Friday, October 30, 2015

does the new NIV distort the Scriptures? - part 5

Today I'm tackling the second part of an accusation against the NIV translation of the Bible. The first (which was part 4 of this series) addressed the issue of single words being changed, such as "Jehovah." What's more, some Christians are deeply concerned that the new NIV has removed entire verses from the Bible.

In a way, they are right. If you compare the KJV to the NIV, you'll discover that some verses have dropped out. But the important question is WHY?

Is this an attempt to take out statements that are uncomfortable or to water down the message of Scripture?

In a word, no.

Those who translated the Bible into English in the early 1600s did the best they could with what they had, but since then hundreds of other ancient manuscripts of the Bible have come to light, including those known as the "Dead Sea Scrolls." These manuscripts are much older than those available to the translators of the King James Version, sometimes by a thousand years, and in many cases they preserve a more accurate biblical text.
"The Shrine of the Book" at the Israel Museum,
where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed
Photo: D. Camfferman
The process of discerning which manuscript is better is called "textual criticism" (not because it's "critical" of the text, but because it's trying to determine the "critical" text). The goal of most textual critics is to reconstruct the oldest and most accurate text possible by identifying and removing any mistakes or later additions.

Those responsible for the translation of the NIV (the Committee on Bible Translation) want you to be confident that you hold in your hands the Word of God, not a text filled with well-intentioned additions— however "true" they may be. In some cases, a word, a verse, or even a whole paragraph was added to the text at some point in history in order to clarify the meaning or harmonize a text with a similar passage in another book. This is especially common in the Gospels, where multiple books recount the same event. Either by accident or on purpose, scribes would fill out the shorter text with details from the longer text.

The NIV translators carefully examined the manuscript evidence. In cases where a new (older) manuscript suggested that a verse was a later addition to the biblical text, they chose to eliminate it.

Here's an example:
Matthew 18:11 (NIV) - Photo: C. Imes
In the KJV, Matthew 18:11 says, "For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost."
In the NIV, there is no verse 11. Instead, a footnote reads, "Some manuscripts include here the words of Luke 19:10."
Sure enough, Luke 19:10 reads, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
Luke 19:10 (NIV) - Photo: C. Imes
In other words, even without this statement in Matthew 18:11, no theology has been lost. The truth that Jesus looks for and saves sinners is still in the New Testament. In the cases where a verse does not appear elsewhere, it was never supposed to be there in the first place. Thankfully, no doctrines of consequence rest on those verses.

Ironically, as with this example, many of the "missing" verses listed by concerned readers are found elsewhere in the Bible. Think with me here. If the NIV translators were trying to change the Bible, they didn't do a very thorough job.

For Zondervan's answer to this question (a shorter version of what I've said above), click here.

I've saved the most controversial objection to the NIV for last. Stay tuned!

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