Frequently Asked Questions

About the Committee on Bible Translation

What is the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT)?

The CBT was formed in 1965 to create a modern English Bible translation from the oldest and most reliable biblical manuscripts available. Since then, the committee has continued to meet each year to monitor developments in archaeological discoveries, biblical scholarship and English usage and to reflect these developments in periodic updates to the text. The committee represents the very best in evangelical biblical scholarship. The members – a self-perpetuating, independent body of 15 – are drawn from various denominations and work in some of the finest academic institutions in the world.

Who is on the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT)?

The CBT was formed in 1965 to create a modern English Bible translation from the oldest and most reliable biblical manuscripts available. Since then, the committee has continued to meet each year to monitor developments in biblical scholarship and English usage and to reflect these developments in periodic updates to the text. The committee represents the very best in evangelical biblical scholarship. The members – a self-perpetuating, independent body of 15 – are drawn from various denominations and some of the finest academic institutions in the world. See the complete list of the CBT members.

What are the CBT’s translation guiding principles?

The chief goal of every update to the NIV is to ensure that the text reflects the latest and best biblical scholarship and recognizes the established shifts in English idiom and usage. The 2011 NIV update represents the latest efforts of the committee to articulate God’s unchanging Word in the way the original authors might have said it if they had been speaking in English to the global English-speaking audience today. This is the reading experience that the NIV seeks to recreate. The committee’s aim is to translate the NIV in such a way as to provide the optimum combination of transparency to the original documents and ease of understanding in every verse. Learn more about the NIV translation philosophy.

How does the CBT work now that the translation is complete? Describe the ongoing translation process.

Members of the committee work individually – each in their own particular areas of specialty – as well as in small groups and as a full committee. In addition to considering proposals from within the committee, they also solicit and receive input from Bible scholars, ministers, missionaries and lay-people. Every proposal is evaluated with many leading to revisions to the text, while others are tabled for discussion at future meetings for potential inclusion in later updates. Changes are not made easily. At least 70 percent of the committee members present at the time of the voting are required to agree before the text can be altered. This ensures that no individual, indeed not even a large group of individuals, can hold sway in the committee.

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.

About the NIV Text

When did the translation process begin?

The CBT was formed in 1965 to create a modern English Bible translation from the oldest and most reliable biblical manuscripts available to Bible scholars at the time. From its inception in the 1960’s to the emergence of the first complete NIV text in 1978, the NIV translation team has continued to meet, year after year, reviewing archaeological discoveries, developments in biblical scholarship, and changes in global English usage, and revising the translation to ensure that it continues to offer readers an experience that mirrors that of the original audience. The 2011 update is the latest fruit of this process. Learn about the history of the NIV.

What manuscripts were used when translating the NIV?

The translators of the NIV have used the Old Testament and New Testament texts that are widely accepted among modern scholars as giving the committee the best possible access to what God inspired in the original documents.

For the Old Testament the Masoretic Text, the standard Hebrew text as published in the latest edition of Biblia Hebraica, has been used throughout. The NIV translators have sometimes used variants of the Hebrew Masoretic tradition or other ancient versions, where these seemed to provide a superior text than the Masoretic tradition. These are all noted in the NIV translator footnotes that appear at the bottom of the page of the text that they reference.

For the New Testament, the translators have used the accepted Greek New Testament text as printed in the Nestle-Aland and United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testaments. Here also the translators have occasionally accepted a variant printed in these editions. Footnotes usually indicate the options in each case.

Please see the NIV Preface that appears in every NIV Bible for more on this topic.

Who is responsible for maintaining the NIV text?

A self-governed team of independent evangelical Biblical scholars, the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), is responsible for the translation of the NIV Bible. No publisher—either Biblica or any of its licensed publishing partners around the world, commercial or otherwise—can tell the CBT how to translate God’s Word. The NIV is trustworthy because the NIV Bible translators all firmly believe that the original manuscripts are the inspired Word of God and completely free from error, being the work of authors who were directed by the Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:20-21, 2 Timothy 3:16). The translators come from many different denominations and academic institutions, and they only make changes to the English translated text if 70 percent or more of the committee agrees. This safeguards the NIV translation against theological and ideological bias.

Why are there periodic updates to the NIV?

The original NIV charter requires the committee to constantly monitor developments in biblical scholarship and changes in English usage and to reflect these changes in periodic updates to the text. Without these periodic updates the NIV would be unable to maintain the priorities that have drawn people to it over the years: providing the optimum blend of transparency to the original text and ease of understanding for a broad audience.

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 the latest update in 2011, about 95% of the text remains exactly the same as the 1984 NIV that it replaces, based on the number of word changes.

What are the differences between the NIV 1984 and the updated NIV in 2011?

All the changes in the updated text are attributable to at least one of the following factors: new archaeological findings, changes in global English usage and practice, progress in biblical scholarship, and concern for clarity. About 95% of the text of the updated 2011 NIV remains exactly the same as the 1984 text it replaces, based on the number of word changes.

How are gender-related issues handled in the NIV?

The CBT’s mandate under the NIV charter is to maintain the NIV as an articulation of God’s unchanging Word in contemporary English. To the extent that gender-inclusive language is an established part of contemporary English and that its use enhances comprehension for readers, it clearly was an important factor in the decisions they made in the latest revision.

In addition to considering feedback from scholars, pastors and laypeople, the committee also initiated a relationship with Collins Dictionaries to use the Collins Bank of English, one of the world’s foremost English-language research tools, to conduct a major new study of changes in gender language. The Collins Bank of English is a database of more than 4.4 billion English words that provides objective, statistically significant data on the state of written and spoken English at any given point in the history of the language.

As a result of this data, CBT adopted a set of guidelines to be applied during the update process in cases where the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts clearly indicate an application to mixed groups of men and women and not just to individual men (or women) or groups of men (or women). However, it’s important to note that the CBT has never considered more far-reaching changes, such as changes to the gendered names used in God’s self-revelation. The first person of the Trinity is still called “Father,” and Jesus is his “Son.” It is important to note that nowhere in the NIV is inclusive language used for God.

All gender decisions in the NIV were subjected to rigorous scrutiny to ensure that the words chosen maximize reader comprehension of the original meaning.

Have verses been removed from the NIV?

Here’s the good news: no verses are missing. The King James Version translators used the best manuscripts available to them in 1611. Fortunately, since that time many older manuscripts have been discovered and carefully evaluated by scholars, with the conclusion that the older manuscripts are more reliable. This has given modern translators unprecedented access to manuscripts produced closer in time to the original documents. The “missing verses” some have mentioned are not found in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts, so modern translators have included or referenced them in footnotes.

The translators of the King James Version used the best resources available to them at that time and for their day, the King James translation was a monumental achievement. No doctrines of the Christian faith are affected by differences between the King James Version and the manuscripts that it translated and modern translations following more reliable sources.

For more on this topic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YC1oU2zNC_Q&t=107s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4p83lJ4Uvw

Why does the NIV not capitalize pronouns referring to God?

The original Hebrew and Greek did not distinguish pronouns referring to God from other words, and so it would be improper for the translators to add that additional layer of interpretation onto the text.

For more on this topic, here is an article from one of the NIV translators: https://www.billmounce.com/monday-with-mounce/should-we-capitalize-divine-pronouns

About NIV Bibles

Are there any NIV Bibles available with line-matching text?

Due to the textual formatting decisions made by the translation committee, line-matching is not a viable typesetting option for the NIV. The Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) places great rigor and care in the accurate rendering of words, sentences, and paragraphs; it also upholds that same rigor and care in deciding how the text is presented on a page. Most of the committee’s textual presentation decisions simply do not allow for line-matching.

For the few text editions that are line-matched, there have been exemptions granted based on the unique use and goals of those special editions.

Why can’t I find an NIV Bible with the 1984 text?

After the release of the 2011 NIV text, Biblica, the copyright holder for the NIV, decided not to allow further publication of the 1984 NIV text.  The original NIV charter requires that the Committee on Bible Translation constantly monitor developments in biblical scholarship and changes in global English usage and to reflect these changes in periodic updates to the text. Without these periodic updates the NIV would be unable to maintain the priorities that have drawn people to it over the years: providing the optimum blend of transparency to the original text and ease of understanding for a broad audience.

In the latest 2011 update, about 95% of the text remains exactly the same as the 1984 NIV that it replaces, based on the number of word changes. All the changes in the updated text are attributable to at least one of the following factors: new archaeological findings, changes in global English usage, progress in scholarship, and concern for clarity.

Where is a good place to see many of NIV Bibles available?

We recommend visiting your local Christian or Barnes & Noble bookstore. For an online retailer, we recommend Faithgateway.com, Churchsource.com, Christianbook.com or Amazon.com. Each of these retailers carries a wide selection of NIV Bibles.

See Find an NIV Bible for the types of NIV Bibles that are available by category.

Have More Questions?

For further questions you have about the NIV, please email nivtranslation@harpercollins.com.