New NIV “Clunk” on Psalm 32:1,2


My friend, a copy editor, always said that it took a good copy editor to make the King James Bible sing.  So as I was looking up a verse on Bible Gateway in the New NIV, I found this.

Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

“Clunk” is the sound I hear when it get to the “them” that I highlighted in verse 2.  The inclusive goal, which is noble, has run against something very beautiful about this Gospel psalm.  Bless is the “one” whose sins are forgiven.  but to avoid “him”, “one” becomes “them.”  Sorry, it does not work.

Here are some others.

Old NIV  (aka NIV 84)

Blessed is he
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man
whose sin the Lord does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

Lot’s of unnecessary uses of “he” and “man”


Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

All plurals all the time.   “imputes” hmmm


Happy is the person
whose sins are forgiven,
whose wrongs are pardoned.
Happy is the person
whom the Lord does not consider guilty
and in whom there is nothing false.

Wordy but maintains individuality without masculine language.  Loses “count” to “consider”.

Holman (Baptist)

How joyful is the one
whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered!
How joyful is the man
the Lord does not charge with sin
and in whose spirit is no deceit!

Why did they go from “one” to “man”?  “Charge” is a strong verb here!


Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Why change from “one” to “man” in Holman and ESV?  In the Hebrew verse 2 uses “adam”.  So the literal translations want to preserve that.  I am not persuaded.

NIV – Clunk

NIV 84 – dated

NRSV  – hopeless

ESV – clunky

Holman, NCV  get an  A- for effort.  I would like the Holman best if it simply stick with “one” in both verses.

Psalm 146: An observation on three Translations.

Ps 146.3 

NIV – 84

Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.


Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.


Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.

Ps 146:5

NIV – 84

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,


Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.


Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,


I am comparing two verses from Psalm 146 in the old NIV, the New NIV and the ESV.


  • The term “son of man” is changed to” human beings” in the New NIV and “mortal men” in the Old NIV.  You see that both try to contemporize an expression to present English.  “son of man” is awkward, and also makes some confusion with the use of that phrase as a title for Jesus.  ESV retains the word for word translation, which is clear with some thought.
  • V. 4 says that such a person goes to the earth.  In Hebrew “man” is “adam” and “earth” is “adamah”.  The pun is lost in all English translations.  However the allusion to Genesis is clear when one remembers that Adam was made of the dust of the earth.
  • The singular “he” is changed in the New NIV to a plural pronoun.  This was also the method used with several others: NRSV, NLT,  Contemporary.  One of the interesting things in Psalm 146 is the interplay between singular and plural.  “Hallelujah” which is a plural command, “Let us praise the LORD”.  The this changes quickly to the singular in verse 2 , “I will praise the Lord.”   The Beatitude of v. 5 is individual, and seems to call for a personal response.

Overall, an argument can be made for each. I benefit by comparing either NIV to the ESV.  For study with colored pencils and observation of words, I like ESV.  For readability, the NIVs are both smoother.  As one instructor said, “every translation is also a commentary.”


When it rains on your Bible

So it was several summers ago when I spoke at my brother’s wedding.  It was a fantastic event, but as it was an outdoor wedding in the Pacific Northwest, it rained.  So my bible got wet from the open passage of I Corinthians 13 – the Love Chapter.  The pages about 10 deep on either side got wet and rumpled up when they dried.  Now, the binding is going.

So Fresh Read has to pick a new every day preaching bible.  I have a dozen or more around here. I was using a thin line, large print edition (necessary as I passed the 40 year marker.)  It was an NIV (that is the older NIV 84 edition).

Shall I change to the current NIV, and shock the traditionalists with the inclusionary language?  “Greetings dear Brothers and Sisters…”  The only OLD NIV I can find with larger print has red letters for the words of Jesus – I am not a fan.  I could move to the ESV, which I find useful for study of the English Text, but no one else at church is using it, and it is less easy on the ear.  Other candidates are the NRSV – which is less choppy, but just as inclusionary- or the New Living – too ooey gooey for my tastes – or one of several newer translations that I have as yet to explore.

We will keep you posted.


James 4:4 – A story too funny to be invented

Years ago, at a bible study in our home in New York, we were looking at the text of James 4.  I asked the question, “What does ‘adulterous’ mean?”  (James 4:4 “You adulterous people!  Don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”)

A student from Japan heard the question and said, “Adulterous” means mature.”

