This article discusses issues to consider when dealing with the translation of the Bible, and how to choose a translation for use in the church. The authors discuss the text to use for Bible translation, the issue of the inspiration and the unity of the bible in translation, and the suitability of the translation for use in the church and school. The authors end the report by discussing different methods of Bible translation and examine some current English Bible translations (Revised Standard Version, New American Standard Version, New King James Version, New International Version).

Source: Diakonia, 1991. 44 pages.

Report on Bible Translation

To: Synod 1989 of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia appointed the undersigned as Deputies for Bible Translation, and instructed them to report to the Churches prior to Synod 1989.

Section I🔗

General Activities🔗

  1. Mandate🔗

Synod 1987 gave the following instructions:

  1. to investigate once more the NIV and NASB and to investigate the New KJV to see if any of these translations would be better that the RSV. The reports of previous deputies and the reports of deputies of our Canadian sister-churches can be consulted and used for this investigation.
  2. to use as criteria:
  1. faithfulness to the original Hebrew, Ara­maic and Greek texts.
  2. readability and suitability for worship serv­ices, for instruction and for memorization.
  3. consistency in maintaining the unity of the Scriptures.
  1. continue to monitor developments regard­ing the use of the RSV within the churches, in co­operation with similar committees in sister-churches.
  2. monitor further work of the Translation Committee of the RSV.
  3. maintain archives of relevant matter re­garding Bible translations.
  4. report to next Synod.
  1. Activities🔗

The Deputies met a total of thirteen times. When the Deputies began their work, a notice was placed in Una Sancta, inviting churches and church members to make submissions. There has been no response to date.

Your deputies have written to the translation committees of all the Bible translations under study, and obtained from a variety of sources a large number of books, articles and reviews relevant to the subject.

In the course of their work, each of the deputies has read and studied large portions of each transla­tion.

In order to give structure and cohesion to their report, the Deputies first addressed the following matters:

  1. The text of the OT and NT
  2. Method of translating
  3. Criteria for suitability

Subsequently, the Bible translations were examined individually:

  1. Preliminary report on the 1990 edition of the RSV
  2. The New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  3. The New King James Version (NKJV)
  4. The New International Version (NIV)

For the information of the Churches, articles were submitted to Una Sancta under each of these headings. Much of what follows has already ap­peared in these articles.

  1. Bibliography🔗

As already noted, a large amount of material was gathered and used in coming to this report. Had time permitted, a comprehensive-bibliography would have appeared as an appendix. As it is, each section of this report is accompanied by its own set of references.

Section II🔗

The Text of the Bible🔗

  1. The Basic Task🔗

From the mandate one can see that the matter of the text of the Bible from which one makes a translation is basic. Obviously one must first establish the text from which to translate before any actual translation can be attempted. Just as a minister must first of all establish the text from which he will preach before he starts to exegete it, so the translator must first determine the precise text from which he will make a translation. We will therefore pay attention to this basic issue first.

One sometimes finds that the textual question is often reduced to how translators treat the text of the New Testament. Much attention in the form of books, publications and articles have tended to focus on this important subject. Readers look at what a translation does with passages such as the ending of Mark 16 or the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11). How­ever, it is also important to look at the text of the Old Testament as well. For the establishment of the un­derlying text of the Old Testament is not without its problems either. Thus we should take a look at how the text of both the Old Testament and the New Testament are determined.

  1. The Text of the Old Testament🔗

Tracing the history of the transmission of the Old Testament text is an exact, scholarly science. We will try to offer just a brief, simple outline to allow the reader to see the problems involved.

Usually scholars and translators use the He­brew, or to be more precise, the Masoretic Text (MT) of the Old Testament. Jewish scholars, called 'sopherim,' began to standardize the text of the Old Testament as well as other texts. The 'masoretes' continued this process. In order to disprove the assertions of the Christians, they made marginal notes ('masorah') in their texts. By the middle to the first millennium they dominated this field of textual criticism. Two families of texts (Ben Asher and Ben Naphtali) prevailed with the Ben Asher text winning out. In general (though there are quite some internal variants within these Masoretic texts of various fami­lies) this is the Masoretic Text. It is written in Hebrew and is therefore often called the Hebrew Old Testa­ment text.

Originally this text had only consonants since the Hebrew language is consonantal (each word going back to a root of three consonants) with the reader being capable of supplying the proper vow­els. You can imagine the confusion if the English Bible was published using only consonants! The reader would have to supply the vowels. Sometimes many possibilities would exist, giving different read­ings. The same occurred with the consonantal text of the Old Testament. Since the use and understanding of the Hebrew language was quite limited, the proper understanding of the Old Testament text was in danger. In this situation the Jewish scribes came to the rescue.

The masoretes supplied the vowels and many other useful notations. For example, some words in Hebrew can be pointed (given vowels) differently, giving different words and meanings. This applies especially to verbal forms. As a consequence differ­ences of opinion as to the specific vowels arose, producing the Kethiv (what is written) or Qere (what is read) notations. It has been estimated that there are more than 1,500 such variants. Since the original manuscripts did not have vowel pointings and since even the scribes differed, the textual scholar must pay close attention to this matter.

In addition the Masoretic scribes had their 'an­cient scribal traditions' of which we know eighteen. Some of these are noted for example in the New International Version (NIV).1

Besides the Masoretic Text, the Lord has also given much other supplementary and comparative material. Various translations of the Old Testament were made out of zeal for the spread of the Scriptures. The Septuagint2 or Greek translation of the Old Testament is the most notable. It provides valuable assistance for settling the Old Testament text, first of all because this translation dates way back to the third and second centuries BEFORE CHRIST! There are many manuscripts of this version. Even with this version not all manuscripts are identical but one can distinguish text-types. In the third cen­tury, Origen produced a text of the LXX in an at­tempt to standardize it. He made six columns (hence it received the name 'Hexapla') to include respec­tively the Hebrew text, a transliteration of the He­brew, the Greek translation of Aquila, the Greek translation of Symmachus, the Septuagint itself and finally the Greek translation of Theodotion. This laborious and voluminous undertaking was to settle the text of the Old Testament once and for all. For the Jews and Christians had fought long and hard about the Old Testament text in their debates. Origen de­sired to settle these debates about the text.

Besides the Septuagint there are the Aramaic paraphrases or targums, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac version, the Coptic (Egyptian) version, the old Latin, the Vulgate, and the other translations included in Origen's Hexapla. Today the Lord has blessed us with even more ancient testimony to the Old Testament text. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls have given scholars much exciting work. One benefit was that these scrolls included portions of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. And this testimony does not come from the ninth century or later as with the Masoretic Text, but they originate from the first and even second centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord! Generally they vindicate the Masoretic Text and the long-standing con­viction of the church to use the Masoretic Text from which to translate. In a few cases they side with the versions. Modern translations may then decide to translate the reading of the Dead Sea Scrolls as supported by the ancient translations.

One might think then that with all these variants the text of the Old Testament has become rather unreliable or subject to the insight or fluctuating opinions of the textual scholars. But this is not true. The ancient scribes are to be applauded for their careful transcription of the Old Testament text. Their work was stretched out over centuries ensuring that the final product, though in the ninth century, was accurate. Their zeal and extreme precision assures us of an authentic Old Testament in its original languages as a basis for an English translation. A trip to and a tour of an established synagogue would confirm how the Jewish rabbis even today meticu­lously hand-write and check and re-check the books of the Old Testament. If more than three mistakes are made in a handwritten copy, it cannot be used for synagogal purposes.

But how do the various translations use this basic text? It is the task of the deputies to ascertain which underlying text the four relevant translations (Revised Standard Version, New American Stand­ard Bible, New King James Version, and the New International Version) have used, and to evaluate if they have made a good or bad choice. For instance, some translations rest heavily on the ancient ver­sions or translations, while this is quite unnecessary. Such reliance on the ancient versions often betrays a critical desire to depart from the Masoretic Text, since the MT is somehow objectionable. That spirit should be opposed and not allowed to infiltrate the churches.

This issue of versions becomes even more criti­cal when translators decide that neither the Masoretic Text nor the ancient versions are reliable, under­standable or correct. Scholars then resort to what is called a 'conjectural emendation' which is a schol­arly way of describing an educated guess. And this happens in spite of the fact that these verses or words are not missing in the MT or the versions! In a submission made by deputies from our Canadian sister-churches, it was reported that the RSV found it necessary to correct the Hebrew text of Hosea thirty-one times! Only two were definitely war­ranted, five were possibly warranted but twenty-three were definitely not warranted! You can find such educated guesses in the RSV in the Old Testa­ment in the footnotes beginning with "cn" (correc­tion of the Hebrew).

So it is necessary to pay close attention to the underlying text of the Old Testament from which translators work. As we review the four translations under study, this matter of the text of the Old Testament will need close scrutiny. In a preliminary way we can already say that the three translations do improve on the RSV in that these three do not deviate from the Hebrew Text as quickly and as often in an unnecessary way. Thus they could be recommended above the RSV in this one respect. Further study must bear this out.

  1. The Text of the New Testament🔗

  1. Its Importance🔗

"It must be recognized that most of the books written for or against translations deal almost exclusively with the Greek Text and its problems" (B. Sheehan, Which Version Now, p. 1). This is unfortunately true in an age in which the New Testament tends to eclipse the Old Testament.

Nevertheless, the text of the New Testament is important for believers and the church. The Scriptures are "inspired of God" or literally "God-breathed" (NIV, 2 Tim. 3:16). As such the words come from the mouth and mind of God. It is of great importance that we know exactly what God has said, and all that He has said. God has also stated that He punishes any tampering with his words. Those who add to his words can expect the addition of the plagues of his revelation, while those who detract from it will have their portion in the tree of life removed (cf. Rev. 22:18, 19). Both sins are abomina­ble to God.

Thus we will not be satisfied with the general idea of what God has said. Statements that a translation does not deny any cardinal teachings of the New Testament will not satisfy us. Since important arguments hinge on words, verbal tenses and moods, and grammatical intricacies, the exact words of Scrip­ture are of great importance.

  1. The Manuscripts🔗

It is common knowledge that the original manu­scripts of the gospels, letters and books of the New Testament are no longer present and have probably perished long ago with use. If we still had them, much debate and uncertainty would be prevented. However, God has blessed us with many copies (of copies, etc.). So we are not handicapped. In fact, there are 5338 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament (used by the Eastern church which maintained the Greek language) alone, not counting all the other versions (there are approximately 8,000 copies of the Latin Vulgate which the Western church used till the sixteenth century) and other manuscripts! So there is an overwhelming abundance of material.

Most of the manuscripts date between the fifth and fifteen centuries. Some earlier ones have now come to light from the third and fourth centuries. They come in different forms. The codices (book-form) come either in capital letters without space (uncials or majuscles) which usually date from the third to the sixth centuries A.D. or in cursive or running script (miniscles) which date from the ninth century on. Minuscles (with the small letters and spaces as in our handwritten material) outnumber the uncials ten to one. Besides these codices many papyrus texts, preserved in the Egyptian sands, have come to light.3 These date back to the second to fifth centuries, but their scribal reliability is often ques­tionable.

With all these manuscripts available one would think that the task of establishing the text of the New Testament would be trouble-free. For a large per­centage of the text this is indeed true. Yet God has not left the church without work to do in this field. Here too the truth remains that God is sovereignly in control, but God holds man responsible. Applied to the task of settling the text of the New Testament, this means that God has wonderfully and sovereignly preserved thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament for the sake of his church. At the same time God demands that man studies those manuscripts carefully so that the exact words of God may be determined.

This latter task arises because no two manu­scripts (from all the thousands) are alike. Some basic facts about these manuscripts and their study should be presented.

First of all, these manuscripts are all laboriously handwritten until the printing press replaced the scribe. This is why they are called "manuscripts," which means "written by hand." And these manuscripts were not always made by trained scribes but often by untrained ones so that a host of errors is apparent in many of them. Moreover, the material they were written on differs from papyrus to pot­sherds to vellum, making some more readable than others. To complicate matters, some manuscripts were erased and used again, giving scholars today the difficult task of uncovering the original text of the New Testament it offered. So the study of these manuscripts encounters many snags, demanding much knowledge and linguistic expertise.

Being handwritten, the manuscripts were prone to scribal errors. One can appreciate this fact if faced with the exhausting task of reproducing rolls and rolls of papyrus to be copied. When we remember that in many manuscripts there were no spaces between words, there was no punctuation, only capital letters were used and abbreviations were often employed, we can sympathize with the scribes. And if one had to write the copy down while the New Testament was being dictated, even more dif­ficulties arose because one had to rely on the ear instead of the eye. So no matter how carefully a manuscript was copied not one is free of mistakes. And if other copyists used that manuscript there was a chance that the errors would be multiplied. So no two manuscripts are the same. Scholars call these differences variants (different readings).

Some such errors which are found in almost all manuscripts include errors of eyesight, the misread­ing of abbreviations, the omission of lines or their repetition because the eye jumped forward or back­ward a line, the omission or addition of words be­cause the eye jumped to the same word elsewhere in the text, error or mishearing because words sounded the same, and errors of spelling.

Besides accidental changes scribes also intro­duced changes to improve the style of the text (to make it sound more like the literary, Hellenistic Greek instead of like the common (Koine) Greek) of its days. Scribes sometimes tried to correct the errors of a previous scribe, or they harmonized a passage with a parallel passage (especially in the gospels). Some scribes obviously had a theological axe to grind. Heretical scribes would introduce readings favourable to their views, while orthodox scribes could be inclined to add or to subtract in order to counteract heresy. Those who study the transmis­sion of the New Testament text must thus have a thorough knowledge of the history of the church when these manuscripts were written.

Obviously, the less copying that occurred be­tween the original (autographs) exemplar and the copy, the better the copy. This does not necessarily mean that the earliest manuscripts are the best. A later manuscript may be a copy of a very early exemplar and thus contain a very accurate text.

This brings us to the vexing question of how to evaluate the variety of manuscripts. To some the earliest witnesses, such as the early codices (the leaf-form or book instead of a scroll) and the papyri, are the best simply because they are the earliest. Others debate and oppose this view strenuously by check­ing the quality of the earlier manuscripts4 For exam­ple, ten copies are made of a work. Two are faultless and eight contain many and various errors. One faultless copy is lost while the eight faulty ones are multiplied. But the one quality copy remains in one area where it issued exclusively. If we find only a few, very old copies of the eight faulty manuscripts and many, later copies of the one faultless copy, we might be inclined to say the few, very old copies were the best. However, if we know the ancestry, a different picture emerges. The earliest copies turn out to be less valuable that the more recent copies which were based on a better exemplar. Textual scholars must therefore look at the ancestry and character of the various manuscripts to see which have most faithfully transcribed the text of the New Testament. This science demands much painstaking research.

All of this background information might cause some to despair, as though it is impossible to arrive accurately at the true text of the New Testament. That conclusion would be a gross exaggeration. Scholars from all camps agree that 95-97% of the text is established without doubt or debate. It is about the remaining 3-5% that scholars honestly differ with each other. We will try to explain the differences fairly, showing at the same time what implications they have for the translation of the New Testament.

Before going into the matter itself it might be good to explain that the division of opinion on the remaining 3-5% of the New Testament text is not a division between reformed/evangelical thought over-against liberal/modernist thought. We should not think that the one side defends the faith and integrity of the Scriptures, while the other side is out to discredit the same. Although this caricature is sometimes made, it is erroneous. While there are textual critics (as there are translators) who do not adhere to the infallibility of the Bible, one cannot divide the camps into conservatives and liberals. Those who advocate the text underlying the KJV or the NKJV mostly have a high view of Scripture. Those who advocate an eclectic text which underlies the NASB, NIV & RSV also number men with the same high view of the Bible. Their commitment to the inspiration of the very words of Scripture drives them to gain the correct text of the New Testament. We can read this in the forewords to the NASB & NIV.5The differences are due to honest, scholarly debate.

How do scholars approach the remaining 3-5% of the New Testament text? For our purposes two differing approaches are discernible:

  1. follow the Byzantine text as the KJV &NKJV basically (with some variation) do, or
  2. follow a text based on eclectic principles as the RSV, NASB & NIV do.

Some explanation is in order. First of all, the term "text" was used. It might be more precise to call it a "text-type" as the practice in the field of textual studies. Scholars group all the manuscripts into these text-types on the grounds that they not only have been copied from one another in the past but also because,

...the manuscripts belonging to a particular text-type all reflect the same sort of errors, the same variants at crucial passages, the same general pattern of development. Of course, because all of the manu­scripts in any one text-type have themselves been hand-copied, no two manuscripts in any one textual tradition are precisely identical. Nevertheless a manuscript can often be assigned to one text-type or another; and if a manuscript reflects two or more text-types, it is said to be mixed.6

All the manuscripts are classified into four such text-types:

  1. The Byzantine text-type. This text-type stands behind the Greek text from which the KJV & NKJV are translated. Its name originates from the Byzantine Empire which continued to use Greek in contrast to the Roman Empire in the West where Latin took over. Though its manuscripts are relatively late it has more wit­nesses than the other three text-types combined.
  2. The Western text-type. Its name comes from the fact that its witnesses come from the west of the Roman Empire. This text is not homogene­ous but exhibits fairly wild and undisciplined scribal activity. Some doubt that it can be called a true text-type.
  3. The Caesarean text-type. As the name sug­gests the center of activity was in Caesarea where especially Origen worked. As mentioned above (under the Old Testament), he did much work on the Greek text of the Old Testament. This text blends readings from the Western and Alexandrian text-types.
  4. The Alexandrian text-type. Alexandria in Egypt was most probably its center. We have some early, excellent uncial manuscripts as wit­nesses to it. Westcott and Hort gave this text-type preeminence but subsequent research has questioned that favoritism.

