The committee planning to revise the New International Version (NIV) has completed its work and the new revised translation has been published online. The new revised edition of the NIV will be released to the public in 2011, in time to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Version.
Preliminary reports on the revised edition of the NIV have been disappointing. Charles Halton discusses some of the theological and tendentious translations present in the old edition of the NIV that needed to be corrected in the new NIV. None of his suggestions were adopted by the committee revising the NIV. Charles concluded his evaluation of the new NIV by saying: “I am pretty disappointed with this new release.”
Joel M. Hoffman has another post dealing with the issue of inclusive language in the new NIV. According to Joel, the new NIV has reconsidered the inclusive language of the TNIV and decided to preserve many of the changes introduced by the TNIV. Joel concluded his post by agreeing with most of the changes: “So it seems that the new NIV translation tries to preserve gender accuracy in its translation, even if in practice the translation is inconsistent and falls short in places.”
As for me, I had criticized the TNIV and praised the NIV for its handling of 2 Samuel 21:19 [here]. The issue I raised in my post concerned the accuracy of the translation of the biblical text and how a translation faithfully expresses the meaning intended by the biblical writer. My judgment was that the TNIV did not clearly reflect what was written in the biblical text.
The TNIV translated 2 Samuel 21:19 as follows: “In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.” The translators of the TNIV tried to clarify the text by deliberately adding the words “the brother of,” even though these words do not appear in the Hebrew text.
The NIV translated 2 Samuel 21:19 as follows: “In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.” This translation reflects the Hebrew text, even though the text is controversial because it has Elhanan killing Goliath.
As I wrote in my previous post:
The translation of the TNIV is based on the reading of 1 Chronicles 20:5. The Chronicler, sensing the tension between 1 Samuel 17 and 2 Samuel 21, altered the received text in an attempt to resolve the conflict. It is clear, however, that the writers of 2 Samuel knew the tradition of David’s defeat of Goliath but did not see the need to add the note that the Chronicler (and the translators of the TNIV) added to correct the reading of the text. It seems that the writers of 2 Samuel 21:19 did not see any conflict with what was written in 1 Samuel 17.
The revised NIV abandoned the correct translation of the Hebrew text and reverted back to the erroneous translation of the TNIV. In the revised NIV, 2 Samuel 21:19 reads as follows:
19 In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair[a] the Bethlehemite killed the brother of[b] Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.
The passage has two footnotes. Footnote [a] says: “2 Samuel 21:19 See 1 Chron. 20:5; Hebrew Jaare-Oregim. Footnote [b] says: “2 Samuel 21:19 See 1 Chron. 20:5; Hebrew does not have the brother of.”
My question is: if the Hebrew does not have the brother of, why then include these words in the translation? The reason is that the revised NIV is trying to harmonize 2 Samuel 21:19 with 2 Chronicles 20:5 and eliminate a problematic text that has caused much discussion in scholarly circles.
However, as I wrote in another post [here], if Aren Maeir’s discovery proves to be conclusive, the translators of the new NIV will regret this change.
Maeir, the head of the archaeology department at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, digging at the site of the ancient city of Gath, the place where Goliath lived, found a shard (a broken piece of pottery) containing an inscription in early Semitic style spelling with the name of Goliath.
The shard is dated after the time of David, but the name Goliath appears on the shard. Thus, as I have suggested, it is possible that Goliath was the name given to a group of Philistine soldiers. I wrote on my post on the TNIV:
According to the archaeologist who found the broken piece of pottery with the name “Goliath,” the name was used one hundred years after the time of David. So, it is possible that the name “Goliath” was used to designate a special type of soldier, like “marines” or “navy seals.” If it is proved to be true that Goliath was the name of a champion warrior in the army of the Philistines, then David killed one Goliath and Elhanan killed another Goliath.
This is the reason I believe the revised NIV is wrong in adding the words the brother of to what is in the biblical text. To me, it is a step backward.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary