NIV vs. NKJV: Comparing Bible Translations

The New International Version (NIV) and the New King James Version (NKJV) are two widely-used translations of the Bible, each with distinct characteristics.

The NIV, first published in 1978, prioritizes readability and clear, contemporary language, often using a “thought-for-thought” translation philosophy.

The NKJV, on the other hand, seeks to maintain the classic literary style of the original King James Version (1611) while updating the language to be more understandable to the modern reader, employing more of a “word-for-word” approach.

Also, see the Bible Translation Comparison Chart to learn more.

Holy Bible
Is the NIV or NKJV more traditional? See below

The NKJV Uses More Traditional Language Than the NIV

In the context of Bible translations, “traditional language” typically refers to the use of archaic or old-fashioned language that was prevalent in earlier English translations of the Bible. These translations sought to maintain a sense of reverence, formality, and historical continuity with the past.

Translation MethodDynamic EquivalentEssentially Formal Equivalent
Language StyleBalance between formal and dynamicFormal and retains traditional language
ReadabilityGenerally easier to readGenerally easier to read, similar to KJV
AccuracyBalances between accuracy and clarityEmphasizes word-for-word accuracy
Word UsageModernizes language where possibleRetains traditional language

On the other hand, “modern language” refers to the use of contemporary and current vocabulary, grammar, and linguistic patterns to convey the biblical text in a way that is easily understood by modern readers. Modern language translations strive to make the Bible more accessible and relevant to today’s audience.

What Is a Dynamic Equivalent Bible Translation?

Dynamic Equivalence (also known as “thought-for-thought” or “functional equivalence” translation): This approach aims to convey the thought or idea expressed in the original text using equivalent expressions from the target language.

The goal is to make the text more accessible and understandable for modern readers, even if it means moving away from a literal word-for-word translation. This can make the text easier to read, but there can be debates over the accuracy of certain interpretations.

What Is a Formal Equivalent Bible Translation?

Formal Equivalence (also known as “literal” or “word-for-word” translation): This approach tries to remain as close as possible to the structure and words of the original language.

The primary aim is to ensure that the exact words and phrasing of the original text are preserved. This method can provide a more literal translation, which may be helpful for study purposes, but it can also lead to passages that are difficult to understand for contemporary readers.

Also, see Is the NKJV a Good Translation? to learn more.

NIV Bible
What original manuscript does the NKJV use? See below

The NIV Uses More Inclusive Terms Than the NKJV

Inclusive language in Bible translation refers to the use of language that avoids unnecessary gender bias and strives to include both men and women in the biblical text. It aims to accurately represent the original meaning of the text while being mindful of gender equality and inclusivity.

Manuscript BasisDraws from a variety of manuscriptsDraws from Textus Receptus (NT)
Inclusive LanguageMore likely to use inclusive termsLess inclined towards gender-neutral
Denominational UseWidely used across various groupsPopular among conservative denominations
Study ResourcesOffers a variety of study editionsOffers a variety of study editions
PopularityHistorically widely used translationKnown for its similarity to KJV

Gender-Neutral Language in Bible Translations

Traditionally, many Bible translations have used masculine terms and pronouns as generic references, assuming that they encompass both men and women. For example, passages addressing a mixed-gender group or humanity as a whole may use “he,” “him,” or “man” to represent both genders.

Inclusive language translations seek to address this by using gender-neutral or gender-inclusive language where appropriate, without distorting the original meaning. This may involve various strategies, such as:

Gender-Neutral Terms: Translations may use gender-neutral terms to refer to people in general. For example, “human beings” or “people” instead of exclusively using “man” or “mankind.”

Gender-Inclusive Pronouns: Inclusive translations may employ gender-inclusive pronouns like “they,” “them,” and “their” to refer to individuals or generic groups instead of defaulting to “he” or “him.”

Explicitly Naming Women: In instances where specific women are mentioned in the biblical text, inclusive translations ensure they are identified by name instead of being overshadowed or omitted.

