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Gerrit Verkuyl, Berkeley Version of The New Testament from the Original Greek with brief footnotes by Gerrit Verkuyl, Ph.D.; D.D. New Testament Fellow of Princeton. Berkeley, California: James J. Gillick & Co., 1945.
Gerrit Verkuyl, ed., Holy Bible. The Berkeley Version in Modern English, Containing the Old and New Testaments; Translated afresh from the Original Languages and Diligently Compared with Previous Translations; With Numerous Helpful Non-Doctrinal Notes to Aid the Understanding of the Reader. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959.
The Modern Language Bible; The New Berkeley Version; A Completely New Translation From the Original Languages; With Informative Notes to Aid the Understanding of the Reader. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969.
Gerrit Verkuyl (1872-1967) came to America from the Netherlands in 1894, at the age of twenty-one. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Park College (Missouri) in 1901, a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1904, and a Ph.D. from the University of Leipzig in 1906. Thereafter he was employed as an educational program supervisor by the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. He served as a District Educational Superintendent for the Presbyterian Board of Education and as District Secretary of the Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-school Work. In these positions he was responsible for evaluating and supporting Sunday School programs in Presbyterian churches. He retired from his employment in the Presbyterian Church in 1939.
Verkuyl’s translation of the New Testament was first published in 1945 by a small publisher in Berkeley, California, where he resided at the time. The name “Berkeley Translation” was probably suggested by analogy with the “Chicago Translation” published by Goodspeed and other faculty members of the University of Chicago earlier in the same decade, but the version has no connection with the University of California at Berkeley. Afterwards the publication rights to the version were bought by Zondervan Publishers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which aimed to make it into a complete version of the Bible by adding to it a new translation of the Old Testament. Zondervan was a publisher of relatively conservative authors, and so they contracted with evangelical scholars for a translation of the Old Testament, under the editorial supervision of Verkuyl. The completed Bible was published in 1959, when Verkuyl was eighty-six years old. In 1969 (two years after Verkuyl’s death) a minor revision, called The New Berkely Version, was published, and in 1971 the name of the version was changed to The Modern Language Bible.
Verkuyl gives some account of his reasons for producing the version in his prefaces (which we reproduce below) and in an article published in the The Bible Translator in 1951. In these sources we find little indication of a serious scholarly interest or motive for the work. Instead, he seems wholly focused on the supposed demands of piety and upon stylistic and interpretive issues that would be considered important only by teachers in a Sunday-school setting. The 1945 preface emphasizes “the need of employing current words and phrases” and “the language in which we think and live.” The Bible Translator article states rather grandly, “The child is entitled to language in which it thinks and lives and in this right all human beings share,” which seems to imply that the version was designed for children. The same article reveals a particular interest in ameliorating things that are not suitable for children. It expresses, for instance, an anxiety about possible misunderstandings of “Whoever comes to me without hating his father … cannot be my disciple” in Luke 14:26, an unwillingness to translate the word πορνη as “harlot” in Hebrews 11:31, and a particular satisfaction in having softened the dominical saying in Mat. 15:26 by the use of the word “doggies” instead of “dogs.” He explains that he has translated απο του πονηρου as “from the wicked one” in the Lord’s Prayer partly because this is how he learned to say the Prayer as a child: “So I learned to pray as a little child in Holland and so I have continued praying, although in public I must audibly follow the popular translation.”
Nevertheless, when one examines the version itself, the descriptions in the Prefaces and in the Bible Translator article are seen to be inadequate, because the translation is not really adapted to the needs of children. The vocabulary is literary, not colloquial, and we often find poetic language and literal reproductions of Hebrew idioms, such as “he who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood” in Psalm 24:4 and “the habitation of Thy house” in 26:8. Also in the epistles of Paul we find a literary vocabulary, as for example in Romans 4:13-17.
13 Mind you, the promise to Abraham or to his offspring to inherit the earth, came through no Law, but through righteousness produced by faith; 14 for if devotees of the Law are the inheritors, then faith is futile and the promise is abrogated. 15 Because the Law eventuates in indignation; but where there is no Law there is no transgression.
16 For this reason it is a matter of faith, so that the promise may be made sure as a matter of grace to all his descendants; not only to the devotees of the Law, but also to the adherents of Abraham’s faith, who is thus father to us all, — 17 as it is written, “I have appointed you a father of many nations.” All this in the presence of God in whom he believed, who makes the dead live and calls into existence what has no being.
These verses also show how Verkuyl has interpreted the text for the reader in various ways. The γὰρ at the beginning of verse 13 is interpreted “Mind you,” which seems unnecessary. Rather than giving a literal translation of διὰ δικαιοσύνης πίστεως “through the righteosuness of faith” he interpets the genitive as a genitive of result: “righteousness produced by faith.” Instead of the literal “those who are of the Law” for οἱ ἐκ νόμου he interprets it “devotees of the Law.” Paul’s eliptical Διὰ τοῦτο ἐκ πίστεως, ἵνα κατὰ χάριν is expanded to “For this reason it is a matter of faith, so that … as a matter of grace,” and τῷ ἐκ πίστεως Ἀβραάμ (lit. “to those who are of the faith of Abraham”) is interpreted as “to the adherents of Abraham’s faith.” These renderings represent interpretations, and they are more explicit than what Paul actually wrote. Some of them are questionable. For instance, τῷ ἐκ πίστεως Ἀβραάμ should probably be understood “to those who have the same kind of faith as Abraham did.” The word “adherents” is not appropriate here. And διὰ δικαιοσύνης πίστεως probably means more generally “through the righteousness of faith.”
Verkuyl displays an independent spirit by employing renderings not seen in other versions. Some of these renderings have real merit, as for instance “placed in the position of sinners … placed in the position of righteous ones” in Romans 5:19, which is an unusual attempt to convey one sense of the verb καθιστημι. One might fault the version at this point for not including a footnote giving the alternative “made sinners … made righteous,” but then one might also fault the other versions for not doing likewise. The quality of the translation is however uneven. Some of his peculiar renderings are plainly unacceptable. For example, we find in 1 Corinthians 11:2 the eccentric rendering “suggestions” for the Greek παραδόσεις. This is hard to account for; but looks very much like a misunderstanding of the rendering “Anweisungen” in Weizsäcker’s German version of 1875, which Verkuyl mentions in the Preface as being one of his sources.
Regarding matters of textual criticism, Verkuyl says that he has used the text of Tischendorf (1869) as his basis. This is unusual for his time, and he does not explain the reason for it, but probably it is because Weizsäcker’s version was based on Tischendorf’s text. He does not strictly adhere to Tischendorf, though, and in his Bible Translator article he says that he has inserted additional material from the Textus Receptus for the sake of the “little ones,” as he calls them, whom “we do well not to offend” by omitting such “precious” sayings as, “The Son of Man has come to save the lost” (Mat. 18:11). The Preface states that these additions are put in parentheses, but in the version itself one finds that this is not always the case. The apocryphal Story of the Adulteress is inserted in the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel without any marks. A note informs the reader that “Although 7:53-8:11 is not in older found manuscripts, the incident has such a Christlike ring to it, the omission of it would be a great loss. We accept it as a true report.” But the additional clauses from the Textus Receptus that are included in marks of parenthesis are no less “Christlike.”
For the Old Testament, the 1959 Preface lists twenty translators. The list includes some well-known evangelical scholars, but it does not tell us which books were translated by each. We assume that Verkuyl, as the editor of the version, has made some changes to the translations submitted by these scholars.
At least two valid reasons for fresh translations are clear to the thoughtful reader: First, the discovery of earlier and more reliable Greek manuscripts than those from which our Authorized Version was translated more than three centuries ago. Second, the need of employing current words and phrases rather than those that have become obsolete. As thought and action belong together so do religion and life. The language, therefore, that must serve to bring us God’s thoughts and ways toward us needs to be the language in which we think and live rather than that of our ancestors who expressed themselves differently.
Each new translation by a qualified and honest student is a contribution to the treasures of our Christian wealth, for it offers an added glimpse at the many riches of divine revelation. But in consulting the Versions that have come out during the last half century we grew aware of certain lacks which we hope in a measure to supply.
It is never easy and at times it proves impossible to translate a word or phrase adequately; at best the translator may then attempt approximate interpretation. We have therefore undertaken to clarify expressions without making such interpretations part of the Sacred Writings. Besides, we explain situations and conditions that may otherwise puzzle the reader. Which means that a brief commentary accompanies this translation.
To the best of our ability we have tried to determine the dates of events, of sayings, and of writings. For sake of reverence and of clarity we employ for such pronouns of Deity as He and Him, the initial capital; but where His disciples are still unaware of His deity, and certainly where His enemies accost Him, the use of initial capitals and of Thee and Thou would not reflect their attitude. This is a phase of the humiliation He voluntarily entered. And as Christ is Himself the Word His sayings are not in quotation marks.
Our basic Greek is Tischendorf’s, but we have at all points consulted Nestle’s edition. Leusden’s edition of the Greek and Latin New Testaments has also been consulted, as well as Luther’s and Weizaeker’s German Versions and another in the Dutch language. Among the British we have observed the translations of Fenton and of Weymouth, and of Americans those of Moffatt, Goodspeed, and Ballantine. Also, of course, the Authorized Version, some words of which, if not based on early Greek manuscripts, are shown in parentheses. For the aid of them all in finding the choicest form of expression we are devoutly grateful, but we have earnestly striven to make this Version our own.
May the perusal of these Scriptures prove as helpful to the reader of our day as once the Holy Spirit enlightened and strengthened the authors and as more recently their study gave joy and comfort to the translator. And so it will be if with humble invocation of the Spirit’s gracious presence we receive and follow these divine suggestions.
G.V., Berkeley, California
This is not just another revision; it is a completely new translation. We have turned to the original languages of both Testaments, assured that “holy men from God spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Neither is this a paraphrase, for that leads so readily to the infusion of human thought with divine revelation, to the confusion of the reader. Instead of paraphrasing, we offer brief notes, related to, but apart from, the inspired writings, to clarify and to give a sharper view of the message.
Throughout both Testaments we employ our language according to its choicest current usage. Even mention of weights, measures and monetary values is made in modern terms, so that the reader does not need to be a linguist to understand the information.
As far as feasible, this is a complete translation. The skilled and faithful plowman turns over every inch of soil his plow can reach. So the Bible translator must leave no word untouched, if its equivalent is attainable — a requirement rarely met in the many versions and revisions we have studied.
We have striven for clearness to render God’s revelation in the revealing way it was intended. This brings embarrassments. “I shall not want” in our beloved Shepherd Psalm does not today reflect the psalmist’s meaning. “I shall not lack,” is equally poetic and is more true to the original. The word translated “evil” may also be translated “calamity,” carrying, like our word “bad,” either an ethical or a physical meaning. But in our daily use the word “evil” has come to stand for wickedness, so that “Shall there be evil in the city and the Lord has not done it” should have “calamity”; so “reverence” rather than fear as related to God, and “grief” rather than repentance on God’s part. In all these uses the translators of this version have exercised commendable caution.
To be both brief and clear we make liberal use of Arabic numerals, a shorthand method we all have daily employed, as in the use of punctuation marks for which the Hebrews made repeated use of waw, formed like our comma and corresponding to our “and.”
We have returned to dating, for which we claim no inspiration, and we are aware of disagreements on the part of scholars regarding even important dates. But the Bible mentions considerable dating, and events did occur at certain times which are scripturally related one to another.
We are in tune with the “Authorized Version” of 1611 in fidelity to the Messianic Promise, first made as soon as man had sinned, renewed to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, narrowed to Judah’s offspring and later to David’s descendants. This promise remained the hope of the worshiping Hebrews, whose prophets stimulated their faith, and Jesus reminded the Emmaus pilgrims of it, “starting from Moses and through all the prophets ... in all the Scriptures that referred to Himself.”
To be faithful to this everlasting Evangel we simply needed to be faithful to the original Scriptures. Where, in the Old Testament, Hebrew words were lacking or hard to decipher, we have made use of available Greek or Aramaic. Where the Old Testament is quoted in the New (taken from the Greek), the language may differ, but the thought is the same. The Dead Sea Scrolls that contained passages from the Old Testament speak volumes for the accuracy with which the ancient Hebrew manuscripts were preserved and transcribed. And where those scrolls contain items that bear vitally on our translations, we have profited from consulting them.
Hebraic scholars of various denominations, mostly professors of their respective seminaries, have labored in season and out of season to prepare this Berkeley Version. Each translated portion has been reviewed by at least two other members of our staff and many books by several of them, but no translator is responsible for the work of any other translator. The responsibility remains with the translator, the editors and the publishers. The notes below the translation are not necessarily in every case those of the translator; some of these were supplied by the editor-in-chief and his assistants.
We are grateful for the cooperation of the men whose time and talents were so unstintedly devoted to this exacting task, and we marvel at their endurance. We thank God that not one of them who started the work was laid aside by illness while the actual work of translation was in progress. It pleased the Lord, however, shortly before we went to press, to take unto Himself our esteemed friend and colleague, Dr. George L. Robinson.
With expectant joy and acknowledgment of our Father’s sustaining grace we surrender the results of our endeavors to the readers of the Bible, supremely grateful to Him who first inspired its contents. We pray that this version may be instrumental in the Fulfillment of God’s purpose, a translation of His teachings into Christlike living. This will most amply reward our labors.
Berkeley, California, February 10, 1959
We desire also to express appreciation to others who gave their critical reading to portions of the manuscript and rendered valuable suggestions. Among these we include Prof. Dewey M. Beegle, Ph.D., Biblical Seminary of New York; Prof. Gerhard E. Lenski, Ph.D., Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, California; the Rev. Charles D. Krug, Th.M., San Francisco Theological Seminary (Presbyterian); the Rev. Sidney A. Hatch of Los Angeles; Prof. L. M. Farr, Baptist Bible College, San Francisco, who rendered valuable assistance twice a week over a period of many months; and to Mr. Robert E. Hink of Berkeley, whose special help contributed much to the project. Also to the Rev. Garrett Pars of Cleveland, Ohio, and the Rev. Peter De Jong of Seattle, Washington, who made valuable suggestions and criticisms on the basis of their reading portions of the manuscript, and to Mrs. Frances E. Siewert of Pasadena, California, who gave much valuable editorial assistance.
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