NIV / TNIV – The Minor Prophets

After a very long break (nearly a year), I’ve decided that I need to complete this series. What follows then, is a comparison of the Minor Prophets – Hosea through Malachi.

Let’s take a look at the stats:

Total Change from the NIV to the TNIV: 4.7%

Hosea: 3.8%

Joel: 3.1%

Amos 3.8%

Obadiah 1.6%

Jonah 8.0%

Micah 3.8%

Nahum 3.7%

Habakkuk 3.8%

Zephaniah 10.3%

Haggai 2.8%

Zechariah 4.9%

Malachi 9.2%

Hosea:

The first major change appears in 1:2:

NIV: When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.”

TNIV: When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”

I think this is a change for the better. The TNIV definitely reads much smoother than the NIV, especially since the NIV’s “take to yourself an adulterous wife” is rather archaic sounding – not to mention that the following phrase “children of unfaithfulness” suggests that the Lord wants Hosea to kidnap some children born out of wedlock. “Have children” is definitely more clear in that regard.

In verses 6 & 9, the meaning of the Hebrew names (Lo-Ruhamah [which means “not loved”] and Lo-Ammi [which means “not my people”]) is placed in parenthesis rather than in a footnote. This isn’t a completely necessary change, but it saves the reader a half a second of looking down at the footnotes.

There are a number of stylistic changes where oil is clarified to be “olive oil” in verses 5 and 22, sky replaces air, etc. There are also other minor changes that I’ve already described else.

3:3 is clarified nicely as well:

NIV: Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.”

TNIV: Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”

I think contextually, its pretty clear that this change is justified. It makes explicit that the point of God’s words are faithfulness.

In 4:7, it is clarified that the NIV’s “Glory” really refers to God in the TNIV with, “glorious God.” There is also a note saying that they are following the Syriac rather than the MT.

Hosea 4:15 is much better English in the TNIV with the phrase “Do not let Judah become guilty” rather than the NIV’s archaic “let not Judah become guilty.”

In Hosea 6.5, the TNIV opts for a more literal rendering

“Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth— then my judgments go forth like the sun.

rather than the NIV’s

Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.

Also noteworthy in this verse is the fact that the TNIV adds a note pointing out that the Hebrew is uncertain in this verse, which is good to know. The TNIV is an honest translation in the greater number of footnotes it has compared to the NIV.

In Hosea 7:14, the TNIV follows a few Hebrew manuscripts & the LXX against the MT:

They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail on their beds. They slash themselves, appealing to their gods for grain and new wine, but they turn away from me.

The NIV follows the MT:

They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds. They gather together for grain and new wine but turn away from me.

In Hosea 10:6, there is a rather large different in interpretation:

NIV: It will be carried to Assyria as tribute for the great king. Ephraim will be disgraced; Israel will be ashamed of its wooden idols.

TNIV: It will be carried to Assyria as tribute for the great king. Ephraim will be disgraced; Israel will be ashamed of its foreign alliances.

Likewise in Hosea 11:4:

NIV: I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.

TNIV: I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.

According to Duane Garrett (224), the TNIV is following a repointing of the Hebrew here in the same way that the [N]RSV does (interestingly, the ESV goes back to the MT with the NIV).

Hosea 12.9 has a tense change between the NIV & the TNIV: “I have been the Lord your God ever since you came out of Egypt” rather than “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.”

Joel:

There is an improvement at 1:8 where the NIV’s “Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the husband of her youth.” is replaced in the TNIV with, “Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the betrothed of her youth.” Now that’s a better description for a virgin, isn’t it?

In Joel 2:10, the “heavens tremble” in the TNIV whereas, the “sky trembles” in the NIV.

2.20 has major changes:

NIV: “I will drive the northern army far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land, with its front columns going into the eastern sea and those in the rear into the western sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.” Surely he has done great things.

TNIV: I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.” Surely he has done great things!

The exclamation at the end is a nice touch.

