TNIV will gain trust and readership

As I was reading the December issue of Christianity Today, I noticed a full-page ad for the TNIV Reference Bible. But the ad said that it would be available in the new year. I was delighted to see that they were doing more marketing for the TNIV for 2008. Anyway, I don’t think the TNIV will roll over and die prematurely. I believe Zondervan does smart business but they will hold onto the die-hard NIVers for a long long time. Elshaddai Edwards alluded to the idea that maybe IBS should include the apocrypha and market the TNIV to mainliners. Well, I think it can easily capture a big portion of the evangelical mainline market on its own, as is, without the help of the apocrypha. The translation philosophy of the T/NIV is still evangelical at heart. However, I don’t think the liberal mainliners will ever go for the TNIV. Personally, I believe the TNIV is still going to be a very strong evangelical translation because it is entrenched in evangelicalism and is like family to many evangelicals. However, the TNIV is going to have to slowly earn its place in the evangelical world of bible readers. When its gender-neutral language gains wider acceptance, and people will slowly forget about what its opponents said about it, then the people will eventually come around to accepting the TNIV. Even though the TNIV may be a more accurate translation than the NIV, the NIV will still be seen as the king of evangelical translations because it has something valuable—that is—trust. Many people still trust the NIV for accuracy and will not simply let it go. As a pietistic evangelical, I read the bible because I trust my translations for their accuracy. For a new translation to gain readership, it must first gain the people’s trust. Trust is extremely important in the world of evangelical bible-readers.

It does seem that Zondervan has taken a slow and patient approach to the marketing of the TNIV. I think it is a very wise business decision. Reality tells me that demand for the NIV will not decrease any time soon. Zondervan still has a lot of mileage in the NIV and will continue to promote the NIV. They just published the Archaeological Study Bible in 2006, the Celebrate Recovery Bible in 2007, plus numerous others. Take the NLT for instance. Sure the New Living Translation has gained a large readership but it was accomplished over a long period of time. Its readership was not gained over night. It has taken 11 years for the NLT to get where it is today. I remember when the NLT first came out in 1996. I went out to buy a copy of the NLT Life Application Bible in 1996 with my name embossed in gold. I brought it to a bible study to show it off to my friends. I remember someone poked fun at it because it didn’t seem like a serious enough translation for bible study. Well, I kind of took offense at this poke because I really liked the easy-to-understand language of the NLT. It was a breath of fresh air for me because I was a NKJV reader. Personally, I think the NLTse is probably the best reading translation available. I prefer it over the GNT, CEV and God’s Word.

If the NLT took this long to gain its readership, I think the TNIV will take just as long to gain its own readership. I believe the older generation of bible-readers will eventually come around to trying the TNIV, and maybe, they will even come to like it. It will have its contingent of strong supporters out there, especially from the younger generation. Eventually, one day, it will replace the NIV as the premier translation in the evangelical world.

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Author: Kevin S.

A follower of Jesus, a husband and a father. Hobbies include biking, keeping fish if they don't die on me, blogging when I can, theologizing and ministry, and pondering about world affairs.

12 thoughts on “TNIV will gain trust and readership”

  1. I’d just like to point out, Kevin, that the inclusive language of the TNIV quickly was embraced by the mainlines, most of whom use the NRSV. A short time ago, when the conservative evangelical sources were refusing to sell the TNIV or were just barely selling it, Cokesbury had a big display of TNIVs on their website.

    Now, it may be hard to get these churches away from their NRSVs, but I take this as a sign that perhaps the TNIV may be able to make inroads where the evangelical NIV couldn’t.

    Something to think about anyway.

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  2. Some great thoughts, Kevin, thanks for putting this post together. I’d like to clarify that my thought behind including the Apocrypha in the TNIV was to market it to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, not specifically mainline Protestant churches. The TNIV “as is” could be a Protestant standard, but as you point out, its evangelical roots will probably preclude that.

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  3. Thanks for the thoughts. It does seem as if Zondervan is hedging its bet with TNIV. If TNIV didn’t have to compete against its own “elder” translation, it would be easier. The difference with NLT1 and NLT2, is that NLT2 replaced NLT1, and NLT1 didn’t have the long term grassroots support that NIV has, so NLT2 came right in and NLT1 was dropped. Would it have worked for TNIV to replace NIV? Probably not.

    I was never a major fan of NIV, but several churches where I pastored had it, so I taught from it and preached using it. I’m still torn by the TNIV. Some places it seems better, but I still struggle with the switch from singular to plural to avoid what some might call “masculine singular forms”. I think there is something lost when a distinction is made between singular and plural in the original language text. Does the pluralization change the intent of the translation text? I think so. Of course, the issue is not nearly as clear cut as I have stated here. And I realize I am in the minority on this (at least on the blogs related to BBB). It seems that GW does a better job.

    As for Bibles in your list, I prefer GW and then NLT2. I guess because I have been associated with the original revision of Beck’s Bible in the mid 1980s’, then provided translation feedback from 1988 to 1995, as well as field testing the translations in three congregations. The 1992 edition was better than the final release in 1995 IMHO.

    Rich

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  4. BTW, I agree with ElShaddai Edwards about the need for the apocrypha to be included in the TNIV. Even more, I think any major translation should include the Apocrypha, at least in some editions (as has been done with RSV, NRSV). To me, TNIV, ESV, NET, GW, and NLT2 all should have the apocrypha translated using the translations principles appropriate to each.

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  5. Gary, I looked at Cokesbury and it looks like they sell translations of every kind, e.g., NRSV, NIV, TNIV, NASB, CEV, NLT, etc. Augsburg Fortress sells most NRSV or NIV. The TNIV still has a lot of room to make in roads into the protestant mainline market. I agree, churches that have the NRSV will likely stick with it but a lot of it depends on who the pastor and the theological makeup of the congregations. In the Lutheran church (ELCA) for example, there can be very conservative evangelical congregations that will not use the NRSV, and Missouri Synod is pretty conservative so they will stick with the NIV. There was a push for the ESV at one point so I don’t think they will go for the TNIV.

    Elshaddai, thanks for clarifying that for me. Since mainline protestants generally don’t read the apocrypha except for those who study in seminary, the apocrypha probably won’t be a big attraction. But to take this further, Catholics are likely to read the NAB or NJB, and I’m not sure what the Orthodox church reads but I think they might be into the NKJV. If I remember correctly, I read something in the past about the Orthodox church coming up with an apocryphal edition of the NKJV. They prefer the Majority Text so the NKJV might be their preference. If that’s the case, the TNIV might have a hard time getting acceptance amongst Catholics and Orthodox Christians.

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  6. Rick noted:

    My TNIVRB came in today. Very nice. I’ll post a review soon.

    Lucky you, Rick! Looking forward to your comments…

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  7. I think there is something lost when a distinction is made between singular and plural in the original language text.

    Rich, you hit on a point that many of us struggle with. I also did in the past, and so did many BBB readers. You eventually get used to it but in the beginning I felt hesitant to accept it but as trust grew, it became “the Word of God” to me. One day, I was asking a customer service person at a Christian bookstore and she was saying that NIV readers are more hesitant to accept the TNIV, whereas, NLT1 readers have no problem switching to NLT2. I had no trouble with the NLT1 in the beginning because it was so new and had no predecessor to compare it with.Looks like you’re pretty familiar with Beck’s bible. Sorry, I’m not familiar with Beck’s Bible but from what I gather, it kind of sounds like it was the predecessor to the NET bible, is that right?

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  8. Great post, Kevin. Interesting idea about the TNIV slowly earning its place. I think adding the Apocrypha would only hurt its acceptance with Evangelicals. The TNIV is attempting to stretch Evangelicals enough without pushing the envelope further.

    Thanks for the post. I look forward to its growing success.

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  9. That last sentence is ambiguous. I look forward to the TNIV’s growing success. Though I hope your post and blog have growing success also. 🙂

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