Poor and Misleading Translation in the New International Version (NIV)

The New International Version of the Bible, or NIV, was first published in 1978. Since then, it has become one of the most popular English Bible translations, and almost certainly the most popular one among Evangelical Christians. It is also one of the worst translations for anyone who is seriously interested in what the Bible says. Its translators are conservative Evangelical Christians who are committed to certain theological doctrines as well as to the inerrancy of the Bible, as is implied in its prefaces:

From the beginning the translators have been united in their commitment to the authority and infallibility of the Bible as God’s Word in written form. (TNIV, 2005)

Our work as translators is motivated by our conviction that the Bible is God’s Word in written form. (NIV, 2011)

However, the text of the Bible itself defies attempts to harmonize its diverse traditions and viewpoints, and its apparent meaning is frequently at odds with sectarian doctrine. The solution of the NIV translators, in many of the passages that challenged their doctrines and belief in inerrancy, has been to change the Bible itself — altering the offending words and phrases to say what they think it ought to have said. In most cases of mistranslated NIV passages, there is a clear “problem” with the original text related either to doctrine or to biblical inerrancy.

Even in instances where plausible explanations for an apparent contradiction are available, the NIV’s changes are still unwelcome because (1) they obfuscate the original text and make it unfairly difficult for readers to consider other interpretations, (2) other translations generally avoid making such changes, and (3) they usually appear to be theologically motivated.

I have collected a sample of such passages and presented them below. Visitors are welcome to make additional suggestions in the comments.

For readers who would like a more reliable translation of the Bible in English, I recommend either the 1966 Jerusalem Bible or the New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha.

This list is updated as I discover new examples. The latest additions to this list are in red. Since the list has grown so long, I have marked some of the most notable entries with a leaf icon (think of it as a “fig leaf”): 

A note on NIV editions: The NIV New Testament was published in 1973, and the complete Bible in 1978. The first revised edition was released in 1984. It was revised again under the name Today’s NIV (TNIV) in 2005, and again as the NIV in 2011. Although the bulk of this list concerns the 2011 NIV, I also identify errors found only in the 1984 edition, which probably exceeds all other editions in number of circulating copies.

The Old Testament

Genesis 1:21 — This verse attributes the creation of great “sea monsters” to God. Tanninim (the plural of tannin) in Hebrew and Phoenician belief were sea monsters or dragons associated with chaos and creation myths, not merely large aquatic animals. The NIV correctly translates this term elsewhere (e.g. Isaiah 27:1, Job 7:12, and Psalm 74:13) but is seemingly unwilling to mention mythological creatures in a text that is interpreted very literally by creationists. Instead, it translates tanninim here merely as “creatures of the sea”. The theological significance of portraying these monsters as part of creation, given their significance in other Near Eastern chaos myths, is completely lost. (Thanks to John Kesler for the suggestion.)

Genesis 2:8 — The NRSV correctly reads “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east.” Because this appears to contradict the order of creation in Genesis 1, the NIV alters the verb tense to read “had planted”: “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden.” See the entry on Genesis 2:19 for more details.

Genesis 2:19 — The NRSV correctly reads “So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air”. Because the order of creation here contradicts that of Genesis 1, the NIV alters the verb tense to read “had formed”: “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky.” This mistranslation also masks Yahweh’s reason for creating animals in Genesis 2: to find a helper for the man. Though the Hebrew uses the same verb form throughout the passage, the NIV only uses the past perfect here and in 2:8. (Claude Mariottini’s discussion of this translation error is worth reading.)

Genesis 4:1 — The NIV reads “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” However, “help” is not in the original text. Young’s Literal Translation more correctly reads “I have gotten a man by Jehovah.”

Genesis 9:3 — The NIV reads “just as I gave you the green plants”, but the words “I gave you” are not in the Hebrew. According to Gen. 1:30, the green plants were never given to mankind in the first place, but to the animals. Most English translations get this wrong. A correct translation would be “Like the green plants, I now give you all things.” (See P.J. Harland, The Value of Human Life, 1996, p. 150.)

Genesis 11:2 — Genesis 11:1–2 says that the whole earth spoke one language, and that they (the whole earth) settled in the plain of Shinar to build the city and tower of Babel. Since this stands in conflict with the previous chapter, in which humanity has already spread out into many nations, the NIV changes “they” to “people” to suggest it was not the whole earth that settled in Shinar, but just an indeterminate group of people. “As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.”

Genesis 12:1 — The NRSV correctly reads “Now the LORD said to Abram.” The NIV changes the verb tense in an attempt to harmonize the verse with Acts 7:2: “Now the LORD had said to Abram…” This is probably because Yahweh’s call to Abram occurs in Haran in Genesis 12, but in Mesopotamia according to Stephen’s speech in Acts 7. (Cf. Barrett, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, Vol. 1, p. 342.)

Genesis 14:20 — The Hebrew says “he gave him a tenth of everything,” and given the context and the fact that this verse is talking about Melchizedek, it is more likely Melchizedek is paying Abram the tribute. However, the premise of Hebrews 7 requires it to be the other way around, and such a reading would also lend support to the doctrine of tithing, so the NIV inserts “Abram” where it is absent from the text: “Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” (See Fred Horton, The Melchizedek Tradition, pp. 14–17 and my article on Melchizedek for the reasons this is probably incorrect.)

Genesis 15:13 — In the Hebrew text, Yahweh tells Abraham that his offspring will be in a foreign land, enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. The NIV moves the phrase “for four hundred years” to the beginning of the verse so that it can be understood as referring only to the duration of the sojourn, rather than to the period of enslavement and oppression. I suspect that this change was made for compatibility with the story in Exodus, where the enslavement happens only near the end of Israel’s time in Egypt and therefore cannot last 400 years. The NIV makes the same change to Acts 7:6, which quotes Genesis 15:13. In both verses, the changes were introduced with the 2005 TNIV.

Genesis 18:20 — According to the Hebrew text, the outcry of or from Sodom and Gomorrah has become so great that Yahweh is going there to see for himself. The word used for outcry describes the cries of the oppressed (Alter, 1996), and the phrasing strongly implies that these cries come from people within the condemned cities themselves. This was the historical understanding as well; according to one Talmudic tradition, for example, it was the cry of a girl in Sodom executed for giving food to a poor man. However, as many Christians prefer to understand Sodom as a city entirely fallen into sexual perversion, this verse is mistranslated in many modern Bibles, including the NIV, to say there was an outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah. The Hebrew text does not say “against”. See Carden, Sodomy, pp. 100ff.

Genesis 19:31 — In the Hebrew, one of Lot’s daughters says that there is “no man on the earth” (or perhaps “in the land”) to give them children—a statement that establishes the emptiness of the trans-Jordan region in order to make Moab and Ammon the descendants of Lot’s daughters. The NIV, however, says “no man around here”, which implies the immediate vicinity only. Perhaps the reason is that Lot and his daughters have just come from Zoar, a town that undoubtedly has many marriageable men, which would make the unaltered statement seem like a contradiction. (It also suggests what many scholars believe, that the flight to Zoar was a later addition to the story. This would obviously not sit well with readers who regard the text as fully historical.)

Genesis 20:13 — In the Hebrew text, Abraham tells Abimelech, “When gods caused me to wander from my father’s house…” The verb is also plural, indicating that the plural of “god” is indeed intended. However, the NIV and most other English translations change it to the singular “God”. At the very least, a footnote regarding the original reading should be provided. See Schmutzer, “Did the Gods Cause Abraham’s Wandering?”, JSOT 35, 2010

Genesis 21:14 — There is a chronological problem here. Ishmael was born when Abraham was 85 (Gen 16:16), and Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 (Gen 21:5). By the time Isaac has been weaned, simple math dictates Ishmael must be 16 or 17 years old. The tradition in Gen 21, however, depicts him as a young child, and the Hebrew has Abraham put Ishmael on Hagar’s back (21:14) where she carries him and then sets him down under a bush to die (21:15). The NIV has attempted to mitigate the problem by removing any mention of Ishmael being carried by Hagar, simply saying “[Abraham] sent her off with the boy.” Compare the translation by Westermann, Genesis, p. 153: “[Abraham] lifted the child onto her shoulder and bade her farewell.” (Thanks to John Kesler for this suggestion.)

Genesis 25:1 — Two chapters after narrating the death of Sarah, the text states that Abraham “took a wife again”, one Keturah who bore Abraham six sons. However, the NIV once again fudges the order of events by putting the verb in the pluperfect — “Abraham had taken another wife” — likely due to the fact that 100-year-old Abraham mocked the idea of siring a child at his age in Gen. 17:17, before the miraculous birth of Isaac. Furthermore, he would have been at least 137 upon marrying Keturah. Apologetics-oriented reference works often suggest that this marriage must have occurred many decades earlier, while Sarah was alive, even though this would have rendered the central narrative about Sarah and Hagar meaningless. Note: This error was introduced with the 2005 TNIV. (Suggested by John Kesler in the comments.)

Genesis 29:5 — The text says that Laban was the son of Nahor. However, to hide the contradiction with the tradition of Genesis 28:5 that Laban was the son of Bethuel the Syrian, the NIV has changed “son” to “grandson”.

Genesis 30:27 — The NIV adds the words “please stay”, which are not found in the Hebrew. The NIV translators evidently believe that some text has gone missing from the biblical manuscripts, and they added their own material to compensate, but there is no footnote informing readers that they have done so. See this article regarding the problems with the passage. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

Genesis 31:53 — This verse literally reads: “The gods of Abraham and the gods of Nahor — the gods of their father — they should judge between us.” This verse uses not only the plural for “god” several times, but also a plural verb indicating that multiple gods are indeed meant. However, the NIV and most other English translations change all this to the singular: “May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father judge between us.” There’s not even a footnote to indicate the original Masoretic text. See Schmutzer, “Did the Gods Cause Abraham’s Wandering?”, JSOT 35, 2010; also Pakkala, God’s Word Omitted, p. 101.

Genesis 36:2-3 — The Hebrew says “Oholibamah daughter of Anah daughter of Zibeon the Hivite”. The NIV addresses the difficulties with Esau’s genealogy (e.g. Anah being a man in 1 Chron. 1:40) by changing this to read “Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite”.

Genesis 37:21 — The text says that Reuben delivered Joseph out of his brothers’ hands. The NIV adds the word “tried”: “When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands,” which has the effect of implying the opposite of what the Hebrew says. There is no reason to supplement the Hebrew text this way, other than to smooth over an apparent inconsistency in the story.

Genesis 37:28 — This verse offers one version of the Joseph story, in which Midianite merchants find Joseph in the pit and pull him out. The NRSV, following the Hebrew text, correctly reads, “When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit…” However, the NIV changes the verse to say that Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the pit, to harmonize it with the story in vv. 25b–27 wherein his brothers sell him to Ishmaelites. That is not what the text says, and this change obscures the well-known fact that Genesis 37 contains two variant traditions. [Thanks to שפן, who suggested this entry in the comments.]

Genesis 46:13 — The NIV changes the names of Issachar’s sons, Job and Puvah, to Jashub and Puah to harmonize them with Numbers 26:24 and 1 Chronicles 7:1. It notes the changes in a footnote. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

Genesis 46:23 — The NIV says “son of Dan” even though the Hebrew reads “sons” in the plural.

Genesis 47:31 — The NRSV correctly reads “Israel bowed himself on the head of his bed.” The NIV has completely changed this to read “Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff” in order to harmonize the verse with the quotation in Hebrews 11:21.

Exodus 2:1 — This verse literally reads “A man from the house of Levi went and took to wife the daughter of Levi” in both the Hebrew and Greek, but this is so problematic that most translations, including the NIV, remove or diminish the suggestion of close family ties between Moses and Levi. The NIV reads, “Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman.”

Exodus 4:19 — Here, after receiving permission from Jethro to return to Egypt, Moses is told by Yahweh to go with assurances that those who seek his life are dead. Again, the NIV translators — apparently uncomfortable with God telling Moses to do something he already intends to do — changed the verb tense to the pluperfect to reverse the implied order of events: “Now the Lord had said to Moses in Midian.” This is neither warranted by the text nor necessary to make sense of the story. See Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, p. 53., and Gurtner, Exodus, p. 226. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

Exodus 6:2–3 — The NRSV correctly reads “God also spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name ‘The Lord’ I did not make myself known to them.” The NIV obscures the problem of Yahweh being unknown to the patriarchs despite the use of “Yahweh” in Genesis (especially 4:26) by adding the word “fully” without textual justification: “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself fully known to them.”

Exodus 11:1 — Yahweh tells Moses that there will be one more plague, and a few verses later, Moses is suddenly talking to the Pharaoh again, even though Moses had left Pharaoh in the previous chapter, promising never to meet again in 10:29. The NIV alters the verb tense to the pluperfect to suggest a flashback and avoid the contradiction: “Now the LORD had said to Moses…”, despite the voluminous literature on the plague narrative as a combination of sources with numerous discrepancies. No other translation I consulted translates the verb this way. (See the comment by John Kesler below suggesting this addition and the follow-up comments for details.)

Exodus 13:18— The 1984 NIV correctly read that the Israelites were “armed for battle”. Curiously, the TNIV and 2011 NIV have changed this to “ready for battle”, which is apparently a less accurate translation. This change helpfully avoids drawing attention to the problem of how 600,000 Hebrew men kept as slaves of the Egyptians could have been allowed to acquire arms before leaving. (For a thorough discussion, see Colenso, The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua, p. 48 ff.) Also interesting is how the NIV treats this term in Judges 7:11 (see below).

Exodus 15:13-17 — This portion of the “Song of the Sea” celebrates the arrival in Canaan and the fear instilled in Israel’s future enemies as a past event. Taken literally, it is anachronistic for Moses and the Israelites to have sung it immediately after their escape from Egypt. To hide this fact, the NIV changes all the verbs to the future tense, making the song a prophecy of the future. (Suggested by John Kesler. See “The Song at the Sea: What Does it Celebrate?” by Baruch J. Schwartz.)

Exodus 16:34 — According to the Hebrew text, Aaron places the jar of manna “before the covenant” (Hebrew: lipne ha’edut) as instructed by Moses, meaning that the jar would have been placed in front of (but not inside) the Ark of the Covenant. The 1984 NIV translated this correctly, but the 2005 TNIV and 2011 NIV translate it as “with the tablets of the covenant law”. The likely explanation for mistranslating “before” as “with” is to harmonize it with Hebrews 9:4, which describes the manna as being inside the Ark. Furthermore, the NIV might have added “tablets of the [covenant]” to avoid any reference to the Ark, since this chapter is out of place chronologically, and the Ark hasn’t even been constructed yet. On the latter point, see Joel S. Baden, “The Original Place of the Priestly Manna Story in Exodus 16”, ZAW 122 (2010). Curiously, the NIV has no problem translating the very same words, lipne ha’edut, as “in front of the ark” in Numbers 17:10, since that passage does not involve the same chronological difficulties. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

Exodus 20:4 — The Hebrew text specifically bans the making of images in the form of anything “in heaven, on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth.” The NIV omits the second “earth” and just says “the waters below”, which allows one to read it as meaning “below heaven”. Although it is a minor deletion, this change hides the tripartite cosmology the Jews believed in, with the (flat) earth sitting atop the cosmic ocean. No other English translation I have consulted makes this deletion. The same problem can be found in Deut. 4:18 and 5:8.

Exodus 21:2–11 — Although this passage clearly involves the treatment of Hebrew slaves and uses the same word that the NIV translates as “slave” in other slavery-related passages, the NIV uses the word “servant” here instead. The reason may be to avoid a contradiction with the law that bans debt slaves in Lev. 25:39-44. Such harmonization may not even be desirable if, as some scholars say, Exod. 21 concerns the purchase of Hebrew slaves from non-Hebrew owners rather than debt-slavery (cf. Van Seters, “The Law of the Hebrew Slave”, ZAW 108). The NIV deals with Deut. 15:12-18 in a similar manner. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

Exodus 21:20–21 — The NRSV correctly reads “When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.” To obscure the obvious moral difficulties with the text, the NIV has changed the translation to read “but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.”

Exodus 21:22 — The NRSV correctly reads “When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine.” All English translations prior to the US abortion debate of the 1980s read similarly. However, to obscure the implications for Evangelical views of abortion, the NIV changes “miscarriage” to “premature birth” without textual justification.

Numbers 11:31 — This is a minor change, but perhaps to avoid the implications of quail piled two cubits deep all around the Israelite camp, the 2011 NIV says that they were “scattered up to two cubits deep”, which allows the reader to imagine much fewer quail. The qualifier “up to” is not in the Hebrew, and ‘scattered’ is a somewhat inaccurate translation of nātaš, which means ‘to leave on the ground‘. The 1984 NIV, however, says the quail were “brought…down…to about three feet above the ground”, which seems to imply they were hovering above the ground waiting to be picked like fruit. This is surely not what the text means. (See Levine, Numbers 1–20: A New Translation, p. 327.)

Numbers 16:40 — In this passage about Eleazar making bronze sheets from the censors of Korah and his followers, the NIV moves the confusing phrase “as the LORD directed him through Moses” from the end of the verse to the beginning. This helps the phrase make more sense but changes the referent of him, from Korah or possibly Aaron to Eleazar. This change by the NIV also serves to hide the fact that on closer inspection, the Korah character is a late insertion into an earlier story. Rabbi David Frankel’s online article about the fire-pans and Korah’s rebellion is worth a read. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

Numbers 26:58b–59a — The NRSV correctly reads “Now Kohath was the father of Amram. The name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt;” This is in agreement with Exodus 6, that Moses’ father was the grandson of the patriarch Levi, and that his mother was the daughter of Levi. However, this presents an obvious contradiction with the 400 years the Israelites spent in Egypt, so the NIV changes it to read: “Kohath was the forefather of Amram; the name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed, a descendant of Levi, who was born to the Levites in Egypt.”

Deuteronomy 4:18 — This verse forbids the making of graven images in the likeness of “any fish in the waters under the earth,” a clear allusion to the belief in a cosmic ocean below the flat earth. The NIV omits the word for “earth” (Hebrew aretz) so that it reads more vaguely “the waters below”. It commits the same error in Ex. 20:4 and Deut. 5:8.

Deuteronomy 5:8 — See the entry for Exodus 20:4.

Deuteronomy 15:12-18 — The NIV inserts the word “servant” twice where no equivalent appears in the Hebrew text, apparently to make the passage seem more compatible with the ban on debt-slavery in Lev. 25:39-44. See the related entry on Exod. 21:2–11 for a fuller explanation.

