GS 2010 art 72

GS 2010 Article 72 – Committee for Bible Translation

1.         Material

  • 1.1       Report from the Committee for Bible Translation (CBT) (8.2.k).
  • 1.2       Letters from Hamilton-Providence (8.3.K.1), Burlington-Fellowship (8.3.K.2), Glanbrook (8.3.K.3) and Winnipeg-Redeemer (8.3.K.4).

2.         Observations

  • 2.1       Synod 2007 gave the CBT the following mandate (Acts, Article 134, Recommendation 4):
    • [4.4.1] To receive comments from the churches/members about passages in the NIV which are thought to need improvement.
    • [4.4.2] To evaluate these comments and pass on valid concerns to the NIV Translation Center.
    • [4.4.3] To monitor developments in case significant changes appear in the text of the NIV.
    • [4.4.4]  To take up contact with the International Bible Society (IBS) to confirm that the IBS still stands behind its press release of May 27, 1997.
    • [4.4.5] To request the Liturgical Forms and Confessions Committee to initiate discussions with the URCNA in regard to promoting an agreed upon English translation for use in the liturgical forms and confessions of an eventual common songbook and to be available to assist the Liturgical Forms and Confessions Committee in this regard.
    • [4.4.6] To receive input from the churches regarding Bible translations which the churches through their own careful study have found to be worthy of recommendation for use among the churches.
    • [4.4.7] To serve the next general synod with a report to be sent to the churches at least six months prior to the next synod.
  • 2.2       The CBT informed the churches of the relevant sections of its mandate [4.4.1 and 4.4.6].
  • 2.3       The committee received very little feedback from the churches. One church reported that it was content with the NIV and saw no need for investigating alternatives. Another church reported that
  • it had adopted the NKJV in the year 2000 and appended a report concerning this decision.
  • 2.4       As mandated, the committee sent a letter to IBS regarding the text of the NIV to confirm whether the IBS still stood behind its press release of May 27, 1997. At that time, IBS responded “the text will remain the same now and forever” (January 16, 2008).
  • 2.5       The CBT requested the Liturgical Forms and Confessions Committee to initiate discussions with the URCNA regarding a common English translation for our liturgical forms and future common song book and expressed its willingness to assist. No request was made for such help.
  • 2.6       The CBT reports that on September 1, 2009, Biblica (formerly IBS-STL Global) announced its plans for a new NIV, to be released in 2011 (see The official press release cites continuing changes of the English language as the primary motivation, although it also mentions the contributions of biblical scholarship. It also appears that the 1984 text of the NIV currently used within the churches will no longer be published. The website states: “Beginning in 2011, no new products will be developed based on either the 1984 version of the NIV or the TNIV. All new NIVrelated products will be based solely on the 2011 update of the NIV.” Biblica also expressed openness to receive input from both external scholars and regular Bible readers. These were to be received, however, before the end of the calendar year 2009. The CBT took the opportunity to remind the NIV publisher of past submissions regarding concerns with the NIV, including the matter of gender inclusiveness. Due to time constraints, the CBT advised churches and members to correspond directly with the NIV publisher.
  • 2.7       The committee proposes to continue monitoring the NIV and to evaluate the updated NIV version when it is released in 2011.
  • 2.8       The church at Hamilton (Providence) expresses concerns regarding upcoming changes to the NIV. Hamilton is also concerned that the work of Bible translation seems to be driven by economic factors and not by linguistic developments or new insights of scholarship. For this reason, Hamilton suggests that synod mandate the CBT to investigate the possibility of publishing an ecclesiastically-produced and owned translation with the cooperation of churches which are members of NAPARC and/or ICRC.
  • 2.9       In view of the upcoming changes to the NIV, Burlington-Fellowship suggests that the CBT should thoroughly review the ESV in order to determine whether or not this translation should become the recommended version for the churches.
  • 2.10     Glanbrook suggests that the CBT should be mandated to investigate the possibility of obtaining the printing rights of the NIV 1984 edition.
  • 2.11     Winnipeg-Redeemer asks whether the CBT has not merely reminded the NIV publishers of past submissions but has actually resubmitted them. If not, Winnipeg-Redeemer strongly urges doing so even though the deadline has passed.
  • 2.12     Glanbrook and Winnipeg-Redeemer also both suggest that CBT should be mandated to evaluate the 2011 version of the NIV and to start looking for alternative translations.

3.         Considerations

  • 3.1       It would appear that the vast majority of the churches are content with the NIV as the translation recommended for use in the churches.
  • 3.2        Current information about the upcoming new version of the NIV gives little indication of the nature of the changes being contemplated. The website of the NIV publisher states: “As time passes and English changes, the NIV we have at present is becoming increasingly dated. If we want a Bible that English speakers around the world can understand, we have to listen to, and respect, the vocabulary they are using today” (
  • 3.3       It seems unlikely that a translation which was completed in 1984 would already be linguistically dated.
  • 3.4       The website for the upcoming edition of the NIV states that the publisher of the NIV does not have a seat on the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT). On the contrary, it asserts that the CBT is completely autonomous. The CBT only monitors developments in language and scholarship and makes independent decisions and recommendations about the need for translational changes. (It should be noted that in this Consideration, the acronym CBT refers not to the synodically-appointed Committee on Bible Translation but to the organization responsible for preparing the NIV translation of the Bible).
  • 3.5       It would be a blessing for the churches to have a translation which would be available and could be used without significant changes for a generation or more. Frequent changes in Bible translation diminish the ability of the people of God to hold the divine Word in their hearts and minds and should therefore be resisted.
  • 3.6       The concept of an ecclesiastical translation is worthy of consideration. Dialogue with NAPARC and English-speaking ICRC churches would reveal whether there is interest and resources for such a project.
  • 3.7       Synod Chatham 2004 gave the CBT the mandate to do a preliminary investigation of the English Standard Version (ESV) and to provide Synod 2007 with a report on the ESV translation, using also the input solicited from the churches.
  • 3.8       Synod 2007 received a report from the CBT regarding the ESV. This Synod decided to “continue to recommend the NIV for use within the churches but to leave it in the freedom of the churches should they feel compelled to use other translations that have received favourable reviews in the reports of the CBT, namely, the NKJV, the NASB or the ESV” (Acts, Article 134, Recommendation 4.1).
  • 3.9       Seeing that the CBT may come to the conclusion that the 2011 NIV is not suitable as the recommended translation for the churches and considering that the 1984 version of the NIV may rapidly become unavailable, it would be wise to begin looking for an alternative recommended translation. Among alternatives, the ESV, the NKJV and the NASB deserve priority due to the fact that they have previously received favourable reviews by the CBT and are currently used by some of the churches (see Acts of Synod 1995, Article 72, Appendix III; Acts of Synod 2007, Article 134).

4.         Recommendation

That Synod decide:

  • 4.1       To thank the committee for its work.
  • 4.2       To mandate the CBT as follows:
    • 4.2.1    To thoroughly evaluate the updated NIV translation when it is released in 2011 and to produce and send a report to the churches within nine months of the release date.
    • 4.2.2      To investigate the feasibility of obtaining access to the printing rights of the 1984 edition of the NIV.
    • 4.2.3    To investigate further whether the ESV or the NKJV or the NASB could become the recommended translation for the churches.
    • 4.2.4 Investigate the possibility and feasibility of publishing an ecclesiastically-produced and owned Bible translation with the cooperation of English-speaking churches which are members of NAPARC and/or ICRC.
    • 4.2.5 To serve the next general synod with a report sent to the churches at least six months prior to the next synod.
  • 4.3       To leave the matter of recommendations for committee appointments to the officers of Synod but to encourage increasing the manpower for the committee and the appointment of individuals who live in geographical proximity to each other so as to allow for face to face meetings.