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Biblica kills online TNIV and NIV-1984

April 5, 2013

I am not a fan of the NIV and TNIV translations.  But this shocks me:

In February, Biblica (the International Bible Society) officially killed all online versions of the TNIV and NIV-1984.  (For some of you this may be old news, but I somehow missed this news when it originally came out, and was surprised to find this out today.)

The versions have been purged from BibleGateway.com.  They have been purged from the Biblica.com website.  Logos.com no longer stocks the older translations.

Apparently, the older versions are no longer needed – even though the Biblica website readily admits that while 450 million copies of the (T)NIV have been sold, only 11 million are of the new edition.

Now, here is the rich part.  You’ll remember how Biblica and Zondervan decided to stock both the NIV-1984 and the TNIV simultaneously – seeing a need for both volumes.  But now, in an Orwellian announcement it seems that the TNIV never even existed because there is “There is only one NIV.”  (The irony is only increased since the year of the “disappeared” translation is 1984.)

The announcement makes a mention of the possibility that at some distant point in the future, Wheaton College may put some of the older versions online (“for research purposes”), although with restrictions (“access will be in accordance with the Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections guidelines.”) 

The entire situation is absurd.   The NIV has the best-selling English translation for decades.  There are people who grew up reading the 1984 edition of the NIV.  For better or worse, the translation has been influential.  The TNIV never caught on the same way (it was never really supported by its publishers) but it certainly provoked serious discussion about English Bible translation.  If it was not a commercial success, it was certainly an important milestone.

In fact, the TNIV is still in print at Biblica’s most important publishing partner, Zondervan.  The brightest commercial success of the TNIV was Zondervan’s audio version with an African-American cast, The Bible Experience.  There is no danger of that going out of print:  there is still money to be made!  The recording is actively being sold in digital and physical formats (and it even has a co-branded physical book in print.) 

Zondervan will gladly sell you a TNIV concordance or an interlinear Greek New Testament with parallel TNIV text.  And other publishers have TNIV-based titles in print:  the TNIV-based Norton Critical Edition of Paul’s writings is readily available.    You can even buy the NTIV in a parallel edition.  (Analogous remarks apply to the NIV-1984, which remains in print in multiple editions.)

But online, the TNIV and NIV-1984 no longer exist. 

Spooky.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. Jay permalink
    April 5, 2013 2:55 am

    I am not a great fan of any NIV, but scary is right. Sad politics.

  2. April 5, 2013 3:47 am

    It is not just Zondervan — although Biblica says the “transition is now complete” a search at Biblica’s own store reveals that it has several TNIV editions for sale, such as this one. Biblica will sell you a TNIV, but it will not let you read it online.

    (Cambridge University Press also still has its fancy French Morocco TNIV editions here and here — readily available in the US through bookdepository.com.)

  3. April 5, 2013 7:52 am

    Theophastus: this is an important post! Jay: the politics must be made transparent.

    Back in July 2011, I recall this statement -

    “Whatever its strengths were, the TNIV divided the evangelical Christian community,” said Zondervan president Moe Girkins. “So as we launch this new NIV, we will discontinue putting out new products with the TNIV.”

    Girkins expects the TNIV and the existing edition of the NIV to phase out over two years or so as products are replaced. “It will be several years before you won’t be able to buy the TNIV off a bookshelf,” she said.

    “We are correcting the mistakes in the past,” Girkins said. “Being as transparent as possible is part of that. This decision was made by the board in the last 10 days.” She said the transparency is part of an effort to overhaul the NIV “in a way that unifies Christian evangelicalism.”

    ALSO, do note –

    BibleStudyTools.com claiming yet today to be “the largest free online Bible website for verse search and in-depth studies” still has up the online TNIV. As of today (April 5, 2013), they are still offering:

    Our Special Thanks to:
    Zondervan and Biblica for use of the NIV, TNIV and the NIrV

    Here’s Proverbs 14:1 TNIV online:

    The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

    http://www.biblestudytools.com/tniv/proverbs/14-1.html

    And for what it’s worth, here’s an old also-nearly-dead post comparing the proverbs in NIV1984 and NIV2011.”

    Seems that amazon.com has a couple of TNIVs for sale for the Kindle. But bn.com has none for the Nook.

