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(Dr. Karen Jobes) It’s wonderful that something as big as the NIV could come out of the idea of just one single man who was just really wanting to share his faith.
(Dr. Douglas Moo) A lay person named Howard Long, a businessman, who was a keen Christian and was anxious to tell his business associates about Christ and to lead them into this relationship he had.
(Dr. Karen Jobes) And was realizing more and more that the King James Version or the version that he was using did not communicate.
(Dr. Douglas Moo) And Howard was just really frustrated with that sort of a situation, and he said we need an English version of the Bible that communicates in modern English, and ultimately over several years of meetings and kind of planning, there was born a group of scholars who decided to dedicate themselves to the thing we now call the New International Version of the Bible. With the NIV, it was a translation that started with the original texts of Scripture – Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek – and translated on the basis of those original languages.
(Dr. Karen Jobes) There’s a continuity there, and there’s a heritage there, and a tradition that is valuable.
(Dr. Bruce Waltke) It was rather surprising because they were very conservative, yet they had this very modern view of translation, and they insisted it had to be in the language of the people.
(Douglas Moo) Among these fifteen scholars was an attempt to represent the spectrum of the evangelical community as a whole. It would not have a denominational bias, it would not have a distinct theological bias, it would not have a distinct regional bias. That was built into the DNA of the NIV from the beginning, a Bible for the broader movement.
(Dr. Bruce Waltke) A great serendipity of the NIV and this process is it got people from different traditions within the church talking to one another and respecting one another.
One Man’s Vision for the NIV
Howard Long, an engineer from Seattle, was known for his passion for sharing the gospel and his love for the King James Bible. One day, he tried sharing Scripture with a non-Christian—only to find that the KJV’s 17th-century English didn’t connect.
In 1955, Long embarked on a ten-year quest for a new Bible translation that would faithfully capture the Word of God in contemporary English. Eventually his denomination, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) embraced his vision for the NIV.
Evangelicals Unite for a New Bible Translation
In 1965, a cross-denominational gathering of evangelical scholars met near Chicago and agreed to start work on the New International Version. Instead of just updating an existing translation like the KJV, they chose to start from scratch, using the very best manuscripts available in the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic of the Bible.
One year later, their decision was endorsed by a gathering of 80 evangelical ministry leaders and scholars. And so the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), the self-governing body responsible for the NIV, was born.
A Painstaking Translation Process
To ensure maximum accuracy and readability, the NIV went through perhaps the most rigorous translation process in history. First, each book of the Bible was assigned to a translation team consisting of:
• Two lead translators
• Two translation consultants
• One English style consultant (if necessary)
Then another team of five Bible scholars reviewed their work, carefully comparing it to the original biblical text and assessing its readability. From there, each book went to a general committee of 8 to 12 scholars. As part of the final review, outside critics gave feedback. Samples were tested with pastors, students, and laypeople. Perhaps no other Bible translation has gone through a more thorough process to ensure accuracy and readability.
From Dream to Reality
In 1968, Biblica (then the New York Bible Society) came on board as the NIV’s financial sponsor, mortgaging its office space in Manhattan and New Jersey so that Howard Long’s dream of a trustworthy, accessible Bible translation would become reality.
Ten years later, the full NIV Bible was published. The initial print run of over a million copies sold out before they were even done printing. Such was the demand for an accurate, readable Bible. Dozens of evangelical denominations, churches, and seminaries embraced the NIV as their official Bible translation for preaching, study, public reading, and personal use.
The Translation Work Goes On
The translators’ work didn’t end when the NIV was published in 1978. The original mandate, given in 1965, was to continue the work of Bible translation, ensuring that the NIV always reflects the very best of biblical scholarship and contemporary English.
The Committee on Bible Translation still meets every year, reviewing the work in painstaking detail—because when translating God’s inspired Word, it’s all about getting the words right.