Finally, in Joel 3:21:

NIV: Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon.” The Lord dwells in Zion!

TNIV: Shall I leave their innocent blood unpunished? No, I will not.” The Lord dwells in Zion!

There is not footnote here, but there should be. These are opposite meanings. Looking at commentaries Garrett provides a helpful footnote:

The clause וְנִקֵּיתִי דָּמָם לֹא־נִקֵּיתִי is literally “and I will leave unpunished their blood I did not leave unpunished.” This is perhaps intelligible but is harshly elliptical. Dillard aptly comments that “at first glance the verse appears to contain self-contradictory clauses” (Garret, 396).

Well, its helpful in that I now know the problem. My lack of Hebrew knowledge prevents me from saying more. Perhaps some other Hebrew scholar will read this and comment. I hope so.

Amos:

The first big change is at 1:11:

NIV: This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked…

TNIV: This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because he pursued his brother with a sword and slaughtered the women of the land, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked…

There is no note on this change for either translation.

In 2.6, there is a change from righteous to innocent.

In 3.5, the NIV’s

Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground where no snare has been set? Does a trap spring up from the earth when there is nothing to catch?

is changed to

Does a bird swoop down to a trap on the ground when no bait is there? Does a trap spring up from the ground if it has not caught anything?

In Amos 4:9 a independent clause in English is changed to a dependent clause:

NIV: Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, I struck them with blight and mildew.

TNIV: Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, destroying them with blight and mildew.

My understanding of the Andersen-Forbes Phrase Marker Analysis (combined with a note in Logos Bible Software’s Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear) suggests that the TNIV’s rendering is probably the more accurate understanding of the Hebrew, though again, I would defer to those who actually know the language.

The TNIV’s rendering in Amos 5:3 makes it more explicitly clear that the cities & towns the Lord is referring to are specifically Israelite cities rather than simply random cities of other nations:

NIV: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “The city that marches out a thousand strong for Israel will have only a hundred left; the town that marches out a hundred strong will have only ten left.”

TNIV: This is what the Sovereign Lord says to the house of Israel: “Your city that marches out a thousand strong will have only a hundred left; your town that marches out a hundred strong will have only ten left.”

The pronouns in Amos 5:7-12 are changed from the NIV’s 2nd person “you” to the impersonal 3rd person constructions. This is not a gender change, though. This translation change actually makes the TNIV more transparent to the Hebrew.

Amos 7:14, the delightful verse that has been made famous in the line (by D. A. Carson?), “I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I am part of a non-profit organization” has been changed in the TNIV. Whereas the NIV read “son of a prophet,” the TNIV reads, “disciple of a prophet.” Reading Douglas Stuart in WBC, the TNIV follows the understanding that “son of a prophet” is an idiom for being part of the prophets guild (Stuart, 376).

Obadiah:

Not much change in this book. There’s stylistic change in verse 12 & 13, where the phrase “look down on your brother” is changed to the better sounding English “gloat over your brother.”

Jonah:

Comparatively speaking, there’s a good amount of change in Jonah, at least the percentage is higher.

In 1.17, Jonah is “in the belly of the fish” rather than simply inside the first.

And in his prayer at 2.8, the TNIV changes the NIV’s

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

to

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit God’s love for them.

This is an interesting change, which seems to be for the best, particularly since the concept of “grace” is not necessarily a completely understood one these days.

At 3.3, the TNIV changes the wording for the description of Ninevah:

NIV: Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days.

TNIV: Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important large city; it took three days to go through it.

And then in verse 4:

NIV: On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

TNIV: Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”overthrown.”

Jonah’s response to God’s forgiveness is changed too in 4.1:

NIV: But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.

TNIV: But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry.

And 4.2:

NIV: He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

TNIV: He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

Next, in verse 9:

NIV: But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?” “I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.”

TNIV: But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the gourd?” “It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

By the way, the vine is changed to a gourd earlier too. Personally, on that last line from Jonah, I prefer the NIV’s rendering, but I think that might be the first time in this entire series that’s happened.

