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Bible Commentary Adam Clarke

The NIV Bible is a Paraphrase! - Download PDF Article

(When quoting scriptures, from the Rotherham Emphasized Bible New Testament, I will substitute the Hebrew words
Yahoshua (yeh-ho-shoo’- ah) for Jesus, Yahweh and Elohim for God and the LORD and ruah for pneuma (spirit).)

The NIV Bible is the number one selling Bible in the United States. The owners of these Bibles must be informed that this translation is only a paraphrase of the Word of Yahweh and not a literal translation of the Hebrew and Greek text, as they could believe. It was designed to be well-pleasing to the eyes and ears of men, which it has accomplished. The NIV has it place for those who have difficulty in reading the English language, as did Howard Long, its originator but when it is taught as the literal Word of Yahweh, tremendous errors are the result. The owners of this Bible must realize the NIV translation is a floating document, ever changing with the corruption of the English language and the changing preferences of men rather than an anchored document that is attached to the rock of the Hebrew and Greek text. For example, 'Sheol,' used sixty-five times in the Old Testament, does not exist in its text but 'Hades' does in the New Testament. The NIV Bible is a good paraphrase of the scriptures, far better than the New Living Translation but the problem is the publishers do not present it as a paraphrase, thereby potentially deceiving millions of its readers. They should have titled it with one of its first names, such as, 'The Holy Bible: A Contemporary Translation,' 'Plain English Bible,' 'The Holy Bible in Today's English,' which declares its trendy appeal, and also its limitations rather than the title, 'The New International Version,' which disguises what it actually is. 

Pleasing Men
It is sad to say that Christian men and women, as a whole, do not desire the full truth of our Creator! History has proven this by the Bibles they have purchased and by the Bibles they have rejected. As the Israelites rejected Yahweh as their King, so also today do Christian reject Yahweh in his fullness. As the Israelites desired Aaron to make them a god, so also today do Christians desire Bible publishers to produce a Bible, which is conformed into an image that is pleasing in their sight. As the children of Israel murmured in the wilderness, saying to Moses, "Oh give us flesh, that we may eat," so also do Christians today say, we are tired of this heavenly manna (venerated text), give us something new. History has proven that men do not want to know their Creator as Jehovah, let alone, Yahweh, but rather they have chosen to call him, 'the Lord,' and they will only purchase Bibles that cater to their whims. The rejection of the name of our Creator is just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of examples where the purchasers refuse to purchase a Bible that is accurate, desiring rather to have one that is socially accepted. (For more information, read the article, "Divine Inspiration! Does the Church Care?") These people refuse to savor Psalm 109:21 as,

"But, thou, Yahweh, Adonay, deal effectually with me, for the sake of thy Name, Since good is thy lovingkindness, O rescue me;"

so the people who produced the NIV Bible served them up Psalm 109:21 as,

"But you, O Sovereign LORD, deal well with me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me."

Hebrew's 5:12-14 states it well by saying, "For, even when ye ought to be teachers, by reason of the time, again, have ye, need, that one be teaching, you, what are the first principles of the oracles of Yahweh, and have become such as have, need, of milk, not, of strong food; For, every one partaking of milk, is unskilled in discourse of righteousness, for he is, a babe; But, to such as are mature [teleios], pertaineth, the strong food, to them who, by reason of habit, have their organs of perception well trained for discriminating both good and evil." Ephesians 4:11-15 confirms Yahweh's desire that we do not remain infants but become men of full-growth; "And, he, gave––some, indeed, to be apostles, and some, prophets, and some, evangelists, and some, shepherds and teachers,–– With a view to the fitting of the saints for the work of ministering, for an upbuilding of the body of the Christ;  Until we all advance––into the oneness of the faith, and the personal knowledge of the Son of Yahweh, into a man of full–growth [teleios], into the measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ; That we may, no longer, be infants––billow–tossed and shifted round with every wind of teaching,––in the craft of men, in knavery suited to the artifice of error; But, pursuing truth––may, in love, grow into him in all things,––who is the head, Christ." People who feed upon the NIV and other paraphrased Bibles will remain "...infants––billow–tossed and shifted round with every wind of teaching,––in the craft of men, in knavery suited to the artifice of error."

