Words Matter: Why We Can’t Recommend the NIV 2011

The most popular English Bible, the NIV 1984, has undergone a makeover and it’s not exactly a good transformation. This year, Zondervan released the new NIV 2011 which will completely replace the soon-to-be discontinued NIV 1984. This 2011 NIV is a revision of the highly controversial and inaccurate gender-neutral TNIV of 2005, which got rid of most of the uses of “him/he/his,” “brother,” “father,” and “man,” replacing them with the gender-inclusive plural “them/they” or “that person.”

The NIV’s translators, the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT),  has made some improvements from the NIV 1984, such as changing Philippians 4:13 to now read “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” The “this” refers to contentment in all circumstances, which is the previous context rather than “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” and corrected many of the controversial gender-neutral renderings in the TNIV. However, they have still kept 75% of the 3,699 inaccurate gender-neutral translations found in the TNIV translation. These “slight” changes can make significant changes in one’s theology, teaching, personal relationship with God and in the end, the Gospel.

Here are just a few examples of these inaccurate changes:

1. Endorses feminist-leaning translations:

1 Timothy 2:12 (NIV 1984)– I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

1 Timothy 2:12 (NIV 2011)– I do not permit a woman to teach or assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

This new rendering favors the egalitarian approach and can be used to argue that women can become pastors/preachers as long as they don’t “assume” the position of power without having been given it first. All other modern English translations translate authenteo as “have authority” or “exercise authority” and even the most liberal translation NRSV translates it as “have authority.”

Interestingly enough, the CBT which is trying to be politically correct and gender-inclusive does not change any of the feminine pronouns (she/her) or change “mother,” “daughter,” or “woman” which leaves the reader wondering if they only have a problem with any references to men but not women. To be truly gender-neutral, one must change both the masculine AND feminine word usages.

Other evangelical feminist interpretation leanings have been chosen with changes to Na. 3:13; Rom. 16:7; and 1 Cor.14:33-34.

2. Changes “mighty men” to “mighty warriors.”

2 Samuel 23:8 (NIV1984)– These are the names of David’s mighty men: Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.

2 Samuel 23:8 (NIV 2011)-These are the names of David’s mighty warriors: Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.

This change may seem insignificant but after doing some research into the Hebrew you find that the word used for “mighty men” is related to the adjective gibbor which means “strong, valiant man.” It does not mean “warrior.” This change leaves open the possibility for saying that women were included in David’s “mighty warriors,” his “special forces” unit which are referred to elsewhere as his “thirty mighty men” and also his “three mighty men.” (2 Sam. 23 and 1 Chron. 11) These are no longer men but ambiguous warriors. This change, made 20 other times as well, is consistent with the NIV’s tendency to change male-oriented words used in the original text.

3. Changes “he” and “him” to “they,” “them,” or “that person.”

John 14:23 (NIV 1984)– “Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.””

John 14:23 (NIV 2011)– “Jesus replied: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and will we come to them and make our home with them.””

These changes from singular to plural remove the significant emphasis on the personal indwelling of the Father and Son in an individual. The “if” Jesus said is also removed and the 3 masculine singular pronouns are replaced with plural pronouns which are not in the original text. Jesus specifically chose to use a male pronoun but the CBT chose to correct Jesus’ words because they weren’t gender-neutral enough, rendering them objectionable.

This NIV 2011 rendering also confuses the reader and makes you ask the question: “Is God going to love and make His home with a group or an individual?” “Does a group have to obey or does an individual?”

How can the reader know what was actually said since the translators are making subtle changes to shift the meaning of the text? Preachers and teachers can no longer rely on the NIV for teaching because they will always have to consult other translations or the biblical languages every time to figure out what was actually said; they’ll have to tell their audiences to do the same or go through a confusing speech about how the NIV’s translation isn’t actually correct.

Why Words Matter:

Since most Christians do not have access to or the knowledge of Biblical Hebrew or Koine Greek, they put their trust in the translator’s hands to correctly translate the original text for them so they can correctly read God’s Word. The CBT has decided to purposefully change exactly what God’s Word says so that it is more politically correct in our culture. This leads to readers not knowing which words they can trust, and most cannot check to see what the Hebrew or Greek says.  This leaves them even more confused when reading Scripture. Some of the changes even make verses (such as Rom. 4:8) sound awkward and grammatically incorrect. Other verses now sound cold and impersonal with the use of “that person” (Rev. 3:20) instead of using the personal and intimate “him.”

God would never want us to change His perfect, holy words to fit our own agendas or personal preferences. He even warns us against this (Rev. 22:18-19)!

