evangelical Bible versions

Some English Bible versions are self-identified as having been translated by evangelical teams. Since the term “evangelical” is sometimes used with a wider meaning, these teams sometimes call themselves conservative evangelicals.

Evangelicals are the most prolific segment of the Christian church when it comes to producing English Bible translations. Evangelical Bible versions are advertised to target evangelical audiences. Advertising often includes a theme that a particular version can be “trusted”. This refers to trusting a version theologically or ideologically, and sometimes translationally, if the translation team promotes a literal approach to translation as more trustworthy than a more dynamic approach. Conservative Christian bookstores, such as Lifeway, feature evangelical Bible versions.

Ecumenical and interconfessional translation teams (e.g. RSV, NRSV, REB) produce fewer versions and intend for their translations to become standard versions for use in liturgy and scholarly study, with a fairly lengthy usage spanning several decades.

The following versions are ones I can think of that have been produced by conservative evangelical translation teams:

  • NASB
  • NIV
  • TNIV
  • NET
  • NLT
  • NCV
  • GW
  • ESV
  • HCSB
  • ISV

It is difficult to discern many, if any, theological or ideological, differences between the translations produced by some evangelical teams (e.g NET, NLT, TNIV) and teams composed of scholars from a wider spectrum of Christianity.

Other evangelical versions, however, openly display a conservative theology in translation decisions. One of the primary conservative distinctives of some evangelical versions is their christologizing (christianizing) of the Old Testament based on New Testament quotations of Old Testament passages. In our next post we will discuss which conservative versions christologize the Old Testament and which do not and give examples of christologizing.

16 thoughts on “evangelical Bible versions

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    I would suggest that TNIV does some christianising of the OT, although less than NIV. Thus for example TNIV abandons NIV’s capital letters for “son” in Psalm 2, but retains “virgin” (with a footnote “OR young woman“) in Isaiah 7:14.

  2. Wayne Leman says:

    It looks like we’ve got interest for the followup post to this one, where we deal with translation of specific O.T. verses with regard to christianizing them.

    I’d welcome a listing of some of the critical verses, before I write my followup post.

  3. Robert Jimenez says:

    Wayne, there has been some blogging about the HCSB having a Southern Baptist theological slant to it. Also it has been charged with not being gender accurate, are those some of the issues you will cover? Or maybe you guys have covered it before and you can point me to the posts.

    Right now my primary reading bible has been the HCSB, but I am comparing it to the TNIV, which I like but I don’t know if I like it enough to make the switch. This is a good problem that we have. Lots of very good translations to choose from.


  4. Peter Kirk says:

    Wayne, the specific verses most often quoted are Psalm 2:7,12 and Isaiah 7:14, also “holy spirit” in for example Psalm 51:11 (capitalised by TNIV). Also do any versions capitalise “son of man” in Psalm 8:4 or Daniel 7:13? And then there is the whole way in which Psalm 72:2-11 is translated, as prophecy as in NIV or as prayer as in NRSV and TNIV. I could add errors like the one in Hosea 6:6 which I blogged about here before which arise from harmonising the OT with quotations in the NT.

    It would be very interesting to survey your evangelical versions, and some less evangelical ones, for how they handle these verses.

  5. EricW says:

    A thought/comment: Considering that the NT authors (i.e., the Evangelists = the first “Evangelicals”) quoted almost exclusively from the LXX (Lee Martin McDonald says it’s more than 90% of the time in his The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority, p. 123), I would think that the OT of an “Evangelical” Bible translation ought to have, for every OT passage that is quoted by a NT author that differs from the Hebrew text, a footnote with the differing LXX rendering and an explanation – and perhaps sometimes make the LXX reading the text, with a footnote for the Hebrew rendering. I know this is sometimes done, but I don’t think it’s been done as extensively (and/or explained as extensively) as it perhaps ought to be.

  6. Wayne Leman says:

    Robert wrote:

    Also it [HCSB] has been charged with not being gender accurate, are those some of the issues you will cover?

    Wow, charged like that, really? The HCSB is one of only two recent Bible versions which have been produced following the Colorado Springs Guidelines for translating gender language. The other one is the ESV.

