What is up with the NIV rendition of Hebrews 11:11? It seems to create the first half of the verse out of thin air. No other translation or Greek manuscript I have checked has it. The verse is really about Sarah, but the NIV makes it about Abraham. -- Ed Cox (Lowell, Massachusetts)

For the benefit of those listening in to our conversation, let's consider a few different Bible versions before we arrive at any conclusion. The NIV, as you mention, has: "By faith Abraham, even though he was past age -- and Sarah herself was barren -- was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise."

The more literal NAS has "By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised."

The Latin Vulgate reads "fide et ipsa Sarra sterilis virtutem in conceptionem seminis accepit etiam praeter tempus aetatis quoniam fidelem credidit esse qui promiserat," which agrees with the NAS and the Greek, "Pistei kai aute Sarra steira dynamin eis katabolen spermatos elaben kai para kairon helikias, epei piston hegesato ton epangeilamenon."

Like you, I checked the passage in many other translations and even a few of the European languages. But just for good measure, let's consider one more version, the NKJV: "By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged him faithful who had promised." Obviously, the NIV is in a class of its own, and your observation is on target.

If I may hazard a guess, the NIV translators are trying to respect context, to consider the flow of the Hebrew writer's argument. After all, verse 10 is about Abraham, and verse 12 is also about Abraham -- specifically about his becoming a father, in fulfillment of the divine promise (Genesis 15:5). In so doing, the NIV translators do in essence create words that are not in the original Greek. That may well help our understanding, but it will shock many of us when we consider that men decided to "help out" the text, supplying what was only implied. But then the NIV is not as strict a translation as many of the other versions available.

And that makes the NIV all the less suitable for serious study. My advice: study the text in more than one version, unless you are working from the original Greek. That means that, for most of us, we are going to take it up a notch in our Bible study.

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