TNIV to NIV 2011 (John Kohlenberger)

TNIV to NIV 2011 (John Kohlenberger) January 14, 2011

From CBE by John Kohlenberger. John R. Kohlenberger III (ThB, Multnomah Bible College; MA, Western Seminary) is the author or co-editor of more than four dozen biblical reference books and study Bibles, including the awarding-winning NIV Exhaustive Concordance and The NIV Bible Commentary.

What do you think of the NIV 2011? the TNIV?

The new year 2011 will see some major landmarks in English Bible translation. This is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Authorized or King James Version, the most widely-used English Bible translation in history. Also due to be released this year is a revision of the New American Bible, the most popular modern Catholic translation. But perhaps most anticipated is the new edition of the New International Version (NIV), the bestselling English Bible of the last thirty years.

Many are familiar with controversy surrounding the release of the Today’s New International Version (TNIV) in 2002 and 2005. The TNIV was intended by the Committee on Bible Translation ([CBT] the group of scholars who maintain and revise the NIV) to be a revision of the NIV. However, the inaccurate and often inflammatory criticism of the use of inclusive language in the TNIV moved the International Bible Society ([IBS] the translation sponsor and publisher of the NIV) to release the TNIV as a separate translation and maintain the 1984 edition of the NIV as it was.

On September 1, 2009, a press conference held by CBT, Biblica (the new name for IBS), and Zondervan announced that the 1984 NIV would be revised and the 2005 TNIV discontinued. Some interpreted this to mean the TNIV was a failed experiment and the old NIV would just be freshened a bit. What was actually stated was that the CBT would reconsider every change that the TNIV introduced to the NIV, in light of external feedback, so that the 2011 revision of the NIV would actually be a revised TNIV.

As part of their process, to ensure that they were accurately reflecting common English usage, the CBT initiated a relationship with Collins Dictionaries to use the Collins Bank of English, one of the world’s foremost English language research tools, to conduct a major new study of changes in gender language. The Bank of English is a database of more than 4.4 billion words drawn from text publications and spoken word recordings from all over the world. As a result, many of the gender language changes introduced in the TNIV were verified and retained, some texts revert back to the 1984 NIV, and others are handled in a completely different way. Most notable patterns are:

Singular subjects can be resumed by plurals to avoid the use of “he” or “him”: Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the one”; 1:3 “That person is like . . . whatever they do prospers.”

“Mankind” is used far more frequently in English than “humankind,” so “humankind” is not in the NIV 2011: Genesis 1:27: “So God created mankind in his own image, / in the image of God he created them; / male and female he created them.”

The phrase “God and man” as a pair is still the majority English use: Luke 2:52 “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” However, human beings collectively are usually referred to as “people” or “human beings,” not as ‘man” or ‘men.”

As in the TNIV, Junia is still female and an apostle (Rom. 16:7) and Phoebe is still a deacon (Rom. 16:1-2).

In New Testament books, at the first occurrence of “brothers and sisters” (usually just ‘brothers” in older English translations), there is a significant new note: ‘The Greek word for brothers and sisters (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family.”

Interestingly, the signature NIV/TNIV rendering “sinful nature” for Greek sarx is now the traditional “flesh” in all but two verses. This is a major change from the entire history of the NIV and I think will be welcomed by holiness denominations and others.

Although the print edition of the NIV will not be released until later this spring, the entire translation is available online at There is also significant information at Both sites have the extremely helpful document, “Updating the New International Version of the Bible: Notes from the Committee on Bible Translation.” This has much more information and many more examples that I can include in this column.

If you want a wealth of information, visit This site has a comparison of the full texts of the 1984 NIV, 2005 TNIV and 2010 NIV organized book-by-book and verse-by-verse.

I believe the 2011 NIV is a major improvement to the 1978/1984 NIV that incorporates the majority of the scholarly and gender language changes of the TNIV. I pray that it will be embraced by readers of the English Bible, egalitarian and hierarchicalists alike.

