The NRSV and NIV Bibles take different approaches to translating the Word of God and making it readable to modern people. Take a look at the differences and similarities to gain a better understanding each version and find which works best for your needs. Both offer unique options worthy of noting.
Origin of the NRSV Vs. NIV
The NRSV is a mainly word-for-word translation of the Bible that is the most commonly used translation in university-level Biblical studies. One of its distinctive features is that it was translated by a group of scholars, including Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. For this reason, it is largely free of bias towards any one Christian tradition.
It’s relatively straightforward to read but preserves enough of the distinctive flavor of Hebrew and Greek to make you pause to remember that the book of the Bible was written in other languages and cultures with their own distinctive ways of thinking. Originally published in 1989 by the National Council, this version is a revision of the Revised Standard Version.
The New International Version was formed by the National Association of Evangelicals, which formed a committee in 1956 to assess the value of a translation in common American English. The NIV is by far the most popular English Bible Translation in use today. It generally favors the thought-for-thought translation approach and tends to be a fairly easy Bible to read with a Protestant and moderately conservative translation.
The original version of the NIV was completed in 1984, which is the version many people think of as the NIV. But in 2011, the NIV was significantly revised to reflect the latest scholarship and changes in the English language. As a result, it’s easier to read than the NRSV or other translation.
Readability of the NRSV and the NIV
The NRSV is at an eleven-grade reading level. Reading this translation can be more difficult because it is a word-for-word translation that mixes different scholarly translations. However, a few versions exist to make the version easier to read.
The NIV was written to be easy to read by translating thought by thought. Only the New Literal Translation (NLT) reads easier than this version which even 7th graders can read with ease. Other variations of NIV reduce the grade level, which is why this version works well for children’s or study Bibles.
Bible Translation differences
There are two standard methods for translating Bibles leading to differences. One is an effort to as closely approximate the form and structure of the original language, whether it is Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. The alternative method tries to translate the original language more dynamically, paying less attention to word-for-word translation and more attention to conveying the main ideas.
The New Revised Standard Version is a collaborative effort of Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. The NRSV strives to maintain a word-for-word translation as much as possible by maintaining a literal translation with some freedom. Finally, the NRSV includes gender-inclusive and gender-neutral language.
The NIV is a translation effort involving translators from a wide range of Protestant denominations who share a dedication to God’s Word. For this reason, they choose to avoid a word-for-word edition and focus on a thought-by-thought translation which is easier for readers to understand and follow. Lastly, older versions of the NIV maintained gender-specific language, while the 2011 version had more gender inclusivity.
Bible Verse comparison between the NRSV and NIV
Genesis 2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?
Hebrews 12:28 “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe.”
Matthew 5:32 “But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
1 Timothy 2:12 “Permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.”
Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Mark 6:12 “So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.”
Luke 17:3 “Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive.”
Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Galatians 5:17 “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
James 5:15 “The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.”
Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight.”
1 Corinthians 8:6 “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
Isaiah 54:10 “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”
Psalm 33:11 “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.”
Genesis 2:4 “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.”
Galatians 3:3 “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”
Hebrews 12:28 “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”
Matthew 5:32 “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
1 Timothy 2:12″ I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”
Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”
Mark 6:12 “They went out and preached that people should repent.”
Luke 17:3 “So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”
Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Galatians 5:17 “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
James 5:15 “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.”
Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
1 Corinthians 8:6 “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”
Isaiah 54:10 “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”
Psalm 33:11 “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”
The NRSV started as the Revised Standard Version before becoming the New Revised Standard in 1989. In November of 2021, the version released a revision named the New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition (NRSV-UE). In addition, an international version called the New Revised Standard Version Anglicized to provide a British English translation along with Catholic versions in each form of English.
The first version of the NIV arrived in 1956, with a minor revision in 1984. A British English version became available in 1996 at the same time an easier-to-read American English version arrived. The translation went through more minor revisions in 1999. However, a larger revision focused on gender inclusivity arrived in 2005 called Today’s New International Version. Finally, in 2011 a new version removed some of the gender-inclusive language.
Target audience for each Bible translation
The NRSV is targeted toward a wide range of Christians, including Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox audiences. Furthermore, those looking for a literal translation from several scholars will find this to be a great study bible.
The NIV targets evangelical and younger audiences as it’s easier to read. In addition, most new Christians find this thought-for-thought version easier to read as it’s easier to read in large doses.
As a word-for-word translation, the NRSV does not rank high on the Bible translations chart assembled by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA). As the version includes some Apocrypha, it puts off Christians. Many Christians choose the versions they grew up reading and often choose thought for thought translations. Students and scholars are more inclined to choose the NRSV.
According to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), the NIV translation maintains high popularity due to its ease of reading. Often the New International Version ranks at the top.
Pros and cons of both
Most modern English Bibles omit up to 16 bible verses from their translations which can be a pro and a con. Newer translations try to authentically depict what biblical writers originally wrote, which entails taking out non-original content.
