New International Version vs King James: Comparing Bible Translations

The Bible is the most translated book in the world, with full translations in over 500 languages. For English readers, the two most popular versions are the New International Version (NIV) and the King James Version (KJV). 

These two influential Bible translations have distinctly different backgrounds and approaches to translation that impact how people understand the scriptures today.

The NIV and KJV translations have notable differences in their history and origins, language style, accuracy, textual basis, translation philosophy, and target audiences. Understanding the nuances between these two widely used Bibles can help readers select the best translation for their personal needs and spiritual growth. 

Comparing the NIV and KJV provides insight into how translation choices affect modern understanding of the scriptures.

New International Version (NIV)

The New International Version (NIV) is a modern English translation of the Bible that was first published in 1978. It is considered one of the most popular and widely used translations by evangelical Christians and is praised for its accuracy and clarity.

The translation philosophy of the NIV is known as dynamic equivalency, which aims to balance faithfulness to the original text with readability in contemporary language. It seeks to convey the original message of the Bible in a way that is easy to understand for modern readers, without sacrificing accuracy.

The NIV study Bible is a popular version that includes helpful study notes, maps, and charts to aid in understanding. It is designed for individual and group Bible study, as well as for personal devotional use.

One criticism of the NIV is that it may take liberties in translation, using gender-neutral language and altering certain passages to fit modern sensibilities. However, these changes are often minor and do not significantly impact the overall message of the Bible.

If you are looking for a Bible translation that is easy to read and understand, the NIV is a great choice.

King James Version (KJV)

The King James Version (KJV), also known as the Authorized Version, is one of the oldest and most widely recognized English translations of the Bible. It was published in 1611 under the commission of King James I of England and was a revision of previous English translations, notably the Bishop’s Bible.

The KJV is renowned for its use of archaic language, which gives it a distinctive and poetic style. It is often considered a literary masterpiece and has influenced English literature and language for centuries.

However, some readers may find the KJV difficult to read and comprehend due to its use of antiquated words, syntax, and grammar. It can also be challenging for non-native speakers of English.

Despite its age, the KJV has maintained its popularity among certain Christian denominations, particularly those who prefer a more traditional and formal style of language.

Unique Features of the KJV Study Bible

The KJV Study Bible is a comprehensive resource that provides readers with historical and cultural insights, exegetical notes, and cross-referenced texts. Some of its unique features include:

ConcordanceA comprehensive index of all the significant words used in the KJV, along with their corresponding Bible references.
Maps and ChartsVisual aids that help readers understand the geographical and historical context of the Bible passages.
Cross-ReferencesLinks to related verses and themes within the Bible, providing a deeper understanding of the connections between different sections of the text.

Overall, the KJV remains a popular choice for readers who value its rich history, poetic style, and traditional language.

Differences between the NIV and KJV

While both the New International Version (NIV) and the King James Version (KJV) are translations of the Bible, they differ greatly in many aspects. Here, we will highlight the main differences between the two translations and how they can impact our understanding of the scriptures.

For starters, the NIV is translated by a committee and has undergone several revisions (1984, 2011) while the KJV was primarily the work of 47 scholars and has remained unchanged since 1611.

Language Style

The most noticeable difference between the NIV and the KJV is the language style. The NIV uses modern English, making it easier for contemporary readers to understand and relate to the text. In contrast, the KJV uses archaic English, which can be challenging for some readers to comprehend.

Example from NIV: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Example from KJV: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Also, some criticize the NIV’s gender-neutral translations as inaccurate or ideologically driven. Defenders argue it more accurately conveys messages meant for all people regardless of gender, as the NIV uses a gender-inclusive approach to translation while the KJV uses masculine language.

For example, the NIV translates “brothers” as “brothers and sisters” and “men” as “people.” This contrasts with the KJV which exclusively uses masculine pronouns and words like “brethren” when referring to groups of men and women. The KJV’s approach reflects the patriarchal language conventions of its 17th century origins, while the NIV aims to use more inclusive language that resonates with modern readers.

Textual Basis

Another significant difference between the NIV and the KJV is the textual basis. The NIV is based on the latest and most reliable manuscripts of the original Bible texts, whereas the KJV is based on the Textus Receptus manuscripts, which are not as accurate as the ones used for the NIV.

