I’ve dipped into the new NIV for one reason or another recently and I must say that I really like it. I’ve typically cited two passages in classes to highlight certain inadequacies of English translations. The updated NIV nails them.
The first is 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. I use this text to point out that English translations don’t catch the communal character of Paul’s statement about the temple here. Here’s the NASB:
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
English speakers don’t have an expression for the 2nd person plural, perhaps with the exception of folks like American Southerners (y’all) and Northern Irish (you’s uns). We miss, therefore, that Paul is saying that the Corinthians as a church are God’s dwelling place and anyone who breaks up the unity of the church faces God’s judgment.
The NIV has the following, capturing Paul’s intention very well:
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
The second text is Philemon 6, which the older NIV translated as follows:
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
But Paul isn’t praying for Philemon to be effective in evangelism at all. He prays that Philemon would realize the profundity of what God has done in uniting Philemon, Onesimus, Paul, and all other believers in “the fellowship of faith.” Paul prays that this reality would become effective to the extent that it shapes Philemon’s choices in the situation they all face. The new NIV remedies the former translation and does so very well.
I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.
We’re reading through Mark in the NIV as a family right now and I like it, too. Now, we just need to fix Galatians 3:10 in the next update.