Interestingly, the ESV does not have a lot in common with the NIV, even though both were produced by conservative, evangelical scholars. This is due to the different translational philosophies. The ESV (along with the RSV and NRSV) employ a word for word translational approach (although not as strictly as the ASV and NASB). The NIV on the other hand uses a phrase by phrase approach (usually called a ‘dynamic’ approach).Peter Kirk, one of the TNIV Truth bloggers, disagreed in a comment on Kevin's post:
Kevin responded with the post More on the ESV. Kevin quoted Peter and reiterated:
I was surprised that you claimed a large difference between ESV and NIV and that that was because of a fundamentally different translation philosophy. In fact I am surprised how close they are, considering that NIV is a new translation, and ESV is an adaptation of
ESV[RSV] which is itself an adaptation of ASV - yet ESV is closer to NIV than to ASV!
In fact it is very misleading to claim that NIV uses a a phrase by phrase approach or a ‘dynamic’ approach. In fact the approach of NIV is only rather slightly different from that of ESV and NRSV, with the translation departing from the literal only where the translators consider that necessary. The difference is that the NIV translators depart from the literal a bit more than the ESV translators - but in fact not a lot more. For a real phrase by phrase or ‘dynamic’ translation, see NLT, TEV/GNT or CEV. In fact it would be interesting to see your graph redone with those translations added. I suspect that you would find NIV much nearer to ESV than to any of them - and that the three of them would be more widely spread than any of the more literal group.
Kirk goes on to say:Mike Aubrey commented on Kevin's post, linking to a post of his own which had a chart which displayed more Bible versions than the chart in Kevin's first post. Mike noted:In fact it is very misleading to claim that NIV uses a a phrase by phrase approach or a ‘dynamic’ approach. . . For a real phrase by phrase or ‘dynamic’ translation, see NLT, TEV/GNT or CEV.This is the claim that is made by the NIV itself and most scholars would place the NIV into the category of dynamic.
I’m providing a few more translations for a better context…but its pretty clear in both of them that the NIV/TNIV are roughly midway between the ESV and the NLT.I commented on Mike's post yesterday but that comment isn't displayed yet and I neglected to make a copy of my comments which I sometimes do.
From this graph, I’d have to say that Kevin and Peter were each about half right, respectively…
Today I commented on Kevin's second post:
"while the Good News Bible is much looser than a dynamic translation"(UPDATE, May 8: Today Kevin has blogged another irenic post, Even More on the ESV, in response to my comments. Stay tuned. There may be more to come.)
Actually, Kevin, the GNB was produced by the American Bible Society, where Eugene Nida, the originator of dynamic equivalence translation theory worked. The GNB was produced to be an example of DE translation. The GNB and its successor the CEV are the two prototypical examples of DE translation theory. If we are going to categorize Bible versions as being DE, we need to do so relative to their similarity in translation philosophy to the GNB and CEV.
To be "looser" than a DE translation is to be what non-technicians call a paraphrase, and among the paraphrases would be the Living Bible, The Message (even though it was translated from the biblical languages it is ranked as a paraphrase as the term paraphrase is used by non-technicians), Philips translation, and the Cotton Patch translations.
The NIV is clearly not as literal a translation as the ESV or NASB, but it is not really a DE translation. It is, rather, a modified literal translation, as is the NET Bible.
The NLT is on the low end of the DE translations. It has many literalisms which are characteristic of FE translations.
None of this takes away from what you and Mike Aubrey have noted, that the NIV is somewhere between the NASB and GNB translations in terms of degree of literalness. It is not easy to assign a category label to the NIV/TNIV in terms of the three main categories usually described: Formal Equivalence, Dynamic Equivalence, and Paraphrase.
My own sense and that of many of my colleagues in the missionary Bible translation effort has been that the NIV is essentially a Formal Equivalent translation with some features of a DE translation. Mark Strauss and Gordon Fee who are on the CBT for the TNIV call Bible versions between rather literal and DE translations "mediating versions".
My own quantified studies, based on translations of specific passages, supports the claim that the NIV and TNIV are approx. half-way between the fully FE translations and true DE translations. The kinds of literalisms in the NIV and TNIV versions, however, do not allow me to label either version as a DE translation. They were not translated according to the DE translation theory as it was developed by Eugene Nida.
My studies can be accessed from this webpage:
From my point of view, this good debate shows how difficult it is, at times, to categorize some things in life. The charts which Kevin and Mike have displayed show us the positions of Bible versions relative to each other in terms of degree of literalness. Sometimes knowing a degree of difference or a point on a continuum is more valuable than category labels, such as whether we can categorize the TNIV as Dynamic Equivalent (DE) or Essentially Literal (EL).
I would continue to maintain that in terms of how DE and EL translation approaches have been described, the TNIV (and NIV) are in the EL category, but they are less literal than other versions such as the NRSV and ESV which easily take the EL label. And I consider this moderate positioning of the TNIV on the translation continuum to be one of the assets of the TNIV. Because it is less literal than a number of other English Bible versions, it usually reads better than they do. And it is more easily understood when it is read. Yet, the TNIV is, in my opinion, just as accurate, and in some passages, more so, than more literal translations, since literal translation does not equate with accuracy, as I have written elsewhere in an essay When literal is not accurate. Literalness and accuracy are two different translation parameters.
The TNIV is a trustworthy Bible version which reads relatively well. Those churches and individuals who are accustomed to the NIV will notice few differences if they follow public reading of the NIV with a TNIV which is in their hands. And since the TNIV has increased accuracy over the NIV in a number of passages, I would encourage churches and individuals who have been using the NIV to transition to the TNIV.