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  • Stephen

    “I pray that it will be embraced by readers of the English Bible, egalitarian and hierarchicalists alike”

    We complementarians shouldn’t embrace the update? 😉

  • rjs

    Ah Stephen, but we are all complementarian … the question is whether we are complementarian with or without hierarchy.

    I know it is common usage, but still…

  • Ed Gentry

    As much as I do think that complementarians are always hierarchicalists (those with testicles get to boss those without). We should still call complementarians what they want to be called.

    Likwise I suspect that many complementarians would rather call me (a committed egalitarian) one-who-is-not-commited-to-the-authority-and-inspiration-of-the-Bible (though I believe I very much am), I would prefer to be called an egalitarian.

  • Robin

    For NIV/TNIV users…if you had to recommend a translation that wasn’t rooted in dynamic equivalence, what would it be?

  • Read this from Kohlenberger yesterday when it was pushed out. It’s an outstanding summary and prelude to what is now my preferred translation and, I hope, will become a standard option for all believers. I applaud the Committee’s efforts under the direction of Dr. Moo and so look forward to the hardcopy release!

    Bravo CBT and Kohlenberger!!

  • dopderbeck

    I was deeply, deeply disappointed that Gen. 2:19 still uses the pluperfect, which nearly all serious scholars agree is a bad translation in order to give Gen. 1 and 2 some appearance of chronological harmonization. For serious study, I’ll stick with the NASB.

  • Nitika

    So, “the 1984 NIV would be revised and the 2005 TNIV discontinued” was a complete spin job. If you are an egalitarian that wants to be RIGHT, advertise this. If you are an egalitarian who wants for things to CHANGE, don’t!

    @Robin: NASB

  • . . . if you had to recommend a translation that wasn’t rooted in dynamic equivalence, what would it be?


  • Ed Gentry

    dopderbeck, what is the issue there? I’m not familiar with it.Perhaps because I’m not fussed about trying to harmonize the two different creation narratives. Of course they have a different chronology. duh!

  • dopderbeck

    Gen. 2:19 in the NIV (including the current version on says the Lord “had formed” the animals to make it appear that the animals preceded Adam as in Gen. 1. I think most scholars agree that the pluperfect, though possible, is not the best translation — i.e. in Gen. 2 the animals come after Adam. In the NASB there is no pluperfect: “Out of the ground the LORD God formed…”, allowing the chronological tension between Gen. 1 and Gen. 2 to stand.

    It seems like a minor point, and I’m sure it’s terribly unfair of me to judge an entire Bible translation on this alone, but it’s one of my bugbears — such, it seems to me, an obvious rationalizing interpretive translation.

  • Ed Gentry

    Thanks, now I see. I read NRSV which also only has ‘formed’ Odd, how do they justify pluperfect here? Formed is clearly in the imperfect!

    Following the example of the proverbial ostrich we dig a hole and insert our head in the sand. Perhaps if we don’t acknowledge a problem then perhaps it is not there.

  • dopderbeck

    Ed — I don’t know Hebrew, but the scholars I’ve read who strike me as knowledgeable and trustworthy seem to say that the pluperfect is possible but highly unlikely.

  • Peter

    Dopderbeck – I had to look up Gen 2:19 to get your point, also. Isn’t it interesting that the HCSB (I was told to read this, “Hard-Core Southern Baptist”) reads, “So the Lord God formed,” without evidence of the attempted harmonization that you describe?

  • I am by no means a language scholar. I studied Greek at Moody many years ago but haven’t kept up with it. So I don’t know squat about the original languages. However, when I notice language scholars who teach at a very conservative seminary (and who’ve worked on many different translations) carrying a copy of the TNIV I figure maybe it’s an okay version. Maybe the new one is even better. The folks behind the updated NIV seem like trustworthy people so why not give them a break? I make a practice of regularly reading from 5 different translations, although I predominantly use the ESV. I have lately been enjoying reading the new NIV on biblegateway. Really, it just annoys me to no end that bible translations become just one more thing Christians choose to fight over instead of just allowing people to see things differently. It doesn’t seem like the kind of love Jesus talked about that would be so appealing to the world.

