Over the weekend, I began to read NT Wright's newest book Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision. So far, like many of Wright's books, I have enjoyed what I have read. Wright, at least to me, reads like he speaks. Maybe that isn't always a good thing, but for books like Justification, which aren't too terribly long or technical, I somewhat enjoy it. While the topic of "justification in Paul" is an extremely important topic for all Christians, it is also nice to view this debate, between the two Protestant's Wright and Piper, merely as an outsider. I hope to blog more on Wright's main points in the near future.
Until then, one section of the book that immediately struck me, particularly since I am always interested in Bible translations, is located in the section on "Rules of Engagement". Here, on pages 51-53, Wright takes issue with how the NIV translates Paul. (For all you fellow Catholics who may not be aware of the NIV, it is the best selling, most widely read English translation of the Bible in the world. It is a mediating translation, that is neither too literal nor dynamic. In many ways it mirrors the NAB, but is far more smooth and consistent.) He begins by stating that he had recommended use of the NIV early in the 1980's, believing that it injected "no extra paraphrasing or interpretative glosses (51)." However, over a two year period, while lecturing with the NIV and the Greek text, he discovered that "the translators had had another principle, considerably higher than the stated one: to make sure that Paul should say what broadly Protestant and evangelical tradition said he said (52)." He follows that up by saying: "I do know that if a church only, or mainly, relies on the NIV it will, quite simply, never understand what Paul was talking about (52)." Ouch! He sites the NIV translation of Romans 3:21-26 & 29 as a major problem, particularly in its use of dikaiosu.
Now, again, I read Wright's critique as an outsider. I do not use the NIV, although I own a copy of the TNIV, which from time to time I will refer to when doing ecumenical Bible studies. While I have never examined, verse-by-verse, the (T)NIV, seeking to find its merits and problems, I have always appreciated its readability.
One thing that caught my attention is that it took Wright two years to discover the problems with the NIV. I would think that he would have noticed them much quicker. Yet, this may serve as a good example, either way, of why it is better not to promote or condemn a particular translation based simply on other peoples opinion, but only after using the translation over a year or two period. I know that some of the Bible blogs that I frequent feel this way about the TNIV, which some have condemned from the beginning.
I know, personally, that I always stayed away from the NRSV because I read forum comments by people who hated its use of inclusive language. Because of that, I really never gave it a serious read. However, I decided over a year ago to pick up a copy, just to have, and since then I have come to use it more and more. While I still don't like some of its inclusive language choices, I do appreciate many of it's other good qualities, which for me, sets it apart from other translations which have Catholic editions.
I should also point out that Wright does mention that "the NIV has now been replaced with newer adaptations in which some at least of the worst features have, I think, been at least modified (52)?" Any thoughts on that?