Deuteronomy 16:6 — All reference books I checked agree that this verse stipulates the Passover to be observed “evening at sunset, the time of day when you departed from Egypt” (cf. VanderKam, “Exegesis of Pentateuchal Legislation”, Pentateuchal Traditions, p. 195). As this contradicts the post-midnight departure of the Israelites in Exod. 12:29f, the NIV changes it to say “in the evening, when the sun goes down, on the anniversary of your departure from Egypt. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

Deuteronomy 16:7 — Referring to the Passover sacrifice, the Hebrew reads, “boil it and eat it at the place which Yahweh your God will choose.” The Hebrew word bashal means “boil” or “seethe”. However, the NIV has mistranslated it as “roast” to harmonize it with the Passover instructions given in Exod. 12:12–13, where boiling the meat is specifically forbidden. (See Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, pp. 107–109, for a discussion of these texts and deceptive translation. See also Dr. Steven DiMattei’s blog entry, “Is the paschal animal to be roasted OR boiled?”)

Deuteronomy 29:5 — The NIV takes remarkable liberties with the text, adding the phrase “Yet the LORD says”, which is not found in any manuscript, to indicate a change in speaker. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

Deuteronomy 32:43 — In the Hebrew Masoretic Text, the nations are commanded to praise “his people.” The NIV has subtly altered the meaning by adding “with”: “Rejoice, you nations, with his people.” A likely reason is to harmonize the verse with its quotation in Romans 15:10. Footnote [b] to this verse is also misleading. It offers a partial, but not complete, translation of the DSS version of this verse, quoting it to say “let all the angels worship him” where the DSS (4QDeutq) actually reads “let all the gods worship him”. For the NIV, removing polytheistic language seemingly takes priority over accuracy. (On the DSS version, see Nelson, Deuteronomy, p. 379; and Hendel, Steps to a New Edition of the Hebrew Bible, p. 245. On the meaning of the MT, see Lundbom, Deuteronomy, p. 903.)

Joshua 4:9 — The Hebrew here states that Joshua set up 12 stones in the middle of the Jordan River, at the feet of the priests bearing the ark. This stands in tension with a second account in which the 12 stones are set up at Gilgal (Josh. 5:20), as is well known by scholars (cf. Dozeman, Joshua 1–12, pp. 252ff). The NIV attempts to harmonize these two accounts by changing this verse to say “Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan….” There is nothing in the Hebrew corresponding to the past-tense verb the NIV has inserted. The NIV offers an alternate translation in a footnote, which is nearly correct, but adds “also” to imply a second set of 12 stones. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

Joshua 7:1, 17-18 — Three times, the NIV changes the name of Achan’s grandfather from Zabdi to Zimri to harmonize it with 1 Chr. 2:6. It notes the change in a footnote (for v. 1 only). (Suggested by John Kesler.)

Joshua 8:12 — This verse, part of a story about Joshua’s preparations for attacking Ai, describes him setting an ambush with 5,000 of his men. However, since Joshua had previously sent out 30,000 soldiers for the same purpose (v. 3), this would appear to be an alternate version of the story with disparate details. The NIV attempts to avoid the contradiction by changing the verb tense to the pluperfect: “Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai….”

Joshua 10:10 — This verse unexpectedly portrays Yahweh himself as defeating and pursuing the armies attacking Gibeon. The JB reads: “Yahweh…defeated them completely at Gibeon; furthermore, he pursued them towards the descent of Beth-horon…and as far as Makkedah.” For some reason, the NIV inserts “Joshua and the Israelites” into this verse out of nowhere, altering who is responsible for victory: “…so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon.” The reason for these significant changes is unclear, but they do make the story less supernaturalistic.

Joshua 24:9–10 — The Hebrew of this verse states that King Balak of Moab “arose and fought against Israel”, which disagrees with Judges 11:25 and the story in Numbers 22–24. Therefore, the NIV has changed it to say that Balak “prepared to fight against Israel”. Strangely, the NIV also adds the words “again and again” in v. 10 to make the account of Balaam’s blessing resemble Numbers more closely.

Judges 1:3, 17 — The Hebrew text treats Judah and Simeon as heroic individuals who help each other conquer their allotted territories from the Canaanites. The NIV reworks these verses to completely eliminate their treatment as individuals: “Judah” becomes “the men of Judah“, and “his brother Simeon” becomes “the Simeonites their fellow Israelites” in both verses. Whether this is merely an interpretational paraphrase or an attempt to harmonize biblical traditions, the text should be allowed to speak for itself.

Judges 1:22, 23, 34; 2 Samuel 19:20; 1 Kings 11:28; Amos 5:6; Zechariah 10:6 — The Hebrew text mentions the “house of Joseph” numerous times in the Old Testament. The NIV without fail changes these verses to read “the tribes of Joseph” (i.e. Ephraim and Manasseh). The likely reason for this seemingly minor change is to avoid portraying Joseph as a single kingdom or tribe as it often is in the Hebrew Bible. (Cf. my article on the problematic numbering of the “12” tribes.) Whether this is an interpretational paraphrase or an attempt to harmonize biblical traditions, the text should be allowed to speak for itself. (Thanks to Andy Poe in the comments.)

Judges 4:11 — This verse mentions “Hobab, father-in-law of Moses”. The NIV changes this to “brother-in-law” without any textual justification in order to harmonize the verse with Numbers 10:29 and other passages that name Moses’ father-in-law as either Jethro or Reuel.

Judges 5:8a — The NRSV correctly reads “When new gods were chosen, then war was in the gates,” which matches the somewhat ambiguous Hebrew and the more straightforward LXX. The NIV has chosen to reinterpret the verse quite differently as “God chose new leaders“, adding the words “leaders” (which is not in the text) and changing the plural “gods” (including the matching plural verb) to “God”.

Judges 7:11 — The Hebrew describes Gideon as visiting “the outpost of the armed men in the camp”. For reasons I cannot ascertain, the NIV completely neglects to translate the term ha-hamušim, ‘armed men’: “[Gideon and Purah] went down to the outposts of the camp.” But see Colenso, The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua Critically Examined, p. 48 for an interesting discussion of the inerrancy-related problems that this term raises in Exodus 13:18 (see above).

Judges 12:15 — The Hebrew text states that “Abdon son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon….” The NIV, for no clear reason, has omitted ‘the Pirathonite’.

Judges 17:7 — The Hebrew text here refers to a Levite priest who, it is clearly said, was from Bethlehem of Judah and of the clan of Judah. Scholars generally see this as an indicator that at one time, the term “Levite” was a professional designation rather than a tribal affiliation. This is reflected in other passages as well, notably Ex. 4:14, in which Yahweh speaking to Moses calls his brother, “Aaron the Levite”. However, the NIV translators, perhaps bothered by this inconsistency, have emended the verse to say the Levite “had been living within the clan of Judah.” (See Webb, The Book of Judges, p. 201, for a discussion of this passage. Thanks to reader שפן for bringing this verse to my attention.)

1 Samuel 1:9, 1 Samuel 3:3 — The NIV has translated Hebrew hekal, meaning “temple”, as “house”, most likely in order to conceal the fact that Samuel is shown serving at a temple before there was supposed to be one. (The structure has a doorpost and doors, and is clearly not the tent-like tabernacle described in the Pentateuch.)

1 Samuel 7:2 — According to this verse, the Ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim for twenty years. This happens before Saul becomes king (1 Sam 10:1), and the Ark remains there until David is king (2 Sam 6:1-3). But according to Acts 13:21, Saul reigned for forty years, and the statement in 1 Sam 13:1 that Saul reigned for two years was altered by the NIV translators to say “forty-two” years, introducing a contradiction with this verse. The NIV resolves this contradiction by adding the words “in all”, subtly implying that the Ark’s stay in Kiriath-jearim might have been intermittent: “The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all.” No words corresponding to “in all” are present in the Hebrew text. (Discussion of this problem can be found at the old Biblical Studies & Criticism forum.)

1 Samuel 12:11 — This verse mentions a judge named Bedan who appears nowhere else in the Bible. The NIV changes the name to Barak to harmonize it with a character who appears in Judges. It notes the change in a footnote. See Spronk, “Samuel as the Paradigm of the Judges” in Writing and Rewriting History in Ancient Israel and Near Eastern Cultures, p. 130.

1 Samuel 13:1 — The Hebrew text is admittedly strange here. It says “Saul was … years old when he began to reign,” omitting Saul’s actual age. It continues by saying that Saul reigned two years over Israel. The NIV translators were dissatisfied with this, so they inserted “thirty” as his age. The footnote claims that this reading is found in “late manuscripts” of the Septuagint, but the Septuagint actually omits this verse altogether, and other ancient translations (like the Targum) say he was “one” year old, strange as that sounds. The statement that Saul reigned two years contradicts Acts 13:21, so the NIV  changes this number to “forty-two” as a harmonization. Unfortunately, a forty-two-year reign creates a contradiction with 1 Sam 7:2 (see above), so the NIV translators had to “correct” that verse as well. (Thanks to John Kesler for suggesting this entry in the comments.)

1 Samuel 14:49 — For reasons I cannot determine, the NIV omits the statement that Saul had two daughters.

1 Samuel 15:35 — The text states that “Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death.” This is later contradicted by 1 Samuel 19:24, in which Saul prophesies before Samuel. The NIV adds the verb “go” to imply that Samuel might have seen Saul again as long as it wasn’t a deliberate visit: “Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again.” (Suggested by John Kesler.)

1 Samuel 16:21 — According to the Hebrew text, Saul loved David greatly and “made him his armour-bearer”. For reasons unclear, the NIV changes this to say “made him one of his armor-bearers”. No other translation I have found makes this change. Giving Saul multiple armour-bearers could be the NIV translators’ attempt to explain why Saul didn’t recognize David later in the story. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

1 Samuel 17:4 — The NIV retains the classic description of Goliath as being nine feet tall, even though all our earliest manuscripts (in both Hebrew and Greek) give his height at around six feet nine inches. Note: this is not really a mistranslation per se, since the NIV has translated the Masoretic Text correctly. However, it’s an instance in which the correct (earlier) reading has been clearly established thanks to the LXX and the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QSama). Most recent translations (including the NRSV and CEB) note Goliath’s shorter height in a footnote. The NET correctly reads “he was close to seven feet tall”.

2 Samuel 8:4 — The NIV changes “seventeen hundred charioteers” to “seven thousand charioteers” to harmonize this verse with 1 Chronicles 18:4.

2 Samuel 8:18 — The text Hebrew text states that  “David’s sons were priests” (Heb: kohanim). As priestly texts in the Pentateuch state that only Levites could be priests, the 1984 NIV instead said “David’s sons were royal advisors.” The 2011 NIV has corrected this error but offers “chief officials” as an alternate translation in the footnotes. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

2 Samuel 10:18 — The NIV changes “horsemen” to “foot soldiers” to harmonize this verse with the account in 1 Chronicles 19:18. It notes the change in a footnote and cites “some Septuagint manuscripts”. This is somewhat misleading, since none of the standard Septuagint manuscripts have this reading. Instead, it comes from the Lucianic Recension, which is not an extant document but a hypothetical reconstruction of Lucian’s revision of the Septuagint. Furthermore, the Lucianic Recension has other differences in this verse not adopted by the NIV. To summarize, the NIV matches no known Bible manuscript I am aware of:
— MT: 700 charioteers and 40,000 horsemen
— LXX: 700 chariots and 40,000 horsemen
— Lucian: 700 horsemen and 40,000 foot soldiers
NIV: 700 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers
— 1 Chr 19:18: 7,000 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers
(Suggested by John Kesler.)

2 Samuel 17:25 — The NASB correctly reads “Amasa was the son… of Ithra the Israelite”. All manuscripts read “Ithra”, and all Hebrew manuscripts (as well as most Greek) read “Israelite”. However, the NIV changes his name to “Jether, an Ishmaelite” to harmonize the verse with 1 Chronicles 2:17.

2 Samuel 18:9 — According to the Hebrew text, Absalom’s head got caught in an oak tree while he was riding his mule. The NIV has changed this to hair, even though the text cannot be interpreted that way. (See Sasson, “Absalom’s Daughter”, The Land That I Will Show You, p. 183.) The NIV’s mistranslation reinforces a popular legend that Absalom was caught by his hair, inspired by a reference to his coiffure in 2 Samuel 14:26. This error was introduced with the 2005 TNIV. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

2 Samuel 21:8 — The KJV reads “the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul”, which agrees with nearly all Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, as well as early witnesses like Josephus and Targum Jonathan. However, the NIV and many other translations change Michal to Merab to avoid the contradiction with 2 Sam. 6:23 as well as the gruesome implication that David had the sons of his own wife put to death (2 Sam. 21:9). [Cf. Bodi, The Michal Affair, p. 56.]

2 Samuel 21:19 — The NRSV correctly reads “Elhanan … killed Goliath the Gittite.” To fix the obvious contradiction of who killed Goliath, the NIV has added “the brother of” without textual justification: “Elhanan … killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite.” (Claude Mariottini’s discussion of this translation error is worth reading.)

2 Samuel 24:13 — The NIV changes Gad the seer’s ultimatum of seven years of famine to three years to harmonize the verse with the parallel story in 1 Chron. 21:12. It notes the change in a footnote. (Suggested by John Kesler in the comments.)

1 Kings 4:26 — The NRSV correctly reads “Solomon also had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots”. To fix the contradiction with 2 Chron. 9:25 (not to mention the embarrassing exaggeration), the NIV changes “forty thousand” to “four thousand”. A footnote defends this translation by claiming this reading is found in the Septuagint (even though the NIV explicitly purports to be a translation of the Hebrew Masoretic text), but in fact, this verse doesn’t even exist in the Septuagint. (Chapter 4 ends at verse 19.) A similar verse about Solomon’s chariot horses is found elsewhere in LXX 3 Kingdoms 2:46i, but there it gives the same number as the Hebrew, “forty thousand”, and the Septuagint apparatus I consulted does not list any variant that reads “four thousand”. Not only is the NIV’s translation wrong, but the footnote is misleading as well.

1 Kings 5:11 — The Hebrew text says that Solomon gave Hiram twenty cors of oil, but the NIV changes it to twenty thousand baths to harmonize the text with 2 Chr. 2:10. It notes the change in a footnote. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

1 Kings 11:5, 1 Kings 11:33, 2 Kings 23:13, Zephaniah 1:5 — For reasons that aren’t clear to me, the NIV consistently changes Milcom, the name of a major Ammonite god, to Molek. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

1 Kings 15:9 — The NRSV correctly reads “his [Asa’s] mother’s name was Maacah daughter of Abishalom”. NIV changes “mother” to “grandmother” in order to fix a genealogical contradiction.

2 Kings 2:23-24 — The NRSV correctly says that Elisha cursed forty-two “small boys”, who were then mauled by bears. The Hebrew literally calls them “little children”. The NIV waters down this horrifying episode by omitting “little” and calling the children “youths”. Later editions (the TNIV and 2011 NIV) change “youths” to “boys” but still leave out “little” without textual justification.

2 Kings 19:35 — In this verse, the angel of Yahweh kills 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in their sleep. It concludes with the remarkable statement “when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses,” as if the dead soldiers woke up and then realized they were dead. The NIV has subtly rewritten the verse: “When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!” See also Isaiah 37:36. [See The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy, p. 337.]

1 Chronicles 1:17 — This verse lists the nine sons of Shem. The NIV changes the verse so that the last four names are the sons of Aram instead, to harmonize the verse with Gen. 10:22.

1 Chronicles 1:36 — The NRSV correctly reads “The sons of Eliphaz: Teman, Omar, Zephi, Gatam, Kenaz, Timna, and Amalek.” However, Gen. 36:12 says that Timna was Eliphaz’s concubine, and that Amalek was her son. The NIV alters this verse to harmonize the genealogies: “The sons of Eliphaz: Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz; by Timna: Amalek.”

1 Chronicles 3:5–8 — The NIV has changed the names of two of David’s children listed here, as well as the name of his wife, in order to harmonize the verse with similar (but different) lists in 2 Sam. 5:14–16 and 1 Chron. 14:3–7. It changes Shimea to Shammua, Bath-shua to Bathsheba, and Elishama to Elishua. It notes the changes in a footnote.

1 Chronicles 21:5 — The NIV has added the word “including” before giving the number of Judahite soldiers, although it isn’t in the Hebrew text. The most likely reason is to fudge the total amount of soldiers numbered, bringing it closer to the numbers of troops listed in 2 Samuel 24:9 — to which the NIV does not add the word “including”.

2 Chronicles 3:15 — The Hebrew text here describes Solomon’s temple as having two pillars 35 cubits high. However, the NIV alters the text to say that the pillars were “together thirty-five cubits long”, which is a silly way to give the height of pillars. The obvious reason for this change is to harmonize the passage with 1 Kings 7:15, in which the temple pillars are 18 cubits high. (The reasons for these differences are discussed in Van Seters, “The Chronicler’s Account of Solomon’s Temple-Building”, Changing Perspectives I, Equinox, 2011.)

2 Chronicles 9:21 — The Hebrew says “the king’s ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram”, but because this is geographically improbable, with Tarshish being in Spain and requiring a trip around the horn of Africa, the NIV has completely removed Tarshish and the verb “went”, saying instead “the king had a fleet of trading ships manned by Hiram’s servants”. The wording of Chronicles may be based on a misunderstanding of 1 Kings 10:22; nevertheless, that does not entitle the NIV to ignore the actual text of Chronicles. Furthermore, the NIV claims in a footnote that the Hebrew reads “ships that could go to Tarshish”, but this is not accurate either. See also the entry for 2 Chr 20:36-37. For more on the biblical text, see Klein, 2 Chronicles: A Commentary (Hermeneia), 2012, p. 145. (Suggested by John Kesler in the comments.)

2 Chronicles 13:2, 1 Kings 15:2 [b] — The passages about king Abijah are confusing and inconsistent with regard to his mother. In 1 Kgs 15:2, his mother is Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. In 2 Chr 11:20, she is the daughter of “Absalom” — presumably the son of king David. In this verse, however, her identity is given as Micaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. The NIV attempts a harmonization in two ways: (1) In 1 Kgs 15:2, it states in a footnote that Abishalom is a variant of Absalom. This is possible but not certain. (2) In 2 Chr 13:2, it changes Micaiah to Maakah (noting the change in a footnote), and suggests granddaughter as a substitution for daughter in a footnote, which doesn’t really solve the problem if David’s son Absalom is her father. [See Whitelam, “Abijah, King of Judah”, ABD].

2 Chronicles 14:9 — The NRSV correctly states that Zerah the Ethiopian came against Judah with an army of a million men. The NIV has changed million to thousands upon thousands, perhaps to allay the implausibility of the Ethiopians invading Palestine with a million soldiers.

2 Chronicles 20:36-37 — The Hebrew of verse 36 says “he joined with him in building ships to go to Tarshish”, but because this is geographically improbable, with Tarshish being in Spain and requiring a trip around the horn of Africa, the NIV removes the verb “to go” and the word “Tarshish”, saying instead “he agreed with him to construct a fleet of trading ships.” The NIV claims in a footnote that the Hebrew reads “ships that could go to Tarshish”, but this is not accurate either. Additionally, verse 37 says “the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish”, and the NIV again rewrites this to say “the ships were wrecked and were not able to set sail to trade.” For more details, see the entry for 2 Chr 9:21 above.

