Can the NIV Be Trusted?
Was the New International Version (NIV) translation process corrupted by a secular agenda for profit or political correctness? Absolutely not. No other Bible translation has followed such a rigorous, careful process to ensure accuracy and reliability. The text of the NIV is entrusted to an independent, self-governing body of evangelical Bible scholars called the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT). This committee represents the very best in evangelical biblical scholarship. Drawn from various denominations, the differing theological background of CBT members guards its work from any kind of individual or denominational influence. No individual, or group of individuals, can hold sway in the committee because no change to the text can be ratified without a 70 percent majority vote. This ensures that the translation is well protected from personal or political agendas.
What about outside influences? No outside group — no publisher or commercial entity — can influence how the NIV is translated. Biblica, as worldwide publisher and copyright holder of the NIV, has no seat on the translation committee and no means to influence translation decisions. Zondervan and Hodder & Stoughton, as commercial publishers of the NIV, also have no seat on the translation committee and no means to influence translation decisions. The CBT is therefore free to focus on monitoring Biblical scholarship and English usage and then reflecting these developments in a Bible translation that faithfully expresses God’s unchanging Word in contemporary English.
The CBT operates from the conviction that the Bible is the inspired and wholly reliable Word of God. Their goal is to faithfully reproduce what the original authors wrote in language that people could easily read and understand today. They always have been and continue to be fully committed to the authority and infallibility of Scripture. Maximum care has been taken throughout the NIV translation process to produce a thorough, precise, accurate, reliable, and reverent translation of God’s inspired Word. Biblical accuracy is the CBT’s top priority and they are unwavering in their standards.
Every word choice, every update, every translation decision made in the New International Version is subject to a rigorous translation process. The first edition, printed in 1978, was the labor of more than 100 evangelical biblical scholars, and their process was as follows:
First, each book of the Bible was assigned to a translation team consisting of two lead translators, two translation consultants and one English style consultant (if necessary). Then another team of five Bible scholars reviewed the work of the earlier teams, 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 biblical scholars and language experts gave additional feedback. Samples were then tested with pastors, students, and laypeople, and their feedback was considered as well.
The CBT’s mandate under the NIV charter is to maintain the NIV as an articulation of God’s unchanging Word in contemporary English. Since 1978, the NIV has been revised twice, reflecting new archeological findings, current biblical scholarship, and changes to the English language. All revisions to the NIV are made for the sole purpose of increasing the accuracy of the English rendering of what the original text says.
In preparation for the latest update to the NIV, published in 2011, the translators commissioned one of the most comprehensive studies of gender language in English ever completed. Drawing on the Collins Bank of English, a database of more than 4.4 billion words from publications and spoken-word recordings spanning two decades, the CBT worked with some of the world’s leading experts in computational linguistics, and used techniques developed specifically for the NIV update project. The Collins study tracked usage over a twenty-year period and across different varieties of English: for example, UK English, US English, written English, spoken English, and even the English used in a wide variety of evangelical books, sermons and internet sites. Before making any translated text edits the CBT gained an authoritative, objective perspective on contemporary linguistic norms. To the extent that gender-inclusive language is an established part of contemporary English and that its use enhances comprehension for readers, it was an important factor in decisions made by the translators.
The CBT has always been deeply conscious of the need that exists for a Bible that offers the whole church – from experienced Bible students to interested newcomers and from older readers to younger ones – access to God’s unchanging Word in language that every English reader can understand. The CBT’s decisions in the area of gender were made to ensure maximum comprehension for this broad audience in line with the mission of the NIV. The result of the ongoing rigorous translation process is a Bible you can trust, both today and in the future. We hope that all Christians who share our commitment to this need will affirm the value and necessity of continually updating the NIV.