The New International Version (NIV) is an English translation of the Bible first published in 1978 by Biblica (formerly the International Bible Society). Many popular, earlier versions of the Bible, such as the King James Bible, were themselves based on earlier translations of average quality. Since then many discoveries had been made. The NIV was published to meet the need for a modern translation done by Bible scholars using the earliest, highest quality scriptures available. Of equal importance was that the Bible be expressed in broadly understood modern English.

A team of 15 biblical scholars, representing a variety of denominations, worked from the oldest copies of reliable scripture, variously written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Each section was subjected to multiple translations and revisions, and those assessed in detail to produce the best option. Everyday Bible readers were used to provide feedback on ease of understanding and comprehensibility. Finally, plans were made to continue revision of the Bible as new discoveries were made and as changes the use of the English language occurred.

The NIV is published by Zondervan in the United States and Hodder & Stoughton in the UK. The NIV was updated in 1984 and 2011,[3] and has become one of the most popular and best selling modern translations.[4]


Cover of a 1984 New International Version Bible

The NIV began in 1956 with the formation of a small committee to study the value of producing a translation in the common language of the American people.[5] The project was formally started after a meeting in 1965 at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, of the Christian Reformed Church, National Association of Evangelicals, and a group of international scholars. The initial "Committee on Bible Translation" consisted of E. Leslie Carlson, Edmund Clowney, Ralph Earle, Jr., Burton L. Goddard, R. Laird Harris, Earl S. Kalland, Kenneth Kantzer, Robert H. Mounce, Charles F. Pfeiffer, Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Francis R. Steele, John H. Stek, J. C. Wenger, Stephen W. Paine, and Marten Woudstra. The New York Bible Society (now Biblica) was selected to do the translation. The New Testament was released in 1973 and the full Bible in 1978.

The NIV underwent a minor revision in 1984. In 1997 a new version was published in the UK as the New International Version Inclusive Language Edition, but was not published in the U.S. because of opposition from conservative evangelical groups there to inclusive language.[6]

A revised English edition titled Today's New International Version (TNIV) released a New Testament in March 2002, with the complete Bible published February 2005.[7]

2011 update

In 2011, an updated version of the NIV was released. The update modified and dropped some of the gender-neutral language of the TNIV (such as going back to using "mankind" and "man" instead of "human beings" and "people"), along with other changes.[8] Translational issues with Paul's letters were also addressed.[9][10] Keith Danby, president and chief executive officer of Biblica, speaking of the TNIV, said they had failed to convince people revisions were needed and underestimated readers' loyalty to the 1984 edition.[6]

Derivative versions

Plain English version (NIrV)

An 'easy-reader' version, New International Reader's Version (NIrV), was published in 1996; it was written at a third grade reading level.

Spanish version (NVI)

In 1979 it was decided to produce a version of the New Testament in Spanish with the title La Santa Biblia, Nueva Versión Internacional (often abbreviated NVI)[11] though at this point this version was based only on the former English translation of the historic manuscripts. In 1990 the committee on Bible translation headed by Drs. René Padilla and Luciano Jaramillo conducted a translation from the historic manuscripts directly into Spanish of both testaments, bypassing English altogether and producing a complete Spanish NVI Bible in 1999.

Textual basis

The manuscript base for the Old Testament was the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Masoretic Hebrew Text. Other ancient texts consulted were the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion, the Latin Vulgate, the Syriac Peshitta, the Aramaic Targum, and for the Psalms the Juxta Hebraica of Jerome.[12] The manuscript base for the New Testament was the Koine Greek language editions of the United Bible Societies and of Nestle-Aland.[13] The deuterocanonical books are not included in the translation.

Translation methodology

The core translation group consisted of fifteen Biblical scholars using Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts whose goal was to produce a more modern English language text than the King James Version. The translation took ten years and involved a team of over 100 scholars.[14][15] from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The range of those participating included many different denominations such as Anglicans, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Christian Reformed, Lutheran and Presbyterian.[16][verification needed]

The NIV is a balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought or literal and phrase by phrase translations.[17]

Recent archaeological and linguistic discoveries helped in understanding passages that have traditionally been difficult to translate. Familiar spellings of traditional translations were generally retained.[18]

In Genesis 2:19 a translation such as the NRSV uses "formed" in a plain past tense "So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal...". Some have questioned the NIV choice of pluperfect "Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals..." to try to make it appear that the animals had already been created.[19] Theologian John Sailhamer states "Not only is such a translation ... hardly possible ... but it misses the very point of the narrative, namely, that the animals were created in response to God's declaration that it was not good that the man should be alone."[20]

Biblical scholar Bruce M. Metzger criticized the NIV 1984 edition[21] for the addition of just into Jeremiah 7:22 so the verse becomes "For when I brought your forefathers/ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices." Metzger also criticized[21] the addition of your into Matthew 13:32, so it becomes "Though it (the mustard seed) is the smallest of all your seeds." The usage of your was removed in the TNIV and did not return in the 2011 revision.


According to the Association for Christian Retail (CBA), the New International Version has become the most popular selling English translation of the Bible in CBA bookstores, having sold more than 450 million copies worldwide.[22]

There are numerous study Bibles available with extensive notes on the text and background information to make the Biblical stories more comprehensible. Among these are the NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, Concordia Study Bible, the Zondervan published NIV Study Bible, the Wesleyan revision, Reflecting God Study Bible, as well as the Life Application Study Bible.


