Weymouth’s New Testament in Modern Speech

Richard Francis Weymouth, The New Testament in Modern Speech: an Idiomatic Translation into Everyday English from the Text of 'The Resultant Greek Testament' by the Late Richard Francis Weymouth … edited and partly revised by Ernest Hampden-Cook. London: James Clarke and Co., 1903.

This edition is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the 2nd edition of Weymouth's version, but it is the first. Ernest Hampden-Cook, Weymouth's secretary, edited Weymouth's manuscript in the year following Weymouth's death to produce this first edition. The basis of the version is Weymouth’s own critical edition of the Greek text, published in 1892 as The Resultant Greek Testament. The Preface (by Weymouth, dated 1902) states that the version was designed chiefly “to furnish a succint and compressed running commentary (not doctrinal) to be used side by side with its elder compeers.” A second edition appeared in 1904; a third in 1909; a fourth, “newly revised by several well-known New Testament scholars,” in 1924; a fifth, “newly revised by James Alexander Robertson,” in 1929, and reprinted in 1936.

Weymouth was a distinguished scholar and educator, as may be seen in the biography below, reproduced from the Dictionary of National Biography edited by Sir Sidney Lee, Second Supplement, vol. III (New York: Macmillan, 1912), pp. 643-4.

Weymouth, Richard Francis (1822-1902), philologist, and New Testament scholar, born at Stoke Damerel, Devonport (then called Plymouth Dock), on 26 Oct. 1822, was the only son of Commander Richard Weymouth, R.N., by his wife Ann Sprague, also of a Devonshire family. After education at a private school he went to France for two years. He matriculated at University College, London, in 1843, and graduated in classics—B.A. in 1846, M.A. in 1849. After acting as an assistant to Joseph Payne [q. v.], the educational expert, at the Mansion House School, Leatherhead, he conducted a sucsessful private school, Portland grammar school, at Plymouth. In 1868 Weymouth was the first to receive the degree of doctor of literature at London University, after a severe examination in Anglo-Saxon, Icelandic, and French and English language and literature. The degree was not conferred again till 1879.

In 1869 also, Weymouth, who was elected fellow of University College, London, was appointed headmaster of Mill Hill School, which had been founded by nonconformists and was now first reorganised on the lines of a public school. A zealous baptist, Weymouth was long a deacon of the George St. baptist chapel, Plymouth, and subsequently a member of the committee of the Essex Baptist Union. At Mill Hill he proved a successful teacher and organiser and a strict disciplinarian, and the numbers increased. Among his assistants was (Sir) James A. H. Murray, editor of the 'New English Dictionary.' Weymouth retired with a pension in July 1886, when the school showed temporary signs of decline. Thenceforth he chiefly devoted himself to biblical study. As early as 1851 he had joined the Philological Society, and long sat on its council. He edited for the society in 1864 Bishop Grosseteste's ' Castell of Loue,' and contributed many papers to its 'Transactions,' one of which (on the Homerio epithet οβριμος) was commended by Gladstone in the 'Nineteenth Century.' Later contributions to philology comprised 'Early English Pronunciation, with Especial Reference to Chaucer' (1874), the views propounded being now generally accepted; a literal translation of Cynewulf's 'Elene' into modern English (1888); besides various papers in the 'Journal of Classical and Sacred Philology' and the ' Cambridge Journal of Philology.' In 1885, as president of the Devonshire Association, Weymouth read an address on 'The Devonshire Dialect: a Study in Comparative Grammar,' an early attempt to treat English dialect in the light of modern philology. In 1891 he was awarded a civil service pension of 100l.

On textual criticism of the Greek Testament Weymouth spent many years' study. The latest results of critical research he codified in 'Resultant Greek Testament, exhibiting the text in which the majority of modern editors are agreed,' 1886. Then followed a tract, 'The Rendering into English of the Greek Aorist and Perfect, with appendices on the New Testament Use of γαρ and ουν (1894; new edit. 1901).

Weymouth's last work, which was issued after his death and proved widely popular, was 'The New Testament in Modern Speech' (1903; 3rd edit. 1909). Based upon the text of 'The Resultant Greek Testament,' it was partly revised by Mr. Ernest Hampden-Cook.

Since 1892 Weymouth lived at Collaton House, Brentwood, where he died on 27 Dec. 1902, being buried in the new cemetery.