  4. April 5, 2013 11:49 am

    Kurk — my specific concern is that BibleGateway and Biblica are removing online versions of these historically important Bibles. Note that those services continue to support multiple versions of other Bible revisions (e.g., ASV and NASB; RSV and NRSV). It also manages to support both the NIV and the Anglicised NIV (NIVUK). It supports four different versions of the NRSV.

    BibleGateway, by the way, is owned by Zondervan.

  5. April 5, 2013 12:19 pm

    Sad indeed. This is carnality at its best. I see this as certain groups doing their best to gain primary control over what Christians can read and thus influence them in whatever way they want. Can you imagine what would happen to the United States if one movement in Christianity gained control of all churches in what they could teach and do and who could participate in all aspects?

  6. tiro3 permalink
    April 5, 2013 12:23 pm

    ““Whatever its strengths were, the TNIV divided the evangelical Christian community,” said Zondervan president Moe Girkins. “

    FWIW, the TNIV did not divide anyone. It was the people who launched such a tirade against it. When a certain group tries to manage control over what individuals have available to read, that is a major problem.

  7. April 5, 2013 1:18 pm

    Related from Rod:

    No, we don’t have monarchs or politicians in the United States running the church, even though they like to visit the pulpit from time to time to ask for our votes. In their stead are for-profit corporations with political histories that are anything but innocent. An unsettling trend is emerging where corporations are seeking to have a monopoly on “the” Church by gaining ownership of Bible translations and Bible societies. The fact that Newscorp that owns Fox News Channel owns Zondervan that produces the NIV is a HUGE problem. I would say this even if the owner of MSNBC or CBS News, whatever corporation. The fact is, that in the US, where multinational corporations have “personhood,” businesses dominate the body politik. This is far from what our Federalist Founders had in mind. Another development like Newscorp is the emergence of Hobby Lobby and its CEO’s work with ETEN (Every Tribe Every Nation. ETEN stands for Every Tribe, Every Nation, and wants to spread Bible translations around the world, putting them all under one room (a monopoly–surprise surprise!). With the surrounding controversy concerning,Hobby Lobby’s political commitments, I just have to wonder why no one is asking what theological commitments in the translations offered by ETEN? Which Bible translation companies will be excluded? Hobby Lobby is owned by the same people who bring us Mardel Christian bookstore, and I’ve blogged on my feelings about Mardel Christian bookstore. The latest works by moderate voices in Christianity are placed up in the clearance aisle where no one can find them while right wing extremism is presented as the only way to be a Christian.

    Because translation is interpretation, not only are these companies going to export Bible translations, they are going to export Bible translations that do not challenge their belief systems, a watered down Gospel message.

    He gives links embedded in the sentences quoted above and says more in the post, “Praise For Pontius Pilate: Good Friday, Our Corporate Overlords, and Bible Translations [This Blog Post Was Brought To You Buy Fox News Channel And Hobby Lobby!]

  8. April 5, 2013 4:50 pm

    I wonder why he didn’t mention that NewsCorp’s HarperCollins also owns Thomas Nelson and HarperOne.

  9. April 30, 2013 4:21 pm

    Hello! Just came across this blog. I’m missing something. I can’t figure out why phasing out an older edition of a Bible version is spooky. I noticed BibleGateway only has one version of the NASB as well. I believe it’s the 1995 update. Maybe you can help me with this. Some other posts on this site do look interesting and are more comprehensible for me, at least.

  10. April 30, 2013 5:31 pm

    Hi John — thanks for your words, and thanks for commenting.

    You will notice that with many other translations, there are multiple versions available on BibleGateway. For example, there are four versions of the NRSV available. As you know, the NRSV is a revision of the RSV, and there are two versions of the RSV available. The RSV traces its heritage back to the KJV, and that is also available.

    However, I find it spooky because the TNIV and NIV-1984 had different translation philosophies than the NIV-2011. Maybe you think those translation philosophies are better, and maybe you think they are worse, but there is no doubt that the translation philosophies were different. The NIV-2011 is not so much an update to the NIV-1984 and TNIV as it is a revision using a different translation philosophy.

    Also, the TNIV and NIV-1984 were both influential translations. The NIV-1984 was the best-selling Bible of all time; and I suspect that if you sampled random Bibles on individual English-readers’ bookshelves, the NIV-1984 would be (along with the KJV) one of the two most common Bibles. Some readers of this blog, for example, probably grew up memorizing verses in the NIV-1984. The TNIV is influential in another way — it provoked the greatest controversy in recent years around Bible translations; and opened the door for a certain class of Evangelicals for thinking about issues of gender in translation (and other issues as well — e.g., the terminology used to describe Jewish leaders in the New Testament.)

    The NIV-1984 and TNIV were available on BibleGateway for a while. As I understand it, it was not BibleGateway’s decision to withdraw the translations. Rather, the publisher (Biblica and Zondervan) insisted that the translations be taken down. Now, I do not doubt that they were within their legal rights to ask for that, but I find it spooky when books are removed by a publisher from an electronic library.

    Let me draw an analogy: consider a physical library. Now, public libraries (except for scholarly libraries such as university libraries, the New York Public Library, etc.) periodically need to prune their collections to make room for new volumes, and everyone understand that — we entrust librarians to do that in a fair and reasonable way. But suppose that Zondervan came to your local library and insisted that copies of the NIV-1984 be taken down from the shelves. I think you agree with me that would be spooky. Biblica and Zondervan have done essentially the same thing with BibleGateway, except that we are talking about an electronic library rather than a physical library.

    Now the analogy is not quite perfect — as I mentioned Biblica-Zondervan have the legal ability to do that for electronic libraries but not physical books in conventional libraries. But that is more a quirk of copyright law than it is a fundamental principle.

    I think the fact that BibleGateway kept all three editions online for a while, or that it hosts four versions of the NRSV shows that it is not concerned about users being confused by the multiple editions. But even if it were worried about users being confused, it could have addressed the problem by putting the NIV-1984 and TNIV behind a special link (for “advanced users” or something like that.)

    Finally, both Biblica and Zondervan both do still sell copies of both the NIV-1984 and TNIV; which makes its insistence that electronic versions be withdrawn somewhat odd.

  11. April 30, 2013 7:37 pm

    Thank you for your thorough response! I am a little familiar with the NRSV, though I don’t spend much time with it. As I understand, the ESV also traces its lineage to the RSV. It seems to me that there were some readers of the previous edition of the NASB who were not happy with its update. They too would probably appreciate access to the earlier edition, so I can understand the NIV1984 readers’ frustation.

    I memorized several passages in the NIV over the years. For this reason, among others, I took a long hard look at the update before conceding to the permanency of its changes. I should say relative permanency, considering Biblica’s policy to revisit and revise every few years. I came to realize that most Bible translations published in the past couple of decades or so were reflecting 21st Century English, which (among other changes) has taken a more gender inclusive turn. This seems to me an acceptable practice for a translation employing dynamic equivalence. Though the updated NIV has pushed this a bit much for my taste in some passages, it’s not a deal-breaker for me.

    The NIV2011 still stands as a solid translation. It conveys, more often than not, the meaning of the original languages as understood by its capable translators and scholars. And following the precedent set forth in the beautiful preface to the 1611 King James Version, “containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God.”

    Leaving the NIV1984 and/or the TNIV up on Bible Gateway would have probably been a good idea, but I don’t sense a conspiracy about the decision to remove it. Maybe I’d be more upset if I didn’t already have a 1984 module in Accordance software. If the evidence presents itself I’d be open to the possibility that the move is censorship or manipulation, and I’ve been naive. Until then the updated NIV is part of my study arsenal, along with versions following as far back as I can reach on either side of the translation continuum. Thank you again for taking the time respond to my original question.

  12. April 30, 2013 9:45 pm

    John, thanks so much for your thoughts.

    Just to be clear: I am not accusing Biblica and Zondervan of censorship — that is far too strong a term. Undoubtedly, Biblica and Zondervan from their perspectives are trying not “to make the same mistake twice” (e.g., damage the potential sales of a new translation by having it compete with a best-selling previous translation.)

    However, it seems that most people use BibleGateway as a reference web site, seeing how particular verses or passages are rendered in different translations. Since the NIV has been the bestselling English translation for many years, it is quite interesting to compare how NIV-1984, TNIV, and NIV-2011 translate various verses. That ability used to exist on BibleGateway, but now it no longer does.

    You have that ability in Accordance because you previously bought NIV-1984 in the past; but Accordance no longer sells the NIV-1984 or the TNIV.

    In a world of physical books, this was not really an issue (I expect most physical books I have bought to last at least 50-100 years, and it is fairly easy to find almost all major titles on the used market.) But it seems with electronic books, all bets are off!

Trackbacks

  1. “Farewell NIV”? | BLT
  2. Why did they eliminate the “old” NIV? (And the consequences of this action) | Clear Minded

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