My Controversial Bible Translation Decision


It was inevitable. I had to make a choice on the Bible I would teach from at Hope Chapel Hill Country and what version I would recommend to our congregation.

After much thoughtful deliberation and prayer, I decided.

NLTAt my previous church, Hope Chapel Hermosa Beach, we had long discussions about what Bible to use after the publishers of the New International Version 1984 pulled it from the shelves, replacing it with a revamped and revised translation called the NIV 2011.

We analyzed many of the criticisms of this latest translation listening to John Piper and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and others. The conclusion at Hope Chapel Hermosa Beach was that we were going to use the English Standard Version. When I moved to Texas to plant Hope Chapel Hill Country, I had to decide what would be best for this culture.

ESVI read through the entire ESV after being an NIV ’84 guy for over twenty years, and didn’t like it. The reading, though an accurate translation, was just too wooden for me.

That’s why I chose a different version.

After careful deliberation and considering the sad state of literacy in our country, especially biblical literacy, I wanted the easiest version that people would read because I simply want people to read the Bible. (The ESV is a 10th grade reading level; the NIV ’11 is 7-8th grade.)

NASBI read an in-depth review of the NIV ’11 from the Gospel Coalition that was very convincing (79 pages long, extensively foot-noted!). Rodney J. Decker, Professor of New Testament and Greek at Baptist Bible Seminary, summed up the NIV ’11 in this way:

My judgment is that the NIV ’11 is a usable translation in many situations. It continues the NIV tradition largely unchanged, though improved in many small ways across the breadth of the canon. It is not perfect. No translation is. It has a few warts. All translations do. Overall, however, it improves an otherwise fine translation.

The NIV ’11 is now my Bible of choice at Hope Chapel Hill Country.

NIVThe controversies (and there are a few), can be dealt with as they come up while I preach God’s Word. (Professor Decker covers those issues in his analysis.)

Dr. John MacArthur allowed his very popular MacArthur Study Bible to come out in the NIV ’11 translation. Here’s why:

“No matter what version of the Bible people are reading, I want to be able to help them understand the meaning fully and accurately. The NIV is the most widely used translation in the world, with millions of users. Some prefer it because they find it easier to read than other translations. All English versions of Scripture have translation problems and ambiguities. That’s one of the major benefits of a good study Bible. The notes and other tools built into the volume can highlight and clarify the proper meaning—or at least give a more precise understanding of what the original text actually says. My prayer is that these insights and explanations, together with the acclaimed readability of the translation, will help illuminate the true meaning and unleash the divine power of Scripture for NIV readers.” (From Pyromaniacs blog)

Perhaps you prefer the King James Version and think everyone should read that. Perhaps you’re a King James Only adherent.  Here’s what apologist Greg Koukl said about that:

“I would steer you away from the King James Version only because the language is archaic, unless you went with the New King James Version. I recommend the King James Version for a very select group of people: people who are 350 years old or older!”

kjvPersonally, I still read from the NIV ’84 in my daily devotions, my wife, New King James Version, my 14-year-old, The New Living Translation, and our 12-year-old, believe it or not… the ESV.

If it’s orthodox, whatever version of the Bible you read is a good version.

Just read it.

*Cartoons by Adam4d, Creative Commons


  1. Many people of our generation have a problem with using anything else other than the KJV which is my favorite, but all the Bibles are translations of the Scriptures. I’ve read through the entire KJV and the ESV and now I’m been reading the NKJV for a couple of years. A person who is truly born again will be guided by God through the Scriptures along with a biblical teacher and shouldn’t have a problem with different translations as long as they are inline with the Scriptures.

  2. So, it’s not exactly this:

    Question: “What’s a good version of the Bible to read?”

    Answer: “Whichever you have.”

    But it’s close.

    Where can we go? A few good resources:

    Or maybe (if you like to read and analyze) one of these sites:

    I appreciate having several Bibles handy when I’m studying, and I often use the online resource

    And, of course, for Greek and Hebrew translations, if you are studying a particular phrase or word, and you want to really know what it means or where it came from:

    • Daniel 3:25 AV He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

      Daniel 3:25 NIV He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

  3. I roll with the NAB Bible myself.

  4. My first Bible, and still my favourite, is the NIV 1984 Study Bible version. It has been and continues to be a blessing to me, especially in my younger years as a Christian. (I’m now 14 years old, by the way…still a kid). We now own, as many others do, a variety of translations for a variety of reasons.

    Regarding your Bible of choice for your church, I am personally somewhat (but not distraughtly) disappointed in the switch to the gender-neutral reading of God’s word but that’s more of a personal preference than anything else. I agree with what John MacArthur had to say about the new NIV and I’ll just leave it at that.

    The bigger problem I have with the NIV 2011 has nothing to do with the particular changes in the translation but, rather, an important moral issue. Zondervan is now owned by Harper-Collins who are publishers of such books as “The Satanic Bible” and “The Joy of Gay Sex” among other choice titles. As a result, I would not, in good conscience, patronize such a firm for any of their products, let alone a popular version of God’s holy word. In my heart, I just wouldn’t feel right about that.

    • Great. Thanks for telling me this now. Paul, btw, it’s not gender neutral like the TNIV. Where the word means both men and women, then that is where the change is. (I sure hope you don’t watch movies. Guess who’s in control of the entertainment industry? And I hope you don’t eat…) :0

  5. Hello Steve,

    I glad to you were able to choose a Bible translation to teach from, it can be quite a daunting task with such a large pool of translations to choose from. My first Bible was KJV but after a couple of 1-2-1 witnessings speaking in thee and and thou, I switched to NKJ. But, now after almost 25 years of reading the pages are constantly falling out, hence I chose another translation NASB reference edition to read through for this year and pages are stitched in.

    Steve, my my Pastor sent this article out to our Church body and I wanted to pass this article along, especially with your shout out to the gay community parade and your steadfast love of the scriptures.

    A former LGBTQ activist speaks to the power of reading God’s Word, particularly regarding homosexuality.

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