2 Chronicles 22:2 — All Hebrew manuscripts give Ahaziah’s age as “forty-two”, but the NIV changes it to “twenty-two” to harmonize the text with 2 Kings 8:26.

2 Chronicles 35:13 — The Hebrew here reads, “they boiled the Passover animals over the fire as prescribed and boiled the holy offerings.” The Chronicler seems to be combining the discrepant Passover stipulations in Exod 12:9 (“roast in fire”) and Deut 16:7 (“boil in water”) into a single law. The NIV changes the first verb to “roast”, which is an entirely different Hebrew word, to improve upon the Chronicler’s harmonization. See the related entry on Deut 16:7 above. (For more on the linguistic issues involved, see Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, pp. 107–109.)

2 Chronicles 36:9 — The NRSV correctly reads “Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign”. To harmonize this verse with the contradictory account of 2 Kings 24:8, the NIV changes Jehoiachin’s age to “eighteen”.

2 Chronicles 36:10 — The text says Zedekiah was Jehoiachin’s brother. The NIV changes “brother” to “uncle” to harmonize the verse with 2 Kings 24:17.

Ezra 5:1, Ezra 6:14 — The NIV twice changes “Zechariah son of Iddo” to “Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo”, probably to harmonize these verses with Zechariah 1:1, which says Zechariah was the son of Berechiah.

Nehemiah 10:31 — The vague text here includes a pledge to “forego the seventh year”, and the NIV expands this statement to describe a sabbatical fallow: “Every seventh year we will forgo working the land…” The actual intention is probably to forego every seventh harvest for the benefit of the poor (cf. Exod. 23:10-11). [See Nodet, A Search for the Origins of Judaism, p. 116.]

Esther 8:11 — In this verse, king Xerxes issues an edict allowing the Jews to kill their enemies, including their enemies’ wives and children. This is a deliberate reversal of Esther 3:13, in which the order is given to kill Jewish women and children. Because this verse is so morally objectionable, the NIV has radically changed it so that the “wives and children” mentioned are the Jews’ wives and children being protected, and not those of the enemy being killed. This is not what the Hebrew text or other English translations say.

Psalm 2:9 — The Hebrew says “You shall break them with a rod of iron”, but the NIV changes “break” to “rule”: “You will rule them with an iron sceptre”. This is apparently an attempt to Christianize the text and to make it match the quotation in Revelation 2:27. (Note: this mistranslation was fixed in the TNIV and 2011 revision but is still provided as an alternate reading in the footnotes. For more on this passage and the NIV, see David Clines, Interested Parties: The Ideology of Writers and Readers of the Hebrew Bible, p. 267.)

Psalm 6:5 — The NRSV correctly reads “For in death there is no remembrance of you”. The NIV interprets this verse much more loosely to read “Among the dead no one proclaims your name.” The words in italics do not appear in the Hebrew.

Psalm 8:2 — The NIV has blatantly altered this verse to match the quotation in Matthew 21:16 (and the LXX) rather than the Hebrew. The NRSV accurately reads “…you have founded a bulwark because of your foes.” The 1984 NIV instead says “…you have ordained praise because of your enemies.” The 2011 revision of the NIV has partially corrected the verse, changing “ordained praise” to “established a stronghold” but inserting the word “praise” at the beginning of the verse — a change with no textual justification.

Psalm 8:5 — The NIV has changed “God” to “the angels” to match the quotation in Hebrews 2:6, which is based on the Greek LXX: “You have made them a little lower than the angels.” It provides the correct translation in a footnote with no further explanation.

Psalm 12:7 — The Hebrew text reads “You, Yahweh, shall keep (protect) them,” but the NIV adds the words “the needy” without indicating via footnote that they have done so: “You, Lord, will keep the needy safe.” The NIV is also needlessly paraphrastic in the second half of the verse and omits the words “this generation”. (This verse was suggested by James Dowden in the comments. See his comment for details and a better way to translate the verse.)

Psalm 19:1, Psalm 150:1 — In these two verses, the NIV avoids mentioning the raqia, or dome-shaped “firmament” that ancient Hebrews believed was part of the cosmos, separating the sky from the waters above. Instead, it uses the terms “skies” and “heavens” respectively. In contrast, the NRSV uses “firmament” and suggests “dome” as an alternative in the footnotes.

Psalm 22:16 — The most well-attested Hebrew (MT) reading of this verse is “…like a lion, my hands and feet”, and the best modern translations either use that or one of several scholarly reconstructions. The NIV, however, reverts to a reading based on the LXX in order to read Christ’s crucifixion into the text: “they pierce my hands and feet”. This is probably the least viable interpretation of the passage available; for details, see my article on Psalm 22:16.

Psalm 51:5-6a — The NIV seems to be pushing the doctrine of original sin in its translation. Whereas a literal reading would be “In iniquity I was formed, in sin my mother conceived me,” the NIV reads “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” In the next verse, it adds the word “womb”, which does not appear in the Hebrew text: “Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb.” This is almost certainly not what v. 6  means. Other translations read “You desire truth in the inward being” (NRSV) or “you desire integrity in the inner man” (NET).

Psalm 74:13 — The Hebrew term tanninim is correctly translated by all other translations I consulted as “dragons” or “sea monsters” using the plural form. For some reason, the NIV puts it in the singular: “monster”. The only explanation that occurs to me is that the NIV translators want to disassociate this verse with its mythological origins and have the “monster” be identified with either the Devil or the Beast from the Sea in Revelation. (For a helpful explanation of this verse, see John Day, God’s Conflict with the Dragon and the Sea, p. 35.)

Psalm 82:1, 6 — The NIV twice adds ironic quotation marks around “gods” to imply that the word should not be understood in the normal sense. The obvious reason is to weaken the polytheistic language of Psalm 82.

Psalm 127:3–4 — The NIV twice changes “sons” to “children” in an effort to promote gender neutrality, even though male offspring is specifically meant by the context.

Ecclesiastes 3:18 — The NRSV correctly reads “God is testing them (human beings) to show that they are but animals.” The NIV translators were uncomfortable equating humans with animals — due to their belief in the special creation of man, perhaps — so they changed the verse to say that humans are “like the animals” without textual justification.

Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 — The Hebrew reads “Cast your bread upon the waters / for you will find it after many days. / Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, / for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.” The definitive meaning of the passage is uncertain, but there are several plausible interpretations. The NIV takes great liberties, rewriting the text to be about shipping and investment: “Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return. Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight.” (See this discussion of the passage at John Hobbins’s blog.)

Ecclesiastes 12:11 — For no good textual reason, the 1984 NIV capitalizes the word “shepherd”. “The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd.” I assume the translators wanted the reader to equate the shepherd with Jesus. This error was fixed in the 2005 TNIV.

Isaiah 7:14 — The NRSV correctly reads “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son”. The NIV changes the subject to “virgin” to harmonize it with Matthew 1:23: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son.”

Isaiah 7:14 — The NIV has two problems here. (1) The Hebrew grammar and the context of the passage describe a young woman who is pregnant and about to give birth, with no suggestion of a future conception. The NIV changes the adjective “pregnant” (Hebrew: harah) to the future-tense verb “will conceive” to match the Greek of the Septuagint and Matthew, imposing a christological reading. For comparison, the NRSV reads “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son,” and de Jong (2007:61) translates it as “Look, the young woman is pregnant and is about to bear a son.” (2) The NIV is wrong to translate the Hebrew almah as “virgin.” The focus of the passage is on the unnamed woman’s age and not her sexual history. As Walter Brueggemann (1998:70) puts it: “The Isaiah passage per se has no interest in the virginal status of the woman. It is not interested because the focus is not on the birth but on the child.” Again, the NIV prefers traditional Christian interpretation over what the text of Isaiah actually says. It offers “young woman” as an alternative in a footnote. [(1) was suggested by Christian Carrizales in the comments. References: Walter Brueggemann (1998), Isaiah 1–39; Mattijs J. de Jong (2007), Isaiah Among the Ancient Near Eastern Prophets]

Isaiah 13:21 — The NIV demythologizes Isaiah’s poignant oracle, translating the goat-demons (satyrs) who inhabit the ruins of Babylon as merely goats. Presumably, readers who intended to interpret the text’s poetic descriptions hyper-literally would not welcome any mention of imaginary creatures. (See Hans Wilderberger, Isaiah 13–27, p. 31 for a discussion of this passage. Credit to John Kesler for suggesting it.) See also the related entry on Isaiah 34:14.

Isaiah 19:16 — The NRSV correctly reads “On that day the Egyptians will be like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the Lord of hosts raises against them.” The NIV eliminates the embarrassing misogynism as well as the polytheistic epithet of Yahweh: “In that day the Egyptians will become weaklings. They will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the Lord Almighty raises against them.” (Note: this mistranslation was introduced with the TNIV. See this discussion of the passage at John Hobbins’s blog.)

Isaiah 28:11 — The NIV has changed the Hebrew, which can be translated “stammering lips” or “mocking lips” to “foreign lips”. The reason may have been to harmonize it with 1 Corinthians 14:21, which says “lips of foreigners” in its quotation of Isaiah. The NIV has also changed “strange tongue” — which is singular in the Hebrew and probably referred to the language of the Assyrians — to be plural. Again, the reason seems to be to harmonize it with the quotation in 1 Cor. 14:21.

Isaiah 34:14 — The NIV demythologizes Isaiah’s oracle about the desolation of Edom, translating the goat-demons and Lilith (singular) who haunt its ruins as wild goats and night creatures (plural) respectively. Its translators seem to be uneasy about biblical texts that mention imaginary creatures. A similar change is made in Isaiah 13:21. A thorough discussion can be found in Miscal, Isaiah 34–35, pp. 82–84. (Entry suggested by John Kesler.)

Isaiah 37:36 — In this verse, a parallel to 2 Kings 19:35, the angel of Yahweh kills 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in their sleep. It concludes with the remarkable statement “when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses,” as if the dead soldiers woke up and then realized they were dead. The NIV has subtly rewritten the verse to eliminate the silliness: “When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!”

Isaiah 53:11 — The NIV has seemingly changed “he shall see light” (NRSV) to “he will see the light of life” to tie the passage into Christian theology. The footnote claims this reading is in the DSS and LXX, but none of the translations of the DSS or LXX I have consulted exhibit this reading.

Jeremiah 7:22 — The NRSV correctly reads “For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices.” To avoid the obvious contradiction with the Torah’s laws about sacrifices, the NIV has added the word “just”: “For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices”

Jeremiah 23:6b — The NRSV here reads “And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” The NIV has added the word “savior”, despite it not appearing in the Hebrew: “This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.” This significantly affects its interpretation and is an obvious case of Christianizing the text.

Jeremiah 49:10 – The NRSV here reads “I have stripped Esau bare…His offspring are destroyed, his kinsfolk and his neighbors; and he is no more.” For some reason, the NIV has changed “offspring” (Hebrew “seed”) and “kinsfolk” (Hebrew “brothers”) to “armed men” and “allies” without any textual justification. The only reasons I can come up with are to downplay the implications of genocide or to avoid an untrue historical claim. No other translation I have consulted rewrites the text in this way.

Jeremiah 50:37, 51:30 — The NIV changes “women” to “weaklings” in these two verses, perhaps to hide the prophet’s embarrassing use of  “women” as a derogatory term. See also Isaiah 28:11 and Nahum 3:13. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

Jeremiah 50:40 — The Hebrew text reads “As when Elohim overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbors, says Yahweh, so no one shall live there…” The NIV changes “God” (Heb. Elohim) to the pronoun “I” to make it appear as though Yahweh is speaking about himself. See also Amos 4:11. (Suggested by John Kesler.)

Ezekiel 20:25–26 — The NRSV correctly reads “Moreover I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live.” The NIV adds “other” to obscure the embarrassing fact that the author of Ezekiel 20 thinks the Law given to the Israelites in the wilderness was not good: “So I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through which they could not live.” (This is a slight improvement from the NIV 1984, which read “I gave them over to statutes that were not good”, but it is still a mistranslation.) The 1984 NIV also mistranslated the straightforward statement in v. 26, “I defiled them through their gifts”, using more indirect wording to lessen God’s responsibility: “I let them be defiled through their gifts”. (This latter error was fixed in the TNIV and 2011 NIV.)

Ezekiel 38:2-3 notes [a], [b]; 39:1 note [a] — Practically all scholars agree that “prince of Rosh” is not a valid translation of nasi rosh (“chief prince”), but the NIV provides it as an alternate translation in these three footnotes. The reason may be that certain Evangelicals (especially premillennialists) interpret this prophecy as describing the role of Russia in the battle of Armageddon, and the belief that Russia’s involvement is prophesied by Ezekiel has become a popular misconception. No place called “Rosh” is mentioned anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. (For details on this common belief, see Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture, 157ff.)

Daniel 1:2 — For reasons that are unclear to me, the NIV has changed the Hebrew “Shinar” to “Babylonia”. Shinar was a district of Babylon, but the two words do not mean the same thing.

Daniel 2:46 — The NRSV correctly reads “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, worshiped Daniel, and commanded that a grain offering and incense be offered to him.” This specifically religious veneration of Daniel and Daniel’s apparent acceptance of it has been an embarrassment for some Christian and Jewish commentators. The NIV weakens the religious overtones of the verse by saying Nebuchadnezzar simply “paid him honor”. (See Collins, Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p. 171 for a discussion of the text and exegetical strategies used by Jerome and Josephus.)

Daniel 3:17 — The Aramaic text has two or three possible meanings based on its syntax, according to commentators: (1) “If there is a God whom we serve…” (i.e. if God exists), (2) “If the God whom we serve is able to deliver, he will deliver us from the furnace…” (i.e. if God can deliver anyone at all), and (3) “If the God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace, he will deliver us…”. As Meadowcroft puts it, “either the existence or the competence of God is at stake.” However, as all these legitimate options are theologically problematic, the NIV resorts to an illegitimate translation that is clumsy in context: “If we are thrown in the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us, and he will deliver us…” (See Meadowcroft, Aramaic Daniel and Greek Daniel, p. 150f; Collins, Daniel, p. 187.) Curiously, the 2005 TNIV corrected this error and reads, “If the God we serve is able to deliver us,” but the 2011 NIV changed it back to the incorrect translation!

Daniel 5:2 note [a] — Although the text of Daniel calls Nebuchadnezzar the father of Belshazzar on five occasions, this is historically inaccurate. Belshazzar was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar (nor a grandson, as some apologists have proposed). The NIV attempts to affirm the historical accuracy of the text in this instance by proposing ancestor and predecessor as alternative translations in a footnote. There is no good reason to think that ‘predecessor’ is a valid translation here, so this footnote is misleading.

Daniel 9:25–26 — This passage mentions two anointed individuals: an “anointed ruler” (v. 25 — the NRSV reads “an anointed prince”) and an “anointed one” (v. 26). Most modern commentators understand these as references to the high priest Joshua (or possibly Zerubbabel) and Onias III, respectively, with “62 weeks” representing 434 years between the two. The NIV changes “an anointed one” to “the Anointed One” in both places (adding the definite article and capitalization), very likely to imply that they are both references to a single individual, Jesus. The NIV further misrepresents the text by ignoring the atnah divider in the Hebrew so that the seven weeks before the anointed ruler becomes seven weeks and 62 weeks (i.e. 69 weeks) before the anointed ruler. This completely obscures what the text actually says and the historical references the writer probably intended, for obvious theological reasons. (See Collins, Daniel, pp. 355–356.)

Hosea 6:6 — The NRSV correctly reads “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” The NIV replaces “steadfast love” (Hebrew hesed) with “mercy” to match the LXX-based quotations from Matthew 9:13 and 12:7. It also replaces “knowledge of God” with “acknowledgement of God”, although the former is more accurate.

Hosea 12:9 — In Hebrew, the speaker says he is Yahweh from the land of Egypt. The NIV finds this description of God’s origins objectionable and changes it to “the LORD your God ever since you came out of Egypt”. There is no verb corresponding to “come out” nor any reference to the Israelites here. (See Römer, “The Revelation of the Divine Name to Moses and the Construction of a Memory…”, p. 307.)

Joel 2:29 — The NIV tweaks this verse to match the quotation in Acts 2:18: “Even on my servants, both men and women.” The Hebrew does not say my, and slaves rather than mere servants are almost certainly in view. The NRSV more correctly reads “Even on the male and female slaves,” meaning the slaves among the Jewish people. (See Strazicich, Joel’s Use of Scripture and Scripture’s Use of Joel, p. 211 for a helpful discussion of this verse.)

Amos 4:11 — Here is another example of the NIV removing polytheistic language from the Bible. The Hebrew text reads “I have overthrown you as Elohim overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah…yet you have not returned to me, says Yahweh.” The NIV changes “God” (Heb. Elohim) to the pronoun “I” to make it appear as though Yahweh is speaking about himself. See also Jeremiah 50:40.

Amos 5:6 — See the entry on Judges 1:22 above.

Jonah 3:3 — The NRSV correctly reads “Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.” This is obviously not literally true, so the NIV obscures it with the reading “Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.”

Nahum 2:12 — This is a poem containing the line “the lion has…strangled prey for his lionesses”. The NIV has changed the plural “lionesses” to the singular “mate”. One scholar suggests that the NIV translators have altered the text to reflect their belief that lions ought to be monogamous. (See Clines, “Misapprehensions Ancient and Modern about Lions”, in Poets, Prophets, and Texts in Play, 2015, pp. 4–6.)

Nahum 3:13 — The NRSV correctly reads “Look at your troops: they are women in your midst.” The NIV hides the embarrassing misogyny by changing “women in your midst” to “weaklings”: “Look at your troops—they are all weaklings.”

Zephaniah 1:5 — See the entry for 1 Kings 11:5 above.

Zechariah 10:6 — Nearly all English translations read “house of Judah” and “house of Joseph” (the same word bet, meaning “house”, is used in both instances). The 1984 NIV used to read this way, but the 2011 revision has changed the verse to read “tribes of Joseph”, apparently to avoid giving the impression that Joseph was a single tribe, as is sometimes the case in the Bible. (See also the entry on Judges 1:22 above.)

Malachi 4:6 — There seems to be no good reason why the NIV has made this verse gender-neutral, changing “fathers” to “parents” and “sons” to “children”. See also Luke 1:17. (Suggested by Bob Grove in the comments.)

The New Testament

Matthew 1:4 — The NRSV correctly reads “Aram the father of Aminadab”. This appears to be a mistake on Matthew’s part, because Ram was the father of Aminadab according to 1 Chron. 2:10 (MT). The NIV corrects this verse to say “Ram” without so much as a footnote. (Note: The LXX says Ram and Aram were brothers, and that Aram was the father of Aminadab contra the MT, giving the NIV even less right to alter Matthew.)

Matthew 1:7 — The NRSV correctly reads “Abijah the father of Asaph”, which is what the oldest Greek manuscripts say. This appears to be a mistake on Matthew’s part, because Abijah was the father of Asa (1 Kings 15:8), not Asaph (a famous psalmist). The NIV corrects the verse to say “Asa” without so much as a footnote.

Matthew 1:10 — The NRSV correctly reads “Manasseh the father of Amos”, which is what the oldest Greek manuscripts say. This appears to be a mistake on Matthew’s part, because Manasseh was the father of Amon (2 Kings 21:18), not Amos, the famous prophet. The NIV corrects the verse to say “Amon” without so much as a footnote. (In fact, Matthew probably got his reading from an LXX variant. See my article on Matthew’s genealogy for more details.)

Matthew 2:11 — The NRSV correctly reads “and they knelt down and paid him homage.” The NIV has the magi worship Jesus instead of merely paying homage, most likely reflecting the piety of the translators and their audience: “and they bowed down and worshipped him.”  The NIV does, however, correctly translate the same word (proskuneō) as “pay homage” in Mark 15:19, where the soldiers pay mock homage to Jesus as king. [See BeDuhn, Truth in Translationpp. 44–45.]

Matthew 4:13, 4:18, 8:24, 8:26, 8:27, 8:32, 13:1, 13:47, 14:25, 14:26, 17:27 — Matthew refers to the “sea” in all these verses, usually meaning the Sea of Galilee. Like English, Greek distinguishes between freshwater lakes (limne) and saltwater  seas (thalassa). To avoid the geographical mistake of calling this body of water, which is technically a small lake, a sea, the NIV translators replaced “sea” with “lake” or, on two occasions (8:26 and 8:27), with “waves”. The translators made similar changes to Mark and John (see entries for Mark 1:16 and John 6:16). (This change was brought to my attention by jps on his blog Idle Musings. For the reasons why the sea is an important part of Gospel theology, see my article, “Did Mark Invent the Sea of Galilee?”.)

Matthew 5:2 — The NIV takes surprising liberties here, omitting the phrase “he opened his mouth and…” found in all Greek manuscripts.

Matthew 13:32 — To avoid giving the impression that Jesus could make a botanical mistake, the NIV (1984 version) has added the word “your”: “Though it [the mustard seed] is the smallest of your seeds”. The NRSV correctly reads “it is the smallest of all the seeds”. (Note: This mistranslation was fixed in the 2011 revision of the NIV.)

Matthew 21:7 — It is clear in the Greek that Jesus’ disciples bring a donkey and a colt, and after they put their cloaks on them, Jesus sits on both animals. Scholars recognize that this departure from Mark’s text was made in order to adhere more literally to the “prophecy” of Zechariah 9:9. The 1984 NIV translated this verse correctly, but the 2005 TNIV and 2011 NIV have altered it so Jesus sits on the cloaks rather than the two animals: “They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.” At best, this is a misleading paraphrase. (Suggested by John Kesler in the comments.)

Matthew 26:6 — Both here and in Mark 14:3, the Greek says that Jesus visited the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany. However, the NIV adds the phrase “a man known as”, which is not found in the original text: “While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper…” This seems like an innocuous change until one realizes the likely reason it was made: to harmonize Matt. 26:6 and Mark 14:3 with John 12, in which the same events (the anointing of Jesus with expensive ointment) take place at the home of Lazarus in Bethany. The NIV’s addition provides a way out of the contradiction by suggesting that Lazarus was also “known as” Simon the Leper, though the text itself says no such thing. (Note: This mistranslation was fixed in the 2011 revision of the NIV.)

Matthew 27:11 — In the Greek text, Jesus prevaricates when asked by Pilate if he is the king of the Jews, answering “you say so.” The NIV (up until the 2005 TNIV edition) replaced this with a boldly affirmative response: “Yes, it is as you say.” (Likewise in Luke 23:3 — see below.) The 2011 revision has mostly fixed this error, but for some reason puts Jesus’ answer in the perfect tense: “You have said so.”

Matthew 28:9, 17 — Here again, although the Greek text intends to convey homage and obeisance paid to Jesus by the disciples, the NIV cannot resist making the passage reflect the translators’ own piety and modern theology by having the disciples worship Jesus: “They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him” (verse 9). The YLT correctly reads “they did bow to him”.

Mark 1:10 — The Greek unmistakably says that the Spirit descended “into him” (Jesus), and critical exegesis of the text by scholars supports this meaning. However, due to the christological problems with this wording, the NIV and most other translations change it to “on him”.  (cf. Edward P. Dixon’s discussion of the phrase in ‘Descending Spirit and Descending Gods: A “Greek” Interpretation of the Spirit’s “Descent as a Dove” in Mark 1:10’, JBL Vol. 128/4, 771–772.)

Mark 1:16, 4:1, 4:39, 4:41, 5:13, 5:21, 6:47, 6:48, 6:49 — The NIV eliminates almost all Mark’s references to the “sea” in the interests of geographical correctness, as the Sea of Galilee is actually a small lake. However, Greek does distinguish between lakes and seas, and the meaning of “sea” is clearly intended by the author. In its place, the NIV writes “lake” or, on occasion (4:49 and 4:41), “waves”. In 5:13, the NIV omits one mention of the sea altogether, and in 5:21, it adds a second reference to “the lake” that has no equivalent in the Greek text. These changes eliminate the important symbolism Mark has established regarding the sea of Galilee. See the entries on Matt. 4:13 and John 6:16 for similar changes. (Brought to my attention by jps. See my article on the Sea of Galilee for related information.)

Mark 2:15 — The pericope of Mark 2:15–17 begins with the statement, “As he was reclining at his house, many tax collectors and sinners were also reclining with Jesus and his disciples.” The referent of “his” in context seems to be Jesus, and the setting is Capernaum, where the home of Jesus is located according to Mark 2:1. However, the NIV links this to the previous pericope (the calling of Levi) and changes “his house” to “Levi’s house” without mentioning the change in the footnotes. (It seems quite possible to me that Mark has put these pericopes together only because they both concern tax collectors.) The NIV probably made this change to harmonize the text with Luke 5:29, which describes the encounter as taking place at Levi’s house. On the ambiguity of whose house it is, cf. Cranfield (1959), The Gospel According to St. Mark, p. 102, and Beavis (2011), Mark, p. 60. Suggested by John Kesler in the comments.

❦ Mark 4:31 — To avoid giving the impression that Jesus could make a botanical mistake, the NIV (1984 version) has him say that the mustard seed is “is the smallest seed you plant in the ground”, whereas the text actually says it is “the smallest of all seeds on earth”. This mistranslation was fixed in the 2005 TNIV. See also the entry for Matt. 13:32.

Mark 6:10 — In the Greek text, Jesus instructs his disciples: “Whenever you enter a house, remain there until you go out from there.” The NIV translators either found this too vague or wanted to harmonize it with the parallel in Luke 9:5, so they added the word town not found in the Greek: “stay there until you leave that town.” Although this is not the worst of changes, it does restrict the potential interpretations. (Cf. Matt. 10:14.) This entry was suggested by Pithom in the comments below, where you can find an interesting discussion of it.

Mark 7:19a— The Greek text says that what enters a man goes into the belly and then out into the sewer (aphedrōn). The NIV, perhaps finding Jesus’ words a little too vulgar, eliminates the word ‘sewer’ and substitutes it with the phrase ‘out of the body’.

Mark 7:19b — The NIV has a statement in parentheses here: “(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)” In the Greek text, there is nothing equivalent to the words “in saying this, Jesus declared.” What it actually says is simply “[it goes out into the sewer] purifying all the meats” or, depending on the manuscript, “…purging all the meats”. There is no ‘Jesus’ or ‘he’ in the passage to serve as the subject of ‘purifying’, so it could be understood that the closest preceding noun, ‘sewer’, is what does the purifying. The NIV translators, however, embellish the text by turning four Greek words of obscure meaning into an event where Jesus offhandedly repeals the entire kosher code. Even on the chance this interpretation is correct, a footnote explaining what the Greek actually says would be appreciated. A good discussion can be found in Sid Martin, Secret of the Savior, pp. 94–95. (Suggested by Elizabeth Farah in the comments.)

Mark 10:1 — The Greek actually says that Jesus went to the “region of Judaea beyond the Jordan”. This is a fairly obvious geographical error, since crossing the Jordan would put Jesus outside of Judaea. The NIV translates away the problem by saying that Jesus first went to Judaea and then crossed the Jordan. (Note: Most other English translations do something similar.)

Mark 11:16 — In the temple cleansing episode, the Greek states that Jesus would not allow anyone to carry “a vessel” (skeuos) through the temple. The word is broad in meaning but almost certainly refers to the vessels and instruments needed for the operation of the temple. The NIV mistranslates this as “merchandise”, perhaps to avoid historicity issues, and in so doing eliminates the important symbolism involved. For a discussion of the text, see Beavis, Mark (Paideia Commentary), p. 169, and Michael Turton’s excellent online commentary.

Mark 14:3 — See note about Matthew 26:6 above.

Mark 14:12 — The NRSV correctly reads “On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed…” The NIV has, for reasons that are not clear, inserted the phrase “when it was customary” without textual warrant: “On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb…” It must be noted that the author of Mark is in error here, as the Passover lamb is actually sacrificed the day before the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Matthew is aware of this mistake and omits the mention of the Passover sacrifice in Mt. 26:17. Perhaps the translators of the NIV thought they could spin this passage by implying a custom at odds with standard Jewish practice. (If anyone else can think of another reason, please let me know.)

Mark 15:42 — The NRSV correctly reads “When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath….” This is an error, because the Jewish day starts in the evening, so it would already have been Sabbath. The NIV masks this error by altering the translation to read “So as evening approached….”

Luke 1:17 — In this loose quote by Luke of Malachi 4:6, the NIV authors unnecessarily change “fathers” to “parents” for the sake of gender inclusivity.

Luke 2:2 note [a] — The NIV offers an alternate reading in a footnote: “this census took place before Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Grammatically speaking, “before” is not a possible reading of the Greek text. However, the notion of an earlier, historically unattested census is sometimes proposed by apologists in order to harmonize the date of Jesus’ birth in Luke (6-7 CE under Quirinius) with Matthew’s account (under King Herod prior to 4 BCE). The mistranslation offered by the NIV as an alternate reading is almost certainly intended to support such a view. (For a discussion of the Greek, see Carrier, “The Date of the Nativity”.)

Luke 2:22 — The 1984 NIV translated this verse correctly: “When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem….” However, the Torah only stipulated purification for the mother (see Lev. 12:1-7), and Luke appears to have misunderstood the Mosaic law on several points. The TNIV and 2011 NIV have altered the text, omitting the word “their” (Greek: αὐτῶν autōn) to hide the problem: “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses…” (See Brown, The Birth of the Messiah, pp. 447–449, and my own article on Luke’s nativity. Credit to John Kesler in the comments below for suggesting this entry.)

Luke 2:25, 11:13 — The Greek text here quite clearly says “a holy spirit” (pneuma [ēn] hagion) in both these verses. However, the NIV (and nearly all other English translations) forces a trinitarian interpretation by translating it as “the Holy Spirit” with the definite article and capitalization.

Luke 3:33 — The NIV alters Luke’s genealogy here to match 1 Chron. 2:10 (MT) and the NIV’s alteration of Matt. 1:4 (see above). Our earliest Greek texts read “…Amminadab, son of Admin, son of Arni”, but the NIV says “…Amminadab, the son of Ram”. No Greek NT manuscript reads this way, although a small number of manuscripts read “Aram” as a harmonization with Matthew.

Luke 20:35 — The Greek text says that those who are worthy of resurrection “neither marry nor are given in marriage”, using the present tense. The NIV changes the verbs to the future tense to make it appear that Jesus is talking about marriage after the resurrection: “But those who are considered worthy of taking part…in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage.” For a thorough analysis of this verse, see Stewart Felker’s article, “The Most Embarrassing Verse(s) in the Bible”, as well as David E. Aune, ‘Luke 20:34-36: A “Gnosticized” Logion of Jesus?’, WUNT.1 303, 2013.

Luke 23:3 — In the Greek text, Jesus prevaricates when asked by Pilate if he is the king of the Jews, answering “you say so.” The NIV (up until the 2005 TNIV edition) replaced this with a boldly affirmative response: “Yes, it is as you say.” The 2011 revision has mostly fixed this error, but for some reason puts Jesus’ answer in the perfect tense: “You have said so.”

Luke 23:45 — Luke describes the darkness during the crucifixion as an eclipse using the verb ἐκλείπω (ekleipō). However, a solar eclipse is astronomically impossible during Passover, which is a full moon festival; nor can a solar eclipse last for three hours. The NIV and most other English Bibles avoid the actual text of Luke and say simply that “the sun stopped shining”. The NRSV offers the correct translation in a footnote: “the sun was eclipsed”. (Suggested by Peter Gainsford in the comments; more info and citations in a blog post of his here.)

John 1:19 — The NRSV correctly reads ‘This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”’ The NIV here and throughout John changes “Jews” (Greek ioudaioi) to “Jewish leaders” to tone down the wording of these passages, which might be construed as antisemitic by some. (See “Which Jews Opposed Jesus?” by Joel Hoffman on the topic.)

John 3:22 — The Greek text says Jesus and his disciples went into the “land of Judea”. However, they were already in Jerusalem in the preceding verses, which is technically part of Judea. Seemingly to avoid this potential contradiction, the NIV instead says that they went into the “countryside of Judea”. As far as I can tell, (γῆ) means “land” very generally and does not specify rural territory. According to J.F. McHugh (John 1–4, 2009: 244), John would have used chōra (χώρα) to denote the open country as he does in 11:54-55. Bart Ehrman writes at length on this mistranslation here on his blog. John Aston (Understanding the Fourth Gospel, 2007: 41) identifies this verse as one of John’s many aporias. See this article of mine for more on this characteristic of John. (Thanks to Joshua Loudermilk for suggesting this entry.)

John 6:3, 6:15 — It seems like a minor point, but the NIV twice ignores the definite article in the Greek and has Jesus withdraw to “a mountain” instead of “the mountain”. The same mountain is probably intended in both verses, but the fact that no descent is mentioned in between makes the passage a little confusing. Contra the Greek, the NIV’s rewording suggests to the reader that a separate mountain is intended in verse 15. The NIV further obscures the equivalence by calling the mountain “a mountainside” in verse 3 even though the same word, oros, is used in both verses. See this article for more details about this aspect of John.

John 6:17, 6:18, 6:19, 6:22, 6:25 — The NIV eliminates almost all John’s references to the “sea” in the interests of geographical correctness, as the Sea of Galilee is actually a small lake. The translators have replaced “sea” with ”lake” (6:17, 6:22, and 6:25), “waters” (6:18), and “water” (6:19). However, Greek does distinguish between lakes and seas, and the Sea of Galilee is deliberately referred to as a sea in the Gospels for important symbolic reasons. See the entries on Matt. 4:13 and Mark 1:16 for similar changes. (Brought to my attention by jps. See my article on the Sea of Galilee for more on the sea’s symbolism.)

John 6:63 — The NRSV correctly reads “it is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” The Greek word for spirit, pneuma, also means “breath” or “wind” and refers simply to the animating essence of living bodies. However, the NIV capitalizes “Spirit” and adds the definite article “the” in order to import trinitarian doctrine into the verse, which changes its meaning in a way not justified by the Greek: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” [See BeDuhn, Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testamentpp. 145–146.]

John 10:34 — The NIV puts quotation marks around the word “gods” to imply that the word should not be understood in the normal sense. This also happens to be a quotation of Psalm 82:6, where the NIV does the same thing, without any textual justification.

John 18:40 — Barabbas is described in Mark and Luke as a murderer who took part in an uprising. John 18:40, however, describes him as a robber (λῃστής, lestes) — the NRSV reads “Now Barabbas was a bandit.” The NIV has rewritten this verse, however, to reflect what is said in Mark and Luke: “Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.”

John 20:22 — Again, the NIV translates “a holy spirit” as “the Holy Spirit”, imposing a trinitarian interpretation on the text.

John 21:1 — The NIV changes the “Sea of Tiberias” to “Sea of Galilee” to harmonize John with the Synoptic Gospels. It provides the correct text in a footnote.

John 21:5 — In this resurrection appearance, Jesus calls out to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, calling them “little children” (παιδία, paidia) and asking if they have any fish. For some reason, the NIV translates this as “friends” instead, but according to Greek lexicons,  this word refers only to young children or, in some cases, young slaves. It always means “children” where it appears in the Bible. Judy Stack-Nelson suggests that the NIV is trying to harmonize this verse with John 15:15, in which Jesus tells the disciples he will from now on call them “friends”, for which he uses an entirely different Greek word (φίλους, philous).

Acts 1:4 — The resurrected Jesus is described as commanding the disciples not to leave Jerusalem. However, this would contradict Mark and Matthew, in which the disciples are told to wait for him in Galilee. The NIV weakens the implications of Jesus’ command by adding the phrase “on one occasion” to the text: “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command.” This phrase is not in the Greek text.

Acts 2:13 — In this story of the outpouring of tongues, some of the crowd sneer at the preaching of the apostles, accusing them of being drunk on gleukous, that is “new wine,” or wine that is freshly fermented and has not turned sour. This is an unlikely accusation to make at Pentecost, which comes before wine harvest at a time when there is no new wine available. Accordingly, the NIV changes the text to read simply “wine”. None of the other translations I have consulted do this. (See Barrett, Acts 1–14, p. 125.)

Acts 4:33-34 — The NIV has tampered with these verses in several ways. (1) The text says that “great favour [Greek: χάρις] was upon them all”, referring to the apostles who were preaching the resurrection. Scholars differ on whether this favour is that of the people or that of God. The NIV eliminates the former interpretation by adding “God’s” and uses paraphrastic wording with quite a different nuance: “And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all…” [See Barrett, Acts 1-14, p. 254.] (2) The Greek in v. 34 says that “everyone who possessed property or houses sold [it] and brought the value of what was sold” to the apostles. The NIV significantly tempers this reference to the sharing of wealth by adding the phrase “from time to time” not found in the Greek. (3) The NIV changes the location of the sentence breaks from the Greek, altering the relationships between the statements in this passage. Instead of favour resulting from the apostles’ preaching and property sharing eliminating poverty, the NIV’s new sentence division implies “God’s grace” being mainly responsible for lack of poverty (rather than communal sharing). [Credit to Julie Shreves for suggesting point (2) in the comments.]

Acts 5:32 — Here and in several other New Testament verses (John 14:26Ephesians 4:30 and 1 Corinthians 6:19), the NIV has translated the neuter relative pronoun ho as “who/whom”, even though “which” is the only grammatically valid translation, in order to emphasize the personhood of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of whether the NIV translators’ theology is correct, this is a biased and linguistically unjustifiable translation. [See BeDuhn, pp. 139–143.]

Acts 7:6 — See the entry on Genesis 15:13.

Acts 7:53 — The NRSV correctly reads “You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels”, but the NIV alters the verse slightly to obscure this strange view of angels: “you who have received the law that was given through angels”.

Acts 8:27 — The KJV correctly reads “Candace queen of the Ethiopians”. In the Greek, Luke gives “Candace” as the queen’s personal name. However, the word was actually the dynastic title of the Ethiopian queen mother. The NIV has altered this verse for the sake of historical accuracy, changing “Candace, queen of the Ethiopians” to “the Kandake (which means ‘queen of the Ethiopians’)”. This explanatory gloss is not in the biblical text and misrepresents what it does say.

Acts 9:7 — The Greek text says that Saul’s companions “heard the voice [of Jesus] but saw no one.” For some reason, the NIV translates φωνῆς (phōnēs), ‘voice’, as ‘sound’. Perhaps it is to mitigate the contradiction with Paul’s retelling in Acts 22:9, where he says his companions did not hear the voice. However, that verse has been fudged as well.

Acts 13:50, 17:5, 18:12, 18:28, 20:3, 20:19, 21:11, 21:27, 23:12, 23:20, 26:21 — The phrase “the Jews” (ho Ioudaios) appears frequently in Acts. Although it should not be taken to mean all Jews, it is often used to identify Paul’s opponents. However, the NIV has altered this phrase wherever it has negative implications. In most such instances, the NIV adds the word “some”, making the text read “some Jews” or “some of the Jews”. In 18:12, the words “of Corinth”, which are not in the Greek text, have been added. In 18:28 and 20:19, “the Jews” has been changed to “Jewish opponents” (the Greek does not say “opponents”). In 13:50 and 21:11, the phrase has been changed to “Jewish leaders” (the Greek does not say “leaders”).

Acts 22:9 — The NRSV correctly says that Paul’s companions “did not hear the voice” of the one speaking to Paul, but the NIV has changed this to “did not understand the voice” to hide the contradiction with the account in chapter 9.

Romans 2:6 — The NIV translates ergon (ἔργον) inconsistently throughout the epistles, using the direct translation “works” when the connotation is negative but other phrases when it is positive. The ESV here reads “He will render each one according to his works,” but the NIV says “…according to what they have done”. See the entries on James below for a fuller explanation.

Romans 3:21–26 — The NIV engages in some theological trickery here. It changes “righteousness of God” to “righteousness from God” in v. 21, eliminates the mention of God from v. 22, and changes “righteousness” in vv. 25 and 26 (the same Greek word as in vv. 21 and 22) to “justice” in order to imply that this passage is talking about the righteousness of believers rather than the righteousness of God. (Note: the error in v. 21 was fixed in the 2005 TNIV, and vv. 25 and 26 were fixed in the 2011 revision of the NIV. The omission in v. 22 remains.)

Romans 7:18 — The NIV here translates σάρξ (sarx) as “sinful nature” even though this implies later Augustinian doctrine on original sin that is not intended by the original writer. In contrast, the NRSV correctly chooses to translate this tricky Pauline term more literally as “flesh”. (See this article by Jason Staples on the subject.)

Romans 7:25 — The opening line correctly reads in the NRSV as “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” For some reason, the NIV adds the phrase “who delivers me”, even though this is not found in the Greek text: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” The rest of this verse is also suspect: the NIV translates “in the flesh” (τῇ σαρκὶ) as “in my sinful nature” even though this makes a theological statement about the meaning of “the flesh” not warranted by the Greek text. “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”  (Note: Prior to the 2011 revision of the NIV, “flesh” [σάρξ] was translated as “sinful nature” dozens of times throughout the epistles. The translators have since acknowledged and corrected this error in most places, but this verse remains the same.)

Romans 16:7 (updated) — The NIV (1984 version) changes the female apostle Junia into a man, “Junias”, due to a bias against women being counted as apostles of early Christianity. (Note: This translation was fixed in the 2011 revision of the NIV.) Contributor AH, in the comments, has pointed out two further issues: (1) Paul says Andronicus and Junia are his syngeneis, his “relatives” or “kinsfolk”. The NIV translates this as “fellow Jews” which is not the only possible, or even most likely, meaning. (2) Paul calls the same duo his synaichmalotous or “fellow prisoners”, which could have any of several metaphorical and literal meanings. The NIV replaces this noun with a relative clause that goes well beyond what the Greek says: “[fellow Jews] who have been in prison with me”.

1 Corinthians 4:9 — The NIV adds a great deal of elaboration not found in the Greek text: “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena.” The NIV’s additions are in italics. (See Bruce Metzger, The Bible in Translation, p. 80.)

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 — Paul here refers to the “body” (singular) of believers as the “temple” (singular) of the Holy Spirit — a topic he touches on elsewhere, for example in 1 Cor. 3:16-17. He uses this language, in part, to emphasize the unity and oneness of the Christian community (see Fitzmyer, First Corinthians, pp. 202-203). Unfortunately, the NIV changes “temple” and both occurrences of “body” in these verses to the plural form, which completely alters Paul’s theological message. These changes first appeared in the 2005 TNIV. (Suggested by Michael in the comments below.)

1 Corinthians 7:20–21 — The Greek of verse 21 by itself is ambiguous, but in context with v. 20 probably intends to say that slaves should remain slaves. (See John Chrysostom, Homily 19.) The NIV (and most other English translations) prefers to translate it with the opposite meaning—that Paul encourages slaves to gain their freedom.

1 Corinthians 7:36 — In this passage, Paul says that if a man feels strong sexual attraction to “his virgin” (Greek: parthenos), he may marry her, though it is better if he does not. The ancient Christian practice of unmarried men living in ascetic cohabitation with virgin girls and widows is probably the background to this teaching. [See Fitzmyer, First Corinthians, p. 324; and Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians.] The NIV, however, adds words not found in the Greek text to make the teaching be about betrothal: “If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to…”.

1 Corinthians 11:4–7a — The NIV offers a long footnote with an alternate translation of these verses, replacing multiple instances of “head covering” with “long hair”, which has no support in the Greek text. This appears to be an attempt to accommodate churches that do not require head coverings for women but want to think their practices are strictly in accordance with Scripture. (See Bible Researcher for a discussion of this passage.)

1 Corinthians 11:27 — The Greek text sternly warns that those who eat and drink in an unworthy manner will be “guilty [or liable] for the body and blood of the Lord.” The NIV changes the meaning of this statement and lessens its severity by making the transgressor merely “guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” The words “sinning against” are not in the Greek. (See Fee, First Epistle to the Corinthians p. 559–561, who states “to be ‘guilty of his body and blood’ means to be ‘liable for his death’.” The NIV’s alteration makes that interpretation impossible.)

1 Corinthians 11:29 — For reasons that are unclear, the NIV adds the words “of Christ”, which are not found in any manuscript: “For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ….”

1 Corinthians 14:12 — The Greek text literally reads “since you strive zealously for spirits” (πνευμάτων, pneumatōn), but the NIV changes “spirits” to “spiritual gifts”, which fits the theology of many Protestant denominations but is not what the verse actually says. (See Fitzmyer, First Corinthians, p. 515.)

1 Corinthians 16:13 — The Greek text literally exhorts readers to “be men”. The NASB, for example, reads, “be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” To avoid any gender specificity, the NIV has changed this to “be courageous”, but this takes significant liberties regarding how “act like men” ought to be understood.

Galatians 1:8 — The Greek says “let him be accursed”, but the NIV reads “let him be eternally condemned!”, a theological interpretation that is not justified by the text. (Note: The 2011 version has changed this verse to say “let them be under God’s curse”, which is only somewhat better. The Greek does not say “God’s curse”, and this phrase is grammatically poor, lacking agreement between “them” and its antecedents. This might be an example of the 2011 NIV’s clumsy attempts at gender-neutral translation.)

Galatians 1:16b — In the Greek, Paul says “I did not confer with any human being” at the beginning of his ministry. The NIV changes this to “my immediate response was not to consult any human being.” Nothing in the original text corresponds to “my immediate response”; rather, the NIV appears to be reinterpreting the text to harmonize it with the rather different account of Paul’s conversion in Acts.

Galatians 3:5 — This enigmatic verse literally reads “He, therefore, who is supplying to you the Spirit, and working mighty acts among you — [is it] by works of law or by the hearing of faith?” (YLT) The NIV gives a Protestant interpretation of this passage that obscures the actual wording and other potential interpretations: “does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” (Note: Most other English translations have the same problem.)

Galatians 3:19 — The NRSV correctly reads “[the law] was ordained through angels by a mediator.” The NIV has changed this to say “the law was given to angels and entrusted to a mediator”, adding the word “entrust” and reversing the role of the mediator in Paul’s statement.

Ephesians 2:3 — The NRSV correctly reads “we were by nature children of wrath”. The NIV has taken considerable liberties in its translation, echoing Protestant theories of sin and atonement in doing so: “we were by nature deserving of wrath.” The genitive could be translated as “destined for wrath”, but no equivalent to “deserving” can be found in the Greek, and “children” has been omitted. (Source: Larkin, Ephesians: A Handbook on the Greek Text, p. 30)

Ephesians 2:20–22 — The Greek says “you are being constructed into a habitation of God in spirit (en pneumati)”, but the NIV interprets this as “in the Spirit” (i.e. the Holy Spirit) without textual warrant. [See BeDuhn, p. 151.] Throughout the epistles, the NIV shows a theological bias to translate “in spirit” as “in the (Holy) Spirit” wherever possible.

Ephesians 5:33 — The Greek says that wives should “fear” (φοβῆται, phobetai) their husbands. However, the NIV and many other English translations change this to “respect”. None of the major Greek lexicons give “respect” as a possible definition for phobetai. The verb φοβέω usually indicates a relationship of authority and submission, not admiration, when used in the context of interpersonal relationships. (See Jean-Sébastien Rey, “Family Relationships in 4QInstruction and in Eph 5:21–6:4”, Echoes from the Caves: Qumran and the New Testament, p. 251)

Ephesians 6:18 — The Greek says to pray “in spirit” (en pneumati), perhaps meaning silently rather than out loud. However, the NIV interprets this as “in the Spirit” (i.e. the Holy Spirit). [See BeDuhn, p. 148.]

Philippians 2:6 — The NIV changes the Greek, which is correctly translated by the NRSV as “though he was in the form of God”, to say “being in very nature God”, a speculative interpretation of “form of God” that is unwarranted by the original text.

Colossians 1:15 — The NRSV correctly reads “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation”. The NIV has replaced “of” with “over”, even though this is not at a valid meaning of the Greek preposition pasēs. The obvious reason is to hide the problematic theology of Jesus being described as a created being.

Colossians 1:19 — The NIV has added “his” in front of “fullness”, to shape the interpretation of this verse in a certain way not indicated by the text: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.”  The Greek simply says “the fullness”.

2 Thessalonians 2:15, 3:6 — The NIV engages in some vocabulary trickery here. The word paradosis, meaning “tradition”, gets translated inconsistently in order to de-Catholicize the Bible’s theology. When the context is negative, as in the “human traditions” of Colossians 2:8 or the traditions of the Pharisees in Matthew 15:1–6, “tradition” is used. When the context is positive, as in these two instances — which read “the teachings we passed on to you” and “the teachings you received from us”, respectively — the NIV uses the word “teachings”. The NRSV, by contrast, consistently and correctly translates this word as “tradition”. (See this article at Shameless Popery for a discussion of the topic.)

1 Timothy 3:2 — The RSV correctly reads “Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife.” For some reason, the NIV has obscured the possibility of polygamy by changing it to “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife”.

1 Timothy 3:16 — The NIV again mistranslates “in spirit” (en pneumati) as “in the Spirit” (i.e. the Holy Spirit), which is not warranted by the Greek text.

Titus 1:6 — As with 1 Tim. 3:2 above, the Greek text calls for elders to be “married to one wife”. The NIV has instead rendered it as “faithful to his wife”, which is not the same thing.

Titus 2:11 — The Greek literally says that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people”, and reads as such in most translations (including the NRSV, ESV, NET, CEB, NLT, and NASB). Various Greek lexicons agree that σωτήριος (sōterios) should be understood as meaning “bringing salvation”. However, the NIV says the grace of God “offers salvation to all people”, which prevents the verse from being used in support of universal salvation. The qualifying verb “offers” is not in the Greek.

Hebrews 1:5 — The NRSV correctly reads “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”. The NIV has changed it slightly to read “You are my Son; today I have become your father”, perhaps to avoid the implication that Jesus was a created being. (See also Col. 1:15.)

Hebrews 4:14 — According to the Greek text, Jesus has “passed through the heavens”, which reflects typical first-century conceptions of multiple layered heavens through which one must pass to reach God’s throne room. The NIV, however, says Jesus “ascended into heaven”, obscuring the cosmology of Hebrews and making the text conform to modern, more acceptable views of heaven. Note: this error was introduced in the 2005 TNIV. [See To the Hebrews (Anchor Yale Bible) p. 80.]

Hebrews 5:7 — The Greek refers to Jesus “in the days of his flesh”. The NIV is needlessly paraphrastic, rewording it as “during the days of Jesus’ life on earth” even though the words “life“ and “earth” are not in the Greek. This limits the interpretations of this passage and the meaning of “flesh”, which need not be limited to Jesus’ physical life on earth. Cf. the discussion by David M. Moffitt in Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews, 2011, pp. 209ff. (Suggested by Scott McKellar in the comments.)

Hebrews 6:1 — The NIV for some reason changes “dead works” to “acts that lead to death”, forcing a narrow and probably incorrect interpretation on the text.

Hebrews 11:4 — According to the Greek text, Abel brought God “a better sacrifice” than Cain. However, the NIV has changed “sacrifice” to “offering” to harmonize it with the story told in Genesis 4, which mentions no sacrifices. This change was introduced with the 2005 TNIV.

Hebrews 11:7 — The Greek text says that “by this [the act of building the ark and saving his household],” Noah “condemned the world”. The NIV changes the effect of this verse somewhat by adding words that do not appear in the Greek: “by his faith he condemned the world….”

James 2:14 — The NRSV correctly reads “What good is it … if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?” The NIV harmonizes this verse with Protestant theology by adding the word “such” without textual justification: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (Note: most other English translations also alter the passage.)  The NIV also deceptively translates ergon as “deeds” here, even though it translates the same word as “works” when the connotation is negative, in order to tone down passages that appear to promote works in addition to faith. (See also the entry on James 2:17–18 below.)

James 2:17-18, 20, 22, 24-26 — The NIV translates ergon, meaning “works”, inconsistently throughout the epistles in order to push the Bible’s theology on faith and works in a Protestant direction. In negative contexts (e.g. Romans 3:27), the NIV translates it as “works” almost without exception. However, it avoids any positive association with the word “works” in verses like James 2:24, which has been translated, “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone”, and James 2:26, “so faith without deeds is dead.” The NRSV is more consistent and theologically neutral, translating it as “works” in all these passages. James 2:25 is a particularly egregious example: while the Greek text literally says Rahab was “justified (dikaioō) by works (ergon)”,  the NIV translation says Rahab was “considered righteous for what she did”, even though the NIV is happy to translate dikaioo and ergon as “justified” and “works” in passages like Romans 3:28 (“For we maintain that a person is justified (dikaioō) by faith apart from the works (ergon) of the law.”) Theology aside, the NIV’s translation of ergon as the phrase “what they do” in v. 24 is also a clumsy attempt at avoiding gender-specific pronouns.

James 2:25 — The Greek mentions the visit of ἀγγέλους (angelous), or “messengers”, to Rahab the prostitute. The NIV changes this word to “spies”, although that is not a valid translation of angelous. The only obvious reason for the change is to make this verse adhere more closely to the story in Joshua 2. (See the entry above for other problems with the NIV’s translation of this verse.)

1 Peter 1:17 — The NRSV correctly reads “If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds…” Because this verse suggests that people are judged by God according to their works, contra Protestant theology, the NIV changes the wording to mean something slightly different: “Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially…”

1 Peter 3:18–19 — The NIV again mistranslates “in spirit” (en pneumati) as “in the Spirit” (i.e. the Holy Spirit), which is not warranted by the Greek text.

1 Peter 3:21 — The NRSV correctly reads “And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. Because this conflicts with Protestant theology on baptism, the NIV has changed “appeal to God for a good conscience” to “pledge of a clear conscience toward God”, which has a very different meaning.

1 Peter 4:6 — This enigmatic passage correctly reads in the NRSV as “For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead”. The possibility of salvation after death obviously conflicts with Evangelical theology, so the NIV has changed it to read “For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead.”

2 Peter 2:15 — Although our best and oldest manuscripts read “Balaam son of Bosor”, the 1984 NIV read “Balaam son of Beor” to harmonize it with Jude 11 and various Old Testament references to Balaam. For some reason, the TNIV and 2011 NIV have revised this verse to say “Balaam son of Bezer”, which is hardly an improvement, since no New Testament manuscript reads Bezer, and it’s not clear that an allusion to the Transjordan city of Bezer is intended.

Jude 7 (Updated) — The Greek states that Sodom, Gomorrah and the surrounding cities “serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” In other words, the fiery destruction of those cities serves as a warning for immoral behaviour. However, the NIV has subtly altered the verse to suggest it is individuals who suffer eternal fiery torment: “They serve an example to those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” This provides an explicit proof-text for a doctrine of eternal hellfire that is otherwise lacking in the epistles. Additionally, the Greek text describes their crime as “going after flesh of another kind”, which almost certainly means angels given the context, but the NIV has changed this to read simply “perversions”. This obscures the point of Jude’s argument and makes it easy to misapply the text to homosexuality, which is quite the opposite of lusting after “flesh of another kind”.

Jude 8 — The NIV has taken remarkable liberties with the text, changing “dreamers” (an allusion to Deut. 13) to “ungodly people” who act “on the strength of their dreams”. None of these words appear in the Greek.

Quotation by N.T. Wright:

When the New International Version was published in 1980, I was one of those who hailed it with delight. I believed its own claim about itself, that it was determined to translate exactly what was there, and inject no extra paraphrasing or interpretative glosses…. Disillusionment set in over the next two years, as I lectured verse by verse through several of Paul’s letters, not least Galatians and Romans. Again and again, with the Greek text in front of me and the NIV beside it, I discovered that the translators had another principle, considerably higher than the stated one: to make sure that Paul should say what the broadly Protestant and evangelical tradition said he said…. [I]f a church only, or mainly, relies on the NIV it will, quite simply, never understand what Paul was talking about. [Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision, 2009, pp. 51-52]

The preface to the NIV states that “the translators were united in their commitment to the authority and infallibility of the Bible as God’s Word in written form.” The preface to the New Testament expresses their commitment to the “complete trustworthiness of the Scriptures”.

