The Revised English Version® (REV®) is a new Bible translation produced by Spirit & Truth Fellowship International®. The REV translation project began by using the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901 as a base text. Work began on this translation in the year 2000, and the first edition was released and printed in 2013. It is titled the Revised English Version because it is a translation of the ancient texts into English, and yet while it has much in common with other modern English versions, it also has significant differences.
In light of the continually increasing number of biblical manuscripts that contribute to our knowledge of the original text, there is a need for newer versions of the Bible to reflect these discoveries and the advancement in textual studies of the Bible. For example, the number of Greek New Testament manuscripts that the translators of the King James Version had to work from was quite small—a couple dozen at best—compared to the more than 5,700 manuscripts we have available today, thanks to the work of archaeologists and historians. In addition, the oldest Hebrew Old Testament manuscript before the mid-twentieth century AD was from the ninth century AD. But since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts now predate the birth of Jesus Christ and the writing of the New Testament.
Furthermore, with the discovery of more secular manuscripts from the biblical time period, our knowledge of the biblical vocabulary continues to develop. Also, the English language continues to change, making older terminology and expressions obsolete and confusing. For example, at the time the King James Bible was written, “by and by,” meant “immediately” but now it means “after a while” (Matt. 13:21). This is well known, and modern versions read “immediately” or an equivalent.
The REV is designed to be a more literal translation whenever the literal rendering can be accurately reflected and understood in modern English vernacular. However, there are times when the REV has departed from a strict literal translation in order to make good sense in English. Strictly literal translations can be more difficult than helpful at times because the mechanics of Greek and Hebrew differ dramatically from English. In addition to grammatical and syntactical differences, idiomatic expressions are rarely cross-lingual as well. In any translation, the objective is to communicate the meaning of the original language in the receptor language. Therefore, if a literal translation obstructs this goal, a more functionally equivalent expression is employed in the REV.
With so many other modern English versions of the Bible on the market today, the reader might wonder what differences in the REV make it worth reading compared to another popular English version. Since the beginning, the goal for translating the REV has been to produce a translation of the Bible that more closely represents biblical truth and textual accuracy than any other translation currently available. When translating from a foreign language, a person must correctly understand the meaning of the original text in order to be able to translate it correctly. Therefore, when it comes to a religious text, such as the Bible, the theology of the translator always affects the way he or she translates the Greek or Hebrew into English. In other words, the degree to which the Bible is accurately translated then is dependent upon the degree to which the translator accurately understands what the Bible means beyond attempting to identify merely an equivalent word in English. The fact is, every translation reflects the theology of the translator, sometimes more or less depending on the methods used for interpreting the Bible.
And so, producing a new translation of the Bible is always met with criticism due to the vast array of differing theologies throughout Christianity. But several reasons have eclipsed these concerns and have warranted the need for the REV. First and by far foremost, when concentrating on helping followers of the Lord Jesus Christ learn and grow in the Word of Truth, readers of the Bible are better served by reading a version that is accurate theologically instead of having to make mental corrections or skirt around verses that are translated with an alternate theology in mind. Ultimately, the goal of the REV translation is that, as much as possible, the Bible can simply be read and believed without the reader being burdened by having to cope with the inaccurate theological biases of most translators.
It is our prayer that the REV translation will be a great blessing to all readers regardless of their personal theological beliefs. We desire for it to help those who are truly seeking to understand the Bible to be able to understand it on its own terms, free from the compulsion of centuries of Christian tradition that has affected nearly every modern English version.
May God our Heavenly Father bless your journey and pursuit of truth, and may you come to know in greater depth and richness the saving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
Hints and Helps for Reading the Revised English Version
Italics: Like a number of other English versions (e.g., ASV, KJV, NASB), significant additions to the text are placed in italics. An italicized word indicates it is not in the original text but is inserted because either the grammar does not expressly require it, or it is implied by the biblical context and culture and is not obvious to the modern reader. Adding words in italics to make the Bible more understandable is a good practice because it alerts the reader to the part of the translation that is directly supplied by the translator outside the strict wording of the original text. Due to the many differences between the biblical languages and modern English, adding italics “perfectly” to every nuance of the text is impossible because it is a judgment call sometimes whether the grammar truly warrants an addition or if it is simply a product of a difference in linguistic mechanics.
Bold print: Like many Bible versions, Old Testament quotations in the New Testament are placed in a distinctive type so they can be easily recognized. Thus, quotations from the Old Testament are in bold print and have an associated footnote indicating the Old Testament passage where the quotation originates from.
Present tense: Many verses, especially in the Gospels, are preserved in the present tense that is in the Greek text even though it would seem that they should be in the past tense. A present tense narrative communicates more emotional energy and invites the reader to enter the narrative story rather than being an outsider looking back at a previously occurring event, and that is likely why the New Testament writers often used the present tense to describe past events. Nevertheless, there are times when the present tense is so distracting that the REV, like other modern English versions, uses the past tense.
Vocabulary: The Bible has a rich vocabulary that gives the reader a window into the biblical culture. When the original vocabulary can convey its intended meaning to modern readers, the vocabulary was left intact even though it might produce a learning curve for the reader, requiring them to learn some new terms. For example, a “denarius” is a Roman coin that was paid for a day’s wage to a typical fieldworker or soldier. Translating “denarius” as something like “penny” (KJV) causes obvious problems understanding the true value of the coin and its significance in the biblical culture. Similarly, a “yod” is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and when Christ said that not one “yod” would pass from the Law (Matt. 5:18), his hearers understood how important each letter of Scripture was. Translating that as “jot” (KJV), “dot” (NJB), etc., can be very misleading. The REV attempts to convey the meaning that the term carried in the biblical context and culture, and sometimes that involves learning some new vocabulary.
Masculine vocabulary: It is well known that the culture of the Bible was male-focused, and therefore, women and children played minor roles in biblical society. Hence, the general tenor of the biblical text is male. Also, God is portrayed as a male figure (Gen. 18; Exod. 24:10; Dan. 7:9-10), even though God does not have a specific gender. Both the Hebrew and Greek texts use masculine pronouns when referring to God, such as “he” and “him.” Feminine pronouns are not used of God.
But, in spite of the Bible’s overall tenor, most Hebrew and Greek masculine nouns and pronouns have been translated in the REV in a way that includes both men and women (such as using “people” for the masculine plural form of the Greek word anthrōpos, which was often used as a general reference to both men and women). However, at other times the REV follows the practice of other modern versions (e.g., ESV) in not modifying the text just to avoid any reference to gender specificity. But using masculine nouns or pronouns in the REV is in no wise intended to reflect an insensitivity to women’s rights and issues in the modern world. But part of understanding the Bible is understanding the culture in which it was written, and at times gender-specific pronouns are appropriate and necessary in order to maintain the meaning of a passage.
For example, in the biblical culture, the Greek term adelphoi (“brothers”) was a term that was sometimes used as a general form of address to an audience with both men and women. Thus, adelphoi has to be examined on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes it was used of just a group of men, sometimes there were likely women present but only men were being referred to, and sometimes adelphoi clearly referred to both men and woman. The REV has tried to recognize when women were being included in the address, and in those cases rendered adelphoi as “brothers and sisters.” Nevertheless, sometimes whether women were present or not is a “best guess,” and the REV comes from the side of caution if there is doubt. Also, by putting “sisters” in italics the reader knows that there is not specific word for “sisters” in the Greek text, but they are included with the “brothers.”
Brackets: There are some phrases and verses in the Bible whose inclusion in the original text are seriously doubted by textual scholars. Such phrases or passages that are highly unlikely to be original are placed within brackets. Until the printing press was invented in the sixteenth century AD, every manuscript of the Bible was copied by hand from an older manuscript. As a result, changes were introduced into the biblical text, both intentionally and unintentionally. But thankfully because of the hard work of countless scholars through the years, and especially in the 1900’s with the discovery of more manuscripts and the advent of digital technology to scan the thousands of biblical texts, many scholars affirm the reliability of 99% of the readings found in modern critical Greek texts (e.g., Nestle-Aland 28th edition) as well as modern critical Hebrew texts (e.g., Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia).
Capitalized pronouns: Generally, the REV does not contain capitalized pronouns but rather seeks to leave pronouns lower case. There are occasions, however, where “He” or “Him” is capitalized when referring to God in order to make the reference more clear. The problem with universally capitalizing pronouns that refer to God is that sometimes the text is unclear whether the referent is actually God. Sometimes verses will include references to God and the Lord Jesus and not specify which pronoun is meant to refer to which antecedent. And so, in those cases, capitalizing the pronouns that are not easily determinable would introduce an interpretative bias into the translation that did not exist in the original text.
Chapter and verse numbers: Like other English versions, we have stayed with the traditional chapter and verse divisions. However, the reader should know that these were placed in the text by human translators and are not in the ancient manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments. Though they are usually helpful, occasionally chapter and verse divisions can be disruptive and misleading.
