Monday, April 20, 2009

Why I Quit Using the NIV

by Ron Livesay

I am not one who clings onto any particular English version of the Bible as if the Scriptures had been originally written in English in my version of choice. Obviously, the Bible was originally penned primarily in Hebrew and Greek. I am particularly attached to the King James Version, because I grew up with it and memorized many passages from it. I still teach Sunday school from the KJV. I also use the New King James and the New American Standard, because they are literal (word for word) translations as opposed to dynamic equivalence (thought for thought) translations and paraphrases (translator interprets rather than translates). Both of these latter two are far more susceptible to error and bias in translation than any of the literal translations, including the three I have chosen to use.

I taught for a few years in a Christian school which used the New International Version as its approved translation. I knew very little about it other than it was a popular translation of the dynamic equivalence type. Wanting to be a team player, I purchased a NIV and used it in my high school Bible classes. I determined that, rather than reading evaluations of it, I would see what I found in it before deciding if it was a translation I could legitimately use. After a very short time, I began finding things that just did not seem right and which did not square with sound biblical doctrine. While I did not find a large number of these things, the ones I did find were certainly serious enough that I lost all confidence in the NIV and could no longer trust it. I know there are many people who use and love the NIV, and I am sure many people have come to the Lord through the preaching of the NIV, but I believe that when any translation undermines sound doctrine, it is time to back away from it.

Following are the key issues I found:

1. The NIV gives a beginning to Jesus’ position as God the Son. Look at Psalm 2:7 in four different versions:

I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father." (NIV)

I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (KJV)

I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You." (NKJV)

I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You." (NASB)

Question: On what day did God the Father "become the father" of God the Son? The NIV says that such a day actually happened. If that is the case, then the Second Person of the Godhead was not eternally the Son of God but at some point became so. Of further significance is the fact that the Book of Acts makes it clear that this passage actually has nothing to do with the birth of Christ. Rather, it refers to His resurrection. He is the "firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18). This makes the reference to God the Father "becoming the Father" of God the Son even more ludicrous. No matter what you do with it, the NIV is teaching that God the Father "became the father" of God the Son either at His birth or at His resurrection. Either position is absurd.

Following is Acts 13:33 in four translations. This should clarify the error in the NIV.

…he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: "You are my Son; today I have become your Father." (NIV)

God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." (KJV)

God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You." (NKJV)

That God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, "You are My Son; today have begotten You." (NASB)

Dr. J. Vernon McGee addressed this issue in his Thru the Bible Commentary. He says the following:

"The reference in the second Psalm is not to the birth of Jesus. He never was begotten in the sense of having a beginning. Rather, this is in reference to His resurrection. Christ was begotten out of Joseph’s tomb. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, and God is the eternal Father. You cannot have an eternal Father without having an eternal Son. They were this throughout eternity. This is their position in the Trinity. It hasn’t anything to do with someone being born, but it does have something to do with someone being begotten from the dead. It has to do with resurrection…the New Testament makes it very clear Jesus Christ is not a creature. He is…the God-man. Psalm 2:7 sustains this doctrine."

This same error is evident in the NIV in several other places, including Hebrews 1:5 and Hebrews 5:5, thus giving the impression that there was a specific time at which God the Father became the father of God the Son.

2. The NIV gives a beginning to the Lord Jesus Christ, thereby making Him a created being. This is the passage that more than any other caused me to turn away from the NIV. Note Micah 5:2 in the same four translations:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. (NIV)

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (KJV)

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting. (NKJV)

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity. (NASB)

The Son of God had no beginning. He came from eternity, not from ancient times. An origin means a beginning. That is the ancient heresy of Arianism, which is held today by a number of cults. It reduces the Lord Jesus Christ to a created being and demotes Him from His rightful position as the Creator God, the Sovereign Lord of the universe.

Dr. McGee commented on this passage as follows:

"Isaiah, a contemporary of Micah, verifies this: ‘…Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel’ (Isa. 7:14). And he has more to say of this coming one: ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…’ (Isa. 9:6). 'A child is born’ – that’s His humanity. ‘A son is given’ – not born, because this speaks of His divinity. The ‘child’ was born in Bethlehem, but the ‘Son’ was ‘from everlasting.’ The Psalmist mentions this: "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world. even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God" (Ps. 90:2). The Hebrew language expresses this very vividly: "from the vanishing point in the past to the vanishing point in the future, thou art God." Just as far back as you can go in your thinking, He is God. He came out of eternity. He is the eternal Son of God…Before there was any creation, He was God; yet into creation He came, at the appointed time, into a little out-of-the-way town, Bethlehem."

