The American Bible Union Version

1850 New Testament. The Commonly Received Version of the New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, with Several Hundred Emendations, edited by Spencer H. Cone and William H. Wyckoff. New York: Lewis Colby, 1850.

1862-64 New Testament. The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Common English Version, Corrected by the Final Committee of the American Bible Union. New York: American Bible Union, 1862-64. This thorough revision of the 1850 edtion was prepared by various scholars and edited by Thomas J. Conant, Horatio B. Hackett, and Asahel C. Kendrick. It was first issued in parts, the Gospels appearing in 1862, and Acts through II Corinthians in 1863. A volume containing the complete NT first appeared in 1864.

1865 New Testament. The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Common English Version, Corrected by the Final Committee of the American Bible Union. Second Revision. New York: American Bible Union, 1865. This was a slight revision of the edition of 1862-4.

1891 New Testament. The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. American Bible Union Version. Improved Edition. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1891. This revision of the 1865 edition was issued in two editions, one with baptizo translated "immerse" and one with "baptize."

1912 Bible. The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, An Improved Edition (Based in Part on the Bible Union Version). Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1913.

The New Testament of 1850

Spencer Cone (1785-1855)The first edition listed above (1850) is a moderate revision of the KJV New Testament produced by some officers of the American and Foreign Bible Society. The Society had been formed by American Baptists in 1837, for the purpose of aiding Baptist missionary translators, and some prominent members wished to produce or sponsor a revision of the KJV. But others questioned the wisdom of the proposal. One man who was involved in these events, Thomas Armitage, reports that the Society's President and Secretary made this provisional edition on their own initiative after one member suggested that "those in favor of a revision of the English Scriptures should issue, in the form of a small edition of the New Testament, a specimen of the character of the emendations which they desired .... Deacon William Colgate, the Treasurer, said that he approved of this suggestion, and that if Brethren Cone and Wyckoff would procure and issue such an edition as a personal enterprise, he, as a friend of revision, would personally pay the cost of the plates and printing. This was done, and in their preface they stated that .... they submitted their work, not for acceptance by the Society, but as a specimen of some changes which might be properly made, and that the plates would be presented to the Society if they were desired." 1

In the Preface of the 1850 edition, Cone and Wyckoff describe their purpose thus:

That the truth of God should be rendered plain to the ordinary reader, is a proposition which none but a Romanist will be disposed to deny. Ignorance of what his Maker has revealed, cannot benefit men, error and misconception must injure him. Every child of light will seek to know the truth, and will desire to make it known to others. By suitable efforts to enlighten his fellow creatures in the things of the kingdom, he promotes their welfare, and advances the declaratory glory of the Author of all truth. With these views and objects, the editors have prepared this amended edition of the New Testament, by diligently comparing it with the original Greek, availing themselves of the labors of learned and godly commentators of the last two hundred years, and submitting the emendations made to several eminent Biblical scholars. They do not pretend to have corrected every error and fault of the commonly received version; but they believe that they have removed many of its most objectionable blemishes, and have so far made "a good translation better." This book is designed for the examination of the members of the American and Foreign Bible Society, to convince them that the common version can be corrected without injury to its characteristic excellencies, and with great enhancement of its real value. The plates have been made at the expense of a few benevolent individuals, and will be offered to the society, in connection with a proposition that a committee of learned brethren be appointed to correspond upon the subject of further emendations, and once a year to submit to the board those on which they unanimously agree. These, if approved by the board, may be introduced into the plates, and the business of rectification be thus gradually prosecuted, until the society is prepared to approve and adopt the book as a standard. 2

In keeping with the usual Baptist interpretation of the Greek word baptizo, the word "immerse" is substituted for "baptise," and "immersion" for "baptism." But many other changes unrelated to distinctive Baptist teachings were also made. And so, for example, in Matthew 28:19 there are several changes aside from the rendering of baptizo: "Go ye, therefore, and disciple all nations, immersing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (cp. the KJV "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"). Matthew 5:16 has "Thus let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works" instead of "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works." In Matthew 6:27 "being anxious" is substituted for "taking thought." In John 10:30 "I and the Father are one" replaces "I and my Father are one." Romans 6:17 says "But thanks be to God; for ye were the servants of sin; but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to you," instead of "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you." In Revelation 4:6, 7, 8 "living creatures" replaces "beasts." Aside from the "immerse" alterations, the revisions are not very controversial, and they obviously tend to improve the accuracy or clarity of the version.