The problem in assessing the four translations concerned surrounds this textual matter. As said above, the NKJV (as does the KJV) follows the Byz­antine text-type plus readings from the Western text-type and Caesarean text-type. Such a text in which scholars pick and choose from all text-types is called an "eclectic text." Such a text stands behind the RSV, NASB & NIV. It seems that one must either choose the Byzantine text-type or a revised version of the Alexandrian text-type. Unfortunately, schol­ars have not come to agreement on this question, with even reformed scholars at odds on the issue. As stated above, one cannot neatly classify this division into liberals on the one hand (favouring the eclectic text) and conservatives (favouring the Byzantine text-type).

Scholars such as J. van Bruggen7 and W. Pickering8 dispute the accuracy of these classifica­tions of the text-types, and they strongly contest the validity of promoting the one text-type, the Alexandrian, above the rest. On the other hand, prominent scholars such as B. B. Warfield, E. J. Young, D. A. Carson, G. D. Fee, E. H. Palmer and D. Macleod defend the eclectic text.9

After having read some important works on this subject the deputies grow in appreciation for the complexity of the problem.10 Simplistic answers, such as that the Lord has always preserved the "church-text" (meaning the Byzantine text-type used by the KJV) and we should not deviate from it because of our high view of Scripture, are not to the point. In the first place, "church-text" is a misnomer, since the church obviously used the other text-types too. Secondly, to elevate the Byzantine text-type because of its numbers, while disregarding its late­ness and while not being sure of its origin, does not seem sound either. What does one do with the other three text-types which the early church used?

The deputies appreciate the needed criticism which Pickering and van Bruggen levelled at the theory of Hort. They have used the evidence gath­ered by other scholars for this purpose. Weaknesses in the theory which dethroned the Byzantine text-type have been pointed out.11 Also, the call for the reinstatement of the Byzantine text-type as a good witness to the text of the New Testament, should not go unheeded. Yet the historical methods and the pursuit of factuality should remain normal tools for textual scholars and for ministers. Bob Sheehan con­denses these principles for choosing the best text as follows:

ii  has this reading geographical support (from all the areas of the ancient church)?

iii  What weight is to be attached to this reading and its evidence in the light of other readings and their evidence?

In addition to this external evidence, the eclecticist uses internal evidence. This internal evidence in­volves two kinds of probabilities. The first type of probability is based upon the problems of copying and the habits of scribes. The second type of probability is based on what the author is more likely to have written.12

Ministers learn these skills during their training at seminary so that they can establish the text from which they will preach. We should expect that trans­lators should capably do the same.

As deputies we therefore conclude:

  1. Do not elevate the Byzantine text-type as the Textus Receptus (received or accepted text).
  2. Do no demote the Byzantine text-type as too late, too full, too sub-standard as has been done in the past decades since Westcott and Hort's theory won the day.
  3. Do not promote only the Alexandrian text-type as the preeminent one as Westcott and Hort tended to do, blindly disregarding the other manuscripts.
  4. Do not count the manuscripts and abide by the majority of manuscripts. The Majority Text, which tends to count instead of to evaluate the manuscripts, has this weakness.
  5. Instead, use the acquired skills of textual scholarship to evaluate which is the best text. This unavoidably involves eclectism, selecting the best text from ALL the text-types while using the principles stated above.

If these conclusions are good, then we can finally decide on the textual matter concerning the four translations. We would then agree with the assess­ment of Bob Sheehan and others:

If, as this booklet contends, the best text is a cau­tiously selected eclectic text, then the best versions are NASV & NIV. The RSV & NEB (New English Bible) are too free, and the KJV is based on the Received Text.13

The RSV is too inclined to follow only the Alexandrian text-type or the oddities of the Western text-type (as in Luke 24) when these text-types are the only witness to a reading. The NASV &NIV have sifted the evidence with more care and sensitivity. One would ask that in the future more appreciation and weight is given to the readings of the Byzantine text-type. However, to follow only that text-type as the NKJV does cannot be justified on scholarly grounds either. Textually, the NASB & NIV are thus to be preferred. Both are an improvement on the RSV as far as the choice of the text is concerned.

Section III🔗

Criteria for Bible-Translations and the Method of Translating the Bible🔗

1. Translating in General🔗

Translating from one language to another may ap­pear at first glance to be relatively straightforward. The idea is to take what is said in the original and transfer that with equal clarity into another lan­guage. Even in our own circles such translating is done. Articles, sermons and even books have been translated from Dutch into English.

But how does one translate? Anyone who has put his hand to translating will know that you can­not simply transfer English words for Dutch words. What you would end up with is a sentence with English words and Dutch word order. Consider the Dutch "ik heb de bal weg gegooid." A word for word translation would read like this: "I have the ball away thrown." Similarly, not all thoughts can be translated literally without printing absurdities. A literal translation of the phrase: "we staan voor beslissende jaren" would be "we stand before crucial years." Although the grammar resulting from a word-for-word translation would in this case be possible in English, the resulting sentence sounds awkward because English does not know this particular ex­pression. And how does one translate the Dutch idiom, "het hangt me de keel uit?" A literal translation, "it hangs me the throat out," is scarcely edifying English.

These basic rules for translation can be accepted by all. Any migrant who has become more or less conversant with English simply does not maintain Dutch sentence-structure and idioms while substituting English words. To speak proper English im­plies dropping both the Dutch word-order in favour of the English as well as substituting complete phrases as English parallels.

Whether consciously or not then, we realize that there are certain directives to be kept in mind for translating. Two languages do not say things the same way, and if one wishes to be clear one must fully adopt the grammatical rules, syntactical struc­tures and idioms of the language into which one translates.

2. Translating the Bible🔗

The Scriptures were given to men in languages other than English. Since the Hebrew and Greek of the Bible are not commonly used anymore today, it is necessary to translate the Bible into our vernacular. How ought one to do this? Should one use the same principles as those used for translating Dutch words, e.g. W. G. Vandehulst's children-books or K. Schilder's trilogy, into English? To be more precise, should one use a freer approach as for the book of Vandehulst or should one translate very literally as for the works of K. Schilder which involve exact theology? Should the common rules for all transla­tions apply to the Bible?

The mandate of the deputies (see 1987 Acts, art. 109) includes the use of the following criteria in assessing the three translations under study:

  1. faithfulness to the original Hebrew, Ara­maic and Greek texts.
  2. readability and suitability for worship serv­ices, for instruction and for memorization.
  3. consistency in maintaining the unity of the Scriptures.

Especially the first and third criteria are useful for our purposes at the moment to answer the above-mentioned questions.

  1. Translating and Verbal Inspiration🔗

To answer these important questions one must go back to the reformed view about the Bible itself. This takes us to the doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures. In articles 2-9, Belgic Confession, we sum up our faith about the Bible. "We confess that this Word of God 'did not come by the impulse of men,' but that 'men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God,' as the apostle Peter says" (2 Pet. 1:21). The contents or the message of the Bible therefore comes from God through human spokesmen.

This means that the Bible is the most important book for us. It carries the authority of God Himself. In the Bible God Himself speaks, as is indicated by the often repeated introduction, "thus says the LORD God."

This makes the Bible unique. Its importance is seen in that its message focuses on Jesus Christ our Lord about whom God the Father said, "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him" (Matthew 17:5). We must listen carefully to the Bible to both hear and to heed it.

And the Bible is not just a COLLECTION OR LIBRARY of (66) individual books written by vari­ous men over a span of many centuries. No, it is ONE book, since it has ONE author, the Holy Spirit. Men were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak messages which came from God. As Paul told Timothy in that now classic proof-text, "every Scripture is God-breathed" (2 Tim. 3:16, NIV). This means that every book or scripture in the Bible comes from God. Its message comes from the Holy Spirit who moved men to speak.

  1. Translating and Organic Inspiration🔗

But can we glean more guidelines for translating the Bible from our understanding of the Bible? Yes, we can and we must. For we have accented the truth that God is the one author of the Bible. This does not mean that the human "mouths" (Luke 1:70; Acts 1:16; 3:18 & 4:25) or writers, e.g. prophets and apostles were, to use a modern comparison, mere passive typists whose fingers automatically hit the right keys as God dictated his message to them. To quote H. Bavinck,

...the Holy Spirit also patently contradicts any mechanical idea of inspiration. For, although, the prophets were moved, or driven, by the Holy Spirit, they themselves also spoke (2 Peter 1:21). The words which they put into writing are again and again referred to as their words. In several instances, we read that they were prepared for the office, set apart and equipped for it (Jer. 1:5; Acts 7:22; Gal. 1:15). And, just as they do in receiving the word, so also in writing down the revelation, they remain altogether self-conscious; their own activity is not suppressed by the moving of the Spirit but is lifted up, energized, and purged. They themselves make dili­gent investigations (Luke 1:3). They recall and re­flect upon the revelation which they have received at an earlier date, they make use of historical sources, some of them, the Psalmists, for instance, find the materials for their song in their own experience, and in all the writings of which the Bible is composed the personal disposition of the writer, the peculiar qual­ity of his character, his personal development and education, his own language and style — these all come to expression in each and all of the many writers. The study of the Scriptures teaches us not only the one word of God; it acquaints us also with the different persons who wrote them. What a differ­ence there is between the books of the Kings and the Chronicles, between Isaiah and Jeremiah, between Matthew and Luke, between John, and Peter, and Paul!

Such a conception of inspiration as is here suggested permits us also to do full justice of the human side of the Holy Scriptures. Our Reasonable Faith, trans. of Magnalia Dei by H. Zylstra, (Baker, 1956), pp. 102-103

Bavinck then goes on to point out the growth of the Bible, the various forms of revelation (e.g. history, poetry, prophecy, visions and wisdom litera­ture), the Christ-centered focus of the Bible, and the need to study the background (canonics) of every book to see what place it has in the canon. All this plus the extensive quote above from this trustwor­thy, reformed dogmatician emphasizes how justice must also be done to what is called "organic inspira­tion," which acknowledges that God maintained the activity, personality, experience, background and education of the writers. This reformed and biblical view stands over-against "mechanical inspiration" which views the human writers as mere, passive typists. If the latter were true, then we could expect more consistency and less variety in styles, vocabu­lary, grammar, syntax and idioms. But this is not what we find in the Scriptures. Moreover, organic inspiration does not reduce the wonder of inspira­tion. Indeed, that God used human mouthpieces and writers, without treating them as "stocks and blocks," and at the same time ensuring that his message was clearly communicated enhances the wonder of in­spiration, highlighting the miracle of the inspired Bible. Without nullifying the speaker/writer and his character, language, background, history, and culture God still ensured that the message was clearly from Him and was fully authoritative. One can compare this to the incarnation of our Lord. When He became man, God kept both his humanity and his divinity intact, without reducing either. What an incomprehensible wonder that is! A similar mystery surrounds inspiration.

3. Translations and Suitability🔗

The 1987 Synod also included suitability for use in church and school as one criterion of a good translation. Our attention will focus on this point.

  1. For Use in the Church🔗

The weekly church services are the highlight of our life as a congregation of Jesus Christ our Lord. We will therefore mention these services first. The use of the Bible is frequent and central in those services. Since the Bible stands so central (cf. the reformed slogan, "sola Scriptura") in the worship services, the translation should be good. What makes a transla­tion suitable?

We need not repeat the two criteria of faithful­ness and maintenance of the unity of Scripture. Also, we need not repeat that a translation must keep to the text of the original Hebrew and Greek.

Besides these marks one can refer to the need for CLARITY. Now this point is sometimes contested. Some argue that clarity in a translation is not a high priority. It is the sole task of the Holy Spirit to make the Scriptures clear, it is claimed. Usually reference is then made to a text such as 1 Cor. 2:14, "the unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." But does this argument not introduce a false dilemma?

It is true that sinful man is blind, ignorant and dead in sin and trespasses. Man cannot and will not come to faith by himself. We confess this especially in the Canons of Dort, chapter III/IV. The Holy Spirit must illumine the darkened mind of man before he sees. Thus far all must agree.

But does this mean that a translation can be obscure or unclear? We do not agree. Reformed dogmaticians have always stressed the CLARITY of Scripture as one of its hallmarks.

This means that,

the Bible can be clearly understood in its general contents and basic message, even by children, Mat­thew 11:25. This does not mean that there are no difficult passages which are 'hard to understand' (2 Peter 3:16) and that there need be no interpreters (Acts 8:31). Cl. Stam, Everything in Christ, p. 17

Clarity thus means that the Bible is basically clear, though Scripture itself admits that difficulties exist. Yet in an overall manner God did not speak in unintelligible language but in straightforward lan­guage which the people could understand. It is up to the translator to make sure that this clarity remains. A translation should be as clear as the original, not any more nor any less clear. A translation should not try to solve obscurities nor render a clear passage unclear.

For example, Jesus used very simple illustra­tions from daily life in his parables to teach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. Everyone could understand the story itself. The illustrations were simple and straightforward, but only the spiritual ones (believers) understood the message. The Holy Spirit illumined the minds of some to understand these parables. But the Spirit used the clear teachings of our Lord. As the letter to the Ephesians points out, the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. The Spirit attacks and defends, convicts and convinces, by means of this sword. Would He use a blunt instrument? To quote Callow and Beekman

In other words, the Scripture is clear and straightfor­ward, and is intended to be understood by anyone who reads or hears it. But the message of the Word of God will not be believed, or acted upon, unless the Spirit of God opens the understanding and brings that same message home to the heart. But if, because of a poor translation, the message is obscure, or even wrong, what then? Is it the Spirit's task to correct it? Surely it is we who are to blame for putting in his hands a blunt sword instead of a sharp two-edged one.Translating the Word of God, p. 349.

We conclude that the Holy Spirit wished to convert, to regenerate and to build faith by a gospel proclamation which is based on a clear translation.

Moreover, it is rather irksome that the preacher continually has to correct a translation or has to explain some obscurities. If a congregation continu­ally hears from the pulpit words such as "I know that is what it says but actually it means something else" then the members start to feel that only an initiated group of experts can un­derstand the Word of God. This undermines the Scrip­tures' attribute of CLAR­ITY. Though a preacher/teacher must often give necessary background information to "fill out the picture" of a text since much information was known or left as implicit for the original hearers, it should not be necessary to continually correct or re­vise a translation.

As Cal­low and Beekman con­clude,

to depend on the teacher to make the Word understandable defeats the very purpose of translation which is that everyone should have direct access to God's Word in his own language.ibid., p. 350

A clear translation will allow the preacher more time to expound and ap­ply the clear message of God's Word to the congregation who must appropriate that Word to them­selves. A translation must therefore not be obscure but clear, underlining the clarity of the Scriptures for which they are renowned. This makes a translation suitable for use in church services.

Secondly, the translation must keep to the style of the original. It would be wrong to press for a uniform type of "pulpit language." Some members would then plead for a polished dignified style; some would like a literary style; while others desire the more colloquial or common language to which they are accustomed every-day. Various tastes would have to be blended. Instead, it is more correct to allow Scripture to dictate the style (cf. what was said under 2.b about organic inspiration). As mentioned above, God used the characters, vocabulary, idioms and backgrounds of the writers and their audiences. Isaiah as a royal prophet wrote stylistic Hebrew. Amos, the farmer from Tekoa, speaks more bluntly but no less forcibly. A similar distinction could be made between the learned apostle Paul and the simple but profound apostle John. A suitable trans­lation must reflect this variety and difference in styles. One uniform style for all the Bible books does not exist and would be an arbitrary invention. One must not arbitrarily try to achieve a dignified style even though the inspired authors of the Bible used colloquial or idiomatic ex­pressions. In short a suit­able translation must reflect the styles of the vari­ous authors.

Such a translation will also function well for cat­echism classes where the Bible is continually used. Children need to learn the whole counsel of God from a faithful and clear trans­lation which speaks their language. They need to learn to speak of the things of God. A clear translation which speaks a language they understand means they can relate to the gos­pel readily. If a translation does not do so, the danger is great that children pick up the mistaken notion that ecclesiastical language is different from daily language. This will inhibit discussions about mat­ters of faith.