547 thoughts on “Poor and Misleading Translation in the New International Version (NIV)

  1. As it does in Isaiah 19:16 and Nahum 3:13, listed above, the NIV removes misogynistic language from Jeremiah 50:37 and Jeremiah Jeremiah 51:30, changing “women” to “weaklings.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In Exodus 14:27 the NIV say that Yahweh swept the Egyptians into the sea, in an apparent attempt to harmonize the two disparate accounts of how the Egyptians perished in the Red Sea, which this verse says occurred after Yahweh “tossed” (NRSV) or “hurled” (NJPS) them into the water. The Hebrew word literally means “shake,” and is so translated by the NIV (or a variation like “shook” or “shaken”) in Judges 16:20, Nehemiah 5:13 (three times), Job 38:13, Psalm 109:23, and Isaiah 52:2. In Isaiah 33:9, the NIV says “drop,” and in Isaiah 33:15 it offers a paraphrase: “keep their hands from accepting bribes” (cf. NRSV’s “waves away a bribe”). The only other time it uses “swept” is in
    Psalm 136:15, and that passage, too, refers to
    the drowning of the Egyptians. (The NJPS again says “hurled.”)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Paul, you nominated Luke 20:35 above, and I’d include v:36 too. The NIV—as well as other translations, including the NRSV—says that those who are worthy of the future age are “like” angels rather than “equal (un)to (the) angels” (so ESV, KJV, NET, ERV, Darby), which is an attempt to harmonize Luke’s teaching with Matthew 22:30/Mark 11:25.

    Liked by 1 person

    • While I fully agree “equal” is more correct, there’s enough semantic overlap between “like” and “equal” (in form, appearance, etc.) that it feels a little too nitpicky for its own entry.

      I do have quite a few more entries I’ll be adding soon, though, including some of your other recent suggestions.


      • I understand what you’re saying about Luke 20:36. I’ll just note that the NIV knows that “equal” is correct in John 5:18 and the Philippian Hymn (2:6).


  4. Jonah 3:8 (NJPS)
    They shall be covered with sackcloth—man and beast—and shall cry mightily to God…

    …and cover themselves with sackcloth let man and beast, and let them call unto God mightily, and let them turn back each from his evil way…

    But let them be covered with sackcloth, both man and beast, and let them cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way…

    But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God…

    By inserting “everyone,” the NIV resolves the embarrassing command that animals, too, were to cry unto God and turn from evil. The text says that the same entities that were to be covered with sackcloth—which the NIV acknowledges were people and animals—were to cry out and change their ways.

    Liked by 2 people

    • My 12yr daughter caught, Mark 1:41, where NIV uses the word “Indignant” where most other translations uses “moved with compassion”, “moved with pity”, “deeply moved”, etc. Thank you for posting this! For I bought the family an NIV for our Family Bible Study because I wanted the Rainbow text. I was already skeptical since I was a NKJV reader. Now I will take your list and others and note it in our Bibles.


  5. Exodus 19:15: The NRSV and NJPS correctly translate the latter part of the verse as “[D]o not go near a woman.” To avoid the obvious male-centered view of the command, the NIV uses the more gender-neutral “Abstain from sexual relations.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t want to defend the accuracy of the NIV, but I think this one is nitpicking. The goal of the translators wasn’t to be a literal translation, but to be readable. In this case rather than translate an obvious euphemism literally they decided to make the meaning plain.


    • In such cases I would find it helpful to have a literal translation in the text plus a footnote giving the likely meaning, or vice versa. Such a Bible would be very useful.


  6. Robert M wrote:I don’t want to defend the accuracy of the NIV, but I think this one is nitpicking. The goal of the translators wasn’t to be a literal translation, but to be readable. In this case rather than translate an obvious euphemism literally they decided to make the meaning plain.

    The NIV didn’t have a problem leaving a euphemism in 1 Samuel 21:

    2 David answered Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. 3 Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.” 4 But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.” 5 David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out…

    The difference is that in 1 Samuel, since only men were involved, there was no problem leaving the more literal translation. However, in Exodus 19:14-15, Moses addresses “the people,” yet gives a command that is obviously directed to men.


  7. After reading Steinberg’s entry, I’m even more convinced that the NIV’s translation is poor and misleading, because it obscures what I initially said it obscures–a male-centered perspective. Here is part of the book:

    The preparation of the people for the appearance of Yahweh on Mount Sinai is recounted in Exodus 19:10–15, when God tells Moses to secure the mountain and to purify the people. Although these instructions initially appear to be inclusive of women and men– in Exodus 19:10 the order is for all the people to stay pure – the specific charge in verse 15 is that preparation for the upcoming revelation of God involves staying away from women for three days. Thus, in its present form, the text appears to be addressed to the men, who are ordered not to go “near” a woman before the Sinai revelation…The injunction in Exodus 19:15 troubles feminist interpreters, because it appears to make women invisible in the covenant community. The command of Moses is specifically addressed only to males: “Prepare for the third day; do not go near a woman.”…The impurity of the women from sexual intercourse appears to be of no concern for the author of Exodus 19:15, even though the book of Leviticus contains sexual laws for both the man and the woman. The narrow focus on the injunction in Exodus 19:15 clearly presents the situation from the male point of view. The text reflects a community of Israelite men but does not address the experiences of women assembled in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. The Jewish feminist Judith Baskin writes of Exodus 19:10–11: It is striking that God’s instructions to Moses are addressed to the whole community. It is Moses who changes them, who glosses God’s message, who assumes that the instructions are meant for only half the people. Thus, at this early stage in Jewish history, Moses filters and interprets God’s command through a patriarchal lens.


  8. Hi, I was wondering about the translation of Deuteronomy 34:10. Some translate it as “Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses” and others as “Since that time…” or something similar, denoting an end to the idea of there not being a prophet in Israel like Moses by the time of writing. Which one is more accurate? Is the latter just an attempt to resolve tension with 18:18? Thanks


  9. A suggestion for another issue in Romans 16.7 (aside from Junia(s)). The NIV translates “τους συγγενεις μου και συναιχμαλωτους μου”, literally “the relatives/kinsfolk/compatriots my and fellow-captives my”, as “my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me”.

    Describing Andronicus and Junia as “fellow Jews”, when the word “Jews” is nowhere in the Greek and “syngeneis” is much less unambiguous that “fellow Jews”, appears motivated by a concern for consistency across texts. Namely, this rendering avoids any suggestion that Paul had near family who were Christians before him, which would sit uncomfortably with the orthodox picture of pre-conversion Paul as zealous persecutor of the Church, as per other epistle passages and Acts. Paul could not have been as zealous as all that if he did not bother to root out the Christians in his own family!

    While the “fellow Jew” interpretation is not impossible it is hardly likely (why would it be worth Paul’s while to point out that a pair of apostles were Jews? if the NT is to be believed, all the early apostles were Jews!!) and none of the half dozen other English translations I’ve looked at uses “Jews”, “Jewish”, or any such term here.

    “… who have been in prison with me” for “fellow-captives” likewise imposes a single reading onto an expression that could have multiple interpretations; but no agenda is obvious in this case.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I agree the NIV is not true to the word of God and actually changes the meaning of Scriptures .
    There are many examples .
    Here is one most would not notice I read just recently it’s Malachi 4 v 6

    KJV says Fathers. NIV says parents .

    What’s wrong with that ?
    The NIV is weakening the headship of the fathers , putting women in equal office subtly . Women are no doubt more comfortable with the NIV because it diminishes the roles of the men that are the heads of family and church etc .


    • You had a point until you went far left with your comment, “Women are no doubt more comfortable with the NIV because it diminishes the roles of the men that are the heads of family and church etc .”

      I am a woman and I prefer NKJV and I don’t have a problem with men being the heads of the family and church. Blessings.


  11. In Luke 1:42, the NIV translates “And Blessed is the child you will bear”. The Greek uses the word ‘karpos’, which translates as fruit, aligning with most English translations – ‘and blessed is the fruit of your womb’. This has important typological impacts in that Christ is eventually “Hung on a Tree”, Ref Acts 5:31. Our original parents fell by taking fruit from a tree, man is redeemed when he puts the “Fruit of the womb” back on the tree. This fruit dies, enters the ground and re-emerges as the bread of life, the antidote to the original poison.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I rarely use it, so I don’t have a strong opinion. It seems to be more word-for-word literal than most other translations, and occasionally it translates YHWH as “God” instead of “the LORD” like most translations do, which is a little weird. It doesn’t appear to have the problems the NIV does, though. I even checked a bunch of random verses from the list above and found one (Genesis 20:13) where it is more faithful than the NRSV.


  12. Interestingly, according to the versions searchable on biblegateway.com, the extra word “fully” at Exodus 6:2-3 does not appear in the UK edition in the NIV.


    • Thanks, Keith. I had no idea the NIV made concrete translation changes for its UK audience. I assumed any differences would have been primarily linguistic (spelling and so on). Now I’m going to have to check and compare other passages.


  13. For the note on Moses’s song, I was under the impression that in ancient (?) Hebrew at least, there is no distinct future tense and a past tense form works place of one, yes? Not asking wether it’s proper to do so in this case, though.

    Could you also clarify your comment about lacking Hebrew texts. Do the NIV’s readings there also divert from LXX (and other readings)? Wondering since you explicitly note LXX uses elsewhere.

    Thanks for the information!



  14. I was surprised at a few oversights: Mark 7:19, James 2:2, John 1:17, Romans 14:14

    (change to “in saying this Jesus declared all foods clean” Mark 7:19 KJV – Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

    (they translate as synagogue everywhere else) James 2:2 KJV – For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

    (no but in sentence–and grace and truth are changed) John 1:17 KJV – For the law was given by Moses, [but] grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

    (replacing “common”) Romans 14:14 KJV – I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that [there is] nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him [it is] unclean.
    To be fair, all translations mistranslate this, but, that doesn’t excuse any of them.


  15. I am very young and I do not have that of an advanced insight on biblical translations, but I think that two pragmatic texts with most new versions are 1 John 5:7 which is the omission of the trinity, and 2 Samuel 21:19 which is about ẅho killed Goliath. Can anyone explain these texts to me? Or why there are so many omissions from present versions?


    • 1 John 5:7 was an addition to the Latin Vulgate that is missing from all early manuscripts, including early Latin manuscripts. It was added to Greek manuscripts in the 15th century and thus ended up in the King James Bible.

      2 Samuel 21:19 is quite clear about Elhanan having been the warrior who killed Goliath, but as shown above, the NIV has altered the text to avoid the contradiction with the popular David story.


  16. I’m interested in finding out why half of Rom 11:6 has been omitted from their (NIV) version? KJV reads “6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”. Whereas NIV only says: “And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”. ?? It omits the “be it of works” half of that scripture.


    • Thanks for the comment, Belinda. The second half of that verse is an interpolation that is missing from practically all early manuscripts. Nearly all translations aside from those based on the Textus Receptus (i.e. the KJV) leave it out.


  17. Thanks for a great resource! I just want to offer a slight correction. The argument you present relating to Matthew 21:7 is slightly flawed.

    >When the Greek text says Jesus sat on them, the masculine αὐτῶν must refer to the animals, and not to the neuter cloaks.)

    αὐτῶν is the genitive plural, and is the same in all three genders in ancient Greek. So you can’t really say that it’s masculine, unless you assume that it’s referring to the animals. It’s in no way clear whether αὐτῶν is a reference to the cloaks or the animals.


  18. From a Catholic POV I definitely do not trust NIV because of Matthew 19 16:17
    KJV, and YLT and Geneva 1599… are like this ->
    And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
    And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

    Theologically speaking I opt for the simplest interpretation. The rich guy instinctively recognize the authority of Christ, so he calls him Good. Christ underlines that (note that he asks why, does not rebuke. By not rebuking a possible blasphemy Christ accepts it, another proof of the underlying theme of the whole Gospel, Jesus is God).

    The absolutely butchered version in the NIV and the NKJV:

    Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
    “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

    which 1. does not make any sense. Grammatically. Semantically. Theologically. No sense. The rich man made a perfectly valid question, Jesus starts a tirade about something the man didn’t say. This is not a NIV version it is a WTF version.
    2. denies Jesus being called Good, therefore it denies the Son.


    • Matthew 19:16-17 contains a well-known textual variant. Here is the entry from http://www.ovc.edu/terry/tc/lay03mat.htm

      Matthew 19:16:
      TEXT: “said, ‘Teacher, what good thing should I do'”
      EVIDENCE: S B D L f1 892text 1010 1365 four lat some cop(north)
      RANK: B
      NOTES: “said, ‘Good teacher, what good thing should I do'”
      EVIDENCE: C K W Delta Theta f13 28 33 565 700 892margin 1241 Byz Lect most lat vg syr most cop

      COMMENTS: The word “good” here seems to have been added by copyists from the parallel passages in Mark 10:17 and Luke 18:18. It is missing from early manuscripts of both Alexandrian and Western kinds of ancient text.

      Matthew 19:17:
      TEXT: “Why do you ask me about what [is] good? There is [only] One who is good.”
      EVIDENCE: S B D L Theta f1 700 892text two lat syr(s) some syr(pal)
      RANK: B
      NOTES: “Why do you call me good? No one [is] good except One, [that is], God.”
      EVIDENCE: C K W Delta f13 28 33 565 1010 1241 Byz Lect two lat syr(p,h) cop(south) some cop(north)

      OTHER: “Why do you ask me about what [is] good? There is [only] One who is good, [that is], God.”
      EVIDENCE: most lat vg syr(c) some syr(pal) most cop(north)

      OTHER: “Why do you ask me about what [is] good? No one is good except One, [that is], God.”
      EVIDENCE: 892margin two lat

      COMMENTS: The reading in the notes seems to have been taken from the parallel passages in Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19. The reading in the text is found in Caesarean as well as Alexandrian and Western types of ancient text.

      The New American Bible, a Catholic translation, says this:

      16 Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” 17 He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good.* If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • This is very disappointing about the NIV. I had thought that they were more detached from the consumer than that. In terms of worship, it’s difficult for me to use anything but the KJV or to cite from anything but the KJV while noting any possible translation issues. This is because of the majestic sweep and poverty of vocabulary of the KJV. To me, it is one of the great works of western civilization. It apparently has a far more condense vocabulary than Shakespeare which probably helped comprehensibility for a while. The thing is now, if someone quotes from a mundane Bible version, some times I struggle to even make the connection to the KJV verse because the new versions sound so utilitarian and plain. The KJV is also great for anyone trying to master Elizabethan grammar and other conventions, especially in the pursuit of foreign languages since English only has you. The intimate thou conveys something different from you in the decalog.

        I still believe Christianity in a non-fundamentalist scenario can be worthy of pursuit and the sheer pleasure of the the majestic KJV makes church bearable if not enjoyable. I understand that there are modern versions closer to the Hebrew and Greek but even the story of the KJV is majestic. Now these Bible publishers all sound the same with their woefully spare versions. If anyone thinks any other versions are worthy as literature I would be interested but I think there can only be one KJV. It’s like trying to copy Shakespeare or putting Shakespeare into routine English. I have read that Luther’s version in German is also a great work of art. Christianity has indeed given us incredible arts and music throughout the ages.


        • Thanks for the comment, William. The KJV is undoubtedly a monumental work of English literature, and it often captures the meaning of the original text in a way that modern translations fail to do.


  19. I suggest Luke 23.45 as an addition to your wonderful list. I can’t find any translations at all that translate it correctly, mind: they all obfuscate the meaning of τοῦ ἡλίου ἐκλιπόντος to avoid a contradiction between Luke and real astronomy. In other words, this isn’t a slight on the NIV, but on pretty much all translations.

    The correct meaning of the phrase is ‘upon the sun being eclipsed’, or alternatively ‘because of a solar eclipse’. When used of the sun, the verb ἐκλείπω is totally unambiguous. But modern translators are aware that Passover happens at full moon, while solar eclipses happen at new moon, and so they opt for alternative meanings that are valid when ἐκλείπω is used of other things: e.g. ‘the sun was darkened’, ‘the sun failed’, etc. Even Jewish translations of the New Testament do this. More than half of the NT Greek dictionaries I’ve checked simply leave out the correct definition, even though it’s the standard verb to use for an eclipse in Koine Greek. I’ve put some more documentation here, in the third section: https://kiwihellenist.blogspot.com/2021/09/dates-jesus-1.html

    Ancient readers were perfectly well aware that the phrase referred to a solar eclipse: Thallos, BNJ 256 F 1; Tertullian, Apologeticum 21; Julius Africanus, Chronographiae F93 ed. Wallraff; Origen, Against Celsus 2.33 and 2.59; Eusebius, Chronicle, on Olympiad 202,4.

    Tertullian and Julius Africanus argue _against_ the eclipse interpretation because they’re aware of the astronomical impossibility. But there’s no indication that they tried to explain away Luke’s phrase the way that modern translations do.

    On the textual tradition: early manuscripts give the ‘eclipse’ reading, and it’s printed in all modern critical editions of the Greek text. From the 5th century onwards, though, scribes introduced a textual variant to fudge the phrase: the corrupted text uses a generic verb instead of the technical term: ἐσκοτίσθη (δὲ) ὁ ἥλιος, ‘and the sun was darkened’. There’s no doubt that ‘the sun was eclipsed’ was the original reading.

    Here are a few translations to compare:

    Liked by 1 person

  20. What are your thoughts on 1 Corinthians 6:9?
    “…men who have sex with men (NIV)”.

    In 1946 a group of men got together to translate the bible and make the Revised Standard Version, RSV.
    When they got to 1 Corinthians 6:9 they translated the last Greek word in that verse to Homosexuality.

    This was the first and only time the English word homosexuality has appeared in both the new and old testament.

    Once they released the RSV, a seminary student wrote to the head of the RSV translation team, Luther Allan Weigle, and told him that he thought they made a mistake translating that word. According to that student this Greek word is very rare and only appears in all Greek transcripts 100 times, and when it does it better translates to “Sexual Pervert.” Luther Weigle wrote back and agreed that they had made a mistake, but that he couldn’t make any edits for ten years.

    Currently the NRSV uses the term “male prostitutes, sodomites.” Where the NIV says “men who have sex with men.”

    I have been a Christian my whole life and never heard this story. Supposedly the Yale archives has these letters between the student Luther Weigle. What’s your take on this story? Is it accurate, did I miss anything or miss represent something?



  21. This is a great read. I wanted to point out two that I didn’t notice here in this post:

    Isaiah 7:14 – The NIV and some other translations put “The young woman WILL conceive”, probably as a means to justify the statement in Matthew 1. The Hebrew text states “The young woman HAS conceived” or “The young woman is with child”. This indicates that the young woman appears to already be pregnant. However,

    Isaiah 9:6 (v. 5 in Hebrew text) – The NIV and some other translations put “A child IS born to us, a son IS given to us”, most likely conforming to the interpretation that this is a Messianic prophecy. The Hebrew text, however, uses passive verbs, so it reads as “A child WAS born to us, a son WAS given to us”.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Regarding Luke 23:45 again, the translation with one of the most specific references to an eclipse that I’ve found is the New American Bible:

    44 It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon 45 because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.

    As you mention in the entry for this verse, Paul, the NRSV puts this translation in a footnote. I found an instance of the same Greek word used in Sirach, and in that passage, the NRSV uses “eclipsed.”

    Sirach 17:31
    What is brighter than the sun? Yet it can be eclipsed. So flesh and blood devise evil.

    You can see how other translations render the verse here: https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Sirach%2017%3A31

    The KJV is not listed, but it says, “What is brighter than the sun? yet the light thereof faileth…” I wonder if the KJV and other translators were influenced by Luke 23:45 and needed to be consistent, or if they thought that their translation was also valid. There’s a Reddit discussion about the verse here: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskBibleScholars/comments/8ynt0r/did_luke_make_a_mistake_in_verse_2345_of_his/

    (Sirach 22:11 also uses the Greek word, but not in refence to the sun, in a similar way to the NT’s uses of the word in Luke 16:9, 22:32, and Hebrews 1:12.)

    The OP’s first comment is this:

    …I’ve recently stumbled onto the claim that in the original Greek of Luke’s gospel, 23:45 which describes the sun’s light failing, is the standard technical way to describe an eclipse. This is obviously problematic, since Passover takes place on a full moon, not to mention the lack of historical evidence for a full solar eclipse around AD 33.

    However, it seem like some scholars believe the verse can be translated more generally as “the sun having failed,” which I believe is closer to how other gospels describe it. This appears to be the position of Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzmyer, both of whom, while Catholic clergy members, weren’t afraid to critically question Church dogma.

    So, it is possible for the verse to be translated from Greek in another way than describing a literal eclipse?

    The hyperlink in OP’s comment is from a discussion on b-Greek:

    Apparently, some scholars think that a cessation of light rather than an actual eclipse could be intended. My thoughts, though, are these:
    1) If Luke intended to say that an eclipse occurred, how much more specific could he be than to use the word for, well, an eclipse?
    2) Luke 23:44 is nearly identical to the parallels in Mark 15:33 and Matthew 27:45:

    Mark 15:33
    33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.

    Matthew 27:45
    45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.

    Luke 23:44
    44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,

    It’s apparent that if darkness were over “the whole land” for three hours, then it meant that the sun stopped shining rather than simply cloud cover, a dust storm, etc. Since this is the case, it seems quite redundant for Luke to then add verse 45 if all that it meant is that the sun stopped shining, which was already established. On the other hand, to add that the darkness was caused by an eclipse is a pertinent piece of information to emphasize the importance and significance of Jesus’ death. Note also that Luke, contra Mark and Matthew, mentions the tearing of the Temple’s veil as occurring at the same time as the eclipse–*before* Jesus cries out and passes away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • These are all great observations, John. Luke clearly added the mention of an eclipse to the description he was already borrowing from Mark. Presumably, he thought this clarified and explained the cause of the darkness better.


  23. Deuteronomy 10:10 (NIV)
    10 Now I had stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights, as I did the first time, and the LORD listened to me at this time also. It was not his will to destroy you.

    Similar to what it does with Exodus 11:1, listed above, the NIV changes the tense from past to past perfect (a/k/a pluperfect). It does this because 10:10 more logically fits directly after or before Deut. 9:25 (especially compare 9:18 to 10:11), but there is intervening material, including the parenthetical account of Aaron’s death and the selection of the tribe of Levi in 10:6-8. Perhaps this is an example of the “dismembering” of the Bible. The NRSV and most, but not all, versions I checked keep the present tense in 10:10. See https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Deuteronomy%2010:10

    Liked by 1 person

      • Here are a couple of interesting comments about this verse.

        *The New Century Commentary: Deuteronomy* by A.D.H. Mayes, page 207:

        [Deuteronomy 10:10] cannot follow directly either on v. 9 or on v. 5, but is clearly the continuation of the intercession of 9:26-29 (von Rad)…It has been modified through the addition of the words as at the first time (which are not found in the LXX) and that time also (repeated from 9:19), in order to accommodate more smoothly the deuteronomistic material already incorporated.

        *Deuteronomy: A Commentary* by Richard D. Nelson, p. 128:

        Verse 10a is a resumptive repetition of 9:18 and 25…Because the time and place (“the mountain”) of 10:10 equal that of 9:18 and 9:25, one might choose to construe the tense as pluperfect: “I had taken my stand.”

        Liked by 1 person

  24. I have re-read this and it strikes me that Catholics/Anglicans and the Orthodox have church tradition and the various creeds like the Nicene Creed to rely on but the sola scripture folks do not.

    Literally, the Bible is imploding upon itself via textual analyses, new insight related to captivity under the Persians. Hebrews appear to have been polytheistic until after the exile. Much of the writings are blatantly pro-priesthood and by inventing Jeremiah, somehow this seemed to justify the Jewish homeland. How about saying we are original Canaanites.

    I checked Torah.com and our Jewish scholarly types do not care one iota whether or not Moses actually invented because Jewish tradition and interpretation bind them in many ways. Many/most? Jews are relieved to know that Joshua was created out of thin air. Joshua is/was an embarrassment to all people of the book. First time that I read Joshua I knew, ha, via the Spirit that the book was a fabrication. 600,000 men ready to bear arms? Wow! Alexander could only muster 40,000. No wonder the Jews were so successful in battles against everybody except Chemosh. Chemosh appeared (appears?) to be more than a match for Yahweh and Yahweh’s temper.

    None of this creativity in the O.T. offends me because eh, it makes it all more interesting. Just doing a search on the names of God should be devastating to many Christians though. Yahweh’s clumsy name change came off like a lead balloon. Believe me, I used to be “El” but um, I lied to the Patriarchs about my name just for fun but from now on, it’s Yahweh. Except there are still many references to El and also to grove trees in the O.T. They sure loved the grove tree; even more than they loved Yahweh sort of like Mother Mary compared to God; Mary is accessible and Asherah might have been too.

    I emailed this to a fundie relative and also a semi-fundie relative. I am simply flabbergasted by your article. Since I rely equally on church traditional, I continue referencing this great work of art, the KJV, which seems to far more accurate than the NIV especially with its you/thou distinction and its lack of editorial judgment. I understand the problems of translating accurately completely but I don’t depend upon the inerrancy doctrine. Furthermore, it was clearly apparent that most of these verses were translated with an ax to grind which is abhorrent and fraudulent. The promotion of the trinity its blatant but since we have church doctrine backing us in the Catholic church, we don’t sweat it.

    I was baptized Catholic and started off in that church until lol Jim and Tammy Bakker converted my blessed mother who is now a 24/7 rapture-tologist. Now I then transitioned in the Lutheran church and now I seek confirmation. Raise up a child in the way that they should go and all….

    All of your site is amazing and you do it without snark, well not much. Thanks for your service to intellectualism and scholarship. The NIV just blatantly lies in its preface about not being a paraphrase Bible except when it really matters to them. Let’s see what happens with the current general when they learn that Moses never lived; they are already cynical and generally much less invested in Christianity. I remember in Bible class (two years in a fundamentalist school until I rebelled and fled to public school and normalcy and I knew the Resurrection stories were mismatched. I knew it was unclear about what the crow did and how many times and a variety of other things. But the obscuring of Asherah makes the Bible somewhat incomprehensible except the editors left plenty of evidence that the Jews were not backsliding at all. They were pretty much always pagan and indistinguishable from other Canaanites and mostly seem to have differed from Egyptians in terms of pantheon and from Moab related to who deity was more powerful.

    The She-bears and the cackling boys is always wholesome to hear about. Heal your head, Elisha and then come back to me and by the way, Elijah who was no more, he had a full head of hair, Elisha, just saying. I realize I am editorializing but I wanted to make more clear just how much you have helped me as I continue to try to escape fundamentalism. If I am wrong, I will recant on my deadbeat while asking the priest to pray for me after I am dead. Jesus conducts teaching classes apparently subterraneously. Okay enough snark from me but much, much gratitude. Most of the things you deal with I knew in my ahem spirit were not true, could not be true and you have confirmed a whole slew of things that I “knew already”.

    May our Lady in Heaven Bless you and Pray for you in your hours of need; (Yahweh, stay clear from petitioning that dude ’cause; the guy’s an ornery cuss (after all)).

    Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

    Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.

    Revelation 22:19
    King James Version
    19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

    New International Version
    19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the nice comment, William. The things I write about are guided mostly by personal interest, but if I do impact my readers in any way, I hope it’s to help them find a way out of fundamentalism and into a healthier and more liberating view of religion and the Bible.

      As someone somewhere has testified, “the truth shall set you free.”

      PS. Telling Elisha to heal his own baldness — that’s some comedy gold right there. It takes me back to the Toronto Airport revival days when healing baldness was among the claims being made by Neopentecostals.


  25. I like my Bible superheroes to be incredibly attractive with a full head of female quality hair so I am no fan of David. Absalom could have gotten everybody to worship whoever he said. It’s a shame for a “man” to have long hair but it’s even more of a shame for him not to be able to grow long hair. Paul was not any sort of hair hero ever. If the Beatles were in the Bible, it would be so much more pleasant.

    Old grumpy “prophets”, eh. Turn off your mind relax and float downstream and just let all of the fear of hell pour out of you. Thank Goddess that I had my four fathers George, Paul, John and Ringo to raise me and teach me right from wrong and that it’s not a shame in fact for me to still have long hair that drapes in my eyes but I do have cute hats so maybe Paul would groove on that.

    Some times it’s the religion that stops us from being the person we want to be. Is this gay or lesbian so you have to escape from fundamentals before you can find your true self. I don’t think being androgynous is a sin so I pay great attention to verses related to androgyny like angels or maybe even Deborah but I read all of the hair verses. Jesus is always shown with Beatles’ quality hair while Yahweh has a white beard and back-swept gray hair as he touches fingers with Adam. That’s a bit of a jarring image so I switched to Goddess worship and it’s just a miracle how my life has improved, plus it irks fundies when I always sign off like below but I have two names now too.

    Goddess Bless.

    Janey Elizabeth.


  26. Found yet another fun one. Psalm 12.7:

    You, LORD, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked

    “The needy” is not in the Hebrew. What it actually says is “them”, which makes no sense in context: “they” in this Psalm are the people who flatter with their lips etc – the whole point is the contrast with “us”. What has obviously happened here is that the Hebrew endings for “them” (ם) and “us” (נו) look very similar – somewhere in the transmission history of the Leningrad codex, the ink got smudged; after all, the Greek reads “us” here and there are even (according to the BHS apparatus) a few Hebrew MSS that also read “us”. This shouldn’t be all that contentious – even the CSB reads “us”; this isn’t just a liberal NRSV thing – unless of course one is seeking to hold not only that the autographs were inerrant, but that a particular copy of the Bible made in 1008/9 CE was itself by some peculiar sort of divine providence preserved from trivial errors, despite all evidence to the contrary. Then it would make sense to supply a wholly new implied object.

    As a final aside, the NIV isn’t the first translation to pull this particular stunt. The Bishops’ Bible of 1568 came up with a similar solution to this problem:

    [Wherfore] thou wylt kepe the godly, O God: thou wylt preserue euery one of them from this generation for euer.

    If anything, it deserves even more criticism than the NIV for its inconsistent bracketing of supplied words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great find, James! The second half of the verse looks suspicious as well. The Hebrew says “this generation”, not “the wicked [NIV]”. I’ll look into it further.


      • The manuscript containing Psalm 12 found at Nahal Hever, Nahal Hever Psalms, says “them” in verse seven:

        5 “Because of the oppression of the weak and because of the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says Yahweh; “I will set him in safety from those who malign him.” 6 Yahweh’s words are flawless words, as silver refined in a clay furnace, purified seven times. 7 You will keep them, Yahweh. You will preserve them from this generation forever. 8 The wicked walk on every side, when what is vile is exalted among the sons of men.

        However, 11Q7 Psalms(c), even though it also says “them,” adds something to verse 5 which changes the possible antecedent of “them”:

        5 Because of the oppression of the weak and because of the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says Yahweh to the righteous; “I will set him in safety from those who malign him.” 6 Yahweh’s words are flawless words, as silver refined in a clay furnace, purified seven times. 7 You will keep them, Yahweh. You will preserve them from this generation forever. 8 The wicked walk on every side, when what is vile is exalted among the sons of men.

        See http://dssenglishbible.com/psalms%2012.htm

        Liked by 1 person

  27. I came across this article and comment thread and became interested because I take issue with the way the NIV translation and the notes in the NIV Study Bible skew the interpretation toward eternal damnation. The translators and annotators hold the traditional position on hell, and sometimes they fudge the translation to remove any hint of universal salvation, for example, as you have noted in Titus 2:11 and 1 Peter 4:6. And there are at least a couple dozen instances where the study notes say, in effect, this passage can’t possibly mean what it seems to say because that would contradict eternal damnation, which we know is a fact.

    I compiled some of these examples and wrote an article about the NIV Study Bible’s misleading translations and annotations (which later became a chapter in a book I wrote). I would love to share the article and get some feedback here. Is there a way to upload a file for consideration?


    • Hi Diane. I don’t think there’s any way to upload the file through WordPress, but if you want to put it on Google Docs or something similar (Dropbox, etc.) and post a link here, I and probably other readers would like to have a look at it. In particular, I don’t have a good source for annotated NIV editions.


    • Thanks, that was a good read. It’s remarkable the lengths to which the editors have gone to write notes for every single verse that could be construed as teaching universal salvation. It seems, though, that with regard to mistranslations in the biblical passages themselves, I’ve already listed all the ones you mention.


  28. Here’s another catch for you: Hebrews 5:7. The NIV has it:
    During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.
    Here’s the Greek (I checked five different Greek editions and they don’t materially differ):
    ὃς ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ δεήσεις τε καὶ ἱκετηρίας πρὸς τὸν δυνάμενον σῴζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς καὶ δακρύων προσενέγκας καὶ εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας,
    Let’s focus on the first phrase: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth…”
    However the Greek includes no mention of “life” or “earth.” Darby’s Literal New Testament renders it:
    Who, in the days of His flesh…
    and offers an alternative as well, since it’s not completely clear in the Greek whether αὐτοῦ refers to “days” or “flesh”:
    Who, in His days of the flesh…
    Young’s Literal Translation opts for the first of those renderings, except that it omits the comma.
    “Life on earth” doesn’t mean “days of his flesh” unless you make some specific Christological assumptions.
    I have seen this verse cited to refute the kind of mythicism espoused by, say, Richard Carrier, in which the incarnated Jesus was thought to have lived in a celestial realm up in the sky, and ever set foot in our world until after the Resurrection. See, it says right there that He lived on earth! No, actually, it doesn’t say that. Jesus could have lived the days of his flesh in a celestial realm.
    My point is not to espouse or defend mythicism, but only to point out that the NIV’s mistranslation has exegetical consequences.
    But speaking of Richard Carrier: he among others has pointed out that 1 Cor 11:23 is commonly mistranslated. Here’s the NIV:
    For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread…
    The Greek word here rendered as “betrayed,” παρέδωκα, doesn’t mean that. Or rather, it can mean that in the right context, but more generally just means “delivered up” or “handed over.” There is no hint of a betrayal in the text of Paul, who nowhere shows any awareness of the Judas story. The translators have injected a concept from the Gospels into a context where it is not otherwise present. To be fair, this is a common mistranslation, not something peculiar to the NIV.


  29. 2 Chronicles 9:21 (NRSV):
    For the king’s ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram; once every three years the ships of Tarshish used to come bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.

    New JPS Tanakh:
    The king’s fleet traveled to Tarshish with Huram’s servants. Once every three years, The Tarshish fleet came in, bearing gold and silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.

    The king had a fleet of trading ships manned by Hiram’s servants. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons.

    The NIV has completely omitted the references to Tarshish, more notably the statement that the ships *went to* Tarshish. It did this to absolve the Chronicler from the error of assuming that the “ships of Tarshish” or “Tarshish fleet” *went to* Tarshish to obtain ivory and apes. The Chronicler’s source is
    1 Kings 10:22, but that passage refers only to “ships of Tarshish,” with no mention of their destination to obtain the items listed. 1 Kings 10:22 also mentions gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. *The Interpreter’s Bible* offers this explanation for the Chronicles verse:

    Ships of Tarshish: Tarshish was probably a Phoenician settlement in Spain, and the Chronicler strangely took the phrase literally. But it denoted ocean-going vessels (cf. Indiamen”), and the cargoes brought back show that the two kings were trading down the Red Sea to India and Africa.

    I’ll note too that the LXX translator(s) altered 1 Kings 10:22 from what’s in the MT, making the same mistake that the Chronicler did in 2 Chronicles 9:21.

    1 Kings 10:22 (New JPS Tanakh):
    For the king had a Tarshish fleet on the sea, along with Hiram’s fleet. once every three years, the Tarshish fleet came in, bearing gold and silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.

    For the king had a ship of Tharsis at sea with the ships of Chiram, one ship used to come to the king from Tharsis every three years with gold and silver and carved and hew stones.

    It appears that when the Chronicler and translator(s) of the LXX wrote, the misconception about the “ships of Tarsish” was extant, and that the LXX changed the ships’ cargo to be more consistent with a Tarshish destination. And in case you’re wondering about the baboons/peacocks difference between the NIV and the NRSV/JPS Tanakh, see here: https://claudemariottini.com/2013/12/03/peacocks-or-baboons/

    Liked by 1 person

  30. 2 Chronicles 20:24-25 (New KJV)
    24 So when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped. 25 When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away their spoil, they found among them an abundance of valuables on the dead bodies, and precious jewelry, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away; and they were three days gathering the spoil because there was so much.

    2 Chronicles 20:24-25 (NIV)
    24 When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. 25 So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it.

    The NIV has substituted “clothing” for “dead bodies,” which it says in a footnote is the Vulgate reading and that of “some Hebrew manuscripts.” Perhaps St. Jerome and the NIV felt some unease about the depiction of stripping corpses of valuables and jewelry. The 1917 JPS Tanakh reads: “And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches and dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away…” The NIV is not alone, as unfortunately the NRSV translates verse 25 thusly: “So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away..” It has a similar footnote as that of the NIV.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Numbers 1 is a chapter that looks to me like it might have had some “dismembering” (to use a term from your last article) done to it. Verses 1-46 contain the instruction to take a census, the names of tribal members to assist with the count, and the tallies. Then in verses 47-49, we read this (as quoted in the NIV):

    47 The ancestral tribe of the Levites, however, was not counted along with the others. 48 The LORD had said to Moses: 49 “You must not count the tribe of Levi or include them in the census of the other Israelites.

    The text then states the reason that the Levites aren’t to be counted (though they are later counted in Numbers 3!) and their duties. It appears to me that verse 49 more naturally belongs after verse three for a couple of reasons. As the text now reads, vv. 47-48 state that Yahweh had already told Moses to exempt the Levites, even though that is never stated until verse 49. Also, verse 56 seems very out of place as it states that, “[t}he Israelites did all this just as the LORD commanded Moses.” This makes sense as a concluding statement after taking a census but seems out of place directly after stating to not count the Levites and stating why. All of this leads me to the verse I’m nominating for inclusion, Numbers 1:48, which I contend should be in the past tense. It’s short but serves as a bridge to explain the sudden discussion of the Levites. The NIV and other translations render it in the pluperfect/past perfect to make the transition smoother, but the verse is actually in the past tense. The Jerusalem Bible, for example, translates this way:

    47 But the Levites and their patriarchal tribe were not included in the count. 48: Yahweh spoke to Moses and said: ‘Do not, however, take any census of the Levites…

    The Interpreter’s Bible gives this commentary:

    In the Hebrew vs. 47 is attached to vs. 46 as the last part of a paragraph, and the KJV therefore translates vs. 48, For the LORD had spoken unto Moses; but this is indefensible as a translation, which must be “And Yahweh spake…” It would therefore seem that some dislocation of text has taken place, or that different sources were used…

    A.H. McNeile’s commentary on Numbers says this on page 6:

    For the Lord spake…the Rendering of the R.V., which is quite inadmissible, conceals the difficulty that the command not to number the Levites follows the statement that they were not numbered. Some transposition, the extent of which is uncertain, has taken place; or perhaps v. 47 is a gloss.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. In ‪Zephaniah‬3:17, it was translated as “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.
    He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
    However, the Hebrew texts do not include any single word like “rebuke.”
    In KJV, it was translated as ” The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
    And in ASV, Jehovah thy God is in the midst of thee, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing.”
    What’s wrong with the translators of NIV!!!!?


    • Thanks, Stephen, I’ll check it out.

      Update: The text of Zeph. 3:17 is uncertain in meaning, and there are some scholars who propose something along the lines of God being silent instead of rebuking Israel’s sin, so I’ll let this one go.


  33. I first mentioned Exodus 16:34 in January 2017 (https://isthatinthebible.wordpress.com/articles-and-resources/deliberate-mistranslation-in-the-new-international-version-niv/comment-page-3/#comment-1703) because I thought that the NIV was trying to avoid the anachronism of the “Testimony” (Ark of the Covenant) existing before it was built. That may have been the motivation for the change even from the original NIV’s translation, which correctly mentions the Testimony. I think it’s also possible that the NIV did this to harmonize Exodus 16:34 with Hebrews 9:4, which says that the jar of manna was *inside* the Ark along with the Ten Commandments and Aaron’s budding rod. The NIV, without textual justification, adds the words “with the tablets of the covenant law” in Exodus 16:34. Whatever the motivation, it’s definitely a poor and misleading rendering.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m considering this one. I almost feel that the word “with” is the biggest sin in the NIV’s version, so they can get away with pretending the manna went inside the ark.

      There’s no way to avoid the anachronism here, since the tablets don’t exist yet either. I found a pretty good paper by Joel Baden on how all of Exodus 16 has been inserted in the wrong place chronologically.


  34. I’m nominating 2 Kings 23:10-13 and 1 Kings 11:5-7. There is some uncertainty about the “deity” Molech among scholars and his relationship to the god of the Ammonites, Milcom. Some scholars aren’t sure if “Molech” is even a deity as opposed to a kind of sacrifice. (The Anchor Bible Dictionary and The Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible refer to Eissfeldt’s research leading to this conclusion.) Whether Molech is a deity, and if so, what his relationship to Milcom is, is an interesting question, but regardless, the Hebrew Bible distinguishes between Milcom and Molech. Milcom appears in 1 Kings 11:5, 33 and 2 Kings 23:13. (There is reference to a person with this name in 1 Chronicles 8:9.) Molech is in Leviticus 18:21, 20:2-5, 1 Kings 11:7, 2 Kings 23:10, and Jeremiah 32:35. The NIV says “Molek” in all of these places–those for Milcom and Molech–plus adds Isaiah 57:9; Jeremiah 49:1,3; and Zephaniah 1:5. I’m nominating the verses I am because in 2 Kings 23 and 1 Kings 11, Milcom and Molech are distinguished from each other just a few verses apart, but because the NIV renders the *both* Hebrew words as “Molek,” this distinction is hidden from the reader. Here is a quote from George C. Heider’s entry for “Molech” on page 584 of Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible:

    The Biblical evidence suggests a distinction from Milcom of the Ammonites by specifying that Josiah destroyed distinct holy places for the two (2 Kgs 23:10-13) and by stressing that Molech’s origins were Canaanite.

    In the same book, Émile Puech says this in his article on Milcom, page 576:

    In the biblical passages, [Milcom and Molech] are separately worshipped and have a separate cult place in Jerusalem (1 Kgs 11 :5.7 [Molech -MT but Milcom -Greek]33; 2 Kgs 23:10.13: a sanctuary south of the mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and a tophet in the valley of [Ben] Hinnom. south of Jerusalem).

    1 Kings 11:5-7 (NIV)
    5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. 7 On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites.

    1 Kings 11:5-7 (NRSV)
    5 For Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not completely follow the LORD, as his father David had done. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.

    2 Kings 23:10-13 (NIV)
    10 He desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice their son or daughter in the fire to Molek. 11 He removed from the entrance to the temple of the Lord the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were in the court near the room of an official named Nathan-Melek. Josiah then burned the chariots dedicated to the sun. 12 He pulled down the altars the kings of Judah had erected on the roof near the upper room of Ahaz, and the altars Manasseh had built in the two courts of the temple of the Lord. He removed them from there, smashed them to pieces and threw the rubble into the Kidron Valley. 13 The king also desecrated the high places that were east of Jerusalem on the south of the Hill of Corruption—the ones Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the vile goddess of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the vile god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the people of Ammon.

    2 Kings 23:10-13 (NRSV)
    10 He defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of Ben-hinnom, so that no one would make a son or a daughter pass through fire as an offering to Molech. 11 He removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the Lord, by the chamber of the eunuch Nathan-melech, which was in the precincts;[a] then he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. 12 The altars on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars that Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, he pulled down from there and broke in pieces, and threw the rubble into the Wadi Kidron. 13 The king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the Mount of Destruction, which King Solomon of Israel had built for Astarte the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.

    Liked by 1 person

      • You two continue to impress. I try to check everything with non-conservative Jewish groups and it seems dead on. The multiple names of the same essential entities as gods or goddesses is always intriguing and explicative. I think that it’s possible that even though Asherah and Astarte seem to be different goddesses and most likely heavenly sisters, the names in English at least are so similar as to be easily confused especially since Baal seems to be a dead ringer for either a non-omnipotent Yahweh or an extremely powerful son of El, who is more remote and detached as a Heavenly Father or platonic idea. Something just capitalized H.F. so all can see how difficult it is to even discuss El and Yahweh because some times these are proper names apparently and other times they are descriptive. Because I prefer to address a female energy in terms of the most important humane precepts to me, trying to say Goddess is likely to offend someone but if I write goddess then I am just an offbeat Wiccan or both, which is probably true.

        One thing that you two have inspired me to do is to check Islamic mythology and official tenets and to piece to gather as Mr. D. does with Psalms and the poetic books, what Islam states or purports to state. Comparing Ishmael is fascinating especially given that we know that the OT story is logically deficient in terms of ages of practically everyone in the various verses. Many in Islam see the Jinn as different from angels and demons and perhaps occupying, Indiana Jones-like a different dimension on the same planet. It might be Persian influence since they seem to have confused the various Info-European terms of deities vs. demons or devils or Demi-gods. Most of the Greek and Roman pantheon seem to be Demi-gods. Norse mythology seems to be somewhat similar to a blend of Roman and Celtic mythology and thus lacks generally monuments.

        I incorporate many of these contradictions in my stand up act and there are usually many Semites and Christians but not many born again types so I have to know my audience. Paul maintains a blog of decorum with elevated discourse and I think, like me, he “knows” many of the people who want to prove Jesus happened as I state it in one joke in my stand up act. I know my target audience and it’s not fundamentalists but I don’t believe in disparaging or self-deprecating humor.

        Best to both of you. I would love to see Paul address more and more, like Islamic mythology and Persian mythology but Semites and Into-European peoples or even in terms of linguistics have a link going back to the beginning of written history and often the discussion now, is still assuming God is capitalized or implicitly should be. Even the Platonic ideas often come off as “male” during this period where XX’s increasingly dominate everything except for the sciences and manual labor since mostly guys work at the docks or in mines or steel mill or other back-breaking work. Asherah appears to have been hidden on purpose by all three Abrahamic regions. The ideal of never saying the name of god/God makes it some times futile to even figure out if Qos equals Yahweh and the use of Adonai (similar to Adonis?) further obscures things when we search for the true meaning. Most Jews rely on the Talmud and other interpretative writings to formulate what they either believe or should belief. Thus interpretation is above the literal word but that remains important too. Christians worship the Bible over the Spirit or the Breath of the Divine in a way that is almost a renunciation of their core concept that only faith matters. You cannot prove faith as Kierkegaard elegantly showed. Even his name sounds contrived if his writings were inspired as test or gospel.

        Thanks. I check here frequently looking for more ways to elaborate how I view faith even as an agnostic who want to believe in Her or even Them but not Him. Just like with Elohim, I can use plurals to obfuscate as with “they” “their” or “them”. Is it their self or selves or is it They was since that makes at least some sense. Saying “I saw Leslie then. I saw her partner yesterday. Apparently, they moved to Mexico” is largely devoid of meaning except someone, uncertain in number was seen and someone, or some two moved to Mexico.

        I am continuing in my second career in stand up and it’s actually a great audience for Semitic humor and gender humor from someone sort of in the middle but eh, on HRT and who looks like Audrey Hepburn. But I also joke that many times, our very own mirrors might deceive us but mine appear to be working properly and so far, the mirror only reflects but never answers back when I ask who is the fairest of all.


  35. Mark 2:13-15
    3 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.

    Verse 15 actually says “*his* house,” which in context would more naturally be Jesus’ house. (Note, too, that Jesus tells Levi to follow him, which, if anything, makes it more likely that the home was Jesus’, not Levi’s.) The RSV translates the passage correctly:

    13 He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them. 14 And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.15 And as he sat at table in his house…

    The NRSV has, unfortunately, changed “his” to “Levi’s,” but at least it, unlike the NIV, indicates the change in a footnote. Why does the NIV (and some other translations) make this change? There are probably two reasons, at least:

    1) When Luke reworks this pericope, Luke explicitly says that the house is Levi’s and that Levi provided a “great feast” (Luke 5:29). [Matthew, who of course changes the man’s name from Levi to Matthew, follows Mark more closely and refers simply to “the house,” with no mention of a feast (Matthew 9:10).]

    2) Matthew 8:20 and Luke 9:58 contain the famous, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (This is also found in Gospel of Thomas, saying 86.) Matthew and Luke also have no equivalent to Mark 2:1, which says that Jesus was “at home” in Capernaum.

    Saying that Jesus had a home goes against the “homeless Jesus” that one could infer from Matthew and Luke.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Great list! I have a few more to add:
    1. Genesis 2:7 – “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground.” The Hebrew word used here is adam, which does not mean a male person. It is a generic, non-gender specific human being. The word man does not appear until the woman also appears in verse 22.
    2. Genesis 2:22 – “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man.” Translators know what the word for rib is from many extra biblical sources, and it is not the word used here. The word should be written as side or part.
    3. Genesis 2:24 – “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife.” There is no word for wife nor for husband anywhere in the Bible, both Hebrew or Greek. There is only man and woman (or a man and his woman).
    4. Genesis 4:1 – “[Eve] said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” This text more literally says, “I have procreated a man with Yahweh!” God was the father of Eve’s first son, Cain.
    5. Genesis 24:67 – “Isaac brought [Rebekah] into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah.” There is no verb to marry anywhere in the Hebrew Bible. There were no marriage ceremonies. A man took his woman (sexually) and she became his property. Usually the man had to pay her father for his daughter, as any buyer of property would, but they were not married as we think of it today.
    6. Genesis 37:3 – “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of this other sons… and he made an ornate robe for him.” Translators claim that the Hebrew meaning of this word is uncertain, however when the same word is used in 2 Samuel 13:18 the text tells us that it this was “the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore.” But the translators did not want to admit that Joseph wore a princess dress, so they claim ignorance.
    7. Leviticus 16:8 – “[Aaron] is to cast lots for the two goats – one for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat.” The word scapegoat was invented in the 1530’s as a way of avoiding the fact that the Israelites were told to sacrifice two goats – one “for the Lord” and the other “for Azazel”. Azazel was most likely a desert demon.
    8. Deuteronomy 32:8 – “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.” The oldest, and therefore most reliable, manuscripts of this text do not say sons of Israel. Instead, it is referring to the sons of God. Yahweh is just one of the many sons of the highest god, El.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. I found a few more:
    9. Leviticus 16:8 – “[Aaron] is to cast lots for the two goats – one for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat.” The word scapegoat was invented in the 1530’s as a way of avoiding the fact that the Israelites were told to sacrifice two goats – one “for the Lord” and the other “for Azazel”. Azazel was most likely a desert demon.
    10. Ruth 3:8 – “In the middle of the night something startled [Boaz].” Boaz was not startled, he was embraced. This is the same root word used when Samson was clinging to the temple pillars to topple them. He did not startle them, he grabbed hold of them as Ruth grabbed hold of Boaz in a potentially compromising way.
    11. Psalm 22:16 – “Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet.” The first verse of this Psalm is said to have been quoted by Jesus on the cross (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) The translators like to say they pierce my hands and my feet because it sounds like something that happens at crucifixion. But the original Hebrew has nothing to do with piercing. The oldest manuscripts say, “Like a lion, they are at my hands and feet.”


    • Thanks. I do have an entry for Psalm 22:16 (and Genesis 4:1). For passages like Deuteronomy 32:8, I generally give NIV a pass as long as they follow the Masoretic Text, since they claim to be based on that manuscript tradition.


  38. Is this one? Colossians 2:12

    “Your” is added before faith: “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭2:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

    Here’s the Greek. Before faith, “the” is changed to “your”. https://biblehub.com/colossians/2-12.htm#lexicon


  39. Janey misses your articles but keeps re-reading the entire blog. I focus on something new every time. You are an elite, talent, Paul D. Japanese is a hard language and except for your spelling, your English is great. Just kidding. If anyone else has gotten remotely as much pleasure and insight from your site, you are making a big difference. I usually read your references if they are not paywalled but you explain thing far better than anyone this side of Bart, not Simpson but the egomaniac one from UNC.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Thank you for this list. It’s been a great help.

    One thing I’m not seeing in the NIV, online or in print, is the switching of Caphtorim and Kasluhites in Genesis 10:14 or in 1 Chronicles 1:12. It looks to me like the NIV is sticking with the Masoretic Text here.

    I’d be curious what edition of the NIV you’re using on that verse — it looks like if the problem did exist, it’s since been cleared up.


  41. I Corinthians 11:23 was submitted by another reader already:


    …1 Cor 11:23 is commonly mistranslated. Here’s the NIV:
    For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread…
    The Greek word here rendered as “betrayed,” παρέδωκα, doesn’t mean that. Or rather, it can mean that in the right context, but more generally just means “delivered up” or “handed over.” There is no hint of a betrayal in the text of Paul, who nowhere shows any awareness of the Judas story. The translators have injected a concept from the Gospels into a context where it is not otherwise present. To be fair, this is a common mistranslation, not something peculiar to the NIV.

    You said the following at

    Paul associates the ritual with the Lord being “delivered up”. The Greek verb paradidōmi does not indicate betrayal by an enemy. (The normal Greek word for “betray” would be prodidōmi.) Rather, this is the word Paul frequently uses to describe the act of God delivering Jesus up unto death. Cf. Rom. 8:32, “[God] did not withhold his own son, but delivered him up for all of us,” or Gal. 2:20, “…the son of God who loved me and delivered himself up for me.” Paul’s use of this specific term probably derives from LXX Isaiah 53:6-12, which uses the same Greek word several times: “The Lord delivered him up for our sins. …his soul was delivered up unto death. …yet he bore the sins of many, and was delivered up for their iniquities.” (Crossan 439ff.)

    Recently on Reddit, the erudite u/zanillamilla, in a thread titled “1 Cor 11:23 translation bias?,” wrote this:


    I would say definitely there is translator bias here. The commentaries generally note the divine passive and that Paul’s language here is likely shaped by the Suffering Servant song in Deutero-Isaiah (Isaiah 53:6, 12 LXX), which says that the Lord gave the servant up for our sins (κύριος παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν ταῗς ἁμαρτίαις ἡμῶν) and that his life would be handed over to death (παρεδόθη εις θάνατου ἡ ψυχή αὐτοῦ). Francis Watson in Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith (T&T Clark, 2015) notes: “Paul’s use of παραδίδετο in connection with the death of Christ is shaped by both active and passive usages in Isaiah 53…In Romans 8.32 the active verb is drawn from Isaiah 53:6. In both Paul and Isaiah, the verb has God or the Lord as subject and is followed by αὐτον….In 1 Corinthians 11.23, παραδίδετο should be translated ‘given up,’ not ‘betrayed,’ since the reference is probably to God’s action rather than Judas’s. Here παραδίδετο may reflect παρεδόθη εις θάνατου (Isa 53.12a)” (p. 512).

    Given all this, I think that the NIV’s translation is at least poor, though perhaps not misleading.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Genesis 29:5 — The text says that Laban was the son of Nahor. However, to hide the contradiction with the tradition of Genesis 28:5 that Laban was the son of Bethuel the Syrian, the NIV has changed “son” to “grandson”.

    For more on this contradiction and the redactions made in Genesis 22 and 24 to conflate the two traditions, see Dr. Rabbi Zev Farber’s article: https://www.thetorah.com/article/who-was-rebekahs-father

    Liked by 1 person

  43. What makes me sad is this is so typical of a genius. Paul has written thrilling entries and gone past the wiki entry on Xenos to where I probably should update it and the only comments now are about the NIV and we kind of know by now that it sucks. I hope you will write more. You have unique talents and even if people would respond to all of your other entries. I re-read all of them frequently and I get something every time. Best article anywhere on Lilith, a favorite of mine.

    Regardless, thanks for you input as a human being and former Pentacostal. I will keep checking back.


    Liked by 1 person

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