Jeffrey Khoo

The New International Version (NIV) is the bestselling version of the English Bible today according to the Christian Booksellers’ Association. The venerable King James Version (KJV) is in second place. Despite the plethora of modern versions out in the market today that seek to dethrone the KJV, it continues to be highly esteemed and well used. The KJV has lasted and outlasted others for almost 400 years. How about the NIV, will it last? Perhaps judgement time has come.

NIV Makeover in 2011

In an attempt to save the NIV, Biblica (formerly International Bible Society) on September 1, 2009 announced that the NIV will receive a makeover by 2011 (http://www.nivbible2011.com). Moe Girkins, CEO of NIV publisher Zondervan, confesses that “The T-NIV is very divisive. It’s not a unifying translation. And it was poorly handled in the marketplace. We need to undo the damage.” The T-NIV (Today’s NIV) which was published in 2005 in the United States was supposed to be an improved and better NIV by making it feminist-sensitive and gender-inclusive. It has been observed that the TNIV deleted from the Bible such words as “man,” “father,” “son,” “brother” and “he” in no less than 3000 places. These changes in no small way undermine the doctrine of the family and of male headship, and many other doctrines in the Bible (see http://www.genderneutralbibles.com). Since times are a changing and language evolving, it was thought that a politically correct gender-neutral version would boost popularity and profits. Wrong!

Can the NIV be saved? It is well nigh impossible for the NIV to be saved or salvaged. Why? The problems of the NIV are deeper and deadlier than its egalitarianism. They are its rotten roots, namely (1) its source text which is the corrupt Westcott-Hort Text and not the traditional, preserved, and received text (Textus Receptus), and (2) its dynamic equivalency method of translation which offers a subjective interpretation over against an objective word-for-word translation of the verbally and plenarily inspired Word of God. As such, it is not a “makeover” that the NIV needs, but an “extreme makeover.” Will the NIV be a more reliable and trustworthy version by 2011? It cannot and will not be! The cosmetic changes will do no good when the real need is radical surgery.

The NIV has been and will continue to be a most unfaithful and untrustworthy version of the Bible. How so? By employing a corrupt source text and an equally unacceptable method of translation, the NIV has undermined the Written Word and the Living Word in a number of places. Here are some instances:

Attacking the Divine Preservation of Holy Scriptures

Psalm 12:6–7 says, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” This is a very explicit proof-text on God’s promise to preserve His Words. How did the NIV translators render this verse? The NIV reads, “And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times. O LORD, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever.” Note the change from “keep them” to “keep us,” and “preserve them” to “protect us.” They changed the pronouns from third plural (i.e. “them”) to first plural (i.e. “us”). Is this an accurate or acceptable translation? In the Hebrew, the first word is tishmerem. The -em suffix is literally “them” not “us.” He will keep “them” (so KJV) is correct. The second word is titzrennu. The -ennu suffix (with an energetic nun) is third singular (i.e. “him”), not first plural (i.e. “us”). The energetic nun is emphatic (i.e. “every one of them”). So it should be translated preserve “them” (i.e. every single one of His words) not “us” (i.e. people). By incorrectly and inaccurately translating Psalm 12:7, the NIV has completely removed the doctrine of Bible preservation from this text.

The NIV has not only attacked the Written Word, it has also attacked the Living Word—the Person of Christ—in at least these three places.

Attacking the Eternal Generation of God the Son

The eternal generation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity (i.e. Jesus Christ is the eternally begotten Son of God) is an important doctrine of the Christian Faith. The 4th century Athanasian and Nicene Creeds state that Jesus is both Son and God “only-begotten, … of the Father before all the ages.” The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF, 1647) likewise followed the ancient creeds in describing the relationship that exists within the Godhead: “In the unity of the Godhead, there be three persons, of one substance, power and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son” (II:3; emphasis added).