Finally, in verse 11 we have one last change for the book:

NIV: But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

TNIV: And should I not have concern for the great city Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

There are enough changes in this verse that I don’t think I need to highlight them. I do like this verse in the TNIV.

Micah:

As noted above, there is a 3.8% difference in this book. That’s not much and there are probably only 3 or 4 that are actually worth noting, such as Micah 2.7:

NIV: Should it be said, O house of Jacob: “Is the Spirit of the Lord angry? Does he do such things?” “Do not my words do good to him whose ways are upright?

TNIV: House of Jacob, should it be said, “Does the Lord become impatient? Does he do such things?” “Do not my words do good to those whose ways are upright?

Or in 5.5-6:

NIV: And he will be their peace. When the Assyrian invades our land and marches through our fortresses, we will raise against him seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men. 6 They will rule the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod with drawn sword. He will deliver us from the Assyrian when he invades our land and marches into our borders.

TNIV: And he will be our peace when the Assyrians invade our land and march through our fortresses. We will raise against them seven shepherds, even eight commanders, 6 who will rule the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod with drawn sword. He will deliver us from the Assyrians when they invade our land and march into our borders.

The rest of the changes are very small, about half of which involve gender changes – none of which actually affects the meaning of the text by any means.

Nahum:

With only three chapters, 3.7% is a very small number. The “big” changes include the change from oracle in the NIV to the TNIV’s prophecy in 1.1, counsels of wickedness in the NIV to “devises wicked plans in the TNIV at 1.11.

In 2.7, we have an interesting gender change form neuter to feminine:

NIV: It is decreed that the city be exiled and carried away. Its slave girls moan like doves and beat upon their breasts.

TNIV: It is decreed that Nineveh be exiled and carried away. Her female slaves moan like doves and beat on their breasts.

At 3.4, harlot is changed to prostitute and at 13, the NIV’s “women” is changed to “weaklings,” a rendering which is actually less literal than a very large number of the TNIV’s changes. But its also much less demeaning to women as well!

Finally, at 3.15, grasshoppers are changed to locusts.

Habakkuk:

Once again we have a 3.8% difference. You really have to appreciate the consistence in the amount of change in these books. For example the very first change is the same “oracle” to prophecy” we saw in Nahum.

Probably the biggest and most notable change is at 2.15, where the TNIV add an entire phrase:

NIV: Drink and be exposed!

TNIV: Drink and let your nakedness be exposed!

My guess is that the NIV was attempting a more “word-for-word” translation of the verse, but the TNIV is actually the more accurate representation of the Hebrew according to HALOT on this particular Hebrew word:

nif: impv. הֵעָרֵל Hab 216 to show the foreskin (Rudolph KAT 13/3:218, 221 and TOB with MT :: cj. הֵרָעֵל to stagger with Sept., Vulg., Pesh., 1QpHab, see Elliger HK 56; Segert ArchOr. 22 (1954):455f, cf. BHS) (HALOT, 885).

It should also be noted that both include a note pointing to the alternative text in the Septuagint, et al.

At 3.6, while the NIV says that the Lord’s “ways are eternal.” The TNIV says rather than the Lord “marches on forever.” There is no note explaining the difference between the two. Christo van der Merwe provides a footnote in the Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear, which states that the Hebrew is literally, “ancient ways are his.” Keil and Delitzsch provide the paraphrase, “He now goes along, as He went along in the olden time” (Keil & Delitzsch, 10:420). But more helpful in terms of explaining why there are two different renderings is A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Habakkuk, which states:

The last line, His ways were as of old, may be understood in two ways. First, it may be taken as a separate statement about God (compare niv “His ways are eternal”). Second, it may be taken as in apposition to the previous statement about the mountains and hills. His ways then refers to the mountains and hills as the route by which God moves over the earth. This would be another allusion to the giving of the Law, when the Lord appeared to Moses at the top of Mount Sinai amidst storm and earthquake (Exo 19.16–20). This second interpretation fits the context better and is preferable. tev accepts it and translates “the hills where he walked in ancient times” (compare jb, frcl, gecl) (Clark and Hatton, 121).