A portrait, an excellent likeness, by Sidney Paget [q. v. Suppl. II], was hung in the hall of Mill Hill school; and a memorial window is in the chapel.

Weymouth was twice married: (1) in 1852 to Louisa Sarah (d. 1891), daughter of Robert Marten, sometime secretary of the Vauxhall Bridge Company, of Denmark Hill; and (2) on 26 Oct. 1892 to Louisa, daughter of Samuel Salter of Watford, who survived him with three sons and three daughters, children of the first marriage.

[Private information ; London University Register ; Norman Brett James's History of Mill Hill School; The Times, 30 Dec. 1902; Weymouth's Works.]

G. Le G. N.


The Translation of the New Testament here offered to English-speaking Christians is a bona fide translation made directly from the Greek, and is in no sense a revision. The plan adopted has been the following.

1. An earnest endeavour has been made (based upon more than sixty years' study of both the Greek and English languages, besides much further familiarity gained by continual teaching) to ascertain the exact meaning of every passage not only by the light that Classical Greek throws on the language used, but also by that which the Septuagint and the Hebrew Scriptures afford; aid being sought too from Versions and Commentators ancient and modern, and from the ample et cetera of apparatus grammaticus and theological and Classical reviews and magazines—or rather, by means of occasional excursions into this vast prairie.

2. The sense thus seeming to have been ascertained, the next step has been to consider how it could be most accurately and naturally exhibited in the English of the present day; in other words, how we can with some approach to probability suppose that the inspired writer himself would have expressed his thoughts, had he been writing in our age and country. 1

3. Lastly it has been evidently desirable to compare the results thus attained with the renderings of other scholars, especially of course with the Authorized and Revised Versions. But alas, the great majority of even "new translations," so called, are, in reality, only Tyndale's immortal work a little—often very little—modernized!

4. But in the endeavour to find in Twentieth Century English a precise equivalent for a Greek word, phrase, or sentence there are two dangers to be guarded against. There are a Scylla and a Charybdis. On the one hand there is the English of Society, on the other hand that of the utterly uneducated, each of these patois having also its own special, though expressive, borderland which we name 'slang.' But all these salient angles (as a professor of fortification might say) of our language are forbidden ground to the reverent translator of Holy Scripture.

5. But again, a modern translation—does this imply that no words or phrases in any degree antiquated are to be admitted? Not so, for great numbers of such words and phrases are still in constant use. To be antiquated is not the same thing as to be obsolete or even obsolescent, and without at least a tinge of antiquity it is scarcely possible that there should be that dignity of style that befits the sacred themes with which the Evangelists and Apostles deal.

6. It is plain that this attempt to bring out the sense of the Sacred Writings naturally as well as accurately in present-day English does not permit, except to a limited extent, the method of literal rendering—the verbo verbum reddere at which Horace shrugs his shoulders. Dr. Welldon, recently Bishop of Calcutta, in the Preface (p. vii) to his masterly translation of the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, writes, "I have deliberately rejected the principle of trying to translate the same Greek word by the same word in English, and where circumstances seemed to call for it I have sometimes used two English words to represent one word of the Greek;"—and he is perfectly right. With a slavish literality delicate shades of meaning cannot be reproduced, nor allowance be made for the influence of interwoven thought, or of the writer's ever shifting—not to say changing—point of view. An utterly ignorant or utterly lazy man, if possessed of a little ingenuity, can with the help of a dictionary and grammar give a word-for-word rendering, whether intelligible or not, and print 'Translation' on his title-page. On the other hand it is a melancholy spectacle to see men of high ability and undoubted scholarship toil and struggle at translation under a needless restriction to literality, as in intellectual handcuffs and fetters, when they might with advantage snap the bonds and fling them away, as Dr. Welldon has done: more melancholy still, if they are at the same time racking their brains to exhibit the result of their labours—a splendid but idle philological tour de force—in what was English nearly 300 years before.

7. Obviously any literal translation cannot but carry idioms of the earlier language into the later, where they will very probably not be understood; 2 and more serious still is the evil when, as in the Jewish Greek of the N.T., the earlier language of the two is itself composite and abounds in forms of speech that belong to one earlier still. For the N.T. Greek, even in the writings of Luke, contains a large number of Hebrew idioms; and a literal rendering into English cannot but partially veil, and in some degree distort, the true sense, even if it does not totally obscure it (and that too where perfect clearness should be attained, if possible), by this admixture of Hebrew as well as Greek forms of expression.

8. It follows that the reader who is bent upon getting a literal rendering, such as he can commonly find in the R.V. or (often a better one) in Darby's New Testament, should always be on his guard against its strong tendency to mislead.

9. One point however can hardly be too emphatically stated. It is not the present Translator's ambition to supplant the Versions already in general use, to which their intrinsic merit or long familiarity or both have caused all Christian minds so lovingly to cling. His desire has rather been to furnish a succinct and compressed running commentary (not doctrinal) to be used side by side with its elder compeers. And yet there has been something of a remoter hope. It can scarcely be doubted that some day the attempt will be renewed to produce a satisfactory English Bible—one in some respects perhaps (but assuredly with great and important deviations) on the lines of the Revision of 1881, or even altogether to supersede both the A.V. and the R.V.; and it may be that the Translation here offered will contribute some materials that may be built into that far grander edifice.

10. The Greek Text here followed is that given in the Translator's Resultant Greek Testament. 3

11. Of the Various Readings only those are here given which seem the most important, and which affect the rendering into English. They are in the footnotes, with V.L. (varia lectio) prefixed. As to the chief modern critical editions full details will be found in the Resultant Greek Testament, while for the original authorities—MSS., Versions, Patristic quotations—the reader must of necessity consult the great works of Lachmann, Tregelles, Tischendorf, and others, or the numerous monographs on separate Books. 4 In the margin of the R.V. a distinction is made between readings supported by "a few ancient authorities," "some ancient authorities," "many ancient authorities," and so on. Such valuation is not attempted in this work.

12. Considerable pains have been bestowed on the exact rendering of the tenses of the Greek verb; for by inexactness in this detail the true sense cannot but be missed. That the Greek tenses do not coincide, and cannot be expected to coincide with those of the English verb; that—except in narrative—the aorist as a rule is more exactly represented in English by our perfect with "have" than by our simple past tense; and that in this particular the A.V. is in scores of instances more correct than the R.V.; the present Translator has contended (with arguments which some of the best scholars in Britain and in America hold to be "unanswerable" and "indisputable") in a pamphlet 5 On the Rendering into English of the Greek Aorist and Perfect. Even an outline of the argument cannot be given in a Preface such as this.

13. But he who would make a truly English translation of a foreign book must not only select the right nouns, adjectives, and verbs, insert the suitable prepositions and auxiliaries, and triumph (if he can) over the seductions and blandishments of idioms with which he has been familiar from his infancy, but which, though forcible or beautiful with other surroundings, are for all that part and parcel of that other language rather than of English: he has also to beware of connecting his sentences in an un-English fashion.

Now a careful examination of a number of authors (including Scottish, Irish, and American) yields some interesting results. Taking at haphazard a passage from each of fifty-six authors, and counting on after some full stop till fifty finite verbs—i.e. verbs in the indicative, imperative, or subjunctive mood—have been reached (each finite verb, as every schoolboy knows, being the nucleus of one sentence or clause), it has been found that the connecting links of the fifty-six times fifty sentences are about one-third conjunctions, about one-third adverbs or relative and interrogative pronouns, while in the case of the remaining third there is what the grammarians call an asyndeton—no formal grammatical connexion at all. But in the writers of the N.T. nearly two-thirds of the connecting links are conjunctions. It follows that in order to make the style of a translation true idiomatic English many of these conjunctions must be omitted, and for others adverbs, &c., must be substituted.

The two conjunctions for and therefore are discussed at some length in two Appendices to the above-mentioned pamphlet on the Aorist, to which the reader is referred.

14. The Notes, with but few exceptions, are not of the nature of a general commentary. Some, as already intimated, refer to the readings here followed, but the great majority are in vindication or explanation of the renderings given.

