“The NIV version of the Bible has removed 45 verses totaling 65,000 words from the Bible!”
These words flash across the Facebook feeds of the English-speaking world every eight months or so. Well meaning Christians, panicked by what they read in these articles, post it as a warning that we should be careful what Bible we use. By the way, I agree: we should be careful what Bible translation we use!
These articles report many other things as well about the New International Version (NIV) translation of the Bible. Here are a few:
- “The NIV bible is a translated version of the Bible from the original King James Version.”
- “NIV Bible has left out words like Calvary, Jehovah, and Omnipotent” (and the list gets longer in some articles).
- The new owner of NIV, Harper Collins, has also published the controversial Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex.
- “There are verses completely omitted from the NIV that are vitally important to our belief about Jesus. Look for Matthew 17:21, 18:11, 23:14, Mark 7:16, 9:44, 9:46, Luke 17:36, 23:17, John 5:4 and John 8:1-11.”
What are we to make of this?
Is this true?
If it is, what should we do?
If it isn’t, what should we make of the accusations?
For the next four weeks, I’m going to present an answer to these articles. Do I intend to change the world with these? No. BUT I’ve rarely seen anyone answer these articles in any specific way (beyond in the comments to them, which are buried underneath the article). Therefore, we’ll start to look at these accusations and provide answers to them.
Here’s a good place to start. The Bible is the Word of God to us. In Paul’s letter to his young protégé Timothy he writes under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV):
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Bible is the Word of God. You gotta get that part because volleys made at modern translations are based on the same belief: this is the Word of God and you don’t mess with it. Agreed. As a seminary professor once prayed, “Lord, we seek not to be masters of the text but seek only to be mastered by it.”
With that, let’s dig in some on one of the accusations: “The NIV bible is a translated version of the Bible from the original King James Version.”
Before we even get to this, we have to know what “translation” is in the first place.
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew with parts of Daniel and Ezra in Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek. Notice, neither language is English. So unless you speak Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek, you’re stuck reading a translation.
There are two “families” of translations: dynamic and formal. Dynamic translation aims to translate the content of the message more than the form. It’s why we read in an English Bible “with all my heart” instead of “with all my bowels”. As English speakers, the center of our emotions is our heart, not our intestines.
Formal translations emphasize getting a close grammatical relationship between the original and receptor language. Using my example above, formal translations would write, “I love you with all my bowels”.
There’s also another category you need to know: paraphrases. These are not translations. They’re not bad (categorically), but just realize you need to know it’s a paraphrase. Classic example: The Living Bible is a paraphrase of the King James Version. The Message is a paraphrase of the Hebrew and Greek.
So…is the NIV a translation of the “original King James Version”?
No. And I’m not just being technical (they’re both English although the King James is “Elizabethan English”).
In the preface to the New International Version (NIV) it states its sources for translation (not a paraphrase of anything else). For the Old Testament, the translators used “the standard Hebrew text, the Masoretic Text, as published in the latest edition of Biblia Hebraica”. The New Testament is “based on the latest editions of the Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament.”
Did the NIV translations paraphrase the King James Version? No they didn’t. As we go into more answers to these articles, you’ll see why the translation teams of modern versions wouldn’t want to.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)