September 4, 2013

Farewell, NIV

by Jesse Johnson

The NIV Bible is no more. Alas.

The version that many grew up reading has finally ridden off into the sunset, never to return. Zondervan has phased it out, buried it, and replaced it with something else.

Many people denied that a significant change had taken place, and tried to act like the Bible being sold now as the NIV is indeed the NIV they grew up with. That myth was sustainable for a while, but eventually it just didn’t work. This year many Christian schools finally dropped the NIV, and replaced it with something else. Even AWANA was forced to make the change.


So what is the fuss about? If you are a parent of a Christian school attender, and you just found out you need to buy a new Bible for the year, or if you got a letter in the mail telling you that all that you can go shopping for new AWANA books, well this is for you. It is a FAQ guide to the NIV, with an explanation for why churches and ministries are dropping it:

Why did so many churches and schools change their translation this year?    

Because Zondervan, the company that makes the NIV, stopped publishing it last year. It was widely used in churches and schools, and this change forced those that used to find a new translation.

What do you mean they stopped publishing it? I see the NIV still for sale in book stores.

A brief history of the NIV: Translated in 1984, it quickly became one of the most popular versions, especially in schools. Then in 2002 Zondervan released an update (TNIV), which went over as well as New Coke, and the beloved NIV was resurrected. This time Zondervan learned from their errors, and released an update that they called the NIV2011, and for one year they sold both it and the NIV. But with a name like NIV2011, shelf-life was obviously not in view, and last year they simply dropped the old and beloved NIV, and then shrewdly dropped the “2011” from the updated one. In short, they pulled a switcheroo. What you see on shelves today is the new version which is sold and marketed as the NIV.

NIV ipadHow is the NIV on the shelves now different from the one I’ve been reading for 20 years?

There have been deniers about the demise of the NIV. Many people have tried to hold onto the idea that the new one is the same as the old. After all, they have the same names, so how could they be that different? But the more people have tried to use the new one, the more the changes are evident.

Here are the stats: 40% of verses have been changed from the ’84 edition of the NIV. The stat that Zondervan gives is that 95% of the Bible remains unchanged. I assume they are counting words and not verses, but even so I’m not sure how they got that number. When you consider individual words, the new version is 9% new. That might not seem like a lot, but in schools and with curriculum,  verses are what is important, and that means that 4 out of 10 passages needed to be updated.

Why not just stay with the NIV? Why are people switching away?

For the school that I help oversee, it was a combination of reasons. We didn’t want to make a switch, but we realized that the new NIV was different enough from the previous version that a switch was being forced on us. Even if we had stayed with the NIV, it was a different version than the one we had been using (and this is obviously what AWANA realized as well). In light of that, we looked at the change as an opportunity for us to pick any translation we wanted. After all, if our hand is being forced, we wanted to at least choose what it was being forced to do .

Who translated the new NIV? Certainly it wasn’t the executives at Zondervan.

The committee was made up of some well known scholars.  Douglass Moo (Wheaton), Kenneth Barker (Dallas), Craig Blomberg (Denver), Gordon Fee (Regent), William Mounce (Gordon-Conwell), Bruce Waltke (Reformed Theological), and  Ronald Youngblood (Bethel) are the evangelical heavy-hitters. Karen Jobes and Richard France have some of the best NT commentaries, and they were on the committee as well.

Not true.

Not true.

Why did they make changes?

Some skeptics say they did so for sales reasons. The ESV and Holman were eating at the NIV’s market share, and this was their way of fighting back. I, however, am a purist, and think that the committee had real convictions about places where the old NIV could have done better. This was their way of making a better Bible translation. After all, scholarship has improved, and there are areas where English grammar has changed.

So what’s the problem then? Why are people leaving the NIV in droves? Why did the Southern Baptists vote their disdain for it?

Baptists voted against it because they don’t like change (ha ha; I actually link to their reasoning above, in the blue). But for the rest of us, the problems fall under a couple different headings. First, there are gender issues. Obviously English has some fuzzy gender language, and often we make single objects plural. Where the Greek might say “if any of you has his lights on, return to his car,” the NIV now would go with something like “Whoever left their lights on in the parking lot, needs to return to their car.” That’s fine and well, until you realize that many passages have masculine pronouns that possibly have messianic implications. For example Psalm 1:1 in the classic NIV vs. the New NIV: “blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked” vs. “blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked.” Is there possibly an allusion to the Messiah that has been obscured with the gender neutral pronoun? And what is up with “in step” in the update? Does that not lessen the prohibition?

And that’s just Psalm 1:1. The update has these questions everywhere.

But my biggest issue with the new NIV is that they allow their understanding of “overall theology” to affect how they render verses. When I got my first copy of the new NIV, I sat down and spent almost the whole day reading it (one of the reasons I love being a pastor). I saw things I liked and didn’t like, but then I got to 2 Cor 5:17. The new NIV says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” I am not as troubled by the way they rendered that verse as I am by the reasoning they gave for how they did it. This is what their translator notes say (the link takes you to the PDF download of them):

“This time it is the Greek that is elliptical, reading simply ‟new creation.” Is it the person in Christ who is the new creation? Yes, of course. But if that’s all Paul meant, there are other more natural ways he could have said it. Given his overall theology that the coming of Christ and the new era he inaugurated began the period of the restoration of all things that would culminate in new heavens and new earth, it is likely that Paul is making a much more sweeping claim than just the salvation of the individual believer. A new universe is in the works!”