Literal Bibles, such as Rotherham's Emphasized Bible, Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible and the ASV of 1901, as a whole, have been rejected by Christian men and women, which is why they can not be found in bookstores. The NIV translators realized this, so as a chef, they asked men what would be well pleasing to their taste. Men said, "We do not want a Bible that is a word-for-word, clause-for-clause mirror reflection of the original-language texts, retaining word order and reflecting every grammatical nuance, reproducing form as well as content in the service of 'accuracy,' but rather we desire a Bible where the rhythm flows well,  where the monotonous repetition of sounds and the immediate juxtaposition of harsh consonants are eliminated and please remove obstacles to oral reading. Also please change the proper names to our liking and agree with our Church doctrine." The Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) heard these request, resulting in the number one selling Bible being produced, namely the NIV Bible. This article is addressed to the sheep (purchasers) and not the shepherds (producers), chastising and encouraging them to put away their milk and become men of full-growth.  

A Paraphrase
Many people will disagree that the NIV Bible is a paraphrase. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, paraphrase means, "An expression in other words, usually fuller and clearer, of the sense of any passage or text; a free rendering or amplification of a passage."  Wikipedia states, "A paraphrase typically explains or clarifies the text that is being paraphrased. For example, "The signal was red" might be paraphrased as "The train was not allowed to proceed." When accompanying the original statement, a paraphrase is usually introduced with a verbum dicendi — a declaratory expression to signal the transition to the paraphrase. For example, in "The signal was red, that is, the train was not allowed to proceed," the "that is" signals the paraphrase that follows. A paraphrase does not need to accompany a direct quotation, but when this is so, the paraphrase typically serves to put the source's statement into perspective or to clarify the context in which it appeared. A paraphrase is typically more detailed than a summary. One should add the source at the end of the sentence, for example: When the light was red trains could not go.

Paraphrases may attempt to preserve the essential meaning of the material being paraphrased. Thus, the (intentional or otherwise) reinterpretation of a source to infer a meaning that is not explicitly evident in the source itself qualifies as "original research," and not as paraphrase. Unlike a metaphrase, which represents a "formal equivalent" of the source, a paraphrase represents a "dynamic equivalent" thereof. While a metaphrase attempts to translate a text literally, a paraphrase conveys the essential thought expressed in a source text — if necessary, at the expense of literality."

Before we begin a history of the NIV Bible, I will give you a few examples of how the NIV paraphrases the text. I will use the Rotherham Emphasized Bible as our literal example and the NIV Bible as our paraphrase example. Genesis 4:1 states, " Now, the man, having come to know Eve his wife,––she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a Man, even Yahweh!" The NIV states, "Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man." The NIV translators paraphrased the entire verse. John 1:18 is another example, which reads, "No one, hath seen, God, at any time: An Only Begotten God [monogenes theos], The One existing within the bosom of the Father, He, hath interpreted him." The NIV states, " No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known." Again the NIV translators paraphrased the following phrase, "An Only Begotten God, that is to say God the One and Only." An additional example is illustrated in Philippians 2:6, which reads, "Who, in form of God, subsisting, not, a thing to be seized, accounted the being equal with God." The NIV states, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped." The NIV translators paraphrased the verse by saying, "Who, in form of God, subsisting, that is to say being in very nature God." One last example is present in 1 Corinthians 7:1, which states, "Now, concerning the things whereof ye wrote, it were, good, for a man, not to touch, a woman." The NIV states, "Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry." The NIV translators paraphrased the verse by saying, "it were, good, for a man, not to touch, a woman, that is to say, not to marry."  The above four examples illustrate how the NIV translators paraphrased the literal text without the knowledge of the reader. The phrase, 'I have gotten a Man, even Yahweh' was paraphrased by the NIV to 'With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man;' 'only Begotten God' to 'God the One and Only,' 'in the form of God' to 'in very nature God' and 'not to touch a woman' to 'not to marry.' The NIV translators paraphrased the text by a "free rendering or amplification of a passage," and in many cases they used original research, which is defined as "the (intentional or otherwise) reinterpretation of a source to infer a meaning that is not explicitly evident in the source itself."

To begin our discussion we must identify the five most accurate English translations of the Hebrew and Greek text. We will begin by starting with the most accurate and progressing downward. The most accurate English translation of the Hebrew and Greek text is Rotherham's Emphasized Bible of 1902; number two is Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible of 1862; number three is the American Standard Bible of 1901; number four is the New American Standard Bible of 1995; number five is the English Standard Version of 2001. (For examples, see Appendix A)

A Short History of the NIV Bible Translation
(Documentation was taken from the book, “The Challenge of Bible Translation”   chapter ten (The New International Version: How it came to Be). This chapter was written by John H. Stek, who was one of the translators of the NIV Bible.) The NIV history begins with Howard Long, a man who in the 1950's had difficulty communicating to others the King James Version of the Bible, which led him to the idea to have someone produce a Modern English Version of the Bible. "The Bible that had long nourished his faith was the King James Version. It felt comfortable in his hands, sounded familiar and sweet in his ears, and much of it was “written on his heart.” But when he opened it to show others the Way, he met with incomprehension—or worse. The Bible he read to them and urged them to read was to them sometimes quite unintelligible, generally rather strange and quaint, and occasionally even hilarious. With such a version in hand, anyone who wished to spread the gospel through one-on-one evangelization could only know frustration. And loneliness. Howard Long tried out the more recent English versions, but for various reasons found them unsatisfactory. He also tried translating the old English Bible into more modern idiom as he witnessed to others, but that failed to serve. However good his effort, it had no weight, no authority. His was only a lone voice against an old and greatly venerated text." The other new English versions Howard was not excited about were the American Standard Version of 1901 and the Revised Standard Version of 1952, which are a witness against him and not for him. The ASV of 1901 was an excellent literal version of the Hebrew and Greek text, as can be seen  in two out of the three verses that were discussed above. Howard's complaint concerning the KJV now begins to sound hollow, when the evidence is presented that there were many literal translations to choose from other than the KJV.

The New American Standard Bible (NASB), a revision of the ASV of 1901, was being produced at the time, the New Testament being finished in 1963. "For most of those present, the NASB, which was currently being produced under the sponsorship of the Lockman Foundation, held the greater promise. A few of the conference attendees were contributing to its production. Many others were members of the Evangelical Theological Society, whose central statement of faith stressed the verbal inspiration and the inerrancy of Scripture (in the autographs). To these the main attraction of the NASB was its attempt to meticulously reproduce as fully as possible a word-for-word, clause-for-clause mirror reflection of the original-language texts, retaining their word order and reflecting their every grammatical nuance—to reproduce form as well as content in the service of “accuracy.” But others were convinced that this supposed great strength of the version was in fact its major weakness. It was founded on unsound linguistic assumptions concerning how languages differ from each other in communicating meaning. And it resulted in an artificial English style that aggravated the very features that had rendered the ASV unattractive to most readers." The NASB is an excellent translation, less than the ASV but better than the KJV.

The above  statement actually reveals the real catalyst behind the drive to produce a Bible that pleased men. He stated that the ASV was "unattractive to most readers." The drive behind the production of the NASB was to please Yahweh, as being good scribes of the ancient text while the drive behind the production of the NIV Bible was to please men. I will remind you what was said of Howard Long; "The Bible he read to them and urged them to read was to them sometimes quite unintelligible, generally rather strange and quaint, and occasionally even hilarious. With such a version in hand, anyone who wished to spread the gospel through one-on-one evangelization could only know frustration. And loneliness." Pleasing uneducated men who have difficulty understanding English requires the paraphrasing of the scriptures, an example being a child's Bible. As we will see, this is precisely the direction the NIV translators took. The NIV Bible was designed, not for accuracy but for easy reading, which is why it is a paraphrase.

The final editorial committee of the NIV Bible used three stages in refining their translation:

1.) "The committee worked through the tentative translation of each book in plenary session, making final decisions on all translation problems still unresolved and revising the English to achieve a uniform style.
2.) The committee read the Englished text orally to make sure that its rhythm flowed well, to eliminate monotonous repetition of sounds and the immediate juxtaposition of harsh consonants, and to remove obstacles to oral reading by nonprofessional readers.
3.) The text as revised by the CBT was submitted to one or more English stylists for a final check, with their criticisms and proposals subsequently acted on by the CBT."

