A REVIEW OF SOME NEWER VERSIONS
by Wayne S. Walker
The previous article in this series provided a review of the basic standard translations of the Bible in the English language–the King James Version of 1611, the English Revised Version of 1885, the American Standard Version of 1901, and the Revised Standard Version of 1952. It pointed out a few of the strengths and weaknesses in each of these versions, seeking to judge them mainly on the basis of their faithfulness to the original text. In this article, we want to provide some similar information regarding some of the popular translations of more recent years.
The New English Bible was published in Great Britain in 1961, with a second edition in 1970, as a successor to the English Revised Version. Those who like it say that its strong points are the use of better and more accurate textual evidence, especially the non-literary papyri, and its "freer translation" which is able to examine the total meaning of a passage rather than being limited to merely reproducing the original. However, it is precisely this "freer translation" thinking that results in its weak points. Slang, more readily accepted as proper in England, is found in the New English Bible. Also, in their attempt to use more contemporary idiom, the translators have changed the original meaning in some places. For example, in Romans 16:22, the New English Bible reads, "I Tertius…add my Christian greetings," although the word "Christian" is not in any manuscript. It uses words and phrases which actually obscure the meaning. And there are certain sectarian renderings, such as Matthew 16:18 which reads, "You are Peter, the Rock; and on this rock I will build my church." The New English Bible never made much headway in the United States, and it cannot be recommended as a translation from which one can easily learn what the original text actually says.
The New American Standard Bible was published in 1963, with a second edition in 1975, as a successor to the American Standard Version. It is in readable, clear, contemporary English yet abstains from slang and vulgarisms. It attempts to reproduce the original intent of its text as precisely as possible in good English. It carefully translates the Greek tenses as accurately as possible, although the second edition is not quite as good in this area. And, unlike the Revised Standard Version and the New English Bible, whose committees included many avowed modernists, the translators of the New American Standard Bible were all firmly committed to the inspiration of the scriptures. However, it does have a few weak points. In the introduction, the translators claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and this might make them suspect in a few areas. Some have protested that it is too literal. In a few places this may be true, but that is preferable to a paraphrase or mere running commentary. There are some places where a premillennial bias shows through, such as in Genesis 22:18, where the word "descendants" is used instead of "seed" (which Galatians 3:16 makes clear is singular). There are other poor renderings such as in Romans 4:8 (faith counted "as" righteousness) and 1 Peter 3:20 (brought safely "through" the water). All in all, while some have objections to it, the New American Standard Bible is a translation from which one can learn God’s word.
The New International Version was published in 1973 as a completely new translation. It has some strong points. In clear, readable, contemporary yet not colloquial English, it is a better example of what the New English Bible tried to be–a freer, thought-for-thought translation rather than a word-for-word reproduction of the original writings, and this can be useful in obtaining a different insight into various passages of scripture. The translators were all conservative, Bible-believing individuals. But it has its weaknesses too. Its attempts at freshness and spontaneity could produce a lack of reverence for the Bible, allowing people to think that it is just another human account of ancient people. Perhaps it does not go too far in this, as many other modern speech versions do, but it comes close. There are places where it become just a bit too modern, as in Luke 24:13, where it says that Emmaus is "about seven miles from Jerusalem." Such equivalences are better left to footnotes. Also, there is a definite Calvinistic bias, as in Galatians 5:17 where it talks about man’s "sinful nature," and in Ephesians 2:3 where it says that "we were by nature objects of wrath." The New International Version has become one of the most popular of newer translations and has its benefits but must still be used with discretion.
The New King James Version was published in 1983 as a modern successor to the original King James Version of 1611. Its main difference from the preceding translations is that it returns to the King James Text (Textus Receptus) as the main source for its renderings, while the others use the newer textual basis following the Wescott-Hort tradition which is derived primarily from older manuscripts more recently discovered. However, it is a point of contention as to whether they are actually more accurate or not. There are a few wordings for which I do not care as much, but I now use and recommend the New King James Version almost exclusively because of its readability and understandability while maintaining faithfulness to the original text. (—taken from With All Boldness; December, 1999; Vol. 9, No. 12; p. 15)