The NIV vs. the KJO

Copyright © July 14, 2015 by Larry G. Overton

KJV-NIVOn July 10, 2015, someone posted an image on Facebook, which appeared to have originally been a screenshot of a text message. It eventually was seen and shared by people in my social network/Facebook friends. I don’t know the original source, not that it matters. The underlying concept is neither new nor true, so the original source is either knowledgeably propagating or mindlessly parroting misleading information.

Since it is being seen and shared (unfortunately) by friends, I decided to weigh in on the subject. But I determined to do it here, on my website, rather than on Facebook. That medium of social networking is great for catching up and/or keeping up with family, friends and old acquaintances, and it’s great for quips and one liners. But Facebook is useless for detailed analysis, which is what this subject requires.

Before I address the contents and implications of that KJO message, let me start by clarifying where I’m coming form on this subject. And a good place to start is by spelling out that “KJO” acronym in my title. It stands for “King James Only.” When applied to the view or philosophy of exclusivity regarding the King James Version (hereafter, KJV), it refers to “King James Only-ism,” and when it’s applied to a person advocating such a view, it refers to a “King James Only-ist.”

Now, having said that, I hasten to add that when I use this reference, I am not attacking people or the 404 year old translation. Rather, by this acronym I am identifying those insisting that the KJV be used exclusively. This is not about people who prefer to read the KJV as their translation of choice, but about people who maintain that the KJV is the only Bible that can legitimately be called the Holy Bible. For those in this latter group, the King James Only designation is accurate and entirely appropriate. They may not like being so identified, but that KJO shoe definitely fits.

Furthermore, I am not defending the New International Version of the Holy Bible, per se. Not everything about the NIV can be defended. It is by no means a perfect translation of the Word of God in its original languages. And speaking of the Bible’s original languages, I believe that the Greek text underlying the NIV is not the best. The NIV is not my English translation of choice. So I’m not writing this because of a personal preference of the NIV. I just don’t like letting misinformation and misrepresentation stand, particularly when it pertains to the Bible. I’m speaking up for truth, not for one imperfect version over another. The person that posted the message that started this was really addressing the NIV versus the KJO doctrine, not the NIV versus the KJV.


Alright, let me start by taking the message in that image and addressing it one portion at a time. The author of that message stated that the New International Version (a.k.a., the NIV) “was published by Zondervan but is now OWNED by Harper Collins, who also publishes the Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex.”

There is truth to this statement, but it’s still misleading. Yes, the NIV was published by the Zondervan Corporation, and Zondervan was bought by HarperCollins in 1988. But HarperCollins had nothing to do with the content of the NIV translation.

The NIV New Testament was first published in 1973. In 1978, the complete Bible in the NIV was published, and the NT was updated slightly at that time. The changes were few and relatively minor in nature. In 1984, the NIV text was updated once again. There was a plan in 1997 to produce an edition with “inclusive language,” but the loyalty of NIV readers to the 1984 edition caused the International Bible Society (renamed Biblica in 2009) to abandon the plan. In 2005 Today’s New International Version was released containing simplified and “gender neutral” language, but the TNIV is not the NIV.

The text that appears in all NIV Bibles published today is the 1984 edition. So even the most recent configuration of the NIV text predates HarperCollins’ acquisition of Zondervan by four years. Therefore the current parent company (HarperCollins) had no impact whatsoever on the text of the NIV.

Furthermore, it is basically true that HarperCollins publishes The Satanic Bible and The Joy of Gay Sex. To put it more precisely, The Satanic Bible was originally published by Avon Books in 1969, and an updated edition of The Joy of Gay Sex (originally published in 1977) was recently published by William Morrow. Both Avon and William Morrow are imprints of the parent company HarperCollins. But neither one of those companies, nor either book, had anything to do with producing the text of the NIV.

And if a KJO tries to press this issue into a guilty-by-association argument, that will backfire on them. In 2012, HarperCollins also acquired Thomas Nelson. And Thomas Nelson Bibles is the world’s largest publisher of…wait for it…the King James Version!

Should the KJV being considered guilty by association and therefore rejected because of a current publisher? If not, then one must also extend to the NIV the same courtesy. Should the text of the KJV be considered untainted by a contemporary publishing company’s other publications? Then the same must also be said for the NIV. If not, why not? The KJO can’t have it both ways.