When you replace God’s Words with your own preferred words, they are no longer inspired by God, but instead become the thoughts of men.

Many of the pronouns “he/him/his” are used for general truths, applicable for both men and women, which the Committee has sought to make evident in their translation. However, they have confused application with translation, leading their readers to not know what the Bible actually says. They have jumped too quickly to application which is the job of the individual reader, not the job of the translator.

This isn’t a fight to keep masculine pronouns because we prefer masculinity over femininity; it’s a fight against any changes to Scripture. Those subtle changes change our theology, our interpretations, our personal intimacy with God, and, inevitably, the Gospel message! God is no longer revealed as He chose to reveal Himself. His wisdom and unique relationship with His children is now lost in man’s “corrections.” If God had wanted the Bible to be gender-neutral, He would have made it that way.  This isn’t a battle of the sexes, but a stand for the Gospel and what we believe are God’s very words, because His Words matter!

Because of these changes made to God’s Word, we, Unlocking Femininity, cannot recommend the NIV 2011. There are, however, several accurate translations such as the ESV, NASB, HCSB (Holman) and even the New KJV. These are very readable and great options for all readers wanting to dig into the Bible!

For more in-depth evaluations and data on the NIV 2011, please visit the following links.

Data Supporting CBMW’s Review of the 2011 NIV

An Evaluation of Gender Language in the 2011 Edition of the NIV Bible

Mary Kassian’s Caution Against the NIV 2011


45 thoughts on “Words Matter: Why We Can’t Recommend the NIV 2011

  1. Thanks for the very informative post! I agree that we should be very cautious when translating the Word of God, we do not want to change any part of it’s life-changing message nor do we want to lead others astray.

    • Cecilia,

      That’s a great question! The New Living Translation is based upon the 1971 Living Bible which was a paraphrase. While they made revisions to the Living Bible to make it more accurate, it is still closer to a paraphrase than a translation. It’s goal as a dynamic equivalent is to show the thought behind the verses rather than translating them literally, word-for-word as they appear in the original languages. It also avoids male-oriented language and tends to be gender-neutral.

      I think it’s a good aid when studying a translation (ESV, NASB, etc.) but it should be cautioned against using as your main Bible or main Bible for studying since it’s closer to a paraphrase than a literal translation. I hope this helps!

  2. Diane,

    Could I mention a couple of revisions to this information.

    1) First, “assume authority” is found in the Calvin English Bible of the 1800?s which was a translation of Calvin’s Latin. The KJV was stronger with “to usurp authority.”

    2) Gibbor had the meaning of “mighty warrior” in the Genesius lexicon in 1844. This is a perfectly accurate and traditional meaning for gibbor.

    3) In the following sentence “them” refers to a single person of unidentified gender This is the normal English usage. “If a neighbour of mine knocked on my door I would invite them in for tea.”

    If I wrote “If a neighbour of mine knocked on my door I would invite him in for tea.” then I am referring to men only. There is only one way to make the sentence refer to both men and women, and that is to use normal English usage, which is “they” or “them.”

    I cry for the words spoken against the translators of the NIV, who are many of them honest complementarians. I don’t know why you have posted this information, but it is very sad.

    Further, the word adelphos in the plural rightly refers to brothers and sisters like Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy. I don’t know anyone who calls those two “brothers” in English. The NIV 2011 follows the strictest accuracy in translating gender from the original languages.

    I hope that you will reconsider. Thank you.

    • My issue is why remove the (1984) NIV from both distributors as well as websites like Bible Gateway? Also, I think this author demonstrated well the female chauvinism of the (2011) NIV. That is an agenda driven ‘translation’ that does not have accuracy as its goal. You sound like someone connected to the new NIV and not an objective reviewer/commenator.

    • You are right on. I’m sorry but this article is written in complete ignorance. I recently was talking to an actual scholar (as opposed to a blogger) who spends his devotional time in the Greek. He was saying how the NIV11 is actually very accurate and good. He is in no way a liberal thinker.

      If your here looking for info on Bible translations stop wasting your time and pick up a book called “One Bible Many Versions; Are All Versions Created Equal.” It is written by someone who actually knows what they are talking about.

      I’m not saying the NIV is perfect, I’m just saying there is a lot of bad info out there and you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet.


  3. Wow, this is great. I had no idea that was what they did to the new NIV. What a great thing to challenge and share with the teens in the youth group. If God wanted His words to be gender neutral he would have inspired them that way and it’s a shame that this is happening.

