The NIV - Simply a Bad Translation
by Pastor Richard Bacon
First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett
This Article is courtesy of Pastor Richard Bacon, and was originally posted in march of 1995 on the fidonet Open_Bible forum as a series of examples. It has been trasnscribed to html code by Tony Warren.
NIV Examples 
These are examples of REALLY BAD TRANSLATIONS found in a single reading of the NIV. Here we will compare it with the earlier NASV just to demonstrate that the NIV is bad in comparison even with its modern siblings.
Romans 4:1, NIV: "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter?"
NASV (text option): "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?"
NASV (margin option): "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, has found according to the flesh?"
First of all, notice that the NIV ELIMINATES the term "flesh," which is one of the most important theological terms in the entire Bible. The "flesh theology" begins in Genesis 2-3, and continues throughout the Scriptures. It is extremely significant in the Pauline understanding, especially in the book of Romans. This is NOT "concept by concept" or "dynamic equivalence" -- it is an unwarranted reduction of the text by those who simply did not want to include the idea in the English. The NASV, with a far greater scholarship, included the term while acknowledging they were not certain about what the phrase "according to the flesh" modified.
Hebrews 11:11, NIV (text option): "By faith Abraham, even though he was past age--and Sarah herself was barren--was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise."
NIV (margin option): "By faith even Sarah, who was past age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who made the promise."
NASV (text option): "By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised;"
NASV (margin option): "By faith even Sarah herself received power for the laying down of seed, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered him faithful who had promised;"
The second NASV reading is a literal reading (so much despised by "the majority" according to James White) and points us to the mighty and important "seed theology" that runs throughout the Scripture, from Genesis onward. In fact, the first mention of the seed theology refers to the WOMAN'S seed. Thus Hebrews 11:11 has a very important place in the seed theology of Scripture. Yet, the NIV mentions it NOT AT ALL, and the NASV mentions it only in the margin. How convenient for a translation that translates "concept by concept" simply to leave out one of the MOST IMPORTANT concepts in the entire Scripture from its translation here. But this is not paraphrastic -- RIGHT! Neither is it an issue of textual criticism -- the UBS text does not vary from the TR at this point in Hebrews 11:11 -- both read "kataboleen spermatos elaben." The problem is not with the eclectic text -- the problem is with the NIV (and the NASV text option). The NASV text option is *slightly* paraphrastic and does away somewhat with a proper understanding of the seed theology of Scripture in this place. But it is not as paraphrastic as the NIV!
The NIV is so paraphrastic that they made up things to place in God's mouth. Now that is arrogance! Furthermore, the things they made up aren't even true! The NIV at Hebrews 11:11 attempts to make every scholar true and God a liar. Let me expatiate:
First of all, of the two NIV readings, only the marginal reading even *approximates* the Greek. And in approximating the Greek, it guts the passage by ignoring the seed theology. The text option, however, is just downright awful.
With absolutely no textual support in any textual tradition -- i.e. no Greek mss -- the NIV throws Abraham into the verse. It claims that Abraham was past age to have children -- which is clearly untrue, as Abraham's six sons by his second wife Keturah could testify (Genesis 25). Further, Abraham's behavior with the handmaid Hagar is proof enough that it was not Abraham, but Sarah who was "past age." But the NIV leaves us with the distinct impression by INTRODUCING Abraham without any textual basis at all that Abraham as well as Sarah was past age for "bearing children" (much less laying down seed, which is the theological import that is missing from both the text option and the margin option).
As I have continued to examine the NIV over the years I have been increasingly impressed with what a poor translation it actually is.
NIV Examples 2
This next part will be more of a book review of Robert Martin's _Accuracy of Translation and the NIV_. Hopefully nobody on the echo will be so shortsighted (and dare I say foolish) as to accuse Martin of being "KJV-only" or whatever the latest epithet happens to be for those who do not roll over for the "translation of the month."
Martin provides dozens (perhaps scores) of REALLY BAD TRANSLATIONS in the NIV. He groups these inaccuracies under seven categories:
1. Elimination of complex grammatical structures (pp. 18-21). Long complex sentences are broken into several shorter sentences. To do this, the translators had to make interpretive decisions about the *theology* of the passage in question. Thus Ephesians 1:3-14, which the AV breaks into three sentences, the NIV breaks into eight. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10, which the AV keeps as one sentence, is broken into eight by the NIV. Compare also Acts 1:1-5 & Hebrews 1:1-4.
