07 Jul GS 1995 art 72
GS 1995 ARTICLE 72 – Bible Translations
Committee II presents:
Agenda items VIII. B. 1 – 17, D. 10
- A. Report of the Committee on Bible Translations which includes ten appendices and seven text studies; and a Supplement to the Report.
- B. Letters from the churches at Port Kells, Chilliwack, Vernon, Guelph, Edmonton-Providence, Neerlandia, Burlington-East, Edmonton-Immanuel, Houston, Chatsworth, Langley and Fergus.
- C. Letters from the brs. R. Duker, W. Bredenhof, B. Degier, Rev. H. M. VanEssen, Rev. P. Kingma, T. Kingma, and L. Terpsma.
Several letters are from individuals and not from churches. This raises the question whether individual members have the right to address their concerns and views about a report directly to a General Synod, without first addressing them to their local consistory/council for consideration. However, it would be unfair to declare the personal submissions mentioned above invalid for this Synod because past Synods have been inconsistent on this.
- A. Committee Mandate
- The Committee on Bible Translations received the following mandate from Synod Lincoln 1992 (Acts, Art. 35):
- 1. To do a comparative study of the NASB, NIV and NKJV, making use of past studies, in order to determine which one translation can be positively recommended for use by the churches, whereby the criteria are: faithful- ness to the original text and linguistic character of the translation.
- 2. To investigate the direction of the Bible Societies/Publishers behind different translations and whether there is the possibility to suggest improvements in the translation to the Bible Societies/Publishers which can be incorporated into future editions; as well, to investigate the future availability of the translations.
- 3. To give due consideration to the decision of Synod Bedfordale 1992, regarding Bible translations.
- 4. To report to the churches and the next General Synod six months prior to the next General Synod.
- The Committee on Bible Translations received the following mandate from Synod Lincoln 1992 (Acts, Art. 35):
- B. Committee Report
- 1. Faithfulness to the Original Text
- a. The Committee reports that the translators of NASB, NIV and NKJV all agree that the Bible alone, in its entirety, is the written Word of God, inerrant and infallible in the autographs.
- b. The text type underlying the NKJV is the Textus Receptus of approximately 1600 A.D. The Committee has serious reservations about the Textus Receptus.
- c. The NASB and NIV are based on an eclectic text. The Committee makes the point that the differences between the types of manuscripts are relatively minor, “scholars from all camps agree that 95-97% of the text is established without doubt or debate.” (Report of Bible Translation of the Free Reformed Church of Australia 1990). The Committee recommends that the churches would do well neither to accept or reject any translation simply on the basis of a text type used – except in the case of the Textus Receptus.
- 2. Linguistic Character of Translation
- a. The Committee considers among the acceptable types of translation the modified literal and idiomatic, and rejects as unacceptable translations the extremes of highly literal and unduly free. With reference to Prof. B. Holwerda, the Committee is of the opinion, and demonstrates in the study of a random sample of texts, that an idiomatic translation is not only more readable and clear but often also more accurate. The Committee concludes, “As God’s people have done in the past, so today, they should strive for an idiomatic translation of Scripture.”
- b. With respect to the NASB the Committee reports that the NASB is very helpful in studying God’s Word because often the reader can judge what is happening in the original language by referring to this translation. However the Committee points out that “It is however with respect to its clarity and readability that the NASB is too often found wanting. The translation is simply too stiff, not lucid enough, and fails to use words the way they are used today. Proper sentence structure is often lacking. Young people would encounter numerous unnecessary problems in reading this translation; even adults often will not grasp its meaning.”
- c. With respect to the NKJV the Committee reports: “in terms of its clarity and readability it falls short. The English language is given a form which our membership is simply not used to speaking or writing.” The Committee also makes the point, “whatever strengths the NKJV has are more than adequately shared by the translation that has had our attention before, the NASB; we see no compelling reason why we should recommend a change in that course now.”