Also, the Bible will be used in the clubs which study the Bible. Again this calls for a precise, faithful and clear translation. Experience tells us that much valuable time is lost in these clubs in discussion about certain words or phrases. One member reads it one way and another member reads it another way. Often a lack of biblical knowledge leads to such trivial discussions. Though no translation will pre­vent this problem completely, one which strives to render the full message of the original into clear, daily English certainly will serve these clubs most. The gap in history and the difference in language (from Hebrew and Greek) already cause enough hurdles. A suitable translation should minimize dif­ficulties by giving a full and clear translation.

That ignorance often leads to digressions about words and phrases also underlines the need for a clear and simple translation. One should not assume a prolific Bible-knowledge nor gear a translation to the level of theologians. The Bible should speak not only to the one well-versed in the Scriptures but also to the unconverted (even in the church) and to the newcomer to the faith.

Thus we make a plea for a translation, which is not only based on the original text, faithful and accurate but also one which is clear and simple.

  1. For Use in Schools🔗

Technically what has been said about the suitability of a translation for church-use (especially for the catechism classes) will apply to its use in our schools. The Bible is the norm for our schools. Usually it is taught as the first subject. Students often memorize texts from the Bible as well as rhymed psalms. At school teachers show how the Bible is the foundation for all true wisdom.

Thus a faithful translation which wins the re­spect of Bible-believers is necessary. The marks mentioned above for a suitable translation again apply here. Indeed, seeing that we refer to children who start from age six to read and to memorize Scripture, it is even more imperative that a translation speaks the daily and common language in a simple and clear way.

In summary, besides the criteria already men­tioned, i.e. faithfulness to the text of the Bible and maintenance of the unity of the Bible, one must stress the need for both CLARITY AND SIMPLICITY. Suitability for use in church and schools requires this.

4. Overall Conclusions re: Criteria for Translating the Bible🔗

It will be good to outline what has been said above before we proceed to the related topic of the various methods of translating the bible. The following crite­ria mentioned thus far can be summarized and grouped as follows:

1. The doctrine of verbal inspiration (see sec­tion 2. a) demands:

  1. Faithfulness. Every word of Scripture must be given its due. No word should be added or subtracted.
  2. Consistency. The Bible must be treated as a unity, as one book, and not as a collection of 66 separate books.

2. The doctrine of organic inspiration (see sec­tion 2. b) demands:

  1. recognition that God used human speaker/ writers without nullifying their characters, backgrounds, history, vocabulary, etc.
  2. recognition that God used the contemporary, common languages of these writers/speakers.
  3. recognition that languages change over years and do not stay uniform.
  4. a grammatical historical, exegetical and lin­guistic approach to translation.
  5. that God not only gave the Scripture (singu­lar) but also the Scriptures (plural).
  6. recognition of the various types of revelation (e.g. history, poetry or parables).

3. ​Suitability for use in Church and School demands:

  1. Clarity. Though not all parts of the Bible are easy to understand, the language should be clear.
  2. Simplicity. The translation should be able to reach many ages and a variety of people.
  3. Preservation of the style of the various writ­ers.

5. Various Methods of Translating the Bible🔗

  1. An Introduction to Various Methods🔗

In previous reports to deputies (1970, 1975 and 1983 reports) some attention was paid to two different methods or approaches to translating the Bible. Now that a new mandate to reinvestigate the NIV &NASB and to investigate anew the NKJV has been given this matter resurfaces.

In the past only two methods were studied, i.e. the formal equivalent and the dynamic equivalent methods. Actually one could distinguish more types. Callow and Beekman distinguish four:

  1. highly literal
  2. modified literal
  3. idiomatic
  4. unduly free

The first and last are considered unacceptable while the second and third are classified as acceptable. These four "represent a continuum from one extreme to another" (Translating the Word of God, Zondervan, c. 1974, 1976, p. 21).

A highly literal translation (such as an interlinear) reproduces the linguistic features of the original language (OL), i.e. from the Hebrew and Greek. This is actually a type of formal equivalent method taken to its extreme. It can easily give rise to wrong thoughts and impressions. Since the language, sentence-structure and word-order are not natural to the receptor's/reader's language (RL), it is often awkward, stilted and unclear.

An unduly free translation tries to make the message as relevant and clear as possible. It is actually the dynamic equivalent method taken to its extreme. Instead of distortions arising from literalisms, there are distortions of content. For example, the "Cotton Patch Version" translates for people living around Atlanta, USA. It gives equivalents of ideas, names and classes of people. Read the following examples:

When John noticed a lot of Protestants and Catholics showing up for his dipping... Matt 3:7

Nor do people put new tubes in old bald tires. If they do the tires will blow out, and the tubes will be ruined and the tires will be torn up. But they put new tubes in new tires and both give good mileage. Matt  9:17

Obviously, this is what we would call a very free paraphrase, not a translation. It says, in a clear manner, what the OL neither says nor implies. So it too, like the highly literal one, fails to communicate the Bible.

A modified literal translation sees the need to make adjustments required by the RL so that no errors or misconceptions are introduced into the Bible-translations. Even so the OL predominates over the RL so that the grammatical forms found in the Hebrew or Greek are generally used. Terms are rendered uniformly in the same way without regard for context or writer, and word-combinations are awkwardly retained in the RL. Though such versions can be used well by those with high motivation, good Bible-knowledge and good resource material, it is a definite disadvantage to most readers.

An idiomatic translation seeks to convey the full meaning of the OL into the RL by using the grammatical and vocabulary forms of the RL. Its focus is on meaning. It sees language as a "vehicle" to carry the contents to the reader. Suppose a road represents one language and a canal another. To convey passengers down the road a car is needed. To convey the same passengers down the canal a boat is needed. The same is true in conveying meaning. Different languages uses different "vehicles" to get a message across to the recipients/readers. One does not transfer parts of the car to the boat when changing passengers from the car to the boat. Likewise, one should not change grammatical and lexical forms from the OL to the RL.

  1. An Evaluation🔗

The difference between the modified literal translation and the idiomatic one seems to be one of degrees. Most translations are probably a combination of both methods (formal equivalent and dynamic equivalent). It would therefore be good to look at the principles behind the methods and to evaluate them.

  1. Formal Equivalent🔗

As to the formal equivalent approach one appreciates their commitment to verbal inspiration. That God wanted the Scriptures accurately recorded for the generations means they have enduring validity and value. A written word therefore is to read with precision. As J. van Bruggen writes,

...the first task of a translator is to render the written Word of God as accurately as possible. It is a job that requires faith and hard work. It sometimes seems to be a thankless task, for the text is often obscure and difficult...J. van Bruggen, The Future of the Bible, p. 98

This description implies that a translator needs to understand the text so that he can translate very precisely. Accuracy in translation requires knowledge of the language, background (canonics), the vocabulary, etc. of the text and book to be translated.

But what makes the formal equivalent method distinctive is that it allows the forms of the biblical text to dominate the translation. A formal equivalent translation pays attention to the forms of the OL. Concerning these forms J. van Bruggen writes further,

The Bible was composed in certain forms. Some passages were written in the form of prophecies, some songs, some letters and some narratives. There are also various forms within the smaller language units of Scripture: paragraphs, sentences, dependent and independent clauses, and prepositional phrases. By faithfulness to the form it is meant that a reliable translation must render these forms as close to the way they are in the original as possible.The Future of the Bible, Nelson, 1978, pp. 97-100

He rejects versions which substitute your neighbour's car or camper for "ox" or transforming an account of a miraculous healing as a medical bulletin. But he also advocates the maintenance of long, periodical sentences (such as Paul's letters) over against the trend to use more, shorter sentences. One might think that this approach will lead to "Greek-English." However, he stays clear of that extreme as is evident from this quote,

No doubt there are forms that cannot or must not be translated literally. If a form does not have a particular, substantive value, but is present only because the thought cannot be said differently in that language, then the translator must look for an expression in his own language with a comparable meaning. Faithfulness to the form is not the same as always translating the same words in the same way... In fact, it would not be right to strive after a type of Hebrew-English as some people seem to wish. Thus, this characteristic of a reliable translation is described by the term "faithful to the form" rather than "bound to the language." ibid, pp. 102-103

Thus to change the form of the original languages (OL) is warranted only in cases where it is absolutely necessary and where the form is not important. They would thus be concessions to the Receptor Language (RL). This amounts to a concession to the RL and as such is not totally convincing. Neither is the distinction between "faithful to the form" and "bound to the language" very clear cut. The basic question is whether the forms of the OL need to dictate the translation into the RL. To require that the forms of the OL (Hebrew and Greek) predominate, except in certain limited cases, will tend to obscure the Scriptures. For no two languages, even cognate ones such as Hebrew and Aramaic, are the same in their forms. Must we not respect the God who formed the variety in these languages? Or will an attempt be made to have all biblical translations sound like Hebrew and Greek? Will the trumpet then still give a clear sound?

To sum up, the formal equivalent certainly gains the favour of a Bible-believer in that it abides by the exact words of Scripture. That it also tries to keep as much as possible to the forms of the original gives cause for concern.

  1. Dynamic Equivalent🔗

Callow and Beekman define a faithful translation, using the idiomatic or dynamic equivalent approach, as follows:

A TRANSLATION WHICH TRANSFERS THE MEANING AND THE DYNAMICS OF THE ORIGINAL TEXT IS TO BE REGARDED AS A FAITHFUL TRANSLATION (capitalization is ours). The expression, transfers the meaning, means that the translation conveys to the reader or hearer the information that the original conveyed to its readers or hearers. The message is not distorted or changed; it has neither unnecessarily gained nor lost information. The expression, the dynamics, means that (1) the translation makes a natural use of the linguistic structures of the RL and that (2) the recipients of the translation understand the message with ease. The naturalness of the translation and the ease with which it is understood should be comparable to the naturalness of the original and to the ease with which the recipients of the original documents understood them. Such a comparison of the dynamics of the original with that of a translation must bear in mind that the message may have been easier for the original recipients to understand because Greek was the language of both writers and readers, and they shared the same or similar cultures. Also in some cases they had heard the writer speaking. On the other hand, the message was not dependent upon these local advantages since the writers were not penning abstract theses or obscure philosophies but had a very practical aim in view; they wrote to be understood. ibid. pp. 33-34

This lengthy quote gives a good definition as well as some useful disclaimers.

In being faithful to the original meaning the translator must use all resources available to understand the text first of all. He must know the grammar, vocabulary, style, syntax, etc. used. He must be conversant with the OL and the text. The value of every word of the text must be understood so that it can be transferred into its equivalent in the RL, using its grammar and vocabulary. Does this mean that the RL predominates over the OL? Callow and Beekman answer as follows:

The constant emphasis on meaning as over against linguistic form may have given the idea that the translator who translates idiomatically ignores the form of the original entirely. But this is not so. In the translation process, the linguistic form of the original is of primary and basic importance. Only from a careful study of the grammar and the lexicon of the original can a translator arrive at the meaning which he is to communicate in the RL version. This involves the process of exegesis which calls into use commentaries, grammars, lexicons (dictionaries), and other exegetical tools. Once the precise meaning of the original has been determined from the linguistic forms of the text, then the translator is ready to look at the grammar and lexicon of the RL to choose a form which will convey the same meaning. The form is likely to be different, but basic to the form chosen in the RL is the meaning of the original which, in turn, derived from the form of the original. The linguistic form of the original thus lies at the heart of all translation work. ibid. p. 348

One can only appreciate the striving after a clear and full understanding of the text which leads to a clear and full translation of the text in which every word of the OL receives its due. This is a lofty aim, worthy of the holy Scriptures. As Jerome who translated the scriptures into Latin (the Vulgate) said, "I could translate only what I had understood." To use a modern example, if we do not understand what K. Schilder wrote, a translation would quickly become a babble of words.

Yet there are questions about the need for ease of understanding. The dynamic equivalent method in some of its more pronounced forms changes idioms, names and technical terms into modern equivalents. For example, instead of the usual Psalm 23 one might have,

The Lord is My Pilot; I shall not drift.
He lighteth me across the dark waters;
Surely, sunlight and starlight shall favour me on the voyage
I take and I will rest in the port of my God forever. from Callow and Beekman, p. 41

Callow and Beekman view this type of rendering with disfavour and rightly so, in our view. They also state that:

Dynamic fidelity requires that a translation communicate familiar or unfamiliar information meaningfully; it does not generally require that unfamiliar information be recast by substituting concepts already known nor does dynamic fidelity require an answer to all of the questions which might be raised about a topic under discussion. (p. 41)

One is happy to hear this. For experience tells one that the dynamic equivalent approach, for the sake of ease in understanding, is at times too prone to interpret rather than simply to translate. Now in certain cases one can understand this. This is quite understandable, for example, in the multitude of cases in which the Scriptures are being translated into languages which have not been moulded by the Bible as English or German have been. People who have not had contact with the Bible before need a clear translation. And the burden of the work of translators today is with such projects. Christ's commission to sow the seed, the Word, into all the world receives much attention. Such translators face a multitude of questions since they cannot take for granted what translators can when rendering into English. Our English language has been fashioned to a considerable extent by English Bible-translation. For our sakes it is questionable if too much interpretation is needed. More footnotes and less interpretation would be preferable.

Does this mean that the whole concept of dynamic equivalent is without value? Certainly not! Prof B. Holwerda once wrote about the topic of Bible-translations. He did not conclude that vocabulary, the form of the original etc. compel us to adopt a form equivalent method in translating. He instead concludes:

Still one more remark. I have already let it slip out that I have no objection against a somewhat FREE translation. A literal translation is often literal, but not a translation. And the purpose is to have a good translation. Populaire Wetenschappelijke Bijdragen, Goes 1962, p. 77, translation is ours

Concerning vocabulary, he had much to say. Vocabulary is a subject which needs much knowledge. Our understanding of terms keeps improving with the discovery of more manuscripts, etc. from the past. Context too is very important in determining meanings. Prof. B. Holwerda gives many examples of this (pp. 75-78). He pleads for contextual meanings, allowing for different nuance and for sensitivity to shades of meaning. He says "I often begin with leaving the precise value of the term undecided, in order to come to a conclusion at the end (of the study), doing so on the ground of a careful investigation of the context" (p. 75). He also concludes "daarom meen ik, dat we niet de eis mogen stellen, dat eenzelfde woord constant door een vaste Nederlandse term zal worden weergeven" ("therefore I maintain that we may not require that the one term is always translated by the same Dutch term"). To illustrate this point he uses the Hebrew term 'sane' (usually means 'to hate' in English) as it is used in different contexts to show it can mean "hate," "to disregard." "to neglect" or "to belittle." This is in line with the dynamic equivalent method. It is also in line with what was written above about organic inspiration and its implications for translations of the Bible.

It is interesting to quote B. Holwerda once more (about the new Dutch translation),

But at certain places this translation, though it wants to be a modern translation, has not freed itself from the Hebrew idiom. Thus one meets expressions which we do not use. I do not mean to be unfriendly (my respect is great for this translation) but I frequently find it somewhat stilted and antiquated, and a bit purposely dignified and solemn. And I think that without resorting to colloquial or slang expressions one simply could have and even should have used the common language of today somewhat more. It would not only have made the translation easier to read and more clear, but, on final analysis, would even have made it more accurate. THIS IS TRUE BECAUSE A CAREFUL PARAPHRASE IS SOMETIMES MORE ACCURATE THAN A LITERAL TRANSLATION. p. 90, stress is original

Again, this is in line with the dynamic equivalent method.

  1. Conclusions about Various Methods of Bible Translations🔗

1. To sum up then, the best points of both approaches should be kept.

  1. The accent placed on the very words of Scripture, and on giving an accurate, complete and clear translation should be kept from the formal equivalent method.
  2. ​The double accent on the meaning of the OL and the transference of that total meaning into the linguistic equivalent of the contemporary RL should be kept from the dynamic equivalent approach.

2. The weaknesses of both methods should be seen and avoided.

  1. The tendency in the formal equivalent to make the translation depend on the form of original instead of transferring the total meaning from the form of the OL to the form of the RL, should be avoided.
  2. The tendency in the dynamic equivalent to interpret rather than to translate should also be avoided.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the saying goes. One will have to scrutinize the translations under study to see how these methods have been applied. Then one can assess what type of method(s) they have employed and how faithful and successful they are.

Section IV🔗

The Revised Standard Version: 1990 Edition🔗

As one of their tasks, the Deputies for Bible Translation were charged to obtain whatever information was available concerning the new edition of the R.S.V., due to appear in 1990 (henceforth referred to in this section as NRSV).

Some information was received from Prof. Bruce Metzger of the RSV Translation committee, along with a small number of samples of a draft revision. In the correspondence received, emphasis was placed on the provisional nature of the samples, as well as the fact that the draft translation has not been released for publication.

The information received, and the sample texts studied, lead us to the following (tentative) observations:

  1. Regarding the rendering of the Hebrew and Greek texts: The translators have taken into account manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments which have come to light fairly recently, and have made use of studies of the original languages which have taken place in the last 40 or so years. They have also considered submissions (such as those of our Canadian sister Churches) in arriving at a revision of the 1948/52 and 1971 editions of the RSV. Some changes seem to be improvements, others not. But the information available to us at this time is still too limited for us to draw any hard-and-fast conclusions.
  2. One change which is immediately apparent is the abandonment of the use of "thee," "thou," "thine," etc. when speaking to God, along with the associated verb forms ("hast," "wouldest," "dost," etc.). In using "You" and "Your" when addressing God, the NRSV returns to the practice of the King James Version, and falls into line with most other contemporary translations, such as the NIV and NKJV. None of these uses special pronouns when speaking to God. In addition, this change removes the difficulty present in the current RSV edition, which, when addressing our Saviour, makes the arbitrary and rather objectionable distinction between 'Christ as man' — ("you"), and 'Christ as God' — ("thou"). As a return to the usage of the Hebrew and Greek text, this change should probably be regarded as an improvement.
  3. Changes have also been made which aim to "improve the accuracy, clarity and euphony = 'pleasing style' of English expression." These changes are readily apparent, and the NRSV gives many better flowing, more readily understandable, and more contemporary renderings than the previous edition. Whether or not this might be at the expense of a reliable rendering of the original Hebrew and Greek cannot really be assessed on the basis of the limited samples available to us. A few comparative readings might give some indication of what these changes look like. In each case, the first reading is from the current RSV, the second from the draft of the NRSV, and the third is from the NIV (The NIV strongly emphasizes clarity and style of English expression, and as such lends itself to comparisons on this point.):

Psalm 1:1

...stands in the way of sinners,(RSV)
...take the path that sinners tread,(NRSV)
...stand in the way of sinners,(NIV)

Jonah 1:4

...mighty tempest ... (RSV)
...mighty storm... (NRSV)
...violent storm... (NIV)
v5: wares (RSV); "cargo" (NRSV); "cargo" (NIV)

Jonah 1:5

But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship, (RSV)
Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship... (NRSV)
But Jonah had gone below deck... (NIV)

Mark 1:5

And there went out to him all the country of Judah... (RSV)
And people from the whole Judean countryside ... went out to him (NRSV)
The whole Judean countryside ... went out to him… (NIV)

Mark: 1:11

Thou art my beloved Son; with thee... (RSV)
You are my Son the Beloved; with you... (NRSV)
You are my Son, whom I love; with you... (NIV)

Mark 1:14

preaching the gospel (RSV)
proclaiming the good news (NRSV)
proclaiming the good news (NIV)

1 John 1:2

...the life was made manifest... (RSV)
...this life was revealed... (NRSV)
... the life appeared... (NIV)

1 John 2:5

... in him truly love for God is perfected. (RSV)
...truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. (NRSV)
...God's love is truly made complete in him (NIV)

  1. Most of the advance publicity surrounding the 1990 edition of the RSV concerns the use of "inclusive" language instead of "male-oriented" terms. As far as Deputies have been able to ascertain, the rule seems to have been to use "gender-neutral" words where "man," "he" or "him" is used in the generic sense (i.e. referring to "mankind," "a human being," "anybody," or the like).

    The changes are not as extensive as they could have been. (The translators had the mandate not to alter "passages that reflect the historical situation of ancient patriarchal culture and of a masculine-orientated society"). Still, they do give cause for concern. There is no doubt that the translators were influenced (directly or indirectly) by the women's liberation ideology of our time, and have accepted redefinitions of parts of the English language to accommodate this way of thinking. There are indeed sound Scriptural reasons for the generic use of the term "man" and its derivatives. The Churches could do well to remain alert to the shaping of our language by forces which are fundamentally hostile to the norms of Scripture. In practice, the changes we have seen so far range from innocuous to quite significant. A few examples:

1 John 2:4, 9, 10, 11

RSV: he who says...
NRSV: Whoever says...

1 John 2:4, 10

RSV: In him...
NRSV: In such a person...

1 John 2:9

RSV: He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still.
NRSV: Whoever says: 'I am in the light', while hating a brother or sister is still in the darkness.

Mark 1:17

RSV: I will make you become fishers of men.
NRSV: I will make you into fishers of people.

Psalm 1:1

RSV: Blessed is the man who walks not...
NRSV: Blessed are those who do not follow...

The rest of the paragraph, to the end of v.3, has been rewritten in the plural to agree with "those." In this case, there is a clear and unsupported change in the sense of the Psalm, in order to make room for an imposed change in language.

  1. Conclusion: Again, we must stress that the small sample available to us does not permit us to make definite conclusions or recommendations. Therefore we will have to suffice with some tentative conclusions.

The modernization of antiquated language can be seen as an improvement. The incorporation of "inclusive" language, as limited as it seems to be, shows a drift in an unacceptable direction. Even the norm for retaining male-oriented language (see observation 4, above) has been imposed on Scripture rather than derived from it. If the samples we could study are representative of the proposed revision as a whole, then we may well have to come to the conclusion: The NRSV will be an unacceptable translation of the Scriptures.

It is clear, however, that the 1971 edition of the RSV is being thoroughly revised. In our sample texts, we have noted the following number of differences between the current RSV (9171 edition), and the NRSV:

Psalms 1:1-2:8 (14 verses): 15 differences;
Jonah 1:1-2:1 (18 verses): 38 differences;
Mark 1:1-20 (20 verses): 32 differences;
1 John 1:1-2:13 (23 verses): 55 differences.

The sheer number of these differences would make it difficult to use the two editions in parallel. In effect, in the NRSV we are looking at a new translation. Any evaluation of the NRSV would have to take place with this in mind.

It is also worth noting that the Translation Committee of the RSV has been expanded to give it a broader, more "ecumenical" base. New Committee members have been drawn from the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox Churches, and the intention is to produce a "common Bible," so translated as to be acceptable to all persuasions.

Section V🔗

The New American Standard Bible🔗

  1. Introduction🔗

The New American Standard Bible is produced by the Lockman Foundation of the U.S.A., and was presented as a contemporary translation of the Holy Scriptures based on the principles of the American Standard Version of 1901.

It was prepared by 58 anonymous scholars from a variety of different church groups, all of whom subscribed to the inerrancy and Divine authority of the Scriptures.

The NASB has been translated according to the principles of 'formal equivalence,' striving to adhere as closely as possible to the original languages of the Bible, in word order, sentence structure and vocabulary.

The New Testament of the NASB was completed in 1963; the complete Bible has been available in this translation since 1971. Since that time subsequent editions have been published containing a small number of minor amendments to the original translation.

  1. Historical Background🔗

The American Standard Version of 1901 was an American edition of the English Revised Version of 1881. These were the first major English Bible translations to appear since the King James. Like its English counterpart, the ASV incorporated much of the (then) recent advances in textual and ancient language studies. The ASV received much acclaim for its scholarship and accuracy of translation, but its language was very stilted and old-fashioned, even for its day.

It also received much criticism for its departure from the manuscript sources on which the KJV was based. The controversy surrounding this matter continues to this day. It was, however, in many respects the forerunner of almost every major English translation of the Scriptures to appear in this century (the only significant exception, to date, being the NKJV).

The translation of the NASB held the ASV in the highest possible regard.14 

They wished to revive an interest in what they saw as a very accurate rendering of the ancient texts. They wished to continue in its tradition, but present it in a more contemporary form, to be useful in worship as well as for study purpose. At the same time, they wished to incorporate the more recent findings in textual and language studies, and to correct what they saw as less-accurate renderings in the ASV.

  1. Text – the Old Testament🔗

For a broad treatment of historical developments relating to the text of the Old Testament, the reader is referred to section II of this report, The Text of the Bible.

For the NASB, the Old Testament source is Kittel's 'Biblia Hebraica,' 3rd edition, which is based on the traditional Hebrew Masoretic text, with occasional variations derived from one or another of the ancient versions.

In some places, the Masoretic text may seem to translators to be incomplete, inaccurate, or lacking in sense. Especially parts of the books of Samuel, as well as some of the prophets, have a number of such problem areas. Translators will then use material from the ancient versions to 'fill in the gaps.' Alternatively, translators may insert 'conjectural emendations' to reconstruct what, in their view, the text must originally have said.

The current edition of the RSV has been criticized for resorting too often, and without compelling need, to the ancient versions or to reconstructions of its own.

The NASB tends to stick more closely to the Masoretic text than does the RSV, but it does depart from it at some points,15 e.g.: Judges 16:13-14; Isaiah 7:11, 14:4.

  1. Text – The New Testament🔗

The Greek text used was the 23rd Edition of the Nestle Greek NT. This edition follows a critical text rather than the Majority Text of the NT. Basically, this edition has its roots in the Westcott-Hort Greek NT, with a number of variations based on more recent textual studies. (For a more comprehensive treatment of this matter, the reader is again referred to section II of this report: The Text of the Bible).

Where the NASB departs from its primary source (i.e. Nestle, 23rd ed.), it generally does so in the direction of the Majority Text, incorporating in the text some of the passages present in the KJV, but absent from the ASV. Notable examples: Matthew 6:13 (the doxology to the Lord's Prayer), 18:11, 23:14; Mark 16:9-20; Luke 22:44, 24:12; John 7:53-8:11. Most of these inclusions are in brackets, indicating some uncertainty on the part of the translators. In this, it is largely in agreement with the current edition of the RSV.

  1. Characteristic Features of the NASB🔗

The NASB, like the KJV and NKJV, but unlike most contemporary versions, prints each verse as a separate unit. This makes it easy to locate a particular verse, but makes it much more difficult to group the verses as sense paragraphs. Sense paragraph beginnings are indicated by bold verse numbering, but these are easily overlooked. This arrangement also causes problems where sense paragraphs begin in the middle of a verse, or overlap from one chapter to the next. (Examples: Isaiah 4:1; 1 Corinthians 13:1; 2 Corinthians 2:1). In general, the format used does not aid, but tends somewhat to hinder the understanding of the Bible, and since the chapter and verse divisions are not a part of the Scriptures as given by God, this imposition seems to be something of a backward step.

When God is addressed in prayer the NASB uses 'Thee,' 'Thy' and 'Thou' (capitalized). Christ is spoken to as 'You' (capitalized) even when no reverence is intended by the speaker (John 10:33), but as 'Thou' in Matt. 16:16, Mark 1:11 and 8:29, Luke 3:22 and Acts 9:5. All pronouns referring to the Deity are capitalized.

Throughout the NT, texts quoted from the OT are printed in small capitals.

Throughout the NT, a special effort is made to indicate Greek verb tenses which are not usually a part of the English language. This consistently results in unusual renderings which, though providing useful extra information concerning the Greek, express themselves in very stilted and nonidiomatic English. Some examples:

Mark 4:2-3:

NASB: And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching: Listen to this!
RSV: And He taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: Listen!

Acts 3:3:

NASB: He began to give them his attention.
RSV: And he fixed his attention upon them.

Luke 24:17:

NASB: What are these words you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?
RSV: What is this conversation which you are holding as you are walking?

In the NT, questions which, by their construction in Greek, invite a 'no' answer are phrased in this way (e.g. Romans 11:1):

NASB: ...God has NOT rejected His people, HAS HE?
RSV: ...has God rejected his people?

As in the KJV and NKJV, words which do not actually occur in the Hebrew and Greek, but are essential to understanding in English, are printed in italics. This rule is not consistently applied.16 Some editions of the NASB provide chapter headings and marginal notes.

  1. Evaluation🔗

On the basis of criteria set by Synod 1987 of our Churches, an evaluation of the NASB can be made as follows:17

  1. Faithfulness to the Original Languages🔗

As far as textual sources are concerned, the NASB has largely followed contemporary thinking in its choice of text. On the whole, this translation favours the critical text over the Majority Text in its translation of the NT. It does not do so exclusively, and in a number of places it chooses from the Majority Text. In the OT the Masoretic Text is the prime source, with a very restrained use of ancient versions.

The problem still remains: should a translation of the Scriptures be based on the Majority Text, or on an eclectic use of a critical text? There is no agreement on this point among Reformed scholars, and we refer again to section II of this report.

The existence of such translations as the NASB and NIV is proof that there is a large body of conservative scholars, firmly committed to the Divine authority of Scripture, who are convinced that the critical text is, on the whole, the most accurate available source of what the Holy Spirit inspired His servants to write. Whether this view is correct may be open to debate; but it cannot simply be dismissed. Deputies reporting to Synod 1980 of the Canadian Reformed Churches write: "...the NASB is a real improvement over the KJV in reaping the benefits of ongoing study of the Bible and its languages."18

Leaving aside the question of textual sources, we need to find out how accurate the translators were in their rendering of the original languages. Among Reformed and evangelical scholars the NASB has developed quite a good reputation in this regard.

For instance: "In the above-mentioned Report to Synod 1980 of the Canadian Reformed Churches, the following statements are typical" "As to the NASB, the faithfulness to Scripture and to the text is generally undisputed"; "The NASB is very accurate...", etc.19

The NASB translators support the view that an accurate translation must "adhere as closely as possible to the original languages of the Holy Scriptures" and base this on the conviction that "the words of Scripture, AS ORIGINALLY PENNED IN HEBREW AND GREEK (emphasis ours-Deputies) were inspired by God."20

Within the framework of the translators' perception of their task, there is no doubt that the NASB is an accurate, reliable translation.

In the above-mentioned Report, Deputies state: "a much more literal translation"; "very accurate and follows the Greek almost slavenly"; "praised for its rendering"; etc.21

J. Van Bruggen: "(the NASB) ... maintains the form that Luke gave to this text" (Luke 9:51-53); "The RSV and NASB are literal in their translation" (John 3:5); "…a literal translation..." (Romans 1:16, 17), etc.22

Consistent with its aim, the NASB has consistently retained "traditional theological terminology," such as "justification," "sanctification," and righteousness."23

The NASB also refrains from converting Biblical weights, measures, etc., preferring simply to write 'shekel', 'cubit', 'homer', etc., but it does give modern equivalents in the marginal notes.

Every translator has to be on guard against theological bias. At the same time, translators are influenced, when making choices in translation, by their theological stances on various points of doctrine. The NASB was produced by a committee of translators, from a variety of church backgrounds.24

This tends to moderate, if not remove entirely, translation peculiarities arising from particular doctrinal beliefs. Some examples of incorrect translations, which give support to various errors:

Galatians 6:16 "...and those who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, AND upon the Israel of God." Should read: "...EVEN (or: THAT IS), upon the Israel of God."

The translation supports the premillennialist view in which the 'natural' Israel has a special place. This view is also supported by the renderings of Isaiah 2:2 and Micah 4:1. "Generation" is alternately noted as "race" (Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32).

1 Peter 3:20: baptism is " appeal to God for a good conscience..." Should read: "...the pledge of a good conscience toward God..." (NIV).

The NASB wrongly emphasizes human action in baptism in this text, and (indirectly) lends support to the doctrine of adult baptism.

Arminian thinking seems to lie behind the marginal note in Ephesians 2:8 " is the gift of God," – notes "i.e. that salvation," and may well have influence the rendering of 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

On the whole, however, the theological stance of the translators is sound. See also the appendix at the end of this section.

  1. Maintaining the Unity of the Scriptures🔗

The translators clearly see the person and work of Christ as central to the whole of Scripture, and his divinity is strongly upheld.

In Messianic passages in the OT, attention is drawn to the person of Christ: "Son" is capitalized in Psalm 2 (but not in Isaiah 9:61); we read "Lord" and "Thy" in Psalm 110, "Servant" in Isaiah 42 and following, etc.

Where different readings are possible, the one with a clear Messianic import is usually chosen. For instance:

Gen. 12:3:

NASB: ... and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
RSV: ... and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.

Psalm 2:12:

NASB: Do homage to the Son...
RSV: ...with trembling kiss his feet...

Isaiah 7:11:

NASB: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a Son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
RSV: Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

As previously noted, OT passages quoted in the NT are printed in small capitals.

As to the Divine nature of Christ, Sheehan has identified five NT texts, where different readings are possible, which are important references: John 1:1; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1. In all five texts, the NASB "opts for the higher Christology." By comparison, the RSV scores 4 out of 5, and the KJV only(!) 3 out of 5.25

  1. Readability and Suitability for Worship Services, for Instruction, and Form Memorization🔗

The NASB Editorial Board set itself a twofold aim:

to adhere as closely as possible to the original languages of the Holy Scriptures, and to make the translation in a fluent and readable style according to current English usage.26

While it has largely been successful with its first aim, it has failed to reach the second. It is not fluent; it is difficult to read; it frequently departs from current English usage. The way in which the translators set about reaching the first aim made the second well-nigh impossible to achieve. It would be easy to list a large number of examples. Just a few will have to suffice:

John 1:43:

NASB: The next day He purposed to go forth into Galilee, and He found Philip, and Jesus said to him...
RSV: The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip, and said to him...

Hebrews 1:1:

NASB: many portions and in many ways...
RSV: many and various ways...

Romans 1:10:

NASB: always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.
RSV: asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.

The effect is cumulative. The more one reads in this translation, the more one is struck by its shortcomings in terms of clarity and readability. There is no doubt that there are many excellent renderings in the NASB, but its publishers' claim that it is "the literary masterpiece of its generation"27 is somewhat fanciful.

