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 9:12–15

Genesis 9:12–15
And God said, “This is the guarantee of the covenant I am making with you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all subsequent generations: 13 I will place my rainbow in the clouds, and it will become a guarantee of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 then I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures of all kinds. Never again will the waters become a flood and destroy all living things.”(NET Bible)

 A commitment to calm fears

On one level it is astonishing that the all-powerful Creator makes a binding agreement with the living things he has made. But he did so in unmistakable terms.

What is the significance of God making a covenant with humankind? What was the idea behind making known what he expected of us and what he would do in return?

The language of Genesis 9:12 seems formal in its careful enumeration of the covenant parties. The Hebrew text makes very clear that God is establishing a covenant “between me [God] and you [Noah, his sons and their wives] and every living being that was with you for farthest generations” (Gordon Wenham).[1] We should be equally careful in considering the covenant parties, but ordinarily we ignore the animals, whom God always includes! Perhaps this blind spot is a demonstration of how we have lost sight of our stewardship for God over the earth and its life forms.

The first words of Genesis 9:13 are “my rainbow” to emphasize it. But the time-sense of the verse, is an issue between translations:

NET Genesis 9:13 “I will place my rainbow in the clouds, and it will become a guarantee of the covenant between me and the earth.” (emphasis added)

ESV Genesis 9:13 “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (emphasis added)

NET is alone among major translations in saying “will . . . will,” placing all action in the future. ESV joins NIV 2011, The Jewish Bible, and the Holman Christian Standard Bible in some variant of “have . . . shall/will,” placing the initial action in the past and the subsequent action in the future.

I consider the ESV and other translations better than NET here, because rainbows would have already existed as a matter of physics (sunlight falling on water droplets at a certain angle); the newly introduced element was the significance God was giving the rainbow as a sign.

For God to bless Noah and his sons, rain would have to fall on the earth to nurture crops. But imagine the potential for panic when a storm rolled in. To provide peace of mind during his new start with Noah, God re-brands the meaning of a storm (Gen. 9:14). Instead of being a reminder of judgment, a rainbow would serve as a reminder of God’s covenant promise (Gen. 9:15). It is God who brings the necessary rains, and in doing so he provides rain for both the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45).

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



[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 151.

Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 9:4-7

Genesis 9:4-7

But you must not eat meat with its life (that is, its blood) in it. 5 For your lifeblood I will surely exact punishment, from every living creature I will exact punishment. From each person I will exact punishment for the life of the individual since the man was his relative. 6 Whoever sheds human blood, by other humans must his blood be shed; for in Gods image God has made humankind.
7
But as for you, be fruitful and multiply; increase abundantly on the earth and multiply on it.
(NET Bible)

Matters of life and death

Life is cheap, they say. But they dont say it in heaven!

How will God curb the spread of violence that led him to destroy the original creation? How will justice be done on the earth? Who will be summoned to give an accounting to God for the loss of human life?

In the previous post we considered the general provision God made in allowing the animals for food (Gen. 9:3). Victor Hamilton explains how Gen. 9:3 relates to Gen. 9:4 when he says, The pattern in this verse [9:4] and the preceding one is the same as that of 2:16-17: a generous permission (every tree of the garden, every creeping thing) followed by a single prohibition (of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, flesh together with its lifeblood you shall not eat).[1]

There is an equating here of blood with life that does not resonate with contemporary readers. Perhaps the easiest way to understand this idea is that God is associating the shedding of blood with death. On one hand, this idea emphasizes the sanctity of life, which comes from God.

On another level the equation of death with shedding blood sets up the theology of the entire sacrificial system. Ultimately, Jesus blood was shed on our behalf; that is, he died in our place to pay for our sins (Rom. 5:9; Eph. 1:7).

The explanation above explains why Gen. 4:10 speaks of Abels blood crying out to God from the ground. The personified blood was crying out about Abels death at the hands of Cain.

Genesis 9:5

For your lifeblood I will surely exact punishment, from every living creature I will exact punishment. From each person I will exact punishment for the life of the individual since the man was his relative.

When we are reading the Bible, certain phrases should make us step on the brakes. I will surely exact punishment is certainly one of those phrases! Further, the phrase exact punishment is repeated three times in this verse, heightening its importance. A word study will help.

Word study: require (someones life)

The Hebrew verb darash, used three times in Gen. 9:5 for Gods personal response to someone taking a human life, means: require (someones blood, life).[2] The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says: Finally, our root is used of divine vengeance on those who take a life. God will diligently seek restitution of a life for a life (Gen. 9:5).[3]

So, NET translates the verb darash three times in Gen. 9:5 as exact punishment. In Genesis 9:5, to exact punishment is to require someones life. The only problem with the NET Bibles translation choice is that the reader may wrongly think that the punishment falls short of death. NIV 2011 says I will demand an accounting, which is an abstraction similar to the NET. The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) translates, I will require the life, which finally sets matters straight. The New Living Translation (NLT) says, I will require the blood … anyone who murders a fellow human must die. That last is a paraphrase, but the meaning is correct.

Kenneth Mathews says, The general rule is that human life when violated, either by animal or fellow human, required the life of the offender.[4]

A second issue in Genesis 9:5 is the translation lifeblood (NET, ESV, NASB, and NIV 2011). You might think that this term translates a single word, but that is not the case. The NET Bible Notes say, Again the [Hebrew] text uses apposition to clarify what kind of blood is being discussed: your blood, [that is] for your life.[5] By apposition the Notes mean that blood and life are nouns which have a grammatical relationship to one another; in this case the relationship is expressed in the following way: your blood . . . for your life.

The result of this analysis is shown by Gordon Wenhams translation of Genesis 9:5, which says: But I shall require your blood for your lives, from the hand of every wild animal I will require it; and from mans hand, from each man his brothers life, I shall require the life of man.[6] Genesis 9:5 makes an intentional reference to Genesis 4 and the murder of Abel. This verse directly implies that Cain was his brothers keeper, and the rest of us are put on notice!

Perhaps you noticed that Wenhams translation used the word brother instead of the NETs relative. All human beings are made in Gods image; there are no exceptions.

Genesis 9:6 (ESV)

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

As usual, the ESV, shown above, sticks closer to Hebrew word order. Wenham says, The tight chiastic formulation (shed, blood, man, man, blood, shed) repeating each word of the first clause in reverse order in the second emphasizes the strict correspondence of punishment to offense.[7]

On the other hand, the NET correctly stands with NLT and CSB among major translations in saying of the slayer by other humans must his blood be shed (NET) rather than by man shall his blood be shed (ESV, NASB, NIV 2011, and RSV).[8] Such details may seem beneath mention except for the fact that this verse forms the primary biblical basis for capital punishment. Details matter in Gods inspired Word!

The one who upholds the dignity of humanity is God; we are made in his image, and he takes that very seriously. God strongly upholds the value of man in spite of mans tendency to rebel and sin. Think about that the next time you hear someone demean a person or make light of human death.

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

 


[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 314.

[2] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000) darash, require (someones blood, life), q.v.

[3] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (TWOT) 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody, 1980) darash, require (someones blood, life), q.v.

[4] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 403.

[5] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 9:5.

[6] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 151.

[7] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 193.

[8] E. Kautzsch, ed., A.E. Cowley, Gesenius Hebrew Grammar (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1910) 323 ( 109i).