The TNIV and The Books of the Bible 2

When I showed my truly wonderful, open-minded boss my new TNIV without verse numbers and chapter numbers, he said, “Hmm. This is not a step forward.”

I said, “I think it is.” I explained how with my new Bible you don’t have verse numbers and chapter numbers determining where your mind will place breaks. You’re free to read the Bible in the way most conducive to understanding for a modern Westerner.

Admittedly, the paragraphing and section spacing in my new numberless Bible were placed there by fallible men (TNIV: “people”) just like the verse numbers were.

And Paul and Moses didn’t really use paragraphing.

But by communicating paragraphs typographically we’re at least making it possible for visual stops to coincide consistently with thought-flow rather than guaranteeing that they won’t.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

4 thoughts on “The TNIV and The Books of the Bible 2”

  1. I am sure you are aware, however, that while the new TNIV is a good “read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year” Bible, it is not a good preaching Bible. Kind of hard to preach from a Bible that has no numbers, and also, like you mentioned, TNIV is not one of best versions available today.

  2. Actually, I think an edition like this would make a great preaching Bible. It would make a real point to listeners that what matters is the divisions in thought flow, not the divisions of verses. The only kind of preaching for which such a Bible would be a problem is the kind that scatters itself all over the Bible instead of really explaining one text. (Of course, I believe topical preaching to be legitimate but difficult and not usually exegetically balanced in my listening experience.)

    But, yes, I wouldn’t want to preach from the TNIV to my congregation (if I had one) because I would want them to make the ESV or NAS their primary translations.

    On the other hand, I firmly recommend the use of multiple translations as a regular feature of Bible study. Believers should be educated about the tendencies of each major version. They should know how and when to compare versions. In addition, I want to innoculate my family and any people I shepherd against any-version-onlyism. I don’t want my kids to be ESV-only or NAS-only any more than I want them to be KJV-only.

  3. Hi Mark! It looks like you have a great blog here. I wanted to make a couple of comments about your remarks toward the TNIV, and my intent is to do so in the spirit of discussion and not antagonism.

    First, you noted in your previous post, “No, I’m not a fan of gender-neutral Bible versions. See Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress’ work for that. Neither am I a fan of the T/NIV translation philosophy, which I think includes too much interpretation. But I read Greek and Hebrew, so I don’t have to take their word for it. I’m not going to let my objections stop me from the profit of reading through the Bible in a new way this year.”

    Well, I teach from the TNIV weekly and occasionally have opportunity to teach from it, but I would agree with you that I’m not a fan of “gender-neutral” Bibles either. Is that a contradiction? Well, no–and you may think I’m splitting hairs here–but the TNIV translation is not intended to be gender neutral as neutral would imply “it.” Rather, the translators prefer to call their approach to gender as gender accurate; that is, they prefer to have the translation communicate the genders intended by the original writer(s).

    So if I can give an example from something you said above, I know you were kidding when you said, “fallible men (TNIV: ‘people’)”, but that is exactly not the kind of rendering the TNIV translators would make. Why? Because it’s fairly well known that those who divided up the Bible into chapters and verses WERE men. The TNIV reflects those kinds of renderings as such. But in a context such as Romans 15:30 in which Paul writes “I urge you, ἀδελφοί…” Traditionally, this has been translated as “brothers” or “brethren,” but the context of Romans 16 clearly shows that Paul is writing to a mixed audience. Even the ESV acknowledges this by giving the alternative translation in the footnotes, “Or brothers and sisters.” The TNIV simply uses that translation “brothers and sisters” because it more accurately reflects the use of ἀδελφοί in this verse. In Greek literature, the meaning of this term is always dependent upon the context.

    For what it’s worth, the characterization gender neutral is actually a pejorative term used by detractors of the TNIV.

    Second, you mention that you wouldn’t want to preach from the TNIV, but I can attest to you that it makes a very good translation to teach or preach from. Most of the people in the Sunday School class I teach are reading from the TNIV. They can easily follow along with the TNIV because there’s only a 7% difference between the two, but even gender issues aside, the TNIV is a much more accurate translation than its predecessor. I use it probably 90% of the time, although I occasionally use the HCSB or if the audience is right, even the NLT.

    You mentioned Grudem in the other post, and I respect him greatly, but disagree with him on this issue. And I would also point to individuals like D. A. Carson and Timothy George who have endorsed the TNIV as well as the great evangelical translators who worked on the committee such as Douglas Moo and Gordon Fee.

  4. Rick, that was a great post, and I appreciate very much your good spirit. I’ve been working on a reply which I’ll post on the blog.

    Once again, I appreciate the interaction.

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