The bold is mine, and it marks the part where I decided to stop reading the NIV. It sounds like they are saying that their understanding of Paul’s “overall theology” (which in their view reads like some sort of post-millenialism) justifies moving away from a verse that is often memorized and turned to as a clear declaration of the radical nature of an individual’s salvation.  In other words, they take a verse about how cool it is to get saved, and change it to what reads like post-mil who-ha. And that would be fine if they backed it up grammatically (and using the phrase “elliptical” does not count). But they don’t make the case on its own terms, and instead they import errant theology into their translation process. Blah.

So is the NIV a bad translation? Let’s cut to the chase: were demons involved in it?

The NIV is not a bad translation. All of the major English translations (KJV, NKJV, ESV, Holman, NAS, NLT) are good and trustworthy. They represent the word of God in the vernacular language, and countless people died as martyrs to grant us the privilege of having that available.

But with that said, we live in a world with different translations, and we have the ability to choose. It boils down to the fact that some of those good translations are better than others, and the dropping of the NIV gives churches and schools the opportunity to start over, and decide which of the good translations they want to go with.

Will you miss the NIV?

Ok, that is not a FAQ, but I’ll answer it anyway. I liked the NIV, and I wish I got to have a funeral of some kind for it. In the eulogy I would wax eloquently (new NIV: “discuss”) about how it brought Scripture into the modern era, and freed translations from the grip of the Anglicans and the Victorians. I would shed a tear for its translation of Romans 9, which rhetorically towered above the other English versions. And then I would read a eulogy from perhaps Psalm 23—but I most certainly would not read it from the update.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • kevin2184

    I switched last year from using the NIV (1984) version to ESV after Zondervan removed the 1984 NIV version from all online websites. To be sure, I do miss the readability of the NIV (ok, I’m a simple man), but I found that the new NIV was so different from the 1984 version that I thought I might as well make the switch to the ESV. I find the ESV to be sort of a cross between the NIV (1984) and NAS. I do like the ESV but I do get a bit nostalgic for the NIV when I read verses in the ESV that bring to mind the NIV rendering. But I’ll get over it.

  • Dan Phillips

    The pluralization of singulars (often seen in Proverbs) for PC-fad reasons alone is a deal-killer for me. They can talk all day about how it has nothing (nothing! NO-THING!) to do with femiphrenia and kissin’ up to the Zeitgeist, but they will never (never! NEV-ER!) persuade me.

    • Well said.
      And that’s the thing with the 2 Cor 5 change too. They give a lame gramataical explanation, and hide behind “overall theology” but the truth is that it is because it is an awkward verse to translate in a gender-neutral or single/plural way. Just say that. Ditto with Proverbs. Just own what you are doing.

    • Ken Wlson

      I would also say “Well said” and thanks for saying it. I would add that despite denials and spin, this was also a business and market share decision.

    • Drew Sparks

      Would either one of you be able to point me to a good critique of the NIV regarding this issue? Thanks.

  • Shane Williamson

    Brilliant. I LOVED this post. Thanks, Jesse.

  • Dennis M. Swanson

    Check out Dave Brunn’s new work “One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal” (IVP 2013), which will be reviewed in the upcoming issue of the TMS Journal (positively). As a side note, The MacArthur Study Bible will come out in the NIV later this year. As with any Bible translation (or any book for that matter) you need to read the preface or introduction to see what they are trying to accomplish. You’ll often find some interesting information.

    • Don

      In announcing The MacArthur Study Bible in the NIV translation at Shepherd’s Conference 2013, Dr. MacArthur said that Zondervan allowed him to correct the translation in his study notes.

      Yes, definitely read the preface and introduction to any translation to see what the goal of the translation is and what philosophy of translation they were following. Then be honest in the critique.

      • Dennis M. Swanson

        “Correct the translation” might be an overstatement. The notes contain references to translation issues (but honestly no more or less than the NKKV, the ESV or even the NASB editions). If you remember the Expositor’s Bible Commentary that Zondervan did based on the NIV, every section often had translation discussion issues as well. The text of the NIV will not be different in the MSB, but the notations will point out translation issues.

        Oh, someone wrote something about 40,000 pronoun errors in the new NIV, ah, I don’t think so. And, honestly, the SBC and Lifeway had an underlying purpose in being as critical of the new NIV as they were and that was to promote their new translation, which was also being incorporated into all of their Sunday school material. Using their own translation saved the SBC a boatload of money (royalty fees), which of course is often the driving factor in publishers creting new translations (the first MacArthur Study Bible was in the NKJV because Thomas Nelson owned the rights to it). Of course, Nelson is now also owned by News Corp (along with Zondervan, whom NewsCorp tried to dump because it has been so unprofitable for a few years). Thomas Nelson and Zondervan are now part of the Harper Collins section of News Corp and honestly I can see Zondervan ceasing to be anything other than an imprint in the next few years.