Therefore, the NIV is considered to have a more precise and consistent translation of the scriptures.

Translation Philosophy

The NIV and the KJV also differ in their translation philosophy. The NIV prioritizes clarity and accuracy, aiming to provide the most faithful translation of the original texts without sacrificing readability. On the other hand, the KJV prioritizes literary beauty and formalism, often sacrificing clarity and accuracy for the sake of poetic language.

The KJV is considered a formal equivalence translation (word-for-word) while the NIV aims more for dynamic equivalence and readability (thought-for-thought).

Target Audience

The NIV and the KJV have different target audiences. The NIV is aimed at a broad range of readers, including those who are new to the Christian faith and those who prefer modern language. The KJV, on the other hand, is primarily intended for scholars and literary enthusiasts who appreciate the historical significance and linguistic complexity of the text.

Therefore, the choice between the two translations depends on the reader’s preference and purpose of reading the Bible.

Choosing the Right Bible Translation for You

With numerous Bible translations available, it can be challenging to select the one that best suits your needs and preferences. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a Bible translation:


The readability of a Bible translation refers to the language style and vocabulary used. Some translations, like the New International Version (NIV), aim for a more contemporary and accessible language that is easy to understand for modern readers. Other translations, like the King James Version (KJV), use archaic language that may require more effort to comprehend. If you prefer a more straightforward and modern language, you may enjoy translations like the NIV.


Translating the Bible from its original languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic) to English involves some degree of interpretation and word choice. Some translations prioritize accuracy and aim for a word-for-word approach, while others prioritize readability and aim for a thought-for-thought approach. If you value accuracy and want to study the Bible in its original languages, you may prefer a more literal translation like the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Intended Purpose

Consider why you want to read the Bible. Are you looking for a Bible to study, to read for inspiration, or to share with others? Some translations, like the NIV Study Bible, provide extra features like study notes, maps, and references to help you better understand the text. Others, like The Message, may be better suited for casual reading and devotional purposes.


Ultimately, the best Bible translation is the one that resonates with you and helps you grow in your faith. However, if you’re unsure which translation to choose, here are some recommendations:

  • New International Version (NIV): A popular and modern translation known for its readability and accuracy. Ideal for devotional reading and study.
  • King James Version (KJV): A classic and traditional translation known for its literary beauty and historical significance. Ideal for those who appreciate archaic language and prefer a word-for-word approach to translation.
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB): A highly accurate and literal translation, ideal for those who want to study the Bible in its original language and do not mind sacrificing readability.

Remember, the most important thing is to choose a Bible translation that speaks to you and helps you deepen your relationship with God.


In conclusion, the New International Version (NIV) and the King James Version (KJV) are two of the most popular English language translations of the Bible. Both versions have their unique strengths and weaknesses, and the choice of which translation to use largely depends on personal preference and intended purpose.

The NIV is known for its modern language and readability, making it a great choice for those who are new to the Bible or prefer a more contemporary style. The KJV, on the other hand, is revered for its historical significance and poetic language, making it a popular choice for literary and academic purposes.

When it comes to accuracy, both translations have been rigorously reviewed and approved by scholars and religious leaders. However, the choice of textual basis and translation philosophy can affect the interpretation of certain passages.

Ultimately, the decision of which translation to use is a personal one that should be based on one’s own preferences and needs. For those who are unsure, it may be helpful to explore both translations and compare them side by side.


Q: What is the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible?

A: The New International Version (NIV) is a popular English translation of the Bible that aims to provide a balance between accuracy and readability. It is known for its modern language and accessibility to a wide range of readers.

Q: What is the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible?

A: The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is an English translation that was first published in 1611. It is known for its traditional and poetic language, making it a significant literary work in English literature.

Q: What are the differences between the NIV and KJV?

A: The NIV and KJV differ in terms of language style, textual basis, translation philosophy, and target audience. The NIV aims for a balance between accuracy and readability with modern language, while the KJV uses more archaic language. The NIV is based on a different textual basis and has a different translation philosophy compared to the KJV.

Q: How do I choose the right Bible translation for me?

A: When choosing a Bible translation, consider factors such as readability, accuracy, and your intended purpose of reading the Bible. It can be helpful to compare different translations, read sample passages, and seek recommendations from others.