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Evangelicals and Bible Translations 50 Years After the NIV

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Next year the Committee on Bible Translation, Zondervan, and Biblica are celebrating the 50th year anniversary of the commissioning of the New International Version Bible.

At a special event celebrating this anniversary at the 66th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Doug Moo, current chair of the CBT, gave an impassioned presentation and reflection on not only the impact of the NIV, but also the relationship between evangelicals and Bible translations. He also gave some interesting insights into the CBT's specific translation philosophy and Bible translating more broadly.

You can go here to see the whole live-blog, but below we've highlighted some of Moo's insights:

One of Moo's more insightful comments was in regards to principles of modern linguistics: A major principle is that "meaning is found not in individual words, as vital as they are, but in larger clusters (phrases, clauses, sentences, discourses)… Words themselves are not the final arbiters of meaning."

"Translation is not, as many people assume, a matter of word substitution…Translators must first determine the meaning that the clustering of words in the biblical languages convey — and then select a cluster of English words that accurately communicates that meaning to modern listeners and readers."

Which impacts how we view and understand the doctrine of inspiration: "The fact that translations transfer meaning, not words, makes clear that the doctrine of inspiration does not entail a 'word-for-word' translation approach."

Moo asked the question, "Why do we still find ourselves speaking and writing about the 'literal' meaning of words?" He listed 3 reasons:

  • First is what I call “homiletical expediency.”  We want to show off our knowledge.
  • A second reason for using the word “literal” is simplicity.
  • Third, it is the way we were taught.

He followed this with some important questions for educators: "Do we effectively teach our students the realities of language? Or do we continue to require our second-year language students to translate 'word for word,' perpetuating a simplistic and ultimately quite false view of language?"

During the Q&A session one person asked, "Does the Septuagint offer us any guidance for English translation?" Moo responded, "It’s a very fascinating field of study to combine their practices and philosophy with those of modern translation. One of the things that strikes us is that we don’t have the original Septuagint. What we do have is evidence of an evolution over many years."

Again, you can read the entire fascinating discussion at the BibleGateway live-blog.

The cherished NIV Bible read by millions today was more than five decades in the making! Join with us in celebrating its legacy, because as Dr. Moo said, "Fifty years of the NIV is cause for celebration."

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