Does the NIV 2010 Misrepresent The Day of the Lord?

This morning, as I was walking from my car to my tiny study carrel, a song popped into my head that I have not heard or sung since I was a child.  It goes like this:

This is the day,

(echo) This is the day,

That the Lord has made,

(echo) That the Lord has made,

I will rejoice,

(echo) I will rejoice,

And be glad in it,

(echo) And be glad in it,

You might recognize these words from Psalm 118, which looks forward to the Day of the Lord, when the rejected building stone (Jesus) has been made the capstone (exalted) by God.

I don’t know how God speaks to you.  I  know that not all of us hear him in the same way, but I also know that he is a God who is intimately involved in our lives and who communicates with us.  In my case, I often sense God’s direct witness to me in songs.  And when this happens it is usually through songs that are either obscure or that I have not heard in many years.

The song above continues these verses, but only briefly before repeating, and since I couldn’t get it out of my head I decided to look up and read the entire passage.

Psalm 118

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

2 Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”

3 Let the house of Aaron say:
“His love endures forever.”

4 Let those who fear the Lord say:
“His love endures forever.”

5 In my anguish I cried to the Lord,
and he answered by setting me free.

6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
I will look in triumph on my enemies.

8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in man.

9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.

10 All the nations surrounded me,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them off.

11 They surrounded me on every side,
but in the name of the Lord I cut them off.

12 They swarmed around me like bees,
but they died out as quickly as burning thorns;
in the name of the Lord I cut them off.

13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
but the Lord helped me.

14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.

15 Shouts of joy and victory
resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!

16 The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”

17 I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done.

18 The Lord has chastened me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.

19 Open for me the gates of righteousness;
I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.

20 This is the gate of the Lord
through which the righteous may enter.

21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;

23 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24 This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25 O Lord, save us;
O Lord, grant us success.

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
From the house of the Lord we bless you.

27 The Lord is God,
and he has made his light shine upon us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
up to the horns of the altar.

28 You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

This psalm is indeed a word for me from the Lord, and it is very personal, so I’ll not talk about that now.  What I do want to talk about is the way that the passage from my song this morning has been translated.  The version I posted above is the NIV 1984 version, which I have read for years as my standard text.  When I work on research or prepare sermons I use multiple versions (including original languages where necessary) to ensure that I am not merely reading a particular interpretation of the text.  But for devotions, I find it important to pick a version that you find readable and stick with it.  This aids with memorization, understanding, and overall continuity of the text.

Just this past year (2010), the text of the NIV was updated.  I have not begun using the new version, because I am quite happy with the older one, so I was surprised when I looked up the text of this Psalm in the NIV 2010 online and read a text different from what I remember.  Here are the two versions of the NIV text side-by-side:

NIV
1984
NIV
2010
Psalm 11822 The stone the builders rejectedhas become the capstone;

23 the Lord has done this,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24 This is the day the Lord has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

25 O Lord, save us;

O Lord, grant us success.

Psalm 11822 The stone the builders rejectedhas become the cornerstone;

23 the Lord has done this,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24 The Lord has done it this very day;

let us rejoice today and be glad.

25 Lord, save us!

Lord, grant us success!

What puzzles me is this; why change the translation of this one verse, when the rest of the Psalm has gone largely untouched? In fact, only two other words that I noticed were changed int he Psalm, and both substituted equivalent words and meaning, whereas the change to verse 24 is a complete re-translation which does indeed change the meaning.

The Hebrew text here reads:

זֶה־ הַ֭יֹּום עָשָׂ֣ה יְהוָ֑ה נָגִ֖ילָה וְנִשְׂמְחָ֣ה בֹֽו׃

This very roughly translates to:

This [is] the day he has made, the Lord, rejoice and exalt (or be glad) in it/him.

As we can see, the earlier 1984 translation come quite close to the Hebrew text, though I think it still misses the boat a bit.  Notice the last Hebrew word, bov, which can be translated as ‘in it’ or ‘in him’.  The question here is whether or not the ones who have been saved are to exalt in it, the day of the Lord, or in him, the Lord himself and his Holy One, the corner stone which the builders rejected (Jesus).  I would argue that the answer to this either/or question is a resounding YES!  We are to delight, be glad, or exalt in BOTH the day of the Lord and in God himself, the Holy One who has been raised.

So why does the NIV re-translation of verse 24 bother me so much?  Because this Psalm in written as a declaration of faith in things that had not yet come to pass as much as it is a recognition of the present reality of the Psalmist.  The Psalmist is, at the time of writing, declaring the present salvation of the Lord (God’s current work) but based on the hope of God’s promise to Israel which was not fully realized until Jesus of Nazareth (God incarnate) walked the earth, died on a cross, and was raised again by the power of God.

When we re-translate verse 24 as the NIV 2010 has done, we reduce the Psalm to a declaration of present salvation from enemies only, and we do not account for the prophetic message of God’s salvation for all humanity that has not yet come at the time of writing.

Just as Abraham placed his hope in what was promised by God, and was therefore declared righteous in His eyes, this Psalm looks forward to that same hope, a hope that has now been fulfilled through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  We must be careful not to purge the Old Testament text of this rich meaning.  We must not purge the Old Testament of ts witness to the future hope of Jesus.  Whether it was done intentionally or not, this is what I fear has happened with the re-translation of Psalm 118:24 in the NIV2010.  I only hope that this is not widespread in the text of the new version.

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