ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS OF THE BIBLE:
A BRIEF CRITIQUE
by Dr. John E. Russell
The King James Version was translated
by a committee of 47 in England in 1611. It is a revision of the Bishops'
Bible of 1568. Only after 80 years did the KJV become accepted by the English
speaking world, but then it became the standard English Bible until the
present day. At first, it included the Apocrypha. The KJV was revised in
1613, 1629, 1638, 1762, and 1769.
John Wesley's New Testament (1755)
This revision of the KJV by Wesley in 1755
was an attempt to improve the KJV in three areas: (1) Better text: (2)
Better interpretation; and (3) Better English usage. He used his own Greek
text, based on BENGEL'S GNOMON WITH CRITICAL APPARATUS
of 1734, which was an improvement on the TEXTUS RECEPTUS.
Literal Translation of the Bible (1862)
This is a private translation by Robert Young,
completed in 1862. Young was an Edinburgh bookseller, and author of the
valuable Analytical Concordance. It is very literal.
Dean Alford's New Testament (1869)
This is a private revision of the KJV by Henry
Alford, Dean of Canterbury, made in 1896. He used his own edition of the
GREEK NEW TESTAMENT as a basis for translation.
The Holy Bible,
This is a revision of the English in the KJV
by the American lexicographer, Noah Webster, in 1833. His work was in the
area of proper English and did not involve using a better text. It was
sound as far as it went. (Luther A. Weigle, CHB).
Revised Version (1885)
This is a committee revision of the KJV, in
1885. The New Testament was published in 1881, the Old Testament in 1885,
and the Apocrypha in 1895. The committee included B. F. Wescott, F. J.
A. Hort, J. B. Lightfoot, W. Milligan, W. F. Moulton, F. H. A. Schrivener,
and G. Vance Smith (a Unitarian).
The Emphasized Bible (1897)
This is a private translation by Joseph Bryant
Rotherham in 1897. The New Testament was first translated in 1872 with
the underlying text being Tregelles. The third edition of the New Testament
was based on Westcott and Hort's text. He attempted to "convey the most
detailed shades in the original." This is the first translation to use
YAHWEH for the name of God in the Old Testament.
It is a scholarly, literal translation. (Bruce).
American Standard Version (1901)
This revision of the KJV was published mostly
because of American translator differences with the British translators
of the Revised Version. American scholars, with Philip Schaff as
president of the committee, had been invited to help with the Revised
Version. Later, nine surviving members of the American committee published
the American Standard Version under the title, The Holy Bible containing
the Old and New Testaments translated out of the original tongues, being
the version set forth A.D. 1611 compared with the most ancient authorities
and revised A.D. 1881-1885. Newly edited by the American Revision Committee
The Holy Bible in Modern English,
This is a private translation made by Ferrar
Fenton, in 1903. Fenton was a businessman, apparently sincere, but lacking
in scholarship. His translation was popular because of his sincerity.
The New Testament in Modern Speech (1903)
This is a private translation by Richard Weymouth,
in 1903. It is based on his own RESULTANT GREEK TEXT
(1886). Weymouth died before it was published. E. Hampden-Cook, a Congregational
minister who helped translate The Twentieth Century New Testament, edited
it and saw that it was published. It was revised by J. A. Robertson in
1924. Weymouth wanted his translation to be used alongside the KJV and
Revised Version. It is a good translation.
The Twentieth Century New Testament (1904)
The translating work was done by Mrs. Mary
Higgs (the wife of a Congregational minister in Oldham), Ernest de Merindol
Malan (a signal and telegraph engineer of Hull, who was the grandson of
a Swiss preacher), plus an assortment of preachers and laymen that numbered
less than 30 total. It was published from 1898-1901 in three volumes. The
purpose was to be readable by children and working people. It was revised
in 1904. The full name was The Twentieth Century New Testament: A Translation
into Modern English Made from the Original Greek. Westcott and Hort's
text was the underlying text. "How they succeeded in producing such an
excellent version is difficult to understand." (Bruce).
Modern Reader's Bible (1905)
This translation was completed by R. G. Moulton
The 1911 Tercentenary Commemoration Bible
The KJV was lightly corrected by biblical scholars
in North America and issued under this name. A similar revision was published
three years later by E. E. Cunnington in London.
The Riverside New Testament (1923)
William G. Ballantine translated the New Testament
in 1923, based on NESTLE'S GREEK TEXT (1901).
It was revised in 1934. It was in the modern English of 1923.
Complete Bible: An American Translation (1931)
Edgar J. Goodspeed published the New Testament
in 1923. Four other scholars published the Old Testament in 1931. The Bible
was revised in 1935.
The New Testament
Charles B. Williams translated this New Testament
with the idea of revealing tense distinctions in the Greek verbs. It is
neither a literal translation or a paraphrase. Bruce Humphries copyrighted
the work in 1937 and Edith S. Williams renewed the copyright in 1965. It
is a conservative translation published by Moody Press.
Revised Standard Version (1952)
This is a revision of the American Standard
Version of 1901 by a committee of 32 American scholars. The New Testament
was published in 1946, the whole Bible in 1952. The underlying texts are
eclectic. The Apocrypha was a revision of the 1611 and 1895 versions. It
was copyrighted by the Division of Christian Education of the National
Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. In spite of being criticized
as being liberal, it was possibly the best multiple use translation of
its day (general scholarly consensus).