2. Addition of words in translation (pp. 22-28). To be fair, older translations have done this as well, but when the AV(KJV) adds words to clarify meaning it puts them in italics. The NIV does not -- it therefore gives no warning or notice to the reader as to what it has done. For example, 1 Cor. 7:9 states "it is better to marry than to burn," a statement which is subject to numerous interpretations. The NIV says, "to burn with passion," an addition to the text that is not indicated by any italics (or other flags) and that simply settles the interpretation for the reader. Acts 5:20 says, "all the words of this life," but the NIV reads "the full message of this new life." The word "new" is nowhere to be found in any Greek ms. It has been added by the NIV translators and clearly adds a "new thought" to this verse -- a thought which is man's and not God's at this place.
3. Omission of words (pp. 28-29). Be careful -- some words are omitted due to a difference in textual choice. That is not what Martin is speaking to here. The NIV often omits conjunctions and interjections. The word "lo" or "behold" occurs 62 times in Matthew, but the NIV omits it 37 times. Mark's gospel abounds in the term "immediately" and creates a major theme in Mark's Davidic perspective on Jesus. The NIV omits it in 5 places. In Matthew 10:6, "of the house" is simply left out, and "unto himself" is left out of Ephesians 1:5 -- neither of these omissions have any textual basis.
4. Erosion of technical vocabulary (pp. 29-38). There are parts of the Bible that use highly technical words -- words that have been used in a specifically Christian way by the author. Thus the NIV translates the Greek term *dikaioo* as "justify" except in Romans 2:13 and 3:20, where it reads "declared righteous." Martin correctly points out that justification "involves the imputation of our sins to Christ and the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us," not simply a mere verbal declaration. Propitiation becomes the vague "sacrifice of atonement" and "atoning sacrifice" in Romans 3:25 and 1 John 2:2.
5. Levelling cultural distinctives (pp. 38-40). "Girding up the loins of your mind" in 1 Peter 1:13 becomes "prepare your minds for action" in the NIV. The NIV does give the "sermonic gist" of the idea, but it eliminates the biblical imagery which calls to mind much of the OT, especially the priestly ministry. The priests were forbidden to approach the altar by steps, lest their nakedness be exposed. They were given special, anointed loin coverings (breeches) so that they could do so. Ordinary underwear would not cover "nakedness" any more than Adam's figleaves did. Thus the notion of girding up the loins has a priestly ring to it, which the NIV eliminates. See Exodus 20:26; 28:42-43; Lev. 9:30.
6. Slipping in subjective interpretations (pp. 41-62). Here is a handful of Martin's numerous illustrations: In each case, the first translation is word-for-word formal equivalency; the second is the NIV. In each case, the NIV decides to perform the office of pope for us by interpreting the "sense" of the Greek.John 17:11 in thy name by the power of your name Gal. 1:11 according to man something that man made up Phil. 2:1 in Christ from being united with Christ 1 Thes. 4:2 through the Lord Jesus by the authority of the Lord Jesus
These illustrations are minor. Important and major illustrations of this in the NIV are discussed by Martin.
NIV Examples 3
Robert Martin is Professor of Biblical Theology in Trinity Ministerial Academy in Essex Fells, NJ. He is hardly a slouch when it comes to the New Testament. I have related a short review of his work, published by Banner of Truth Trust (which is more Reformed on its worst day than Bethany House is on its best day) of Carlisle, PA and Edinburgh, UK. The previous post gave a list of six categories under which Martin upbraids (thanks for the word, Doug Palmer) the NIV for inaccuracies and worse. This post gives his seventh category.
7. Finally, paraphrasing (pp. 62-67). The problem with paraphrasing again is that it allows too much latitude to the translator to do our thinking and meditating for us. But the primary focus that Martin illustrates in this category is the manner in which the cadence and beauty of the original text is changed. Here are just a *few* of Martin's numerous illustrations. Remember, there is an entire generation being raise on this pap. . .