- d. With respect to the NIV the Committee reports: “Having examined the NIV, it can be concluded that the NIV is more idiomatic than the NASB and NKJV, but at the same time, as accurate as the NASB and NKJV. When all factors are taken into consideration, it can be said that the NIV is more accurate since it more easily communicates the message as the original text did to the original hearers.” The Committee emphasizes that the NIV has dynamic equivalent aspects, as do other translations, but that this does not make it a dynamic equivalent translation. The Committee demonstrates in its Report and Supplementary Report that the numerous criticisms voiced against the NIV are predominantly incorrect and often unfair and biased. The Committee points out about the NIV, “That does not mean it is a perfect translation. There are no perfect translations. We have found occasions when the NIV is more free than we believe to be acceptable and on these points the translators really should be called to account on the basis of their own commitment to the authority of Scripture.” However the Committee conludes about the NIV that it “is simply the finest translation when all the criteria and the relative importance of the different factors are taken into consideration. Furthermore, this translation takes all of Scripture into account and is true to the Word of God. The clarity and readability of the NIV may spark a renewed interest in personal Bible reading and study among young and old and stimulate anew the exploring of the treasures of God’s Word. It is somehow difficult to imagine the English of the NASB and NKJV sparking that kind of response.”
- e. The Committee reports: “Both the NIV and NKJV have opted for the use of “you” and “your” for God, and it is expected that the NASB will do the same in its next edition it must be noted that in none of the original languages of Scripture is any linguistic distinction made between addressing a human being and addressing God. Since Biblical usage is our norm, one cannot have principle objections against the deletion of these archaic forms.” Synod notes at this time that the NASB revision is complete and has adopted the use of “you” and “your” for God.
- 3. Past Studies
- The Committee did an extensive investigation to see how the NASB, NIV and NKJV measured up with respect to criticisms raised against the RSV in studies of previous bible translation committees. The Committee concludes that the three mentioned translations are better than the RSV.
- 4. Bible Societies
- The NKJV is a completed project with no room for future improvements. The NASB has plans for a minor revision and is open to any comments that we might wish to make with regards to this minor revision. The NIV is committed to changing the NIV from time to time and welcomes comments and suggestions for improved translations. Synod observes at this time that the NASB revision is complete.
- 5. Australia
- Synod Bedfordale 1992 appointed deputies to continue studies of the NKJV in comparison with the NIV, to determine whether the NKJV can be endorsed as a final recommendation to the churches. Synod Byford 1994 decided, “to endorse the NKJV as a faithful and reliable translation for use in the churches, as well as for study, instruction and family purposes. To allow the NIV to be used in the church services, and for study, instruction and family purposes.” Among the grounds adduced, Synod Byford mentioned, “Since the weaknesses of NIV are the strengths of the NKJV (and vice versa) the NIV should be considered for the use in the churches, and as with the NKJV a period of evaluation should be given before final endorsement. It is highly desirable that all the churches in the bond use the same translation of the Bible. However, since the question of which Bibles translation to use is not one of principle but rather one of preference, room should be left in the churches for a degree of variation.”
- 6. Recommendations of the Committee
- a. To recommend the New International Version for use within the churches.
- b. To remind the churches about the usefulness of the New American Standard Bible for study purposes.
- c. To appoint a committee which would receive comments from churches and/or members about passages in the NIV in need of improvement, scrutinize those comments, and pass on valid concerns to the NIV Translation Centre. This committee should also glean from previous Synod reports as well as from this report and its appendices any recommendations for change which need to be presented to the NIV Translation Centre.
- 1. Faithfulness to the Original Text
- C. Correspondence Received
- 1. The church at Port Kells recommends the NASB or the NKJV rather than the NIV because of the more literal approach of the NASB and NKJV. Port Kells refers to the Report of the Committee on Bible Translations which reported to Synod 1980 that the NIV lacked exactness and faithfulness for its “free” translation.
- 2. The church at Chilliwack recommends to retain the use of the present RSV, and to strengthen it by correcting inaccuracies and weaknesses it may contain.
- 3. The church at Vernon recommends the NIV for use within the churches for a testing period of three years which would allow further testing of this translation.
- 4. The church at Guelph favours the NIV but with the stipulation that the Committee on Bible Translation recommends to the NIV the Byzantine text for future revisions. The church at Guelph also recommends to involve a larger group of ministers for testing the NIV with a view to future improvements.
- 5. The church at Edmonton-Providence requests Synod to accede to the recommendations of the Committee regarding the NIV and the reappointment of a Committee.
- 6. The church at Neerlandia recommends to postpone the adoption of the NIV until more study has been made regarding the criticisms against the NIV.
- 7. The church at Burlington-East supports the recommendation of the Committee regarding the NIV.
- 8. The church at Edmonton-Immanuel recommends further study on the NIV and that imperfections in the NIV be corrected before it is recommended.
- 9. The church at Houston recommends keeping the RSV until more study is made of the NIV and the NIV is compared to the NKJV and NASB by ministers and study societies.
