Dr. Jim Hamilton and the New NIV’s Removal of Selah

Posted: October 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

NIV 2011 Removes Selah from the Biblical Text

by Dr. Jim Hamilton, Associate Professor of Biblical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He is also the Author of Crossway published God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment.

Rod Decker has drawn attention to the fact that the NIV 2011 puts the term Selah in the footnotes rather than in the text of the Psalms, and he suggests that the word should never be verbalized by those who read Scripture aloud. I like Rod Decker, but I think his post may be self-contradictory and seems to assume its conclusion. In my view, every word of the canonical form of the Psalter should be presented in the text of translations of the Psalter, factored into our interpretations of the Psalms, and verbalized by those who read the Psalms aloud. Far worse than Decker’s post is the NIV’s decision to remove something from the text of Scripture and place it instead in the footnotes.

Decker writes, “Selah is a bit mysterious, but probably is a musical notation that may have indicated a rest/pause.” What may be self-contradictory about this is the way that Decker first acknowledges that the term is mysterious (and see BDB 699–700 and HALOT 756) and then assumes the conclusion that it’s actually a musical term. He then pillories translations that keep it with a false analogy, suggesting that reading selah aloud or allowing it to inform our exegesis would be

‘a bit like singing these actual words in the Hallelujah Chorus: “Hallelujah! rest Hallelujah! rest Hallelujah! rest Hallelujah! rest Hallelujah! rest.” I doubt Handel would be pleased!’

The truth is that we don’t ultimately know what this word means, and its use is not uniform. It may be a musical notation, or it may signify something else entirely. Our ignorance and uncertainty, however, does not give us warrant for removing from the text something that is in all the textual evidence in our possession.

For reasons textual, structural, intertextual, cultural, and theological the NIV 2011 should reverse itself on this point and put the word Selah back where it belongs: in the text.

Read the rest of his post HERE.


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