This translation is very difficult to read at all well out loud, and quite difficult to memorize from. Students at schools, especially at a younger age, would encounter significant, and unnecessary, problems in reading, understanding and working with Scripture if this version was to be their designated source.

Putting it quite simply: the NASB's wooden style, lack of clarity and poor readability are its major drawbacks.

  1. Summary and Conclusions🔗

  1. How does the NASB Compare with the RSV?🔗

Textually: Both translations use basically the same text. The NASB tends to be more cautious in its use of the ancient versions of the OT and conjectural emendations, and in the NT is marginally more likely to take up readings from the Majority Text.

As to accuracy of translation: We would have no difficulty in making up a list of texts and passages in which the NASB offers superior renderings to the RSV. We would have just as little difficulty in doing the reverse. But on the whole the Deputies were repeatedly struck by the similarity in translation between the two versions. In a nutshell: In the great majority of cases the NASB says the same thing as the RSV, only the RSV says it more clearly. This conclusion appears or can be inferred in virtually every comparative study available to us. This is all the more remarkable when one considers that the NASB's translators are known to be strong supporters of the Divine authority of the Scriptures. This has always been a doubtful point with the RSV.

As to readability, clarity and style: The RSV is consistently and clearly superior.

  1. Conclusions🔗

The Majority Report of the Deputies, reporting to the 1980 Synod of the Canadian Reformed Churches, came to the following conclusion:

The New American Standard Bible, though close to the RSV in acknowledging modern research, is not to be preferred above the RSV. The translation of the NASB is often too literal to be lucid and clear, and does not render itself suitable for liturgical use. (p. 232).

And elsewhere:

...did our study of the NASB … result in a preference of ... (this translation) ... over the RSV? ... On the basis of our comparative study the answer is negative.

...This negative answer is NOT based ... on the notion that the NASB must be qualified as an unscriptural translation and the RSV would be perfect. The study of the four versions has once more made it clear that something like a perfect or near-perfect translation does not exist.28

The Report of Deputies to Synod 1983 of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia said very much the same thing. Nothing we have encountered so far would lead us to a substantially different conclusion.29

Is the NASB a valuable translation of the Scriptures? The answer must be 'Yes'. But its value lies not in its potential as a family, Church or school Bible. It is a reliable translation which provides valuable information to anyone studying the Scriptures. Its aim of staying close to the Greek and Hebrew provides the attentive student (whether theologian or 'layman') with a wealth of information about original languages, and a useful check on other more idiomatic translations such as the RSV or the NIV. This is where its strength lies.

Appendix to Section V: New American Standard Bible🔗

The Church of Armadale, in its overture to synod 1987, identifies a number of instances where it judged the RSV to have given an unsound translation, and cited these as evidence of liberal influence in the translation. For the record, we have examined the renderings given by the NASB in these places:

  1. The Holy Spirit is consistently referred to as "who", in places where the RSV has "which" (Rom. 5:5; 8:11; 1 Cor. 2:13; Eph. 1:14; 1 John 3:24).
  2. Gen. 11:1: "...the same language and the same words" where the RSV has "...the same language and few words..."
  3. Josh. 10:12: "O sun, stand still..."; RSV: "Sun, stand thou still..."
  4. Psalm 51:18: " the walls..."; RSV: "...rebuild the walls..."
  5. Zech. 3:16: "He will be a priest on his throne..."; RSV: "there shall be a priest by his throne..."
  6. Hosea: On 31 occasions the RSV departs from the Hebrew text and applies 'corrections'. A comparative check of these shows that the NASB has adopted the same corrections in 4 cases. In all other it has stayed with the Hebrew text.
  7. Unnecessary inconsistencies cited from the RSV have not been found in the NASB (Gen. 9:20: "then Noah began farming..."; Ps. 45:6 and Heb. 1:8; "Thy throne, O God ...").

    It is remarkable that where the RSV in Deut. 6:4 has "The Lord our God is one Lord," and in Mark 12:29 it reads "The Lord our God, the Lord is one," the NASB gives almost identical readings, but the other way around. This suggests that perhaps the two readings may simply be used interchangeably, and that no particular significance need be attached to the observed difference.
  8. Romans 8:30: The NASB reads "by faith" where the RSV has "on the ground of their faith."
  9. Romans 9:5 NASB: "...the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever," an awkward and ambiguous rendering. RSV: "...according to the flesh, is the Christ, God, who is over all..."
  10. The Lords Prayer: In Matthew 6, the doxology is bracketed, indicating uncertainty as to its authenticity; in Luke 11, the text is identical to that of the RSV.

Section VI🔗

New King James Version – an Evaluation🔗

The Scriptures are the uniquely inspired Word of God, free from error in the original autographs.

This was the content of a declaration made in 1975 by 130 U.S. Bible scholars who were commissioned by Thomas Nelson Publishers (Nashville, USA) to undertake a revision of the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

One of the publisher's most important reasons for embarking on this project was the fact that all other modern translations made use of manuscripts not available to the translators of the King James Version some four hundred years ago. The manage­ment of Thomas Nelson viewed some of these manu­scripts with great suspicion and consequently in­structed their scholars not to incorporate changes based on them.

In 1982 the entire translation was completed and 'The New King James Version' was released and announced as "the greatest publishing event since 1611." This translation, claim the publishers who poured $US 3.5 million into the project, "will unlock the spiritual treasures found uniquely in the Author­ized Version" (note that they virtually assert that the King James Version was inspired!).

The six or so years since publication have brought little response from the religious press. Even now it is difficult to locate worthwhile reviews, while those which are available are mostly highly critical of the NKJV.

The major criticism concerns first of all the method of translation and the style of language, which strongly reminds of the Jacobean English of the KJV. More important than this for many, how­ever, is the fact that little or no use was made of the textual evidence discovered during the past four hundred years. This, of course, takes us to the core of the difference between this and all other modern translations: the manuscripts used; its reliance on the Textus Receptus in preference to the Critical Text (critically reconstructed text) for the translation of the New Testament. Peacock30says that for this reason the NKJV cannot be recognized as the Word of God and laments, "The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau."

We should not just regard the NKJV as a linguis­tic update of the KJV, as this may prevent us from an unbiased evaluation. The publishers may well have seen commercial advantage in the name they chose for this translation. However, regardless of claims about an allegiance to an old and (justifiably!!) re­vered translation, for our part we must judge also this translation on its own accuracy in conveying the original inspired writings as they are accessible to us in preserved manuscripts. In the second place the translation should be judged on its own clarity of expression in the language of the day.

  1. Reliability🔗

The translators of the NKJV, not satisfied with the path textual criticism has carved out for itself during the past century, deliberately chose the use basically the same text as was used for the KJV. While the Preface refers to additional textual evidence used and consulted for the translation of the Old Testament, and the use of the Textus Receptus or Received Text for the New Testament, the overriding decision was not to make use of the Sinaitic and Vatican manuscripts and, therefore, not of the eclectic text which underpins other new translations of the Bible. The text used for the NKJV, they claim, is attested to by the majority of available manuscripts. Lewis, however, echoing the thought of many others calls this stance "a literary monument to tradition."31

Also, the impression made that the Textus Receptus and the Majority Text are identical is misleading.

We need not enter the debate here about the underlying textual evidence and refer for that to section II called "The Text of the Bible." We record now only the fact that these translators chose to ignore manuscripts which became available since the publication of the KJV some four hundred years ago. In keeping with our earlier findings we must conclude that this closing of the eyes to additional evidence constitutes a disservice to the reliability of the Scriptures.

Taking the above actuality into account, we must nevertheless proceed to evaluate the reliability of this Bible translation. We note here that the lan­guage employed influences also the reliability of a translation. For that reason much of what we men­tion later under the heading "Readability" affects also what we write here about reliability.

The overture by the consistory of the FRC of Armadale to Synod 1987, calling for a renewed search for a reliable modern translation of the Scriptures, claimed that the RSV "shows evidence of unscriptural influence" and that it "shows the marks of liberal and critical theories." To demonstrate these claims the consistory pointed to ten instances which, in its opinion, "betray its liberal theological direction."

Your deputies, having scrutinized these ten ex­amples can inform that in all cases the NKJV translated the original text correctly:

  1. The Holy Spirit is referred to as "who", not as "which" (Rom. 5:5; 8:11; 1 Cor. 2:12; Eph. 1:14; 1 John 3:24).
  2. Genesis 11:1 does not have "few words" (as in the RSV, suggesting the support of an evolutionary approach to the Scriptures), but "one speech."
  3. Joshua 10:12 reads "Sun stand still over Gibeon," rather than "Sun, stand thou still..." as in the RSV.
  4. Psalm 51:18b in the NKJV does not use the word "rebuild" as in the RSV (supporting the theory that the majority of the Psalms originate in a time after the exile), but 'build," as demanded by the original text.
  5. Zech. 6:13 in the RSV reads "and there shall be A priest BY his throne." In keeping with the original text the NKJV translates "and HE shall be a priest ON His throne."
  6. Hosea. The so-called corrections to the He­brew text (emendations) were not made in the NKJV (hence also not the two emendations found warranted in the Report of the Canadian Re­formed Committee for the 1974 General Synod).
  7. Unnecessary contradictions found in the RSV were avoided by the NKJV. Gen. 9:20 reads "And Noah began to be a farmer," not contra­dicting Gen. 4:2; 5:29 as is done by the RSV. Also, the examples mentioned where the RSV translates OT quotations differently in the NT, the NKJV translates these in the same way (e.g. Ps. 45:6 and Heb. 1:8; Deut. 6:4 and Mark 12:29).
  8. Romans 3:30 reads "who will justify the circumcised BY FAITH" (emphasis is ours) and not "ON THE GROUND OF THEIR FAITH" (our emphasis) as in the RSV.
  9. Romans 9:5. The RSV renders "according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all..." The NKJV gives a more natural translation which identifies the Christ as God, "according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God."
  10. The longer version of the Lord's prayer, supported by the manuscripts but not given in the RSV, has been maintained in the NKJV.

More examples could be given of instances in which the NKJV translation proves its reliability over against some other modern translations. The liberal tendencies, which Synod 1987 agreed were present in the RSV, are not present in the NKJV. Over against this, however, there are cases in which the NKJV translators have spoiled their work and betray an apparent allegiance to dispensationalism and its related chiliasm in the translation.

To substantiate this we point to the instances in which the NKJV uses the word "dispensation" rather that other words demanded by the Greek of the original text. We refer here to Eph. 1:10; 3:2; Col. 1:25, while the same word in 1 Cor. 9:17 is translated (correctly) as 'stewardship.' Further, Gal. 6:16 is translated "peace and mercy be upon them, AND upon the Israel of God" (emphasis is ours) leading to the belief that two different groups of people are indicated, as dispensationalists would have us be­lieve. In 2 Tim. 2:15, instead of rendering 'rightly HANDLING (or: who correctly HANDLES) the word of truth,' the NKJV has 'rightly DIVIDING the word of truth' (emphasis is ours), a choice which cannot be justified and a favoured expression in dispensa­tional circles. Further, some of the headings above passages in the Book of Revelations could also be interpreted as favouring dispensationalist thinking.

To this we must add that the policies adopted regarding the original text and the over-valuation of the KJV have led to the inclusion of texts and words which Bible scholars have long known that they should be deleted. We refer here to 1 John 5:7 but also to the many times the deity of Christ is confirmed in a manner unwarranted by the original text. As exam­ples of the latter we mention here Acts 7:59 and 1 Tim. 3:16.

Lastly, reliability of the translation was also adversely affected by the policy (discussed more broadly under 'Readability') to capitalize pronouns referring to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The policy often leads to interpretation, if not guess­ing, such as in 2 Thess. 2:7, but also in the many Psalms which by this practice have been made di­rectly Messianic, whereas primarily they did not have that intent.

  1. Readability🔗

The NKJV is attractively presented in a most read­able type. Each paragraph beginning is indicated by a boldly printed capital number. Very long sen­tences are appropriately broken up. Direct speech is indicated by quotation marks. Old Testament quota­tions in the New Testament are shown in oblique typeface. Poetry is printed in strophic form (poetic lines). Some footnotes are added to show variant readings, but not nearly as many as in other modern translations (this may please some, whereas others would prefer to be informed about variant read­ings). The Christological headings of some earlier KJV editions, such as to the Song of Solomon, to some of the Psalms, and to some chapters of Isaiah, have been replaced with other headings.

As to language, one of the major difficulties experienced in the churches with the KJV was its archaic words and expressions which no longer conveyed the true meaning of the original text to today's readers: language changes over time. The NKJV translators have modernized, in most cases creditably, what had become badly outdated in the KJV.

Whether or not one finds the NKJV a readable translation will depend on the extent he is at ease with a formal, somewhat lyrical style, such as that of the KJV. With all the changes, the translators have certainly retained a language with a 'hallowed fla­vour.' We doubt that any church member would find the NKJV a translation which is 'impossible to read.'

However, this does not necessarily mean that the NKJV is linguistically sound. The translators have chosen to use many words which also today are no longer in common use. Some examples of this are: aright, maidens, morsels, fainthearted, tarry, suppli­cation, serpents, phylacteries, pitchers, assuredly, and manifest. There are also words which have gained recognition in the churches, but which new readers of the Bible would find impossible to under­stand; words such as righteousness, justification, propitiation, tabernacle, unclean, dispensation, pre­destined, sanctify, etc., need explanation if they are to be understood. While the retention of the doctri­nal words in the latter list carry our approval, it should be conceded that the use of such words should be limited to where they are technically necessary in order to prevent the Bible from becom­ing a Book only for those initiated into its peculiar language.

One of the disturbing features of this translation is that each verse has been treated as a separate unit. This practice disrupts the flow of the sentences and thoughts, while giving the impression that the original text was constructed in this manner. The struc­ture of the sentences themselves appear stilted and they read, also because of the word usage, as an awkward mixture of Jacobean and modern English. The whole gives an initial impression of soundness, but closer inspection and daily reading of the trans­lation reveal the narrow minded base from which the translators have set out to do their task.

One of the most striking (and in light of earlier comments about style, somewhat surprising!) changes is the discontinuation of the pronouns 'thee', 'thou' and 'ye.' These pronouns also are no longer in common use and have been replaced by the simple 'you.' This is a feature also of the NIV, whereas the current RSV and the NASB use 'thee' and 'thou' when referring to God the Father, but 'you' where Jesus is addressed. This matter, which needs consid­eration, was already discussed in the submission on the '1990 RSV.' The difference here, however, is that the translators have opted to capitalize the pronouns 'You,' 'Your' and 'Yours' (but not the relative pronouns 'who' and 'whom') when referring to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They made this distinction in order to indicate reverence.

We note that the capitalization policy was ex­tended also to nouns such as 'Son' (Is. 7:14, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son; Also Luke 2:7); 'Boy' (Like 2:43) 'Shepherd' (Matt. 26:31); 'Seed' (Gen. 3:15; Gal. 3:16); 'Head' (Col. 2:19); 'Promise' (referring to the Holy Spirit, Luke 24:49); etc.

This policy was generally not followed by the KJV and certainly cannot be backed up with reference to the original text. Further, as Lewis points out,32reverence is not always intended in direct speech recorded in Scripture. The rendering of John 10:33 shows that the policy leads to absurdity: "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blas­phemy, and because You, being a Man, make your­self God."

A false impression can also sometimes be cre­ated, such as in John 4:19, where he Samaritan woman says, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet." An­other example of this we find in 2 Thess. 2:7 where the NKJV reads "only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way."

Apart from this, there are also inconsistencies in the practice where 'cornerstone' (Eph. 2:20); 'head' (Eph. 4:15); 'law' (Matt. 5:18) are left uncapitalized, the latter in contrast to the previous verse, Mat. 5:17.

It appears that the translators tried to create a virtue where one did not previously exist, and then became slaves to that virtue. If modern usage is preferred, modern rules must be applied with preci­sion and consistency.

Modern word usage has allowed for the elimi­nation of obsolete verb endings (as in 'dost', 'workest', 'knoweth'). Psalm 44, for instance, has become much easier to read than from the KJV, or from the RSV, for that matter.

Other changes include:

  1. The mythical dragons (e.g. Psalm 148:7; Job 30:29; Jer. 51:34) have become more real sea creatures, jackals, or monsters. Unicorns (Psalm 22:21, etc.) were changed into wild oxen, and cockatrices (Is. 11:8, etc.) into vipers.
  2. Passages such as 1 Sam. 25:22, 34; 1 Kings 14:10, 16:11; 2 Kings 18:27; etc., which describe functions of the human body have been recast to be more suitable for public reading.
  3. Old Testament characters referred to in the New Testament have been spelled consist­ent with their original name (Elijah, not Elias, etc.).
  4. As improvements some count changes such as 'murder' instead of 'kill' (Ex. 20:13), 'anxieties' for 'thoughts' (Ps. 139:23). 'friend' for 'such a one' (Ruth 4:1), and 'Saul, your grandfa­ther' for 'Saul thy father.' The question must be raised, however, whether these changes are permissible, where they appear to be based on interpretation rather than on a reading of the original text.

