A first look at the NIV2011

Update: Comments are now closed.

I’ve prepared a one-page document showing the changes between the 1984 and 2011 versions of the NIV. I chose 1 Timothy 2 since it is one of the most difficult passages for handling gender in the New Testament.

Differences between the NIV 1984 and the NIV 2011 – 1 Tim 2 – prepared by David Ker (PDF, 67K)

In my first look at the changes I have to say that I’m very pleased with the updates. I think ANER and ANTHROPOS are handled correctly in all but one instance. Let me discuss that one in detail.

NIV 1984 1 Timothy 2:5 NIV 2011 1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,

“Men” and “man” in this passage are translations of the Greek word ANTHROPOS. The theological point of this verse is that Jesus is mediator between God and humanity because he himself was human. As you can see the NIV2011 has updated this with mankind for the first occurrence and retained man for the second.

I personally think this is an improvement over the 1984 edition and certainly within the bounds of acceptability in terms of accuracy. Someone might try to argue that this translation is misleading since it suggests that Jesus was our mediator because he was male. Only testing could show this for sure, but it seems clear to me that Jesus’ humanity is in focus here.

Here are how some other translations handled this verse:

NLT: For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.

CEV: There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us.

NRSV: For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human,

It’s worth mentioning that this translation problem is unique to English and related Indo-European languages. In every African language that I have knowledge of the term for “male” can never stand in for either a man or woman. Instead there is a general word, munthu for example in Nyungwe, that means simply person.

Please let us know about other changes you have noticed in the NIV 2011. Since this is quite a controversial translation I ask you to keep the guidelines of this blog in mind as you are commenting. Any comments not following the guidelines will be deleted immediately.

Another change I noticed on the Bible Gateway site is that the text link for the TNIV has disappeared. It seems you can still access an audio version of the TNIV.

If you want to see the NIV 1984 and the TNIV, they are still available at YouVersion: http://www.youversion.com/

View the NIV 2011 at Bible Gateway

44 thoughts on “A first look at the NIV2011

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    That was quick off the mark! Then I think you have a few hours time difference in your favour in South Africa.

    Personally I am more interested in comparison with TNIV. Interestingly the change in v.1 is new in 2011, with TNIV=1984. In verses 4,6,7,8,9,12 2011 follows TNIV. Verse 5 is different from both: TNIV has “… God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human”. In verse 12 they have dropped the long TNIV footnote “OR teach a man in a domineering way; or teach or to exercise (or have) authority over a man“. So much for Grudem’s objections to “assume” (search Gentle Wisdom for details), which is now in the text with no alternative offered.

    Only one other point where 2011 reverts to 1984 against TNIV: a new paragraph at v.9, if that is not an error in your formatting.

    This tends to confirm my prediction: that NIV 2011 would follow TNIV in most places with differences mostly in especially controversial verses like verse 5 here. Although I still prefer the TNIV rendering the 2011 reading is not too bad, and will hopefully be acceptable to all. I am glad they have not backtracked on verse 12, and not attempted to satisfy everyone with too many footnoted alternatives, but have gone with their preference which after all means the same as KJV here.

  2. Donna says:

    Thanks for that nice PDF summary of 1 Tim 2.

    I’m interested in the footnote they’ve added to verse 15. I understand that the verb in Greek for “women will be saved” does not indicate gender (like all Greek verbs). So they have interepreted the meaning as plural “women” in the text, indicated that the literal Greek is “she”. But I have read a paper (and if anyone is especially interested in the details of such I could dig it out for you) which showed that it is possible that the referent for that verb could be Adam, which would mean “he” is also a possibility.

    My question is, since that is a confusing verse, and the Greek is not totally understood at that point, shouldn’t they indicate all the possibilities? If Adam as the referent here is a possibility, why not put “she” or “he” in the footnote?

  3. David Ker says:

    @Peter, I’ve never used the TNIV so I restricted my comments to the NIV84. The TNIV felt “over-translated” on this passage to me. But I agree with you that the NIV2011 is perhaps a good middle road between the two extremes.

