Thursday, October 27, 2022

Today on the show, we remember the debut of the best-selling English translation of the Bible.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 27th of October 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Hey everybody- Dan here. Can I ask something of you real quick before the show gets going? I can’t tell you why right now- but it would be VERY helpful if all or some of you, or most of you, wrote to me at and told me which episodes, stories, or characters you have liked the most. If you’re on Twitter, you can respond there, or if you’re one of the people listening who have exchanged awkward texts with me, you can text too (I’m terrible at texting but even worse talking on the phone…). Thanks so much!

I don’t like to throw quizzes at you- but if you are a regular listener, you might not remember the date that the RSV translation was first published, but do you remember on whose feast day it was? It was St. Jerome, and I can’t believe it was a coincidence that this massive bible project would choose a day such as Jerome’s to launch- after all, he was the man behind the Vulgate, the most significant translation of the Bible in the Middle Ages.

And if you remember, there was some backlash against that Bible from some conservatives who set about to work on their own Bible translation. And it was on this, the 27th of October in 1978, that the committee published their answer to the RSV, the NIV. And I can’t believe it was a coincidence that they chose today- the feast day and birthday of none other than Erasmus. The man whose Bible corrected Jerome’s Vulgate and was part of what sparked the Reformation. A+ level troll NIV committee. Let’s look at the NIV today- the best-selling translation of the Bible in English.

It was in the 1960s that the project got off the ground- it was a joint plan between the CRC (Christian Reformed Church) and the National Association of Evangelicals. If you remember that the NAE was formed as a rebuke of Fundamentalists and formed the “new Evangelicals,” the NIV can best be understood. Just like the NAE, the NIV was a conservative middle ground for those who didn’t want to use the RSV but thought that The King James Version had become too antiquated for regular use.

The groups worked in conjunction with the New York Bible Society (now called Biblica) at the cost of over 80 million dollars. The manuscript tradition followed was the same as the RSV, so both new bibles would follow the latest textual trends that would include the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The translation took over 100 translators who worked in sub-committees, had their work then sent to a general editor and then to the committee that finally approved the work. To assure the conservative bonafides of the translators, they agreed to subscribe to ‘The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs’; or to the statements on Scripture in the Westminster Confession, the Belgic Confession, the New Hampshire Confession, or the creedal basis of the National Association of Evangelicals; or to some other comparable statement.”

Unlike the RSV committee, the NIV Old Testament translators agreed to translate Old Testament prophecies in light of the New Testament. Thus the “maiden” who would give birth in Isaiah is translated as “virgin.” Furthermore, in Genesis 2, the language implies that it is a continuation of the creation narrative in Genesis 1 and not a separate narrative. There have been other controversies (as there are with all translations). Still, the NIV committee made a novel decision to continually update the translation based on new discoveries and changes in vernacular English. It was updated in both 1984 and 2011- the newest version uses some gender-neutral language. It maintains a balance between a strict word-for-word basis for translation and a thought-for-thought translation that makes for easier reading.

Today we remember this Bible, a giant in English translations along with the RSV and its updates, this one, and the New International Version released on this day, Erasmus’ birthday (!) in 1978.

The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from 2 Corinthians 1:

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 27th of October 2022, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man who prefers his translations in either elvish or Klingon. He is Christopher Gillespie

The show is written and read by a man who is a reluctant Phillies fan for the next week or so; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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