“The NIV Bible is no more,” writes Jesse Johnson in a blog post entitled Farewell, NIV. Zondervan, the publishing company that owns the NIV (paid for its translation, copyrighted the material, and receives royalties for every edition of the NIV that is published), continues to publish an English translation of the Bible that it calls the NIV. The Zondervan website lists many versions of the NIV for sale.1 But according to Johnson the NIV Zondervan publishes today is not the same as the NIV published from 1984 to 2011.2 Here is Johnson’s explanation of how Zondervan killed the NIV:
A brief history of the NIV: Translated in 1984 (sic), 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.
Johnson provides statistical evidence for the drastic change between the 1984 and 2011 editions of the NIV.
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.
If you view Johnson’s article online you can click on the words “the stats,” which will take you to this web address: http://biblewebapp.com/niv2011-changes/. This website provides detailed statistical analysis about how different the 2011 NIV is from the 1984 NIV. Johnson’s conclusion is correct: the 1984 edition of the NIV is dead.
One might ask why we would be interested in the death of the NIV since the Protestant Reformed Churches did not adopt the NIV. We certainly do not mourn the death of the NIV. Rather, we mourned the fact that the NIV became such a popular translation of the Bible.
The NIV was and is an unfaithful translation of the Bible that is based on the flawed theory of Bible translation known as dynamic equivalency. Using the theory of dynamic equivalency, the translators of the NIV did not faithfully translate the words of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures but felt free to change words in order to convey the thought expressed in the text. We reject the theory of dynamic equivalency because every word of the Bible is inspired and because the only way to convey the thought of a text is to use its words. I will not demonstrate any of the NIV’s weaknesses and errors since these have often been demonstrated since the NIV was published in 1978.
If we do not mourn the death of the NIV, why do we take note of it with interest?
The death of the NIV shows us how the devil is continuing his assault on the Word of God by means of ever changing (modernizing) Bible translations. It is very important that we recognize and admit that the bad modern versions of the Bible are devilish attacks on the Bible. This is especially important in our feeble age when few are willing to call evil, evil. Even though Johnson criticizes the 2011 version of the NIV, he still writes that it is “not a bad translation.” He lumps the NIV with the KJV, NKJV, ESV, Holman, NAS, and NLT, all of which he describes as “good and trustworthy.”
But in the case of the “new” NIV Johnson himself provides the evidence that it is not “good and trustworthy.” Johnson criticizes the NIV’s new rendering of: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” In the old edition of the NIV the italicized words are rendered, “he is a new creation” (the KJV reads “he is a new creature”). Instead of describing the reality that a saved sinner becomes a new creature in Christ, the text now seems to espouse the post-millennial error that this present world is the new creation of Christ in which Christ’s kingdom will be established. Johnson rightly criticizes this translation because it is not based on the words of the text but on the “errant theology” of the translators. A version of the Bible that incorporates “errant theology” is neither good nor trustworthy, it is evil.
Johnson also notes the other glaring weakness of the 2011 version of the NIV. It is a “gender neutral” translation of the Bible. Where the original Hebrew and Greek use the pronouns man, he, or him, the NIV now freely uses, person, they, one, and other gender neutral pronouns. Such gender neutrality is simply unfaithful to the original Hebrew and Greek of the Bible. Rather than faithfulness to the original languages, the concern of gender neutrality is to satisfy the feminist movement that is devoted to the idea that there is essentially no difference between men and women. The new version of the NIV simply is not a reliable translation when it comes to God’s will concerning men and women.
We take note of the change from the “old” to the “new” NIV because it warns us that modern Bible versions are dedicated to catering to special agendas rather than faithfully translating the Word of God. Special interest groups have taken note of Zondervan’s willingness to twist Scripture in order to please those who have agendas. Shortly after the publication of the NIV2011, PETA clamored for an “animal friendly” version of the NIV. This was reported in an article published by the New York Daily News.
The cry for change comes after the 2011 NIV Bible was released earlier this month, updated to include more gender-inclusive pronouns like “he or she” and “they” other than the “he” and “him” traditionally found throughout the Old and New Testaments.
PETA said it hopes the switch to include more gender-neutral language will spark translators to readdress the ways animals are referred to in the Bible. Supporters for the change argue that referring to an animal as “it” takes away its special, God-given identity.
Perhaps in the near future Zondervan will publish a version of the Bible that “humanizes” animals, denying the truth of God concerning the dominion of man over the other creatures God has made. The devil would rejoice to see that day.
Yes, the devil is behind the publication of wicked modern versions of the Bible. One can see his handiwork in the publication of the “new” NIV by Zondervan. Johnson refuses in his article to acknowledge that there may be any evil motives behind the changes Zondervan made to the NIV. Specifically he rejects the idea that the publishing company is driven by a profit motive. Nevertheless, Zondervan’s carefully orchestrated “switcheroo” has at least some appearance of deceit. Even though the company publicized the switch to some degree, one wonders how many people have purchased the new NIV without knowing it is radically different from the previous edition. But the greatest evil is that Zondervan publishes a book under the name Holy Bible that is in fact an unholy translation of God’s Word that twists and obscures the truth. This is the evil fruit (and a pet peeve of mine) of publishing houses controlling the translation as well as the publication of the Bible.
Why take note of the death of the NIV? Because it confirms for us that faithfulness is the most important criterion for the translation of the Bible. The NIV, perhaps more than any other modern version of the Bible, forced those who use the KJV to consider switching. The NIV presented the English-speaking world with a very readable version of the Bible, backed by many reputable scholars. Why not replace the KJV with it? Because the NIV simply cannot compare to the KJV when it comes to faithfulness to the Word of God. The KJV is a faithful translation of the Word of God, and therefore truly is good and trustworthy.
I was in the presence of another family on New Year’s Day. A great-grandfather read Proverbs 26 from the KJV after the noon meal and closed with prayer. After he finished, four of his great-granddaughters prayed as they were taught by their parents, “Heavenly Father, we thank thee for this food and drink and for thy holy word, please forgive my sins for Jesus’ sake. Amen.” Knowing that the devil is constantly and craftily attempting to take God’s Word away from us and our children, it is right that we thank God for His holy Word, which we know we still have in the KJV.
It strikes me as a bit ironic that 2011 is the year Zondervan planned the death of the NIV. That was the year we celebrated the 400th anniversary of the KJV, which lives on as the most faithful translation of the Bible into English. Happy 403rd birthday KJV!!
1 There are basic versions such as NIV Reference Bible; there are specialized versions such as the NIV for Archaeology and the NIV New Testament for Military Wives; and there are many “kid” versions such as NIV ClearlyU, NIV Pink Chocolate, NIV Thinline: Stock Car Edition, as well as audio versions of the NIV that dramatize the Bible.
2 The NIV New Testament was first published in 1973. The NIV Old and New Testament was first published in 1978. In 1984 Zondervan published a slightly revised edition that has become one of the most popular and widely used English translations of the Bible.