Who controls NIV text?

The Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) is an independent body of Old and New Testament scholars, generally representative of the denominational and theological diversity represented in English-speaking, international, evangelical Christianity. Their remuneration and reimbursement for expenses come from Biblica, until recently known as the International Bible Society. The CBT members receive no royalties from the sale of the New International Version of the Bible (NIV).  They are paid for their time and expenses in working on the NIV and their remuneration would be considered by most people to be very modest–it is largely a labor of love and mission.

By contract between the CBT and Biblica, the CBT controls the text of the NIV. This means that no one can revise, correct, update, or otherwise change the translation other than the CBT itself. In fact, the CBT itself cannot make any such changes to the NIV text as previously published without a quorum of the CBT present, and without at least a 70% majority of those present. The CBT is a self-perpetuating body and operates under its own very clearly defined rules.

Biblica holds the actual copyright to the NIV, though they have no control over the text itself (that resides with the CBT as stated above). Biblica in turn licenses the commercial publishing rights to commercial publishers–currently the primary publishers are Zondervan and Hodder (UK). The publishers must publish the text exactly as delivered by the CBT, including all footnotes, sectional headings, etc. Royalties from the publishers’ sales are paid to Biblica, and these funds support Biblica’s Bible distribution and translation projects around the world. Biblica does do a very limited amount of commercial publishing and/or distribution of the NIV, but it is so small as to be inconsequential.

Zondervan does not have a representative who sits in CBT translation sessions, who participates in their discussions, or who has a vote at the table. A Zondervan representative will occasionally consult with or meet with the CBT chair or other members of the CBT to discuss mutual concerns, but these are never occasions where Zondervan attempts to tell the CBT how it should translate or revise the text. If Zondervan were to attempt to do so, it would be counter-productive. The CBT is jealous of its scholarly independence and it protects itself from pressure groups who have an agenda. (Note how the 70% majority rule protects that as well.) Occasionally it has been suggested or implied that Zondervan exercises considerable influence over the CBT, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The model that exists between the CBT, Biblica, and the commercial publishers is the best way to protect the integrity of the NIV. It protects the integrity of the translation from commercial considerations and from special interest groups of all kinds who might have a vested interest in seeing the original texts translated in a particular way.

For information on the biblical scholars who make up the Committee on Bible Translation, see the Translator Profiles.