KJV Versus NIV

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KJV Versus NIV

 KJV versus NIV is an argument that needs to be resolved because reaching everyone for Christ, regardless of translation, should serve as the sole focus.

Throughout time, there has been a major debate as to whether Christians should use the King James Version (KJV) or the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible. Though the NIV translation didn't gain traction until the late 20th century, "The KJV Only" movement of the 1880s birthed a band of staunch, legalistic churches who created a blatant division that, unfortunately, has withstood the test of time. 

Perhaps, if we understand the history and motivations of differing translations, we can better respect the variety of versions other believers use. 

"The KJV Only" Movement

The King James Version Only movement claims that the KJV is the only true inspired Word of God. Advocates of The KJV Only movement believe the KJV is the only translation based on the “Majority Text,” whereas, modern translations such as the NIV are based on the “corrupted Alexandrian Texts” (Trevin Wax, “The King James Only Controversy,” The Gospel Coalition, 2007). Research and findings have discovered that the KJV translators utilized the Byzantine texts from the 11th and 12th centuries; however, since the 11th and 12th centuries, Bible scholars have uncovered older, accurate, and reliable manuscripts, which “are closer to the original writings of the Bible authors” (Trevin Wax, “The King James Only Controversy,” The Gospel Coalition, 2007). These older and more reliable manuscripts are now being utilized in modern translations of the Bible, such as the NIV. (When the KJV was being translated, these older manuscripts had not been discovered yet.) 

Another argument concerning The KJV Only movement is that advocates believe modern translations of the biblical text, such as the NIV, strip away Jesus’ Lordship (Trevin Wax, “The King James Only Controversy,” The Gospel Coalition, 2007). This is not true despite the KJV versus NIV controversy. The Byzantine texts, which are the texts the KJV mainly uses in translation, have additional and excessive references of “Lord” or “Christ” placed behind or in front of Jesus’ name, whereas the older manuscripts which are closer to the original writings do not (Trevin Wax, “The King James Only Controversy,” The Gospel Coalition, 2007). Modern translations, such as the NIV are not stripping away or downgrading Jesus’ deity. 

It is believed the scribes and translators of the KJV added abundant “Lord” and “Christ” references behind Jesus’ name to display their reverence to God (Trevin Wax, “The King James Only Controversy,” The Gospel Coalition, 2007). Despite the aim of the scribes and translators of the KJV, the NIV and other modern translations actually clarify Jesus’ lordship, deity, and divinity in a more understandable way, such as in passages of Philippians 4:6-7 or John 14:14 (Trevin Wax, “The King James Only Controversy,” The Gospel Coalition, 2007). 

A third argument of The King James Version Only camp is that they believe modern translations of the Bible, including the NIV, delete passages and verses of the Bible (Trevin Wax, “The King James Only Controversy,” The Gospel Coalition, 2007). However, the more up-to-date translations stay true to the older manuscripts, which is why they do not include some passages that are contained in the KJV (Trevin Wax, “The King James Only Controversy,” The Gospel Coalition, 2007).

The NIV Backstory 

While the KJV is known for its poetic passages and historical foundation, not many modern readers can relate to the words and figures of speech utilized in this translation. Written in 1611, the KJV uses outdated language not commonly used by modern readers. I personally enjoy the poetic language in the KJV for the Books of Psalms or Proverbs; however, for an in-depth study, I will always choose to use the NIV. 

The NIV is held in high regard by Bible scholars across the field of theology as it was “Translated by a team of world-class scholars and leaders in their respective fields, the NIV is accurate, readable, and clear, yet true to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek of the Bible” (Sagar Khillar “Difference Between NIV and KJV,” Difference Between, 2021). The KJV versus NIV arguments also debate over the method of translation. The KJV was translated word-by-word and the NIV was translated thought-by-thought (Sagar Khillar “Difference Between NIV and KJV,” Difference Between, 2021). The thought-by-thought translation employed by the NIV translators is also known as Dynamic Equivalence. In other words, Dynamic Equivalence is a type of translation that stresses a modern-day understanding of the passages by utilizing modern-day speech, modern figures of speech, as well as taking in the aspects of the original culture to affect the overall meaning of the passage (Sagar Khillar “Difference Between NIV and KJV,” Difference Between, 2021). 

Other modern-day translations, such as the ESV, NASB, CSB, and others are seeking out how to properly translate the Bible in a way that is understandable and meaningful to the audiences, creating suitable varieties for Christians to use in reading, meditation, and study of the Bible. To opt that one version is superior than the other is not beneficial to the Christian. Whether you choose to read the KJV, NIV, or another version is entirely up to you. The emphasis on KJV versus NIV entails this idea that you have to choose one over the other. Proper Bible study encourages the reader to use multiple different versions of the Bible in their own independent study. Moreover, Bible scholars and professors encourage individuals to partake in reading multiple versions of the Bible in order to enhance their knowledge. Each version comes from the original manuscripts of the Bible; however, each version has its own unique qualities. 

Ending the Argument

In short, it is time to lay your weapons down. While KJV versus NIV is a heavy debate among believers, Christians should not fight and battle against one another as God calls us to live in unity (1 Corinthians 1:10). 

Both KJV and NIV allow a believer to choose which version resonates best with them. In fact, I encourage everyone to use a wide variety of translations to help create a deeper biblical foundation. KJV versus NIV argues for superiority to one of the versions over the other; however, both can be used by the believer. Whether a person chooses to use the KJV, NIV, or another version, is their own personal preference. The modern-day translations, such as the NIV, are more closely accurate to the original biblical manuscripts, yet the KJV is still classified as an inspired version of the Bible. 

Each translation is seeking to glorify God and inform the reader of the truths of the Bible. Different translations of the Bible are still God’s infallible Word because their source is the original manuscripts that were written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. It is a great honor and privilege to have a variety of different translations of the Bible in the English language. The Bible was not originally written in English; therefore, we are truly blessed to have translators who translated the Word of God into English. 

Not every person in the world has access to the Bible in their own native tongue. Organizations, such as Wycliffe Bible Translators, are working towards providing all people with a Bible translated in their own language. KJV versus NIV is an argument that needs to be resolved because reaching everyone for Christ, regardless of translation, should serve as the sole focus.

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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Christian Ministry and is currently working toward her Master’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is probably embarking on an adventure.

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