The NKJV, like the KJV, contains many words (other than direct speech) printed in italics. They are intended to show that they needed to be added in order to make the translation into proper English. While this supposedly is part of the word for word (literal or equivalent) method of translation, the impression created that these were the only words needed to make the original language into grammatically correct English is misleading. The task of translation is not that simplistic. For a full discussion we refer to our previous article on the Methods of Translation. Apart from this, many may well regard these italicized words as words of emphasis, which would distort meaning.

Overall, we cannot be as outspokenly support­ive of the readability of this translation as one favourable critic who regards it as highly successful and writes that it is one which "preserves the rhythms, meaning and beauty of the original 1611 version."33

  1. Conclusions🔗

Our task was to test this new translation for its faithfulness to the original text, its readability and its consistency in maintaining the unity of the Scrip­tures.

Regarding reliability, we appreciate the fact that the NKJV has not followed the RSV in that translation's apparent surrender to liberal influences. How­ever, the objections outlined above, particularly about the textual choices, the submission to dis­pensationalist thoughts, and the confusing policy to capitalize pronouns referring to the Godhead, nega­tively affect the reliability of this translation and constitute a formidable stumbling block to our ac­ceptance of the NKJV as a viable alternative to the RSV.

We have no complaints about the maintenance of the unity of the Scriptures in the NKJV.

As to readability, the editions we have seen are attractively presented and at first inspection give the appearance of a translation which is cogent and convincing. After closer examination, however, we must record critical notes about the method of trans­lation, the mixed word usage, and the stilted sentence structure which together make us conclude that it can hardly be called a modern translation.

Summing up, your deputies cannot recommend the New King James Version for use in the church services.

  1. Bibliography🔗

The following books and articles (other than those referred to in notes following other sections of this report) were read and/or consulted by us and are recommended to those who wish to acquaint themselves more thoroughly with the subject matter dis­cussed in this section.

  1. Dabney, R.L., Discussions: Evangelical and Theologi­cal, Banner of Truth Trust, London, Gt. Britain, 1976, pp. 391-398.
  2. Garrett, L., ed., Which Bible can we Trust?, Christian Centre Press, Gosnells, Western Australia, 1982.
  3. Kubo, S. & Specht, W.F., So Many Versions?, Zondervan Publishing house, Grand Rapids, USA, 1983.
  4. Lewis, Jack P., The English Bible from KJV to NI V, Baker Bookhouse, Grand Rapids, USA, 1984.
  5. van Bruggen, J., The Future of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Inc., Nashville, USA, 1978.
  1. Geertsema, J., "After 350 Years-Which Bible Trans­lation?", in Clarion.
  2. Griffin, W., "The New King James Version", Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov. 1982, 62.
  3. Howard, David M., Jr., "Book Review-The Holy Bible, NKJV", Evangelical Theological Society Jour­nal, Sept. 1983, 369 - 373.
  4. Lewis, Jack P., "Why Stop Here?", Christianity Today, Oct. 1982, 108 - 110.
  5. Peacock, Heber F., "New King James Bible New Testament", in The Bible Translator, July, 1980, p. 339.
  6. VanDooren, G., "Bible Translation Number One Hundred", in Clarion, Aug./Sep., 1983.

Section VII🔗

The NIV in Comparison with the RSV🔗

  1. Mandate🔗

The mandate with respect to the NIV from the 1987 Synod was "to investigate once more the NIV ... to see if (this) translation would be better that the RSV. The reports of the previous deputies and the reports of deputies of our Canadian sister-churches can be consulted and used for this investigation." To use as criteria:

  1. Faithfulness to the original Hebrew, Ara­maic and Greek texts.
  2. Readability and suitability for worship serv­ices, for instruction and memorization.
  3. Consistency in maintaining the unity of the Scriptures.
  1. Introduction to the NIV🔗

The history of the NIV goes back to the 1954 General Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in North America where the RSV was rejected as an approved version for public worship. The 1956 Synod of the same churches therefore, appointed a committee to study the possibility of sponsoring the production of a new translation in cooperation with other con­servative churches. This committee held conferences with the Educational Division of the National Asso­ciation of Evangelicals and in 1965 a Committee of Fifteen was formed to oversee the work of a new translation. This committee enlisted the services of competent, evangelical scholars.

More than 110 such scholars took part in this translation, among whom are noted men as R.K. Harrison, W. Hendriksen, E.M. Blaikock, W. Lane, Leon Morris, R.M. Longenecker, Edmund Clowney, Meredith G. Kline, F. Derek Kidner, and R.L. Harris. It is an international team of scholars who all subscribed to the full inerrancy of the Bible. These men were divided into twenty teams (translator, consultants and an English stylist in each team). These teams prepared trial translations of their respective books of the Bible. Two editorial committees (an intermediate and a general one) then screened and edited these drafts. The translations were given to literary consultants for clarity and idiom. The committee on Bible translation then made final examina­tion and approval.

The NIV Study Bible with its low, discounted price is a very attractive study-Bible, considering all the commentary, aids, maps, concordances, etc. which it offers from a conservative and evangelical viewpoint. Overall, the NIV is not expensive as far as the Bibles go, but retails at a very reasonable price in a variety of editions and formats.

The following principles guided the translators in their work:

  1. Begin with and be faithful to the original text in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic languages.
  2. Clearly reflect the unity and harmony of the Spirit-inspired Writings.
  3. Retain only what the original languages say — not inject additional elements of unwarranted paraphrasing.
  4. Communicate God's revelation in the lan­guage of the people — to do for our time what the KJV did for its day.
  5. Be equally effective for public worship (pul­pit and pew), for private study and devotional reading.
  6. Establish universal acceptance by creating an ecclesiastical team of 100 scholars who hold to a high view of Scriptures as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Belgic Confession, and the Statement of Faith of the National Association of Evangelicals.

This is a truly monumental and worthwhile goal, one which deserves our full approval. These principles agree wholly with the criteria which the 1987 Synod gave for evaluating the four translations. The question is whether the New International Ver­sion has attained its goal.

The preface of the NIV tells us that all the trans­lator were "united in their commitment to the authority and infallibility of the Bible as God's Word in written form." It is gratifying to note this very impor­tant fact. For critics of the RSV have long pointed out that the liberal views of the translators have mani­fested themselves in renderings favourable to their views (cf. J. H. Skilton, 258; R. Laird Harris, 10-13).

Given that the submission of the church at Armadale to the 1987 Synod cited ten such transla­tions exposing the liberal bias of the RSV, it is a positive sign that the NIV deliberately upholds the authority and infallibility of the Bible. This will create better trust and respect for the Bible, whereas the RSV has evoked unrest in our midst and uncer­tainty about the Bible.

  1. Format🔗

The mechanical part of publishing this translation has been well done. The book is manageable, the paper is good quality. The text is printed in two columns (most editions) making it easier to take in a line; the use of poetic structure is frequent and effective. The text is divided into sections with head­ings given for each section, though the psalms do not have headings. The division into paragraphs rather than individual verses is very helpful in following the text. The KJV, NKJV and NASB are set in verses and not in paragraphs, making it more difficult to follow the text thematically.

Meticulous attention was paid to punctuation. Following the NT there are tables of weights and measures, along with maps. Of course, a variety of editions of the NIV are available, giving a variety of extra helps.

Notes are added copiously (more than in the RSV but less than in the NASB) for the following purposes:

  1. For textual matters such as alternate textual variants from manuscripts and ancient versions.
  2. For explanation of personal names, techni­cal terms, weights and measures.
  3. For giving commentary on certain render­ings so that the reader will understand the text.
  4. For specifying the quotation made or giv­ing cross-references.

As far as these notes go, some have complained that there are not enough textual notes. The preface promises that "where there was uncertainty about what the original text was" footnotes would be given. The report of the Christian Reformed Churches complains that this promise was not honoured sufficiently (with examples given from Rev. 15:3; 22:12, and Jude 22-23, p. 255). However, that apparent deficiency has been covered by the addition of 105 footnotes in the second edition of the NT. These numerous notes should be sufficient, although there will always be debate about the exclusion and/or inclusion of notes. We will examine some footnotes later on in this report.

Another feature of the format is the use of half brackets (e.g. Nahum 1:8, 11, 12, 14). Where there is a possible question about words or phrases not represented in the original text but which are sup­plied (forty-four times cf. JL, 295, though J. Lewis, 296, cites some more instances where words are supplied but no brackets are used) by the translators for clarification as required by the context, these half brackets are used. When one remembers that the principles of the dynamic equivalent method of translating feel no need to indicate every word not represented in the original, then this number shows two things, i.e. its determination to adhere to the original text, and that it does not adopt wholesale the principles of the dynamic equivalent method.

Capitalization occurs frequently in the NIV. All proper names are capitalized, often making proper names out of what have previously been common nouns, e.g. "Desert of Sin," "Desert of Sinai," "Year of Jubilee," "Palace of the Forest," "Ulai Canal," etc. Expressions such as "Tent of Meeting," "Book of the Covenant," "The Holy Mountain," etc. are inter­preted as titles and capitalized. All terms (not pronouns) for divinity, the Spirit, and the Messiah have capitals. This last point is of course contentious and does involve the translators in difficulties, especially in prophetic passages (see section 7 of this report). JL notes that there is no consistency in capitalizing messianic terms (297). To be consistent one would have to capitalize "prophet," "priest," "servant," and "king" which too are all messianic terms. But the better approach in our view is as JL says, "it would probably have been better not to capitalize messianic terms in the OT" (297).

Another feature is seen in the translation of terms dealing with time, measures, money, weight and distance. Sometimes a modern equivalent is given, e.g. "eight month's wages" (for 200 denarii in John 6:7), while in others the ancient (transliterated) term is used, e.g. "ten thousand talents" and "a hundred denarii" in Matthew 18:24, 28, where foot­notes explain these respectively as "millions of dol­lars" and "a few dollars." The "Table of Weights and Measures" offered in the NIV does prove helpful.

Overall the format is pleasing, very professional, scholarly and helpful.

  1. Text – The Old Testament🔗

The preface to the NIV tells us that "for the OT the standard Hebrew text, the Masoretic Text (MT) as published in the latest editions of BIBLIA HEBRAICA, was used throughout." As KS con­clude, "in this regard, as in the matter of translation it is a conservative version, revealing extreme care and caution in modifying the traditional text," and again, "the translators of the NIV treated the Hebrew text with great respect, and kept all changes to a minimum" (257, 258). The Dead Sea Scrolls, which represents an earlier stage (200 B.C.-100 A.D.) of the Hebrew text than the MT (900 A.D.), has vindicated the choice for the MT.

However, there is no unbending, slavish follow­ing of the MT. Where the ancient versions (translations of the OT), the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient scribal traditions, Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Targums throw more light on the ancient text of the OT, and where the MT is unclear or uncertain, the NIV uses this material. Especially the Septuagint (Greek trans­lation of the Hebrew made from 250 B.C.-100 B.C.) is often valuable in sections where the Hebrew text has suffered in transmission over the centuries.

That the NIV keeps these to a minimum can be demonstrated by a comparative study with the RSV. For example, some evangelicals protested the RSV's treatment of the text of Isaiah. About thirty conjectural textual alterations are footnoted in the RSV (as "cn" or correction of the Hebrew). Twenty-six had been suggested in Kittel's third edition of Biblia Hebraica, which often has a critical slant. We now have the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, which has been published, to check the Hebrew text. It is interesting that none of these thirty scholastic conjectures is supported by the Isaiah scroll (dated about 150 B.C.), though possibly a few are justified. A scholarship critical of the MT did injustice to the MT in favour of an easier and smoother reading (cf. Harris, 10, 12). One looks in vain for anything labeled a conjecture in the NIV-Isaiah. In twenty-seven of the cases the NIV rendered the MT (cf. JL, 302). Thus the NIV has followed the MT much more closely than the RSV has, and does not show the tendency quickly to follow versions or conjectures.

The criticisms of the RSV in Armadale's submis­sion to the 1987 Synod were checked against the NIV. In Genesis 11:1 where the RSV has "and few words," favouring the evolutionary approach to Scripture, the NIV has "a common speech" which is correct, also in the context. In Jos. 10:12 the NIV deletes "thou" which the RSV included, implying that Joshua and Israel looked on the sun and moon as deities. Psalm 51:18b reads "rebuild the walls of Jerusalem," intimating that the psalm, as others according to critical theories, is post-exilic when the walls needed to be rebuilt. The NIV simply reads "build." In Zech. 6:13 the RSV reads, "and there shall be a pries BY his throne" while the MT reads ON his throne, in fulfillment of the prophecy of the priest-king of Psalm 110. Critical scholars think that this combination arose later and so chose the reading of the RSV. But the text is clear. The NIV does read "ON his throne." One remark might be made of the NIV in Zech. 6:14, the next verse, where the MT has "crowns" and not "crown" as in the NIV. This term, referring to an ornamental crown made up of many crowns, deserves special attention as B. Holwerda made clear ("De Priester-Koning in het Oude Testament" in his .... Begonnen Hebbende van Moses ..., Kampen, 1974, 49-77, esp. 66-68). In Gen. 9:20 the RSV says Noah "was the first tiller of the soil" whereas Gen. 4:2; 5:29 contradict this. The NIV reads Noah was "a man of the soil," while it gives the other reading in a footnote. In all these cases it is obvious that the NIV is preferred above the RSV.

The submission of Armadale to the 1987 Synod mentioned the 31 conjectural emendations which the RSV has in Hosea (cf. the report of the committee of the Canadian Reformed Churches to the 1974 Synod). Also, in this prophecy of Hosea the RSV reverted to readings in the versions in favour of the MT.

Your deputies have checked all these emendations of the RSV, comparing them with what the NIV (and NASB) did. Simply checking the NIV, one finds emendations listed at 4:7 (follows an ancient scribal tradition); 5:11 (follows ancient versions); and 10:6. One can compare this to the NASB which has four emendations. Indeed, a close check did not reveal any more unlisted emendations in the NIV (or NASB). If one remembers the conclusion of the 1974 report of the Canadian committee that "two corrections were definitely warranted, and five were possibly war­ranted," then the approach of the NIV (and NASB) is both cautious and commendable. Only the NIV's emendations at 10:6 could be questioned (the com­mentary, Commentaar op het Oude Testament, by Van Gelderen and Gispen, ad loc., say that it is not necessary).

Another matter concerns the use of the versions rather than the MT at difficult points. In Hosea the NIV and NASB both read the versions rather than the MT at 10:5; 11:3; and 14:2, while the NIV alone reads the versions at 11:2 and the NASB at 7:6. This is a modest use of the versions (Van Gelderen and Gispen favoured the same readings from the ver­sions at most points). In comparison with the RSV which lists 26 (excluding the readings listed as cor­rections of the Hebrew) cases where the versions were preferred above the MT, the NIV and NASB used the versions only minimally.

Admittedly, the Hebrew text of Hosea is one of the most difficult. Yet this comparative study does show the great difference between the RSV and the NIV in their adherence to the MT.

  1. Text – The New Testament🔗

Concerning the text of the NT, the preface to the NIV states:

The Greek text used in translating the NT was an eclectic one. No other piece of ancient literature has such an abundance of manuscript witnesses as does the NT. Where existing manuscripts differ, the trans­lators made their choice of readings according to accepted principle of NT textual criticism. Footnotes call attention to places where there was uncertainty about what the original text was. The best current printed texts of the Greek NT were used.

So the NIV-translators selected the best text out of the hundreds of available manuscripts. Reference here is made to the section of this report about this subject of the text of the NT.

In general this means that the modern text such as N/A & UBS have been followed. What are considered harmonizations or conflations, i.e. the tendency, e.g., to harmonize one gospel passage with a parallel passage from another gospel (see section on the NT text, note 11) are deleted but noted (Mt. 5:44; 17:212; 18:11; 23:14; Mk. 9:44; 11:26; Luke 9:54-56; 23:17). Read­ings regarded as of later origin (John 5:3-4; Acts 8:37 and 1 John 5:7-8) are also deleted but not noted. The longer passages, Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53; 8:11 are included in the same print but have notes stating that many manuscripts do not have them.

These deletions trouble many. However, it is good to recall that the Bible forbids us BOTH TO ADD OR TO SUBTRACT FROM the inspired text. One sometimes stresses the sin of alleged deletion, but one should at the same time beware of additions. Others believe that this stance is a capitulation to the theories of Westcott and Hort. For example, an arti­cle in the Trinitarian Bible Society quarterly says:

although the NIV professes to be an evangelical translation, the Greek text on which it is mainly based was not prepared by evangelical scholars but by the editors of the BS' Greek NT. The LIB editors included several who deny the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, working in cooperation with a RC Cardi­nal, Carlo Martini. (11)

To corroborate this they quote three texts (Mt. 1:25; 5:22 and 1 Tim. 3:16). In each case there is a good case for the change (a conflation, a preference for the harder reading, and paleography respectively) from the 'textus receptus' which the TBS defends. Then there is the charge of surrendering to and adopting uncritically the theories of editors who are critical of the Bible. That the NIV-translators did not simply adopt the text of N/A or UBS is quite evident from the facts. First of all, many evangelical scholars such as J.H. Skilton (the NIV "is based on a good Greek text," 265) and Gordon D. Fee defend an eclectic text (cf. both his articles). The NIV does not just uncritically take over the text presented by N/A and UBS. It is also interesting to see how Fee defends the reading of 'He' instead of 'God' in 1 Tim. 3:16 ("The Majority Text...", 117-118). All (early) Latin vulgate manu­scripts (more than 1000), all other versions, and all early church fathers before the last part of the fourth century read 'He.'