And that’s really it for major changes in Habakkuk.

Zephaniah:

This book had some serious changes to it, though most of them are small or have been discussed in previous sections of this survey.

At 1.3, we see the following change:

NIV:  I will sweep away both men and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. The wicked will have only heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.

TNIV: “I will sweep away both people and animals; I will sweep away the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea— and the idols that cause the wicked to stumble.” “When I destroy all people on the face of the earth,” declares the Lord,

Both translations have a note that says that the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain. The major change is apparently not in the LXX, according to the NET Bible. Basically what it seems to come down to is that the Hebrew behind the NIV’s “rubble” could also be translated as “stumbling block.”

And there is more change in 1.4:

NIV: I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all who live in Jerusalem. I will cut off from this place every remnant of Baal, the names of the pagan and the idolatrous priests—

TNIV: I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all who live in Jerusalem. I will destroy every remnant of Baal worship in this place, every remembrance of the idolatrous priests

The first change appears to be stylistic, but the second, well, I’m not entirely sure what is going on.

At 1.14, the NIV’s “shouting of the warrior,” is changed in the TNIV to “The Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry.” The reason for the capitals being the divine referent of God.

The style of verse 1.17 is improved so that now the people don’t merely “walk like blind men,” but now “grope about like those who are blind.”

At 3.4, Jerusalem’s prophets are described as “unprincipled” and “cannot be trusted” in the TNIV rather than “arrogant” and “treacherous” in the NIV.

At 3.17, whereas the NIV has “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” the TNIV instead translates the verse as “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Regarding the first change, the TNIV appears to be (with my inadequate understanding of Hebrew and the tools I have) a more literal rendering, retaining the nominalization of the verb translated “save.” With that said, there is really very little difference between the two renderings.

On the second change, Clark and Hatton write,

Various attempts have been made to find a meaning for this, but none are convincing, and the mention of silence here clashes with the loud singing in the next clause (compare “Sing aloud … shout” in verse 14). Accordingly most modern translations follow the ancient Septuagint and Syriac versions and translate as he will renew you in his love or something very similar (200).

Other than that, I don’t know what to say about the TNIV’s rendering. The NIV is very similar to the marginal reading of the RSV.

Verses 18 and 19 of this chapter also have a large number of changes:

NIV: The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you. 19 At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame.

TNIV: I will remove from you all who mourn over the loss of your appointed festivals, which is a burden and reproach for you. 19 At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you. I will rescue the lame; I will gather the exiles. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they have suffered shame.

Most of these changes seem to mainly be minor, though the first change is definitely the most significant. Grammatically, the clause translated as, “who mourn over the loss of your appointed festival/sorrows for the appointed feasts,” is a participial clause, functioning as the object of the verb “remove.”

So in this verse, the TNIV does two things: 1) the TNIV adjusts the word order of the English to make it more natural (i.e. objects follow their verbs in English) and 2) they translated the participle in a different, but as far as I can tell, completely legitimate manner.

Haggai

There isn’t much change here, only 2.8%. These include changes in the English transliteration of proper names, oil to olive oil (a good clarification in the oil rich Middle East), and the change of cattle to livestock. All of these changes happen a couple of times and constitute the majority of the percentage.

Zechariah:

This book weighs in with a middle weight 4.9% difference. This is slightly heavier than the majority of the minor prophets, but no where close to Jonah or Zephaniah. And in 1.2, 3, 4, 6, we seen the same change four times in a row: forefathers to ancestors. This is a change we saw a lot in the historical books and in the Pentateuch. There are also plenty of places in the text where the NIV’s American measurements are replaced with the ancient measurements. We once again have cubits rather than feet. And we see the same proper name changes of previous books as well.

