The purpose of Matt’s post was to study how the NIV 2010 differs from the NIV 1984 in the translation of the word “confess” (Greek ομολογεω). What Matt discovered was that there were few changes between the two translations. Matt finished his post as follows:
So you can see not all instances were actually a change from the 1984 edition. In many of those places they kept it the same. The toughest place for me on this is the Gospel of John. John is big about confessing Christ both in his Gospel and in his letters. Yet, the 2010 NIV only sees fit to have John use it once. For such a big theme that is a little uncalled for. The context is key. I am perfectly fine with some of their decisions where acknowledge makes perfect sense. But confession implies some things that profess or acknowledge do not (guilt being one) and I think that language still has biblical use, so I hate to see it go in such a wholesale manner as it is in the 2010 NIV.
In a comment on my Facebook page, Matt asked me whether I had done a study of the word “confess” in the NIV 2010 to see if they are refraining from using the word “confess.” I told Matt that I had not done such a study, but that I would do a survey and see what I discovered.
Matt’s concern was that the translators of the NIV 2010 were avoiding the use of the word “confess.” Matt wrote on his Facebook comment: “If you do a search for that word you will quickly see that they chose to rarely use that word.”
If the translator of the NIV 2010 were avoiding the use of the word “confess,” then that would be a matter of concern. So, I decided to investigate this issue and this is what I found. However, I have to confess that my conclusions are provisory, since I do not have a copy of the NIV 2010, but had to check the translation online.
In the NIV 1984, the words “confess” and “confession” appear 19 times in the following verses:
Leviticus 5:5: “confess”
Leviticus 16:21: “confess”
Leviticus 26:40: “confess”
Numbers 5:7: “confess”
1 Samuel 7:6: “confessed”
1 Kings 8:33: “confess”
1 Kings 8:35: “confess”
2 Chronicles 6:24: “confess”
2 Chronicles 6:26: “confess”
Ezra 10:1: “confessing”
Ezra 10:11: “make confession”
Nehemiah 1:6 “confess”
Nehemiah 9:2: “confessed”
Nehemiah 9:3: “confession”
Psalm 32:5: “confess”
Psalm 38:18: “confess”
Proverbs 28:13: “confesses”
Daniel 9:4: “confessed”
Daniel 9:20: “confessing”
When I checked the same verses in the NIV 2010, I discovered the following: The NIV 2010 uses confess in all but five of these verses. Below is a list where the NIV 2010 differs from the NIV 1984:
1 Kings 8:33: “give praise”
1 Kings 8:35: “give praise”
2 Chronicles 6:24: “give praise”
2 Chronicles 6:26: “give praise”
Ezra 10:11: “honor” (with a footnote indicating another possible translation: “make confession”).
Thus, the NIV 2010 is very consistent in following the translation of the NIV 1984 when it comes to the word “confess” and “confession.” The differences in the five passages can be explained by a brief study of the word “confess” in Hebrew.
The Hebrew word יָדָה (yādâ) can be translated as “confess,” “praise,” and “give thanks.” This is how The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament explains the meaning of yādâ:
The root verb is employed three basic ways. First, it was used to convey the acknowledgment or confession of sin, individually or nationally. The basic idea was clearly observed in David's personal confession described in Psa 32:5 in which the poetic parallelism demonstrates that confession was making known the sin to God and not hiding it. It is important to note that the confession of sin is to be made to God. The epitome of national confession is found in the Day of Atonement ceremony when the high priest laid his hands on the head of the goat, thereby symbolically transferring the nation's sins on to the goat, while the high priest confessed aloud all the sins of the nation of Israel (Lev 16:21 ). The Hithpael form is normally employed when this verb is used to convey the confession of national sins. This stem was also employed when the great confessions of Israel's sins were made by Daniel (Dan 9:4, 20), Ezra (Ezr 10:1), Nehemiah (Neh 1:6), and the people of Israel (Neh 9:2-3) during and after the Babylonian captivity. National confessions of sin were normally public. God greatly desires that we acknowledge our sins before him (cf. 1Jn 1:9) in order to maintain a proper relationship with him
This means that in these five texts, the NIV 2010 decided to adopt the meaning of the word as “give praise,” rather than adopting the meaning of the word as “confess.” Here is how five translations translate the five verses:
1 Kings 8:33 and 1 Kings 8:35
HCSB: “ praise”
2 Chronicles 6:24 and 2 Chronicles 6:26
NRSV: “make confession”
RSV: “ make confession”
KJV: “make confession”
TNK: “ make confession”
HCSB: “make a confession”
One notices that the versions differ in their translations of the Kings and Chronicles passages, but they all agree in their translation of Ezra.
Finally, one must also note that whenever the NIV 2010 differs from the NIV 1984, they do so because they follow the translation of the TNIV. This then is another place where the NIV 2010 departs from the NIV 1984 to follow the TNIV.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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Tags: Hebrew Bible, Confess, Confession, NIV 2010