Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mistranslations in the NIV and TNIV?

Logical Criticism of Textual Criticism

In my review of the book Logical Criticism of Textual Criticism, Dr. Gordon H. Clark has pointed out the mistranslation of two texts in the book of Hebrews in the NIV — namely Heb. 1:5 and 11:11. I had then decided to check out the bible versions themselves electronically on the Biblegateway website. What I saw confirmed the claims of Dr. Gordon Clark and places serious doubts on the fidelity of the NIV and TNIV (which claims to be an improvement over the NIV) at least at those two verses.

Here are the verses in the different versions:

For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? (Heb. 1:5a — ESV)

For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? (Heb. 1:5a — NIV)

For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? (Heb. 1:5a — TNIV)


By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. (Heb. 11:11 — ESV)

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise (Heb. 11:11 — NIV)

And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. (Heb. 11:11 — TNIV)

As I have said in my review:

As it can be seen, the NIV and TNIV in Heb. 1:5a changed the traditional phrase "begotten you" to "have become your Father", which alters the meaning of the text rather significantly. There is a footnote there giving the rendering of "begotten", but the question then is why is the phrase "have become" used here, since there is no textual variant that can be translated "have become" here? Furthermore, this footnote is found only in the NIV not in the later TNIV, so why is that the case?

With regards to Heb. 11:11, the distortion of the text in the NIV and the TNIV is simply amazing. The NIV comes up with a complete novel proposition and places the correct rendering in a footnote, all done without any textual rationale for doing so. The TNIV which is later and supposed to be better reverts back to the correct rendering of the passage (which is good), but inexplicably it places the false rendering of the passage in a footnote for the text! So much for improvement of the NIV! Oh well, I guess swapping the text and footnote text is an improvement after all, but still in error.

So what do the NIV and TNIV supporters have to say about this?


Zaharan Razak said...

I love you bro! You are one of thre few Chrisitan coverts who do not hide behind anonymous names or no names! The way to go. All these anonymous bloggers and converts are having split personalities I dare say. Amen.

Joel Tay said...

I felt that Clark's book could have covered more material. Was too short to give enough "kick". Haha.

I don't really like the NIV. When I doubt, always go back to the original language. :)

PuritanReformed said...




yup, it was way too short, but good for a primer. I take it that you have read the book before?

Joel Tay said...

Yea. Read the book. It has good content.

last week, a lecturer in college used textual criticism in his attempt to discredit the inerrancy of scriptures. *yawn...

PuritanReformed said...


=) That guy must be reading too much Bart Ehrman, I guess?

Anonymous said...
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PuritanReformed said...


yup, the stated reason why churches switched to the NIV when it came out was due to its readibility, as happened in my former church too. The NIV also was one of the first that took a more "moderate" position in the Formal Equivalence/ Dynamic Equivalence debate of that time, as compared to the KJV and NASB on the one hand, and the LB on the other. Of course, since then the debate has shifted.

The ESV from what I have read and seen for myself maintains somewhat of the readibility of the NIV, but is more literal than it - more faithful to the Greek texts. That is why I think it is truly a good version, something like possessing the readibility of the NIV and the faithfulness of the KJV/ NASB. =)

Anonymous said...

Looks like a book I'd love to read; will check out your review before deciding if I'll buy it. ;)

RE: the NIV. I like it's readability, but am uncomfortable with it overall for various glaring errors and mis-translations. Otherwise, for new Christians, its valuable as a first Bible vis-a-vis the Good News edition which I had.

Beng said...

I started out with KJV when I was 15, and love it for the beauty of the language. Good News Bible was useful for its accessiblity (ie can understand and read it like a story book).

For the last few years I've been depending on the Modern King James Version (not the same as the New King James Version) and God's Word version if I need a plainer English version. Familiarity plays an important part in my choice (eg knowing what word to use when I want to do a keyword search to locate a verse I know), and also there's a certain cadence and sentence structure that's burned into my memory from KJV.

I've never really read from the NIV, so I can't comment.

I'm now reading through the ESV (available free on eSword) and am now at Exodus. I find it good, easy reading, yet it comes alive to my mind, as God's word should. The assurance that it is a faithful translation (based on the word of many witnesses) is a further boon.

I think the ESV is a good development. An important thrust of the Reformation was to translate the Bible from the Greek, Hebrew and Latin Vulgate into the common tongues such as German and English. As with any translation, there will be the personal bias of the translator(s) reflected therein, and I think we need to take this into account whenever we read anything but the original manuscripts (and who actually does that?) I understand that the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy only applies to the original scripts.

The ESV is a blessing and, if you like, an application of the doctrine of perspicuity of scripture - ie the Bible should be easily accessible and understood in the common vernacular. While I like the KJV, I seldom actually read it nowadays, although most of the verses I have memorized are in KJV, since I memorized them in my youth. I imagine that if the KJV were the only version available today, there would be many people who would read a lot less of the Bible than they presently do.

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PuritanReformed said...


the issue with Bible translation is that it must be both faithful and understandable, in order that God's Word would be able to be conveyed to us, and some versions fail either of the two criteria. The Dynamic Equivalence ones like NLT compromise the faithfulness of the text in order to be more readable, while people like me find it very difficult to understand versions like the KJV.

So far, I have found the ESV to fulfil both criteria better than any of the others, which is good since I prefer to use as little versions as possible. =)

PuritanReformed said...


yup, I have read that book also about 1-2 years back, which was my first book on the subject of Textual Criticism btw. White's arguments are sound, until he tried to defend some of the textual choices among the variants available. =)

I didn't get to read the KJV per se since my former church, the church I grew up in, switched over to the NIV when I was very young (before I was 12). Quite a few of my memory verses are in NIV; probably should convert them to ESV in the near future...

Beng said...

I've actually never read the Bible from Gen to Rev before. This will be the first time I'm doing it (assuming I actually manage to do so). Had tried once or twice before but always gave up or got sidetracked.

Making a determined effort this time, and ESV should be a good version to attempt it.

Anonymous said...

If you're reading the ESV, are you aware of the free Reformation Bible (ESV) that Ligonier Ministries is giving away with a donation of any amount?

The "offer" ends 2 Nov. Visit http://rymoffer.com/ for more info. I wrote about it at my blog (http://wordnverse.com/2008/10/28/reformation-week-special-get-the-reformation-study-bible-for-a-gift-of-any-amount/).

PuritanReformed said...


yup, I'm aware of it. Still thinking over it, though.