|Edited by Mark
The New International Version
is translation done by over 100 scholars working directly from the
best available Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew texts. The effort began in 1965,
due to the inadequacy of existing English translations. In 1978, the New
International Version made the New and Old Testaments understandable to
millions of people who formerly had to deal with
"interpretations" of older translations that had problems with
accuracy and language.
For example, many religious disagreements arose in
the 1800s and later from a reliance on a dead language--the language used
to translate the King James Bible (released in 1611). The KJV also had
inaccuracies that were not present in the Catholic version (the Douay
Bible) printed in 1610. This resulted in further
"interpretations" and further splits among people claiming to be
The New International Version set denominational
interests aside and went for the truth. The need to have someone with a
vested interest "interpret" Scripture suddenly vanished
overnight and made real Bible-based Christianity possible for the first
time in centuries without extensive study and the pure luck of getting an
accurate "interpretation" from someone not pushing a particular
A key point to remember is today's culture and
idioms make understanding the ideas of Biblical times very difficult. A
direct translation word for word (transliteration) is useless without an
in-depth knowledge of the culture and the times. Many examples of this
abound, and these examples are the basis for many religious disagreements.
More recent texts have helped clear up the misunderstandings behind these
disagreements by improving the accuracy of the translations. Imagine if it
were the year 4050 and you were trying to explain what someone meant in
1950 by telling someone else to be cool. Would that mean treat the other
person coldly? Set your insecurities aside? Use cryogenics to lower your
body temperature? This one of the problems Bible scholars have in
rendering an accurate translation.
Here is a bit of chronology of the English Bible:
- 1610. The Catholic Church released the Douay
version in 1610, in Latin. It derived directly from the Latin Vulgate,
which was released in 400 AD--four years after the founding of the
Catholic Church and appointment of the first Pope in 396 AD in
Constantinople. The Vulgate drew from the ancient copies--which were
accurate but incomplete.
- 1611. The King James Version appeared. This was a
version King James wanted in English, as a snub to the Catholic Latin
version. Because the king authorized this English version, many
Christians falsely believe "authorized" means this is the
only legitimate version. People who believe this use wording from the
King James in religious circumstances out of a misguided need for
"reverence" and observance of "authorized"
Scripture. The KJV drew from the Latin Vulgate somewhat, but also from
all other available sources. It was a massive improvement over the
Tyndale (1525) and earlier English versions.
Earlier versions were
flawed for reasons of literacy, information sources, and politics. The KJV had fewer literacy problems, but had similar constraints in
sources and politics. An enduring feature of the KJV is the convention
of Chapter and Verse. These designations were not in the original
Scriptures. Indeed, nearly all of the New Testament consists of
letters and they are not really books at all. This feature is retained
in nearly all subsequent English translations and is in translations
of many other languages as well.
- 1881. Enough of a language gap had developed
during the 270 years from the publishing of the KJV that a Revised
Version came out. This is still in use today, as is the KJV. It
retains many of the inaccuracies and biases of the KJV, but is easier
to read. It does fill in some holes, because it drew from copies of
the Early Copies (AD 400 and AD 440). Its prose retains the clumsiness
of the KJV, but also the beauty of it. For example, nobody has really
improved on Hebrews 11:1. The NIV way of saying it lacks the impact
and clarity. This is true of many other passages, as well. So, even
people who value the NIV quote from (or refer to) the KJV for its
poetic meter and colorfulness--much of which is retained in the RV.
- 1901. The American Standard version was a
"cleanup" of the RV, for readability. This version is still
popular today, but on the decline.
- 1952. The Revised Standard Version further
modernized the language. Further continuations of this branch of Bible
translations with no further resources to tap resulted in the New
American Standard Bible (1971) and the Revised King James Bible
(1982). All of these versions, from 1881 forward, contained the same
inaccuracies and information holes.
- 1959. Drawing more heavily from the Early Copies,
the Berkeley (1959), Amplified (1965), JB (1965), and NEB (1970)
provided more accuracy and readability. But, they were still
essentially revisions of the KJV-derived ASV and RV.
- 1971. The Living Bible emerged, not as a
doctrinal reference but as a Bible for the masses to grasp concepts of
the Bible. Many Biblical scholars were horrified. However, this
version was something people would actually read, and it eventually
found a niche as a "First Bible" for those who didn't want
to argue minutiae but did want the "big picture."
- 1976. The TEV was released. It drew on a much
broader range of references and was the first Bible translation into
English to draw on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other newly-discovered (in
the 1940s and later) references. These items were not always
"religious" in nature, and so they were tremendously useful
and reliable toward improving translation accuracy.
- 1978. The New International Version went into
print. This was widely recognized as the most accurate English
translation ever. Today, it still is. Other translations have since
emerged, but they have not improved dramatically on the NIV because
there are no new information sources available and nobody has since
put together such an international cross-denominational team to do the
The NIV does have compromises in interpretation of some
passages, but most scholars consider these to be "fine
point" items of little or no consequence. It does lack some of
the beauty of the KJV, but introduces beauty of its own. It is
certainly far more useful to today's English-speaking Bible reader
than is any earlier version.
In other languages, such as Spanish,
translations from the Latin would seem more logical because Latin is a
closer language to Spanish than is English . However, those Latin
versions do not draw on as many corroborating references and were
written with the "death if you defy doctrine" bias of the
Catholic Church in mind. The Catholic Church has its own doctrine
apart from the Bible (there are many direct conflicts of significant
nature), but still, the Church did want its scholars to toe the party
- Today. Many versions of the Bible exist. Which
one is right for you? Many people buy a multiple version text, and
draw the best conclusions they can. Others simply use the most
reliable versions (such as the NIV and its derivatives). Most people
don't really care. They believe Christ came to replace organized
religion (external) with a faith-based (internal) system and striving
to understand the most minor details is simply bad stewardship of your
Whatever your beliefs are, even if you are not
a Christian, the Bible makes for good reading. If you do have a
Bible-based belief set, you can expand your understanding of spirituality
by reading the great works of other religions. When doing so, read for
principles and concepts.
We do not advise including such obviously fake religious books
as the Book of Mormon (which attempts to duplicate KJV language but does
so very poorly) because an objective reading revealed so many
inconsistencies, inter-document, and intra-document conflicts that we felt
this was not of value in a spiritual journey.
Yes, religious topics are touchy and something in
this article may have offended you. If so, we apologize but the facts
stand as they are. We are not prescribing any particular dogma, but are
simply providing information about religious reference materials that may
help you on your spiritual journey. Travel with an honest heart.