Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) easy-to-read Bible translation for young readers and English language learners has more than 8.5 million copies in print worldwide, being jointly published by Zondervan and Biblica since 1996.
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Tell us about yourself and your work.
Jeannine K. Brown, PhD: I have taught New Testament at Bethel Seminary (Saint Paul, MN) for over 25 years. My PhD work focused on the Gospels and I continue to love teaching and writing in this area (for example, see my recent book The Gospels as Stories). I was asked to become a member of the Committee on Bible Translation for the NIV in 2010 and have been a member of this committee for 11 years now. My husband, Tim, and I live in Saint Paul and love spending time with our two adult daughters, their husbands, and our two grandchildren.
How long have you been on the NIrV translation committee and why did you decide to become a part of this committee?
Jeannine K. Brown, PhD: I was asked to join the NIrV committee in 2011 with the goal of working with the team to revise the translation (which was published in 2014). So, I’ve been a part of the work on the NIrV for over ten years. I was drawn to this endeavor because I value translations that make God’s Word accessible to all ages and reading levels. I thought the work would stretch me to think creatively about how to bring the language of the Bible into easily accessible speech. And it has!
Jeannine K. Brown, PhD: Although each of us on the committee work together on all parts of the Bible, my expertise is in the Greek New Testament. My role in this area has been to represent what any specific New Testament author intended to communicate as we work as a team to bring that interpretation into highly accessible English.
How has your involvement with the Committee on Bible Translation, the group that oversees the NIV text, helped you as you’ve been working on the NIrV translation committee?
Jeannine K. Brown, PhD: An important part of our task for the NIrV is to ensure that it aligns with the NIV, but with less complicated phrasing and less complex vocabulary. Knowing how the CBT works with the original languages to produce the English of the NIV has helped me take the next step to bring the language of the NIV into wording more appropriate for readers of the NIrV. In some cases, the NIrV committee has wrestled with the precise meaning of the NIV in a particular Bible text, so being a member of the NIV committee has helped in these moments.
Is the NIrV a true translation of the original manuscripts or just a simplification of the NIV?
Jeannine K. Brown, PhD: I’d like to answer a both/and to that question! It is true that one important goal of the NIrV is its alignment of meaning with the NIV, so we use and refer to the NIV regularly in our work together. We always have in view how the NIV is translating the Hebrew or Greek, and we routinely look at all three (e.g., a verse in the Greek, in the NIV, and in the NIrV) to ensure that we are “getting it right” for our NIrV readers. For this reason, I would describe the NIrV as a true translation.
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Does the NIrV go through the same regular review that the NIV does?
Jeannine K. Brown, PhD: Since I came on the committee in 2011, the NIrV has been in a regular review process. Part of this involves integrating the NIV’s as-yet-unpublished changes into the NIrV in ways that are appropriate for our readers. It also involves continuing to read the NIrV and working on passages that may be less clear than they could be for the intended audience.
Who do you feel are the audiences that benefit most from using the NIrV?
Jeannine K. Brown, PhD: The more I’ve worked with the NIrV, the more I am convinced it is helpful for quite a few different audiences. People often think of it as a translation for children since it is geared toward a third-grade reading level. Yet our goal in the revision work has also been to consider other audiences who may not, for whatever reason, be able to read English at, say, a high-school level. These audiences include those for whom English is a second (or third) language, as well as those who for whatever reason have difficulties understanding the terms and concepts in the Bible. I would also note that we have readers who simply enjoy the NIrV’s clarity as a complement to what might be their usual translation. All of our efforts have focused on retaining the beauty of the biblical messages while putting them into clear and uncomplicated English. One of my favorite examples is John 1:18, which reads in the NIrV: “No one has ever seen God. But the One and Only is God and is at the Father’s side. The one at the Father’s side has shown us what God is like.”
What translation challenges has the committee faced while working on the NIrV?
Jeannine K. Brown, PhD: At some points, the task of the NIrV team is more difficult than translations that aim toward a higher reading level, since there are quite a number of important theological terms in English that likely are not understandable to our target audience. Words like “righteousness” and “sanctify” can be difficult words to read and understand. So, we need to think carefully about how to best communicate the ideas that these words express, based on the Greek or Hebrew terms they come from and the way in which they are used in specific contexts.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Jeannine K. Brown, PhD: One of my favorite passages is Matthew 11:28-30, where we hear an invitation from Jesus to follow him as disciples. Verse 28 in the NIrV reads, “Come to me, all you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest.”
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Jeannine K. Brown, PhD: I have used all of these! I so appreciate being able to quickly and easily access not just the NIV and NIrV, but also so many other English translations. I can compare translations of a single verse, read or listen to large sections of biblical text, and access the Scriptures when I don’t have a physical copy of the Bible with me.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Jeannine K. Brown, PhD: I’m so grateful for the original work on the NIrV by an earlier generation of translators. We celebrate their vision and the hard work that brought the NIrV into existence 25 years ago. And I pray the NIrV will continue to serve the needs of diverse audiences for many, many years to come.
Read interviews with the other translators of the New International Reader’s Version:
The New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Jeannine K. Brown, Ph.D began teaching New Testament at Bethel Seminary in 1995, specializing in biblical hermeneutics, the gospel of Matthew, and 1 Peter. Her publications include Scripture as Communication, Becoming Whole and Holy, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, and Matthew (Teach the Text Commentary series).