    • Kara,

      God did inspire them that way. Sadly we don’t see this unless we read Greek. In Greek the verb does not need a pronoun, so there is no gender to Greek words. This means that in most cases, no masculine at all. People are adressed as generic human beings, that is anthropos. If the Greek means “men” then there is another word. However, this word, aner, also means citizen, so it can include women as well. It is tragic that women would share the masculine gendered English translations as the word of God. Truly heart-breaking. I truly mourn for those who are taught these things about the Bible. It is so very sad. I speak as someone who studied classical Greek as a teenager, and was able to read the words in Greek. Share this with teenagers, that adelphos truly means “brother and sister” Cleopatra and Ptolemy, Elektra and Orestes. This is what the Greek says – siblings.

      • I’ve gone back and forth through Bibles, using mtsloy the ESV and NIV in the past. I gave up using ESV because it was so choppy to read through, even though it was good for study. Readability and accuracy are both important to me. I still use the NIV a lot (a NIV/ Message parallel for reading), but it’s too familiar to me. I tend to gloss over verses a lot on accident, and the translation can be kind of generic sometimes.I’ve landed on the HCSB. They’ve marketed this Bible mtsloy as specialty Bibles (the soldier’s Bible etc.) but it’s an amazing version. It uses an “optimal equivalence” approach which uses both thought-for-thought and word-for-word depending on which they felt best portrayed the text. It uses words like “Messiah” instead of “Christ” and it just makes so much sense reading it. It is rich in language and very understandable.Here at SIBI, I’ve heard teachers say, “the real word should be ___ and I just wish a translation said it.” A lot of times the HCSB does! But they always forget the version lol. Anyway, I just bought a bigger version of it and plan on using it as my main version now.

  4. I made an error in typing. What I meant to say is that there is no gender in Greek VERBS, not in Greek words. The VERB in Greek has to gender, and occurs often without a pronoun, so there is no gender indication. This is translated into English as “he.” This is the “he” that is removed by the NIV 2011 and replaced with “they,” It is definitely more accurate in its representation of the Greek.

    • The topic of using “they” instead of “he” is not about gender, but more about plurality as the author of the article states. Though valid according to the English diction to use “they” for indefinite third person singular, most people use “they” to indicate plurality and can thus lead to possible confusion when reading. And frankly, I agree with the author that the personal relationship of Christ to me is lost a bit when read in the plural form.

      • As a woman, I would rather be included in an indefinite third person singular or plural word (them/they), as opposed to being entirely excluded by the use of male pronouns (he/him). If you so choose, you may read a Bible with male pronouns because that allows you to connect deeply with the text. I have nothing against people connecting with the vivid and lovely messages in the Bible. But you should know my story, as a woman. I have never felt that deep connection when I’ve read a Bible which used male pronouns. It was only when I first read a Bible with gender-neutral language when I finally felt like the writers of our religious text were including me. You have no idea what it feels like to read a Bible and feel entirely excluded.

      • This is a reply to Jenna Grace.
        If you think you are “being entirely excluded by the use of male pronouns (he/him)” you have a shallow understanding of the English language, in which these pronouns refer to a person in general, independent of gender, or to a male, as determined by context.

    • Sue, I completely agree with you. Words do matter. And a single change can have a huge impact on understanding the true message of our Father.

      For instance KJV mentions talks about Lucifer being the son of the ‘morning’ In Issiah. Yet in NIV they’ve added ‘star’ to say that Lucifer is the ‘morning star’. This is very important because JESUS CHRIST is the Morning Star, as mentioned in Revelations. And to some that may not be a big deal, but it is because it can be very misleading.

      In case people forget, we are in constant spiritual battle. John 10:10 “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy”, even if that be in the slight changes of one or two words within the bible that could mislead any reader or follower of Christ.

      In saying that, regardless of any changes I encourage you all to turn to your Faith when it comes to seeking truth. Pray for discernment that you may identify truth from lies. After all what use is our belief if we choose to work more for truth rather than rely on our faith to guide us. (Works is always good, but I suggest you turn to Faith when conflict such as this arises).

  5. Isn’t the job of a translator to make the original language as intelligible to the readers as possible? And doesn’t this require making accommodations for the current culture and word usage?

    I certainly don’t want to imply that we should *edit* Scripture to be more palatable to our current culture–of course we need to strive to stay true to what the original text actually says. But from what I can see, the “he/they” change is not about changing what the Greek means, but about acknowledging that English has morphed a lot as a language, and so different English words are now needed to accurately communicate the same ideas that have been true for centuries. I mean, every preacher I’ve ever heard talk about verses which say things like, “Blessed is the man” always adds “or woman”, anyway, because the language is meant to be inclusive. If the translation is actually straightforward about that widely-accepted inclusiveness, I don’t see how that’s doing violence to the original meaning at all.

    I hope this makes sense; I don’t want to be argumentative, but I also disagree that the changes listed above are severe enough to merit disrecommending the whole translation.

    • You may be right on this point IF the original Greek/Hebrew could mean either gender in the singular tense. However, the NIV2011 goes way beyond this when they translate 2Timothy 2:12 as saying a woman should not “assume authority” over a man when the original plainly says she should not “have authority” over a man. Not assuming authority means that SHE should not initiate

  6. How are you defining “inspired” or what is your view of inspiration? Translations are not inspired. Most evangelicals believe either that the ORIGINAL manuscripts (in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek) are inspired or the authors themselves were inspired by God in writing his word. It is misleading to insinuate that moving from one translation to another preference is moving away from something inspired to something not-inspired.

    • Amanda,

      Thanks for your question and comment. This is what I believe about the inspiration of Scripture:
      “The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.” (BFM 2011)

      Hebrew and Koine Greek are the languages which God inspired Scripture to be written in. Since that is so, the job of the translator is to stay true and accurate to those biblical languages when translating. This is why translations such as the NIV 2011 are so troubling is because they move away from the inspired words, change some of them completely, and mislead readers to then think that’s what the original text says.

      I’m not saying the KJV, NASB, or ESV are inspired and the NIV 2011 is not. The Hebrew and Koine Greek bibles we translate from are inspired though. This is why translations that stay as true to the original words should be used and why I did not recommend the NIV 2011 because it intentionally changes the original words and is less accurate of a translation. I hope this answers your question and sheds some light on my view of inspiration and translations.

      Thanks again for your comment!

      • It’s interesting that you ask this because this summer I was asked the same question, but in this way, “You don’t read out of the NIV do you?” When I said yes, I was told of all the ways the NIV was not a good translation and in how many ways it offended the person asking me this quesiton. Then, she asked me what I thought about what she had said. And I said, “Are you sure you want to know?” She said she did. I said, “I think it’s a bunch of baloney and that some people just like getting worked up about things. And I think you’re making more out of it then there is to make.” I honestly said it out of love and I do love this person. But it did kind of make me chuckle a little bit to know it was such a big deal to her.

    • I preach and teach from the NIV mostly. It’s generally my favorite translation, but part of my decision to preach from it is because one of my three churches had already invested in pew bibles that are NIV.My daily devotions at home are done with a Wesley Study Bible (I am Methodist, you know) that is NRSV. But I have just about every common translation and sometimes for fun will pick up a different one.The Message is really interesting it is wearing on me a little. I was shocked the first time our Methodist Bishop over the South Carolina conference used it in a sermon. But now I will occasionally read from it, especially when I’m reading to youth.Peace,Ray

  7. Pingback: Evangelical Women Oppose NIV 2011 | WELS Bible Translation Issues

  8. I have used the NIV 1984 for many years and have invested a lot study in it. I am dissappointed that Zondervan has chosen to make the NIV 1984 edition unavailable. Online NIV 1984 Bible are even disappearing form websites. Because of personal conviction regarding translatoin philosophy, I will never switch to the NIV 2011 edition, so I am being forced to choose another version completely. I am disappointed that Zondervan has gone beyond making a updated NIV available to declaring war on their previous edition (1984) of the NIV. I would continue using the NIV 1984 except that when I use it in my preaching and Bilbel studies, it makes no sense to base my teaching and preaching on a version that is become unavailable to those whom I am teaching.

  9. Within the last several days, NIV 1984 seems to have been discontinued online. As a pastor, I have not looked forward to this day, yet knowing it would happen. I have access to the Hebrew & Greek and have used these resources extensively to ‘correct’ NIV 1984 plethora of euphemisms. To correct the intentional mis-translations is a burden of time when preparing sermons. The worst of it is the sense of being forced to use a politically correct translation constructed by those who aren’t Christians and have no desire to live for Him who created them. You can almost envision that the NIV 1984 translations could become highly valued contraband hidden from the Bible police.

    By the way, I appreciate that the women here on this site actually want to be women. If we men are going to successfully lead our families as we navigate the treacherous waters of society’s ever increasing faithlessness, having our wives on their knees desperately praying to God for their husbands will make all the difference. Please pray asking God to help you to be grateful for your husband and men in general. Women can’t so much as flip on a light switch without being fully dependent on men. Most women, and sadly most women in the church, don’t realize this as they swallow Satan’s lies that men are inherently bad for women. I pray that the women who call on the Name of Christ will understand their God-designed dependence on men and be truly thankful.

    May God bless your pursuit of Him.

    Pastor Coats

    • Why can’t I turn on a light switch without being dependent upon men?
      I don’t agree that we should change GOD’S word but to saw we can’t live without you
      Please explain.

      • Hi Marguerite, I’m afraid I’m a little confused about your comment. The article was about staying true to the words of God, so could you explain a little further your concerns? Thanks so much!

  10. Pingback: COMMENTARY: Time to Ditch the Beloved NIV Bible Translation | PeterVadala.com/blog

  11. I have much to consider and to pray about regarding the new NIV version and have not reached a conclusion yet but I want to pose one thought to consider…

    You said, “When you replace God’s Words with your own preferred words, they are no longer inspired by God, but instead become the thoughts of men.”

    That is, in essence, what you could say about every translation. Greek and Hebrew do not translate perfectly to our limited English language. For example, we have only one word for love, and yet Greek has at least four different words to describe different kinds of love.

    You also said, “most Christians do not have access to or the knowledge of Biblical Hebrew or Koine Greek…” so perhaps that should be a better cause for us — to make it more available. There are a lot of resources out there; maybe we should strive to communicate those to people so that they can best discern God’s word.

    Thus far in my journey, I have concluded that every Bible version can be misinterpreted and that the greater concern is with the heart that approaches it. Are we truly seeking God’s direction or affirmation of our own will? Again, I’m not saying I support the new NIV version, but neither do I agree with some language choices in other versions based on my inductive studies. I hate to see more division in our already broken Church body over this. I simply encourage that we all seek God’s will above everything and work for unity whenever possible. Thanks for your concern for God’s Word. I am thankful that it means so much to you.

  12. I think that the haste to remove the previous version so rapidly, with seemingly little notice leads me to suspect an agenda beyond basic updating.

    On the positive side, I must say however, there are some changes that have provoked me to look deeper into certain scriptures that are no longer quite so familiar following the changes, and sometimes these lead me to review my understanding of the exact meaning. However, not to be able to cross refer to the previously well known version on line is really frustrating.

    Perhaps for me, the change that springs out as quite inappropriate is in Romans 2:28/9.
    28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

    To remove gender from the biblical concept of circumcision would surely seem to be a very risky thing to do!

  13. I noticed that in your article you said that the 2011 NIV does not change the gender of feminine pronouns “which leaves the reader wondering if they only have a problem with any references to men but not women.”

    In your sentence you referred to “the reader” (gender neutral, singular) and then later in the same sentence referred to that same individual as “they.” (gender neutral, plural) This is most likely because a gender neutral, singular pronoun does not exist in the English language, which forced you to use the plural. Interestingly enough, you fault the 2011 NIV for doing exactly this in its translation of John 14:23.

    In the preface to the 2011 NIV, the translators cite changes in the English language just like this as the reason for the new translation.

    I would recommed this article for your reading, http://baptistbulletin.org/the-baptist-bulletin-magazine/evaluating-the-new-international-version-2011/

  14. It’s a shame that for all the scholarliness of Western education contemporary Bible is yet to be faithfully translated due to human influences in the form of Satanic feminisms and devilish agents to darkness whose aims are to alter the Bible to suit themselves for selfish reasons. The King James and other older traditional translations will be all that I’m for henceforth. Thanks.

  15. I fully agree that the NIV really moving away from men being the authority figures of house holds man did not set things this way God did. Therefor whom ever changes the words of the bible to fit the popular flavor of the year is committing an act of evil by twisting the word of God to fit there own desires.

  16. Thanks for this very useful and post. I teach OT Hebrew and had been unaware of how grammatically corrupted and agenda driven this 2011 version was until I came across Genesis 1:27. Besides being a singular noun adam does not mean ‘human beings’. It is generic for mankind and became the proper noun Adam. The two words therefore correlate. I immediately removed the edition (and 2005) from the reading list and advised the class to refrain from using it as an aid to understanding the Hebrew text.

  17. I was trying to find an for memorizing verses. Was not finding verses that said what my bible said. I am only now realizing I have a NIV 84. Never knew there were two other translations (TNIV and NIV2011). Your blog writing here has cleared it up for me and made some very viable points. I am grateful for your wisdom and time to publish this.

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