    • notta_lackey

      I would be extremely wary of anything by MacArthur. He is extremely anti-Charismatic. Since the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-4) was what Jesus and the apostles preached (Acts 2, etc), cessationists have twisted the Bible into what is little more than ethicism. Yes, Christians are supposed to be the most moral people in society, but that is so the move of God’s power through them is not blocked. (Compare David’s life before and after his anointing was breached with the scandal of Uriah and Bathsheba).
      The New Covenant was not that mere salvation was for all through the cross, but the fullness of the Spirit as well, i. e. that the church was to be a tribe of power prophets. If our ministry is not like theirs (based on healing and exorcism) we come up short. That is why Paul said he would not judge preachers on their eloquence, but on their power. If you take out the charismatic overview of the New Testament you gut it. I realize that MacArthur has intellectual integrity and would not deliberately undermine the scriptures, but erroneous religious worldviews will cause that to be done unintentionally, or, worse yet, with the best of intentions.

  • DrE

    A good word. I still prefer the old NASB. Maybe I’ll start a “NASB-onlyism” group? 🙂

    • I would join thee in that group.

      • Keith Underkoffler

        Me too.

    • Don

      Would that be the “original” NASB (1970~74) or the NASB ’95 Update?
      I started with the NASB in 1970 and still prefer it, study it, and preach from it. Dr. Robert Thomas expressed that he felt the ’95 Update undid what the original NASB was trying to accomplish for the sake of English readability (actually he said “they ruined it”).

  • sherri510

    It is a sad day. I will be hanging on to my NIV84s. I’ve been reading and memorizing from this version since my dad gave me my first Thompson-Chain NIV in the 80s. Not giving it up!! I’m sure the ESV and others are also good, but it’s tough to get away from the NIV’s version of Scripture that is “hidden in my heart.” Thanks for the informative article.

  • august589

    When it became known that the NIV was undergoing a massive change AND the 1984 version would be eliminated, I bought one of the last 1984 versions. It’s the version on which I cut my spiritual teeth. I highlighted my first NIV–actually given to me in 1984–to death before giving it away, I twice duct-taped my next one, and my third one is also falling apart. Hopefully, my fourth–and now last–one will last for a long time. I agree with Jesse’s point about 2 Corinthians 5:17–the wording changes the entire meaning of the verse. I don’t recall a new translation that did that to such an extent. I shudder for the time when I’ll actually need to purchase a new Bible again. Which translation, which translation?…

    • JR

      Please see my comments below about the footnote in the NIV about 2 Cor 5:17 as well as the marginal rendering of the NASB of the same.

  • Tom Chantry

    I think it would be best if you read the 23rd Psalm in the KJV to eulogize the NIV. Just because it would make Gail Riplinger’s head explode.

    • James White describes this as “the most amazing sound clip I have ever found.” It is a 7 minute video from her.

    • busdriver4jesus

      Haha! She is no doubt relishing the downfall of one demonic pretender to the translation that descended from heaven…

  • Johnny

    Love my ESV. I seriously can’t remember the last time I read from the NIV, unless it was a Bible quote on a coffee mug at a LifeWay store or something…

  • JR

    With regards to the 2 Corinthians 5:17, the NIV 2011 does have a footnote (see below) which I think should be addressed when discussing this issue. The translators do give a possible alternate rendering as well. When critiquing a verse, it is always good to include the footnotes as well so that the entire picture is portrayed.

    2 Corinthians 5:17

    New International Version (NIV)

    17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!


    2 Corinthians 5:17 Or Christ, that person is a new creation.

    (Make sure to uncheck the Hide Footnotes to see footnotes)

    • Yeah, thanks for that JR. In my case, I wan’t so much taking issue with the translation as I am with the Translator’s Notes provided on-line.

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  • JR

    Interestingly, the NASB (95) has a side note to 2 Corinthians 5:17 which reads as below. They seem to give the possibility of an alternate rendering of this verse. Did they have an agenda as well?

    2 Corinthians 5:17

    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

    17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, [a]he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.


    2 Corinthians 5:17 Or there is a new creation

    • Nope, and let me be clear: I don’t have a huge problem with what the new translation is. It is a hard verse to translate, and it has single/plural issues, as well as musculine/neutral issues. I understand why a translation would go like the new NIV or the NAS footnote. My beef is their reasoning for it. It is lo tov to say that you are letting your “overall theology” tweak a verse like that. I mean, they basically say that from other Pauline passages (none noted) that Paul is not so much concerned with an individual’s salvation as he is that God is making a new universe. Huh? No bueno.

  • bob

    You didn’t mention that the first time they changed NIV, it eroded the people’s confidence which is what started it’s decline. Zondervan is responsible in the first place. They are responsible for the decline in sales. And if you look at their duplicitous actions with the recent slight of hand you can only think “good riddance”.

    • Good point. I tried to make it in my comparison to the New Coke debacle.

  • James C. Elliott

    “I liked the NIV, and I wish I got to have a funeral of some kind for it. In the eulogy I would wax eloquently (new NIV: “discuss”) about how it brought Scripture into the modern era, and freed translations from the grip of the Anglicans and the Victorians.”

    Um, I’d like to remind the author that is was the Anglicans (conservative Episcopalians) who brought you the ESV, thank you very much!

    • I know. That’s my point. The NIV was rescued from that (the Regent guy notwithstanding) 🙂

  • Craig P. Hurst

    And all the JKV Only people are cheering…..

    • Probably not, as I did call the NIV a good translation. Watch out for thread invasion in 3…2…1…

  • Justin Hoke

    The comment about the southern Baptists just rejecting the new NIV because they don’t like change was bigoted and dishonest! The Southern Baptists discussed and exposed the gender issues and showed in their review how the New NIV is untrustworthy on the basis of more than 40 thousand mistranslated promouns for the sake of gender neutrality.

    • threegirldad

      Did you miss where he linked to a post by Denny Burke? It’s right above the sentence that angered you. That post documents the things you mention, and more.

      There was nothing the least bit bigoted or dishonest about that quip. It was satire.

      • Justin Hoke

        Thanks, I did miss it and I apologize for jumping to conclusions.

    • It was supposed to be a joke Justin. As in how many baptists does it take to change a light bulb? A: “CHANGE!?!?!?!?!?!?!?”

      Although I admit this would have been a better one:

      A: 109. Seven on the Light Bulb Task Force Subcommittee, who report to the 12 on the Light Bulb Task Force, appointed by the 15 on the Trustee Board. Their recommendation is reviewed by the Finance Committee Executive of 5, who place it on the agenda of the 18 member Finance Committee. If they approve, they bring a motion to the 27 member church Board, who appoint another 12 member review committee. If they recommend that the Church Board proceed, a resolution is brought to the Congregational Business Meeting. They appoint another 8 member review committee. If their report to the next Congregational Business Meeting supports the changing of a light bulb, and the Congregation votes in favor, the responsibility to carry out the light bulb change is passed on to the Trustee Board, who in turn appoint a 7 member committee to find the best price in new light bulbs. Their recommendation of which Hardware Store has the best buy must then be reviewed by the 23 member Ethics Committee to make certain that this hardware store has no connection to Disneyland. They report back to the Trustee Board who, then commissions the Trustee in charge of the Janitor to ask him to make the change. By then the janitor discovers that one more light bulb has burned out.

      • Justin Hoke

        Oh, I’m Sorry sometimes I am not as careful as I should be reading, thanks for clarifying, and taking the time to clarify. If it would be helpful please feel free to remove my comment as I see it was invalid. Again, please accept my apology, I am finding that I really need to be more careful in reading and responding to posts.

  • Martin

    Thanks for this post. It’s informative for those of us who don’t have background on such issues.
    I had sentimental attachment to the NIV, but lost confidence in the IBS – the Bible society, not the digestive disorder 🙂 – when the TNIV came around. So I switched to the ESV about that time. The only thing that bothered me about switching was I felt I had sort of jumped on a bandwagon. I still sometimes feel this way, even after using the ESV for about 10 years. I just want a good translation of God’s Word, not a thing that identifies me with some “camp” within Christianity.
    I was told that if I liked the NIV then I would like the HCSB. I’m curious about that translation, but don’t want to be a translation-hopper.
    Sorry, this comment is a bit off-topic from the post.

    • Not at all Martin. Good comment, and one that reflects the majority for sure. The advantage of the NIV84 vintage was that it predated in many ways the camps in evangelicalism. I think many people liked the NIV for the same reasons you do–it was just a Bible w/o defining you. With the demise of the NIV, certainly the NKJV remains as sort of the lone translation that does that. Not the best, but sort of the last one standing in terms of bridging camps, so to speak.

  • Bashir

    Hi Jesse. you said you stopped reading the new NIV with the “given his overall theology” remark by the translators; I stopped reading your article after you accused the translators of “some sort of post-millenialism.” You can’t be serious…especially after naming them yourself! The English rendition in the NIV you quote does not lend itself to post-millenialism just as Paul’s comments in Romans 8 about creation don’t lend themselves to postmillenial theology. It seems to me that your assessment of ‘imported theology’ is overstated. Giving the verse a glance in Greek, the traditional reading was what first came to my mind; but to accuse them of importing post-millenial theology for saying something along the lines of, “Given what Paul says elsewhere (and since it’s gramatically permissible), we can see this verse as referring to more than the individual,” is reckless and inflammatory–never helpful for having a constructive dialogue about the important issues such as the one you’ve brought up in this article. I find it telling, furthermore, that in response to Dan Phillips’ comment below on the verse, you highlighted that it was the gender-neutral aspect of the translation that bothered you–something entirely different (and much more worthy of discussion, in my opinion). If that’s the real issue you have with the verse, stick to it.

    • Thanks Bashir, although if you stopped reading my post at that line, how’d you see Dan’s comment?