Nevertheless, most Baptists at the time were not inclined to support any revision of the KJV. At the meeting of the Society held in 1850, many members strongly objected to the project. A report of the meeting records that one member (Mr. Turnbull of Hartford, Conn.) protested that "He must confess that his reverence for the Bible had been greatly wounded by the language which had been used in regard to the imperfections of the present version. He did not like to hear it said that it contained 20,000 errors. Dr. Blaney had said the same thing of the Greek original from which the translation was made, but upon examination they proved of a very insignificant character. He hoped that these trivial imperfections, whether in a Greek manuscript or in the English version, would not be forced into a magnitude which did not belong to them." Another member (the Rev. Dr. Ide) waxed eloquent with the following words: "We have learned this English Bible at our mother's knee. Ought we to shake the confidence of the people? Can you put any stop to the course of the Infidel, if you thus shake the confidence of the community in the Bible? Whatever differences there may be between the various denominations of Christians, while we have that good old English Bible, there is a broad golden band that unites us all together—that still makes us one family and household of faith. If we have a new Bible, this band will be sundered. We shall be the Ishmaelites of Christendom. Even if we voted for a new version, it would be impossible to carry it into effect. You may appoint a congress of theologians; but think you that the associations of two hundred and forty years can thus be erased? Think you that Christians who have learned to lisp their Saviour's name from this book, can thrust it aside and take up with a new version? Dear old English Bible! we will not forsake thee ... " 3 Near the end of this emotional assembly, Cone expressed his disappointment:

We had proposed a revision of the New Testament. Hard names were lavished upon us. I must place this subject before you in its true light. I pretend to little knowledge of Greek, yet I taught it three years after I left Nassau Hall. I gave brother Wyckoff a number of errors that I had been digging out, to compare with the Greek, and make such alterations as were needed, as Bro. Wyckoff was well able, having prepared several students for college, among whom were one or two of my own sons. The whole was then submitted to several learned Grecians, who say that the emendations are few and properly stated. As these brethren did not wish to commit themselves, I have preferred not to make them known. Several suspicions as to these learned men have found their way among the brethren. Whoever can suspect me of telling a falsehood, is welcome to all the honor and all the comfort to which their suspicions can entitle them in the eyes of God or man. We have been mere editors. We availed ourselves of the commentators of the last two hundred years. All these corrections I have preached to the churches under my care. As to baptize, we need no scholarship to prove that meant immerse. We pretend not to have corrected every error, but many of the most objectionable blemishes. It is the result of my studies for thirty-five years. 4

In the end, the revision proposal was voted down, and supporters of the revision were voted out of office, with the exception of Cone, who continued to be highly respected despite his unpopular stand on this particular issue. But Cone resigned in protest. Later the same year, he joined others in founding another Bible Society that would support the revision of the KJV, the American Bible Union.

Money was raised for the translation project by means of speaking tours and letters of appeal to Baptist churches. Much money was also raised from Campbellite churches after Alexander Campbell and James Shannon were brought into the project as translators. This inclusion of Campbell and his followers turned out to be a further source of trouble, however, as many Baptists balked at supporting a project which included them. In 1852 one influential Baptist pastor, Rev. William R. Williams of the Amity-Street Baptist church in New York, criticized the project in an open letter that obtained wide currency. Among other reasons he strongly objected to the project because, "A religious body, most numerous at the West, the adherents of the Rev. Alexander Campbell, are associated with you. With that body, in its doctrines, ministry, and membership, our own churches have long held no fellowship." 5

More serious problems arose in 1856 when Rev. Archibald Maclay (1776-1860) resigned from his position as President of the Bible Union and publicly criticized the organization. Maclay was a venerable figure in the Baptist denomination, and was made vice president of the Bible Union when it was formed in 1850. Like his friend Spencer Cone, he was at that time already quite aged, and served mostly as a popular figurehead and travelling fund-raiser. The day-to-day management of the project was really in the hands of William Wyckoff, the Corresponding Secretary. Maclay was made president in October 1855 (at the age of 80) after the death of Cone, but he abruptly resigned just six months later, in May 1856. In that year a pamphlet was published in New York, explaining the reasons for his resignation. In his pamphlet Maclay concluded:

And being fully satisfied, from personal examination, that the funds which I have done so much to collect, and which I know have been most sacredly devoted, by the rich and the poor, to one of the holiest purposes of Christian charity, are being squandered; that a vast amount is expended for operations remote from the one great object of the Institution; that men are employed to translate the word of God who are not qualified for the work; that unwarrantable translations have been made, which, if published, must bring into discredit the most precious doctrines of my faith, sap the fundamental truths of Christianity, as indubitably revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and shake the confidence of the people in the canon of the sacred writings; that such revisions are likely to be published for indiscriminate circulation, without the previous precautionary examination, provided for, and required by, the plan and rules of revision, as originally adopted by the Board; that the controlling power of the institution has become completely centralized in one man; and that the exercise of that power is not only such as to forbid the hope of reform, but also to blast the name and influence of every one who advocates reform*—feeling perfectly assured of all this, I am compelled, by a stern sense of duty, to abandon the enterprise, and to free myself, as far as possible, from all further responsibility. 6

In 1857 another disgruntled employee of the Bible Union, Orrin B. Judd, published a pamphlet in which the same complaints were made. 7 These pamphlets did real damage to the reputation of the Bible Union, but the project continued.

The New Testament of 1862-64

Despite all the opposition from without, and the trouble within its own ranks, the Bible Union managed to publish a revision of the New Testament prepared by various scholars and edited for the Society by Thomas J. Conant, Horatio B. Hackett, and Asahel C. Kendrick. It was first printed in parts from 1862 to 1864, and was introduced by the following paragraphs "To the Reader."


It is the object of the following revised version of the Gospels, to give a faithful expression of the meaning of the Sacred Text; and to do this, as far as is possible, in the words of the common English version.

The Committee of Revisers have kept in mind, that their work is intended for the use of the common reader ; and that many of the nicer distinctions of idiom and phraseology, which are appropriate in a version for the learned, or for use in the lecture-room, would be out of place here.

In accordance with the object of the Society, for whose use this revision is prepared, to obtain a true and faithful rendering of the inspired text, the words which express the initiatory rite of the Christian Church are rendered by their literal equivalents, as was done by Luther and others, in the versions from the Greek into the vernacular languages of the continent of Europe.

It is proper to say, that there is a difference of opinion among the members of the Committee, in regard to the substitution of ' the Immerser' for ' the Baptist.' In the view of a part of the Committee, if the verb which expresses the Christian rite is translated, the official title derived from it should be translated also. Others object to this as an inconsistency, in a revision which transfers other official titles (as 'the Christ,' instead of ' the Anointed') , and as leading to confusion and inconvenience, by substituting new and unknown names of historical personages, for those by which they are universally known in English usage. This word, though employed in this edition, is subject to further consideration by the Committee.

The Committee have aimed to exhibit, in their revision, the characteristic manner of each evangelist; following the true reading in each where they have been assimilated to one another in the later manuscripts, and giving the true rendering where they have been improperly assimilated, or made to differ, in the common version. The independent testimony of each inspired witness is thus presented to the reader unimpaired.

Owing to the shortness of the time allowed for preparing this revision of the Gospels, and the distance at which the members of the Committee reside from each other, rendering consultation difficult, they have found it necessary to reserve their decision on some questions which are still under consideration. These questions, for the most part, relate to points of expression merely, and not to the meaning of the text.

An Appendix is added to some copies, for those who may desire it, showing the true text from the oldest manuscripts, followed in this revision.

The New Testament of 1865

The edition of 1862-64 was soon revised and published in a new edition in 1865, introduced by the following "Note."

NOTE (1865)

This Revised Testament has been prepared under the auspices of the American Bible Union, by the most competent scholars of the day. No expense has been spared to obtain the oldest translations of the Bible, copies of the ancient manuscripts, and other facilities to make the revision as perfect as possible.

The paragraph form has been adopted in preference to the division by verse, which is a modern mode of division, never used in the ancient scriptures. But, for convenience of refence, the numbers of the verses are retained.

All quotations from the Old Testament are distinctly indicated, and the poetic form is restored to those which appear as poetry in the original.

The revisers have been guided in their labors by the following rules prescribed by the Union:


The received Greek text, critically edited, with known errors corrected, must be followed.

The common English version must be the basis of revision, and only such alterations must be made as the exact meaning of the text and the existing state of the language may require.

The exact meaning of the inspired text, as that text expressed it to those who understood the original Scriptures at the time they were first written, must be given in corresponding words and phrases, so far as they can be found in the English language, with the least possible obscurity or indefiniteness.

The "Rules for the Revision" given here are evidently a summary of the more detailed rules found in Thomas Armitage's account of the revision:

The following were the general rules of the Union:

'1. The exact meaning of the inspired text, as that text expressed it to those who understood the original Scriptures at the time they were first written, must be translated by corresponding words and phrases, so far as they can be found in the vernacular tongue of these for whom the version is designed, with the least possible obscurity or indefiniteness.

'2. Whenever there is a version in common use it shall be made the basis of revision, and all unnecessary interference with the established phraseology shall be avoided, and only such alteration shall be made as the exact meaning of the inspired text and the existing state of the language may require.

'3. Translations or revisions of the New Testament shall be made from the received Greek text, critically edited, with known errors corrected.'

The following were the 'Special Instructions to the Revisers of the English New Testament:'

'1. The common English version must be the basis of the revision; the Greek text, Bagster & Son's octavo edition of 1851.

'2. Whenever an alteration from that version is made on any authority additional to that of the reviser, such authority must be cited in the manuscript, either on the same page or in an appendix.

'3. Every Greek word or phrase, in the translation of which the phraseology of the common version is changed, must be carefully examined in every other place in which it occurs in the New Testament, and the views of the reviser given as to its proper translation in each place.

'4. As soon as the revision of any one book of the New Testament is finished, it shall be sent to the Secretary of the Bible Union, or such other person as shall be designated by the Committee on Versions, in order that copies may be taken and furnished to the revisers of the other books, to be returned with their suggestions to the reviser or revisers of that book. After being re-revised, with the aid of these suggestions, a carefully prepared copy shall be forwarded to the Secretary.' 8

The Greek Text

In the "Rules for the Revision" given above it will be noticed that the translators were instructed to use "the received Greek text, critically edited, with known errors corrected," and the text to be used is further specified as "Bagster & Son's octavo edition of 1851." But there is an unfortunate ambiguity in the phrases "critically edited, with known errors corrected." Was this to be understood as a description of the Bagster edition, as being free of typographical errors? Or did it give the translators permission to revise the Greek text according to modern text-critical methods? Archibald Macay, in the letter referred to above, insisted that the rules adopted by the Bible Union "admit of no departure from the received text: as critically edited, (not by revisers of the Bible Union, but by distinguished scholars in times past,) and subsequently published by Bagster and Sons in 1851." But at least some of the revisers understood it otherwise. In a draft copy of the Gospel of John examined by Maclay he noticed that "one of the portions rejected as spurious, embraced twelve consecutive verses!" That would of course be the story of the Adulteress in the eighth chapter, which most critical scholars regarded as a later insertion, not originally belonging to the Gospel. But this kind of revision was not expected or thought to be proper even by many educated men of the time. In the middle of the nineteenth century such alterations were rather shocking to some, especially of the older generation, like Maclay, who feared that it would "shake the confidence of the people in the canon of the sacred writings."

The correction of the Greek text is quite conservative, and not very consistent. For example, Acts 28:29 is omitted, and a note there states that the verse "is wanting in the oldest and best copies." But in most similar cases, where competent critical scholars of the day (Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford) agreed that certain words had been added in the later manuscripts, we find them represented in the English text without any note. Sometimes brackets are used to indicate words of questionable authenticity. In John 5:3-4 the words omitted by all the critical editions (KJV "waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had") are put in brackets, and a note states that they "are wanting in the oldest and best copies." The story of the adulteress in John 7:53-8:11 is also bracketed, and a note says "The words in brackets are wanting in most of the ancient copies." But again, in its use of blackets the version does not consistently reflect the opinions of contemporary experts in the subject. Probably the American Bible Union revisers did not feel free to make many changes of this nature, or doubted that the new text-critical science of their time really warranted any settled conclusions about the text at many points. Critically annotated editions of the Greek text were not widely available in America at the time, and were just beginning to appear in Great Britain.

Armitage gives the names of several men who were commissioned to revise parts of the New Testament for the editions that appeared between 1862 and 1865, and he states that the men chiefly responsible for the work were Thomas J. Conant, Horatio B. Hackett, Asahel C. Kendrick, and Philip Schaff. 9

Translation of Baptizo

As we noted above, one item of particular interest to the Baptists responsible for this version is the translation of the word baptizo, which they take to mean immerse. Hence the word "immerse" is used consistently throughout the version. Against this, it has been pointed out by many scholars that by the time the New Testament was written this word had become a technical term for a religious practice or ordinance, in which the purpose and effect of the water was more essential to the meaning than the mode of its application. Already in the Gospel of Mark (chap. 7:4), we find the word used to denote a washing ritual, in which water was poured over the hands: "And when they come from the marketplace, except they wash themselves, they eat not." But even here the editors of the American Bible Union version would not admit an exception to their rule, being driven by controversy to an extreme position. As one reviewer observed:

"The word baptism, must be supplanted by 'immersion,' though it be the occasion of immersing the couches of the Jews before they could be considered fit for occupancy ... and though it involve the gratuitous assumption implied in the passage: 'And coming from the market, except they immerse themselves, they do not eat' (Mark vii.4); and the preposterous translation: 'And the Pharisee, seeing it, wondered that he did not first immerse himself (aor. passive.) before dinner' (Luke xi. 38). We say 'preposterous,' because the probabilities of the case justify a term of reprobation as strong as this; and because one of the evangelists has taken the precaution to forestall so absurd a rendering by stating expressly: 'For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they carefully wash their hands, do not eat, holding the tradition of the elders' (Mark vii. 3, 4); and also because the Master himself said: 'He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit' (John xiii. 10)." 10

The idea that Jews of those days would not eat unless they could first baptize themselves by immersion is indeed ridiculous. 11

The New Testament of 1891

In 1883 the American Bible Union (along with the American and Foreign Bible Society) dissolved, after donating its property and copyrights to the American Baptist Publication Society. Some years later, the officers of this Society decided to produce a newly revised edition of the New Testament. The edition appeared in 1891, with the following "Prefatory Note."

“Prefatory Note” to the New Testament of 1891

In 1865, the American Bible Union published a Revised English Version of the New Testament, which has been widely used. The demand for a new edition having been made, and the money necessary having been furnished, the Executive Board of the American Baptist Publication Society — to which Society the home Bible work of Baptists was committed by the Bible Convention at Saratoga, N. Y., May 22 and 23, 1883 — appointed Alvah Hovey, D. D., John A. Broadus, D. D., and Henry G. Weston, D. D., a committee to prepare an improved edition of this Revised New Testament of the American Bible Union. To meet the wishes of many persons, this improved edition is published in two forms, one of which retains the American Bible Union translations of baptizo (immerse, etc.), the other has the Anglicised form of the Greek word (baptize, etc.).

Portions of the Old Testament Revised and Annotated by Prof. Conant

From 1856 to 1878 five volumes were published by the Bible Union containing parts of the Old Testament revised and annotated by Thomas J. Conant (1802-1891), who in 1857 resigned from his position at Rochester Theological Seminary to devote himself to the production of scholarly works for the Bible Union. Job was published in 1856; Genesis in 1868; Psalms in 1871; Proverbs in 1871; and a volume containing Joshua, Judges, and Ruth in 1878. Dr. Conant also prepared revisions of the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, but they were never published. These volumes were much more than revisions of the King James version: they are commentaries, with long scholarly introductions and thousands of explanatory notes. Some editions included the Hebrew text in parallel with the KJV and Conant's revision.

The Bible of 1912

It seems that after the death of William Wyckoff in 1877, the Bible Union lost its momentum, and the revision project stalled. Thomas Armitage states that by 1883 "the Bible Union was much embarrassed by debt." 12 It was largely for this reason that the Union dissolved itself, after handing its property and projects over to the American Baptist Publication Society in Philadelphia. The completion of the Old Testament revision is described in the “Prefatory Note” to the Old Testament included in the Bible version published by the Society in 1912, reproduced below. Following this, we give also the “Prefatory Note” to the New Testament, which describes the final revision of the New Testament books.

“Prefatory Note” to the Old Testament, 1912

In 1883, at the Saratoga Convention, the Bible work of the denomination at home was committed to the American Baptist Publication Society. With it was coupled the duty of continuing the versions of the Bible Union. At a later conference it was determined that the revision of the Old Testament should be completed as funds should be furnished for this work.

