|Bible Research > English Versions > 20th Century > New Century Version|
Ervin Bishop et al., The Holy Bible - New Century Version. Ft. Worth, Texas: Worthy Publishing, 1987.
This dynamic equivalence version began as a project of the World Bible Translation Center in Ft. Worth, Texas, a society formed in 1973 by persons associated with the Churches of Christ. The initial purpose of the society was to produce and publish a version specially adapted to the needs of deaf people who were unfamiliar with many idioms of English as it is commonly spoken. The New Testament was completed in 1978 and published as the English Version for the Deaf (EVD) by Baker Book house. It was perhaps the simplest English version ever published, being done with a third-grade vocabulary 1 and with very short sentences. In 1980 Baker tried to market this version to a wider readership by publishing it as A New Easy-to-Read Version (ERV), in a format which made no reference to its original purpose. By 1983 the New Testament was revised and again issued, this time by Sweet Publishing in Ft. Worth, as the International Children’s Version New Testament. In 1984 the same publisher issued the same version as The Word: New Century Version. The complete Bible (with slightly revised New Testament) was then published as The Holy Bible, International Children’s Version in 1986, and in 1987 the complete Bible was also published under the name New Century Version. By this time Sweet Publishing had merged with Worthy Publishing in Ft. Worth Texas, and had issued the version in a special edition called The Everyday Bible, with an endorsement by Billy Graham. The following year a paperback edition of its New Testament was issued by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, as the Everyday New Testament (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, 1988). 2 In 1988 Sweet/Worthy Publishing was acquired by Word Publishing, which in 1991 published another revision. This 1991 revision was more extensive, and it was designed to make the version more suitable for an older readership, with longer sentences and more fluent style. In 1992 Word Publishing was acquired by Thomas Nelson Publishers, which continues to print the 1991 revision under the name, New Century Version. 3
The Easy-to-Read Version is basically the work of Ervin Bishop, who also serves as vice-president of the World Bible Translation Center. For the original “English Version for the Deaf” project he worked closely with Benton Dibrell, a deaf-language specialist. The first draft was revised after receiving suggestions from other scholars who served as consultants. Among those who examined the text and offered their suggestions were Dr. Harvey Floyd, head of the Department of Biblical Languages at David Lipscomb University, and Dr. Everett Ferguson, professor of Greek and Church History at Abilene Christian University. For the 1991 revision, comments were solicited from a Translation Review Committee consisting of scholars from various church backgrounds, including Harold W. Hoehner, Virtus E. Gideon, Bruce M. Metzger, Neil R. Lightfoot and Stanley M. Horton. 4
The preface of the Easy-to-Read Version states, “The principles governing the work were basically the same as those set forth in several books by Eugene Nida of the American Bible Society and advocated more recently by John Beekman and John Callow of Wycliffe Bible Translators in their book, Translating the Word of God. Those who worked on the EVD/ERV followed conservatively the approach to translation that Nida calls ‘dynamic equivalence,’ referred to by Beekman as ‘idiomatic’ translation.” The sample passage below certainly bears this out, though we might ask how “conservatively” the principles have been followed. It seems that the text has been very severely simplified. We also note that the Easy-to-Read Version and the New Century Version in their present form consistently employ gender-neutral language, which has become something of a “red flag” to conservatives in recent years. Wayne Grudem has said that the edition published as the International Children’s Bible in 1986 was the first complete translation of the Bible to adopt such a policy, 5 but it is unclear at what point the policy was adopted.