Matt. 12:49 and he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples and said NIV pointing to his disciples, he said (the hand is eliminated) Matt. 13:33 in three measures of meal NIV into a large amount of flour (the number three is eliminated) Mark 1:2 before your face NIV ahead of you (the face is eliminated) Luke 1:15 from his mother's womb NIV from birth (completely changes the meaning; pro-aborts can take comfort here!) John 1:20 and he confessed and denied not; and he confessed NIV and he did not fail to confess, but confessed freely (lessens the emphatic character of the language) 1 Thes. 4:6 the Lord is an avenger NIV the Lord will punish (the OT Avenger of Blood theology vanishes)
The kinds of errors outlined in this and the previous post reveal more than just the usual mistakes that are made in any translation. They reveal a cavalier attitude toward the doctrine of VERBAL inspiration. The NIV is not interested in translating the WORDS of God, but the CONCEPTS of God. Yet such cannot be done apart from the words. I would remind anyone interested in the truth, that Paul based an important aspect of the "seed theology" on the fact that the word occurred in the SINGULAR and NOT the PLURAL form. If even singulars and plurals are important to a correct understanding of God's word, how dare we take such an attitude toward it that we will translate "idea by idea" rather than word by word?
Btw, for a bit of CLEAR evidence that both NASV and NIV have a chiliastic bias, simply compare Matthew 24:30 in either of those versions with the ACCURATE translation to be found in the AV. It is not a sign that appears in the sky or heaven, but rather a sign is given that the Son of Man is in heaven. Again, while theologians of various eschatological stripe may dispute the *MEANING* of this text, the AV preserves the word order and sense of the Greek text and allows for more than one interpretation. At this point, both the NASV and the NIV remove "ambiguity" from the text by FORCING one interpretation onto the text.
If it is still in print, I would suggest that anyone interested in reading *both sides* of the dynamic equivalency philosophy get Jacob van Bruggen's critique of it in _The Future of the Bible_. It was published 10 or 15 years ago by Thomas Nelson.
The Bible was not written in 20th century "street English." It was written in Hebrew and Hebraized Greek. Attempts to make the Bible sound like a modern novel do it no service and in the opinion of numerous scholars (James White's unwarranted claim to a "majority of scholars" notwithstanding) are beginning to realize that the NIV went WAY OVERBOARD with a new idea -- an idea that is philologically unsound.
NIV Examples 4
I have given examples of how the NIV takes a cavalier attitude toward the Word of God and passes that attitude off as though it were following "standard" translation techniques. In reality, what the NIV often does is superimpose the theology of the translators onto the text of God's word.
Now that does not mean that I think that the NIV translators were any more (nor any LESS) depraved than the rest of humanity. The fact is, there is probably not a person in this echo who has a higher personal regard for Edwin J. Palmer than I do. It should be noted, however, that many of the more Reformed men on the translation committee dropped out of the work over time, no longer desiring to be associated with it. Also, in the years since 1965-78, many more Reformed linguistic scholars are coming to understand the numerous flaws contained in the NIV.
Further, if James White is to be believed (how could we doubt the scholarship of Mr. White?), the preface to the NIV is simply WRONG when it states "For the Old Testament the standard Hebrew text, the Masoretic text as published in the latest editions of *Biblia Hebraica*, was used throughout." Yet Mr. White informs us that the NIV *really* used a non-standard ms variant at Psalm 12:7 (ENG) to come up with "you will keep us."
No, I do not think the NIV translators were any more wicked than the rest of us. I *DO* think that they were naive men who were bent on following a NEW (and bad) idea. Of course, that is what often happens when the work of the church (keeping and translating the Scriptures) is turned over to the academy. We have a similar result when the church turns over the training of its men to the seminary. We ought not be surprised when the rarified air of the ivory tower scholastic does not reflect the needs of the church (specifically for an accurate translation of God's words).
There are some posters on this echo who delight in pointing out "picayune" problems in the AV. Let us acknowledge that there are some difficulties which a godly generation of the church should address. Virtually every one of those difficulties could be addressed in marginal notes. There are some additional differences in punctuation between the common usage in 1769 (the last time such a task was undertaken) and the common usage today. Those items can be addressed without resorting to a wholesale change of the text into a style better suited to a magazine article than the Holy Word of God.
However, whatever problems may exist in the AV (and we are eager to rectify that which is in NEED of rectification); those problems recede to mere background clutter compared to the problems of the "latest and greatest" translations.