  • T


    I’ve liked the HCSB very much (though, I admit, I grew up in the SBC!). I’ve been pleased with the translation. It strikes me as “between” the NIV and the more word by word translations. It has very little of the awkwardness/yoda-speak of the NASB, or even the ESV, but isn’t a pure dynamic equivalence approach.

  • Ben Wheaton

    I don’t think that the new NIV will ever regain the position the old NIV once had. Other translations have gained too much headway. When the NIV was the only “evangelical” translation, it ruled; now there are quite a few “evangelical” translations. And, as Scot mentioned before, translations are now tied in with various parties in theological disputes. The preceding comments about a good literal translation prove this; most on this blog would never use the ESV because of its association with their theological enemies. So instead, a clunky(er) version like the NASB is touted (or the NRSV).

  • Rachel

    Theological enemies? Bossing people around? Where’s the love? ;o)

    My limited experience is that almost all complementarians are egalitarians, and almost all egalitarians are complementarians, so I appreciate Ed’s decision to call people what they prefer. But can we have complemegalitarianism? People who believe equality and difference of role can co-exist? People who believe that you can submit to someone without being unequal with them? People who are complementarian in marriage and egalitarian in ministry? I’d love some thoughts on these things!

  • DRT

    I want to be called a testiculared one, just to be clear.

  • dopderbeck

    DRT (#18) — only one?

  • Rachel,
    My limited experience is that almost all complementarians are egalitarians, and almost all egalitarians are complementarians,

    Could you perhaps unpack and/or explain that comment a bit, please? As I read it, you’ve said something utterly nonsensical, something akin to saying that all dogs are cats and all cats are dogs. I’m confident that this wasn’t your intention, but I simply can’t unravel what you’re trying to get at.

  • BradVW

    I was surprised that the IBS had changed its name! Why would they want to change a great name like IBS. Think of all the accidental google traffic they are giving up!

  • Great point, BradW! And like the other IBS, the stuff gets pretty deep when people start defending their favorite translation.

  • Mabel

    Rachel comments: People who believe that you can submit to someone without being unequal with them?
    My take: Are white men who advocate black men’s submission to white men racists?
    If you want to know whether the hierarchicalists claims make sense or not, just substitute race for gender.

  • David Johnson


    Yes, but your use of the word “submission” is entirely negative. We are commanded to submit to governmental authority, for instance, and yet I see a whole bunch of Christian people applauding the state governments that are suing the federal government over the recent health care bill—which is certainly not an act of submission.

    The difference between a white supremacist who calls for the subjugation of all “colored” peoples—and understand, it doesn’t matter to the white supremacist whether they submit or not, they are to be subjugated—and a Christian woman who feels that it is part of her calling in Christ to submit to her husband (especially when that husband loves her and cherishes her as Christ loves the church)….well, it’s a big difference. The funny thing is that it was a woman who made the comment you responded to—which, in your way of thinking, would be like a black man who thought that he should be treated as the white man’s inferior.

  • I’m excited. Unfortunately, I think the damage has been done to the NIV with the TNIV scandal. It really was something to see. The men with the evangelical “power” lorded it over the church. It still amazes me that whole chains of bookstores were scared into not selling the TNIV because James Dobson said so. Crazy.

    Bible translation is an idol. I had a church member get scolded by a friend at a Christmas party when she raved about her Christmas gift – a Leather Bound Message. “You know about ‘The Message’ don’t you?” said her friend. Like, you might lose your salvation if you crack open one of those Message bibles. Crazy. Absolutely crazy.

  • #24,

    But even if we de-couple “submission” from the supremely negative rhetoric, I’m not at all sure you can de-couple submission from “unequal.” Surely, even if your examples, the people/entities being asked to “submit” to the other is unequal to that other.

