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Why Is My Choice of a Bible Translation So Important?

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I do believe that this will be the last book I read, at least for the next little while, on the subject of Bible translations. This is not to say that it is a bad book, nor is it to say that it is the final word on the subject. Rather, I have read several books about translating Scripture in the past weeks and am tiring of the topic.

Why Is My Choice of a Bible Translation So Important is written by Wayne Grudem and Jerry Thacker and is published by the Council for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. The title of the book may be a little bit misleading, as the book primarily addresses the shortcomings of the TNIV translation. The actual text of the book is only 15 pages and draws quite heavily upon the excellent work of Dr. Leland Ryken on this subject. After introducing the different philosophies of translation, the authors provide several reasons for ensuring that you are reading a translation that renders, as much as is humanly possible, the words of God. The points are: every word of God is important; God’s words have more depth of meaning than anyone knows; all Christians need to make sound decisions about the Bibles they buy and use; Gender-neutral Bibles change thousands of singular verses to plural and thus diminish the Bible’s emphasis on individual responsibility and relationship with God; the real controversy is whether to water down or omit details of meaning that modern culture finds offensive.

The six-page Appendix 1 provides several examples of verses that have been changed in the TNIV. Some of these are very serious, while others are less so. For example, they show how the TNIV changes Psalm 34:20 from “He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken” to “He protects all their bones, not one of them will be broken.” This obscures the prophetic importance of this verse which clearly looks forward to the death of Jesus.

Appendix 2, weighing in at over 60 pages, lists 3,686 translation inaccuracies in the TNIV. As I read through this list I found some that changed the meaning of a passage only a small amount, but others were marked with “Absurd!” showing that the meaning had been changed a great deal. For example, Deuteronomy 21:15 is translated in the NIV as “If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other…” while in the TNIV it is rendered as “If someone has two wives, and he loves one but not the other…” This is a verse where “man” is clearly the correct translation.

A final appendix contains two statements of concern about the TNIV that were signed by a large number of Evangelical leaders.

While I would not recommend Why Is My Choice of a Bible Translation So Important? as the first book a person should read on this topic, it is a sound, short treatment of some of the most serious problems with Today’s New International Version.


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