Is the NIV truly “Apostasy in print”?

As a pastor, I often get questions about the Bible.  This is a good thing, of course, not only because people need a place to go with questions, but also because it gives me the chance to study topics and ideas I may not normally have the occasion to explore.

Now, I’ve also realized that “theology” isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so a steady diet of it isn’t always the most helpful thing to be posting, at least not one hopes to reaching more readers!  So, I’ve decided that when I have questions or topics that come up that tend towards a more academic or scholarly feel, Thursday will be the day to post them.

Why Thursday?  Because it starts with a “th” just like “theology.”  DUH!

That said, I hope this post is a blessing to you, and if not…just check back tomorrow 😉

— Pastor Phillip

QUESTION: I’ve heard some theologians recently speak critically on the New International Version of the Bible (NIV), that many of the powerful truths have been altered for a more palatable presentation to general audiences.

So, this was the issue raised by a good friend of mine, and what a great topic it is! He’s a very intelligent person with good insights, so I enjoyed researching some of the links he sent. I was drawn to one in particular, specifically some of the individual claims the author makes.

I decided to test them out.

I have read the NIV all the way through but don’t use it day-to-day.  Though I don’t remember finding any problems with it before, I am personally VERY committed to the inerrancy of Scripture and the importance of having accurate translations, so I set out to use the tools I have available to explore the context of the passages, the original Greek words used, and how other translations have handled some of these passages.  The original criticism site can be found here, and my and below are some of the things I discovered in my search.

PLEASE NOTE: My intention here isn’t to attack or even defend any particular translation, simply to explore the texts referenced by the author and try to dig underneath the surface to see what’s there in each individual case.


“Jesus is called ‘Master’ forty-six times in the New Testament. The NIV used the term ‘teacher’ instead of ‘Master.’ Why reduce Jesus to a teacher when His very Person calls for the term ‘Master’?”

I searched for “master” in the New Testament, to see what Greek words were used and how they were translated.  Here are some examples of the words used.

“Didaskalos”  (G1320) From G1321 (“didasko”) ; an instructor (generally or specifically): – doctor, master, teacher. Additionally, the root word “didasko” means “A prolonged (causative) form of a primary verb δάω daō (to learn); to teach (in the same broad application): – teach.”

Matthew 8:19
-KJV: And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
-NIV: Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
-ESV: And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
-NLT: Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

Matthew 26:18
– KJV: And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.
– NIV: He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'”
– ESV: He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”
– NLT: “As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.'”

This seems to be a common theme, where the KJV translates “didaskalos” as “master” and other translations translate it “teacher.”  It seems the Greek supports “teacher” more readily than “master” in this case.

“Kathegetes” (G2519), From a compound of G2596 and G2233; a guide, that is, (figuratively) a teacher: – master.  This is made up of the words “kata” which means “down”  and “hegeomai“, which means “to lead, that is, command (with official authority); figuratively to deem, that is, consider: – account, (be) chief, count, esteem, governor, judge, have the rule over, suppose, think.”

Matthew 23:8
– KJV: But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
– NIV: But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.
– ESV: But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.
– NLT: Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters.

Matthew 23:10 (two verses later, Jesus continues His speech)
– KJV: Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
– NIV: Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.
– ESV: Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.
– NLT: And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah.

These are the only two places this word is used in the New Testament.

“Rhabbi” (G4461) Of Hebrew origin [H7227] with pronominal suffix; my master, that is, Rabbi, as an official title of honor: – Master, Rabbi.

In the KJV, this word is transliterated eight times as “Rabbi”, and occurs an additional nine times as “master”.  However, look at what Vines Word Studies has to say…

My great one; my honorable sir. Explained by Jesus himself as διδάσκαλος, teacher (Matthew 23:8, where the proper reading is διδάσκαλος, instead of καθηγητη’ς, guide, master, found in Mat_23:10). Used by the Jews in addressing their teachers, and formed from a Hebrew root meaning great. It occurs commonly in John, and is found in Matthew and Mark, but not in Luke, who uses ε’πιστατής. See note on Luke 5:5.

Note the passage referenced, Luke 5:5.  Here the word used is “epistat’ace”, “From G1909 and a presumed derivative of G2476; an appointee over, that is, commander (teacher): – master.”

Luke 5:5
– KJV: And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
– NIV: Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
– ESV: And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”
– NLT: “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.”

We can see that all the translations render this word “master,” so no problems there.

From these examples, it appears the issue of “Master” vs. “Teacher” is almost more a case of the KJV imposing terms of Lordship on the text when “teacher” seems to be actually more applicable and faithful to the original Greek.  There are plenty of other passages that rightfully explain Jesus’ Lordship, so it seems unnecessary to find serious ill-intent in the way these particular passages are translated.


“Sodomy” was eliminated from their text. The rendering was changed to “temple prostitute.” Yes, the Sodomites were “temple prostitutes” but were more than just “temple prostitutes.” This is a serious violation and was applauded by Virginia Mollencott, a lesbian that served as a consultant and English stylist (The word “fornication” was also completely removed.) 

(To be continued…)