What is the difference between the KJV and the NIV?

The simple answer is that people make a big deal about the difference
between the NIV (New International Version) and the KJV (King James
Version) because they are stuck in a tradition. Some people have become so
tied into the particular wording used in the KJV that they strongly resist
changing translations. For example, some in the charismatic churches are
strongly tied into using the phrase “Holy Ghost” rather than Holy Spirit,
whereas in the modern usage the word Spirit is closer in sense to the
original meaning of the Greek word pneuma.

The fact is that there are a number of very good translations of the Bible
which are perfectly suited to careful study of the scriptures. Almost none
of us (including myself) are sufficiently trained in the Greek language to
be able to use the original writings, so we are stuck using a translation.
It is entirely possible that the users of the NIV can become as entrenched
in their one particular favorite translation as your KJV version
worshiper. Remember that the translations are not inspired. Only the
originals are inspired. That is why the careful student of the Bible with
little or no background in Greek would do well to use a number of
different high-quality translations.

This brings up the issue of the quality of translations.and of which type
of translation is most appropriate to a particular situation. I would
refer you to an appendix in my book “Reasons for Belief” on translations
of the Bible which you can find at www.ipibooks.com). To summarize, a
translation produced by a larger committee of scholars is to be preferred
over the translation of an individual or a group within one particular
religious organization (even if that religious group is your own!) in
order to eliminate bias. If you want to do a very careful study, a
word-for-word translation, such as the NAS is preferred. For an accurate
translation which is fairly readable, you will want to use a
phrase-for-phrase translation such as the New King James Version, or the
NIV. In some cases, when you want to simply read the scripture and get the
overall feeling or impression, a paraphrased version such as the Phillips
or the New Living Word translation can be appropriate.

Speaking of the KJV, it is of the phrase-for-phrase translation type. It
was the best available translation of its day, fitting all the
requirements of the best possible scholarly effort. The problems with the
KJV is that it uses very outdated English, which for the modern reader
will often make the meaning confusing at best, and sometimes even wrong.
Besides, at the time of the translation of the KJV only a few relatively
young Greek manuscripts were available. The more modern translations are
based on much stronger manuscript evidence. There are a significant number
of problems with the KJV because it uses a much poorer set of Greek

In summary, it is almost certainly not worth getting into an argument or
debate over translations. For the open minded person, you might want to
share some of this information, but for those stuck in a particular
translation, I would personally study with them in whatever translation
they want to use.

John Oakes, PhD

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