Friday, October 12, 2007

Is the TNIV more literal than the NIV?

A blog visitor comments on the preceding post:

The problem that I have with statements that the TNIV is more literal than the NIV is that I have found no proof of this. All the Bible charts that I have seen have listed the NIV as being more literal than the TNIV such as this chart

This is an important enough issue that I have decided to reply in a post rather than a comment.

The degree of literalness charts, such as the one linked to by the visitor, are subjective, based on what the opinions of the chart maker are. In general, such charts are accurate, but we need objective proof, to help us break away from the subjectivity of opinions. Objective evidence has to come from extensive comparison of specific wordings among Bible versions.

I have tried to do such quantified comparisons. There is more work to be done, but the general trends on my charts accurately reflect relative degrees of literalness among Bible versions:
  • TNIV is 2% more literal than NIV for translation of accusatives.
  • TNIV is 3% more literal than NIV for translation of datives.
  • TNIV is 3% less literal than the NIV for translation of genitives; progress has been made since the NIV was published in understanding how better to translate genitives to English.
  • TNIV is 8% more literal than NIV for translation of New Testament idioms.
  • My comparison of Old Testament idioms is in progress so figures are not reliable.
There is more research that needs to be done, but I am rather sure that further empirical studies will affirm the claim that the TNIV is more literal than the NIV. Bible scholar Craig Blomberg agrees. He has shown that the TNIV is more literal than the NIV in a number of specific passages:
Non-gender-related revisions [in the TNIV], however, move from a less literal to a more literal rendering of the Greek approximately three times as often as the reverse.
Contrary to popular lay opinion, the TNIV is more literal than the NIV. The translators of the TNIV have "tightened up" a number of NIV wordings which had been criticized over the years for being too interpretive or dynamically equivalent.


R. Mansfield said...

This also helps to explain, Wayne, why someone such as myself--who used the NASB for over two decades as a primary translation and never cared much for the NIV--could feel much more comfortable with the TNIV over its predecessor. I recognized the importance of moving to a less formal translation for both personal and public use and in comparing the TNIV to the NIV, I found the newer translation "fixed" a lot of the problems I had always had with the NIV. And of course I'm comfortable with translations such as the NLT which are even further down the scale, but I use the TNIV to teach from primarily because it is a good middle ground.

Craig Blomberg said...

What I did, prior to writing my articles on the TNIV, day-by-day during the summer after it first appeared, was to go from Matthew to Revelation verse-by-verse and record every difference I deemed to be non-trivial and with the Greek open in front of me made a judgment call as to whether the TNIV was more literal, less literal or basically the same with respect to the degree of literalness (if there is such a word!). Obviously, subjectivity was involved, but I tried to be as objective and consistent as I could. Apart from the comparatively small number of changes that impinged on the gender-inclusive language controversy, I then computed the percentage of "more literal" to "less literal" changes made by the TNIV and came up with just under a 3:1 ratio.

Glennsp said...

It is impossible to remove subjectivity from the equation.
It may be reduced, but it will always play a part and praise God for that.