Significantly, Hebrew expressions are often literally brought into the Greek of the NT. Thus if we want a "guide" as to how we ought to translate "concept by concept" the NT is a pretty good guide, since it was written primarily by people who spoke Hebrew (or rather Aramaic) as their first language and were using Hebrew ideas and concepts as they wrote the Greek NT.
Now the AV, by following a formal equivalence of word to word translation, supplying words where needed but indicating that it has done so by the use of italics, preserves the Hebrew idiom in which the Bible was written. I know that there are many today in Japheth who despise the tents of Shem, but the fact is that Hebrew is a S(h)emitic language and we ought not despise those who are our own faith fathers if we are truly in Christ (Galatians 3:27-29; Romans 3:2; etc.).
IMO, and the opinion of an increasing number of scholars, the NIV departs from the biblical technique of translation. Thus for us to understand what is meant by stars and constellations in the New Testament we must have an idea from the Hebrew OT what the concepts were. It is impossible for us to understand what it means for the sun to be darkened without realizing the import it has from the OT. But by placing these ideas in modern "street English," the OT nuance is lost to the modern reader.
NIV Examples 5
I made the statement that the NIV has a chiliastic bias. One responder (Doug Palmer) referred to those who expose the translational bias of the NIV as "fools, liars or deceived." As I have done in the past, I will leave it to those who are reading to determine for themselves if Mr. Palmer's accusations are warranted.
I chose to review Mr. Martin specifically because he has the same theological background as Mr. James White (viz. Reformed Baptist). Of course numerous NON baptistic Reformed scholars could have been referenced, including Jacob Van Bruggen, James B. Jordan,
Dr. Edward F. Hills, Gary North, etc. But I want to demonstrate that this is NOT an issue limited to those in the Reformed camp (in the historical sense) opposed to those outside it, but is simply a case of being forthcoming. The NIV is a REALLY BAD TRANSLATION. Anybody who would go "to the wall" for the NIV is simply brainwashed with respect to translation work. If translators working for the state department of the federal government used the same translation technique that the NIV uses, we would be at war within a month!
Let us compare Matthew 24:30 . . .
NIV: "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky." AV: "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven."
What interpretations are possible for the NIV statement? Only one: some kind of sign will appear in the sky. The ONLY way one can understand the NIV is as a prediction of some kind of visible apparition in the atmospheric or stellar heavens.
Now, contrast the more accurate AV translation. There are three *possible* interpretations that are immediately obvious. The first is the same one the NIV forces upon us, namely some kind of sign will appear in the visible heavens (sky). The second is that some kind of sign will appear in the highest heavens. The third (and the one with the most historic Reformed expositors -- and I believe the *correct* one) is that a sign will appear the meaning of which is that the Son of Man has ascended to take his throne in heaven.
The point of this (and we could multiply examples) is that dynamic equivalence *tremendously increases the role of the translator in mediating the meaning of the text!* A "formal" translation gives us in English the text of the Greek, but does not force us to one interpretation or another. Dynamic equivalence *has somebody's interpretation built in*! It is an unavoidable consequence of the theory.
Obviously there is a sliding scale between an interlinear Bible at one end and an amplified paraphrase Bible at the other. My critique is not intended to do away with proper distinctions. However, the NIV clearly errs by being way too far to the interpretive paraphrase end of the scale. While some of the interpretive paraphrases are Calvinistic (and so I agree with *them*
), others clearly are *not.* The point is this: neither a Calvinistic nor an anti- Calvinistic bias is appropriate; neither a chiliastic nor an anti-chiliastic bias is appropriate; and above all, a cavalier attitude toward the WORDS GOD INSPIRED is altogether UNappropriate.
In my next post (NIV Examples 6) I will discuss some aspects of textual criticism we find in the NIV. I am not speaking now of the fact that there are differences of opinion among translators as to which ms family is preferable, for virtually *all* the modern translations except the New King James and the Modern King James (neither of which are trying to cash in on the popularity of the KJV -- naw, couldn't be that!) utilize a different textual tradition than the AV. No, the problem with the NIV is not *just* the fact that they use what many regard to be an inferior text type (though, naturally, the NIV translators did not so consider it), but the *arrogance* with which they reference their fave Alexandrian mss.
NIV Examples 6
As James B. Jordan says in "Rite Reasons" for July 1990, "Surely, when we come to pledge our allegiance to Him and hear His orders, we should honor him by using a precise and accurate translation." The NIV falls SERIOUSLY short of being such a translation. We have examined some reasons *why* it falls short.
