Saturday, November 20, 2010

NIV Bible Changed; Sheds Light on Translation Problems

The New International Version of the Bible has been re-translated and is going back towards its old ways.  The 2005 version of the NIV, Today's New International Bible, was apparently too gender neutral for today's Christians, and so it's been changed to adhere to a more traditional, socially conservative perspective.  The intention is that it's returning closer to a true translation of the ancient texts. 

Here's an example of this versions changes:  John 1:4 according to the 2005 version says "In him was life, and that life was the light of all people."  The new version has it as "In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind."  This is closer to the 1984 translation which used "...light of men."

But there are some verses not regarding gender that remain a loose translation of the original NIV, including the very next verse, John 1:5, which originally states "the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it," and in each of the two most recent versions it reads "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  These versions could mean two entirely different things.  The original translation makes more sense metaphorically, as John 1:10 states He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  So it would make more sense if the darkness could not "understand" the light, if it's meant that the darkness represents the world, and the light represents god.

You can't really blame Christians for wanting a return to a more accurate translation.  After all, if you believe in the bible, then you recognize that the entire bible ends with the verses: 
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.  And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book...  Of course, that's what it says in the NIV.  It's slightly different in every other translation.  

The fact that the bible has several different translations really reinforces how pointless it is to follow it literally.  Unless you plan on learning Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek, you'll never be able to understand the bible word for word.  Some things naturally don't translate perfectly.  

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