In the course of time sufficient means had accumulated, and in 1889 the work was assigned as follows: To Prof. Barnard C. Taylor, D. D., of Crozer Theological Seminary, was given the revision of Prof. T. J. Conant's Bible Union version of Genesis, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I. and II. Samuel, I. and II. Kings, Job, Psalms, and Proverbs, and also the translation of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; to Prof. J. R. Sampey, D. D., of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was assigned the translation of I. and II. Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations. Prof. William R. Harper, of the University of Chicago, undertook the translation of Isaiah and the minor prophets, while Prof. Ira M. Price, Ph. D., of the same institution, assumed the task of translating Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. In making these assignments it was understood that each writer should be responsible for his own work and follow his own plan. In this connection the publishers acknowledge the services of Prof. J. M. P. Smith, of the University of Chicago, in reading and revising the proof of Doctor Harper's portion.

When the work of translation was sufficiently advanced, that of composition began. Progress was slow, however, and this part of the undertaking was not completed until the year 1910, when, to the great gratification of the Society, the task assigned by the Saratoga Convention in 1883 was ended in so far as production is concerned.

There are one or two features of this revision to which we call special attention. As is well known, in the Authorized and Revised versions, supplied words are printed in italics. For the most part in this work such words are reduced to a minimum, and where they do occur, they are enclosed in brackets [ ] so that the pages are not defaced by italicized words. In addition, while in Job, Psalms, and Proverbs in the standard revisions the poetic form of the Hebrew is recognized, in the prophets it is disregarded. In this revision, in the prophets likewise, this form is employed, and their deliverances will be found to have gained thereby in clearness and force.

As a translation is not a commentary, few notes are found in this version. Those that do appear pertain mainly to the text itself and are not expository.

While from the nature of the case there could not be the difference between this revision and the Authorized and Revised versions of the Scriptures that obtains between these and the Improved Edition of the New Testament, it is believed that the difference is sufficient to justify its production, and commend it to public favor. The Society cannot refrain from congratulating the denomination on the completion of this great work, and it cherishes the hope that it may aid in making current that Word whose entrance to the heart and life always gives light.

Philadelphia, May, 1912

“Prefatory Note” to the New Testament, 1912

The New Testament in this volume is the Bible Union version, fourth edition.

The American Bible Union published a Revised version of the New Testament, in three small volumes, in 1862, 1863, and 1864 respectively, and the whole in one volume in the last named year. Some questions having been left unsettled, a second revision, so denominated on the title-page, was issued in 1865. This is the well-known, widely used, and highly commended "Bible Union New Testament." Both editions were prepared by a final committee, consisting of those able and devout scholars, Thomas. J. Conant, D. D., Horatio B. Hackett, D. D., and Asahel C. Kendrick, D. D. Probably the greater part of the actual work was done by Doctor Conant, but in consultation with his associates. This version had a world-wide influence in promoting and enriching other revisions, especially the Anglo-American or Canterbury. After some years, a third revision was projected, with a view of attaining as nearly as possible to perfection, especially in the matter of English expression; but this project was not carried out, owing to unfavorable circumstances, until after the Saratoga Bible Convention of 1883. The American Baptist Publication Society then proceeded to arrange for the prosecution of the work on the Old Testament; and appointed Alvah Hovey, D. D., John A. Broadus, D. D., and Henry G. Weston, D. D., to prepare an improved edition of the Revised New Testament. This was issued in 1891, and has been pronounced by competent judges the best version of the New Testament existent in our language. And now that the work on the Old Testament has been completed, and the Society is about to publish the whole Bible, it has been thought desirable again to review the New Testament, in order to secure uniformity and consistency of rendering more completely and to make some further improvements, largely of a minor description, so that without changing its character a very excellent version may be made at least a little better. This work has been done with great pains and minute care. The publishers appreciatively acknowledge in connection therewith the services of Rev. J. W. Willmarth, D. D., who likewise aided in reading and correcting the proof.

It is no part of a translation pure and simple, to supply a commentary; but some notes are indispensable. Such as appear are, for the most part, explanatory of the text and are not expository.

To meet different views as to the transference or translation of "baptizein" the "Improved Edition" was issued in two forms, one using the word "immerse," and the other "baptize." It has been deemed inexpedient to follow this plan in publishing the whole Bible in two forms. Therefore, wherever these words occur, as descriptive of baptism, the commonly used Anglicized form "baptize," etc., is given, followed by the exact translation in parentheses ("immerse"). Both forms are to be regarded as parts of the text of this version, and either or both may be used.

