Word of God to Words in Print - Part 3

Posted by Les Ellison  ·  Be the first to comment

In this third part of “English Bibles: Word of God to Words in Print”, Bible translation develops two complementary approaches to making the Word of God real and relevant to modern English speakers, readers and hearers around the world.

The Pursuit of Accuracy

After more than 250 years as 'The' English translation, the King James Bible received two major makeovers:

•  1881 Revised Version (RV) – proclaimed as “the triumph of King-Truth over King-James”
•  1901 American Standard Version (ASV) – even more literal, though not the most readable

The nineteenth century also saw the first English Bible translated (from ‘pin-point’ Hebrew) by a woman, Helen Spurrell, and Robert Young’s single minded ‘Literal’ translation of 1898. However, other single minded translators, such as James Moffatt (1626) and William Barclay (1969), would come to recognise the need for accessible rather than academic English Bibles.

Continents and Communities

Responding to the demands of different faith communities on different continents, mid-century translators produced the 1941 Confraternity Catholic Bible, the 1946 Revised Standard Version (RSV) in England, and the 1963 New American Standard Bible (NASB)  in the US.

The Pursuit of Readability

The liberalisation of language, culture and society from the 1960s demanded a new kind of easy-to-understand English Bible. The Amplified Bible, a revision of the ASV, used brackets and other punctuation to add meaning to its text.

Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed (kept holy) be Your name. - The Amplified Bible

With the 1970s arrived the gender neutral New English Bible, New American (Catholic) Bible, the bestselling Living Bible (now revised as the New Living Translation – NLT) and the first release of perhaps the most significant translation in living memory the New International Version (NIV).

All these translations were eclipsed, for a while at least, by the 1976 Good News Bible with Annie Vallotton’s elegant line drawings and simple, readable story book style.


Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honoured." - The Good News Bible


Enduringly popular, the KJV re-emerged in 1979 as The New King James Bible (NKJV), in 1989 as the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and as its newer, corrected and updated cousin, the 2001 English Standard Version (ESV), maintaining the long scriptural tradition of cadence and poetry.

The Paraphrase Revolution

Adopting a very different style of translation, Eugene Peterson’s 2002 The Message created a lively and direct ‘paraphrase’ style that read with the energy of a modern book without chapter and verse numbers.

Contemporary language Bibles, like Rob Lacey’s urban style The Word on the Street (2003) exploits the paraphrase format in mini-blockbuster Bible stories, lyrics and e-mails all in under 500 words.Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are." - The Message Translation

For Children and Less Fluent Readers

The 1986 International Children's Bible (ICB) - revised as New Century Version (NCV) and the 1995 Contemporary English Version (CEV) may be the best known Bibles for readers with limited mastery of the written word or with English as a second language – though there is still demand for new and scholarly word for word Bibles: such as the 2000 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), from readers looking for scholarly accuracy.

Where Next for English Bible Translation?

All the major publishers continue to revise and update their Bibles to match modern and changing language use as English, now an international language, continues to develop more and more local forms.

The need for more and newer English Bibles can only increase. And that’s a good thing as, for every new translation made, another group of people find themselves included in the great world community of Bible readers.

11th May

May 11th, 2013 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison

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