      Let me start over with that verse:
      1. Its a hard one to translate. I get either the NIV Classic way or the New NIV way. I can see why you would go either way.
      2. Instead of making the case for the NewNIV way based on grammer, gender agreement, single/plural, etc., they obviously made their decision based on those reasons, but defended the choice based on “Paul’s overall theology.”
      3. Their understanding of Paul’s overall theology is that when someone comes to faith, Paul is not only (primarily?) concerned with the greatness of the individual’s salvation, but rather is concerned with something more; namely, “the remaking of the whole universe.”
      4. The theological view that this most closely resembles is post-millenialism. Now, I know that (most of) those men (and the two women) are not post-mil. But what in the world does it mean when you say that when someone comes to faith it is the partial fulfillment of the Pauline understanding of a new heavens and new earth. That’s right–its not after Israel is converted. Its not metaphroical right now in the church. Rather, as people come to faith in Christ, God’s new creation is working its way through the created universe, RIGHT NOW!
      5. Its bad to take that theological perspective and put it in your translation philosophy.
      6. I would be just as peeved if Kenneth Barker would have won the argument (the Dallas guy) and they would have kept the NIV Classic rendering, and then put in their notes that based on their overall understanding of Paul’s theology, the new creation does not come until after the millennium, or at the very least until after this present age, therefore they are sticking with “he is a new creation,” gender issues be darned!
      7. The whole argument is so transparent. They want to avoid saying “he is a new creation,” and they want to avoid saying “they are a new creation” so they just drop it and make everything the new creation, and don’t defend it based on the gender issue, but rather based on their theology that the universe itself is the new creation when people get saved.
      Does that help? In fact, I might just make this comment my own post for next week. Any way I can make it more clear Bashir?

      • David Housholder

        It seems quite clear to me. You are saying that the translators took a deductive approach at translating the verse. They chose to translate it to match their overall theological conclusions. And that is a problem for you because it doesn’t then match what you want it to say based on your overall theological conclusions.
        A problem we have in theological education is that theology studies often begin with studies in systematic theology when we should begin with biblical theology and then later move to systematic.

      • Jeff

        I truly think you are off base with your assessment of the translation of this verse. I have not spent much time looking at the NIV 2011 and would probably object to a number of the changes. However this verse is one that has often frustrated me in other translations. There’s strange stuff going on in this verse (masc pronoun, “new creation” feminine, then old order and new order are neuter), and I think that it’s entirely possible that Paul has in view the whole of the New Creation. To read as the NIV 1984 has it, you have to insert “he is” because it’s just not there and it’s awkward.

        I think theologically, the issue comes down to how we view the work of Christ on the cross. Is Christ’s work just about forgiving sins and rescuing souls, or does it have in view the whole created order? Paul elsewhere clearly has in view that the death and resurrection of Jesus reconcile all things in heaven and earth (Col 1:19-20). When we are in Christ, we are a part of God’s new work, we know that because as the passage says, God is at work in us by the Holy Spirit, referred to in 2 Cor 5:5 as our “guarantee” or “deposit.” He’s the guarantee/deposit of what is to come more fully in Christ’s second coming. Here in 2 Cor 5:16-21, Paul again speaks of reconciliation, all things, and says that we are a part of that work. This is the way Paul speaks about the Christian life throughout the NT – the age to come and the former age overlap. The only way I could imagine one considering this as postmillenial is if one holds to some sort of premillenial-dispensational view in which the two ages are never allowed to touch.

        I recommend exploring Geerhardus Vos’ “Pauline Eschatology” and Richard Gaffin’s “Resurrection and Redemption”. Neither of these authors are postmillenial, and they speak with great clarity concerning the nature of Paul’s theology.

      • Matt Foreman

        Jesse, Thanks for the article! On the whole, I agree and have been an ESV man since 2002. However, I think you are misunderstanding the NIV translators comments on 2 Cor.5:17. It is pretty standard fare in theological circles today to say that Paul’s concern was not mainly with the ordo salutis, but with historia salutis. (The best would not want to deny a proper place for the ordo salutis.) But in saying that Paul’s concern was “the remaking of the whole universe” – they are simply saying that Paul’s thinking is eschatological – not saying anything specific about his eschatology. This is pretty standard fare for theologians across the spectrum – pre-, post-, a-, pro-, pan-, etc. Whatever spectrum you are from, when Paul says ‘There is new creation’, he is saying that the Jewish expectation of ‘the age to come’ has already been inaugurated in Christ, even while ‘this present evil age’ is passing away. I would recommend reading Geerhardos Vos’ “Pauline Eschatology”. He works extensively with this verse…

  • And just so everyone knows, the thing about Baptists being against the new NIV because they are against change was supposed to be a joke. As a few people have lovingly pointed out to me, it barely counts as one. So to all the baptists I offended…Don’t boycott me!
    Ok, that was not the kind of repentance that came from real sorrow, but still…

  • busdriver4jesus

    Hallelujah! I have long disdained the NIV… after 8 years of listening to sermons, I am thoroughly sick of hearing sound exegetes quote a NIV verse and then have to correct its wording or theology. No more Nearly Inspired Version!

    • That’s why Piper said he moved away from the NIV: he got tired of having to correct it from the pulpit.
      That said though, that is true wiht any translation. There are nuances of words that can’t legitimately make it out in a translation, but that come out in a study. So eveyr pastor is going to end up gently correcting wording. Just some more than others.

