When the books of the Bible were first written, they spoke clearly to people in their heart language. There was no gap between hearing God’s Word and understanding it. The translation philosophy of the New International Version (NIV) is to recreate this experience for you in contemporary English.
Sometimes the Bible can feel like a foreign book. But that’s not how it felt to its original audience. The Scriptures captured exactly what God wanted to say to them in their everyday language and idiom. Those who heard God’s Word could understand it.
To be sure, there are plenty of things for us to wrestle with in the Bible. But your translation shouldn’t be one of them. That’s the translation philosophy behind the New International Version (NIV): giving you the most accurate text possible in clear, natural English.
A balanced approach
Some Bible translations focus on the way Scripture was written — the form, grammar, even the word order of the original. The difficulty is that no two languages follow the same set of rules. That’s why translating Scripture is more than a matter of replacing Greek or Hebrew words with English equivalents.
Other Bible translations focus on the meaning of Scripture, helping you grasp the message of the Bible in your own words. The challenge with this approach is that if you stray too far from the form of the text, you might miss some of the subtle nuances — literary devices, wordplays, etc. — found in the original.
Even the best literal translation can’t follow the original form all the time. And even the best meaning-based translation can’t capture every detail of meaning found in the original.
In 1978, the NIV pioneered a different approach: balancing transparency to the original with clarity of meaning. Our view is that if the first people to receive the Bible could understand God’s Word the way it was written, you should be able to as well.