In an earlier post, I talked about how the NIV (which I generally like) plays unfortunate sectarian games with its translations. The example I gave was this one: the word paradosis means “tradition,” and the NIV translates it as “tradition” when its used in a negative sense in Scripture (when Christ condemns the Pharisees’ adherence to traditions of men over the word of God in Mt. 15:1-9). But when St. Paul talks about the Traditions we’re bound to hold, in 1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, and 2 Thessalonians 3:6, the NIV translates the exact same word as “teachings,” instead.
This reinforces the Evangelical error that Christ condemns Tradition, rather than condemning specific traditions which were obstructing obedience to the Gospel. And it fuels ignorance: St. Paul says we’re called to obey Apostolic Tradition, whether passed on in Scripture (“by epistle”) or word of mouth (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Protestantism has long been uncomfortable with that passage, but the NIV’s solution to simply change what it says is obviously unacceptable. (For the record, there is a Greek word for “teachings”: it’s didaktos, and it’s used in Matthew 15:9).
Well, Patrick Vandapool, who has a hilarious blog, makes a quite serious point: that the NIV also does this in dealing with works, as well as Tradition. In translating the same word, ergon (which means “works”), here’s what Patrick found:.
If the word ἔργον is used in a negative sense, it is translated as “work” 10 times and as “deed” 7 times.More revealing is…If the word ἔργον is used in a positive sense, it is translated as “work” 0 (zero) times and and as “deed” 17 times.
I haven’t researched this one myself, but given what I’ve seen, it’s not altogether surprising. Certainly, Bibles are translated by teams of translators who don’t always translate the same word consistently. And sometimes, there are even good reasons to translate the same word in two (or more) different ways, depending on the context.
But here, the translation seems obviously sectarian. Evangelicals accuses Catholics of defying Scripture by (1) holding to Sacred Tradition in addition to Scripture, and (2) by allegedly practicing “works-righteousness,” or in having too high a view of the role of works, generally. What the NIV editors have done is stack the Scriptural deck, and in the process, have introduced two new teachings:
- “Teachings” are good, but “traditions” are bad;
- “Deeds” can be good, but “works” are bad.
Significantly, these teachings weren’t taught in the Bible, until the NIV changed what the Bible said!