      • ebayjim

        Every translation will have its issues, it’s just the NIV was full of them. Then again, phrase-for-phrase translations will lend itself to needing correction more than word-for-word translations.

      • Dan

        I listened to James M. Boice preach all the way through Romans based on NIV84. In many cases he corrected the NIV or criticized the translation, but conversely in some cases he preferred NIV84 to the KJV or “Authorized Version” rendering of a passage. Nevertheless, once I began to learn about Bible translations, I saw that “dynamic equivalence” or “thought-for-thought” translations were in many cases actually overlaid interpretations. Rather than having the readers wrestle over the meaning of a more direct or “word for word” translation, the translators took that task upon themselves which required pastors more frequently to go back to the original languages. While I now read primarily ESV or NKJV, I’m still going to hang onto my old NIV84 Study Bible for sentimental reasons if nothing else.

  • Hugenot Rebaptizer

    Jesse, why rap on the Baptists?

    • Meant as a joke. Obviously not funny. My bad.

      • Don

        Alright…you can change my Bible, but don’t you dare change the “Order of Worship”…LOL

  • Bob Hutton

    My concern with the NIV is that it removed the word “propitiation” in 1st John 2 v 2. This is very serious because it undermined the doctrine of penal substitution. Consequently, you then had “evangelicals” (like Steve Chalke) going around saying that Jesus was not punished for our sins and calling penal substitution “cosmic child abuse”.

    The NIV has its uses, and I’m sure that many have come to know the Lord through reading it, but it is seriously defective.

  • Tony Hicks

    Excellent and thoughtful article. My only complaint was the one-sentence cheap shot at Baptists. If you followed the debates in the late nineties when the TNIV appeared, Southern Baptist concerns about the new NIV were the same as yours. That led to the purchase of an existing translation project that eventually became the HCSB. It clearly was not so simple as, “They’ah changin’ mah Bible.”

    • The Baptist thing was a joke. As in how many baptists does it take to change a light bulb? CHANGE!?!?!?! I actually linked to their resolution and their explanation in the heading, but apparently people are missing that. Maybe I’ll ad a parenthetical “ha” afterwards.

      • Tony Hicks

        I like a good joke as well as any and I did follow the link. But the joke was not obvious so the link seemed inconsistent with the point you were making. All that aside, the article was excellent and made the points that needed to be made. I think the whole revision of the NIV (not just the TNIV) has become Zondervan’s “new coke.” I understand some of the changes but most seem to have been for reasons other than to enhance biblical clarity.

      • I swear I heard the requisite ba-dum-bum-bum when I read that Baptist thing..

  • Hal

    Excellent post! Several points I would like to make.
    1. The NIV84 made reading the Bible enjoyable. NO OTHER translation I have found does that. None! ESV is too wooden. HCSB is too free. Make no mistake, this is a huge setback. I know strong, conservative pastors who feel as I do and bemoan the loss of the NIV84 for the understanding of the average person in the pew. They too feel that other options are a step backward. I grieve, grieve the loss of the NIV84.

    2. It is bizarre that Zondervan would pull the 84 version. This is the marketing equivalent of New Coke. But at least Coca-Cola had the insight to bring back Classic Coke and let the market decide. And what did the market decide? Classic Coke.

    Zondervan has arrogantly pulled NIV84 from shelves and online. “Let the market decide? No way! We know what is best. and we don’t want people using 84 in stores or online.” OK, then the market will decide by fleeing to other translations.

    I wonder what those executives are thinking now? They wanted to update the translation to prevent the nibbling away at the edges. Now their sales are in a free fall! They should do what Coca-Cola did and say we made a mistake, here are both translations, and let the market decide.

    This issue has me fired up as I must recommend a more wooden translation to the simple people in my congregation.

    Zondervan, are you listening? Bring back the Classic Coke and admit your hubris!

    • Nicolas

      I’m confused … So the NIV(2011) is worst than the NIV(84)? Is it a more accurate translation? If so, what’s all the complaining about again? These complaints sound like a lot of “Who moved my cheese!” or as someone so eloquently stated, “They’ah changin’ mah Bible.”

      Can people read this text and understand God’s will for their life? Can people understand that God loves us and gave up everything for us sinners? Does it elucidate God’s desire for us to be saved?

      In short, Is this reaction worth it?

  • J. Jones

    The ESV is, I think, a good choice for those who decide to move away from the NIV. It should be noted, however, that there are actually 3 (to date) text editions of the ESV: the original 2001, a revision in 2007, and another in 2011. If anyone purchased an ESV text between 2001-2006 or 2007-2010, it is slightly different than what you might purchase today. Here are lists of the differences between the editions:

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  • Ken Abbott

    A clarification regarding the publication history of the NIV: I bought my first NIV Bible in the late 1970s (still have it), so reading that the translation was published in 1984 clashed. A little research turned up that the original NIV NT came out in 1973 and the full Bible in 1978; there was a minor revision in 1984.

    I have since moved on to both the ESV and NASB, but since the old NIV is what my church places in the pews I use the translation for sermon preparation on those few occasions when I supply the pulpit.