In 2009, the New Testament scholar N. T. Wright wrote that the NIV obscured what Paul the Apostle was saying, making sure that Paul's words conformed to Protestant and Evangelical tradition. Wright believes that due to paraphrasing and interpretation, Protestants and Evangelicals will never understand what Paul was talking about if they rely on the NIV. According to Wright, this happens in several of Paul's letters, including Galatians and Romans.[23]

2011 revision

Professor of New Testament Studies Daniel B. Wallace[24] has praised the 2011 update, stating: "it is a well-thought out translation, with checks and balances through rigorous testing, overlapping committees to ensure consistency and accuracy".[25] The Southern Baptist Convention rejected the 2011 update because of gender-neutral language,[26] although it had dropped some gender-neutral language of the 2005 revision.[8] Southern Baptist publisher LifeWay declined the SBC's censor request to remove the NIV from their stores.[27] While the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod[28] rejected its use, some in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) believe many of the translations changes are right and defensible.[29]

Professor of New Testament Studies, Rodney J. Decker wrote in Themelios Journal review of the NIV 2011 that,

By taking a mediating position between formal and functional equivalence (though tending, I think, closer to the formal end of the spectrum), the NIV has been able to produce a text that is clearer than many translations, especially those weighted more heavily with formal equivalence...If we are serious about making the word of God a vital tool in the lives of English-speaking Christians, then we must aim for a translation that communicates clearly in the language of the average English-speaking person. It is here that the NIV excels. It not only communicates the meaning of God’s revelation accurately, but does so in English that is easily understood by a wide range of English speakers. It is as well-suited for expository preaching as it is for public reading and use in Bible classes and children’s ministries."[30][31]


  1. ^ "The New International Reader's Version: What, Who, and Why". International Society of Bible Collectors. Retrieved 2014-09-14. 
  2. ^ "New International Version :: Official Site". Retrieved 2014-09-14. 
  3. ^ "About The NIV, Version Information". BibleGateway.com. Retrieved 2014-09-14. 
  4. ^ "August 2009 CBA Best Sellers" (PDF). Christian Booksellers Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-07-14. Retrieved 2014-09-14.  New International Version #1 in dollar and unit sales
  5. ^ Ronald F. Youngblood; Glen G. Scorgie; Mark L. Strauss; Steven M. Voth, eds. (2003). The Challenge of Bible Translation: Communicating God's Word to the World. Zondervan. pp. 236–245. ISBN 0310246857. Retrieved 2014-09-13. 
  6. ^ a b "Update of popular 'NIV' Bible due in 2011". USA TODAY. 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2011-09-20. 
  7. ^ Phan, Katherine T. (March 13, 2011). "New NIV Bible to Debut Amid Ongoing Concern". The Christian Post. Retrieved September 5, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Smietana, Bob. "New Bible drops gender-neutral language of '05 version". About USATODAY.com. USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. Retrieved 2015-07-30. But they also made changes — like going back to using words like "mankind" and "man" instead of "human beings" and "people" — in order to appease critics. 
  9. ^ "Updated NIV Text Available for Online Viewing November 1". Zondervan. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  10. ^ World’s most popular Bible to be revised, MSN.com, 1 September 2009, retrieved 2011-02-19 
  11. ^ "Nueva Versión Internacional - Version Information - BibleGateway.com". 
  12. ^ Irwin, Ben (2002). History of the English Bible. Zondervan. p. 61. 
  13. ^ Barker, Kenneth L. (1991). The NIV The Making of a Contemporary Translation. International Bible Society. p. 54. 
  14. ^ "About the NIV". 
  15. ^ "History of the New International Version". About.com. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  16. ^ Irwin, Ben (2002). History of the English Bible. Zondervan. p. 60. 
  17. ^ "Bible Translation Chart" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-02-09. 
  18. ^ "Background of the New International Version (NIV) Bible".  "Although archaeological and linguistic discoveries in this century aid in understanding difficult passages", "As for other proper nouns, the familiar spellings of the King James Version are generally retained" Paragraphs 14 & 17
  19. ^ Mariottini, Claude F. (2013). Rereading the Biblical Text: Searching for Meaning and Understanding. Wipf and Stock. ISBN 978-1620328279. 
  20. ^ Sailhamer, John H. The Expositor's Bible Commentary. Zondervan. ISBN 978-0310364405. 
  21. ^ a b Metzger, Bruce M. (2001). The Bible in Translation : Ancient and English Versions. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-8010-2282-1. Retrieved July 30, 2011. 
  22. ^ Menzie, Nicola (27 March 2013). "NIV remains the bestselling Bible translation". Christian Today. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  23. ^ Wright, N. T. (2009). Justification : God's Plan and Paul's Vision. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic. pp. 51–52. ISBN 978-0-8308-3863-9. Retrieved March 15, 2015. 
  24. ^ "DTS faculty". Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  25. ^ Wallace, Dan. "A Review of the New International Version 2011". Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  26. ^ Stephanie Samuel. "LifeWay Tells Critics of 2011 NIV Bible: 'Trust the Trustees'". Retrieved 2015-07-30. 
  27. ^ Marty King. "LifeWay to continue selling NIV; trustees select new leadership". Retrieved 2014-04-21. 
  28. ^ Audrey Barrick. "Lutherans Latest to Reject New NIV Bible Over Gender Language". Retrieved 2012-09-05. 
  29. ^ Kenneth A. Cherney, Jr. "Gender-Neutral Language, with Special Reference to NIV 2011" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-06-18. Retrieved 2015-06-17. 
  30. ^ http://tgc-documents.s3.amazonaws.com/themelios/36-3/Themelios36.3.pdf#page=73
  31. ^ http://tgc-documents.s3.amazonaws.com/themelios/36-3/Themelios36.3.pdf#page=74

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