The Interlinear Greek-English
Beginning with Eberhard Nestle's NOVUM
TESTAMENTUM GRAECE (TEXT), Alfred Marshall gives an English
translation parallel to the Greek text. As such, it cannot be a smooth
translation. However, it does give the reader who cannot read Greek a sense
or "feeling" of the Greek text. It was published by Zondervan. For those
who cannot read Greek, it should be read along with a good New Testament
The New Testament in Modern English (1958)
J. B. Phillips, a vicar in the Church of England,
finished this translation of the New Testament in 1958, which he had begun
in 1947. "It occasionally follows
The Holy Bible:
Gerrit Verkuyl, a Baptist, translated the New
Testament in 1945. Under the editorship of Verkuyl, the Old Testament was
translated by 20 scholars, in 1959. The New Testament was revised in 1969.
It is called the Berkeley Version because it was published in Berkeley,
California. It is a "conservative counterpart of the RSV." (Bruce).
The Gideons have distributed the New Testament.
Kenneth S. Wuest translated the New Testament,
which was published in 3 volumes, 1956-1959. It is a study Bible for the
"Greekless student of the New Testament." It "does for all the parts of
speech what Charles B. Williams does for the verb
The New World Translation (1960)
The New World Translation of the Christian
Greek Scriptures was published in 1950. It was followed by the New
World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures from 1953-1960. This is
a translation by the Jehovah's Witnesses, and it is published by their
company, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Inc. The translation
includes both literal and colloquial renderings. However, it is colored
by the Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrine. Apart from this, it is a good translation.
The New Testament
William F. Beck, a Lutheran, made this translation
in 1963. It is "reasonably faithful" to the Greek text, with "very little
paraphrase but good translation of cultural concepts
The Amplified Bible (1965)
The Amplified Bible was translated by a committee
of 12 editors in 1965. Frances E. Siewert was the Research Secretary. The
New Testament was published in 1958.
It is conservative, and a good study Bible.
New Testament: A New Translation (1969)
William Barclay produced this translation in
2 volumes: The Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles (1963), and
The Letters and the Revelation (1969). It has a British-Scottish
thrust, "made by a long-time, skilled master of Greek." (Ehrenstein).
New English Bible (1970)
This version was produced by the best British
scholars, in 1970. The New Testament was published in 1961.
The Living Bible (1971)
Kenneth Taylor is the main translator of this
work, that was finished in 1971. Taylor's translation grew out of family
devotions — he tried to communicate the Word of God to his children in
contemporary English terms they could understand. It is paraphrase of the
ASV. (Ehrenstein). It was reviewed by a team of Greek and Hebrew
experts for accuracy, and by English critics for style. It was translated
from a "rigid evangelical position." (The Living Bible Preface, 1973).
The New American Standard Bible (1971)
The New American Standard Bible was
published in 1971. It is a committee revision of the American Standard
Version of 1901. It was a 9 year effort by 58 scholars from Presbyterian,
Methodist, Southern Baptist, Church of Christ, Nazarene, American Baptist,
Fundamentalist, Conservative Baptist, Free Methodist, Congregational, Disciples,
and Independent Baptist backgrounds. The New Testament was translated in
The Common Bible (1973)
This was a new edition of the RSV, the first
translation to be approved by Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox
Today's English Version (1976, 1992)
This translation is sometimes called Good
News for Modern Man or Good News Bible. The New Testament was
translated by Robert Bratcher, a Southern Baptist missionary, in 1966.
The New Testament was sponsored and published by the American Bible Society.
New International Version (1978)
The New Testament was completed in 1973, and
represents the work of conservative scholars. The entire Bible was completed
in 1978, and was revised in 1984. A self-governing Committee on Bible Translation,
composed of 15 people, included Ralph Earle. It was international in scope,
drawing scholars from the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Canada, Australia
and New Zealand. The denominational backgrounds of the translators included
Anglican, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Brethren, Christian Reformed, Church
of Christ, Evangelical Free, Lutheran, Mennonite, Nazarene, Presbyterian,
Wesleyan and others.
New King James Version (1979)
The New King James Version was the result
of 7 years work of over 100 scholars from most of the English-speaking
nations. It was first published in 1979 and revised in 1980 and 1982. The
translators and editors have attempted to continue in the tradition of
the earlier translators of the KJV.
New Century Version (1987)
The New Century Version is a new translation,
published in 1987 by Worthy Publishing, Fort Worth, Texas.
The New Revised Standard Version (1989)
The New Revised Standard Version was
a revision of the Revised Standard Version (1952), which was a revision
of the American Standard Version (1901), which embodied earlier
revisions of the King James Version (1611).
The Message: The New Testament in Contemporary Language is a new translation by Eugene H. Peterson. It is a fresh translation from the Greek text of the United Bible Societies (third edition, corrected, 1983). It is a meaning-for-meaning translation (paraphrase) by Pastor Eugene H. Peterson. He says,
The New Testament translation was sponsored by the Navigators and published by NAVPRESS. An exegetical committee of five scholar consultants checked the translation for accuracy and style. Billy Graham endorsed the translation. The Old Testament is in the process of being translated. An exegetical committee of twelve will check the translation.
Contemporary English Version (1995)
The Contemporary English Version was
a 10 year project involving a team of over 100. It was sponsored by the
American Bible Society.
New International Reader's Version (1996)
Zondervan produced guidelines to develop a
simplified version of the International Bible Society's New International
Version, in 1991. The language used is on a high third grade level.
Philosophically, it is in the formal equivalence category, but close to
dynamic equivalence. This is a noble undertaking in that this is probably
what Jesus would do. He would communicate the Word of God so people of
all ages could understand it.
New Living Translation (1996)
The New Living Translation is a revision
of The Living Bible. Philosophically, it is a move from a paraphrase
to a dynamic equivalent translation. A team of 101 translators worked seven
years to produce it. The translation team included both Arminians and Calvinists.
This broad base of evangelicals should provide a more objective translation.
It was sponsored by Tyndale.
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Copyright © 1995-1997 by Dr. John E. Russell,
Internet Version Copyright © 2001 by Dr. John E. Russell.