The next “big” change is at 2.7, where the NIV’s “After he has honored me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you” is changed to “After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you. Again there is no note, so this isn’t a textual problem. Simply put, in the Hebrew text, all we have is a prepositional phrase literally meaning, “after glory” (cf. Andersen-Forbes Phrase Marker Analysis). The NIV and TNIV simply take two different interpretations – and there, according to David Clark, eleven different options with varying levels of likelihood. But Clark and Hatton also says that the route followed by the TNIV is probably the best.

With so many different views available, it is impossible to give firm guidance to translators. Probably the first of the choices listed above is best. As Meyers & Meyers point out, the word translated sent me occurs again in the following verse with “the Lord of hosts” as subject, and this increases the likelihood that the Lord is also the subject here. So it seems best to interpret glory to refer to the Lord himself (Clark and Hatton, 111).

Our next significant change is at 4.10.

NIV: “Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “(These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range throughout the earth.)”

TNIV: “Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?”

The TNIV has a note at “chosen capstone” that says, “Or ‘plumb line.'” I really don’t have a clue about the changes in these verbs. Maybe someone else can shed some light on the Hebrew.

Malachi:

Lastly, Malachi has a 9.2% difference from the NIV, just between Jonah and Zephaniah. And in all honesty, none of these seem to be very large changes. The majority of them are only stylistic changes than only affect a word or two. As far as I can see, there are no textual changes or reinterpretations at all. And I’d say that the majority of the changes are ones that I’ve already covered elsewhere. The Bible is too large for me to continue to repeat myself. If I did, I would never finish this series.

Bibliography:

Andersen, Francis I., and A. Dean Forbes. The Hebrew Bible : Andersen-Forbes Phrase Marker Analysis. Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2005.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006.

Clark, David J., and Howard Hatton. A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Habakkuk. Helps for translators. New York: United Bible Societies, 1989.

Clark, David J., and Howard Hatton. A Handbook on Zechariah. UBS handbook series. New York: United Bible Societies, 2002.

Garret, Duane A. Vol. 19A, Hosea, Joel. electronic ed. Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1997.

Keil, Carl Friedrich, and Franz Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002.

Koehler, Ludwig, Walter Baumgartner, M.E.J Richardson, and Johann Jakob Stamm. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. electronic ed. Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999, c1994-1996.

Smith, Billy K., and Franklin S. Page. Vol. 19B, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah. electronic ed. Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1995.

Stuart, Douglas. Vol. 31, Word Biblical Commentary : Hosea-Jonah. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002.

van der Merwe, Christo. The Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004; 2004.

Waard, Jan de, William Allen Smalley, and William Allen Smalley. A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Amos. Helps for translators. Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1979.

11 thoughts on “NIV / TNIV – The Minor Prophets

  1. Whew, that’s quite a dissertation, Mike! It’s fantastic. I love the comparisons you’ve made here between the two translations. I like that you’re not only presenting but also trying to give some evaluation of the changes. Thanks!

  2. Kurk: Thanks, I just wish that I could have done more. I’m kind of hoping that John Hobbins will pop in and give some feedback on the places where I’m not sure.

    Wayne: Thanks!

    Jeff: Thanks! I’ll try to finish too.

  3. Wow. That was entertaining.

    I never know what to do when people emphasize the great benefit of Strongs #’s. Such tools can potentially help, but more often deceive the user into thinking they are actually getting back to the original language in a way that is reliable.

  4. “Rebuke your mother, rebuke her,
    for she is not my wife,
    and I am not her husband.
    Let her remove the adulterous look from her face
    and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts.

    This was unchanged in the TNIV. But why? Unfaithfulness having a (removable) physical location on the sternum doesn’t translate either the letter or the spirit of the Hebrew imagery. And there’s absolutely no way of physiologically categorizing a facial expression as adulterous. Seductive, yes. But adulterous is another whole level of meaning altogether.

    1. I could very easily do some work to find out, but for some reason you’ve decided to not actually reference the verse in question. So I really have no idea what you’re talking about.

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