All three ancient creeds describe Christ as only begotten, or eternally begotten. Now every doctrine must be based on the Bible. Where in the Bible do we find Jesus being described as the only begotten Son of God? If you have the KJV you will find it in John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; and 1 John 4:9. But if you are using the NIV, you will not find it. The term “only begotten” with reference to Christ has been conveniently removed by the NIV. It mistranslates the Greek monogenês as “one and only.” Problem is monogenês does not just mean “one and only.” The Greek monogenês comes from two words: monos meaning “only” and gennaô meaning “to beget” or “to generate.” The KJV translates it literally and accurately as “only begotten.” The NKJV’s criticism of the NIV’s “dynamic” rendering of monogenês is worth noting, “Dynamic equivalence, a recent procedure in Bible translation, commonly results in paraphrasing where a more literal rendering is needed to reflect a specific and vital sense. For example, references to Christ in some versions of John 3:16 as ‘only Son’ or ‘one and only Son’ are doubtless dynamic equivalents of sorts. However, they are not actual equivalents of the precisely literal ‘only begotten Son,’ especially in consideration of the historic Nicene statement concerning the person of Christ, ‘begotten, not made,’ which is a crucial Christian doctrine.”

The NIV goes counter to Reformed theology. The WCF teaches according to the Scriptures that Jesus “the Son is eternally begotten of the Father.” But if you are Reformed in your beliefs, and using the NIV, you should be shocked to know that the fundamental doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son of God finds no support whatsoever in the NIV. It is simply not there. The NIV has subtracted from God’s Word; a very dangerous thing to do (Rev 22:19).

Attacking the Virgin Birth of Christ

In Luke 2:33 we read, “And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him” (KJV). In the NIV, it reads like this, “The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him.” Do you see the problem here with the NIV? The NIV makes Joseph the father of Jesus! It contradicts the virgin birth. The liberals who deny the virgin birth would say Amen to the NIV.

Know that the NIV’s rendering of this verse is totally out of line for the following reasons: (1) the word “child” is not in the traditional Greek text, (2) the word “father” is also not there, (3) the possessive pronoun “his” is connected to Mary alone (“his mother”), and does not include Joseph. The NIV has caused Luke to contradict the virgin birth. Jesus has only one Father, and He is none other than the First Person of the Holy Trinity. Joseph was neither physically nor spiritually the father of Jesus.

Now, NIV advocates will point out verse 41 which called Joseph and Mary “his parents” (so KJV as in NIV). The fact that Joseph and Mary were indeed parents of Jesus—Joseph being legally a “parent” and not naturally the “father” of Jesus—would prove the point that the biblical writer was careful not to attribute the title “father” to Joseph, for Jesus has only one Father, and that is His Father in Heaven—the First Person of the Holy Trinity. In verse 43, we again see the original writer carefully distinguishing Joseph’s actual relationship with Jesus by the words “Joseph and his mother,” again purposely avoiding calling Joseph His “father.” Jesus Himself refused to call Joseph “father,” and gently corrected Mary when she said, “thy father and I have sought thee” (Luke 2:48), which drew this response, “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). Why did not Jesus use “God,” or “the Lord,” but “Father” at this juncture? It is to correct any misconception that Joseph was in any way His “father”; God alone was His Father.

Attacking the Deity and Humanity of Christ

1 Timothy 3:16 has to be one of the clearest texts of Scripture proving the full deity and full humanity of Christ, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, …”. But from the NIV, you would have a difficult time proving this. Instead of the reading, “God was manifest in the flesh,” you have “He appeared in a body.” The NIV obscures (1) the deity of Christ by removing “God” and replacing it with just “He,” and (2) the humanity of Christ by replacing “the flesh,” with “a body” (a body may not necessarily be “flesh and blood”). The word in the original is sarx, “flesh,” not sôma, “body.” It is also interesting and significant to note that the KJV translators never rendered sarxas “body” and sôma as “flesh.” The KJV translators recognised the distinction between the two; something the NIV translators failed to do, having exalted method over theology.

Since we are at 1 Timothy 3:16, a comment on why the NIV reads “He” and not “God” is appropriate. The NIV chose to adopt a Westcott-Hort reading of the text. According to Westcott and Hort, since the Sinai and Vatican codices read “he who,” instead of “God,” it must be the correct reading. And mind you, this is over against the majority of the Greek manuscripts which read theos, “God,” instead of hos, “he who.” Many modern versions like the NIV happily follow Westcott and Hort in corrupting the Word of God. Lovers of God’s Word should refrain from using a version which not only wrongly translates the Bible, but also supports the unbelieving views of Westcott and Hort.

We thank the Lord for the KJV which is the most faithful and accurate translation of the Bible in the English language. Since God has given to us such a good and faithful, time-tested and time-honoured version of the Bible as the KJV, let us stick to it, and stay clear of unfaithful and corrupt translations like the NIV.

Published in the True Life BPC's Weekly, Volume 6 Number 50.