Reproduced here is the Preface from The Holy Bible: New International Version. Inclusive Language Edition. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1996).


Soon after its first appearance in 1978, the New International Version established its place among the leading translations of the Bible. It received wide acceptance in the English-speaking world as a Bible suitable for both church and private use.

No living language ever stands still, however, and the English language in particular is continuously subject to influences and developments worldwide. Even though a comparatively short time has elapsed since the New International Version was first produced, it is already clear that it needs to be brought up to date in certain areas. The Committee on Bible Translation have therefore given themselves to the task of continuing to keep this translation available in contemporary English while remaining faithful to its established text.

A major challenge facing the Committee is how to respond to the significant changes that are taking place within the English language in regard to gender issues. The word 'man', for example, is now widely understood to refer only to males, even though that is often not the intention of the corresponding Greek or Hebrew words. Instances of potential confusion abound, as in instructions about preparing for the Lord's Supper ('A man ought to examine himself', 1 Corinthians 11:28), or in pronouncements of beatitude such as in Psalm 1:1 ('Blessed is the man ...'). In these and many other passages, it has become increasingly necessary to have a translation that makes it clear that women and men are both included.

Recognising this need, the Committee on Bible Translation made a decision in 1992 that the New International Version should be made available in an inclusive language edition. Many of the issues are of a sensitive nature. So to guide its inclusive language revision, the Committee adopted a set of principles.

The first principle was to retain the gender used in the original languages when referrring to God, angels and demons. At the same time, it was recognised that it was often appropriate to mute the patriarchalism of the culture of the biblical writers through gender-inclusive language when this could be done without compromising the message of the Spirit. This involved distinguishing between those passages in which an activity was normally carried out by either males or females, and other cases where the gender of the people concerned was less precisely identified. While in cases of the former the text could be left unaltered, in cases of the latter words like 'workmen' could be changed to 'worker' or 'craftsman' to 'skilled worker'.

A further problem presented itself in handling pronouns. In order to avoid gender-specific language in statements of a general kind, it was agreed that the plural might be substituted for the singular and the second person for the third person. On the other hand, inclusive singular subjects such as 'everyone' or 'whoever' would only occasionally be followed by plural pronouns such as 'they' or 'their'.

Female words such as 'maid' or 'girl', which in recent years have developed a more pejorative connotation [sic], would usually be replaced. Awkward generic terms like 'human' used as a noun or 'humankind' would be used as sparingly as possible. Some expressions, however, would be left unchanged, as in specific references to either males or females in wisdom literature where young men on the threshhold of adult life were being addressed. The feminine gender of cities and states or nations would also be retained.

It was further determined that that revisions must be sensitive to the varying demands of context. Gender-specific features in literary genres such as parables or exemplary stories were not to be altered without good reason, nor were specific features of metaphorical language.

A common feature in the language of both Old and New Testaments is the use of 'brothers' to refer to members of social units broader than the nuclear family. In cases where reference is to communities that are inclusive of women, 'brothers' should be replaced with some more gender-inclusive expression. Where the noun is vocative (and in a few other passages), the rendering should be expanded to 'brothers and sisters', without the addition of a footnote.

The Committee on Bible Translation have sought to keep faith with the original principles of the New International Version, and at the same time ensure that the recognised text of the New International Version reflects the contemporary use of English around the world. We believe that the changes introduced will remove the obstacles to understanding experienced by some readers, and so enable a new generation to read the Word of God in language they can understand. We pray that God will bless this modern revision as richly as he has done the earlier editions of the New International Version.

The Committee on Bible Translation, 1995