Rob Buckingham's Blog

The NIV Conspiracy

On 11 July 2015, musician Erica Campbell shared a post on Facebook inferring a conspiracy by Harper Collins regarding the New International Version of the Bible.  She claimed that 45 verses and 64,575 words had been removed from the New International Version Bible (NIV).

Harper Collins bought the NIV Bible’s original publishing house, Zondervan, in 1988.  They then bought Thomas Nelson Publishing in 2011 and combined it with Zondervan to form the Christian arm of its publishing empire.  Harper Collins publishes an enormous variety of books but their three main categories are Kids & Teens, Christian and Romance.

The Facebook post mentions that Harper Collins also publishes the Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex – and that’s completely true.  It’s the world’s largest publisher and distributes books of every kind of genre, even genres that people of faith may find offensive.

The other part of this Facebook post mentions, “The NIV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost and omnipotent to name a few …”  This is not true.  For example, the word Calvary in the King James Version (KJV) is translated “the place called the Skull” in the NIV.  Calvary means “the place called the Skull” so all the NIV does here is make the reading of this verse more understandable.  One of the names of God, Jehovah, is mentioned seven times in the KJV but is translated as ‘The Lord’ by the NIV.  It’s important to remember that the name Jehovah is a Latin version of YHWH – the unpronounceable name by which God revealed Himself to Moses – “I am who I am!”  It’s believed that in the 11th century a hybrid form of YHWH was made by combining the Latin letters JHVH with the vowels of Adonai (another of God’s names).  William Tyndale popularised “Jehovah” in the English-speaking world in the 14th Century, hence it was used in the original KJV. Today most modern translations interpret this word as ‘The Lord’ – which is quite appropriate.

“Holy Ghost” is found 89 times in the KJV New Testament, while the NIV translates this as Holy Spirit.  As for the word omnipotent (meaning all-powerful) found once in the KJV in Revelation 19:6, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”  The NIV correctly translates this as, “Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns.”  Almighty is a synonym for omnipotent and is more easily understood in 21st century English.  So the suggestion that 64,575 words had been removed from the New International Version Bible is simply incorrect.

It’s vital to understand that the Bible has been translated and updated over the years as language has changed.  It was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.  Any translation task is difficult – and even more so when it is from ancient texts. Sometimes there are words that have no accurate equivalent in English, so several English words may be required to reproduce the precise meaning.  The same challenge occurs with other languages.  For example, in Aleut (the language spoken by Eskimos) there is no word for “joy.”  Consider the countries where sheep are considered an unclean animal.  Describing Jesus as “The Lamb of God” would be detrimental to the teaching of the gospel.

Over the centuries the Bible was first translated into Latin (the Latin Vulgate was used by the Western church through the early and middle ages) and eventually into English and many other languages.  John Wycliffe produced the first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts in the 1380’s.  Wycliffe and his contemporaries believed “that people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language.”

In the 1450s Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press and the first book to ever be printed was a Latin language Bible.  From that time on Bibles and other books were printed quickly and in large quantities.  Bible scholars started learning and studying Greek and soon realized the Latin version of the Bible had moved a long way from the original language.  The new English Bibles being translated and printed created an enormous hunger for the Word of God, the true Gospel and ultimately led to the Reformation.

In 1604 the Protestant clergy approached King James I to ask for a new translation of the Bible.  The King authorised this to be done and commissioned about 50 scholars for the task.  In 1611 the first King James Bible came off the printing press.

Over the centuries the KJV has been updated several times as the English language has changed.  For example, in the 1611 KJV John 3:16 read, “For God so loued þe world, that he gaue his only begotten Sonne: that whosoeuer beleeueth in him, should not perish, but haue euerlasting life.”  Try reading the whole Bible like that!

Over the centuries Bible translators have done their best to keep up with changes in language.  When I first became a Christian I read the KJV exclusively as I was told that it was the best translation.  I now know that’s not completely true.  Back in 1611 the scholars did their best with the manuscripts that were available to them, but since that time many older manuscripts of the Scriptures have been discovered.  As they are older they are deemed to be more reliable than the later copies that were used for the KJV.  (These old manuscripts are housed in several museums and other places all over the world).  And so the newer translations such as the NIV are based on older, more reliable manuscripts.  For that reason 45 verses have been removed from the NIV that are not found in these documents. They are, however, found in the NIV footnotes or margins.

The verses in question are of minor significance and none of the key Christian doctrines are affected by these changes. For this reason I believe the NIV Bible is accurate, trustworthy and reliable.

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