I am a fairly recent convert to Catholicism from Evangelical/Fundamentalist Protestantism, so for years I was only exposed to the NIV. Zondervan’s marketing of the NIV would make any “secular” publisher jealous. I’ve found the NIV to be generally readable but there are SERIOUS shortcomings–serious and dangerous. Let me share a personal story to explain.
About four years ago two friends of mine were were heading toward divorce. Just to be clear, we were all Evangelicals at the time. I was mainly friends with the husband but I was also close with the wife. Both were very committed Christians when they married only 3 years before. The husband was the main “culprit.” He had all but renounced his faith, told her he didn’t want to be married to her any longer, and, after a couple months of separation, committed adultery. She was willing to try to work things out until the adultery occurred. She was unsure about divorce and asked me if I thought she was justified in seeking one. I consulted my trusty NIV, which told me:
“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matt 19:9
So, I told her she had every right. Her family and all her Evangelical friends did too. However, anyone familiar with the controversy over this translation of Matt 19:9 knows that the Greek word translated by the NIV as “marital unfaithfulness,” i.e. adultery, porneia does not mean adultery. It means generally unlawful or perverse sexual relations, such as unlawful marriages between siblings. What Jesus meant was that unless the marriage is unlawful, i.e. invalid or actually nonexistent, one cannot divorce and remarry. The NIV translation fits well with Protestants’ acceptance of divorce and remarriage. It does not fit well with Catholic teaching.
Now, I don’t assume blame for the breakup of their marriage or anything like that. It was an honest mistake on my and everyone else’s part. But it was a mistake!One that had significant consequences. I ask myself what would have happened had we all been working with an accurate, unbiased translation?
This experience alone has made me always check for a translation’s imprimatur!