[#] Today's Nearly-Inerrant Version

Ok -- the subject line is not very fair reporting, but I'm not a reporter, and if you're reading my blog for your daily news you need a hobby, bub. However, for an equally-imbalanced short article on the TNIV, take a look at this.

I don't like the TNIV, but to say it "banishes" the word "saints" is a little over the top. And the problem with stories like this one is that it doesn't really cover the matter of Bible translation in a way which helps someone who's trying to read his KJV AV 1611 and can't get through the text because he can't understand 17th century English figure out whether a more contemporary translation might help him.

Honestly: there's nothing wrong with the KJV that a college education wouldn't cure (the exceptions to this rule could be another blog entry), and there's nothing wrong with the TNIV that reading it parallel with a more formal translation wouldn't cure. But the question under all the hoopla really ought to be this: did Zondervan really have to come out with the TNIV for the sake of the reader, or the sake of the church?

Look: today there are a LOT of translations of the Bible in English. I have a chart in the bookstore which lists literally 80 different translations in English -- KJV, NKJV, KJV21, AKJV, ASV, NASB, NLT, Living Word, YLT, Darby, D-R, RSV, NRSV, NAB, NIV, NIrV, TNIV, NCV, GNT, ESV, HCSB, MSG, AMP, etc. There are good reasons to have more than one translation in English, and there are even good reasons to have paraphrases like MSG and AMP. But as I asked above, does the NIV really need a facelift?

Consider this: the NIV as a translation is the best-selling Bible of all time. It continues to dominate about half of all Bible sales in English -- and even in a town like mine where the KJV is sometimes preached as if Jesus spoke King James English, the NIV is the best-selling translation. The reality check is that the NIV has broad inter-demoniational approval, and it doesn't really grind any theological axes. It has its limits becuase it is a translation, but understanding those limits is the job of teachers and pastors who should be rightly handling the word of God.

So why an NIV facelift? Was there a serious editorial problem, or translation issues which have been ironed out in the last 30 years? No. But there has been the problem of Bibles like the NASB and the more-recent NLT, ESV and HCSB coming out and making an impact on the Bible marketplace. To be fair, HCSB and ESV are technically the "fastest growing" bible translations, but they only have a small fraction of the Bible marketplace -- maybe together they sold 10% of the total number the NIV sold last year.

So the NIV, from a marketing standpoint, needed to compete with the "new" kids on the block, and since it is already called the "New International Version", they couldn't really call it the "New and Improved Internaional Version". The other big stumbling block for them is the perpetual paper mill of the KJV-Only crowd. While it is usually true that any press is good press, why stoke the fires of Ruckmanites and (can you believe people still read her?) Riplingerers by calling the NIV the NIIV, which seems to tacitly say, "well, there were problems with the NIV ..."?

Thus: TNIV. Apparently, the formal English of the 70's has fallen into disuse or ill-repute, and TNIV overcomes the gender bias of the translators (sic). And it also can compete, apparently, with the LifeWay retail apparatus which will be glad to sell the Holman Christian Standard Bible to anybody at wholesale, but still maintains Beth Moore as a proprietary author and will not wholesale her bible studies to non-LifeWay stores. And Thomas Nelson has a new NKJV paperback which is 3-columns per page that you can get for about a buck -- from me, or about anybody. Nelson is trying to sell 1,000,000 bibles this year, and they don't care how. A bible for a buck.

OK: when, exactly, have we turned the Father's house into a den of thieves? When has the method become more important than the message? I'm not against Christian Retail: I'm against slavery to the new and different. Relevance is one thing: marketing to greed is another. The Bible should not be a franchise.