We come now to consider what we might characterize as the "textual arrogance" of the NIV. There are two main textual traditions for the Greek NT. Each one has its proponents in the ecclesiastical and academic communities. There are some, who with the same arrogance we will find typical of the NIV, trumpet themselves to be the scholars. But the fact of the matter is that there are scholars on both sides of the issue.
For the sake of simplicity we can call these two traditions the Byzantine and the Alexandrian. If we were to get into the minutia of the subject we would find some overlap and even some mss which do not fall neatly into *either* category, but we are trying to keep this simple and straightforward.
The Byzantine tradition is the one that God saw fit to preserve publicly in the life of the church for sixteen centuries. It is the text of the Protestant Reformation and the text of the Eastern Orthodox churches. The Alexandrian tradition consists of some *very old* mss which a number of modern scholars, following primarily the lead of some nineteenth century scholars, believe is the true text of the Greek NT.
Virtually all the new English translations (excepting the NKJV and the MKJV and the *laughable* earlier KJV II) are made using the Alexandrian tradition as a base. I have gone on record in the past as believing this is an error. I believe it is a side effect of the failure of the church qua church to guard the Scriptures and Christian scholarship and the transfer of that function from the church to the academy. It also reflects, IMNSHO, the triumphalism of the concept of neutrality and what Dooyeweerd called the "science ideal" in the area of NT textual studies. I say all this to let you know that I am NOT without bias. Nobody is. However, there is a community of scholars who would have you *believe* that there is such a thing as neutrality toward God and his word and that you need look no further than them to find it.
Whatever the case may be with respect to the Byzantine tradition or the Alexandrian tradition, one of the more irritating (and, yes, oftentimes dishonest) aspects of the NIV is the arrogance with which it asserts the superiority of the Alexandrian tradition.
Since it sets off the "growl button" of some of the self-proclaimed prophets in this echo to compare anything to the AV, as though that is the LEAST POSSIBLE translation we should consider, I will compare the textual statements found in the margins of the NASV New Testament with those found in the NIV.
John 7:53 - 8:11 is not present in the Alexandrian witnesses; nor is Mark 16:9-20. The NASV includes these two passages in brackets, with a marginal note. The NIV more dramatically sets them off, and has a note in the text:
John 7:53 - 8:11 NASV note: "John 7:53 - 8:11 is not found in most of the old mss." NIV statement: "The earliest and most reliable manuscripts do not have John 7:53 - 8:11." Mark 16:9-20 NASV note: "Some of the oldest mss. omit from verse 9 through 20." NIV statement: "The most reliable early manuscripts do not have Mark 16:9-20."
It is quite clear that the NIV editors are much more dogmatic in their assertions regarding the subject of text criticism that are the NASV editors. The NASV notes are accurate and correct; the NIV notes are pejorative and misleading. After all, who determines what constitutes "most reliable?" The NIV editors are obviously of the opinion that such is to be determined by *THEM* (spec. the "academy") and not the church as she has read and practiced the Scriptures for two millennia.
NIV Examples 7
This section will deal with the the desireability of "street English" over "literary English." Or perhaps it wouild be more accurate for me to say that it deals with the "undesirability" of street english.
As a literary work, the NIV *at best* leaves much to be desired. One major defect is in its comma usage. Thus in passages such as 1 Thessalonians 5:23 we read, "May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless." For a list of three things, there needs to be a comma after "soul." This is the uniform requirement of every modern grammatical guide of which I am aware. The fact that pop magazines ignore the serial comma is no justification for someone who wants to be taken seriously to do so.
However, the comma use objection is minor compared to the manner in which the NIV sacrifices the literary artistry of the Bible to vulgar usage. Simply compare "Abraham lifted up his eyes" with "Abraham looked up." Nobody can seriously suggest that the second is either more literary or any more easily understood. Why remove eyes?
I, along with many others not only in the ecclesiastical community, but in the academic community as well, object to this cheapening and idiotification (yes, that is a correct usage of idiot -- look it up in your _Funk & Wagnall's_) of the Word of God to street rhetoric. It is an insult to the man (and child) in the pew. It does *NOT* encourage growth in grace or knowledge either one.