Easy-to-Read Version 6
1 Greetings from Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus. God called me to be an apostle. I was chosen to tell God’s Good News to all people. 2 God promised long ago to give this Good News to his people. God used his prophets to promise this. That promise is written in the Holy Scriptures. 3-4 The Good News is about God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. As a person, he was born from the family of David. But through the Spirit of holiness Jesus was shown to be God’s Son. He was shown to be God’s Son with great power by rising from death. 5 Through Christ, God gave me the special work of an apostle. God gave me this work to lead people of all nations to believe and obey God. And I do his work for Christ. 6 And you people in Rome were also called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 This letter is to all of you in Rome that God has called to be his holy people. You are people that God loves. Grace (kindness) and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First I want to say that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you. I thank God because people everywhere in the world are talking about your great faith. 9-10 Every time I pray I always remember you. God knows this is true. God is the One I worship (serve) in my spirit by telling people the Good News about his Son. I pray that I will be allowed to come to you. It will happen if God wants it. 11 I want very much to see you. I want to give you some spiritual gift to make you strong. 12 I mean that I want us to help each other with he faith that we have. Your faith will help me, and my faith will help you. 13 Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that I planned many times to come to you. But I have not been allowed to come to you. I wanted to come so that I could help you grow spiritually. I want to help you like I have helped the other non-Jewish people. 14 I must serve all people — Greeks and non- Greeks, wise people and foolish people. 15 That is why I want so much to tell the Good News to you there in Rome. 16 I am proud of the Good News. The Good News is the power God uses to save every person that believes — to save the Jews first, and also to save the non-Jews. 17 The Good News shows how God makes people right with himself. God’s way of making people right begins and ends with faith. Like the Scripture says, “The person that is right with God by faith will live forever.” 18 God shows his anger from heaven against all the evil and wrong things that people do. They have the truth, but by their evil lives they hide it. 19 God shows his anger, because everything that is known about God has been made clear to them. Yes, God has clearly shown people everything that is known about him. 20 There are things about God that people cannot see — his eternal power and all the things that make him God. But since the beginning of the world those things have been easy for people to understand. Those things are made clear in the things that God has made. So people have no excuse for the bad things they do. 21 People knew God. But they did not give glory to God, and they did not thank him. Their ideas were all useless. There was not one good thought left in their foolish minds. 22 People said they were wise, and they became fools. 23 They gave up the glory of God who lives forever. People traded that glory for the worship of idols made to look like earthly people. People traded God’s glory for things that look like birds, animals, and snakes. 24 People were full of sin, wanting only to do evil things. So God left them and let them go their sinful way. And so they became full of sexual sins, using their bodies wrongly with each other. 25 Those people traded the truth of God for a lie. Those people worshiped and served things that were made. But people did not worship and serve the God who made those things. God should be praised forever. Amen. 26 Because people did those things, God left them and let them do the shameful things they wanted to do. Women stopped having natural sex with men. They started having sex with other women. 27 In the same way, men stopped having natural sex with women. The men began wanting each other all the time. Men did shameful hings with other men. And in their bodies they received the punishment for those wrong things they did. 28 People did not think it was important to have a true knowledge of God. So God left them and allowed those people to have their own worthless thinking. And so those people do the things that they should not do. 29 Those people are filled with every kind of sin, evil, greed, and hatred. Those people are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, lying, and thinking the worst things about each other. Those people gossip 30 and say evil things about each other. Those people hate God. They are rude and conceited and boast about themselves. Those people invent ways of doing evil. They don’t obey their parents, 31 they are foolish, they don’t keep their promises, and they show no kindness or mercy to other people. 32 Those people know God’s law. They know God’s law says that people who live like that should die. But they continue to do those wrong things. And they say that people who do those things are doing right.
New Century Version 7
1 From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus. God called me to be an apostle and chose me to tell the Good News. 2 God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets, as it is written in the Holy Scriptures. 3-4 The Good News is about God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. As a man, he was born from the family of David. But through the Spirit of holiness he was appointed to be God’s Son with great power by rising from the dead. 5 Through Christ, God gave me the special work of an apostle, which was to lead people of all nations to believe and obey. I do this work for him. 6 And you who are in Rome are also called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 To all of you in Rome whom God loves and has called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First I want to say that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because people everywhere in the world are talking about your faith. 9 God, whom I serve with my whole heart by telling the Good News about his Son, knows that I always mention you 10 every time I pray. I pray that I will be allowed to come to you, and this will happen if God wants it. 11 I want very much to see you, to give you some spiritual gift to make you strong. 12 I mean that I want us to help each other with the faith we have. Your faith will help me, and my faith will help you. 13 Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that I planned many times to come to you, but this has not been possible. I wanted to come so that I could help you grow spiritually as I have helped the other non-Jewish people. 14 I have a duty to all people — Greeks and those who are not Greeks, the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I want so much to preach the Good News to you in Rome. 16 I am proud of the Good News, because it is the power God uses to save everyone who believes — to save the Jews first, and also to save those who are not Jews. 17 The Good News shows how God makes people right with himself — that it begins and ends with faith. As the Scripture says, “But those who are right with God will live by trusting in him.” 18 God’s anger is shown from heaven against all the evil and wrong things people do. By their own evil lives they hide the truth. 19 God shows his anger because some knowledge of him has been made clear to them. Yes, God has shown himself to them. 20 There are things about him that people cannot see — his eternal power and all the things that make him God. But since the beginning of the world those things have been easy to understand by what God has made. So people have no excuse for the bad things they do. 21 They knew God, but they did not give glory to God or thank him. Their thinking became useless. Their foolish minds were filled with darkness. 22 They said they were wise, but they became fools. 23 They traded the glory of God who lives forever for the worship of idols made to look like earthly people, birds, animals, and snakes. 24 Because they did these things, God left them and let them go their sinful way, wanting only to do evil. As a result, they became full of sexual sin, using their bodies wrongly with each other. 25 They traded the truth of God for a lie. They worshiped and served what had been created instead of the God who created those things, who should be praised forever. Amen. 26 Because people did those things, God left them and let them do the shameful things they wanted to do. Women stopped having natural sex and started having sex with other women. 27 In the same way, men stopped having natural sex and began wanting each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and in their bodies they received the punishment for those wrongs. 28 People did not think it was important to have a true knowledge of God. So God left them and allowed them to have their own worthless thinking and to do things they should not do. 29 They are filled with every kind of sin, evil, selfishness, and hatred. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, lying, and thinking the worst about each other. They gossip 30 and say evil things about each other. They hate God. They are rude and conceited and brag about themselves. They invent ways of doing evil. They do not obey their parents. 31 They are foolish, they do not keep their promises, and they show no kindness or mercy to others. 32 They know God’s law says that those who live like this should die. But they themselves not only continue to do these evil things, they applaud others who do them.
