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Information Connection: NIV Bible

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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 Christians.

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 doctrine.

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 translating.

    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 line.
  • 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 time.

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.

Buy a Bible.



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