Overall, the New Revised Standard Version is an accurate Bible translation with few significant differences from other formats. However, the New Revised Standard Version is a reliable translation of the Bible into English overall. Nevertheless, most conservative and evangelical Christians did not adopt the NRSV since it has a Catholic version (which includes the Apocrypha), and some of its translations are gender-inclusive. Many non-scholars also criticize the NRSV for its difficult and rough format.
The readability of the New International Version is arguably its best asset. The English used in the NIV is clear, fluid, and simple to read. However, the version has the drawback of focusing on interpretation rather than a literal translation. In many cases, the NIV probably provides the correct interruption, but that misses the purpose. The main problems with this version of the Bible are the inclusion of gender-neutral language and the requirement for interpretation rather than translation to portray a more culturally sensitive or politically correct version.
Pastors who use NRSV
The NRSV frequents many church denominations, including the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Reformed Church in America. Churches in the Northeast are more likely to use this version. Many well-known pastors use the version, including:
– Bishop William H. Willimon, the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.
– Richard J. Foster, pastor in Quaker (Friends) churches.
- Barbara Brown Taylor, Episcopal priest, current or former professor at Piedmont College, Emory University, Mercer University, Columbia Seminary, and Oblate School of Theology
Pastors who use NIV:
Many famous and well-known pastors use the NIV translation, including Southern Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, and churches in the midwest and west.
- Max Lucado, co-pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas
- Mark Young, President, Denver Seminary
- Daniel Wallace, Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
Study Bibles to choose from between the NRSV and NIV
A good study Bible helps you understand Biblical passages through study notes that explain words, phrases, spiritual ideas, topical articles, and visual aids like maps, charts, illustrations, timelines, and tables. Here are some of the best from the NRSV and NIV versions.
Best NRSV Study Bibles
The New Interpreter’s Study Bible incorporates excellent study notes into an NRSV Bible by drawing on the outstanding New Interpreter’s Bible commentary series. It offers the most commentary making it an excellent addition for students and scholars.
The Access NRSV Study is described as “a resource for beginning Bible students.” It’s geared toward novice readers who also want a little more to think about academically. However, the most recent edition is only offered in paperback.
The Discipleship Study Bible is the most user-friendly NRSV study bible and includes comprehensive chapter notes. Although its editors are competent academics, their writing remains accessible. The notes also limit the reader’s exposure to biblical study, which could be confusing for less experienced readers.
Best NIV Study Bibles
NIV Zondervan Study Bible is huge and full of useful information with full-color study guides and contributions from notable Bible Scholars. However, the huge size makes this version work best at home. Every time you read this study Bible, you will learn something new and come closer to God and his truth.
The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is a fantastic option if you are curious about the history and culture of the Bible’s authors. It provides insight into the background and culture of the writer as well as the culture of the period and the background of the authors’ target viewers at the time. It is a fantastic study tool if you want to dive deeper into the scripture or if you are just getting started and want to do it right the first time.
The Quest Study Bible was written with the intention of enabling readers to offer people solutions to difficult life dilemmas. This study bible is distinctive as it was constructed using feedback from more than 1,000 people and was put together by academics and authors of international reputation. The notes for this version update frequently.
Other Bible translations
Here is a quick introduction to three other top Bible translations to help you decide if one of these versions will best suit your needs.
ESV (English Standard Version)
The 1971 edition of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) was updated to create the English Standard Version (ESV), with new editions ins 2001 and 2008. It includes evangelical Christian commentary and articles with sources including the Masoretic Text, Dead Sea Scrolls, and other original manuscripts that were employed to translate difficult passages. With an 8th to 10th-grade reading level, it’s a good version for beginners, teenagers, and children. However, the version uses a strict word-for-word translation that works best for study.
NLT (New Living Translation)
The NLT translates the Bible into plain, modern English. Tyndale House published NLT in 1996 with new revisions in 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2009. Their goal was “to increase the level of precision without sacrificing the text’s easy-to-understand quality.” Sixth graders and up can easily read this translation. The NLT interprets rather than translates when it emphasizes dynamic equivalency over formal equivalence.
NKJV (New King James Version)
Seven years were needed to develop a current translation of the King James Version. The newest archaeology, linguistics, and textual studies were used to translate the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts with revisions and translations spanning from 1979 to 1982. The NIV enhances the KJV’s archaic language while keeping its beauty and eloquence with a word-for-word translation. However, the New King James Version relies on the Textus Receptus instead of more recent manuscript compilations and uses “complete equivalence,” which can obscure literal words.
Which Bible translation should I choose between the NRSV and the NIV?
The best translation of the Bible is the one you enjoy reading, memorizing, and studying. Therefore, look at many translations before buying and look at the study materials, maps, and other formatting. Also, you need to determine if you would prefer a thought-for-thought or word-for-word translation, as this can easily make the decision for you.
While the NRSV works well for those who want a deeper understanding of the Word, the NIV is readable and reflects modern English idiom. Also, pick the version that works with your reading level. Dive into a new version, but do not limit yourself; you can own as many versions of the Bible as you want!