Professor Remembered as NIV Translator

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Rev. John Stek didn’t promote himself. But the Calvin Theological Seminary Old Testament professor was known in some circles as the godfather of the popular New International Version of the Bible.

More than 300 million copies of the NIV have been published since it was released in 1978. The NIV is highly accessible to contemporary readers, and yet, partly because of Stek’s insistence, is full of important details that adhere to the original Greek and Hebrew translations.

Stek died June 6, 2009. A memorial service in his honor was held at Calvin Seminary.

“John Stek has had a greater role in the translation of this Bible than any other person,” said Douglas Moo, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College and a member of the committee that oversees publication of the NIV.

Moo spoke of Stek’s tenacity for detail and commitment to listening to the text. He expressed his amazement at Stek’s long leadership of the project that included creation of the popular NIV Study Bible. He said that only Stek’s wife, Nadine, could truly appreciate how many hours of her husband’s life had been given to this effort.

Stek made a singular contribution in his translation of the Psalms and his Study Bible footnotes on the Psalms. His passion was not only to be technically accurate in translating them, but also to understand and communicate their broad theological vision.

He maintained that the gravitational center of the Psalms as a whole is the message “God reigns.” Psalm 103, which Stek interpreted as a compendium of the content of the entire psalter, was his first love and formed the liturgical framework for his memorial service.

“For the rest of my life when I read the Psalms I will hear, along with the Lord’s voice, the voice of John Stek,” Moo said.

Born and raised in Oskaloosa, Iowa, Stek graduated from CTS in 1952 and served a Christian Reformed congregation in Raymond, Minn., before teaching at the seminary.

About the Author

Duane Kelderman is interim pastor at Faith Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Mich. He is a convener of the realignment project described in this article.

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