    Of course, maybe the charge is that either or both of these versions is not gender accurate because they use masculine grammatical gendered forms in some contexts to indicate gender inclusion (or either masculine or feminine reference). But that’s not the usual charge I hear in the gender language debates. Usually the charge is that some Bible version has too much gender-inclusive language, taking away a claimed divinely instituted masculinity from the Bible. I don’t think very many people at all would make that claim about the HCSB since it was produced partly to oppose the trend toward greater usage of gender-inclusive language in English Bible versions.

    But if people are suggesting that the HCSB is not sufficiently masculine gendered to indicate gender neutral reference, that would be surprising to me.

    Do you happen to remember any source that might have criticized something about gender language in the HCSB?

    We have had some posts here on BBB about gender inclusive language. You might want to search on this blog (or our previous site; seen bottom of this blog’s margin) for “gender accuracy” and “gender inclusive.

    We have had some posts about gender language and the TNIV, since that has been a big issue among some conservative evangelicals. There is also the TNIV Truth blog, which probably has some posts on this issue.

    I’ll include the HCSB in my table of christologizing of Old Testament passages, the followup post to this one.

  7. ElShaddai Edwards says:

    EricW wrote:

    I would think that the OT of an “Evangelical” Bible translation ought to have, for every OT passage that is quoted by a NT author that differs from the Hebrew text, a footnote with the differing LXX rendering and an explanation – and perhaps sometimes make the LXX reading the text, with a footnote for the Hebrew rendering.

    Let’s carry Eric’s last thought forward and propose that a truly “Evangelical Christian Bible” ought to use the LXX as its main text for the *entire* OT and footnote the Hebrew where it differs.

  8. Peter Kirk says:

    ElShaddai, at least your suggestion is consistent, and avoids the serious problem of Eric’s one which is that it makes the translation inconsistent and destroys its internal unity, the problem I found with Hosea 6:6.

    But there are a number of very good reasons why evangelical Christians generally consider the Hebrew Bible rather than the LXX to be the true inspired text of the Old Testament. This footnote is not the place to go into that. But it would make a good post sometime.

  9. David Ker says:

    While the CEV was produced by evangelicals I think it’s audience was always meant to be broader than that. They took special care with gender and anti-Semitism: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/archives/greek-3/msg01293.html

    I think it is lesser known in the American market simply because it isn’t used primarily as a marketed Bible but as an outreach version. They’re quite popular in Africa and used by many of the African Bible societies (Nigeria, Malawi, etc.)

    All that to say, that the CEV is probably less specifically Evangelical than the NLT.

  10. ElShaddai Edwards says:

    @Peter – I’ll look forward to that post! 😉

    I have the voice of a former Bible teacher in my head regarding a discussion about source texts and his comment that, while variant readings have been more accepted, there hasn’t been a “complete” Bible published that uses the LXX as the primary source for the OT text. I’ve never been able to verify that in terms of some of the specialty editions published.

    I would think that something marketed as “The Greek Bible” would be an interesting project to consider.

  11. EricW says:

    ElShaddai Edwards:

    The new complete Orthodox Study Bible (Thomas Nelson) – published February/March 2008 – uses the LXX for its Old Testament. However, it is flawed in this regard – e.g., Psalm 22/23 still uses the familiar Hebrew text/translation (“my cup overflows”) instead of the LXX “your cup intoxicates me like the most excellent [wine]” (one possible translation), with no note that it has departed from the LXX. It has other problems, too, which you can read about in the various blogposts criticizing it (from text/translation problems to binding problems – e.g., the inner margin is almost non-existent, as the text runs almost all the way to the stitching, making marking/reading it difficult); IIRC, the NT references to the OT aren’t adjusted/corrected to reflect where there are different versifications in the LXX (it looks like the NT was simply reused from the earlier Orthodox Study Bible: NT & Psalms, taken directly from Thomas Nelson’s NKJV NT & Psalms). Also IIRC it also does not indicate where the LXX text departs from the Hebrew text, which makes a comparison of the LXX with the Hebrew impossible with this single volume. Its citations from the Church Fathers – something which should be a primary feature of an [Eastern] Orthodox Study Bible – are rather paltry. However, it is a “‘complete’ Bible published that uses the LXX as the primary source for the OT text.”

  12. ElShaddai Edwards says:

    Thank you, Eric, for that correction. I’d seen the criticisms of the OSB before, but I appreciate your summary too!

    If I’m remembering correctly, the NETS translation started with the NRSV translation and modified to fit the LXX from there. I suppose one could take the NETS OT and the NRSV NT and come close to a stylistically consistent book.

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