Removed Words

Let’s move on to consider another of the arguments contained in that Facebook post. “The NIV has now removed 64,575 words from the Bible including Jehovah, Calvary, Holy Ghost and omnipotent to name but a few…”

A key word in that claim is “now,” as in, “The NIV has now removed…” This KJO is claiming that since the acquisition of Zondervan by HarperCollins, the NIV removed from its text the words in question. I won’t get into a debate on the accuracy of that number of words (64,575) so removed, because they have not been enumerated in that offensive post. I can only address what the author of the message actually listed.

It is true that the four words from the KJV that were specified do not occur in the NIV. But that argument proves nothing, aside from the fact of differences in translation between the two versions, which is obvious. And the argument makes the assumption that the KJV is the standard by which English Bible versions should be judged, and not the underlying original language texts themselves.

But more to the point, the words in question were not taken out of the NIV after 1988, when HarperCollins acquired Zondervan. The truth is, they were never in the NIV in the first place.

Jehovah. In June of 1978 the Committee on Bible Translation explained in their preface why they didn’t use “Jehovah” in their translation of the Old Testament.

In regard to the divine name YHWH, commonly referred to as the Tetragrammaton, the translators adopted the device used in most English versions of rendering that name as “Lord” in capital letters to distinguish it from Adonai, another Hebrew word rendered “Lord,” for which small letters are used. Wherever the two names stand together in the Old Testament as a compound name of God, they are rendered “Sovereign Lord.”

So from the first publication of the entire Bible in 1978, or even before that in the 1975 publication of Isaiah in the NIV, “Jehovah” was never a part of the translation. But even more significant than this is the fact that the Hebrew term Yahweh underlying the KJV’s “Jehovah” or the NIV’s “LORD” doesn’t just occur those seven times in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is actually found in excess of 6,000 times. And in these other places where it occurs, the KJV did just what the NIV did: they rendered it “LORD.”

As for the NT terms Calvary, omnipotent and Holy Ghost, they have never been in the NIV, from the first edition in 1973 to now. To learn why, let’s take a closer look at each of these terms.

Calvary. This noun is found in the KJV only in Luke 23:33. The Greek word from which the KJV’s “Calvary” is translated is kranion [κρανίον], which means skull. (Our English word cranium came from this Greek word.) “Calvary” was the rendering found in several English versions that predate the KJV, including the Roman Catholic Rheims translation of the New Testament. This English rendering was based on the Latin version of the Bible, not the Greek NT. And the Latin word for skull is calvaria. The KJV chose to render the Greek word into a religious term from the Latin rather than translate the meaning of the Greek term. The NIV has “skull” in Luke 23:33, which is the correct and more accurate translation.

Omnipotent. The same thing holds true for the word omnipotent. It is found in the KJV only in Revelation 19:6. Some, though not all, versions predating the KJV have the rendering “omnipotent,” once again including the Roman Catholic Rheims NT of 1582. The Greek word in this verse in Revelation is pantokratōr [παντοκράτωρ], which means all powerful, almighty. The Latin term omnipotens, the basis for the English term “omnipotent,” means the same thing. So the Latin based term is not a bad translation, but it is no more accurate than the NIV’s “Almighty.”

And besides, the Greek word pantokratōr occurs in the Greek NT eight other times in the book of Revelation (ch. 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:15; 21:22), and once in 2 Corinthians 6:18. In every one of these places, how do you suppose the KJV translated that Greek word? You guessed it…”Almighty,” same as the NIV.

Holy Ghost. This designation for the Spirit of God is found 90 times in the KJV. One of those occurrences is in 1 John 5:7, where the Greek MSS of the NT do not support the reading. But that is a discussion for another time. The term “ghost” here is the problematic part. The English term “ghost” 400 + years ago could mean spirit, soul or a disembodied soul, the soul of a dead person. In modern English, we use the term only in the latter sense. So this is a matter of a translation fixed in time that no longer reflects the original meaning. Therefore the rendering “Holy Spirit” is accurate.

