Question: When and why do we update Bible translations?
Translators grapple with the competing interests of maintaining a certain tradition and continuity in translation and of keeping the Bible up-to-date with respect both to scholarship and to current English. We are, of course, very spoiled in the English world with all our excellent translation options; and one can make a case for waiting some time to produce revisions. But, on the other hand, some of these same people who don’t like frequent revisions are the same people claiming from the pulpit on in books that “such and such a translation does not have it right here; it should rather read . . . “ – a reading that is exactly what the revision would provide to the reader.
And, with all due respect to Michael Bird, I think it is indeed overly cynical to suggest financial gain as the primary motivation for updating translations. (The very same motivations could be ascribed to publishers when they initiate, for instance, new commentary series—but we scholars tend to be noticeably silent when we are asked to contribute to them!) But my main point is to remind everyone involved in this conversation that the NIV, to take one example, is sponsored not by a commercial publisher but by a missions organization that plows royalties back into the translation and distribution of Bibles all around the world (Biblica).
Douglas J. Moo is Blachard Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and chair of the Committee on Bible Translation.
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