Other places I blog




web stats

Follow Me on Twitter
« Do we have FOMO? | Main | The reality behind "opposites attract." »

For All the NIV Haters

I'm reading Grant Osborne's The Hermeneutical Spiral. My first question about forty pages in was "Why haven't I read this sooner?" My second question is "Why haven't I been reading Grant Osborne before this? This book is not a book for a beginner. It's more of an intermediate hermeneutics book.

In a chaper on syntax, Osborne provides a brief excursus on inclusive language. In his evaluation of the issue, he points out that hermeneutics is about clarity and not form. He does not object to gender inclusive language, pointing out a concern that linguists have:

"Linguists point out that we must understand how the gender system functions in both the original and receptor systems and then translate accordingly."

I'm always grateful to theologians who pay heed to linguistic matters. I think we forget such things in our rush to get to the meaning of a text.

With regard to functional equivalence translations, such as the NIV, Osborne says:

"I am not arguing that only functional equivalence is viable, but that both types of translations [formal and functional] are needed. But I am arguing that in reality functional equivalence is more accurate, for it communicates the meaning of the Word in such a way that the original intentions are communicated with greater clarity for the reader."

In fact, Osborne sees functional equivalence as an overflow of hermeneutical theory itself:

"But I now see how hermeneutical theory in reality supports functional equivalence, for the goal of all interpretation is clarity and accuracy rather than preservation of form."

This is something to mull over. A lot of people disdain the NIV because it is "interpretive." We need to be reminded that all translations are interpretive. Every single translation involves a group of individuals who make decisions on how to interpret a word in its context; they interpret.

My version of choice is the NASB, a very formal translation. But I also read the ESV and the NIV. Since going to seminary, I have come to appreciate the NIV more. I also refer to the NLT. Interpretation is not a task for the loner; it involves many interpreters, because no one person can do such a complex, crucial task. If one is not going to study the original languages, they are fortunate to be able to rely on both formal and functional translations.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (2)

Good morning, thank you, I enjoyed this. Great point regarding all translations being interpretive. It is always interesting to hear people expound on why one translation is the end all and be all or why one translation should be avoided at all costs.

As always you are adding to my TBR pile and I appreciate it.


June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKristy

I made my students memorize scripture in Spanish. One mom was upset that I used the Spanish equivalent of the NIV because they were KJV only, so she found a Spanish translation of the KJV. She didn't seem to understand that once it was translated into Spanish, it was no longer KJV but a different translation.

June 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>