Secondly, it is evident that the NIV does not slavishly follow the N/A and UBS text, but often departs from the UBS (which rates the variant read­ings on a scale from A to D). KS (246) cites numerous passages where it deviates from the UBS (cf. JL, 305­306). Even readings which are given D ratings are included by the NIV. So it is not true that it blindly follows the UBS and N/A without sifting the evi­dence for itself.

We are told (JL, 304) that in 45 cases readings carried in the Textus Receptus were relegated to the margin in the NIV. Deputies looked at over 30 of these cases. Most of them are considered to be conflations (scribes added readings from one gospel to another gospel, for instance). In other cases the evidence from the manuscripts strongly favours the readings of the earlier manuscripts. Some variants should definitely be reconsidered by the NIV-trans­lators, e.g. (Mt. 14:30; 20:16; 27:24; 27:35 and Mark 7:16). In many cases no footnotes were given to indicate that such important variants (e.g. Mt. 1:25; 5:44; 9:13; 13:51; 14:30; 20:16; 20:22; 23:8; 25:13 and 27:24) existed. The NIV-translators should be asked to include such footnotes as well as to reconsider some of the above textual choices.

Indeed, it is worthwhile to pay attention to this matter somewhat more closely, by comparing tex­tual choices in the RSV, NIV and NASB. The follow­ing texts or parts of them have been disputed by scholars.

Mt. 12:47 – omitted by RSV; included by NASB without note
Mt. 21:44 – omitted by RSV; included by NASB without note
Mk. 3:14 – omitted by RSV; omitted by NASB
Eph. 1:1 – omitted by RSV; included by NASB
Luke 22:19, 22 – included by both RSV & NASB and noted
Luke 22:43, 44 – omitted by RSV; included by NASB

They are all included in the text by NIV. This shows that the NIV shows greater caution in delet­ing readings which have much manuscript support than the NASB which in turn is more cautious that the RSV.

This comes to light especially when the matter of the nine (Mt. 27:49; Luke 22:19b-20; 24:3, 6, 9, 12, 36, 40, 51, 52) "Western noninterpolations" (cf. TC, 191-193) are considered. Basically codex Bezae (D), which generally has a fuller text, has shorter readings in these texts. Westcott and Hort and even many other manuscripts from the western text-type included them. With the acquisition of the evidence of papyri (which predate D by 200 years), we see even more that the oddities of tone unusual manuscript should not be followed (cf. TC, 192 where this is conceded). Yet in all these texts except Luke 22:19b-20, the RSV has omitted these readings relegating them to footnotes. The NASB included Luke 22:19b-20; 24:3, 6, 12 (brack­eted) but omitted the remaining five readings. The NIV has included them all. As JL says, "in these cases the NIV represents a more current view of textual questions than the NASB does" (306). It is certainly a great improvement over the RSV in these cases. This does not mean that more improvements could and should take place in future editions. The NIV should seriously consider the inclusion of the doxol­ogy and "amen" in the Lord's prayer in Mt. 6 as well as the longer version of the Lord's prayer in Luke 11 (cf. J. van Bruggen, "Abba, Vader!" in De Biddende Kerk, Vuurbank, 1979, 9-42; other literature and articles abound on the subject).

In conclusion, it must be said that the NIV is an improvement over the RSV (and NASB) as far as choice of NT text is translated. Textually it is to be preferred above the RSV (and NASB).

  1. Method of Translating🔗

Concerning the principles to be applied in this sec­tion, reference is made to Section III dealing specifically with this matter.

The first concern of the translators has been the accuracy of the translating and its fidelity to the thought of the biblical writers … At the same time, they have striven for more than a word-for-word translation. Because thought patterns and syntax differ from language to language, faithful communi­cation of the meaning of the writers of the Bible demands frequent modification in a sentence struc­ture and constant regard of the contextual meanings of words … Concern for clear and natural English — that the NIV should be idiomatic but not idiosyncratic, contemporary but not dated — motivated the translators and consultants.

Thus accuracy came first and clarity with liter­ary quality second. It must also be "suitable for public and private reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing and liturgical use" (preface). In our report about methods of translating, these were the aims and principles we underlined. It now remains to be seen whether the NIV lived up to them.

In order to test the NIV, deputies used the translation at home to get a 'feel' of the version. One enjoys its freshness along with its modern and con­temporary English. It speaks our language. Its fresh­ness sometimes made one feel as though one was reading the Bible for the first time.

  1. Dynamic Equivalent or Formal Equivalent?🔗

What type of translation is it? Some say that it is based on the methods of dynamic equivalence. However, this would be an inaccurate statement. JL says:

The NIV has attempted to steer a middle course between the excessive literalness of the NASB on the one hand and the excessive paraphrases of Philips, the NEB, and Taylor on the other. Loyalty to the text has been defined in terms of a compromise between the dynamic equivalence principle and literalness... (320)

Others chime in with that assessment. The Re­port of Christian Reformed Churches (257), Blanchard (7, citing its translation of the definition of faith in Heb. 11:1 as illustration), and Carson (24, who likes its avoidance of both unwarranted paraphrasing and mechanical literalism) praise it for its balance. Lasor states categorically that the NIV "is not a dynamic equivalent translation, and in this respect is not a 'modern' translation" and praises it for that fact (19). Linton, and English literature professor, praises the NIV style because there is "no straining after catchy colloquialism, shirt-sleeve casualness, or perky slang" (41).

On the negative side, Bratcher finds it too cau­tious, too painfully literal at times and too closely tied in form to the underlying Hebrew and Greek structures (350). A very telling review is given by Newman who is a UBS translation research associ­ate. We expect him to advocate full-blown dynamic equivalence which he does. Those who wish to have a Bible in modern English but with a traditional flavour will be well served with the NIV he says, tongue in cheek, "but we are convinced that they need a dynamic equivalence translation to use along­side, in order to capture more of the details and richness of the original meaning" (325). Though it is reliable, it suffers in the area of readability, he claims. And a runner needs TWO good legs (336)! He offers twenty interesting problem-areas in readability (326-334). Ryken (16) along with Skilton (259-265) lament the deficiency in literary quality; it tuned its lyre too low! They find the KJV has more grandeur and eloquence.

This sampling of reviews reveals much. It con­firms that the NIV is a cross between a literal and a free translation. As KS state,

The NIV is a middle-of-the-road version in which a high degree of 'formal correspondence' is combined with renderings that are 'dynamically equivalent'! (259)

In our report about the method of translating we concluded that the strengths of both the formal equivalent and the dynamic equivalent methods should be kept and their weaknesses avoided. Much sympathy and understanding of dynamic equiva­lence was shown (cf. the quote from B. Holwerda). Thus this combination of formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence in the NIV speaks in its favour, in our view.

  1. Accuracy🔗

Accuracy means that the translators wrestled with the original text — grammar, syntax, vocabulary, con­text, canonics, etc. — to determine accurately what the text says. Then they transferred that full meaning into modern English. There is accuracy in keeping to the style and flavour of the writer's time. It uses "cloaks," not "coats"; and "sandals" instead of "shoes." Also, it tries to keep the style of the individual writers of the Bible. Different writers have dissimilar styles and use terms differently. The NIV reflects this. It uses traditional forms ("shadow of death" in Ps. 23 and even "hallowed" in the Lord's prayer!) and terms (justification, saint, sanctifying, and blood, cf. its translation of 1 Cor. 1:30) along with new ones ("fellowship offering" for "peace offer­ing," "teraphim" becomes translated to "household gods," "mercy seat" becomes "the atonement cover" or "the place of atonement," "the breastplate of judgment" becomes the breast-piece for making de­cisions," "afflict your souls" becomes "deny yourselves," and "leprosy" becomes "an infectious skin disease" when it is a disease of mankind, except that an actual victim is said to have leprosy). These translations show much interaction with the text and scholarship on these important terms. Since "van­ity" today denotes parading one's virtues or conceit instead of the concept of something which is empty and worthless, the NIV translates the thematic text of the Preacher (now the "Teacher"), "'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaning­less!' Everything is meaningless." The sense is cor­rect, the rhythm fits and only nostalgia mourns the loss of "vanity."

One area in which the NIV receives criticism is that it too often interprets instead of translates. This is apparent in texts which are ambiguous, allowing more than one explanation. Obviously, the transla­tor must make up his mind what the text means to say. Inevitably some will dispute his decision. Carson cites cases in Mk.15:1 (came to a decision; 2 Cor. 3:13 (the end of what was fading away); 2 Cor. 5:17 (he is a new creation); 1 Cor. 12:1 (spiritual gifts). He con­cludes that "by and large, the NIV translators have, in my opinion, exercised good judgment" (25).

Sometimes the NIV tends to try to settle the matter by giving an interpretive rendering (cf. Re­port of Committee to 1980 Gen. Synod of Can. Ref. Churches, 231-232-234). Yet in other cases it keeps the rendering deliberately ambiguous. An example of this is Haggai 2:7 — "and the desired of all nations will come." The NIV — Study Bible points out that "desired" can refer to individuals and thus have messianic significance in that all the nations desired Christ (think of the classic choral piece, "Jesu, joy of man's desiring"). But the same word also refers to articles of value. Since the NIV stresses contextual meanings, it is strange that here it does not choose a rendering such as "treasures" (RSV) which fits the context in which God promises to fill his house with gold and silver from the nations which He will shake.

One can thus conclude that the judgments which the NIV makes are the ones which would be favoured; that judgments often need to be made since translating is interpreting; and, nevertheless, that the NIV tends to be too interpretative. One repre­sentative example is how it renders "ships of Tarshish" which translation is retained in Ps. 48:7; Isa. 32:1, 14; 60:9; Ezek. 27:25. But where trade on the Mediterranean Sea is suggested, it renders, "trading ships" (1 Kings 10:22; 22:48; 2 Chron. 9:21; 20:36; Isa. 2:16, but not the problem at 2 Chron. 20:37). It would have been better to keep to "ships of Tarshish" and supply an explanatory note where needed.

We have also criticized the RRSV for renderings which favour the liberal and critical school of theol­ogy (cf. the submission from Armadale on the NT). The following points should be noted about the points raised, in this submission:

  1. The Holy Spirit is referred to as "who" and not "which" in Rom. 5:5; 8:11; 1 Cor. 2:12; and Eph. 1:14. This is an improvement.
  2. Rom. 3:30 reads "who will justify the circumcised BY faith…" instead of "ON THE GROUND OF their faith" (RSV, with contested part capitalized). The NIV keeps to the Reformed, not the Arminian or RC (as in the RSV), stance. It is also a proper translation of the Greek, which the RSV is not.
  3. Rom. 9:5 in the NIV reads "the Christ, who is God over all..." in contradistinction to the RSV. It identifies Christ as God, whereas the RSV decided not to do so.
  4. The NIV takes the same textual approach for the Lord's Prayer as the RSV does. The only improvement is that at Luke 11 the NIV gives footnotes indicating that "some manuscripts" add the longer text, whereas the RSV does not even footnote it. We have mentioned this tex­tual question previously and now only note that the NIV does not improve on the RSV here.

One thus finds that in the NT texts mentioned above, the NIV corrects the RSV in three out of four cases, while in the last case both versions are to be challenged.

Another area in which to test accuracy is the rendering of certain important, biblical terms and phrases. YHWH, the Hebrew name of the God of the covenant, is rendered traditionally, LORD. This has come about because the Jews thought this name was secret and was not allowed to be pronounced. They used the other title for God ('Adonai') instead. Eng­lish versions have followed suit by translating it as 'Lord' ('Adonai'), but distinguished it by capitaliz­ing it — 'LORD.' One laments this capitulation to Jewish impiety, and would have hoped the NIV would break new ground by translating the term or by transliterating it as 'Yahweh' ('He is,' as favoured by K.L. Barker, 'YHWH SABAOTH: 'THE LORD ALMIGHTY,' CT, 144). Connected with this is the rendering of both (YHWH) Sabaoth (LORD of hosts) and 'Shaddai' as (LORD) 'Almighty.' This rendering does convey that God is sovereign over the hosts or armies of heaven (stars, etc. and angels) and earth (armies of Israel). It is true that the Greek translation of the OT does commonly render both 'sabaoth' and 'shaddai' by 'pantokrator' (almighty) and the NT translates them accordingly as well in 2 Cor. 6:18; Rev. 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; and 21:22 (op. cit., 146-149). Yet one senses that the aspect of the 'hosts' or 'armies' as well as the distinction between 'sabaoth' and 'shaddai' are lost in this more general term. Also, 'Adonai' (which means Master or Sover­eign) in combination with YHWH becomes 'Sover­eign LORD' (over 250 times in Ezekiel). Again, this may give the proper sense, but one still prefers something more accurate like 'the Lord YAHWEH,' for instance.

The NIV often inserts 'dear' in front of 'friends' or 'brothers' or 'woman' in order to show the Christian bond of affection in the relationship. One won­ders whether this dynamic equivalent is warranted and necessary. The cases of 'dear woman' in John 2:4; 19:26 are very suspect, since Jesus here tries to teach his own mother the proper attitude He must bear to her and she to him.

'Propitiation' is deleted in the RSV in favour of 'expiation.' This reduces the teaching of God's wrath against the sin of man. In the NIV 'hilasmos' and 'hilasterion' respectively become 'atoning sacrifice for our sins' and 'sacrifice of atonement' Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). The footnote offered with these texts says, "turn aside his wrath" and the commentary in the NIV-Study Bible says it is "a sacrifice that satisfies the righteous wrath of God. Without this appeasement all people are justly des­tined for eternal punishment." This rendering defi­nitely is an improvement over the RSV, but one wonders why the footnote could not be adopted (Blanchard, 7).

'Sheol,' as is 'Hades' often, is regularly rendered as "grave" (cf. "Why Hebrew 'Sheol" was translated 'Grave,' in CR. 75-92). Seeing that the NIV loves variety and contextual meanings, one wonders how every context and every text can have that exact shade of meaning. Surely a translation should show more nuances of this important theological term.

'Monogenes' ("only-begotten" in KW; "only" in RSV) as it describes Jesus is an important, credal term for us. The rendering of the RSV was inad­equate and the reversion to "only-begotten" in our creeds shows that. The NIV uses "one and only" which points out more emphatically than the RSV how a one and only son is most loved ('loved' and 'one and only' are related, cf. Gen. 22:2, 12). The NIV translates "one and only Son" to show that Jesus is divine (Son) and unique (one and only) (cf. Longenecker, "The One and Only Son," CT, 164­175). Van Bruggen writes:

When the Bible calls Jesus the 'monogenes' Son of God, it means that he alone is the natural Son of God. He is distinguished from believers as natural chil­dren are distinguished from adopted ones (134-135).

He, therefore, would like to keep the concept of 'generation' (begotten). Longenecker refutes the idea that 'genes' as generation stands central (ibid.). And indeed, the idea of 'begetting' does not seem domi­nant, and may even undermine the fact that Jesus is eternal. A case parallel to Jesus as 'monogenes' is that of Isaac, the one and only, natural son of promise of Abraham and Sarah. Hebrews 11:17 also calls him 'monogenes.' Here the stress seems to be on the fact that Isaac is 'one of a kind,' and not that he was the only son, since he was not. Isaac was special and unique. So is Jesus. One appreciates the attempt by the NIV to translate this important term, but again asks whether other renderings might not catch more of its flavour.

One could deal with other important terms such as 'psuche' (soul or life), 'sarx' (flesh), which are rendered variously in the NIV according to the needs of the context. One applauds such a fresh and con­textual approach.

That the NIV is both accurate and conservative in its theology is seen throughout the translation. It has been noted by C. Van Dam that at Ex. 21:22-25 the NIV is more accurate than the RSV and shows greater respect for life ("Is the unborn life human?" Clarion, Vol. 36, No. 19).

Overall, these examples show that in general the NIV improves on the RSV, but could still stand improvement.

  1. Clarity🔗

The NIV is clear and idiomatic. The pronouns 'thou,' 'thee; 'thy' and 'thine' together with the archaic verbal endings are abandoned in addressing God, because this is not contemporary. "Neither Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek uses special pronouns for the persons of the Godhead" (preface to NIV). The latter statement is true. However, those who have been raised in European languages where a distinction is made, may lament this development as a loss of reverence for God. It is hard for them to adjust to a language where this distinction does not hold. On the other hand, many use 'you' in addressing God without trying to sound trendy or irreverent. The RSV will switch to this as has the NKJV. Thus we need to prepare ourselves for a transition in this matter. Since it is more a matter of personal taste and feeling than biblical principles, one hopes there will be an understanding by and for both sides.

The NIV wants to be idiomatic but not idiosyn­cratic (having one's own personal style), contemporary but not dated. Its language is clear, simple and dignified. Its style is terse, using economy of words, and simple, using longer words infrequently (cf. the comparison made by Skilton, 261-261). As has been quoted, it is not the colloquial street-talk of some paraphrases or modern versions. Yet, it does not avoid colloquialisms in dialogue. In modern English dialogue (the way we speak) differs from literary English (the way we write). The NIV reflects this (cf. JL, 318 for examples).

When one compares the NIV to the RSV, one is struck by the fact that the RSV still retains many outdated terms and phrases such as 'raiment,' 'brethren,' 'such a one,' 'begone,' 'smote,' 'made haste,' and 'took his journey.' It comes across as out of date and as 'Bible-English.' Many terms were left untranslated — teraphim, sheol, azazel (cf. his interesting com­ment on this and charge against the RSV by R. L. Harris), Abaddon, Hades, etc. The NIV improves on the English and on the translations of these Hebrew and Greek terms. Its language is more clear and fresh. It is easier to understand, while it retains dignity and literary quality. It certainly would be very suitable for teaching the youth and for memo­rization by youth. In schools the NIV's simplicity would improve the understanding of the Bible by the students. Its drawback is that sometimes it inter­prets rather than translates.

  1. Conclusions🔗

Since the NIV is continuously improving itself by new editions (five year assessments are made), and since they are very open to suggestions, it would be advisable that any and all criticisms and suggestions for improvement be sent to the Committee for Trans­lation, even as this was done by the committee of our Canadian sister-churches with the RSV.

Harris has severely criticised the RSV for creat­ing conflicts and inconsistency between the two testaments by not translating direct quotes of the OT with the same wording (10). He refers to the quotes of Psalm 45:6 in Hebrews 1:8; Psalm 19:19 in Acts 2:29-31; 13:36, 37 and Isaiah 1:14 in Mt. 1:23 which are all translated differently in the NT than in the OT, though they are presented as direct quotes (12-13). Over against this Hardwick replies very persua­sively that a reliable translation need not have OT quotes rendered exactly the same in the NT, since prophecy especially is fulfilled in stages (11, 14-15). He finds that "the RSV has too long been spanked like a naughty boy." In turn he deals with the same passages, including the quote of Gen. 12:3; 22:18 in Gal. 3:8, 16. His argument is that the OT passages need to be understood in their own contexts, while the NT texts must be accurately rendered, keeping the element of fulfillment and typology in mind. He thus finds that Isaiah 7:14 should be accurately rendered by "a young woman shall conceive…," while Matthew 1:23 should use "virgin." It is indeed true that in messianic prophecies one must remember that probably only Psalm 110 is direct, while others point first to an historical event and person at the time of prophecy (such as Isaiah 7:14). Nevertheless, it should be reiterated that wherever possible and allowable, there should be consistency.

One sees this consistency very strongly in the NIV. Its rendering of Psalm 2, 4 and 45 are just some examples (cf. Waltke, "Translation problems in Psalm 2 and 4," CT, 117-126). In fact the NIV capitalizes many messianic titles (Anointed One, Son, King, Holy one, and Branch) in the OT and NT. One questions the propriety of this procedure, for it makes those prophecies directly messianic and does not do justice to their primary, historical application. To overcome this problem is easy — eliminate the capitals! This would make the NIV both consistent and redemptive-historical.

One place where the NIV failed to conform the OT and NT is at Deut. 32:43 where the NIV has not added the reading "and let all the angels worship him," which is the source for Heb. 1:6. And in Psalm 8:5 it renders 'elohim' as "heavenly beings" in order to harmonize it with Heb. 2:7 which reads "angels." It would have been more honest to note at Heb. 2:7 that the quote is from the Greek translation of Psalm 8 and not from the Hebrew.

Overall the NIV is keenly eager to have both testaments read consistently where there are direct quotes. In this one sees a marked improvement over the RSV which often seems to drive a wedge be­tween the two testaments. However, one must tem­per this statement by saying that the NIV goes too far in its harmonizing.

  1. General Conclusions🔗

Having sifted through the various aspects of the NIV in comparison with the RSV, the following conclusions are now summarized:

  1. The NIV is much better than the RSV as far as the choice of the OT text from which to translate goes.
  2. The NIV is better than the RSV as far as the choice of the NT text from which to translate goes.
  3. The NIV and RSV both are generally accurate in translation; both have strengths and faults.
  4. The NIV has greater clarity and readability than the RSV.
  5. The NIV adheres much more strongly to the unity between the two testaments than the RSV.
  6. Thus, on the basis of the above points, the NIV is more suitable for worship, instruction, and memorization.

On the basis of these findings, the conclusion is clear that the NIV is better than the RSV.


All quotes are from works listed in the selected bibliography; only page numbers of quotes are given. The following abbreviations are given for reference works.

CT – work #1 listed under 'Books'
JL – work #4 listed under 'Books'
KS – work #3 listed under 'Books'
MT – work #1 listed under 'Texts'
N/A – work #3 listed under 'Texts'TC – work #2 listed under 'Texts'
UBS – work #5 listed under 'Texts'

  1. Barker, Kenneth (editor), The Making of a Contemporary Translation: New Interna­tional Version, Hodder and Stoughton, 1987.
  2. Colwell, Ernest C., Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament, Eerdmans, 1969.
  3. Kubo, Sakae & Specht, Walter F., So Many Versions?, Zondervan, c. 1975,1983, (Chapter 16), 243-272.
  4. Lewis, Jack, The English Bible From KJV to NIV, Baker, c. 1981, 1984, (Chapter 13) 293-328.
  5. Nida, Eugene A., Toward A Science of Translating: With Special Reference to Princi­ples and Procedures Involved in Bible Translating, E.J. Brill, 1964.
  6. Nida, Eugene A. and Taber, Charles R., The Theory and Practice of Translation, E. J. Brill, 1974.
  7. Skilton, John H. (ed.), The New Testament and Bible Translation: Vol. IV of The New Testament Student, Presbyterian and Re­formed Publ. Co. 1978.
  8. Van Bruggen, Jakob, The Future of the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1978.
  1. Hodges, Zane C., and Farstad, Arthur L. (eds.), The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text, Thomas Nelson, 1982.
  2. Metzger, Bruce M., A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, c. 1971, 1975.
  3. Nestle, Eberhard and Erwin and Aland, Kurt (ed.), Novium Testamentum Graece, Twenty-six edition, Stuttgart, 1979.
  4. Souter, Alexander, Novium Testamentum Graece, Clarendon, c. 1910, 1966.
  5. The Geek New Testament, United Bible Societies, Third Edition, c. 1968, 1975.
  1. Canadian Reformed Churches: Report of the Committee on Bible Translations, Appointed by Synod Coaldale 1977, Appendix VII in the Acts of the 1980 Synod, pp. 226-235. See also the decision by synod in Acts, pp. 75-79.
  2. Christian Reformed Churches of North America: Report 8: Bible Translation Committee (Major­ity and Minority Reports) in the Acts of the 1980 General Synod, pp. 252-271. The synod's decision isgiven in the same acts on pp. 70-71.
  3. Free Reformed Churches of Australia:

    Rapport inzake Engelse bijbelvertaling for the 1970 Synod of Launceston.
    Report re: English Bible, for the 1975 Synod of Albany.
    Report of the Deputies for Bible Translation, for the 1985 Synod of Launceston.
    Report of the Deputies for Bible Translation, for the 1987 Synod of Albany.
  1. Blanchard, John, "The Thomy Question of Ver­sions – Part Three: The New International Version," Evangelical Times, Jan./88, 8.
  2. Bratcher, Robert D., "Review Article: The Holy Bible – NIV," The Bible Translator, July/79, 345-350.
  3. Carson, D. A., Book Review on the New Interna­tional Version, Themelios, (Autumn/75), Vol. 1, No. 1, 24-25.
  4. Fee, Gordon D., "The Majority Text and the Original Text of the New Testament," The Bible Translator, Vol. 31, No. 1, 107-118. "A Critique of W. N. Pickering's The Identity of the NT Text," Westminster Theological Journal, Spring/79, 397-423.
  5. Harris, R. Laird, and Hardwick, Stanley E., "Do Evangelicals Need a New Bible Translation?" Chris­tianity Today, Sept. 27/68, 10-15.
  6. Lasor, William S., "What Kind of Version is the NIV?" Christianity Today, Oct. 20/78, 18-19.
  7. Linton, Calvin S., "The NIV Style," Christianity Today, Sept. 28/73, 41.
  8. Newman, Barclay M., "Readability and the New International Version of the New Testament," The Bible Translator, Vol. 31, No. 3, 325-336.
  9. Ryken, Leland, "The Literary Merit of the NIV," Christianity Today, Oct. 20/78, 16-20.
  10. Scholer, David M., Book review, Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 93, No. 4, 591-594.
  11. Skilton, John H., Book review, Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 37, No. 2, 256-265.
  12. Trinitarian Bible Society, "Another Look at the New International Version," Quarterly Record, Oct-Dec./87, 8-17.

Section VII🔗

Final Recommendations🔗

Having made a preliminary examination of the planned 1990 edition of the RSV, the Deputies conclude that this version holds little promise for a real improvement on the current edition of the RSV. The main objections to the 1972 edition are still present. As to clarity and readability, the 1990 edition has gained. Over against that, the incorporation of inclu­sive language is a major step in the wrong direction. There may be some value in a further evaluation of the 1990 edition of the RSV when it appears, but the deputies consider it highly unlikely that RSV/1990 will ever be recommended for use in the Churches.

It has been clear from the previous reports that the deputies can only recommend one translation as being better than the RSV, namely the New Interna­tional Version. However, before this is recommended, one has to look at the consequences. There is the inconvenience and expense of changing to another translation. Also, another change after the churches have only recently adopted the RSV may cause unrest. Seeing that the matter of translations, beside their use in the church services, instruction classes, and Bible-study clubs, has many consequences such as:

  1. its use in confessions, liturgical forms, prayers, psalms and hymns;
  2. cooperation with the sister-churches in Canada for one common Book of Praise; and it use in school classrooms;
  3. it would be good to stand still and consider these repercussions before changing quickly to another translation.

As far as cooperation with Canada on one com­mon Book Of Praise is concerned, we can only expect that their present committee on Bible translation (which has a mandate only to keep an eye on the RSV and on general development) will be able to present a proposal to the next Synod in 1992, and that any action would have to wait at least till 1995 Synod, DV. One should also keep in mind that one can use the present Book Of Praise on its own merits, even if one stops using the RSV, which was used for Scrip­ture selections. Another possibility, though not too desirable, is the obtaining of the rights to print our own version of the Book Of Praise. But this matter of the Book Of Praise should not hinder the use of a different Bible translation.

It would be good to phase in the use of another translation in order to give not only deputies and consistories a good look at the translation, but also to give the church members an opportunity to test it. One possible manner to do this is to introduce its use in school and in church functions, excluding the worship services, as well as at home. By using it, one can truly test it.

The deputies have discussed all these points and come with the following recommendations:

  1. to discharge all deputies;
  2. to keep the archives that have been started;
  3. to declare at this time already that the NIV is deemed better than the RSV for use within the church;
  4. to recommend to the churches that the NIV be used for study, instruction, and family purposes;
  5. to withhold final endorsement of the NIV in the church services till a subsequent Synod.
  6. to ask the new deputies to send all relevant suggestions and improvements to the Committee on Bible translation of the NIV;
  7. to await and evaluate any replies on these;
  8. to consult with the sister-churches about this matter to see whether a common approach can be reached, with a view to the use of a common Book of Praise;
  9. to appoint new deputies with a mandate:
  1. see No. 6, 7 and 8 above;
  2. to watch for new developments in the RSV and NIV;
  3. to solicit and evaluate comments from the churches about the NIV;
  4. to maintain and keep the archives of its work and findings;
  5. to report to the churches about its progress or findings;
  6. to make a final recommendation about the NIV to a subsequent Synod.

W. Huizinga, convener, A. Plug, secretary, C. Bouwman, P. 't Hart


  1. ^ See Gen. 18:22; Judges 18:30; 1 Sam. 3:13; 2 Sam. 12:14; Job 7:20, 32:2; Jer. 2:11; Hos. 4:7.
  2. ^ The Septuagint (meaning 70) is often designated as DOC because 70 translators, according to Jewish fable, allegedly worked on the whole Old Testament simultaneously, producing a completely homogeneous translation!
  3. ^ For good information about the various manuscripts see B. M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, (Oxford & New York, 1968).
  4. ^ Pickering. W., The Identity of the New Testament Text, pp. 121-152.
  5. ^ The NASB states that it has been "produced with the conviction that the words of Scripture as originally penned in Hebrew and Greek were inspired by God." The preface to the NIV says all the translators are "committed to the full authority and complete trustworthiness of the Scrip­tures, which they believe to be God's word in written form."
  6. ^ D.A. Carson, The King James Version Debate, p. 26.
  7. ^ J. van Bruggen, The Ancient Text of the New Testament, (Winnipeg, 1976).
  8. ^ W. N. Pickering, The Indentity of the New Testament Text, (Nashvill, c. 1977, 1980), pp. 33-34, 41-58.
  9. ^ cf. Gordon D. Fee, "A Critique of W. N. Pickering's The Identity of the New Testament," Westminster Theological journal, (Spring 1979), 397-423; and "The Majority Text and the Original Text of the New Testament," The Bible Translator, (Jan. 1980), 107-118.
  10. ^ E.g. Ernest C. Colwell, Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, 1969).
  11. ^ Recently a doctoral dissertation was published by Rev. Dr. W. F. Wisselink, Assimilation as a Criterion for the Establishment of the Text: A Comparative Study on the basis of passages from Mt., Mk and Lk., (Kampen, 1989). This disser­tation deals with alleged harmonizations or conflations in the gospels and concludes that all the text-types, not only the Byzantine one, have harmonizations. Therefore it as­serts that the alleged, common position that the Byzantine text-type is of inferior quality because of its harmonizing tendency is methodologically wrong (see Nederlands Dagblad, 10 June, 1989). The study of this recent disserta­tion was not possible.
  12. ^ Which Version Now? (Sussex, n.d.), p. 13. For a fuller discussion of these principles see B. M. Metzger, op. cit., pp. 149-246.
  13. ^ op. cit., p. 29.
  14. ^ op. cit., p. 29.
  15. ^ Kubo, S., & Specht, W.F.: So Many Versions?, Revised Edition, (Grand Rapids, 1983), pp 226, 227.
  16. ^ Lewis, J. P.: The English Bible: From KJV to NIV, (Grand Rapids, 1984), pp 185-188.
  17. ^ Free Reformed Churches of Australia: Acts of Synod 1987, (Albany, 1987), Art. 109, p. 67.
  18. ^ Canadian Reformed Churches: Acts of Synod 1980, (Winnipeg, 1980), Appendix VII, p. 238.
  19. ^ ibid.: p. 227-230.
  20. ^ N.A.S.B., Foreword, p. v.
  21. ^ Can. Ref. Church: Acts, 1980, pp 227-230. These remarks refer to specific chapters and verses, but generally do apply to the translation as a whole.
  22. ^ Van Bruggen, J.: The Future of the Bible, (Nashville, 1978), pp 170-192.
  23. ^ Lewis, J. P.: op. cit., p. 179.
  24. ^  ibid., p. 166.
  25. ^ Sheehan, B.: Which Version Now?, (Haywards Heath) n.d., p. 24.
  26. ^ N.A.S.B., Foreword, p. v.
  27. ^ Quoted in J. P. Lewis, op. cit., p. 166.
  28. ^ Can Ref. Church: Acts, 1980, p. 232. Synod 1980 did leave the use of the NASB to the freedom of the churches where the acceptance of the RSV would meet with insurmountable objections (Art. 111, p. 79), but to the knowledge of the Deputies none of the Canadian sister Churches has felt the need to take this course. Occasionally, one will read an NASB Scripture quotation in a magazine article in support of a point of argument, but such use never was prevalent, and is becoming increasingly rare as time goes on.
  29. ^ Free Reformed Churches of Australian: Acts of Synod 1983, (Kelmscott, 1983). Appendix: Report of Deputies for Bible Translation.
  30. ^ Peacock, Heber F., "New King James Bible New Testament," in The Bible Translator, July, 1980, p. 339  
  31. ^ Lewis, Jack P., (1984), The English Bible from KJV To NIV, (Baker Book House-Grand Rapids), p. 321. Note: the chapter on the NKJV may have been added after the first printing of this book in 1982. That would account for the title, an erroneous one in 1984.
  32. ^ ibid., p. 334. 
  33. ^ Griffin, W., "The New King James Version," in Biblical Archaeology Review, (Nov. 1982), p. 62.

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