New Bible Translation You Might Want to Check Out

Derek Ouellette —  August 13, 2010

In 2009 Zondervan announced that the TNIV will be discontinued and the current form of the NIV phased out. This is to make way for a new bible translation which is due to be published by 2011 to commemorate the 400 year anniversary of the KJV (1611).

At the time Zondervan did not say what the new translation is called, but I suspected (and this was only conjecture) that the new translation may have been the International Standard Version (ISV) which is scheduled to be published in full in 2011. Nay, as it turns out the “new translation” will simply be an updated or revised version of the NIV simply called “NIV”. Still, from the sounds of things, it will be significantly different from the current NIV to reflect the developing scholarship of the past quarter century. Good.

But in 2011 another Bible translation will be published in full for the first time. It is called the International Standard Version (ISV). Currently it is available for download or you could purchase the New Testament only. There are several reasons why I bring this translation to your attention.

1. Pistis Christou: The ISV will be (so far as I am aware) the first translation in print to translate pistis Christou as “faithfulness of Christ” rather then the usual “faith in Christ” or the more accurate but still wanting “faith of Christ”. This reflects recent scholarship of the past 25 years.

2. Christ → Messiah: The ISV translates “Christus” as Messiah rather than Christ. This may unsettle some people, but I think it is a great move which, again, reflects recent scholarship. It is no mystery that Western Christianity is so far removed from our Jewish roots the “Christ” is often read as a proper name to Jesus and has lost it’s Messianic overtones.

3. “Feeling” the Message: When I first read Philippians 2:6-11 in the ISV my knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss its rendering of this text. Thankfully I went back and read it more carefully. I great deal of scholars believe this poem/hymn to be pre-Pauline and is often recognized as the earliest hymn in Christendom. The ISV has engaged this passage in the Greek in such a way as to attempt to capture the poetry of it, as the early church would have heard it:

In God’s own form existed he,
and shared with God equality,
deemed nothing needed grasping.
Instead, poured out in emptiness,
a servant’s form did he possess,
a mortal man becoming.
In human form he chose to be,
and lived in all humility,
death on a cross obeying.
Now lifted up by God to heaven,
a name above all others given,
this matchless name possessing.
And so, when Jesus’ name is called,
the knees of everyone should fall
wherever they’re residing.
Then every tongue in one accord,
will say that Jesus the Messiah is Lord,
while God the Father praising.

4. Uncomfortable: As is clear by the three examples given, the ISV’s translation choices are not often the norm. In essence, the ISV is the “purple cow” of bible translations. I think this is a strength because it will cause the comfortable reader to go back and rethink many of their favorite bible passages.

The ISV is far from a perfect translation; but as I’ve said before, there are no perfect translations. I will add the ISV to my reservoir of bibles on my shelf and consult it often. I suspect that the ISV will not go as far as I would like it to. People don’t like to be shaken up. They don’t like to be made uncomfortable. They don’t like controversy.

I showed the ISV to a co-worker whose husband is a pastor and her knee-jerk reaction was to flare up in skepticism at the Philippians 2:6-11 rendering, the use of Messiah rather than Christ and the translation of “tongues” as “other languages” in 1 Corinthians. I suspect many people will react the same.

I think it is unfortunate that the ISV translates ἔστιν in Hebrews 11:6 as “he exists”, following the NIV and ESV rather than “he is” (KJV, NASB). “He is” is not only more accurate to the Greek, but better reflects the theology of the scriptures.

Still, I look forward to the full publication of the ISV translation scheduled to be released in the second quarter of 2011 in honor of the 400th anniversary of the KJV.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Deni

    The ISV is now available in digital form. It also includes reading plans and thousands of footnotes.

  • Marylynn Marlett

    I¡¦ve recently started a website, the info you provide on this site has helped me greatly. Thank you for all of your time & work.

  • Ken Hicks

    The NET (New English Translation) also consistently renders certain NT texts as “the faithfulness of Christ” (subjective genetive).

  • Stuart

    I just bought an Android tablet and found the MySword free app.Functionally, I prefer it over Logos and other Bible apps I’ve found. The ISV intrigued me when I first loaded MySword – it opened to John 3:16 and I was thrilled with what I read there. I will read it carefully and am thankful for this blog and others that have given the ISV a careful look.

  • Philip Danks

    I’m coming to the party late! Only just heard about the ISV today which is why I’m checking out some impressions and reviews. I’m intrigued by this translation and have downloaded a copy from Logos Bible Software to have a good look. Thanks Derek

    • Derek Ouellette

      You’re welcome.