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 Association of Evangelicals,
a group of scholars met a 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 in 1966.
Responsibility for the new version was delegated by the Palos Heights group to a
self-governing body of fifteen, the Committee of 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 of the project-a 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, Welseyan 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 to one of the General Editorial
Committees, which checked in detail and made another thorough revision. 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 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 this one.
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 into English.
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
The first concern of the translators has been the accuracy of the translation
and its fidelity to the thought of the biblical writers. The 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 than 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 structure and constant regard for the contextual meanings of words.
A sensitive feeling for 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 translation were tested for clarity and ease of reading by various kinds of people-young
and old, highly educated and less well educated, ministers and layman.
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 same time, they tried to reflect the differing styles of the
biblical writers. 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 spelling.
As for the traditional pronouns "thou," "thee" and "thine"
in reference to the Deity, the translators judged that to use these 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 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 the 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 instance, being variants 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 Testament 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 Testament 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 revision have been received from various sources. The Committee of Bible
Translation carefully considered the suggestions and adopted a number of them. These were
incorporated in the first printing of the entire Bible in 1978. Additional revisions
were made by the Committee on Bible Translation in 1983 and appear in printings after
As in other ancient documents, the precise meaning of the biblical texts is
sometimes 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. Whenever 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 phrases "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 in "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 names such as Zechariah, however,
the traditional spelling has been retained. Variation in the spelling of names in the
original language 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 where needed.
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. This 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 Masoretic Text.
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
(see table of weights and measures following the text).
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 a fuller knowledge of Jesus Christ the incarnate
Word, of whom the Scriptures so faithfully testify.
The Committee on Bible Translation
June 1978 (Revised August 1983)