In an earlier post I demonstrated this with Romans 4:1. We don't want to "burden" our readers with such technicalities as the theology of the flesh, so we simply paraphrase it away. So too, a word like "propitiation" is clearly just too long for some stupid or moronic Christian to understand. We'd better paraphrase that one as well. Of course, it is so unlikely that the pastor would actually *teach* the meaning of such a word, that we need to rid ourselves of it. Thus the NIV in Romans 3:25 and 1 John 2:2. Interestingly, 40 years ago when the RSV did the SAME thing by changing propitiate to expiate, there was a hue and cry from evangelicals.
I have never in all my years found a layman as stupid as the professors in seminary tell you they are! The practice of "dumbing down" the Bible makes no more sense than painting over the old masters with representations of the Marlboro Man.
The NIV is unsuitable for a study Bible -- it is simply too wrong at too many places. But the artistic (literary) downgrade also makes it unsuitable for public reading. One is therefore left to wonder for what purpose the NIV *is* suitable.
It is the translational equivalent of the "60's" mentality. It is a reflection of the "away with all tradition" of that period. Just as the RSV is a reflection not so much of the Word of God as it is of English and American liberalism, so also the NIV is a reflection, not of the Word of God, but of the "post-hippie-I-gotta-be-me" evangelicalism.
The church should maintain a higher standard for worship and study than the NIV affords us. Perhaps I am an optimist, but I do *NOT* believe the American public is so poorly educated that a precise and accurate translation of the Scriptures would be unintelligible to it.
The Authorized Version (KJV) was translated with a view to being read aloud in church, and though it is imperfect from this standpoint in places, yet it clearly reflects this concern. Modern translations are made for individuals who are working in their studies (the triumph of the academy over the church), and thus versions like the NASV do not read well aloud. The general cheapening of language in the NIV makes it altogether unsuitable for public reading.
NIV Examples 8
OK, so this section has nothing to do with the NIV *per se.* It is however a response to those who maintain that one of the reasons that there is a great "need" for a modern translation *like* the NIV is the use of archaic terms such as "thou/thee/thy/thine" in the KJV.
First, let us establish that "thee and thou, etc." are *NOT* archaic or obsolete English. This is clear from the fact that everybody knows what they mean. Now if you want to try some archaic, or "olde Englishe" try Chaucer as originally written.
Second, let us establish that "thee and thou" were *NEVER* common street English, including that of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. Neither are they the equivalent of "du" in German. That is, they are not familiar as opposed to formal.
Rather, "thee and thou" are *poetic* forms used in religious language and love poetry! Every language including the Hebrew of the Psalms has special poetic forms (see Gesenius' _Hebrew Grammar_, sect. 2,q-r; etc.).
Why then should we stand idly by while the richness of our language (the language of the Bible in both Hebrew and Greek) is being tossed away by aging relics of the 60s? If they wish to write love poems and hymns using the modern term "you" to relate to one another, then by all means let them. But they may be pleased to keep their anti-literary hands off God's inspired word.
Here is a quick rundown for the non-grammarians reading this series of posts. A "pronoun" is a word that "stands in for" another noun or noun-phrase. A "personal pronoun" is one which stands for a person. The personal pronouns are classified as first person, second person and third person by their relationship to the one speaking. The speaker himself and any others he chooses to include as part of his "group" is called first person. The person(s) TO WHOM the speaker is speaking is called second person. The person(s) ABOUT WHOM the speaker is speaking is called third person. Thus we have the following table which we can construct in English, once we differentiate between the purpose of the various pronouns:
NOM OBJ POSS 1st singular I Me My (or mine) plural We Us Our (or ours) 2nd singular Thou Thee Thy (or thine) plural Ye You Your (or yours) 3rd singular He/She/It Him/Her/It His/Hers/Its plural They Them Their (or theirs) NOM=nominative = case of the subject OBJ=objective = case of the object of the verb, indirect object of the verb or object of a preposition POSS=possessive = case of possessing or sourcing.
Those who retain the the AV on the ground of its intrinsic translational, textual, and linguistic superiority to modern translations have sometimes been charged with following the example of 16th century Roman Catholics who venerated the Latin Vulgate and insisted that sacred worship should not be conducted in a known language. Of course, such is *not* fair criticism, because a *VERY HIGH* proportion of the vocabulary of the AV continues in common use today.
