In my own reading of the NT, I generally read the Greek text; if I'm preaching from the OT, I consult the Hebrew.
If I want an English translation, I generally use the ESV. If I want a commentary, I use a commentary.
Or the NIV.
A few years back, They unrolled a misbegotten version called Today's New International Version (TNIV). WORLD called it the "stealth Bible," for good reason. It was marketed in sneaky ways.
Though a laundry list of Big Names said glowing things about it, it apparently hasn't caught on, which is a very good thing.
I went through the Proverbs TNIV, and the notes I enter in my beloved BibleWorks contain many tut-tuttings over their renderings. The most frequent is to this effect: "Again, TNIV pluralizes the singulars to fit its agenda." That refers to the translators' fad-driven, politically-correct decision to turn singular verses (i.e. 26:16a — "The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes") into plurals ("Sluggards are wiser in their own eyes"). Without textual warrant, the excuse offered is that a sluggardly woman who is reading will be too stupid to see herself in the verse because the standard English device of "he" is used. We're to picture her snorting "Whew! That ain't me!" and popping another Bon-Bon into her mouth.
This results in many atrocious changes of meaning, such as Psalm 1:1-2, which is transformed into —
Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wickedThere is no lack of clarity in the original text. The TNIV paraphrasts simply take it to themselves to "improve" it, by changing it.
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but who delight in the law of the LORD
and meditate on his law day and night
Gallons of ink (literal and virtual) were spilled trying to rationalize such changes. Thankfully, it never did catch on with most Bible-believers, and now it has been announced that the TNIV is being round-filed. Notable luminaries such as Ligon Duncan and Al Mohler have responded positively, and more will come. This subluminary also is happy to hear it.
So now the NIV will be updated, and Douglas Moo confirms that the translators are welcoming input and suggestions.
Do I have any suggestions? Oh, I have a few, off the top of my head. They're all serious, in case anyone wonders.
- God is not "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named." Call God by His name when the Holy Spirit does. God moved the writers of the Hebrew Old Testament to call Him "Yahweh" over 6800 times. Anyone believing in the plenary, verbal (hel-lo?) inspiration of the Bible should do the same, eschewing the superstitious practice of unbelievers who try to be holier than God by refusing to do what He commanded to be done. (I may have shared this thought previously once or twice... or three or four times, or more.) It's disgraceful that only one-man versions, a Roman Catholic version, or cultic versions honor the text-as-given in that regard, while supposedly VPI-accepting translators persistently don't.
- Never, ever pluralize a singular. The men who were carried along by the Holy Spirit (as you and I are not) knew how to use plurals as well as singulars. When they don't, you don't.
- Be much more cautious and conservative in dropping conjunctions for the sake of "smoothness." It is true that Hebrew uses the waw conjunction much more frequently than English can easily bear. However, conjunctions reveal the writer's logical progressions. Sometimes they are interpretively significant (as with the kai ["and"] which begins Matthew 17:1, dropped by the TNIV and other versions.) They should only be dropped when absolutely necessary... and even then, I'd wish some note of their presence could be made.
- Resist the temptation to substitute commentary for translation. It tempts the pride to "correct" ambiguities in the text, but it is more respectful to the text to leave them there for believer-priests to wrestle with. To select one should-be-beyond-argument example, take Paul's use of "flesh." Every English reader knows that word. What does it mean? The answer to that is interpretive. To render it "sinful nature" as NIV does removes the text's own ambiguity and makes a decision for the reader. Don't.
NOTE: KJV-only folks (as opposed to those who simply prefer the KJV) are not invited to this discussion. We know what you think, and frankly, it is one alternative for which I (to speak as kindly as I can) have no respect.