The print edition of a major update to the NIV is expected to be released in March 2011. Electronic versions of this new edition are already available. The new edition is simply called the NIV. In order for consumers to know which edition they are purchasing, they will have to check the copyright notice in the front. The previous edition ended with a copyright date of 1984. The new one will have a date of 2011. Zondervan expects to move all of their NIV products to the new edition over the next two years. After the release of this new edition, the 1984 edition of the NIV and the TNIV will no longer be published.
The path to this updated version has been bumpy and controversial. Two previous editions met with criticism — the NIVI released in Britain (the “I” stood for inclusive) and the TNIV (the “T” stood for “Today’s”). The debate centered on gender inclusive language. Most modern translations (e.g., NKJV, NASB, and ESV) attempt to be somewhat gender neutral. The question is the extent to which this may legitimately be done. For example, sometimes “brothers” may include women, but not always. The new NIV frequently uses “brothers and sisters” where the Greek has “brothers.” But there are situations where it may be difficult to know whether women should be included. For example, the new NIV has “believers” for “brothers” in Acts 14:23 for the group that travelled with Peter to Cornelius’ house. Controversy also erupts over changing singular masculine pronouns like “he” to plural pronouns like “they.”
“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. ” (John 14:23, NIV 2011, my emphasis)
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. ” (Revelation 3:20, NIV 2011, my emphasis)
We end up with singular pronouns being mixed with plural pronouns referring to the same person. Other passages to notice are that Phoebe becomes a “deacon” in Romans 16:1, and women are told not to “assume authority” rather than “have authority” in 1 Timothy 2:12. These are passages that are likely to spark discussion.
The new NIV has responded to some of the criticisms of the NIVI and TNIV and pulled back a bit from those editions, but it remains to be seen whether it is enough to avoid controversy and gain the same level of use. Readers of the Bible need to understand how to distinguish the previous NIV from the new one and the nature of some of the changes. Readers of “thought for thought” translations like the NIV are wise to compare with more “word for word” translations to see if we indeed have God’s thoughts and not just the thoughts of a translation committee.