  • hamoncan

    I went away from the NIV for a while and tried to convince myself that the ESV was THE new go-to translation. The OT seems to read fine, but I finally got tired of the awkward language of the NT. I tried a few others, but despite my determined bias against the NIV based on what everyone was saying about it, I’m back with the NIV and liking it fine. Since I do most of my reading electronically via the YouVersion app I’m reading the updated NIV and its just fine. Its cliche, but true – the best version is the one that you actually read.

    • Yeah, and I talked to the manager of the bookstore at my church this morning. She said some parents are sticking with the older NIV AWANA books, even though they can’t buy those Bibles any more. The reason? Their kids are simply using their phones and ipads for their Bibles, where the NIV Classic lives forever.

      • Dan

        And my son is in a “bible challenge” program (a la the old “college bowl” format) that still relies on NIV84.

      • Greg Long

        Not if every case, Jesse. YouVersion, for example, has removed NIV84. It disappeared mysteriously from my phone (even though it was downloaded) one day a few months ago.

  • Jena

    Among other things, I am bothered by the fact that they translators very deliberately/surgically replaced “Christ” with “Messiah” in the Gospels. It seems to show a disregard for the original authors’ (maybe the Holy Spirit’s) word choice in favor of a theological view or agenda. I know the two are similar, but the Gospel writers refer to Jesus as “The Christ” not “The Messiah” in their writings.

    • Good point Jena, and I agree that is a significant decision. But I think the right thing to do is to translate it Messiah. “Christos” is the Greek word, and the word means Messiah. So when the authors wrote Christos, they were using the word for Messiah, and I think translations should translate it that way (as the Holman does, along w. the NIV (occasionally). There is another word like this: Baptizo. That word means “immerse.” But English translations avoid the theological controversy, and simply transliterate Christos as Christ, and Baptizo as baptize. Alas.

  • Grace

    Thanks for the post. I am glad to see someone address this.
    We have been using the NIV84 for family devotions for several years. As many have said it is very readable and for kids that is important. I knew the end was coming when I tried to find a copy for a Christmas gift last year, since one of theirs was falling a part, and could only find the newer version. I became desperate when I could not find NIV84 anywhere. I did finally find one online on a close-out deal at CBD. I wasn’t ready at that point for all of us to get new Bibles. That time will come eventually.
    I find most translations fall short of the original. Studying this morning I found some shoddy translations in the NIV84 but it was the same in the NKJV and in a Portuguese version. (I am a missionary in Brazil). So when it comes to serious study we always have to be ready to dig deeper and check many translations to get at the true meaning, and if one has time and skill, the original. I am so indebted to the translations I have and scholarly commentaries that help me along the way.
    One of my biggest problems with changing versions, though, is Bible memorization. I have huge chunks memorized in KJV, NIV and now if I go to the ESV it will be yet another version. (sigh).


    One of the greatest issues with the NIV and the NIV2011 is the philosophy of translation (not the manuscript tradition used). The NIV uses a Dynamic or Functional approach to translation as opposed to a Literal (Word for Word) or Formal Translation. The theological problem of the Dynamic or Functional Translation (NIV) is that it does not view every single word of the Bible as inspired, but rather the thoughts and the intents of the original authors. This leads to the real issue, who determines what the author’s original thoughts or intentions were? It is the translation committee. Therefore, these translations are marred by the presuppositions of the translators. This is why a Word-for-Word translation (NASB, NET, ESV, KJV, NKJV) should be used as they view every single word inspired and then translate them accordingly.

    • Well, I understand what you are saying, and that is certainly the most common way to explain the different approaches to translations. Even the translations themselves say it that way. And, to a limited extent, I agree. If you were to make a sliding scale from “wooden/word-for-word” to “readable/dynamic” you would see the NLT at one end, and the ESV, NAS at the other wiht perhaps NIV/KJV in the middle.

      But that’s not because of a view of inspiration as much as a view of translation. Here is a very common examle: In Spanish you’d ask “como te llamas.” How would you translate that? Everyone would translate it “what is your name.” But that’s not very word-for-word, is it? Word-for-word its “how do you call yourself?” In Spanish its reflexive and “how,” whereas in English it is a state of being, and possessive. That doesn’t have to do with inspiration, but only with what the approach is to translation/readability.

      You are right, and even the preface of the NIV agrees with you. But for the most part, all of the major translations have the same view of inspiration, and they even have more or less the same view of translation. There are shades of difference, but those shades I don’t think rise past the level of translation philosophy and into the level of a disdain for God’s word. Not sure if my explanation makes sense or not, but that’s my attempt. Thanks for your comment.


        Thanks for your response, and I understand what you are saying with the Spanish example. I have learned that language which has greatly assisted me as I witness in Latin-American countries on short-term mission trips. Your example, “como te llamas.” is the informal way to ask the question. The formal way would be “cuál es su (tu) nombre” which is directly translated as “What is your name”

        I am not against the NIV(84), as I own several copies, and use the translation for studies, lectures, and sermon preparation. However, I would suggest that Dynamic Translations hold to a plenary inspiration of the Bible while Word-for-Word Translations hold to a plenary verbal inspiration of the Bible

        Grace and Peace.