Since the completion of this new version nearly two years ago, ill-health has incapacitated the Translator from undertaking even the lightest work. He has therefore been obliged to entrust to other hands the labour of critically examining and revising the manuscript and of seeing it through the press. This arduous task has been undertaken by Rev. Ernest Hampden-Cook, M.A., St. John's College, Cambridge, of Sandbach, Cheshire, with some co-operation from one of the Translator's sons; and the Translator is under deep obligations to these two gentlemen for their kindness in the matter. He has also most cordially to thank Mr. Hampden-Cook for making the existence of the work known to various members of the Old Millhillians' Club and other former pupils of the Translator, who in a truly substantial manner have manifested a generous determination to enable the volume to see the light. Very grateful does the Translator feel to them for this signal mark of their friendship.

Mr. Hampden-Cook is responsible for the headings of the paragraphs, and at my express desire has inserted some additional notes.

I have further to express my gratitude to Rev. Frank Ballard, M.A., B.Sc., Lond., at present of Sharrow, Sheffield, for some very valuable assistance which he has most kindly given in connexion with the Introductions to the several books.

I have also the pleasure of acknowledging the numerous valuable and suggestive criticisms with which I have been favoured on some parts of the work, by an old friend, Rev. Sydney Thelwall, B.A., of Leamington, a clergyman of the Church of England, whom I have known for many years as a painstaking and accurate scholar, a well-read theologian, and a thoughtful and devout student of Scripture.

I am very thankful to Mr. H. L. Gethin, Mr. S. Hales, Mr. J. A. Latham, and Rev. T. A. Seed, for the care with which they have read the proof sheets.

And now this Translation is humbly and prayerfully commended to God's gracious blessing.

R. F. W.
Brentwood, Essex.
July 1902.


1. I am aware of what Professor Blackie has written on this subject (Aeschylus, Pref., p. viii); but the problem endeavoured to be solved in this Translation is as above stated.

2. A flagrant instance is the "having in a readiness" of 2 Cor. x. 6, A.V. although in Tyndale we find "and are redy to take vengeaunce," and even Wiclif writes "and we han redi to venge."

3. Published by Messrs. Jas. Clarke & Co., London. Price as. 6d. net.

4. Such as McClellan's Four Gospels; Westcott on John's Gospel, John's Epistles, and Hebrews; Hackett on Acts; Lightfoot, and also Ellicott, on various Epistles ; Mayor on James; Edwards on 1 Corinthians and Hebrews; Sanday and Headlam on Romans. Add to these Scrivener's very valuable Introduction to the Criticism of the N. T.

5. Published by Messrs. James Clarke & Co., London. Price is. net.

Here we give a sample of Weymouth's version: the first chapter of Romans, from the first edition (1903), with its footnotes.

Paul's Letter to the Romans


Paul's Message and Apostleship.

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart to proclaim God's Good News, which God had already promised through His Prophets in Holy Writ, concerning His Son, who, as regards His human descent, belonged to the posterity of David, but as regards the holiness of His Spirit was decisively proved by the Resurrection to be the Son of God—I mean concerning Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship in His service in order to win men to obedience to the faith, among all Gentile peoples, among whom you also, called, as you have been, to belong to Jesus Christ, are numbered:

To all God's loved ones who are at Rome, called to be saints. May grace and peace be granted to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Christians at Rome and Paul.

First of all I thank my God through Jesus Christ for what He has done for all of you; for the report of your faith is spreading through the whole world. I call God to witness—to whom I render priestly and spiritual service by telling the Good News about His Son—how unceasingly I make mention of you in His presence, always in my prayers entreating that now, at length, if such be His will, the way may by some means be made clear for me to come to you. For I am longing to see you in order to convey to you some spiritual help, so that you may be strengthened; in other words that while I am among you we may be mutually encouraged by one another's faith, yours and mine. And I desire you to know, brethren, that I have many a time intended to come to you—though until now I have been disappointed—in order that among you also I might gather some fruit from my labours, as I have already done among the rest of the Gentile nations. I am already under obligations alike to Greek-speaking races and to others, to cultured and to uncultured people: so that for my part I am willing and eager to proclaim the Good News to you also who are in Rome.

The main Subject of the Letter.

Salvation through Faith.

For I am not ashamed of the Good News: it is God's power which is at work for the salvation of every one who believes—the Jew first, and then the Gentile. For in the Good News a righteousness which comes from God is being revealed, depending on faith and tending to produce faith; as the Scripture has it, "The righteous man shall live by faith" (Hab. ii. 4).

God's Anger against Sin.

For God's anger is being revealed from heaven against all impiety and against the iniquity of men who through iniquity suppress the truth. God is angry: because what may be known about Him is plain to their inmost consciousness; for He Himself has made it plain to them. For from the very creation of the world His invisible perfections—namely His eternal power and divine nature—have been rendered intelligible and clearly visible by His works, so that these men are without excuse. For when they had come to know God, they did not give Him glory as God nor render Him thanks, but they became absorbed in useless discussions, and their senseless minds were darkened. While boasting of their wisdom they became utter fools, and instead of worshipping the imperishable God they worshipped images resembling perishable man or resembling birds or beasts or reptiles.

The Notorious Wickedness of the Gentiles.

For this reason, in accordance with their own depraved cravings, God gave them up to uncleanness, allowing them to dishonour their bodies among themselves with impurity; for they had bartered the reality of God for what is unreal, and had offered divine honours and religious service to created things, rather than to the Creator—He who is for ever blessed. Amen.

This then is the reason why God gave them up to vile passions. For not only did the women among them exchange the natural use of their bodies for one which is contrary to nature, but the men also, in just the same way—neglecting that for which nature intends women—burned with passion towards one another, men practising shameful vice with men, and receiving in their own selves the reward which necessarily followed their misconduct.

And just as they had refused to continue to have a full knowledge of God, so it was to utterly worthless minds that God gave them up, for them to do things which should not be done. Their hearts overflowed with all sorts of dishonesty, mischief, greed, malice. They were full of envy and murder, and were quarrelsome, crafty and spiteful. They were secret backbiters, open slanderers; hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful; inventors of new forms of sin, disobedient to parents, destitute of common sense, faithless to their promises, without natural affection, without human pity. In short, though knowing full well the sentence which God pronounces against actions such as theirs, as things which deserve death, they not only practise them, but even encourage and applaud others who do them.


In the notes on this Letter, "S. H." = Sanday and Headlam.

1, 6. Called] Not coming unbidden and not merely invited, but authoritatively and effectually summoned.

5. Grace] God's free, unmerited, unearned favour, the most common sense of the word, especially with Paul.—To win men to obedience, to the faith] Lit. simply 'to obedience of faith.' Cp. iv. 11; viii. 23; xvi. 26; 2 Cor. i. 22; v. 5; Eph. i. 14.

7. Gods loved ones] Neither here nor elsewhere in N.T. is a Church of Rome recognized. To be saints] Herein consist the supreme glory and supreme difficulty of the Christian life—that we are not simply to speak of Christ to others, and, if need be, do and dare great things for Him. By the power of His own most holy Spirit within us we are to be saints.

9. How] The same adverb is used with another adverb or with an adiective in x. 15; xi. 33; 1 Thess. ii. 10; Ps. lxii. (lxiii.) 1; and perhaps also in Homer, Iliad xxi., 441. In His presence] These words are not in the Greek.

14. Am already under obligations to] I.E. 'have already gathered some fruit from my labours among.' Lit. 'am a debtor.' Or the meaning may be 'am under an obligation to preach to.' But this leaves the 'also' of verse 15 is unexplained.

16. Gentile] Lit. ' Greek.'

17. A righteousness] Or 'the righteousness.' The righteous &c.] Or 'The man who is righteous by faith shall live.'

19. To their inmost consciousness] Lit. ' in (or, within) them.'

20. So that these men are] Or ' that they might be.'

22. Utter] A very strong word is here used for ' fools.'

23. Instead of worshipping &c.] Lit. 'they exchanged the glory of the imperishable God ... for the resemblance of the image of perishable man.'

24. Their own] Lit. ' their hearts'.'

25. What is unreal] Lit. ' the lie;' or (accenting the Greek otherwise) 'the unreal,' 'the false.' Cp. i Cor. viii. 4. f

29. Malice] V.L. puts this before 'greed.'

30. Hateful to God] Or 'haters of God.'

32. Actions . . practise . . do] There are in Greek two verbs (with derivative nouns) signifying 'to do.' Attempts to distinguish them have been made with very imperfect success, the least satisfactory of all being that which supposes that because our English verb 'practise' is derived from one of them (prasso), therefore 'practise ' exactly represents this one. The distinction, where any exists, is sometimes just the reverse. Etymology is an unsafe guide to a translator. Encourage and applaud] Or 'delight in the society of.' One word in the Greek.