Have you ever found yourself sitting in church and, at the pastor’s prompting, you open your bible to a certain passage only to find that the words on the page in front of you don’t match up with the words on the screen? Odds are, you’re looking at the right passage, but you may be reading from a different translation.
If you didn’t know, every English Bible is a translation. The original Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic and the New Testament was written in Greek. And while nearly all translations do a good job faithfully translating the original letters into English, there are differences in approach that have resulted in the various English translations we have.
Most often, our preachers teach out of whatever translation they’re used to reading, resulting in a different translation being used from week to week.And to make matters more complicated, our pew bibles were donated when we first planted our church and they are a translation that is rarely preached out of in our church.
This is a problem because we want our church attenders to engage with Scripture with a Bible in their hands, and we’ve unintentionally set a precedent that what our pastor reads will be different from the Bible in front of us.
That is, until now.
We have approached this issue with prayer, intentionality, and thought, and we’ve decided to upgrade our pew bibles and set a standard for our preachers to use a translation that matches. The translation that we’ve landed on is the New International Version (NIV).
So the question that follows (for those of you still interested enough to read this far) is why? What makes the NIV so special that we didn’t choose another great translation like the ESV? Or why not just keep the NLT Bibles that we already had? The answer to this question comes down to three primary reasons:
- Translation Approach. There are two general approaches to translation: Formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence. (Say those five times fast!) The first approach prioritizes word-for-word accuracy but can sometimes be challenging to read. The second aims to communicate ancient writings in modern terms but focuses on translating ideas over words. Every translation falls somewhere between these poles and our desire is to have a translation that is in the middle, both accurate AND readable. We believe that the NIV strikes a strong balance between these approaches.
- Popularity: The most widely read Bible translation of all-time is the King James Version. While it’s a beautiful translation with a rich history, ultimately it fails our readability criterion. The second most popular is the NIV, and we estimate that many of our churchgoers already have their own Bible in this translation. We want our preaching ministry to be very accessible to as many people as possible.
- Inclusivity: It may sound strange, but some Bible translations can exclude some people from feeling like the Bible applies to them. A good example of this is when Paul uses the word for “brothers.” The word is literally masculine, but includes men and women, similar to how we might say, “you guys.” We believe the most faithful translation expresses the intent of words (i.e. brothers and sisters), not just their literal renderings. This is reflected in the NIV.
If you’re interested in learning more about the background of the translation, click here. And of course, if you have any questions or would like more clarification, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We look forward to many times of opening God’s Word together and exploring the treasures contained within.