Why I am changing Bible translations

Dr. Bob Rogers has been pastor of First Baptist Church, Rincon, Ga. since 1999.He earned a B.A. from Mississippi College, and an M.Div. and Th.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He is an avid cyclist and regularly writes blogs at www.bobrogers.me.

 


The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible was published in 1979, the same year that I became pastor of my first church. Immediately, I liked how it was easy to read, yet more accurate than other popular, easy-to-read Bibles of the time, like The Living Bible and the Good News Bible. The NIV went through a minor revision in 1984, and I have been preaching primarily from the NIV ever since then, although I often quote other translations. However, beginning in the summer of 2012, I will change to the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Why the change, after all these years? The answer is simple: I’m changing, because the NIV changed.

In 2011, the NIV went through a major revision, and the 1984 edition will no longer be sold in stores. If you buy a new NIV Bible, it will be the 2011 edition. The revision is more accurate in many places, correcting some translation errors of the old edition. However, the 2011 revision also chose to use gender-neutral language when referring to people, following the model of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), a translation that is owned by the liberal National Council of Churches. In some cases, the gender-neutral language is justified, as when the word “man” refers to all of humanity or when Paul addresses the “brothers” but clearly means all believers, “brothers and sisters.” But the 2011 revision of the NIV goes much farther than this, consistently using gender-neutral language even when the context does not necessarily call for it.

I spent about a year carefully studying the 2011 revision, and although I liked some of the improvements in accuracy, the extremes of gender-neutral language outweighed the other improvements. Thus, I began to prayerfully look for another translation to use in my preaching.

There were two main options I considered, because both are accurate translations, readable, and they avoid gender-neutral language unless the context clearly calls for it: the English Standard Version (ESV) and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). The ESV is a great translation. It is a conservative response to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). The NRSV uses gender-neutral language, while the ESV does not. The ESV is very close to the New American Standard Bible (NASB) in accuracy, and it flows better than the NASB.

However, I chose the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) over the ESV, because the HCSB uses more contemporary language than the ESV. For example, while the ESV uses “behold,” the HCSB says “look!” and while the ESV says “made manifest” the HCSB says “made evident.” The HCSB is as readable as the NIV, while it is more accurate than the NIV. The HCSB translates the name of Yahweh in the Old Testament in places where the context implies God’s name (rather than the all capital “LORD” used in other translations). It translates “Christ” as “Messiah” in the New Testament when the context is referring to Jesus’ title as Messiah. It shows respect for deity by capitalizing pronouns when referring to God. That is why I have been using the HCSB in Wednesday night prayer meeting for several years, and beginning in the summer of 2012, the HCSB will become my primary Bible when preaching on Sundays.

Am I saying that I expect my congregation to go out and buy a Holman Christian Standard Bible? No, I am not. This decision is for my own preaching, as I feel a responsibility to preach from a Bible that best communicates God’s Word with clarity and faithfulness to the original languages. Everybody is welcome to bring to our church whatever translation of the Bible you prefer. If you want to continue using your NIV Bible or other favorite translation, you are welcome to do so. It is useful to compare various Bible translations, and although I will primarily preach from the HCSB, I will continue to quote other translations of the Bible in my sermons whenever it sheds light on the meaning of God’s Word.

If you wish to sample the HCSB, you can download it for free on the Kindle at amazon.com and the Nook at BarnesandNoble.com, and the application “You Version” has the HCSB available for free on smart phones and iPads, available at www.youversion.com. The website www.mystudybible.com is a free website using the text of the HCSB, including excellent Bible study notes in the margin. The HCSB translation is used in Sunday School literature printed by LifeWay. Our church will also place HCSB pew Bibles in the worship center for the convenience of those who wish to follow the same translation as the pastor. convenience of those who wish to follow the same translation as the pastor.

Here are some sample comparisons of the 1984 NIV, 2011 NIV, and the HCSB.

Genesis 4:26 (The context refers to all people.)

1984 NIV: “At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.”
2011 NIV: “At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD.”
HCSB: “At that time people began to call on the name of Yahweh.”

 

Esther 3:6 (The context is explaining why Haman wanted to kill all the Jewish people.)

1984 NIV: “Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai.”
2011 NIV: “Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai.”
HCSB: “And when he learned of Mordecai’s ethnic identity, Haman decided not to do away with Mordecai alone.”

 

Psalm 1:1 (It is debatable whether the context refers to people in general.)

1984 NIV: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.”
2011 NIV: “Blessed is the one who does walk in step with the wicked.”
HCSB: “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked.”

 

Psalm 23:4 (“valley of the shadow of death” was a Hebrew idiom for a dark valley)

1984 NIV: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
2011 NIV: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
HCSB: “Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.”

 

Psalm 90:2

1984 NIV “… from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
2011 NIV “… from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
HCSB: “… from eternity to eternity, You are God.”

 

Proverbs 27:17 (It is debatable whether the context refers to people in general.)

1984 NIV: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
2011 NIV: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
HCSB: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”

 

Malachi 4:6 (The Hebrew word here is “fathers.”)

1984 NIV: “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children…”
2011 NIV: “He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children…”
HCSB: “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children…”

 

Matthew 5:19 (The context refers to all people.)

1984 NIV: “’Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’”
2011 NIV: “’Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’”
HCSB: “Follow Me,’ He told them, ‘and I will make you fish for people!’”

 

John 11:27

1984 NIV: “’Yes, Lord,’ she told him, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’”
2011 NIV: “’Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’”
HCSB: “’Yes, Lord,’ she told Him, ‘I believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.’”

 

Romans 16:1

1984 NIV: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea.”
2011 NIV: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.”
HCSB: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae.”

 

Romans 16:14 (All of the names listed are male names in Greek.)

1984 NIV: “Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them.”
2011 NIV: “Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them.”
HCSB: “Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them.”

 

Ephesians 5:18

1984 NIV: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”
2011 NIV: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”
HCSB: “And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit.”

 

Hebrews 12:7 (After Hebrews 12:5 comments that Proverbs 3:11-12 addresses us as “sons” when referring to God’s discipline.)

1984 NIV: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.”
2011 NIV: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.”
HCSB: “Endure suffering as discipline; God is dealing with you as sons.”

 

I John 3:16 (The context is referring to all Christians.)

1984 NIV: “… And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
2011 NIV: “… And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
HCSB: “We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.”