The original name for the Bible was, 'The Holy Bible: A Contemporary Translation.' English style was a major concern for the NIV Bible. One of the nine translation guidelines was, "Every effort shall be made to achieve good English style." "In its own editorial work that year the CBT concentrated on completing the Gospel of John. In this it was significantly aided by an experiment conducted by Burton Goddard in a public high school in Boxford, Massachusetts. Members of the freshman and sophomore classes (twenty-one from each class) were asked to read portions of the emerging text of John’s gospel, indicating their level of comfort with its style and marking all words, phrases, and idioms they did not readily understand. By summer’s end the text of the Gospel of John was ready for submission to the New York Bible Society. And before the end of the year the NYBS published a paperback edition under the title The Gospel According to John: A Contemporary Translation." Howard Long's conception of a Contemporary Bible, understood by teenagers was coming to pass because the translators of the Word of Yahweh and its committees and styles had it pureed, which is what a paraphrase is supposed to do.

"And so the translation project set in motion by the Palos Heights conference in 1965 was completed. More than one hundred biblical scholars had contributed to the work, and they had been assisted by a number of English stylists at various levels. Most notably among these were Margaret Nicholson and Frank Gaebelein. The former had read and criticized the edited text at every level of its development; the latter had sat for many years with the general editorial committees as they did their work. With the translation finished, the conversion of manuscript into book form was promptly and efficiently carried out by the publishers (New York Bible Society International, Zondervan Bible Publishers, and Hodder & Stoughton [for the U.K. edition]), so that before the end of 1978 the completed version was presented to the reading public. And Howard Long’s dream, which had started it all, was finally realized."  

Margaret Nicholson, who was mentioned above, had a great say in the NIV Bible. She had "read and criticized the edited text at every level of its development." She was not a Hebrew or Greek scholar but rather an English stylist. She authored the books, "A dictionary of American-English usage," which was published in 1957 and 'Oxford author's style book,' published in 1943. Frank Gaebelein, was another stylist who was headmaster of The Stony Brook school. His expertise was English and comparative literature.  The stylist job would be to change Psalm 23 from

Yahweh, is my shepherd––I shall not want:
In pastures of tender grass, he maketh me lie down, Unto restful waters, he leadeth me;
My life, he restoreth,


The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.

In Mark 5: 6-43, the stylist of the NIV Bible changed our Father's Word 62 times. (See Appendix C) Now multiply the number of chapters in our Father's Word by 62 and you will understand how many deviations have occurred in the sacred scriptures. 

Yahweh communicated to mankind through words that were Hebrew and Greek. These words and their meanings have been fixed in time. The English language has also been fixed. Words used in medicine and law have their own standard dictionaries, such as Black's Law Dictionary. An appendectomy means the same today as it did one hundred years ago.  Words have roots, prefixes, suffixes etc. fixing their meaning in time. The usage of words and their meanings can and do devolve in a society but this does not mean that we allow them to devolve. We maintain a standard of excellence by securing and protecting our language as does the medical and legal profession because life and death can result from the incorrect usage of words, as a physician or an attorney can attest to. We will lose Yahweh's revelation, piece by piece once we allow the inmates to dictate to us the ever changing meanings they give to words,. We should raise people up to the actual meaning of words rather than following them down into the gutter by their corrupted word usage. We should not be changing our Bible's every ten years to meet the ever devolving and decaying cycle of word usages. The NIV translators decided to go partially down that road, while the Message translators went all the way down that road, as can be seen in Psalm 55:15:

Desolations on them! Let them go down into Sheol alive, For, wicked doings, are at home within them. (Rotherham)
Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave, for evil finds lodging among them. (NIV)
Haul my betrayers off alive to hell—let them experience the horror, let them feel every desolate detail of a damned life. (Message)