  • Matt Edwards

    I’m glad they are going with “sarx” as “flesh.” They lost me to the ESV over that.

  • Ron Newberry

    will read ‘sinful nature’ when I get to ‘flesh’ in Paul. Bad choice on their part.

  • Sue

    Calvin would be so pleased with the NIV 2011. One of the truly concerning trends in the last century has been the erosion of the majesty of Christ. This is reflected in the translation of Phil. 2:6, of harpagmos, as “a thing to be grasped,” which is found in the NIV 1984 and the ESV as well as others. This is often interpreted as saying that Christ did not think that he should attain functional equality with God.

    But Calvin understood this verse in its traditional interpretation, that Christ “thought it not robbery to be equal to God,” KJV, and he wrote about this verse,

    “For where can there be equality with God without robbery, excepting only where there is the essence of God; for God always remains the same, who cries by Isaiah, I live; I will not give my glory to another. (Isa 48:11.) Form means figure or appearance, as they commonly speak. This, too, I readily grant; but will there be found, apart from God, such a form, so as to be neither false nor forged? As, then, God is known by means of his excellences, and his works are evidences of his eternal Godhead, (Ro 1:20,) so Christ’s divine essence is rightly proved from Christ’s majesty, which he possessed equally with the Father before he humbled himself. As to myself, at least, not even all devils would wrest this passage from me — inasmuch as there is in God a most solid argument, from his glory to his essence, which are two things that are inseparable.”

    So the NIV 2011 has changed this verse to,

    “something to be used to his own advantage.” Christ is no longer divided into equal essence and lesser majesty.

  • Mabel

    response to comment 24: submission is negative when it is to apply to only one gender.
    You automatically assume that whites are supremacists and blacks are in subjugation. I only said if white men advocate black men submission. See how prejudice plays a trick on the reading of some very innocent words?

  • Jon

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned this yet but the full text of the NIV 2011 is currently available for purchase in e-book format at and Amazon. I downloaded it to my Kindle last week. I’ve been told it’s also available at the iTunes store.

  • i find it interesting that whenever Bible translation is discussed, very little of the discussion is on linguistic and stylistic appropriateness in relation to the original languages or to the change in English usage over the decades, but much more on personal theological hobbyhorses or ecclesiastical politics.

    In my view that says a lot about the attitude to Scripture within a wide spectrum of the evangelical constituency – we’ll approve the translation as long as it says what we want it to say.

  • Mabel

    “we’ll approve the translation as long as it says what we want it to say.” becomes dangerous when those opposing have the clout, the money, and the power (they believe in holding authority over other people) to stop what they do not approve from being published.

  • Craig

    @Robin #4: NKJV

    – Craig

  • @Mabel – exactly my point. We say we are under Scripture but our attitude to translation points to the fact that we place ourselves over it in order to control it rather than be formed by it.

  • Rachel

    My apologies to Mark (#20) and Mabel (#23) for not replying until now – busy weekend. Mark, when I say that complementarians are egalitarians and vice versa, I mean (as discussed in #2 and #3 above) that almost all “egalitarians” believe that men and women are complementary, and almost all “complementarians” believe that men and women are equal. It is an egalitarian premise – not, that I have seen so far, a demonstrably scriptural one – that submission must mean inequality. And hopefully this helps Mabel, too: in the specific places where Paul and Peter urged people to submit to others, did they thereby imply that they were inferior? That wives in Ephesus / Cappadocia / Bithynia were to be unequal with husbands? That Sarah was unequal with Abraham? That Christ will be unequal with the Father from the eschaton into eternity (1 Cor 15:28)?

  • Mabel

    Calrlification: I am not against submission, I am just against applying submission in a gender specific way. I hope this clears my position. We all have to submit to one another, I cannot think of any husband who loves his wife and believes that he never has to submit to her. As long as submission is mutual, it is equality, otherwise it is problematic.