The exclamation, “Look!”: The Greek language has some 200 uses of the exclamatory word idou, which is meant to catch our attention. Because of this, it is very difficult to translate idou in the New Testament. The King James Version and a few modern English versions typically translate it as “Behold!” However, the word “behold” has almost fallen out of colloquial use in modern English. Some modern English versions avoid the problem with idou by simply leaving it out and letting the sentence be without it, but the inclusion of idou provides a proper emphasis for the subsequent statement and attracts the attention of the reader. But, in following the lead of many English versions, idou is translated in a few different ways in the REV, depending on the context. Generally, it is translated as “Look!,” in the REV as a way to have a semi-equivalent expression from modern English and including an exclamation point followed by a comma in order to retain the original emphasis of the Greek text.
Yahweh: In the Hebrew text of the Old Testament the personal name of God is Yahweh (YHWH), and it occurs more than 6,000 times. In the centuries before Christ, it was a Jewish custom not to say the name of “Yahweh” because it was thought that the name “Yahweh” was too sacred a word to say out loud. So when scribes and priests read the biblical scrolls out loud, although they saw the Hebrew word YHWH (Yahweh), they said, Adonai, instead (a word that means “Lord”). However, while the intention to show respect to God by not saying His name is a noble one, it is not a biblical one. “Yahweh” is the only proper name of God (all other “names” are actually titles; e.g., Elohim, El Shaddai, etc.). Many modern scholars understand the reluctance of some to pronounce the personal name of God, but it has become widely accepted in Christian circles to say the name of God in an effort to foster a deeper understanding of who God is and a closer relationship with Him by knowing and speaking His name.
For reasons that are unknown to us in modern times, the New Testament Greek manuscripts do not transliterate “Yahweh” into Greek. But like the Greek Old Testament translation called the Septuagint (LXX), the New Testament writer’s used the word kurios (“Lord”) and theos (“God”) to identify Yahweh. However, there is one notable exception. Some of the Church Fathers tell us that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew, not Greek, and a Hebrew manuscript has surfaced that many scholars are now saying is not a translation from Greek back into Hebrew but actually is a copy from an independent Hebrew textual tradition, and that manuscript, sometimes known as the Shem Tov manuscript, uses a rabbinic abbreviation for Yahweh. On the basis of that text, together with the witness of the Church Fathers, the REV uses Yahweh in the text of Matthew’s Gospel.
The gift of holy spirit: God is holy and God is spirit, and one of His many titles in Scripture is “the Holy Spirit.” God gives to people the gift of His nature, which is called “holy spirit.” God placed holy spirit “upon” people, conditionally, before the Day of Pentecost, and “in” believers, permanently, since the Day of Pentecost. Today when people are “born again,” they are born of God and receive His nature, the “holy spirit.” Numbers 11:25-29 is a good example of God placing holy spirit on people in the Old Testament. Similarly, 1 Samuel 16:14-15 show God’s gift of holy spirit being placed on David while being taken away from King Saul. The REV has tried to faithfully represent when the text is referring to God by using uppercase “Holy Spirit,” and when it is referring to the gift of His nature by using lowercase “holy spirit.”
Idioms and figurative language: One of the most challenging things translators face is how to bring the Hebrew and Greek idioms and figures of speech into English. Often literal translations do not make good sense for English readers. In those cases when figurative language is not easily understood in English, translators do the best they can to represent the meaning of the ancient text in English so the reader can get the best sense of what the text actually means. The REV attempts to translate idioms and figurative language as literal as can be allowed without obscuring the ability of a reader to perceive a sense of what the expression means. However, when expressions are difficult or heavily nuanced by culture, a concerted effort has been made to explain the translation in the commentary so the reader can get a sense of what the ancient text means, as well as the reason for the particular wording in the translation.
Companion commentary: Although the REV does have some footnotes and cross-references, explanations for a specific verse or passage that requires more explanation to be clear to the average reader are placed in the commentary.
Will the REV be a perfect English version of the Bible? No, a “perfect” version is impossible. We are imperfect people, translating from imperfect manuscripts, doing the best to bring the sense of the ancient texts into modern English. Such an endeavor by mankind will inevitably be an imperfect one. However, our prayer is that the REV will be a version that will help people know God better and draw nearer to Him. He is the Creator of heaven and earth and He has revealed Himself to us in the Holy Scriptures. We pray that you find the REV a blessing that helps build your relationship with God, and with his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
John W. Schoenheit
Spirit & Truth Fellowship International
June 17, 2019