Removed Verses

The KJO post on Facebook also claimed, and I quote, “The NIV has also now removed 45 complete verses.” Once again, the claim is that “now,” since the HarperCollins acquisition of Zondervan, the NIV has removed verses. And once again, the number of verses claimed are not fully listed; just 10 verses are given as representative of the “removed verses” contention.

And one more “once again”: in each of the specific examples cited, the verses never were a part of the text of the NIV. In each case, and in each of the three editions of the NIV (1973, 1978 & 1984) the “missing” verses were relegated to a footnote. So the conclusion regarding the HarperCollins acquisition and the text of the NIV is the same as before. The current parent company of Zondervan never had anything to do with the text of the NIV.

Now it may interest some to know that in eight of the ten examples cited, I believe the NIV translators made a mistake in not including the verses in their text, instead of relegating them to a footnote. In those eight verses, only a small minority of Greek manuscripts omit them, typically around a mere half dozen to a dozen or so manuscripts. So the editors of modern Greek texts have chosen a minority reading based on their assessment of the reliability of the small group of manuscripts in question. And the translators followed their lead and did not include those verses in the text of the versions they helped produce.

But the point is, it was their interpretation of manuscript evidence that led to their conclusion in those verses. So what’s at the heart of the differences between the readings in the KJV as compared to the NIV (or any number of other versions) is not a recent insidious plot, or some conspiracy to corrupt, but the interpretation of the evidence of Greek manuscripts. In many cases, I also disagree with their conclusions. I believe they are working from a philosophy of textual criticism that is fundamentally flawed. But it would be foolish of me to impugn their motives.


So what conclusions should we draw from all of this? One point to be observed in all of this is that the issue is not translation but text. The view that the 400 year old translation known as the King James Version is perfect and therefore is the standard by which all other versions should be judged is an unproven assumption. In debate terminology, it is a presuppositional argument.

However, it can be amply demonstrated that the KJV is less than perfect. I’ve pointed out a couple of issues with it in this article alone. An appeal to a translation as a standard just because some preacher told you it was so, or because that’s what you’ve always read doesn’t make it right. In the end, an examination of the evidence is necessary.

So I say again, the issue is not translation but text. Let us appeal, not to our personal favorite version (whether that be the KJV or the NIV or whatever) as though that should automatically be the standard for everyone. Let us appeal to the facts. Trust that if something is true, it will stand up under scrutiny. And if your views are ultimately challenged in the process, then accept the challenge. In the end, don’t you want to know the truth?

You don’t have to be a clergyman in order to have a conviction on this matter. I’m not, but I obviously do. You don’t have to have a degree in Biblical studies with a specialization in textual criticism. I don’t. In fact, I have no accredited college experience whatsoever. Or as I like to put it, “I ain’t never had me no kolige edumacation.”

I realize of course that not everyone is an expert in Greek or Hebrew. But then, you don’t have to be. I do not claim to be an expert in Biblical languages; I am but a student, and largely self-taught, at that. I’ve only taken one (unaccredited) course in beginner’s NT Greek, and that course didn’t even touch on matters of textual criticism. But I have tried to improve my skills through decades of study. If you love God’s Word and seek His truth, then you will want to do all that you can, to the best of your ability, to learn more of His Word and to speak His truth.

You don’t have to have an extensive library. I actually do have this. I am what I like to call a bibliophile. However, a more honest description might be “book addict.” But I also have what anyone reading this also has: the Internet. Everything I’ve done to research and write this was, or could have been done on the Internet. And it only took me a day. As I bring this article to a close, it is right at 24 hours ago that my wife first made me aware of that KJO post on Facebook.

In the end, I would challenge you to be like the Bereans of old, who were commended by the inspired author Luke in Acts 17:11. And I’ll even quote it here in the NIV (as if this article hasn’t stretched some people enough already).

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Be open, even eager, to receive good news, a message as from the Lord. But don’t just park your brains at the door and take whatever comes down the pike. Be teachable, but not gullible. Check out what you hear by going to the Scriptures themselves.

Oh, and one more thing. Don’t “Share” everything that catches your eye on Facebook. If you want to come back to it later to read it more thoroughly, that’s fine. But sharing it just to save it for your own use later has the effect of perpetuating the teaching. And in this case, the original post, the KJO teaching, was not worth spreading around. Just sayin’.