Bible paraphrases compared to literal translations were best summed up by Robert Young in the 1800's; "There are two modes of translation which may be adopted in rendering into our own langu­age the writings of an ancient author; the one is, to bring him before us in such a manner as that we may regard him as our own; [Message Bible: Ps 9:17  The wicked bought a one-way ticket to hell.] the other, to transport ourselves, on the contrary, over to him, adopting his situation modes of speaking, thinking, acting,—peculiarities of age and race, air, gesture, voice, etc. [Rotherham Bible: Ps 50:1 El, Elohim, Yahweh, hath spoken, and called the earth, From the rising of the sun, unto the going in thereof.] Each of these plans has its advantages, but the latter is incomparably the better of the two, being suited—not for the ever-varying modes of thinking and acting of the men of the fifth, or the tenth, or the fifteenth, or some other century, but—for all ages alike. All attempts to make Moses or Paul act, or speak, or reason, as if they were Englishmen of the nineteenth century, must inevitably tend to change the translator into a commentator, characters which, however useful, stand altogether apart from that of him, who, with a work before him in one language, seeks only to transfer it into another...Inspiration extends only to the original text, as it came from the pens of the writers, not to any translations ever made by man, however aged, venerable or good; and only in so far as any of these adhere to the original, neither adding to nor omitting from it one particle, are they of any real value, for, to the extent that they vary from the original, the doctrine of verbal inspiration is lost, so far as that version is concerned... If a translation gives a present tense when the original gives a past, or a past when it has given the present; a perfect for a future, or a future for a perfect; an a for a the, or a the for an a; an imperative for a subjunctive, or a subjunctive for an imperative; a verb for a noun, or a noun for a verb;  it is clear that verbal inspiration is as much overlooked as if it had no existence. The Word of Yahweh is made Void by the Traditions of Men...A strictly literal rendering may not be so pleasant to the ear as one where the apparent sense is chiefly aimed at, yet it is not euphony [the quality of having a pleasant sound] but truth that ought to be sought, and where in such versions as the ones commonly in use in our country (KJV or NIV), there are scarcely two consecutive verses where there is not some departure from the original such as those indicated, and where these variations may be counted by tens of thousands, as admitted on all hands, it is difficult to see how verbal inspiration can be of the least practical use to those who depend upon those versions alone.”

The downward spiral of paraphrasing is illustrated in Philippians 2:6. The Greek text states, "Who, in form of God, subsisting, not, a thing to be seized, accounted the being equal with God" (Rotherham). The deviation by the paraphrases is illustrated below:

Literal Translations
who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God, (Young's)
who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, (ASV)
who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, (NASB)
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, (ESV)

Paraphrased Translations
Who, being in  very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (NIV)
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. (NLT)
Jesus has always been as God is. But He did not hold to His rights as God. (NLV)
Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. (CEV)

Great Bible translations have always come by individual men who attempted not to compromise the words of Yahweh, such as Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, Young, Bullinger and Rotherham rather than by one hundred biblical scholars, who must compromise truths to please the whole committee, the financier and the publisher. One hundred writers may produce a wonderful novel but the translation of the sacred text is quite a different endeavor. Fidelity to the text is paramount but, as we are fully aware, it is not popular or financially profitable; faithful Bibles will not be purchased by the masses, as history has demonstrated. (See Appendix B) People, as a whole do not yearn for the words of Yahweh, as coming forth from his mouth, as did Jeremiah, when he said, "Thy words, were found, and I did eat them, Then became thy words unto me, the joy and gladness of my heart..." (Jer. 15:16). People, like Howard Long, desire a more contemporary gospel, which is what the NIV translators gave them. If the NIV Bible had not been produced another Bible in its likeness would have come about because of the itching ears of the consumer.  We have been warned that, "...there will be a season––when, the healthful teaching, they will not endure, but, according to their own covetings, will, unto themselves, heap up teachers, because they have an itching ear" (2 Ti. 4:3). For those who insist on remaining infants by reading the NIV Bible but they have ears to hear, please add to your library a Rotherham Emphasized Bible or at least a NASB or ESV Bible in order that you have some reference to the actual words that came from the mouth of Yahweh.

(For footnotes and appendix's, see PDF version.)

Download PDF Article

(When quoting scriptures, from the Rotherham Emphasized Bible New Testament, I will substitute the Hebrew words Yahshua for Jesus, Yahweh and Elohim for God and the LORD and ruah for pneuma (spirit).)

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