In 1955, Howard Long, a businessman and member of a Christian Reformed congregation in Seattle, Wash., encouraged his pastor, Peter De Jong, to bring before the consistory the idea of a new English translation of the Bible. Long wanted to use the language people actually spoke so that he could more effectively witness to others about the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
His suggestion was the genesis of an effort that would ultimately lead to the production of the New International Version (NIV) translation of the Bible, read today by more than 450 million English-speaking Christians around the world.
Long’s idea struggled through—and sometimes against—a classis, a synod, a study committee, an advisory committee, and a couple more synods before finally being formally commissioned at an ecumenical meeting of evangelical church leaders and scholars at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill. That was 1965—50 years ago.
From the beginning, the CRC through Calvin Theological Seminary has invested in this effort. Professors Andrew Bandstra, John H. Stek, Bastiaan Van Elderen, Marten Woudstra, and Martin J. Wyngaarden all contributed their time, energy, and expertise to the NIV.
Today, Michael Williams, professor of Old Testament at the seminary, continues the participation of the CRC on the ecumenical translation team, also serving as its secretary.
The team meets every year to discuss the NIV and possible updates to the text.
The NIV story is one example of how the CRC, through its seminary faculty, was able to do more together with biblical scholars and leaders outside the denomination to serve the church worldwide. And it all started with one persistent parishioner who wanted a Bible “both readable in contemporary language and reliable to the original texts.”
Calvin Seminary looks forward to celebrating the NIV at 50 years on October 8 and 9—to recount its history and to recall with humble gratitude God’s guidance and grace on this project, sparked and fueled by passion for God’s Word.
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