIV publisher and copyright holder) have designated the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections as the official repository of historical documents related to the NIV.”

WORLD has followed the NIV’s battle against words like “he” and “man” since 1997. Much has changed since then: The once-dominant-among-evangelicals NIV no longer is, as competing versions—such as the English Standard Version—have emerged. The new NIV translation is not as biased toward “gender-neutrality” as previous replacements for the classic NIV, so the removal of the 1984 version is not as big a deal, except for those who have lived with it for years and loved it and memorized Scripture from it. So why frustrate them?

One hopeful sign is that a Bible Gateway FAQ on the removal of the older version has changed over the past month so it now reads, “At present the historical text is not available online, however, discussions are underway to determine if it will be possible to access previous editions of the NIV online for research purposes. When available, access will be in accordance with the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections access guidelines.”

I hope to find out from Biblica (formerly the International Bible Society) what this means for memorizers who go back to Psalm 1:1 and are dismayed to find the emphasis on a brave and blessed individual is gone. The verse now reads, “Blessed are those” instead of “Blessed is the man.” This change also allows the “he” of verse 3 to become “they.”

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has also been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism. Marvin resides with his wife, Susan, in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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