An immigrant from Egypt heard that and said, “No, it means when you worship images made of stone or wood.”

So we had a good laugh (because English is an awful language to have to learn) and a spontaneous vocabulary lesson on the difference between adultery, idolatry and being an adult.


Is inclusive language “liberal”? (More on the New NIV)

In discussing the New NIV, someone called it a “liberal” translation.

First of all “liberal” has a lot of meanings.  I can mean “free” is in the Liberal Arts which are free from the constraints of censorship.  Classical Liberal political theory argued for freedom of the individual.  20th Century “Liberal” on the other hand means something like “progressive” and views government as the main agent of liberty.  Theologically Liberal comes from the early 20th Century conflict between Modernists and Fundamentalists.  Modernists went to be called Liberals and now Progressives and Fundamentalists divided between those who like that term and those who prefer Evangelical and often now simply “Jesus Follower.”

My friend meant “theologically liberal” I suppose.  There are some attempts to translate the scriptures in a totally gender neutral way.  Someone heard in a church liturgy that the Lord’s Prayer began with “Our Leader” instead of “Our Father”.  So some wish to do away with Trinitarian language of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, because of the latent “paternalism” of “Father” and “Son”.  Yet we have to say that Father does mean something different than  leader or parent.  Son is different than child and these words bear some theological weight.  These sorts of translations are a kind of re-definition or revision of the scriptures according to an external cultural value (gender egalitarianism).

Yet the New NIV (NNIV) does not go that far. It merely attempts to say generically in English what is understood to be generic in the original context.  So Romans 12:1 says “I urge you, therefore, brothers….”  Since we do not think that Romans 12 only applies to male believers, the NNIV changes “brothers” to “brothers and sisters”.    This really comes down to a preference in translation philosophy.  Should the translation stick closer to the orignal words and it is up to the reader to understand the nuances?  Or, should the translation spell out the nuances for the reader?

Also, in the 21st Century, generic usage has won out over using male gender for generic settings.  We say “humankind” not “mankind”.  We sing “Good Christians all rejoice” not “Good Christian men rejoice”.  We do not say “The sinfulness of Man”, but “the sinfulness of humanity.”  A theologically liberal “translation” might speak of the innate goodness of humanity. I once heard s speaker say “I don’t believe in original sin, but original goodness.”  That, I would agree, reflects a theologically liberal viewpoint.  but saying “humanity” instead of “man” or “mankind” does not.

So, the NNIV is not “liberal” in the sense that my friend asked.  It may not be to his taste, but let’s be careful what we mean when we speak.  It is moderately inclusive.


Please don’t homogenize! – Romans 12:9

Romans 12:9-13 sent me to the Lexicon in that the Apostle uses some unusual words.  Now here is the first phrase in the ESV

“Love must be sincere”

Ok, good.  The Greek word is “anupokritos”, which is literally “not – hypocritical”.  Not hypocritical does mean about the same as “sincere.”  However, to my ear, sincere seems rather homogenized – like a glass of skim milk with a slice of wonder bread.

Not-Hypocritical gives me something a little more substantial – more like a cup of French Roast coffee with a wild berry scone.  There is more to work with.  Non-hypocritical love would be actual and not acted, it would be internally real, not externally painted on, it would mean we don’t resort to an old canard such as “I love you but I don’t have to like you”.  It would be love that is not expressed by a check list of social obligations. It would be love that sees the person and gives what they will rejoice to receive.

Interestingly “Love” is defined in part by hate.  In the next phrase we read: “Hate what is evil and cling to what is good.”  So sincerity in love is also discerning.  Love is not a fuzzy all accepting hug of everything.  True love also hates what is evil while it grasps on to what is good like an Olympic wrestler.

New Living Translation: Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.

ESV:  Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

New King James:  Let love bewithout hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.

Picking a Bible – update on ESV and NIV

I wrote an article at the start of the blog about picking a bible translation.  I need to add some comments about the English Standard Version (ESV).  The ESV strives to be as literal as possible while being readable.  It has become very popular in Evangelical church circles, and for many through the ESV Study Bible.

Positives:  Unlike some “literal” translations, the ESV does recognize paragraphs and poetic structure.  I never liked the NASB’s format of puling every verse to the side, as if the bible came divided that way.  It is usually readable, and they do try to retain continuity in translating the same words the same way.  For example it uses “keep, keeps and keeper” in Psalm 121 for all the uses of the same hebrew root.  the NIV is more free and you can miss the repetition.

I also like the ESV Literary Study Bible – it gives a minimum of literary form and outline information and lets you read the text yourself.  I did scan the ESV Study Bible at the book store and found it heavy and overly laden with comments, so that the page I was reading was about 25% bible and 75% comment.  I prefer a leaner bible and a couple of good reference works on the side – like a  Bible dictionary and a commentary.

Negatives:  The language is frequently rather poor English style, and somewhat dated sounding.  This reflects the desire to be more literal, but also an older slightly dated English that the one I hear in daily life.  I find that the editors have worked too hard to keep the male gender intact – often the male in Greek or Hebrew are generic, and translating male pronoun for male pronouns from original to English add s the English gender baggage to the text.  Men may not notice, but women will.  (Confession, I like the NRSV for this reason.)

Conclusion: I use the ESV as a good manuscript study text – it is a good source for seeing connections and sensing the structure of the original language.  It is only OK for general reading, and I do not preach from it very often, unless my default NIV (old version) is inadequate.  That is partly because our “Pew Bibles” are NIV.

The NEW NIV:  The NIV was updated in 2011, so if you want to read the one you are familiar with that is called the NIV 84.  I have not yet read a lot of the new NIV, but it does attempt to be more gender generic – that is to translate into
English as neutral when the original may have been formally masculine but was understood as generic.  English worked that way until maybe 1968 and thereafter we have moved on.  So I do not have a problem with the approach. There are a number of other updates and I have not read enough to draw any conclusions.

About Translation (repeat)

The Bible was not written in English, but in ancient languages.  Except for specialists who know Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, we read the Bible in English translation. There are dozens of translations to choose from.  

With FRESH READ, we will use a literary translation, such as the New Revised Standard Version. 

  ·        This is midway between “word for word”  literal versions and the freer “idea for idea” versions.  

 ·        The NRSV strives to be gender inclusive – it will usually only use male pronouns when that was the original intent. This is important for a FRESH READ. 

Since the goal is to experience the biblical text itself.  We will not attend to the observations and opinions of previous readers.  It is important to use a literary version that  reflects the language and the meaning of the Bible, and that is reads clearly in English. If you want to read more on this topic, keep reading.  If not, feel free to stop here! 

 Translations can be divided into four categories: Literal, Literary, Dynamic and Interpretive.  Literal translations try to follow the original in a word for word fashion.  This can lead to awkwardness and even confusion in English.  For example, the King James Version of Psalm 48:1:  Psalm 48:1‑2 – KJV       “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. [2] Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.”    The phrase “mountain of his holiness” could suggest the image of the immensity of the holiness of God.  It actually is a literal translation of the Hebrew grammar, which means “His holy mountain.” 

Literary translations try to be “as literal as possible and as free as necessary.”  They try to retain as much as the flavor of the original text, while at the same time making it clear in English. 

Psalm 48:1,2 – NRSV“Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised,in the city of our God.His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,is the joy of all the earth,Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.”  Dynamic Translations try to translate ideas for ideas.  They are not as concerned to carry over into English the structure or the words of the original.  They are freer in form, but try to stay close to the meaning of the original text.

Psalm 48:1,2 – NIV“Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise,in the city of our God, his holy mountain.It is beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth.Like the utmost heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion,the city of the Great King.” 

Interpretive translations are really a more personal reflection upon the text.  These can be very free and offer insights by the translator into the text.  The New Century Version is one example:

Psalm 48:1,2 – NCV“The Lord is great; he should be praisedin the city of our God, on his holy mountain.It is high and beautifuland brings joy to the whole world.Mount Zion is like the high mountains to the north;it is the city of the Great King.” 

 It us usually best to read more than one translation.  We suggest a more literal translation and a more free version.  The more literal is a safeguard against following some one else’s interpretation.  The more free version guards against obscurity. 
Below is a Chart of some of the most popular current translations, but certainly not all of them: 


  • New American Standard Bible
  • English Standard Version
  • King James Version
  • New King James Version 

  • Revised Standard Version         
  •  New Revised Standard Version
  • Revised English Version   
  • Jerusalem Bible 



  • New International Version                            
  • New Century Version         



  • Living Bible The Message         
  • Phillips Translation
  • New Living Translation 


A good web site where you can search for passages or specific words in the Bible as well as compare several translations is: