J I Packer on the NIV, TNIV and NLT
For this post, I have taken from the middle of the conversation a piece that I find he developed in greater detail than some other parts. To put this in context, while I was preparing to leave, after I had turned the tape off, he summarized his comments on the different Bible versions. "Horses for courses," he said with great enthusiasm.
Suzanne: I want to talk about the TNIV statement that was written in 2002, the statement against the TNIV. I wondered, you didn’t feel it was trustworthy, that it was not up to Bible translation standards.
Dr. Packer: I will only say first that my understanding of what translation should aim at, is not quite the same as that of either the original NIV or the TNIV and I will tell you specifically what difference I see. The NIV and the TNIV were, in both cases, seeking to package the word of God for a particular reading public which the translators thought they could identify and characterize. It is very obvious, actually the TNIV which has been marketed in terms of “This is the Bible for persons between 18 – 35" have you spotted all that?
Working with the NIV, I haven’t actually matched this with the TNIV, my years with the NIV were, I felt, sufficient. I found it a very frustrating version to teach from. I haven’t actually used the TNIV but my years with the NIV was enough, because it is an in and out version, when a literal translation is clear they give you a literal translation. When they think they are confronted with a form or words which, if literally translated, or should I say, directly translated, wouldn’t communicate very well, without warning of what they are doing they go off into paraphrase.
You see what I mean. When you are teaching, at least when you are teaching at graduate level, which is what we have here, you want as much precision as you can have and actually when you are standing in the pulpit, the same is true. It irritates the preacher and the congregation if he is constantly having to say this that we have got in front of us isn’t actually what the text says.
Let me say this. I am not an exponent of the view that there is only one way to translate the Bible. I am an exponent of the view that among the many ways of translating the Bible some are better than others on balance … there is a computation of pros and cons. And its a tradeoff. This way of doing it for the purpose for which you are doing it, if this is the purpose, achieves more than doing it any other way, if this is the purpose you have. If you have a different purpose, well of course, the rules change and then it is likely that a different way of doing it will seem more appropriate.
Suzanne: To me the TNIV seemed appropriate for its purpose.
Dr. Packer: Then I say the best of luck.
Suzanne: Well, I have been using Good News Bible.
Dr. Packer: Then I say I think the Good News Bible is very good.
Suzanne: And the New Living?
Dr. Packer: I also say the New Living is very good for what it is and once you understand what it is, well ...
Suzanne: I have to ask you, as I was asked to ask you some of these questions, they said please ask Dr. Packer how about the TNIV? What does he still feel about it?
Dr. Packer: Well, here is something that you can quote from me. I think I understand what the TNIV intends to do and I think that the NLB does the same thing better.
Suzanne: Okay. Does that make the TNIV untrustworthy?
Dr. Packer: No, it doesn’t. It just means that if you’ve got enough money to buy one further Bible I would encourage you to buy the New Living before you buy the TNIV.
Suzanne: That is very interesting. I haven’t used the New Living Bible. I will look at it.
Dr. Packer: Well, different things appeal to different people but I think that the New Living is– it is brilliantly done, but every translation has one or two weak spots and so has the New Living - not very many.
Suzanne: Every Bible has something.
Dr. Packer: Yeah, that’s right.
As I left he said,
"The scholars of the TNIV are extremely learned men. They are my colleagues here, you know."
I will post more in a few days.