Expanding Occupational Titles: Some translations expand occupational titles or generic roles to include both men and women. For example, using “teachers” instead of “teachers and masters” or “servants” instead of “servants and maidens.”

Avoiding Stereotypes: Inclusive translations may aim to avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes by using language that reflects the diversity and equality of both genders.

It’s important to note that the approach to inclusive language in Bible translation can vary among different translations and translators. Some translations may take a more conservative approach, while others may prioritize inclusivity more extensively.

Also, see Is the NIV a Good Translation? to learn more.

Christian Bible
What is the history of the NIV? See below

What Is the History of the New International Version?

The NIV is one of the most popular and widely used modern translations of the Bible. Its origins can be traced back to the mid-20th century when a desire arose for a new translation that would be both accurate and understandable to contemporary English readers.

The project to create the NIV began in the 1960s, driven by a vision to produce a translation that would be faithful to the original texts while using clear and modern language.

The translation committee consisted of a diverse group of biblical scholars, theologians, and linguists from various denominations and backgrounds.

The translation process for the NIV involved rigorous scholarship and review. The committee members consulted various Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic source texts to ensure accuracy and fidelity to the original languages. They also incorporated insights from linguistic studies and advancements in biblical scholarship.

The NIV was published in stages. The New Testament was first released in 1973, followed by the completed Bible in 1978. The translation quickly gained popularity, particularly for its readability, clarity, and balance between accuracy and accessibility.

The NIV went through several revisions over the years to enhance its accuracy and reflect evolving scholarship. The most significant revision occurred in 2011, known as the NIV 2011.

This update addressed certain translation choices and made adjustments based on advances in biblical scholarship, language usage, and feedback from readers.

A broad range of Christian denominations has embraced the NIV, and has been widely used for personal study, public worship, and academic purposes.

Its popularity can be attributed to its readability, broad acceptance within the Christian community, and the reputation of the translation committee for its commitment to accuracy and accessibility.

New King James Version
What is the history of the NKJV? See below

What Is the History of the New King James Version?

The New King James Version (NKJV) is a modern English translation of the Bible that is based on the King James Version (KJV).

The NKJV was published in 1982 and sought to preserve the KJV’s beauty, rhythm, and historical significance while updating its language to make it more understandable to contemporary readers.

The project to create the NKJV began in the late 1970s. The goal was to produce a translation that would retain the literary excellence of the KJV while utilizing more modern English.

The translation committee for the NKJV consisted of more than 100 scholars from various denominations, including theologians, linguists, and biblical scholars.

The committee used the Textus Receptus (Received Text) as the basis for the New Testament, which is the same Greek text that was used for the KJV. However, for the Old Testament, they consulted the Masoretic Text, which is the traditional Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible.

The translation process involved careful consideration of the original languages, textual variants, and linguistic nuances. The committee aimed to provide a faithful and accurate translation of the Bible while making improvements in areas where the KJV was difficult to understand or had become outdated due to changes in the English language.

The NKJV was published in stages, starting with the New Testament in 1979. The complete Bible, including the Old and New Testaments, was released in 1982.

Since then, the NKJV has gained widespread acceptance among Christian denominations and has been used for personal study, preaching, public worship, and academic purposes.

The NKJV maintains the traditional and poetic qualities of the KJV, including the use of formal language and the preservation of familiar phrases. However, it incorporates modern English expressions and updates certain archaic words and grammar to improve readability.

The NKJV has become one of the most popular English translations of the Bible, providing a balance between reverence for the KJV and the need for contemporary language. It serves as an alternative for those who appreciate the literary beauty of the KJV but desire a more accessible and understandable text.


The NIV and NKJV are two prominent Bible translations that have significantly impacted the way people engage with Scripture.

While the NIV emphasizes clarity and contemporary language, the NKJV seeks to retain the beauty and historical significance of the KJV while using updated language. Both translations have found widespread acceptance and continue to serve the diverse needs of readers today.

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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