Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Philemon 6: TNIV improves on NIV

Lingamish has looked at Philemon 6 and noted several inadequacies in the NIV rendering:
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
As I commented there, there are substantial improvements in the TNIV version of this verse:
I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.
  1. NIV wrongly suggests that Philemon is not yet properly "sharing [his] faith" and that Paul is praying that he should do so. TNIV rightly clarifies that Philemon already has this.
  2. NIV is often understood as referring to evangelism, at least when read by evangelical Christians for whom "sharing your faith" is jargon for evangelism. It is unclear to me whether the NIV translators really intended this verse to refer to evangelism, but it seems rather unlikely that this was Paul's meaning. And so TNIV is correct to avoid this evangelical jargon and use words which point to a more probable understanding of the Greek text.
  3. NIV's "full understanding" goes beyond what the Greek text says, and suggests that we humans can aspire to completely understand matters which are surely beyond our full understanding. TNIV's "deepening your understanding" is much better.
  4. NIV closes with a rather bland "we have in Christ", for a literal "(which is) in us into Christ". This is not even the regular "in Christ" phrase, so there is little excuse for using this difficult to understand wording. Also it fails to note that the Greek word en here probably means "among" rather than "in". The TNIV rendering "we share for the sake of Christ" seems to capture the main point far more clearly.
This verse is a good example of TNIV being substantially better than NIV, in ways unrelated to gender language. Since there is no possibility of NIV itself being revised, it really is time for publishing and marketing efforts to be put into TNIV rather than NIV so that improvements like these can be widely distributed to the Bible reading public.


Gerald said...

Which makes it all the more frustrating to see "new" editions of the NIV seemingly on a weekly basis.

Every person I know that has switched to the TNIV couldn't ever imagine returning to use the NIV, the TNIV is that much better.

It reads better, is more accurate and doesn't exclude half the population from some very key verses...come on Zondervan get with the program!

Nick said...

Why oh why are Zondervan sticking to their agreement not to replace the NIV? They were bullied into it and should simply renague on the arrangement.

R. Mansfield said...

Actually, Zondervan could limit publication of the NIV to simply one edition and it would still be within their agreement.

The real question is why they are sticking with the NIV OVER the TNIV.

The short answer is money, but it's certainly not smart thinking for the longterm. Ultimately, they are shooting themselves in the foot. And one day when the ESV is outselling the NIV, and the TNIV ranks about number nine, Zondervan will only have themselves to blame.

Peter Kirk said...

one day when the ESV is outselling the NIV

Rick, in general I agree with you. But I don't think ESV will ever outsell NIV, or NIV and TNIV together. That is because ESV appeals only to a certain relatively small sector of the church market, and because (however good the marketing) it just does not have the stylistic qualities needed to become popular beyond where it is being strongly promoted. Many of the kinds of people who now buy NIV would never go for ESV, both because of its sectarian basis and because of its poor style. Perhaps Zondervan are counting on this. I don't think they should, because a third product might take the large market share - perhaps HCSB, NLT, or something new like ISV when it is complete.

To what extent do Zondervan have a monopoly on TNIV in America? It seems that IBS and Cambridge can sell TNIV editions in USA. Would anyone else be allowed to break into the market with innovative TNIV editions? Someone doing that might at least sting Zondervan into competing more aggressively.

Gary Zimmerli said...

"To what extent do Zondervan have a monopoly on TNIV in America?"

Peter, from what I have observed, if you go to a store to buy a TNIV, it's virtually all Zondervan. I've never seen an IBS Bible in a store. You can get them through catalogs and on the internet. And Cambridge, though known among pastors and scholars, has very little presence with the common people.

I'd love to see some competition for Zondervan. It seems to me they're holding down sales of the TNIV by not marketing it agressively.