There are a lot of quality Bible translations available for people to turn to today. The list of different versions ranging from the New King James to the English Standard Version is enough to make your head spin if you don’t know what to look for. This is why it important to become familiar with the New International Version or NIV Bible so that as you choose your Bible you are aware of all of your options.
Since its first publishing in 1978 the NIV translation of the Bible has quickly become one of the more common translations found in churches across America and the globe. This is the result from regular revisions and effective distribution by the publisher Zondervan.
So, to better understand how this translation came to be one of the more popular translations among Christians across the United States and over the world we need to understand as much as we can about its history, the distinct advantages it has over other Bible translations and what potential cautions, if any, we should be aware of so we can make an informed decision about using the NIV study Bible. In the following post we will conduct our NIV study Bible review to help the readers make the most informed decision possible.
What makes the NIV Translation Unique?
The NIV Bible, through the publishing efforts of Zondervan has created a number of elements throughout the years in order to stay relevant to potential readers of all ages. They have made new features, added supplemental content to help the individual reader connect with the Word of God. Since our concern at Best Study Bible is to know what sets a study Bible a part we will focus on the NIV study Bible to learn how it relates to the other types of study Bibles on the market today. In our research we have found that the current version of the NIV study Bible has the following elements for its readers:
- Over 20,000 study notes that pairs with the Biblical text to help the reader glean more from the Scripture and to find new ways to apply the Biblical truths to their own personal lives.
- 16 pages of color maps
- 7 pages of color time lines
- Topical index
- Center column cross reference system for personal study
- Words of Christ in red letter
- In text maps, charts, diagram and illustrations
- Book of the Bible divider tabs
- Translation conducted by Committee of Bible Translation – 15 members
Additionally, Zondervan has sought to target every age and demographic with NIV Bibles targeting a specific population. They have a version for teens, men, and women, all of which have custom notes and study points for the targeted reader. They also have the Bible in different font sizes and text sizes as well, coming in small, regular or large print. The Bible comes in small print and a compact size. It can come in a paperback, hard cover or leather binding. Below is a chart of some of the examples of how diverse the NIV Bible is for consumers today.
The cost break down is as follows: $– 1-20, $$ – 21-34, $$$ – 35-49, $$$$ – 50 and Higher
|NIV Bible Type||Publisher||Cost||Noteworthy Features|
|NIV Life Application Study Bible||Zondervan||$$$$||Over 10000 application notes, over 100 character profiles|
|NIV Men's Study Bible||Tyndale House||$$$||Focused commentary and study regarding men's issues|
|NIV Women's Study Bible||Thomas Nelson||$$$$||Character profiles, articles and quotes to insipre women|
|NIV Teen Bible||Zondervan||$$||Focused commentary on issues teens face, color maps, in depth advice|
|NIV Study Bible||Zondervan||$$$$||Over 60 different contributors, over 20000 verse commentary notes,|
|NIV Study Bible - Large Print||Zondervan||$$$$||Larger print for easier to see text providing an easier reading experience|
|NIV/Message Parallel Study BIble||Zondervan||$$$||Read Message and NIV side by side. Provides reader with functional read|
|NIV Study Bible - Compact||Zondervan||$$$||Small design for easier portable reading, same features at the standard NIV version|
History and Origin story of NIV Bible
The History of the NIV Bible is an interesting one, and like all big projects, it had many twists and turns and took a great deal of effort to bring it to completion for the public to enjoy. According to Biblica, the story beings in the middle of the 20th century.
1955 – An Engineer from Seattle, Washington named Howard Long shared some Bible verses out of his King James Bible (KJV) with a non-Christian friend and discovered that his friend could not relate to the historical text. Long realized that there was a need for a contemporary English Bible that would help readers connect with God’s Word for today’s culture. After 10 years of working toward this goal he was finally able to have the National Association of Evangelicals share in his vision for a modern English version of Scripture.
1965 – A committee of members across multiple denominations formed to start working on this modern text. This group focused its effort on the original sources of texts and manuscripts rather than updating the King James Bible language. They did this so they could create the most accurate version of the text for the modern language. This was a challenging project because each book of the Bible had to be translated line by line by a team of translators that included consultants for today’s English language. When this initial translation was complete, a secondary team would review the work making sure that the translated text was as accurate as possible for future readers to enjoy.
1968 – Biblica, then called New York Bible Society, committed to the project and purchased the rights to the NIV translation, which they still hold today. Within months they were able to produce their first samples of the Bible and ran 1 million first printing of sections of the Bible for the public to purchase. It sold out quickly.
1978 – The full version of the NIV Bible was completed by the translation team, which included more than 100 evangelical Biblical scholars. The Bible was published nationally for the public and was well received and was adopted by many churches, pastors and lay persons because the Scriptures were more accessible than ever before by having the Word of God in an easy to understand modern version of English.
1984 – A complete review of the Scriptures was conducted to ensure that the Word of God was still accurately portrayed in the NIV text as well as providing updated comments, study notes, and maps for the different version of the NIV Bible, including the NIV Study Bible.
1995 – Since this marked an anniversary of sorts from the previous version, the 1995 features a few new additions and a fresh look. There are more in Bible study features making it easier for the reader to engage with the text, find character profiles and highlighting Bible verse that can have direct application to personal life.
2005 – A complete revision was conducted to ensure that the language was still accurately represented in the Scriptures as well and updated comments and study notes for their NIV study Bible. This version was published and called the Today’s New International Version or TNIV. This version of the Bible was not as well received due to many Christian theologians and professors stating that the NIV translation had taken some liberties with the use of gender in many sections of the Bible. This caused concern for many. It was eventually discontinued as most people continued to rely on the 1984 version.
2011 – The latest and most current version of the NIV Bible was released and made improvements to the language updates made in 2005. Many readers approved of this updated version because some changes were made to how the gender specific translations in the 2005 were address and in some cases removed. The team that was responsible for this update was made up of Committee of Bible Translators, which is comprised of 15 evangelical Bible scholars. This committee conducted a comprehensive look at gender language through the Collins Bank of English, which is a database of 4.4 billion words. Below is a descriptive video of their process.
Video Tour of the NIV study Bible
This video was taken using a 1995 edition of the NIV study Bible. I have owned this Bible for over 15 years, It does have some wear and tear, but given the amount of travel and use it has seen I am really pleased with how it is held up. While it may not include all of the elements that some of the 2011, or 2005 show, it does give a great snap shot of what you can expect in using an NIV study Bible for your own personal use.
How can the NIV Bible be Used?
The NIV Bible has many different ways it can be used. It can be used for personal growth, lesson preparation, sermon preparation and to strengthen your faith as your strive to walk closer to Jesus. To show how the NIV Bible can be used I turned to my NIV study Bible to conduct a quick word study on the word “Word”.
I started with going to the concordance section in the back of my Bible. From the list of verses in the back I was able to find many terms that could be used to help describe, define and explain how the Bible has used the term “Word” through its pages. By doing a word study like this, the reader can gather a more meaningful understanding and hopefully deepen their relationship with God. Below are a few of the verses I found, along with where it led me beyond the list using some of the built in cross referencing system.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1
In my study notes it talks about how the Greeks used the term “Word” to describe the spoken word but the unspoken word as well and that the Jews used Word to refer to God. In this passage the notes give you two additional verses to consider – Isaiah 55:11 and Revelation 19:13.
So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11
This lead me to look at the additional terms in the concordance and I found another verse in John.
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17
In my NIV Study Bible notes it says to cross reference this verse with John 8:31-32 to gain a connection of the truth with Christ’s teachings.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:31-32
From my study notes I gain the knowledge that the Word is in reference to Christ’s teachings, and that at this time were shared orally that included the Old Testament and New Testament. I found additional verses in Colossians 3:16 and 2 Timothy 2:15 to look at.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16
My study Bible tells me that the word of truth written here is referring to the gospel and I found verse in Ephesians, Colossians, James and Hebrews to add to the study.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13
The notes for this verse talk about the Word being dynamic and used for God’s purpose and gives many other Old Testament and New Testaments verses that show examples and refer to God’s Word actively working in people.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22
You can see from this quick look in the Concordance and moving through some of the verse we found that we can develop a pretty lengthy list of verses to help gain a better understanding of how the Bible uses certain terms and in what context they were used. This can be useful for personal study, lesson preparation and many other aspects. It can also be pretty easy to get lost in the verses of Scripture, learning how God communicates to His people through the written Word.
What are the Advantages of using the NIV Bible?
There are a number of distinct advantages in using a NIV study Bible for personal use. You can be confident in the work of translation that was done accurately. The original team worked directly from the source material. The translation effort was broken into teams that translated the text book by book. When a section was done, another team would proof read the section to ensure it was accurate. This provided a high degree of accuracy and probability of reading close to the original text as possible.
Another one of the elements that is positive for the NIV Bible is the amount and scope of features that their Bible includes. Most versions of the Bible, like the NIV Bible for Teens include some specific notes for the reader to turn to. But the NIV Bible with all of its variety, has numerous features that help enhance the reader experience. This allows readers to engage with the Word of God and get more out of it. The commentary, life application points, words of Christ in red letter and concordance all help readers get the most of the Bible reading experience.
What are Disadvantages of using the NIV Bible?
One of the things that a reader should be concerned about in reading the NIV Bible is that while the translation team did a wonderful job of taking the original text and conducting the painstaking work of converting it to modern day English, some liberties were taken in trying to make the text more accessible in more recent revisions of the NIV.
This is due to how the text is translated in a formal-functional style. Some Bibles, like the New American Standard Bible use a formal style where the text is communicated in a word for word fashion. This allows the reader to gather more of the meaning from the original author but it can lead to a poorer reading experience. Other Bibles like the New Living Translation are written in a thought for thought manner. This means the general idea from a section will be communicated in different terms then what was original used. The NIV uses a combination style which stays true to the original words most of the time but takes liberties in certain sections or terms which has raised concern for some.
Specifically, in 2005 when the TNIV Bible was released many scholars, pastors and even denominations refused to use the Bible due to how gender specific terms were used. Some feel that this is not a cause for concern since other Bible versions like the NLT take this liberty through the whole text. However, many have a concern since the NIV Bible is the most popular English version in the world that this might lead people in the wrong direction. A prominent Christian group, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood created a report in response to the 2011 NIV edition bringing some criticism to the use of gender translation in the Scriptures. By their count there are still 2766 sections where the wrong translation for gender still occurred (page 8.). This amount of push back certainly gives cause for concern in terms of reader confidence, as well as the number of sections of the Bible that raised red flags for this report.
What do Christian Leaders Say About it?
I well remember the introduction of the NIV at the Christian Booksellers convention. It was greeted with great enthusiasm.
Some time later, I found myself in an airplane seat in Grand Rapids holding a copy in my hands, posing for a photographer. I was happy to be endorsing the translation for an ad, for it had proven to be all it claimed and was personally stimulating, bringing great enrichment.
I was raised on the KJV and still appreciate its strengths. Yet I read somewhere that Ben Franklin considered it woefully outdated. The NIV provides equal authority and felicity of expression, yet in contemporary language.
Working with various editions co-published with Christianity Today provided many rich experiences. It’s wonderfully satisfying to know that so many individuals have been challenged and deepened by this fine translation for our times.
Harold Myra, Author, CEO, Christianity Today International, retired
I want to extend my congratulations for the 50th anniversary of the New International Version. I have a whole shelf full of Bibles, and some of them have modern, contemporary language, which are kind of fun to read. Some of them work on accuracy, and they’re very stilted, and they’re not so fun to read. I’ve found that the NIV is a wonderful balance between these two things. It communicates well, I understand exactly what it’s saying, and yet it’s also accurate to the text. It strikes that balance, which is a hard thing for a Bible translation to do.
I was privileged fairly early in my career to spend three years doing nothing but studying the NIV Bible. I was working on a study Bible called the NIV Student Bible. So for three years I went through every verse in the NIV. And at the end of the time, I came away impressed all the more with the feat, the achievement, of the translators. I was comparing other translations, and again and again, they nailed it, that balance between accuracy and communication.
I am thrilled the NIV has had such an impact on the entire world, on the Christian community, because it is a trustworthy version. Again and again, the NIV communicates with that directness, with that force, and for the rest of us, it’s just a matter of obeying what it says.
Philip Yancey, Author
I have now received sufficient feedback from a large number of evangelical scholars to convince me that this new work is a step backward in the field of biblical translation. Accordingly, I am now adding my name to the list of those who disagree with the liberties [the International Bible Society] has taken with God’s Word in the new translation.
I love the Scriptures and I know them to be the very words of God to His creation. Like most evangelical Christians, I want my Bible to contain an accurate translation of the canonical Hebrew and Greek texts. Accordingly, I will continue to speak out against any effort that alters God’s Word or toys with translation methodology for the sake of ‘political correctness.
The primary focus of the NIV 2011 is an accurate translation…and one has to admit that they have accomplished this objective admirably. Although there are, to be sure, some verses that one might take objection to, overall the translation is extremely well done. And it is fresh and ‘breezy’—in the sense that it is easy to read, not in the sense of being nonchalant or indifferent to the weighty matters of rendering God’s Word into a modern language.
Dan Wallace, Dallas Theological Seminary Professor
What is Our Final Verdict?
I have learned a greater respect for the translation process and feel that while, not perfect, the scholars, language experts and others who worked for the Bible Society, got it right when they created this translation in 1968. I realize the controversy over gender is problematic in their more recent editions. I would have rather the 2011 rely solely on the source material rather be a revision of the 2005 edition. With that said the 2011 edition of the NIV does work well for daily use and communicates the truths of God effectively.
After looking at all the evidence that we have available today I feel confident in continuing to use my NIV study Bible for my devotions, sermon preparations and small group lessons. I would focus my reliance on the 1984 edition followed by the 2011 edition. I will be steering clear of the 2005 edition. If I was to be giving a formal sermon to a congregation I would most likely read different translations of the Bible to verify the language is consistent. This would give me a greater understanding and, hopefully in turn communicate the Biblical truth in a greater manner to the people of the church.
I like the NIV translation because I enjoy how they strive to stay true to original context and pursue a word for word standard but also use a thought for thought approach when it makes the text easier to digest for the reader. Another strength I feel for the NIV translation is the number of people working on translating the text. There are some versions available today that only have a small teams of scholars working on the translation. I think the larger team from Biblica provides greater safety in the translation effort. Having multiple sets of eyes viewing the text can help make sure it is as accurate as it can be. With the numerous features, study notes and interesting maps and charts I feel that the NIV offers a great reader experience and solid Bible translation. It, for me, will be a translation I turn to again and again for years to come.