Over Thanksgiving (the U.S. one for my Canadian friends) this last weekend one of the conversations I had with family (my family on both sides is filled with pastors) was about the change made in the NIV(2011) concerning the non-use of “saints”. The conversation entailed whether the change was necessary and why they would make such a break from other Protestant translations (ESV, NASU, NET, NIV, the KJV-family, NRS) that use “saints” in the NT in such a place as Ephesians 1:1 for translating the Greek ἁγίοις.
While I have enjoyed the “shock-factor” as a preacher of having folks in church turn to one another in recognition of being “saints”…in my personal translations I’ve inevitably translated ἁγίοις as something more like “holy ones” or some such term. In part because of the connotations that it bears for many folks about people long since dead who had a mystical connection to God and supernatural abilities that no one else can expect to have as a ‘normal’ follower of Jesus.
The NIV(2011) rendering of Ephesians 1:1 has “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:” (bold added for emphasis). Interestingly enough the Catholic translations have purposely avoided the very connotations inherent in their theological system by translating it as “holy ones” (NAB) and “holy people” (NJB). The NCV, NLT, TNIV opted for “holy people” so it seems only natural that the NIV(2011) would follow this translational trend. I find it preferable and think the choice bears less weight for people who are reading it and don’t differentiate the language of “saints” in Catholic dogma from “saints” as represented by the New Testament usage of ἁγίοις. To be sure, those two definitions are worlds apart (as even the Catholic renderings testify).
I’d be interested to know what others think about this trend in the most recent translations and what your own translational choice of the matter is?