NIrV Giant Print Holy Bible, editor unknown
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.]
Many readers may think that the NIrV listed as the title of this translation of the Bible is a typo, but the lowercase r and the capital for N, I, and V are deliberate. From time to time I review Bible translations and versions , and this one has a particular targeted purpose that is worth discussing as it makes a big difference in how this particular version reads. Although the anonymous editors, who are apparently part but not the full body of the NIV Committee on bible Translation, believe this version would appeal to children, its absence of pictures or maps of any kind likely would not endear itself to young readers, and the fact that it is a very large book, as my Sabbath School students commented on when I brought it to help teach a class on Noah’s flood, would also make it less appealing to young people. Nevertheless, there is a clear and large audience that would find this Bible at least somewhat appealing, given the fact that it is the New International Readers Version of the Bible, and a giant print one at that, and that audience is made up of people whose eyes are not very good who need the large print and whose vocabulary in English is not very good, and so having a bible with an extremely simplified vocabulary as this one is useful in aiding comprehension.
It is difficult to convey, especially in the sort of language that I use, just how bare-bones this Bible is. Everything about this book is designed for a reader whose ability to comprehend the text of the Bible itself is so doubtful that the book lacks marginal notes, cross sections, introductory sections for books of the Bible, or concordances. There are, it should be noted, some samples of Bible stories, and there are headings for sections, and, tellingly, there is a dictionary for words that may be unfamiliar to the readers of this Bible, including the following examples, taken more or less at random: fast, holy, Israel, judge, kingdom, law, obey, pierce, praise, right hand, Sabbath, saved, soul, tomb, virgin, and widow, to give a few of many such examples. Given that most of these words are fairly basic, but have to be defined because the intended of the audience is not likely to know them, it appears that this Bible is being designed for people who lack a basic and fundamental grasp of the English language. My feelings about this are somewhat complicated. On the one hand, I commend the editors for wishing to make this Bible clear enough to be understood, but at the same time I feel that a great deal of meaning and nuance are lost when a text is reduced to such a small set of words without any sort of critical analysis to help people tie verses together or get a sense of the tone and mood, and poetry, of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. It would seem that the effort of translation would be better spent in the languages that people speak the best, so that they may bring their full understanding and linguistic competence to bear on it, rather than trying to muddle through a drastically oversimplified version of the Bible in a language that is beyond their skill.
It is difficult to describe the level of oversimplification that this version of the Bible demonstrates, and best to show it. As a point of reference, here is how the New King James Version, a readily comprehensible contemporary translation, gives Ephesians 2:4-7, a single sentence in this translation: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Here is how the NIrV gives this same passage: “But God loves us deeply. He is full of mercy. So he gave us new life because of what Christ has done. He gave us life even when we were dead in sin. God’s grace has saved you. God raised us up with Christ. He has seated us with him in his heavenly kingdom. That’s because we belong to Christ Jesus. He has done it to show the riches of his grace for all time to come. His grace can’t be compared with anything else. He has shown it by being kind to us. He was kind to us because of what Christ Jesus has done.” Admittedly, Paul’s language is challenging for others to read, but there is a great deal of depth and meaning being conveyed that is lost when one long and glorious and complicated sentence is chopped up into a dozen short propositions that fail to capture in twelve sentences what Paul’s writing says in one. Those who read this Bible, and use it for their own study, are likely to know only a partial aspect of even the surface meaning of what Paul says, and if that is better than nothing, it would surely be better for them to read a good Bible translation in their native language.
Beyond these concerns, and the mix between an admiration of the effort that has been taken to simplify the Bible as a way of helping people to learn English and a sense of concern that the simplification was done without any focus on the layered depth of meaning that is found in the Bible as well as its poetry, the Bible, as it springs from the NIV, has all of the usual limitations and problems that come from that. That is to say, the translation has a marked bias for unrepresentative Alexandrian texts and a marked bias against the majority Byzantine text, and has a tendency of dropping verses because they are dropped in one or more of a small set of dubious manuscripts. All of these are matters that have been commented elsewhere, and they are not new ones, and this version of the Bible adds to that reduction process because it is being written for people who do not have a grasp of nuance or large vocabulary within the English language. Those readers, for example, who can understand this book review in English would be far advanced beyond the level of vocabulary to be found in the Bible. Those who can understand it in translation can likely find better Bibles in their own languages. Even so, despite this, one must honor the attempt to reach other people, even if that attempt appears to be misguided.
So, what sort of audience would this Bible be of great worth for? For one, it appears to be the sort of Bible that parents could easily read to their children, even if their children were not reading for themselves. The sort of literal questions as far as what a given verse meant in a more complicated translation would be answered by the direct and straightforward and simple sentences found here. Likewise, this Bible would be of worth to those who have a basic or partial literacy and have a sincere interest in the Bible but whose vocabulary is limited and who find it difficult to understand most translations of the Bible. This is especially so since many contemporary Bible translations appear more interested in diverse word variety than in conveying a simple and straightforward point through the use of a consistent vocabulary. Those readers who need a point conveyed in a simple fashion, for whatever reason, will find this Bible to be of value. Let us hope they are able to appreciate it well, as there are few Bibles being made with such goals in mind.
 See, for example: