Dr. Douglas Moo on the NIV and the future of Bible translation [interview]

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Douglas Moo. You may have heard his name before, especially if you’re a big student on the book of Romans. Dr. Moo is chair of the Committee on Bible Translation, the body of scholars responsible for keeping the NIV Bible translation up to date.

Dr. Douglas MooAnd it’s a big year for the NIV. This translation been around for 50 years now (which is a lot longer than I’ve been around). Plus, this year saw the launch of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, a dream come true for those of us who love studying the Bible book by book.

Dr. Moo was kind enough to answer a few questions that I sent his way, and I’m excited to share them with you! (Thanks so much for your time, Dr. Moo!)

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Why publishers change the Bible (and that’s OK)

English Bible translations get updated from time to time, and that means the Bible, as we read it, can change. And these aren’t just updates that change “thee” and “thou” to “you.” These can be rather substantial:

  • Words get rearranged.
  • Phrases can disappear.
  • Entire verses are pulled out.

Often our first response (mine too sometimes) is, “Why?! Who’s gutting the Word of God? Who’s messing with the Scriptures? LEMME AT ‘EM!”

Well, the issue comes down to the concept of textual criticism. Unfortunately, it’s a concept that doesn’t come up much in church, or in small group, or in Sunday school.

Textual criticism is examining old manuscripts to find the best way to communicate what the original authors meant.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that. A LOT. It’s a process that involves scholars (who have dedicated their lives to studying ancient Greek and Hebrew documents) poring over countless ancient manuscripts to help us hear and read and know what the biblical authors had in mind.

It’s a touchy, heady concept, so I tried to do some digging for an infographic that explained how it works. Then I grew impatient and made my own. :-)

Here’s a high-level, illustrated explanation of what textual criticism is. (The stats are from a 2012 interview between Justin Taylor and Daniel B. Wallace.)

If you find this helpful, please share it. We Christians need to understand how the Bible is translated!



Every Bible chapter in 2 words: meet Gregg Farah

gregg-farah-bible-chapter-summaryBible geeks, meet Pastor Gregg Farah. Gregg is one of those friends of mine that I met through this Overview Bible Project adventure, and I’ve shared some of his gems here and there with you before.

Gregg’s a pastor in New York and a consultant with The Slingshot Group (a sweet group of staff headhunters for churches). He’s the author of a few discipleship books. And he’s a pizza snob, which means if you need a pizza recommendation, you should hit him up on Twitter.

But that’s not why I’m introducing him here. Gregg has completed a project that I thought you might like to know about: He’s summarized every chapter of the Bible in just two words (or fewer)! That’s the kind of project that makes me pretty giddy, and I wanted to know more about how he did it.

So, here’s an interview I did with Gregg Farah

Jeffrey Kranz: Summarizing every chapter of the Bible in two words or less—how did you come up with this idea?

Gregg Farah: Our church was about to begin a year long campaign called “Cover to Cover” where our entire year’s teaching series was based on our reading through the Bible. I knew it would be a way to keep me disciplined to stay on top of my reading while hopefully also being a helpful resource for people in the church. But really, I just needed the accountability to stay on task! I thought it would be a fun and creative way to see the Bible through a new lens and it worked.


Jeffrey Kranz: What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from this project?

Gregg Farah: The Bible is incredible. Regardless of how many times you read it, it’s always fresh. I intentionally kept my entries short, focusing on one Big Idea, but it would have been easy to list several Big Ideas for each passage.

The Bible is simple. It’s amazing how several themes are repeated over and over again (God is with us, God is for us, there is blessing in obedience, etc.). I’m prone to try to expand on biblical themes when I teach when really the message is simple: God loves us and we need to do things God’s way.

God is incredibly patient and gracious. We human beings are quite the group. Many of us wish God would speak clearly to us today as he did during many seasons in Old Testament. But it didn’t always work out for people then and, sadly, I don’t think it would make much of a difference today. We are a people who desperately need God and require his holding our hands. I’m so glad God is patient.


Jeffrey Kranz: How has your project helped your local church?

Gregg Farah: It provided discussion points (or opportunities to disagree) and “ah-ha” moments for people who got bogged down in some challenging portions of Scripture. Often, the pictures helped people connect to the text easier than my words. (The pictures were my favorite part.)


Jeffrey Kranz: This is going to be a tough one: which chapter of the Bible would you say is your favorite?

Gregg Farah: You’re right…that is tough. I’m sure I could give you a favorite from each week. But in this moment I’d have to say 3 John. I LOVE the picture from that entry. It shows a child literally walking in his father’s footsteps. It is a beautiful picture of discipleship and how we are called to emulate Christ’s character.


Jeffrey Kranz: When I was writing overviews of every book of the Bible, I found that 1 John was by far the toughest book to overview. I can only imagine what it was like at the chapter level. Which chapter was the most difficult to summarize?

Gregg Farah: I think in general it would have to be some of the prophetic books because they are not always so clear, at least to me and my exegetical skill.


Jeffrey Kranz: You wrapped up this project at the end of last year. What’s next?

Gregg Farah: I previously started a series of books called the ’52 series’. I wrote the first two and almost finished the third but that got pushed to the side as I worked on this project. So I’d like to dust off those electronic files and get it done.


Jeffrey Kranz: What advice would you give to someone who wants to know more about the Bible?

Gregg Farah: Read it and read it some more. But also read it experientially…journal, draw, sing, act, etc. My book 52 Ways to Grow Your Faith deals with many of those ideas. I’d also emphasize not being intimidated by questions. Questions are good. Let your questions inspire you to dig in and learn more.


Jeffrey Kranz: Besides serving as a pastor, you work with Slingshot Group. What is that?

Gregg Farah: Slingshot Group helps churches hire great staff and helps candidates find a terrific place to minister. Most of us at Slingshot work at a local church, so we love the church and thoroughly enjoy serving as matchmakers between churches seeking quality staff and gifted minister looking for the right place to serve.

More from Gregg Farah

First off, a big thanks to Gregg for doing this interview with me!

If you want to read more of Gregg’s work, you can find his books on Amazon.com or even less expensive through his website.