Well, this came up at my blog after I had some e-mails go-round with some other CBA retailers, and I thought I drag it over here to really start the sparks flying. And I'm writing this at 10 AM on Tuesday just after Dan put up his "I ain't got nuttin' yet" post to the beloved Adrian Warnock, so part of this is motivated by the impulse to keep Dan off the top line of the blog.
Well, TNIV: So what?
You know: we don’t intentionally carry TNIV at my bookstore -- because there's better things to do on a daily basis than argue with people who are uninformed on both sides of the argument over the thing.
But just as an example of what's happening in the real world, my wife today was helping a girl who our church sponsors as a missionary to Hungary select a new Bible. She's been using an NIV, but her Dad uses both KJV and NASB, and she was interested in what the differences were.
OK: let me say clearly now that there's really nothing wrong with the NIV. If you understand the method of translation used, the degree to which it was used, and you account for those things as you study, there's really nothing wrong with the NIV. I sell a lot of NIV bibles, and no wonder: it's the best-selling translation in English by far.
That said, what is the method of translation of the NIV? Why doesn't it read like the KJV or even the ESV or NASB? Without producing here a dissertation on translation methods, let me give you the cook's tour.
All translation is an attempt to "get" the meaning from the original language into the grammar and vocabulary of another language. Some people say this effort is 100% futile, and to them we say, "la vostra madre è in modo da il grasso, il suo cappotto della casa è una casa." If they are offended, we say in response, "No kidding? How can you be sure we offended you -- aside from the terrible babelfish translation?"
For the rest of you, the sane people, there is a spectrum of translation methods available which really chart the "kind" of translation you are trying to achieve. A very fair summary of the kinds of translations we may see can be found here at wikipedia. The NIV is a fine example of a Bible which tries to play the middle of the road: it tries to balance formal equivalence with dynamic equivalence in order to render the best translation for the sake of the reader. It doesn’t hardly have the degree of concordance that the NASB or KJV have, but it didn't set out to render the text word-for-word.
And therein lies the rub, as they say.
Translating a yo' mama joke and translating Romans 1:16 are two very different things -- if for no other reason than Rom 1:16 is (by orthodox reckoning) the very word of God written down. You might want to haggle over the issue of the value or quality of the critical text, but if you do then this blog entry isn’t for you: you're far smarter than me.
My point is that if we place a certain value on how the original language was employed (for example, under the sovereignty of God, the very words breathed out by God), then we are going to use a very different approach to translating that content than we would if we were trying to translate the pun "No Jesus, No Peace; Know Jesus, Know Peace".
So seriously: what's wrong with TNIV?
The NIV takes some liberty with the literal source text -- for the sake of communicating idioms or putting some statements into modern day terms. I guess there's not much wrong with that if you understand that it is going on.
But TNIV has a problem in that it seems to make no assumptions about inspiration in applying its translation methodology. Rather than striking a balance between dynamic equivalence and formal equivalence, it veers toward paraphrastic or idiomatic translation which abjectly removes significant meanings from the text and replaces them with other less-precise meanings.
My opinion (as a retailer and a guy who reads a lot of books) is that what happened in the TNIV was not so much a new approach to Bible translation as it was a new vocabulary -- a vocabulary very frankly loaded with a political agenda. For example, when Heb 12:7 renders the reference to God not as "father" but makes God a nondescript "parent" (when the Greek is explicit that it is a loving father who disciplines his son), there has been something more than "the broader thought expressed in the source" being expressed here.
So why should you care?
You should care for these reasons:
 We live in an age where language is used as a weapon, and when we surrender the language of a debate we are conceding a large part of the battle. If we are a people who believe in inerrancy, we have to fight the battle for translations which do not take excessive liberty with the inspired text.
 We are not KJVO nuts. You might like your NIV, or your HCSB, and I might like my NASB and ESV. If we can appreciate the kinds of translations each of these tools are, we can use them effectively to disciple others and be discipled. However, if we allow all kinds of translations with less-than-transparent methodological goals in mind to set the stage for discipleship, we have to ask ourselves why William Tyndale was willing to die for the sake of replacing the Vulgate with his English translation. Was it merely to update language, or was there a greater need when he found that the Latin did not say what the Hebrew and Greek said? How much more should we, who have the Bible in completely-sufficient translation today, accept a significantly-inferior translation for the sake of "reaching out"?
 We cannot let the marketplace means of distributing the Bible become ends in and of themselves. Let's face it: the Bible sells. And if you change the binding on a Bible, you can sell more Bibles because some people will want to trade up or trade over or simply get a second (or third) Bible because it's pretty. But can we allow this reality to allow the church to adopt a consumer mentality toward the Bible so that even the very words of the translation are commoditized? Can it be that the KJV was a standard which lasted 400 years, but the NIV needs an update after only 30 years? Or have we -- the church -- allowed the Bible to become a thing which secular interests now bait us with, as if God's word has changed over time?
If the TNIV were an improvement in some way, I wouldn't even bring it up. But when it is clearly an attempt both to remerchandise the NIV and to make inroads into the crucial doctrinal issues in our day, I think we should think long and hard about whether we can just let this one go by.
Especially, btw, when we are dealing with anti-intellectual
pomos onto-modernists who don't think doctrine really matters anyway.