The Story on Gender and the NIV (1984), TNIV, and NIV (2011)

I keep coming back to the NIV translation of the Bible. The (now discontinued) TNIV and the 2011 NIV (which supersedes the TNIV) are constant companions in my Bible reading and sermon preparation.

Bruce Waltke anticipates that the NIV will be “ever more precise and always in the language of the people” as it continues to evolve. 50 years ago the Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) convened.


CBT (image via Zondervan)
CBT (image via Zondervan)


The first three speakers in the following video–Doug Moo, Karen Jobes, and Mark Strauss–are all ones whose works I’ve consulted (literally) in the last two days!



There is an utterly fascinating history of how the translation has changed over the years. I am particularly interested in the discussion about how gender works in translation. I’m with Bruce Waltke on this one:

If you use “man” and part of your constituency is hearing it as male, and it wasn’t intended to be male, that’s bad translation.

So get this:

For the coming [1990s] edition, the CBT decided that where the Greek or Hebrew clearly referred to all people—male and female—the translation would have to find accurate contemporary English language to make this clear.

But before the CBT could release the update, a Christian magazine learned what the CBT was planning and published an article condemning the shift in language, initiating a firestorm of controversy.

Some Christians were unhappy about what the CBT was planning. They accused the CBT of a “feminist” agenda when, in reality, the only agenda CBT had was to accurately reflect the meaning of Scripture in modern English. But the heat of the controversy made it hard for people to understand what was really going on.

The issue became so heated that the International Bible Society (now Biblica) decided that it was not in the best interest of the translation to continue and chose not to publish the revisions. In the United States, Zondervan would keep printing the 1984 edition of the NIV.

Finally, in 2005, the TNIV was born. But the publisher wanted to unify the now two separate editions, paving the way for the 2011 NIV.

Read the whole history here–it’s not a quick read, but it’s quite interesting. And it’s also sad how parts of the Christian community pushed against what would be not just a gender-inclusive, but a more gender-accurate translation.

There are tons of NIV Bibles available, many of which are detailed here. I’ve had a chance to compare a number of the Bibles, so feel free to ask in the comments if you want to hear more… or share your own thoughts on the NIV translation.



It seems I’m blogging fairly regularly about Zondervan and its products. They have been gracious to provide copies of various products for my review purposes.

15 thoughts on “The Story on Gender and the NIV (1984), TNIV, and NIV (2011)

  1. Thanks for the blog Abram.

    I’ve been one of those that has been very frustrated at the developments of the NIV. Personally I have invested a great deal of time in study of the NIV84 and when they stopped selling it I found that quite upsetting as it was my primary version that I had memorized for years and that decision was going to mean that it would become less used by more and more people as time went on. I wish that they would have at least allowed for the digital purchasing of the NIV84 and not try to eradicate the version over time.

    I understood the decision to change the gender language to try to more accurately represent this but found it difficult and didn’t like all of the changes that were made. I own the NIV11 but I have never read it from cover to cover and, after reading this blog today I have decided that next year I will read it through from cover to cover as part of my annual plan to read a different version. Perhaps this will result in a greater appreciation for the NIV11 even if I don’t agree with the translation of all of it.

    1. Hi, Bruce!

      Thanks for your comment. I am fortunate to still have digital access to the 1984 NIV (I hope you do, too?), and that is the Pew Bible in the church I pastor, so it’s necessary for me. (Though I am not unlikely to read from a different translation at times.)

      I can resonate–I memorized large portions of the New Testament in the NIV84, so any changes to those passages are still hard to get used to. I’m still trying to decide what I think about the NIV11 as compared to the TNIV and NIV84. I really was a big fan of the TNIV (as you can probably tell from my post about it), but I have mostly appreciated the “new” (i.e., revised) NIV.

      Do you use print or mostly electronic for reading? I go back and forth on that one….

      1. Thanks for taking time to respond and letting me know about your particular situation. I made the switch to digital many years ago and almost exclusively use Logos Bible Software for all my reading although occasionally I use one of my paper versions for books not available in Logos or for preaching from.

        Our church still uses the NIV84 like a vast amount do throughout North America. I understand the translator’s perspective on developing the NIV but I’m skeptical that the motivation for not making the NIV84 available in print is motivated more by sales than has been admitted. What do all these churches do when they needing a few more pew Bibles? They are now forced to go with a new translation if they want everyone to reference the same one. Actually, what I think most are doing is not using paper Bibles at all in church and simply projecting portions of Scripture on the screen. This is fine from a preaching perspective but I think we are systematically teaching people that they don’t need their Bibles when the go to church but maybe that is the subject of a different blog for you in the future.

        As far as memorization goes, combine the above situation of the NIV with the plethora of new translations and I think people have no idea what version to use to do memorization. I think memorization is something that people now don’t do as much anyhow but the NIV situation hasn’t helped the situation. Do you encourage your church to memorize together? Which version do you use for that?

      2. Hi, Bruce! Sorry for the delay in replying. Great point about the sales-driven angle, where churches can literally no longer purchase replacement NIV84 or TNIV Bibles. Of course, there is Used on Amazon and ebay, but that could be less than ideal for Pew Bibles!

        We will typically use NIV (1984) for memorization, although if there is a “he” or “man” that translates a masculine in Greek that was clearly intended to include men and women, I might have us use NRSV. NLT is also really good for memorizing, I’ve found!

    1. Oh I agree. I would use “accurate,” too, but the British edition that came out before the TNIV was generally referred to as the “Inclusive NIV”–even by the publishers–to distinguish it from the original NIV that was still in publication at the time.

  2. The New International Version in My Opinion is The Best Bible Translation Readly Available to Christians Today. I Own a NIV 1984, a TNIV 2005, and a New NIV 2011 and i am Constantly Comparing Scriptures Between the Bible Translations, I also Have Purchased a NIV Audio Bible CD for the 20011 NIV Translation and Have Found this very Helpful in My Bible Reading Especially in the Old Testement books where some names are difficult to pronounce.
    Ps Best Wishes to All NIV Bible Readers

    1. Thanks for the comment! Agreed about the usefulness of an audio Bible! Especially considering Scripture initially would have been *heard* more than *read*. Helps us to get a feel of the flow using a different sense.

  3. Hi,

    My name is Louise and I’m from the Netherlands. For a European christian summer camp I have to buy an English bible. I’d like to buy a NIV translation, but I have one question left. I if I buy a bible that is published in 2015, does it automatically have the 2011 translation, inclusive gender-changes etc? I’m asking you this because on the webshops they don’t mention whether the 2015 bibles have the 2011 translation or not.

    1. Hi, Louise–I think in general that anything published in 2015 under the NIV name is, in fact, the 2011 translation. But if you want to be sure, I would suggest contacting the Webshop to confirm.

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