  • Robyn

    Variations in translations used to really bother me but not so much anymore. If you line up 5 or more translations, coupled with commentaries and an interlinear, you can really see the ‘watered-down’ versions.

  • Deborah Amaral

    Why would they do this, the NIV is the Bible my kids grew up with, and it is the Bible I learned to love the Lord with, please don’t tell me that they want to make it easier for gays and such to follow or be comfortable with..That would make me very upset. I want Gods word, not a new version of it

  • Rebekah

    It is Craig Blomberg, not Bloomberg. Just FYI

  • Cass

    Why is it that when two Bibles contradict each other that no one is willing to say that one is wrong or a bad translation?

    • Because there are different philosophies of translation. In another comment here I noted a pretty simple example: “Como te llamas.” How do you translate that? “What is your name”? But in Spanish it is “how” and the verb is reflexive (call yourself.” So you could do “what is your name”? or “how do you call yourself?” But neither of those are wrong. Bad? Well that depends on your point. If you translate for the United Nations, and you go with “what do you call yourself” you will probably be fired. But some people perfer their Bible to be more along those lines than the What is Your Name approach.

  • Dennis

    I have a question. No one has even mentioned that in the new NIV John 3:16 is no longer in red letters. The thought process being that Christ stopped speaking there and the rest of the passages in this section are all commentary by John. My question is this; is this a correct assesment of the scripture or did Jesus say those words?
    Also, in the world of biblical translation there are tons of english versions. Where does the layman go to find the closest rendition of the “intent” of the scriptures in readable english? With that being said, why is it that we equate “accuracy” with “literalism” when it is possible that the two terms can appear on both ends of the spectrum. A literal traslation may not be readable, and a dynamic translation may not be true to the original intent of the author. ALL translations carry BOTH literal and dynamic qualities in order to make the scriptures readable an easily understood.
    We can split hairs with ANY of the modern translations. The HCSB, while an excellent translation and one of the finest study bibles on the market, was put in place (in my view) so that the folks at lifeway would no longer need to pay royalties to the NIV publisher.
    A Bible translated for monetary gain? Certainly not!
    The NLT Bible and Study Bible are also excellent resources. The NLT conveys the scripture into readable english for anyone with a 6th grade or better reading level. While as dynamic as they come, it is still within the real of a “translation” because of the scholarship of the translators involved in its translation and the fact that it is committee based.
    Having said all that, the NIV84 was intened to convey the Word of God into the english language of the day (just like the KJV in 1611). Since the NLT has become so popular, it is my belief that the publishers of the NIV had to push the envelope a little closer to the dynamic equivalence side of the scale in order to stay afloat. Do I believe that they did an excellent job? I do. Dan Wallace from the Dallas theological seminary praises the NIV for continuing to grow as it moves into a new century.
    We can pick apart any translation with disagreements in grammar, syntax, and sentence structure, but the bottom line is this; they are ALL God’s word and the only Bible that is worth anything is the one that someone reads. None are perfect, all are good for teaching, correcting, and rebuking.

    • The version of the NIV I read did not have red letters at all, so I’m not sure where they drew the line in John 3. It is a complicated question though, for sure.

      The last half of your comment is right on. A voice of reasonableness from the wilderness! Thanks for your comment, and I agree with you. I’ll add this though: that if you are in a position of authority, such as over a school, you do need to pick a version. By picking the ESV or the Holman, I”m not saying that the NIV is bad and evil. I’m just saying that I get a choice, and that is what I”m choosing.

  • stimpy77

    It was just observed to me that Zondervan is owned by Harper Collins, who publishes such Bible-based hits as The Satanic Bible and The Joy Of Gay Sex.

    Zondervan’s web site backs up the ownership.

  • KateSnyder

    Good riddance, NIV, is more like it. Probably one of the worst versions of the Bible ever printed.

    • Well, I totally disagree. Did you read my paragraph about a funeral for it? There are passages in the NT that the NIV just did an exceptional job with. Romans 9 is a great example of one. The NIV Classic rocks in that chapter, and all the others pale in comparison. Alas.
      And “one of the worst versions of the Bible ever printed?” Seriously?

  • Kofi Adu-Boahen

    As someone who still owns and uses a 1984 NIV Study Bible amongst other tools, I’m sad they’re phasing it out as a translation.

  • PeteB

    Although, I am definitely against the application of their viewpoint of Pauline Theology to their translation work, I fail to see “New Creation” theology as “post-mil who-ha.” G.K. Beale, Machen Chair at Westminster Theological in Philly, is a major proponent of New Creation/Inaugurated Kingdom theology and is most certainly not Post-Mil. A little closer to home, I’m pretty sure Ladd subscribed to Inaugurated Kingdom Theology as well and he was Historical Pre-Mil.

    • Sure. The part that seemed Post Mil to me is the idea of hte new heavens and new earth being created via the expansion of the gospel on earth. That strikes me as very post mil.

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  • Well, I think the thread has pretty much covered all the bases, so I’m going to close this out. Thanks for reading everyone!

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