Review of NIV 2011 by Daniel Wallace

In late July, 2011, Daniel Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary completed a four-part review of the NIV 2011, the latest major entry in English Bible translations. It is well worth your time to read his views. I forewarn you that when you first land on his blog, Dan’s picture makes him look like a Scottish mullah — however unlikely you find that description. Don’t let that stop you!

In Part 1, Dan provides a brief history of English Bible translation in order to set the NIV 2011 in its historical context. That is a helpful way to begin, especially for those who have no knowledge of trends in the production of such translations. Please don’t be one of those people who think history does not matter, because this field would prove you wrong.

In Part 2, Dan gives his now-familiar spiel on how literal translation is totally inadequate for idioms, and I suppose he does so to forestall those who demand that a translation always be literal. His argument is convincing, though it fails to address the legitimacy of less-than-literal translation in the vast territory outside of idioms.

One key statement says, “The primary focus of the NIV 2011 is an accurate translation (more on this later), and one has to admit that they have accomplished this objective admirably.” Another summary conclusion says: “The scholarship behind the NIV 2011 is probably as good as it gets. And the textual basis [Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic text within the Bible] is both bold and exceptionally accurate.” This is high praise from someone of Wallace’s standing among textual critics.

In Part 3, Dan discusses weaknesses of NIV 2011. The most important finding, in my opinion, is stated this way: “In this instance [1 Tim. 3:2], as in many instances throughout the NIV, I would have preferred that the translators retained a more interpretive-neutral stance as long as the English rendition wasn’t nonsense.”

Wallace offers “husband of one wife,” in 1 Tim. 3:2,  but NIV 2011 has “faithful to his wife.” This translation by NIV 2011 picks a favored interpretation from “a myriad of views.” The translation “husband of one wife” is what Wallace calls “an interpretive-neutral stance,” but the reader who has no skill with New Testament Greek reads the narrower “faithful to his wife” and does not realize that a choice has been made when other viable choices were available. NIV 2011 does not even provide a footnote, which would have been preferable here.

Wallace has some other material you will not want to miss, including a table that compares the NET Bible, NIV 2011, ESV, KJV, RSV, NRSV, RV, ASV and NASB in relation to elegance, accuracy and readability. Fascinating! One thing Dan did not do was to sum up all the scores and see how they stood in relation to each other. Out of a possible 30 points, ESV took the honors with 24, closely trailed by NET Bible and RSV at 23 points and NIV 2011 at 22 points. Remember that I am the one who summed up the points; Dan would probably say that elegance, accuracy and reliability are only three factors among many ways to compare translations. But it was still fun!

In Part 4, Dan puts a nice bow on the package: “As with the handful of other exceptional translations, the NIV 2011 definitely should be one that the well-equipped English-speaking Christian has on his or her shelf, and one that they consult often for spiritual nourishment.”

For what it’s worth, that is my conclusion as well.

Copyright © 2011 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 6:14 and 6:22

Genesis 6:14
“Make for yourself an ark of cypress wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and out.”
(NET Bible)

Keep on doing what God says

Some people trust in Jesus Christ for the simple reason that they do not want to risk going to hell. So far, so good. But a fraction of these people then put their Christianity in the closet and shut the door. The idea seems to be: “Call me when it is time for heaven!”

What is God’s opinion of faith that is expressed in an instant and then goes into dormancy? What does an extended showing of faith say about the quality of that faith?

Up to this point God has spoken only of destroying all life on earth. You know that Noah is going to be spared, but Noah has never read Genesis. He has only one hint at this point: God is still speaking to him. When Noah gets his first command, it has to be a relief.

God tells Noah to “build for yourself an ark.” What is an “ark”? The Hebrew word appears to be a derivative of an Egyptian word for “chest” or “box.” When Jerome created the Vulgate, a Latin translation of the Bible, in about 405 A.D., he used the Latin noun arca, which means “chest” or “box.” The Latin word was taken into the Geneva Bible of 1599, an early English translation of the Vulgate, as “Arke.” The translators for the King James Version adopted this word as “ark,” and we have had it ever since.

Readers of the KJV may wonder how their “ark of gopher wood” became an “ark of cypress wood” (NET). The truth is that no one knows what kind of wood was used because the word is used only here. The Hebrew word is gofer (where f and ph are just alternative spellings), so you can see how the KJV reading arose as a simple spelling of the word; they had no knowledge of the type of wood. “Cypress” is merely an educated guess by the NET Bible translators.

No one knows what kinds of ships existed prior to the flood.[1] The design God gave to Noah has roughly the shape of a rectangular box scaled to a total length of about 450 feet, a height of 45 feet, and a width of 75 feet. (This shape is approximated by imagining a shoe box that is six times longer than normal.) Johan Huibers, a Dutch contractor, has built a replica at about one-half scale.

Genesis 6:22
And Noah did all that God commanded him– he did indeed.
(NET Bible)

Genesis 6:22 stresses that Noah did exactly what God told him to do. That is beyond dispute.

More interesting is to explain why the Hebrew text uses two different forms of the verb “to do.” These forms are commonly called the “imperfect” and the “perfect.” The imperfect is often used to represent “that which occurs repeatedly or in a continuous sequence in the past.”[2] The same reference says the perfect “denotes in general that which is concluded, completed, and past.” Genesis 6:22 has first the imperfect and then the perfect. So, it could be translated, “Noah kept on doing all that God commanded him—thus he did” (my rough translation).

What is the point? For 120 years Noah faithfully carried out God’s commands (“kept on doing”). Then the author of Genesis looks back and summarizes Noah’s behavior: “thus he did.” This statement undergirds God’s declaration of Noah’s righteousness in Genesis 7:1. Noah proved his faith over and over.

Do you want to please God? If so, keep on doing what he has commanded no matter how long it takes!

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Note to landlubbers: Noah’s vessel was far too large to be called a “boat.”

[2] E. Kautzsch, ed., A.E. Cowley, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1910) 125, fn 1.