Erica Campbell, the Christian musician who won the Grammy award for “Best Gospel Album” in 2015, created confusion in the minds of certain Christians. Her Facebook post implied the untrustworthiness or the fallibility of the NIV translation of the Bible.1 Erica Campbell alleged that 45 complete verses were removed from the NIV translation indicating that NIV is not a reliable translation anymore. Is her allegation true? If so, should we discard the NIV Bible?
The Bible has been translated more than any other book. One such translation of the Bible is the NIV or the New International Version. The NIV was first published in 1978, and further updated in 1984 and 2011. In 2005, the TNIV (Today’s New International Version) was published. The TNIV was a gender-inclusive translation and went out of print in 2009. The 1984 version of NIV is also out of print. The 2011 version of NIV is the only version that remains in print.
Background To The Allegation
While examining this theme, we should be cognizant of the KJV-Only group, who may have been behind the Erica Campbell allegation. Apologetics Index describes this movement as, “King James Only-ism is an aberrant teaching that considers the King James Version – specifically the ‘1611 Authorized Version’ – to be the only legitimate English-language Bible version.
Some KJV-onlyists go so far as to insist that people who do not use the King James Version (or even a specific edition of the King James Version) are not saved. In doing so they believe and teach a heresy — one that violates the Biblical doctrine of salvation by adding conditions not taught in Scripture. [See: Essential doctrines of the Christian faith] Those KJV-Onlyists who teach this in so doing place themselves outside the boundaries of the Christian faith, and should be considered heretics.”2
It is quite possible that the social media campaign against the NIV could have been orchestrated by the KJV-Only movement to discredit the NIV translation.
Understanding The Methods Of Biblical Translation
There are two broad methods used to translate the language of the source text into another language such as English. In the case of the Bible the source text of the Old Testament is in Hebrew and the source text of the New Testament is in Greek. While translating the Hebrew and Greek text into English, the translators could adopt either of the following methods of translations:
Formal Equivalence: Translations such as the ASV (American Standard Version), KJV (King James Version) and the NASB (New American Standard Bible) rigidly adhere to the form of the original language. In other words, Formal equivalence is informally known as a “word for word” translation. This translation style utilizes a formal technique that attempts to preserve the exactness of the translation.
Dynamic Equivalence: This is the “thought for thought” translation. This translational style disregards the form of the source language but not the message. The New English Bible (NEB), The Good News Bible or Today’s English Version (TEV), New International Version (NIV) are good examples of dynamic equivalence.
Although NIV is not a wooden or a literal “word for word” translation, the New Testament scholars affirm that it has accurately translated the message of the source text.
Scholars Affirm NIV’s Credibility
Was Erica Campbell’s accusation against NIV translation valid?
Not by any stretch of imagination! New Testament scholar Dr. Daniel Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary heaps high praise upon the NIV translators, “The scholarship behind the NIV 2011 is probably as good as it gets. And the textual basis is both bold and exceptionally accurate.”3 He goes on to affirm the scholarly credibility of NIV, “…the scholarship that produced this version is excellent, both in text and translation decisions. The textual basis and rendering of difficult expressions in the original are bold features that warrant our gratitude. This is no fly-by-night operation. Unspeakable effort has gone into the production of this version of the Bible, with thousands of decisions being made by individuals and committees, all under the purview of the prime mandate of the CBT. For this, believers everywhere can and should thank God for the NIV, because it is what it purports to be: the eternal word of God in the language of English-speaking people today.”4
Dr. William Lane Craig, when asked to recommend a Bible translation, was suspicious of the distortions in TNIV (Today’s New International Version) but affirmative of NIV’s credibility, “I do not have a recommendation. I myself use the Revised Standard Version. I think that has the literary beauty of the King James Bible but with better manuscripts and more modern translation. But there are others as well. The ESV and NIV are two others. I think it is good to have a number of modern translations. Basically all of these will be responsible translations. They are done by modern committees of linguists who are experts.1
Followup: I have heard that the NIV is really too much of a paraphrase and in fact it changes the truth just by leaving out certain pronouns or words that we’d think are unimportant but in the Greek could change the meaning.
Answer: That is true about the TNIV – those who are interested in inclusivist language have changed much of that to eliminate male references and pronouns. I think there you do have some definite distortion. But as for the NIV, I don’t think it will seriously mislead.”5
Response To Erica Campbell’s Allegation
Both Biblica - The International Bible Society that’s responsible for NIV translation and Zondervan - the publishing house, have always maintained that NIV is reliable, “Biblica denies that HarperCollins, or any other group, has editorial control over the translation: The text of the NIV is entrusted to the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), a self-governing body of 15 evangelical Bible scholars. No outside group — no publisher or commercial entity — can decide how the NIV is translated.
In keeping with the original NIV charter, the CBT meets every year to monitor developments in biblical scholarship, as well as changes in English usage. Every year, they solicit (and receive) input from scholars, pastors, missionaries, and laypeople.
Also, Zondervan (the division of HarperCollins Christian that publishes the NIV Bible) disputes that there are any missing verses at all: Often times, readers will come across what they feel are “missing verses” in their NIV Bible. These verses, however, are not really missing. They are included in the footnotes on the same page of the Bible where the “missing” passage is located. During the exacting translation process for the NIV Bible, some verses were found not to be included in the oldest or most reliable manuscripts that the NIV translators had available to use. Most of these manuscripts were discovered after the King James Version was first translated, some 400 years ago. When those verses could not be verified by the more reliable or older manuscripts, the NIV translators moved them to a footnote to reflect greater accuracy.
Please be assured that your NIV Bible is extremely accurate, trustworthy and reliable. Additional information on the translation process and use of footnotes is located in the Preface of your NIV Bible…”6 (Emphasis Mine).
By omitting verses that are not found in the older and more reliable manuscripts, the NIV translators exhibit scholarly integrity and a penchant for utmost honesty to the effort of translation. In fact, the omitted verses should offer the readers a greater confidence that the NIV translation is highly accurate. Therefore, we can confidently ignore the allegations against NIV. The NIV translation of the Bible is indeed reliable.
Which Translation Of The Bible Should We Use?
Christians should use multiple translations, says Dr. Dan Wallace, “My own recommendation to English-speaking Christians is to own more than one Bible. In fact, I usually recommend the KJV (for historic and literary reasons), the NET (for accuracy especially, but also for elegance and readability), and a Bible of their choice (which could be either for reading [NIV, TNIV] or memorizing [RSV, ESV]).7
Websites cited were last accessed on 20th October 2016.