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What is the New International Version (NIV)?

New International Version, NIV audio

The New International Version (NIV) was conceived in 1965 when, after several years of study by committees from the Christian Reformed Church and the National Association of Evangelicals, a trans-denominational and international group of scholars met at Palos Heights, Illinois, and agreed on the need for a new translation in contemporary English. Their conclusion was endorsed by a large number of church leaders who met in Chicago in 1966. Responsibility for the version was delegated to a self-governing body of fifteen biblical scholars, the Committee on Bible Translation, and in 1967, the New York Bible Society undertook the financial sponsorship of the project. In 1973 the New Testament was published. The first printing of the entire Bible was in 1978. Additional changes were made in 1983. Versions based on the NIV are the New International Version – UK (NIVUK) and the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV), an “easier to read and understand” version of the NIV. In 2005, a significant revision of the NIV, known as the Today’s New International Version, was published by Zondervan. The TNIV’s primary change from the NIV is a more gender-inclusive translation of certain terms. Because of its controversial gender inclusiveness, the TNIV was the subject of a great deal of criticism from the evangelical world and went out of print in 2009.

In March 2011, the publisher of the NIV, Zondervan, issued a new edition, the 2011 New International Version. This edition replaced the 1984 NIV, which will no longer be published. Like its predecessor, the TNIV, the 2011 NIV was translated using gender-neutral translation rules, resulting in the replacement of gender-specific words (e.g. man, woman, he, she, son, daughter) with gender-neutral words (e. g. person, they, child). In many cases these replacements are made even when the original language clearly intends a specific gender. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which reviewed the 2011 NIV, issued a statement saying they could not recommend the 2011 NIV because of "over 3,600 gender-related problems" that were previously in its critique of the TNIV. It is crucial to understand that from 2011 on, the NIV will not be the same NIV the world has known and loved since 1984. When purchasing a Bible, “NIV” will now mean the 2011 NIV. Previously printed copies of the 1984 NIV will be sold out and no longer available. When an author quotes a Bible passage in a book and notes it as coming from the NIV, it will probably be the 2011 NIV.

New International Version - Translation method
The translation of each book of the Bible was assigned to a team of scholars, and the work was thoroughly reviewed and revised at various stages by three separate committees. The lead committee submitted the developing version to stylistic consultants for their suggestions. Samples of the translation were tested for clarity and ease of reading by various groups of people. The committee held to certain goals for the NIV: that it be an “accurate, beautiful, clear, and dignified translation suitable for public and private reading, teaching, preaching, memorizing, and liturgical use.” The NIV is known especially as a "thought for thought" or “dynamic equivalence” translation rather than a “word for word” translation.

New International Version - Pros and Cons
Probably the greatest strength of the New International Version is its readability. The NIV is rendered in smoothly flowing and easy-to-read English. One weakness of the NIV is that it occasionally delves into interpretation rather than strict translation. In the NIV, some passages are translated with more of a “this is what the translator thinks the text means” instead of “this is what the text says.” In many instances, the NIV likely has a correct “interpretation” but that misses the point. A Bible translation should take what the Bible says in the original languages and say the same thing in the new language, leaving the interpretation to the reader with the aid of the Holy Spirit. The greatest ‘con’ of the 2011 NIV, of course, is the inclusion of gender-neutral language and the necessity of interpreting rather than translating in order to present a more culturally sensitive or politically correct version.

New International Version - Sample Verses
John 1:1, 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 8:58: "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Titus 2:13: “while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

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What is the New International Version (NIV)?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2022