The “New International Version:” A Review Article -- By: Peter C. Craigie
JETS 21:3 (September 1978) p. 251
The “New International Version:”
A Review Article
The Holy Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978, xi plus 1635 pages.
Readers of this Journal will be familiar already with the New International Version (NIV) of the NT, which was published in 1973. The publication of the NIV OT in the fall of 1978 brings to completion a major task of translation and scholarship that has been going on for more than a decade. The format and print, already familiar from the earlier publication, are magnificent and are a happy reminder of the art of bookmaking at its best. But it is the substance of this new translation that is under review.
The translators determined to produce a translation in contemporary English, but also, as the title indicates, they desired to produce an international version of the Bible for the English-speaking world. This is a formidable task, given the diversities of style and idiom in the contemporary uses of English in many different parts of the world. In both these aims the translators have achieved remarkable success. The NIV is contemporary, not only in the removal of obvious archaisms (“thee,” “thou” and the like) but also in the simplicity and clarity of its prose. It is international in being virtually free from “Americanisms” and “Britishisms,” though there is a minor cost to pay for such international character. The cost can be seen in two ways. First, “international English” provides a uniformity of language throughout the entire English OT that cannot accurately reflect the chronological and regional dialects and peculiarities within the Hebrew text itself. (Though, to be fair, I know of no way of resolving such a problem in translation.) Second, the very concept of “international English” inevitably produces a slightly less dynamic and vibrant language than exists, for example, in contemporary American-English or, if you will excuse the prejudice, in contemporary Scottish-English. “International English” is something that everybody understands but nobody speaks. A paraphrase such as the Living Bible, which in places is unashamedly American-English (I imply no criticism!), can convey more character and vitality; but conversely a person such as myself (educated in Scotland and now a Canadian citizen) may be either mystified or mortified by such Americanisms. This is precisely the kind of reaction that the NIV does not elicit; it is truly international English, and I would be as happy in recommending it to American students as I would be in sending a copy to my dyed-in-the-wool Scottish relatives. In my judgment, then, the cost of adopting an international style of English is well worthwhi...
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