The New International Version

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
     One of the easiest reading Bibles being published today is the New International Version. It’s clarity comes not only from its use of modern English, but also from the willingness of the translators to translate idiomatic
phrases of the Bible times into similar phrases of today. This could be dangerous to any translation, for a true translation must keep the original meaning intended by the original author. An idiom in one language does not
always match an idiom’s meaning in another language. I’m not an expert in this field, but I think the translators of the New International Version struck a good balance in this area most of the time.

     However, as with most human works, the NIV is not without its problems. The translation was done at a period of time when the best available Greek text for the New Testament, as determined by Biblical scholars
turned out to be severely flawed. One of the false teachings that was wide spread during the early days of the church was a belief that Jesus was not really God in the flesh. Anything earthly was considered sinful and
corrupt, “So how could the pure God take on the nature of corruption,” these false teachers argued? Followers of this system of belief, now known as Gnosticism, used Bibles edited to support their beliefs.

     True Christians refused to use these altered Bibles, but they were loath to destroy the copies since they still contained much of God’s Word. Instead they retired the books to sealed crypts. Recently, modern
archeologists found these crypts. Finding copies of God’s word that was older than most of the material we possessed at that time, they gave higher weight to this older material, reasoning that older was better.

     Scholars have eventually pieced together the puzzle, but not before a few new translations were made using the flawed text, including the NIV.

     Gary Colley has published a list of problems with the NIV that all Bible students should be aware of. Some of these problems arise from the flawed Greek text that the NIV was based on, but other problems arise
from the religious bias of the translators. The wording of the passages were subtly altered in a number of places to make it more acceptable to popular religious beliefs instead of attempting to accurately match the original

     I would like to give you an expanded version of brother Colley’s list, showing the alteration by comparing it with other translations.

   Total Depravity

     “It mistranslated Psalms 51:5 to teach the false theory of Total Depravity.”

   KJV: Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

   NAS: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

   NKJ: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

   NIV: Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

     It doesn’t take a biblical scholar to tell that there is a major difference in meaning between the NIV and the other cited passages. Why did the translators of the NIV change the meaning so much? I believe they were
trying to justify their strongly held belief that people are born guilty of the sin of Adam. They attempted to provide proof where none existed.

   Original Sin

     “It changes ‘flesh’ in Romans 8 to ‘sinful nature’ teaching the false theory of original sin.”

     The word being debated is the Greek word sarx which means “flesh (as stripped of the skin), i.e. (strictly) the meat of an animal (as food), or (by extension) the body (as opposed to the soul [or spirit], or as the
symbol of what is external, or as the means of kindred), or (by implication) human nature (with its frailties [physical or mortal] and passions), or (specifically) a human being.”

     The English word “flesh” carries a similar meaning as it too can refer to the edible parts of an animal or to the physical being of a man. However, “nature” means the inherent character or basic constitution of a person
or thing. By changing the wording from “flesh” to “nature” the translators shifted the meaning from an emphasis on the physical make up of man to the character or spiritual make up of man.

     In addition, the word “sinful” is adjoined to “nature” even when the original Greek does not mention sinfulness.

   The Deity of Christ

     “It denies the deity of Christ by removing ‘begotten’ from every text referring to Jesus Christ (cf., John 3:16)”

     The NIV refuses to reflect the Greek New Testament statements that Jesus was born of God. Instead they use phrases such as “the One and Only” or “I have made you my son.” Consider the difference in
translation shown in John 1:14.

   ASV: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.

   NKJ: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

   NIV: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

     The Greek word being translated is monogenes. It is a compound word meaning “the only one of a race” or “the only born.” In literature it is used to refer an only child and it can be seen translated as such in Luke
7:12; 8:42; 9:38; and Hebrews 11:17. In the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament it is used in describing Isaac (Genesis 22:2, 12, 16) and Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11:34). Isaac was technically not an only child,
but he was the unique child of promise to Abraham. Just as an only child is treasured by his parents, the Greek word monogenes also carries the connotation of someone beloved.

     The NIV emphasizes the uniqueness of Christ while de-emphasizing the kinship of Christ to God the Father.

     A more clear altering is seen in Psalms 2:7, Acts 13:33, and Hebrews 1:5. Consider the following:

   NKJ: God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'

   NAS: that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'You are My son; today I have begotten You.'

   NIV: he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: "'You are my Son; today I have become your Father. '

     The Greek word gennao and the Hebrew word yalad refers to conceiving and giving birth to a child. The argument for de-emphasizing the birth is that some have argued that these verses mean Jesus had a
beginning. The NIV’s wording avoids that conclusion, but at the expense of changing what the text actually says. While there are plenty of verses which demonstrate that Jesus is eternal, these verses carry the idea that
Jesus is of the lineage of God – in other words, his deity, which is the point of Hebrews 1:5. That point is softened by the NIV’s translation which leaves the impression that anyone could have become God’s Son, God just
happened to select Jesus. The literal reading fits well with the virgin birth of Jesus and that God was literally his father.

   The Eunuch’s Baptism

     “It deletes both the statement of Philip on the condition of baptism and the eunuch’s answer (cf. Acts 8:37).”

     This is due to the manipulated Greek text that the translation was based upon. If it is any consolation, most copies of the NIV do include verse 37 in the footnotes.

   Salvation at the Point of Hearing

     “It falsely teaches that sinners are ‘included in Christ’ at the point of hearing (Ephesians 1:13).”

   NKJ: In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,

   ASV: in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation,-- in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,

   NIV: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,

     Nothing in the Greek indicates the idea of being included in Christ, especially at the point of hearing the Gospel.

   Salvation at the Point of Faith

     “It tampers with the plan of salvation in Romans 10:10, teaching that justification is reached at the point of faith. The same verse teaches that salvation is reached at the point of confession (Romans 10:10).”

   NKJ: For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

   ASV: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

   NIV: For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

     The Greek behind the phrase “unto righteousness” indicates a leading up to the point of the justification of character or leading up to the point of righteousness. However, the NIV leads the reader to believe the
justification has already taken place, which contradicts other verses that teach that salvation is based on more than just belief. See Acts 11:18 and Mark 16:16.

     A similar alteration is made in John 3:16.

   NKJ: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

   ASV: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.

   NIV: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Notice the subtle change from the idea that a believer should not perish to the idea that a believer shall not perish. “Should” indicates that the believer has no excuse in perishing. “Shall” indicates that a believer
cannot perish.


“It changes I Corinthians 1:6 from ‘the testimony of Christ’ (the gospel) to ‘our testimony of Christ’ (testimonialist).”

The Greek word marturion is a neuter word meaning something evidential, in other words in the general sense, evidence given or in the specific sense something like the Decalogue (in the sacred Tabernacle). Changing the
“the” or “our” removes the neuter sense of the testimony, making it something that was personally done. While the Apostles did testify of Christ, Paul is not speaking of just his personal testimony in this verse, but of all the
evidence that God has delivered concerning Christ.

   Salvation Before Baptism

“It makes Peter teach that baptism is ‘the pledge of a good conscience toward God’ advancing the false theory of faith alone (I Peter 3:21).”

The Greek word eperotema, means “an inquiry.” However, the word “pledge” used in the NIV means a promise made to God and not a response to God’s request.

As you can see, the New International Version is not the best version to use if you are interested in accuracy of translation. I still like it for easy reading, but for serious study I prefer to use more precise translations, such as
the New King James Version, the American Standard Version, or the New American Standard Version.

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