The version’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, has advertised it as “the easiest-to-understand translation,” and has given the following description of it:
“The New Century Version is the translation that many pastors have trusted for years. Offering simplicity without sacrificing accuracy, this ‘new version for a new century’ has sold more than 6 million copies since its inception. Whether you’re a first-time reader of the Word or a lifelong student, the NCV is an ideal resource — maintaining the integrity of the biblical text without complex theological vocabulary.” 8
Despite the claims made here, the NCV often does sacrifice accuracy for the sake of simplicity and it is far from ideal for serious study.
For example, in Romans 1:5, the phrase charin kai apostolen (lit. “grace and apostleship”) has been rendered “the special work of an apostle,” which fails to include any equivalent for the word charis. Why has this important theological word been left out of the translation? There is also something peculiarly inappropriate about a rendering which introduces the word “work” while suppressing “grace” here.
The preface states that the translators aimed to “make the language clear enough for all people to read the Bible and understand it for themselves,” and this concern for “clear language” has prompted them to restrict themselves to a juvenile vocabulary, avoiding “difficult words.” But many difficulties are not adequately solved by this means. In Romans 1:4 the rendering “he was appointed to be God’s Son with great power by rising from the dead” has no difficult words, but it is hard to understand this sentence in any way that would be compatible with Paul’s Christology. Probably many readers will get from this sentence the impression that Paul’s teaching concerning Jesus Christ is that he began to be God’s Son at the time of his resurrection, but obviously this is not his meaning. If horisthentos is to be understood “appointed” here (rather than “declared,” as in most other versions), then the words en dunamei “with great power” must be construed together with “Son of God” in such a rendering as “appointed Son of God in power,” and it should be explained that this means that he was raised to an exalted position of power, after his humiliation in the flesh. He did not at that time begin to be the Son of God, but the Son of God in power. Theologically, this is rather important, because the adoptionist Christology that might be inferred from the NCV’s rendering would conflict with several major points of orthodox Christology, including the doctrine of the incarnation.
We notice that the NCV uses the word “agreement” instead of the traditional rendering “covenant” for the Hebrew berith and the Greek diatheke. Apparently “covenant” is avoided because it belongs to the “theological vocabulary” that is shunned in the version. And so in Matthew 26:28, “my blood of the [new] covenant” becomes “my blood which is the new agreement” in the NCV. This is very clumsy. What are readers supposed to make of the statement that his blood is an “agreement”? It makes no sense. But there is a more serious problem here, because we cannot accept the NCV’s idea that the meaning of diatheke can be conveyed by our common English word “agreement.” The diatheke referred to in the New Testament is not an “agreement” between God and men; it is a gracious enactment of God, a pledge, a provision of spiritual benefits, which men will either receive or reject according to God’s sovereign will. The traditional rendering of “covenant” is not entirely satisfactory either, if this is understood to mean a negotiated “contract” between parties — and this has been pointed out by many theologians and biblical scholars — but at least the word “covenant” suggests something more than an “agreement.”
In addition to problems like these, arising from paraphrastic simplifications and from sheer clumsiness, the NCV adopts some interpretations which are clearly wrong. In some places there are problems that even cause us to question the professional competence of the translators. For example, in 1 Corinthians 9:9-10 the version reads:
9 It is written in the Law of Moses: “When an ox is working in the grain, do not cover its mouth to keep it from eating.” When God said this, was he thinking only about oxen? No. 10 He was really talking about us. Yes, that Scripture was written for us, because it goes on to say: “The one who plows and the one who works in the grain should hope to get some of the grain for their work.”
This cannot be right, because the words from Deuteronomy 25:4 quoted in verse 9 are not followed by any saying like the one quoted in verse 10. In fact, there is no such saying anywhere in the Old Testament. Verse 10 should be rendered thus: “Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of a share of the crop.” The last clause here is not a quotation of anything in the Old Testament; it is Paul’s interpretation and application of the words quoted from Deuteronomy.
We note that this rendering is not found in the text of the NCV’s precursors, the English Version for the Deaf and the Easy-to-Read Version, as presented online at the World Bible Translation Center’s website. We do not not know how it came to be in the NCV. 9 But it gives us reason to doubt that the NCV revision was produced by “highly qualified and experienced Bible scholars and translators,” as the publisher’s Preface states.
We offer these criticisms somewhat reluctantly, because it is evident that the NCV was not designed to be used by adults for any serious study of the text. An attitude of kindly indulgence would seem to be more appropriate in dealing with a Bible designed for children. But unfortunately in these days it has become necessary to draw attention to shortcomings in such versions, because inflated claims of “accuracy” have become usual in the advertisements for them. The publisher of this version should not be making such claims, and should not be presenting this version as one suitable for adults. The version may be useful in teaching children, but it falls short in this regard also.
1. Vocabulary choice was based on The Living Word Vocabulary by Dr. Edgar Dale and Dr. Joseph O’Rourke (World-book-Childcraft International, 1981) — the vocabulary used in The World Book Encyclopedia.
2. This edition was promoted in a revised edition of Irving L. Jensen’s Enjoy Your Bible (Minneapolis: World Wide Publications, n.d.), where it is described as having “background notes on each NT book, along with Bible-study methods and full-page notes on key NT subjects” (p. 131). The same source states that “Initially planned for age-groups through grade four, this version has become popular with all groups and ages, including home-makers, college students, and professional people” (p. 131).
3. My principal sources for the difficult publication history of this version are the Preface of the Easy-to-Read Version, the online article New Century Version by Ken Anderson, and the Catalogue of English Bible Translations by William J. Chamberlin (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1991). Without examining each of these obscure editions it is impossible to say with confidence how the text of the version differed in them.
4. For information on the men involved in the making of the version I have relied upon the Preface of the Easy-to-Read Version and The Development of the English Bible: How Our English Versions Came Into Being by William E. Paul. Other sources have indicated that certain unnamed “evangelical scholars” who also had worked on the NIV and NKJV were involved.
5. See Vern S. Poythress and Wayne A. Grudem, The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2000), p. 9.
6. Text of the ERV is according to the electronic edition available at the website of the World Bible Translation Center, dated 2001.
7. Text of the New Century Version is according to the online electronic edition at Crosswalk Bible Study Tools, dated 1991.
8. Nelson Bibles Catalog for Fall 2003, accessed Sep. 2008.
9. We can only surmise that this strange error in the NCV was triggered by someone’s careless use of the Nestle-Aland edition of the Greek text, which puts these words in italics as if they were a quotation. If so, the NCV translator seems not to have noticed that the marginal note in the Nestle-Aland edition attributes them not to Deuteronomy but to an apocryphal book, Sirach (Ecclessiasticus) 6:19. Moreover, despite this attribution in Nestle-Aland, the passage from Sirach is certainly not being “quoted” here, as any examination of the cited passage would reveal. It may perhaps be regarded as an allusion or a mere borrowing of language.
Below is the Preface to the NCV as it appears in The Evangelical Parallel New Testament published by Oxford University Press in 2003
The Bible is God’s message to humanity. He has spoken to all peoples and all generations. Of course, God first accomplished this by directly addressing his people, the Israelites in the Old Testament and the young church in the New Testament, in a language they could understand.
The original text of the Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek—languages of the people. Since God intends to address all people of all ages through his Word, each generation and language group must translate the Bible into its own language.
These facts, that the Bible is God’s message and that it is ultimately addressed to all people in every age, require that a translation be both accurate and clear. These are the two overarching principles that stand behind the New Century Version.
The first concern of the New Century Version is that the translation be faithful to the manuscripts in the original languages. A team composed of the World Bible Translation Center and fifty additional, highly qualified and experienced Bible scholars and translators was assembled. The team included people with translation experience on the New International Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the New King James Version. The scholars came from a variety of theological colleges, universities, and seminaries in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Great Britain.
These translators recognize that the most accurate translations are those which pay close attention to the meanings of words in their broader context, rather than those which simply treat words as isolated entities. They understand that a contemporary English translation must sometimes depart from the word order of the original languages to reflect accurately the meaning of God’s Word to a modern English-speaking audience.
Further, it is true that translation involves interpretive decisions. With this is in mind, it is important to note that the breadth of scholarship which stands behind the New Century Version ensures an unbiased translation.
Last, it should be mentioned that the best available Hebrew and Greek texts were used, principally the third edition of the United Bible Societies’ Greek text and the latest edition of the Biblia Hebraica, along with the Septuagint.
The second concern was to make the language clear enough for all people to read the Bible and understand it for themselves. In maintaining clear language, several guidelines were followed. Vocabulary choice has been based upon The Living Word Vocabulary by Dr. Edgar Dale and Dr. Joseph O’Rourke (Worldbook-Childcraft International, 1981), which is the standard used by the editors of The World Book Encyclopedia to determine appropriate vocabulary. For difficult words that have no simpler synonyms, footnotes and dictionary references are provided. Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page and are indicated in the text by raised letters.
The New Century Version aids understanding by using contemporary references for measurements and geographical locations when it is feasible. For instance, terms such as “shekels,” “cubits,” “omer,” and “hin” have been converted to modern equivalents. Where geographical references are identical, the modern name has been used, such as the “Mediterranean Sea” instead of “Great Sea” or “Western Sea.” Also, to minimize confusion, the most familiar name for a place is used consistently, instead of using variant names for the same place. “Lake Galilee” is used throughout rather than its variant forms, “Sea of Kinnereth,” “Lake Gennesaret” and “Sea of Tiberias.”
Ancient customs are often unfamiliar to modern readers. Customs such as shaving a man’s beard to shame him or ritually walking between the halves of a dead animal to seal an agreement are meaningless to many modern-day readers. So these are clarified either in the text or in a footnote.
Since meanings of words change with time, care has been taken to avoid potential misunderstandings. To do so, the New Century Version uses contemporary language in place of the archaic language often found in translations. Frequently in the Old Testament God tells his people to “devote” something to him, as when he tells the Israelites to devote Jericho and everything in it to him. While we might understand this to mean he is telling them to keep it safe and holy, the exact opposite is true. He is telling them to destroy it totally as an offering to him. The New Century Version communicates the idea clearly by translating “devoted,” in these situations, as “destroyed as an offering to the Lord.”
Where there was a potential for confusion, rhetorical questions have been stated according to their implied answer. The psalmist’s question, “Who, O God, is like you?” has been stated more directly as, “God, there is none like you.”
Figures of speech have been translated according to their meanings. For instance, the expression, “The Virgin Daughter of Zion,” which is frequently used in the Old Testament, is simply and accurately translated “the people of Jerusalem” so that the meaning is not obscured by the figure of speech.
Idiomatic expressions of the biblical languages are translated to communicate the same meaning to today’s reader that would have been understood by the original audience. For example, the Hebrew idiom “he rested with his fathers” is translated by its meaning—“he died.”
Obscure terms have been clarified. Terms are often obscure in the Bible because they are part of the ancient culture which God directly addressed in his revelation. In the Old Testament, for instance, God frequently condemns the people for their “high places” and “Asherah poles.” The New Century Version translates these according to their meanings, which would have been understood by the Hebrews. “High places” is translated “places where gods were worshipped” and “Asherah poles” is translated “Asherah idols.”
Gender language has also been translated with a concern for clarity. To avoid the misconception that “man,” “mankind,” and “he” are exclusively masculine when they are being used in a generic sense, this translation has chosen to use less ambiguous language, such as “people,” “humans,” and “human beings,” and has carefully worked throughout to choose gender language that would accurately convey the intent of the original writers. Specifically and exclusively masculine and feminine references in the text have been retained.
Following in the tradition of other English versions, the New Century Version indicates the divine name YHWH, the Tetragrammaton, by putting LORD, and sometimes GOD, in capital letters. This is to distinguish it from Adonai, another Hebrew word that is translated “Lord.”
Every attempt has been made to maintain proper English style, while clarifying concepts and communication. The beauty of Hebrew parallelism in poetry has been retained, and the images of the ancient languages have been captured in equivalent English images wherever possible, but in all cases, clarity of communication with the modern reader has taken precedence over preservation of the ancient form.
It is with great humility and prayerfulness that this Bible is presented. We acknowledge the infallibility of God’s Word and yet our own human frailty. We pray that God has worked through us as his vessels so that we all might better learn his truth for ourselves and that it might richly grow in our lives. It is to his glory that this Bible is given.
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