- 10. The church at Chatsworth requests Synod not to recommend the NIV for use in the churches and to request the churches that each local church study a specific Bible book to verify whether the NIV is the most reliable translation for use in the churches.
- 11. The church at Langley recommends the use of the NIV but also leave the local churches free to use the NASB, NKJV or even the KJV.
- 12. The church at Fergus requests Synod not to adopt Committee’s recommendation 1 and to adopt the decision of the Australian churches (see observation 5). It further requests to give opportunity to the churches to make further study of both the NKJV and the NIV
- 13. The brothers R. Duker, W. Bredenhof, B. Degier and L. Terpsma request of Synod to return to the KJV.
- 14. Rev. H.M. VanEssen recommends the NASB for use in the churches.
- 15. Rev. P. Kingma and br. T. Kingma recommend to evaluate and use the 21St Century King James Version.
- A. It is clear from the entire Report that the Committee fulfilled its mandate. By means of the Report, its appendices and also text studies of a random sampling of Bible passages, and the supplementary report, the Committee demonstrates adequately the strengths and weaknesses of the NKJV, the NASB and the NIV, coming to the conclusion that the NIV is the best translation of the three.
- B. In its calling to proclaim the Word of God to God’s people and to the world, the Church has a responsibility to use the Scriptures in the most faithful and understandable translation available. The NIV fulfils the criteria stipulated by Synod 1992, namely faithfulness to the original text and clarity of language, and does so better than the NKJV and the NASB.
- C. The acknowledged weaknesses in the NIV are no decisive ground for not recommending this translation for use in the churches, considering that there is no such thing as a perfect translation. An example is the Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint) which was the Church Bible from approximately 300 BC to 300 AD, also used by Christ and the apostles and quoted by the NT in spite of considerable difference between the Septuagint and the original Hebrew text.
- D. General Synod cannot continue to recommend the use of the RSV since there are better translations available according to the judgment of both the Australian and Canadian study committees. Moreover, as Synod 1992 pointed out, continued usage of the RSV would lead to possible isolation of the Canadian Reformed Churches. (Acts 1992, Art. 35 III).
- E. It is unacceptable to recommend a return to the KJV because of its lack of clarity and its use of the Textus Receptus. This is a text which is based on only a few manuscripts of the Byzantine text type available at that time and which differs relatively significantly from the Majority Text. The same applies to the 21St Century KJV.
- F. A testing period of the NIV with the involvement of ministers and the churches before a final recommendation of the NIV is not necessary since the Committee has already thoroughly studied the NIV, and has come to a conclusion of its strengths and weaknesses. Therefore it can be expected that further testing will only demonstrate the same strengths and weaknesses.
- G. It is of importance that the NIV Translation Centre welcomes comments and suggestions for improved translations; the NASB Lockman Foundation indicated they were open to comments, especially in light of the light revision (which is now completed), but give no indication of being open for comments for a future revision; the NKJV is a completed project.
- H. It is advisable to continue the Committee on Bible Translation which would receive comments from churches and/or members about passages in the NIV in need of improvement, scrutinize those comments, and pass on valid concerns to the NIV Translation Centre. The committee should also glean from previous Synod reports as well as from the Report and its appendices any recommendations for change which need to be presented to the NIV Translation Centre. The letters which were sent to Synod expressing concerns about certain Bible passages are not of such a nature that they need to be answered before a final recommendation is made and therefore should be sent on to the Committee.
- I. It is appreciated that our Australian sister churches desire the same translation for “all the churches in the bond.” It is also appreciated that although the Australian churches “endorse the NKJV,” they also allow the use of the NIV. Since they are awaiting our decision regarding the NKJV and the NIV, we should inform them of our conclusions.
- A. To thank the Committee for its work and the Report submitted to Synod.
- B. To recommend the NIV for use within the churches.
- C. To leave it in the freedom of the churches if they feel compelled to use another translation.
- D. To continue the Committee on Bible Translation which would receive comments from churches and/or members about passages in the NIV in need of improvement, scrutinize those comments, and pass on valid concerns to the NIV Translation Centre. The Committee should also glean from previous Synod reports as well as from the Report and its appendices any recommendations for change which need to be presented to the NIV Translation Centre. The letters which were sent to Synod expressing concerns about certain Bible passages should also be sent on to the Committee.
- E. To send a copy of the Report of the Committee on Bible Translation and Synod’s decision to our sister churches in Australia.