The sacred writers used the current style of the languages in which they wrote. A version filled with archaic forms and obsolete or obsolescent words, may be deemed to exhibit a "sacred style," but it misrepresents the manner of the inspired penmen. King James's version, with all its great excellencies, is in its style in marked contrast with present usage. It is the aim of the Improved Edition, while seeking to avoid undignified or newly coined words and phrases, to give the word of God in intelligible and current English. It is believed that, on account of this feature, the word of life in this version will come home to the heart and mind of the reader with increased force and a more impressive reality.

And now this version of the New Testament is commended to the favor of God and of his people, in the hope that it will enable the English reader, more accurately than in any other, to read "in his own tongue wherein he was born, the wonderful works of God."

Philadelphia, May, 1912.


1. Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists; Traced by their Vital Principles and Practices, from the Time of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to the Year 1886 (New York: Bryan, Taylor, & Co., 1887), p. 901.

2. This portion of the preface is quoted from a review article published in The Primitive Church Magazine, vol. 7, no. 81 (September 1850), p. 284.

3. As quoted by Alexander Campbell, "Portentous Discussion and Decision," The Millenial Harbinger, series 3, vol. 7 (1850), pp. 436-437, reproducing text from "the New York Recorder of May 29, 1850."

4. Ibid., p. 447.

5. The Bible Question Decided in a Correspondence between the American Bible Union and Rev. William R. Williams, D.D. in behalf of the Amity Street Baptist Church. Sixth Edition (New York: Holman and Gray, 1852), p. 7. Concerning the moral and financial support received from followers of Campbell, Jack. P. Lewis writes, "The Stone-Campbell Movement was in the forefront of agitation in the nineteenth century for a revision of the Bible. Campbell insisted that the availability of better text materials, the advance in the knowledge of the Greek language, plus the changes in the English language since 1611 all made revision imperative. Many preachers believed that the translators of the KJV had been unduly influenced by Calvinism and insisted that a better version than the KJV was needed. The Movement furnished much of the money for the making of the American Bible Union Version. A revision committee was formed in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1852 not to make a translation but to encourage cooperation in the effort. Campbell prepared the preliminary copy of the Book of Acts. Movement leaders, however, were disapointed at the final outcome of the whole New Testament." (Jack P. Lewis, "Bible, Versions and Translations of," in The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, edited by Douglas A. Foster and Anthony L. Dunnavant [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004], p. 88).

6. The pamplet was privately printed and distributed, under the title The Resignation of Rev. Archibald Maclay, D.D. as President of the American Bible Union, Explained, in a Letter to Rev. John I. Fulton (New York, 1856), and reprinted in the New York Times. A response to the letter's criticism was provided by James Edmunds and T.S. Bell, Discussion on Revision of the Holy Oracles, and upon the objects, aims, motives, the constitution, organization, facilities, and capacities of the American Bible Union, for revision. By two 'laymen' of the revision association, and five clergymen, etc. (Louisville, Kentucky: Morton & Griswold, 1856).

7. Orrin B. Judd, A Review of the American Bible Union: containing an account of its origin, object, and conduct, with a list of its revisers and revisions, exhibiting its condition and prospects (New York: E.H. Tripp, 1857). Judd had worked on the Gospel of Matthew for the ABU version, but had been dismissed for his inability to get along with Wyckoff.

8. Armitage, op. cit., p. 908.

9. Armitage, op. cit., p. 909. We doubt that Philip Schaff contributed much to this project. His name does not appear with the others in the “Prefatory Note” to the New Testament, 1912, reproduced above.

10. George B. Jewett, "The New Baptist Version," in The Congregational Review vol 8, no. 43 (September 1868), p. 435.

11. It is freely conceded that the basic meaning of baptizo is "dunk," and that the early church baptised by immersion. Even John Calvin wrote, "the word 'baptize' means to immerse, and it is clear that the rite of immersion was observed in the ancient church" (Institutes 4.15.19). But immersion is often inconvenient, especially in cold climates, and the earliest records of the church indicate that Christians did not think that the mode of baptism was essential to its significance and effect.

12. Armitage, op. cit., p. 912.