    @Donna, that’s a terrific comment. The Greek is ambiguous here. It could refer to Adam and Eve or to the husband and wife. It’s a REALLY difficult verse to translate since we don’t really know what it means! Most study editions of the Bible have long footnotes here. We’ll probably never know what Paul was talking about here. What we can affirm is that women and men are saved in the exact same way, “by grace through faith.”

  4. Mark Denning says:

    http://www.biblegateway.com/niv/translators-notes/ takes you to the full PDF of the translators notes and its 11 pages long in that format. There are lots of explanation and comparisons between the 84 NIV and the 2011 NIV.

    Some changes look good while others are disappointing to me. I’m a 36-year-old seminary student who lives in North American and I never hear any normal people (people who are not conservative Christians) use the word mankind or man. I hear people, human, humanity, etc. I also don’t hear humankind on the street but it makes more sense and sounds less antiquated than mankind.

    I was a big fan of the TNIV renderings that used words like human beings and even humankind.

  5. Peter Kirk says:

    Mark, thanks for the link. I will read the full introduction in a minute.

    I agree with you in not liking the word “mankind”, which will immediately make this version unacceptable to feminists. I suppose “humankind” would have the same effect on anti-feminists. But I don’t see what’s wrong with the TNIV “human beings” or the NLT “humanity”.

  6. Cory Howell says:

    I’ve only just begun to examine the 2011 NIV, and I agree, so far, so good. I think they may still get some flack for their Psalm 8 translation: “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Especially that “mankind that you are mindful of THEM.” That strikes my ear as a bit odd.) We shall see if this new version is better received than the poor ol’ TNIV.

  7. John says:

    I noticed that Mark 1:41 has Jesus indignant (TNIV) versus compassionate (NIV). I have read their reasoning for this when the change was made in the TNIV, but still wonder if that is correct when viewing the verse in context. I’m looking forward to checking the rest of the updated NIV.

  8. Peter Kirk says:

    Just spent half an hour writing a comment on the introduction only to have Internet Explorer eat it. I blame IE because I know Firefox doesn’t lose text in the same circumstances, when it doesn’t get posted the first time. Problem is I’m using someone else’s computer so have to use what they have.

    Basically what I was saying was that I was encouraged by what the team has done, the compromises they have made. Some won’t like it that they have used even more singular “they” than in TNIV, but they do have usage data to back up their choice. I hope this update will be acceptable to those who rejected TNIV as well as to us who like it.

  9. Cory Howell says:

    By the way, you can view the NIV84, the NIV2011, and the TNIV in parallel at Bible Gateway’s new beta site. It took me awhile to locate it, as I couldn’t find a link at their old site, but I finally found it: http://beta.biblegateway.com/

    Being able to view the three versions in parallel is a pretty handy little tool.

  10. ElShaddai Edwards says:

    I have to confess that I’m surprised they dumped “sinful nature” for “flesh” — at least in Romans 8. That was one of the for-better-or-worse hallmarks of the NIV…

  11. Don Johnson says:

    “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humans, the human Christ Jesus” is how I would translate it.

  12. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>…I think they may still get some flack for their Psalm 8 translation: “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Especially that “mankind that you are mindful of THEM.” That strikes my ear as a bit odd.) We shall see if this new version is better received than the poor ol’ TNIV….

    Holy Cow! I guess they will as it breaks the reference to “the son of man” – even if they are being consistent about it, because they pluralized “son of man” as “human beings.” I think that was a huge mistake on their part.

  13. Jeff Shrum says:

    You mentioned the TNIV but did not discuss how it compares to the NIV 2011. It seems to me that they already worked on passages that they felt needed improving when they did the TNIV. It seems unlikely that the NIV 2011 will be much different than the TNIV, since they are dealing with the same shift in US English usage.

  14. Michael Marlowe says:

    Jeff Shrum wrote, It seems unlikely that the NIV 2011 will be much different than the TNIV

    You got that right, Jeff. This looks like a slight revision of the TNIV. As I expected.

  15. John says:

    It appears they decided to eliminate singular “they” for some gender neutral situations.

    “**They** are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.”–Ps 1.3 TNIV

    “**That person** is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season.”–Ps 1.3 NIV 2011

    But in some cases, the gender neutrality was eliminated:

    “The righteous may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers **them** from them all; he protects all **their** bones, not one of them will be broken.”–Ps 34.19-20 TNIV

    “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers **him** from them all; he protects all **his** bones, not one of them will be broken.”–Ps 34.19-20 NIV 2011

  16. Jim Raymond says:

    I am not a student of Greek but think the issue of “anthropos” in I Tim. 2:5 is important.

    Does anyone know, is there a word in Greek that more closely means “mankind” than anthropos? That is, is there another word the apostle Paul could have used, rather than “anthropos”, which would come closer to meaning our English word “mankind”? If so, then I think there was a reason he chose anthropos rather than that other word.

  17. David Ker says:

    @John, the Psalm 1 thing is a big deal to some people. It is taken as significant that the one righteous is contrasted with many wicked. I bet there were hours spent in committee discussing this. 🙂

    @Jim, ANTHROPOS is not entirely uncontested as far as how it should be rendered. But in the majority of cases it simply means “person” or “people” without regard to the sex of the referent. So mankind or humankind are both acceptable translations.

  18. John says:

    @Michael Marlowe said, “Pretty awkward rendering there.”

    I agree completely. That was the first thing I thought when I read that verse.

  19. Richie says:

    According to the Intoduction as published on BibleGateway the CBT’s base text or point of departure for the NIV 2011 is its “latest revision” which they define as the TNIV 2005. Therefore, the NIV 2011 is, as many above note, really only a slight revision of the TNIV 2005 rather than a true revision of the NIV 1984.

    The revisions to the TNIV 2005 really seem to be few. Amongst the best, in my view, is the change from “sinful nature” to “flesh”. This is especially well done in Romans 8 and Galatians 5. Romans 8 is really wonderfully translated and my vote for the best single revision is Romans 8:6:

    “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”

    On the opposite end, there is no doubt that the increased use of the “singular they” will make it an unacceptable main version for many, many conservative Christians, especially those who are long-time NIV 1984 users and who opposed the TNIV precisely for such reasons. Yes, it is well defended by the translators; however, the “generic he” can be equally well defended.

    Nevertheless, it is what it is and the NIV 2011 will probably become a good main version for some (many?) and at least a good second or comparative version for others. However, I think that many others will hang on to the NIV 1984 as their main version as long as they can or else switch to the ESV, etc. as their main version.

  20. David Ker says:

    Richie, for the record, I have the opposite reaction to the “sinful nature” vs. “flesh” debate. I’m not saying you’re wrong, just that it can be argued that “flesh” is a bizarre rendering in modern English.

  21. Donna says:

    I’m a bit disappointed by the change to “flesh”. (Not because “sinful nature” was much better) but couldn’t they have been a bit more creative?

    “Flesh” is Biblese – it’s one of those words that only speaks to people who know what the text should say in that context. I’ve never met a non-Christian, who has used “flesh” in that sense, in normal, day to day, conversation.

    “(The will of) my flesh wants to eat that chocolate now!”

    I think not.

    In terms of what is natural English, I think “body” is a far better translation for most of the occurances of sarx.

  22. WoundedEgo says:

    >>>…In terms of what is natural English, I think “body” is a far better translation for most of the occurances of sarx.

    Personally, I think “body” is waaaaaayyyyy more accurate than the bogus “sinful nature” in reflecting the correct referent, though “flesh”, if you understand what he’s talking about, works better stylistically (by that I mean it is Paul’s style to say flesh when he means the body).

    He’s talking about the clay part of man, as opposed to the breath part. (Ie: Genesis 2, when God animates the dirt statue of himself).

  23. Gary Simmons says:

    Yes, I still think that the singular they sounds like a squirming attempt to avoid “he.” I definitely get that from Psalm 1 and other places. I’m relieved its not only my ears that feel that way.

    English today is in an awkward phase with regard to gender. Biblical Greek and Hebrew were not. English will be awkward even if the Greek and Hebrew were not. That is simply that. If you are are trying to address a group of teenage girls from ages 12-18 and you must use only ONE word for all of them, should you use “girls” or “ladies?” It’s painting with too broad a brush either way. So, too, is any attempt to make a global English translation when there is no global agreement on gender usage.

    And, of course, the neutralizing of gender in the T/NIV/2011 only works one way. Luke 1:45 reads, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” So, beatitudes that have feminine reference yet are true of both genders are kept feminine. Is it not true that a man who believes what the Lord said to him is also blessed? This is discrimination. I hope another revision will show some consistency.

    It is clear in this case that while the beatitude sounds proverbial, it also has a specific referent — either Mary, Elizabeth herself, or both. But this is not true only of women who believe in God. At least, I hope I’m blessed for believing in God’s promises.

    In my neck of the woods, spoken English that uses “that person” or “the one” still feels forced. It is a strained attempt to avoid gender rather than feeling natural. Naturalness is suppressed because nobody wants to appear insensitive. Nobody wants to be called a jerk, after all.

    Feminism has enough of an influence politically that there would be a backlash for not being gender neutral. So, I think data gathered about actual English usage does not necessarily reflect what sounds natural to a native speaker’s ear, given that the data is English as used under perceived pressure to avoid gender. I do not know of a way to handle this working variable, but it should be addressed.

  24. John says:

    Even with the gender considerations in modern English, there is still a word in heavy use with masculine connotations although it often refers to both genders.

    Since “you” is no longer plural, there isn’t a 2nd person(?) pronoun specifically for plural use. The South has come up with “you all” or “y’all” while most of the country commonly says “you guys”. If someone addressed a mixed gender group and said, “How are you guys doing?”, would the women be offended? Would anyone think they were only addressing males? From anecdotal evidence, I say no.

    I’m no scholar, but I believe this is the same way adelphos was used. The word was “brothers” which could mean “brothers and sisters”. We have the word “guys” which can mean both “guys” and “girls”. It would be unnecessary in modern English to say, “How are you guys *and girls* doing?” Everyone knows guys is referring to both genders in a mixed audience. I think that may be the same way adelphos was intended.

  25. John says:

    I think about it like this. Let’s say (against all odds) I write something that survives for another 2,000 years. In the text I say, “You guys really helped me out.” When that is translated into whatever language replaces English, do I want them to translate it as what I said (“guys”) with a footnote that in 21st century English, guys could mean either or both genders? Or, do I want them to translate it as “guys and girls” in their language? That really isn’t what I said, but it is what I meant.

    For me personally, I would prefer they translate what I said and footnote any language anomalies.

  26. Sue says:

    I think that may be the same way adelphos was intended.

    A brother and sister pair were called adelphoi, so yes, that is how adelphos worked – it explicitly refered to named men and women together.

    So I do not see it any examples of reverse discrimination in the examples discussed here. I can see that some people simply believe that translating adelphoi as “brothers and sisters” is some kind of concession, but in fact, it is simply literal.

  27. Sue says:

    Adelphoi refers to named brothers and sisters, for example Cleopatra and Ptolemy, so this is not a concession to feminism.

  28. Gary Simmons says:

    Although I will post a link to my initial thoughts whenever I feel like drafting them, I do want to give a caveat upfront here: I do not think that every change from the 1984 text was a downgrade. Nor do I think the NIV2011 (copyrighted 2010) is not worth getting or reading.

    I would feel miserable if all translators subscribed solely to the NIV philosophy to the exclusion of, say, the ESV’s philosophy or NLT’s. I appreciate the effort and care the committee poured into seeking to make the Bible knowable and accessible. For that they should be commended rather than rebuked. Whatever disagreements I may have, I want to say that first, lest grace have no part in anything else I say.

    Sue: I understand your confusion about posting. Comments don’t immediately show anymore for some reason.

    David, why is that? Are our comments being moderated, or what? I’m confused as to what causes the lag in comment publishing, because I suspect it is not moderation.

    [Note from David: Gary, I’m not sure what was causing that. I was asleep! 🙂 It looks like everything is sorted out. Note my comment this morning on the removal of a number of off-topic comments]

  29. Jonathan Wiebe says:

    I am by no means a Hebrew (or Greek) scholar but here are three changes which caught my eye:

    Isaiah 61.1:

    NIV 1984: Who is this coming from Edom, … “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.”

    TNIV 2005: Same as NIV 1984.

    NIV 2011: Who is this coming from Edom, … “It is I, proclaiming victory,
    mighty to save.”

    Matthew 18.21:

    NIV 1984: Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

    TNIV 2005: Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive someone who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

    NIV 2011: Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

    1 Corinthians 6.9:

    NIV 1984: Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders

    TNIV 2005: Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals

    NIV 2011: Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a]

    footnote [a] 1 Corinthians 6:9 The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts.

    May the Peace of our Lord be with you,


  30. Daniel Buck says:

    A friend of mine is a leader in the Bible Study Fellowship, a nationwide organization. They require use of the NIV for their studies. Now that the NIV 1894 is out of print, what are they to do–allow all 3 varieties of the NIV, or only the one currently in print? Will they have to redo all their curriculum to conform to the gender-neutrality of the uNIV? These are the sort of concerns I don’t see being addressed.

    My major disappointment with the uNIV is that they haven’t changed Hebrews 9:16 since 1973. The footnote still says that DIAQHKH can mean ‘covenant’, but the text makes no sense with that reading. A covenant is only in effect once the person who made it is dead? Nonsense.

  31. Theophrastus says:

    I was not impressed by the CBT Notes. To keep my comment a reasonable length, I will only comment on the first three paragraphs.

    When the original Bible documents first emerged, they captured exactly what God wanted to say in the language and idiom of ordinary people.

    No, there is not proof that the Bible “documents” are in “the language idiom of ordinary people”. Books such as Job or Psalms do not appear to be in the language and idiom of ordinary people.

    There was no friction between hearing God’s Word the way it was written and understanding it the way it was meant.

    I would have had more confidence in the CBT’s skill in English if the translators hadn’t mixed metaphors: hearing God’s Word the way it was written. Further, it obscures the point that the Hebrew Bible was written over many different centuries, during with the Hebrew language changed — there was never a point in time where the entire Hebrew Bible could understood by a typical person “the way it was meant”. Further, the Greek-speaking audience of the NT hardly could be expected to understand Hebrew at all — much less archaic Hebrew.

    The original audience experienced a unique fusion of these two ingredients.

    Really? A unique fusion? Then why do Jesus and Paul and other Epistle authors interpret the Hebrew Bible differently than the Hebrew prophets appear to have interpreted it? Why did the Jews of the Second Temple period interpret the Hebrew Bible differently than Jesus and Paul? Why did the early Christians battle with Paul over the role of the commandments in Christian life? There was never a unique fusions — there were many fusions.

    In 1611, the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible sought to bring English readers back as close to that original fusion as possible. As with all translations, the transition from the original languages to Elizabethan English involved some loss of transparency to the original documents.

    It is not the Queen Elizabethan Version. It is King James Version. It isn’t Elizabethan language. It is Jacobean language (and yes, they are different).

    And yet that small loss in transparency was more than made up for by a tremendous gain in comprehensibility: People could hear God’s Word in their own language!

    And that was not true of the Geneva or Tyndale versions?

    The notes just gets worse after that.

  32. Sue says:

    It is Jacobean language (and yes, they are different).

    If 80% of the words are from Tyndale’s translation then it is hardly Jacobean or Elizabethan.

  33. David Ker says:

    Hello all, I moderated a large number of off-topic comments this morning. In some cases a response to an inappropriate comment had to be removed since it no longer made any sense.

    Please help us to stay on the topic of “first impressions of the NIV 2011.” Anything beyond that will be moderated and probably deleted.


  34. David Ker says:

    Sorry for confusion on moderation. I’ve tried to do my best. I’m a little too busy to do a proper job of moderating so I’m closing comments. Please check out the numerous links in this comment thread for others that are writing about the NIV2011.

Comments are closed.