The preface of the NIV rightly points out that the ancient tongues (Hebrew & Greek) did not use a special form of the word "you" to address God. However, a cursory reading of the AV will soon clarify the fact that it is the *modern* translations which have attempted to keep "thee and thou" when addressing God and "you and you" when addressing mortals. That is NOT the case with the AV. The AV usage is simply a reflection of the singular 2nd person pronouns used in the Hebrew and Greek in which the Scriptures were originally written by the inspiration of God. However, in reading through the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures numerous times in my life, I have never found a *single instance* in which God is addressed using a 2nd person PLURAL pronoun. Not once!
Some interesting places to look for "thou and thee:"
In Luke 22:31, the NIV rightly explains in a footnote that the term "you" as used in that verse is plural. But then it FAILS to mention that in verse 32, the word "you" is singular in Greek! Of course, those who use the AV have no difficulty discerning that even without footnotes!
Exodus 4:15, "THOU shalt speak ... I will be with THY mouth" referring to Moses himself. But then "and will teach YOU what YE shall do" refers to the entire nation of Israel.
Again, examples could be multiplied. I will do just that in the next section (Thou and Thee).
Thee and Thou
In the previous section (NIV Examples 8), I pointed out the use of the terms "thee and thou/thy and thine." I explained that they were *NEVER* common street English, but were a poetic device used by the AV translators to reflect the use of singular 2nd person pronouns from Hebrew and Greek.
At the conclusion of that post, I gave two examples -- in Luke 22:31-32 and in Exodus 4:15 demonstrating that it really becomes quite difficult to tell who is being addressed without being able to distinguish properly between singular and plural pronouns.
This post simply follows up on that one with some more examples of the same ambiguity that arises from not properly translating singulars and plurals.
Exodus 29:42, "This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout YOUR generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD where I will meet YOU, to speak there unto THEE." The *you*, referring to the children of Israel, is explained in the following verse, but *thee* refers to Moses, who had the holy privilege of hearing the words of God directly (Leviticus 1:1). And yes, before Jeff Doles asks, I believe a tape recorder would have picked them up.
2 Samuel 7:23, "An what nation in the earth is like THY people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for YOU great things and terrible, for THY land, before THY people, which THOU redeemedst to THEE from Egypt." Here David prayed to God in the second person singular, but referred to the people of Israel as YOU. What confusion could result if this important distinction were done away? It could be incorrectly thought that David was praying in part to the nation -- or that the land belonged to the people and not to God. Either misconstruction invites error.
Matthew 26:64, "Jesus saith unto him, THOU has said: nevertheless I say unto YOU, hereafter shall YE see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." THOU refers to the High Priest. YE and YOU are open to some interpretation, but AT LEAST include all those who were standing there IN ADDITION to the high priest.
John 3:7, 11, "Marvel not that I said unto THEE, YE must be born again." The message was spoken to the individual Nicodemus, but obviously has wider application. So also at verse 11, "I say unto THEE...that YE receive not our witness."
1 Corinthians 8:9-12, "Take heed lest...this liberty of YOURS.... If any man see THEE which hast knowledge... through THY knowledge...but when YE sin." The plural form likely refers to all church members, but the singular form to those in responsibility.
I would invite readers to get out a "modern" translation that has dropped the use of the 2nd person singular/plural distinction and read these passages along with Numbers 16:8-11; Deuteronomy 4:3; 1 Kings 9:5-6; Isaiah 33:2-4; Matthew 5:39; Matthew 6:4-7; Matthew 11:23-24; Matthew 18:9-10; Matthew 18:22-35; Matthew 20:21-22; Matthew 23:37-38; Mark 14:37-38; Luke 5:4; Luke 6:30-31; Luke 9:41; Luke 10:13-14; Luke 16:25-26; Luke 22:31-32; John 1:50-51; James 2:16; etc.
Surely you will notice that replacing "thou/thee/thy/thine" with the ambiguous "you" does NOT clarify, but tends to muddy the Scriptures.
Perhaps also, as a result of these few posts, there will be a greater appreciation for the important distinctions that are retained by the AV. Rather than seeing "thou/thee/thy/thine" as a reason for adopting a MODERN translation, we should see them as being a more accurate depiction of the WORDS GOD INSPIRED.
Pastor Richard Bacon
First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett