The New International Version is a completely new translation
of the Holy Bible made by over a hundred scholars working directly from the best
available Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. It had its beginning in 1965 when,
after several years of exploratory study by committees from the Christian
Reformed Church and the National Associations of Evangelicals, a group of
scholars met at Palos Heights, Illinois, and concurred in the need for a new
translation of the Bible in contemporary English. This group, though not made up
of official church representatives, was transdenominational. Its conclusion was
endorsed by a large number of leaders from many denominations who met in Chicago
Responsibility for the new version was delegated by the Palos
Heights group to a self-governing body of fifteen, the Committee on Bible
Translation, composed for the most part of biblical scholars from colleges,
universities and seminaries. In 1967 the New York Bible Society (now the
International Bible Society) generously undertook the financial sponsorship for
the project -- sponsorship that made it possible to enlist the help of many
distinguished scholars. The fact that participants from the United States, Great
Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand worked together gave the project its
international scope. That they were from many denominations -- including
Anglican, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Brethren, Christian Reformed, Church of
Christ, Evangelical Free, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Nazarene,
Presbyterian, Wesleyan and other churches -- helped to safeguard the translation
from sectarian bias.
How it was made helps to give the New International Version
its distinctiveness. The translation of each book was assigned to a team of
scholars. Next, one of the Intermediate Editorial Committees revised the initial
translation, with constant reference to the Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. Their work
then went on to one of the General Editorial committees, which checked it in
detail and made another thorough version. This revision in turn was carefully
reviewed by the Committee on Bible Translation, which made further changes and
then released the final version for publication. In this way the entire Bible
underwent three revisions, during each of which the translation was examined for
its faithfulness to the original languages and for its English style.
All of this involved many thousands of hours of research and
discussion regarding the meaning of the texts and the precise way of putting
them into English. It may well be that no other translation has been made by a
more thorough process of review and revision from committee to committee than
From the beginning of the project, the Committee on Bible
Translation held to certain goals for the New International Version: that it
would be an accurate translation and one that would have clarity and literary
quality and so prove suitable for public and private reading, teaching,
preaching, memorizing and liturgical use. The Committee also sought to preserve
some measure of continuity with the long tradition of translating the Scriptures
In working toward these goals, the translators were united in
their commitment to the authority and infallibility of the Bible as God's Word
in written form. They believe that it contains the divine answer to the deepest
needs of humanity, that it sheds unique light on our path in a dark world, and
that it sets forth the way to our eternal well-being.
The first concern of the translators has been the accuracy of
the translation and its fidelity to the thought of the biblical writers. They
have weighed the significance of the lexical and grammatical details of the
Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. At the same time, they have striven for more
that a word-for-word translation. Because thought patterns and syntax differ
from language to language, faithful communication of the meaning of the writers
of the Bible demands frequent modifications in sentence structures and constant
regard for the contextual meaning of words.
A sensitive feeling for the style does not always accompany
scholarship. Accordingly, the Committee on Bible Translation submitted the
developing version to a number of stylistic consultants. Two of them read every
book of both Old and New Testaments twice -- once before and once after the last
major revision -- and made invaluable suggestions. Samples of the translations
were tested for clarity and ease of reading by various kinds of people -- young
and old, highly educated and less well educated, ministers and laymen.
Concern for clear and natural English -- that the New
International Version should be idiomatic but not idiosyncratic, contemporary
but not dated -- motivated the translators and consultants. At the save time,
they tried to reflect the differing styles of the biblical writer. In view of
the international use of English, the translators sought to avoid obvious
Americanisms on the one hand and obvious Anglicisms on the other. A British
edition reflects the comparatively few differences of significant idiom and of
As for the traditional pronouns "thou," "thee" and "thine" in
references to the Deity, the translators judged that to use the archaisms (along
with old verb forms such as "doest," "wouldest" and "hadst") would violate
accuracy in translation. Neither Hebrew, Aramaic nor Greek uses special pronouns
for the persons of the Godhead. A present-day translation is not enhanced by
forms that in the time of the King James Version were used in everyday speech,
whether referring to God or man.
For the Old Testament the standard Hebrew text, the Masoretic
Text as published in the latest editions of Biblia Hebraica, was used
throughout. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain material bearing on an earlier stage of
Hebrew text. They were consulted, as were the Samaritan Pentateuch and the
ancient scribal traditions relating to textual changes. Sometimes a variant
Hebrew reading in the margin of the Masoretic Text was followed instead of the
text itself. Such instances, being variant within the Masoretic tradition, are
not specified by footnotes. In rare cases, words in the consonantal text were
divided differently from the way they appear in the Masoretic Text. Footnotes
indicate this. The translators also consulted the more important early versions
-- the Septuagint; Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion; the Vulgate; the Syriac
Peshitta; the Targums; and for the Psalms the Juxta Hebraica of Jerome. Readings
from these versions were occasionally followed where the Masoretic Text seemed
doubtful and where accepted principles of textual criticism showed that one or
more of these textual witnesses appeared to provide the correct reading. Such
instances are footnoted. Sometimes vowel letters and vowel signs did not, in the
judgment of the translators, represent the correct vowels for the original
consonantal text. Accordingly some words were read with a different set of
vowels. These instances are usually not indicated by footnotes.
The Greek text used in translating the New Testament was an
eclectic one. No other piece of ancient literature has such an abundance of
manuscript witnesses as does the New Testament. Where existing manuscripts
differ, the translators made their choice of readings according to accepted
principles of New Testaments textual criticism. Footnotes call attention to
places where there was uncertainty about what the original text was. The best
current printed texts of the Greek New Testaments were used.
There is a sense in which the work of translation is never
wholly finished. This applies to all great literature and uniquely so to the
Bible. In 1973 the New Testament in the New International Version was published.
Since then, suggestions for corrections and revisions have been received from
various sources. The Committee on Bible Translation carefully considered the
suggestions and adopted a number of them. These are incorporated in the first
printing of the entire Bible.
As in other ancient documents, the precise meaning of the
biblical texts is something uncertain. This is more often the case with the
Hebrew and Aramaic texts than with the Greek text. Although archaeological and
linguistic discoveries in this century aid in understanding difficult passages,
some uncertainties remain. The more significant of these have been called to the
reader's attention in the footnotes.
In regard to the divine name YHWH, commonly referred to as the
Tetragrammaton, the translators adopted the device used in most English versions
of rendering that name as "Lord" in capital letters to distinguish it from
Adonai, another Hebrew word rendered "Lord," for which small letters are used.
Wherever the two names stand together in the Old Testament as a compound name of
God, they are rendered "Sovereign Lord."
Because for most readers today the phrase "the Lord of hosts"
and "God of hosts" have little meaning, this version renders them "the Lord
Almighty" and "God Almighty." These renderings convey the sense of the Hebrew,
namely, "he who is sovereign over all the 'hosts' (powers) in heaven and on
earth, especially over the 'hosts' (armies) of Israel." For readers unacquainted
with Hebrew this does not make clear the distinction between Sabaoth ("hosts" or
"Almighty") and Shaddai (which can also be translated "Almighty"), but the
latter occurs infrequently and is always footnoted. When Adonai and YHWH Sabaoth
occur together, they are rendered "the Lord, the Lord Almighty."
As for other proper nouns, the familiar spellings of the King
James Version are generally retained. Names traditionally spelled with "ch,"
except where it is final, are usually spelled in this translation with "k" or
"c," since the biblical languages do not have the sound that "ch" frequently
indicates in English -- for example, in chant. For well-known name such as
Zechariah, however, the traditional spelling has been retained. Variation in the
spelling of names in the original languages has usually not been indicated.
Where a person or place has two or more different names in the Hebrew, Aramaic
or Greek texts, the more familiar one has generally been used, with footnotes
To achieve clarity the translators sometimes supplied words
not in the original texts but required by the context. If there was uncertainty
about such material, it is enclosed in brackets. Also for the sake of clarity or
style, nouns, including some proper nouns, are sometimes substituted for
pronouns, and vice versa. And though the Hebrew writers often shifted back and
forth between first, second and third personal pronouns without change of
antecedent, this translation often makes them uniform, in accordance with
English style and without the use of footnotes.
Poetical passages are printed as poetry, that is, with
indentation of lines and with separate stanzas. These are generally designed to
reflect the structure of Hebrew poetry. The poetry is normally characterized by
parallelism in balanced lines. Most of the poetry in the Bible is in the Old
Testament, and scholars differ regarding the scansion of Hebrew lines. The
translators determined the stanza divisions for the most part by analysis of the
subject matter. The stanzas therefore serve as poetic paragraphs.
As an aid to the reader, italicized sectional headings are
inserted in most of the books. They are not to be regarded as part of the NIV
text, are not for oral reading, and are not intended to dictate the
interpretation of the sections they head.
The footnotes in this version are of several kinds, most of
which need no explanation. Those giving alternative translations begin with "Or"
and generally introduce the alternative with the last word preceding it in the
text, except when it is a single-word alternative; in poetry quoted in a
footnote a slant mark indicates a line division. Footnotes introduced by "Or" do
not have uniform significance. In some cases two possible translations were
considered to have about equal validity. In other cases, though the translators
were convinced that the translation in the text was correct, they judged that
another interpretation was possible and of sufficient importance to be
represented in a footnote.
In the New Testament, footnotes that refer to uncertainty
regarding the original text are introduced by "Some manuscripts" or similar
expressions. In the Old Testament, evidence for the reading chosen is given
first and evidence for the alternative is added after a semicolon (for example:
Septuagint; Hebrew father). In such notes the term "Hebrew" refers to the
It should be noted that minerals, flora and fauna,
architectural details, articles of clothing and jewelry, musical instruments and
other articles cannot always be identified with precision. Also measures of
capacity in the biblical period are particularly uncertain.
Like all translations of the Bible, made as they are by
imperfect man, this one undoubtedly falls short of its goals. Yet we are
grateful to God for the extent to which he has enabled us to realize these goals
and for the strength he has given us and our colleagues to complete our task. We
offer this version of the Bible to him in whose name and for whose glory it has
been made. We pray that it will lead many into a better understanding of the
Holy Scriptures and fuller knowledge of Jesus Christ the incarnate Word, of whom
the Scriptures so faithfully testify.
The Committee on Bible Translation
Revised August 1983