3. The NIV casts doubt on the Biblical doctrine of eternal security. Please note 2 Peter 3:17, again from the same four translations:

Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. (NIV)

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. (KJV)

You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked. (NKJV)

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness. (NASB)

Of all the precious doctrines of grace, none surpasses the truth that our salvation is eternal, and we are eternally secure in Him. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one" (John 10:27-30, KJV). The NIV teaches that we who know Him can fall from our "secure position." This is utterly different from falling from or "own steadfastness," which has to do with our walk with and service for Him rather than our positional standing in Him.

Some might say, "But you have only given three examples of problems with the NIV." To that I would respond that any one of the three would be sufficient reason for me to never again use the NIV, because they affect major doctrines. I have to conclude that if I found these problems while studying to teach high school Bible classes and not even looking for problems, there are likely many more. I simply do not trust the NIV. As a matter of fact, I took my NIV and burned it, not wanting give it away and have someone be affected negatively by it.

One of the arguments presented to me by those who wanted to adopt the NIV while I was in school administration was, "But it’s so readable." I have always taken the position that accuracy is far and away more important than readability. If I am assembling a lawnmower, I would much rather have accurate instructions that are a little bit difficult to understand than inaccurate instructions that are extremely easy to understand. In the same way, if I want to understand what God has said to me, I would much rather read what He actually said, even if I have to work at it a bit, than to read some human’s tweak on what God said in His Word.

I don’t know enough about those who translated the NIV and their motives to know if these inaccurate statements in the NIV are intentional distortion or simply sloppy translation. The reality is that it doesn’t really matter. A bad translation is a bad translation, and believers should chose one or more good, literal translations for their serious Bible study.


  1. Totally agreeing with you, Ron. We prefer not to use that translation either. We like KJV, ESV, NASB, and the kids will occasionally use the NKJV.

    My son is pretty sold on the KJV though since it uses the word dragons. LOL. ;-)

  2. My NASB Marked Reference Bible is the one I have most of my handwritten notes in...and it's falling apart. When the NKJV came out I started using that. (MacArthur Study Bible is excellent). But NOW (and I hope nothing changes for at least 10 years) I use the ESV Study Bible! It is the best I have seen.

  3. Eddie:

    I have heard good things about the ESV, but I think I am probably too old (or at least too set in my ways) to think about changing again. Why knows? Maybe I will get a copy.

    My most marked-up Bible is my teaching Bible - a New Scofield wide-margin. It is a KJV with some word changes. I am not in agreement with all of Scofield's notes, but who would I agree with 100%? It is also falling apart, but I teach with no other notes but those in the margin, and I hate to give it up. I have been considering changing over to my NASB Update wide-margin as my teaching Bible, but old habits die hard, I guess.

  4. I've pretty much replaced my NIV (which is useful as a commentary) with the HCSB. I just looked up Ps. 2:7 and found the same problem as the NIV, including the associated passages. Bummer. However, Micah 5:2 says, "origin is from antiquity, from eternity." 2 Pet. 3:17 HSCB says "fall from your own stability."

    The HCSB is supposed to be much more formal than the NIV, which is why I like it better.

    Thanks for pointing out those passages!

  5. Glenn:

    I am not familiar with the HCSB, but I did look up Acts 13:33 in the HCSB on Bible Gateway. It seems inconsistent to refer to God raising up Jesus by saying he "became His father." It says, "God has fulfilled this to us their children by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second Psalm: You are My Son; today I have become Your Father." Anyway, as far as I know, it may be a great version other than that glitch.

    I have finally given in and added the ESV Study Bible to my Bible study tools.

  6. Just came across your blog today and read this article. I had a friend who was a new Christian and was struggling with the doctrine of eternal security. His pastor believed you could loose your salvation, and I was trying to show him how this was against the Scripture. The passage you mentioned in 2 Peter was one that made him doubt. I looked it up in my Bible (KJV), and couldn't figure out the problem. The I realized he read it in his NIV, and when I read it in that version I totally saw how that could make someone doubt their security in Christ. Like you, I've always held this doctrine as precious. It made me so sad to see him struggle with it because of how this verse was translated in his Bible. I love reading my KJV, and I don't think I'll ever change.
    God Bless :)


I welcome your comments. However, since this is a blog rather than an open forum, I will determine what is and what is not posted. All comments, especially anonymous comments, will be scrutinized carefully. I will not post comments that contain profanity or are negative toward the Scriptures, God, Christianity in general, Christian schools, or the United States of America. I also will not post comments that are nothing more than generally uninformed or absurd opinions. In addition, I will not post comments that are totally irrelevant to the subject being discussed. Finally, I will not post comments that are commercial advertisements or advertisements for religious organizations which are in conflict with my biblical convictions.