Translations of the Byzantine text

Because comments had to be closed on a previous post, I am making a new post to correct an important factual omission in that comment thread.

Codepoke wrote:

Is there ANY translation of the bible anywhere that’s based on the Byzantine MSS?

CD-Host replied:

Yes the EMTV.

Well, even if we restrict our consideration to English translations (as Theophrastus noted), there is still another significant candidate, the World English Bible (WEB), described as

a Public Domain (no copyright) Modern English translation of the Holy Bible. … The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible first published in 1901, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament.

The meaning of the last part may seem confusing, but I understand it to be that the ASV text has been revised not only to update the language but also such that the New Testament conforms to the Majority Text, i.e. the Byzantine Text. WEB is not yet in print, but the New Testament is complete and almost finalised, and available online. The lead translator, Michael Johnson, is also a co-worker of some of us BBB contributors.

Wayne posted briefly about this version in 2005, and David mentioned it in 2008.

Meanwhile I note that Suzanne McCarthy was also unhappy to be denied the chance to join in the discussion on the previous post, and so posted what she wanted to comment in a post on her blog, with the provocative but well justified title ESV says Christ is not a mediator between God and women. If you wish to respond to what she has written, please do so on her blog, not here.

27 thoughts on “Translations of the Byzantine text

  1. Dru says:

    I have a certain affection for the WEB, and like their approach to intellectual property. I also like the fact that they have had a go at some parts of the Apocrypha. All the same, I stand by my question of a few days ago as to whether it is really true to describe it as a new translation, rather than a revision of a previous English version into a different generation’s English with a different preference from the previous ones when it comes to some disputed readings.

  2. Peter Kirk says:

    Dru, I must have missed your question. Maybe WEB is not a new translation, but it is a translation and is based on the Byzantine text, so it meets Codepoke’s criterion. Anyway, almost all English translations in widespread use today are revisions of previous ones – NIV and HCSB are the only major exceptions.

  3. Chandler says:

    As I said before there is a current project to translate the Patriarchal Text used by the Greek Orthodox Church into English. So far only the NT is complete, with the OT due out next year. It has the variant readings footnoted. The free download is linked below, you can buy from lulu if you want a hard copy.

    Also UBS has the Gospel of St John in the Byzantine Tradition but its kinda pricey.

    For those that can read Greek the Patriarchal Text is below.

  4. David Ker says:

    I also think the WEB is cool.

    Peter, Suzanne’s comment was about gender issues and was off-topic so it was moderated. As I mentioned, she and John Hobbins are moderated on this blog due to a tendency for their comments to heat up quickly. I agree with the gist of her post but not in having her make those comments on a post unrelated to that topic.

  5. Sue says:

    John, however, was not moderated. He has already mentioned the ESV and gender in his post, so I was not the one to break the agreement that I thought we had.

  6. Sue says:


    There seems to be some kind of misunderstanding. John’s comments regarding the ESV have not been removed. I do not quite understand. If I am blocked from posting about ESV why is John not blocked from doing so?

    This is one reason why I left this blog. John blocked me from posting on his blog, but no one was willing to block him from posting here.

    In fact, the reason why I want him blocked is not because he writes favourably about the ESV. He may have an honest opinion about that. It is because he often makes deprecating comments about people who are not white and non male. I fit in that category.

  7. codepoke says:

    Thank you, Peter. I’m Luddite enough to want a print bible, but I appreciate both options and will follow up on them.

  8. Peter Kirk says:

    Sue, you are correct that John’s comments about the ESV have not been removed. The issue that we have is not with comments about ESV but with comments on gender issues. That would include any deprecating comments by John, or anyone else, concerning gender, and for that matter race. But we cannot control John’s blog, or yours.

    I suggest that when such issues come up you follow my example, and the one you were forced to take on this occasion, which is to post about the issue on your own blog. You might even be allowed to link to your post in a comment here, especially if you ask people to discuss the issue further only on your own blog.

  9. Theophrastus says:

    In view of Peter’s comments, may I constructively suggest that you explicitly revise your Posting Guidelines printed at the top of the right column of the blog to indicate that comments about gender issues are not welcome at this blog.

    I would have otherwise thought that gender issues, as they relate to translation, fall squarely within the domain of this blog.

  10. Peter Kirk says:

    Theophrastus, thank you for your constructive comment. I think we need to discuss this one as team of bloggers, together with the point you raised elsewhere about the gender and racial balance of our team.

  11. Glenn says:

    Why can’t a team consist of just 7 men? Why does a team have to display racial diversity?

    I can think of no reason why this blog ‘should/have to’ include women or display racial diversity.

    I am not implying that it shouldn’t have women involved or have people from different racial backgrounds if that happens as a natural event in the life of the blog.

    Just in case anyone starts to think I am a racist I will point out that I have many friends in India, Israel (Jew and Arab) and a friend in Paris who is Madagascan/Belgian which does not include the racial diversity of the Church I attend.

  12. Peter Kirk says:

    Suzanne, I just approved your comment, but somewhat reluctantly. I think John’s point about “half the human race” is taken from a comment made by a (negatively evaluating) third party, currently unapproved (but it may reappear in edited form), which quotes John’s words from somewhere else, I guess from his own blog. So I think you are not quite correct to suggest that “John has taken on the burden of articulating the views of half the human race on this blog”. Of course we the BBB team cannot control John’s own blog.

  13. Peter Kirk says:

    I have now edited and approved one comment on the previous by Theophrastus and two by John Hobbins, removing references to gender issues which were irrelevant to that post. I have not allowed Suzanne’s comment because it was not possible to edit it in this way, and because the same material has appeared in the post on her blog to which I have already linked.

    May I please remind everyone not to use this comment thread as a forum for discussing gender issues.

  14. Theophrastus says:

    Peter, with all due respect, the comment that Suzanne refers to was made by John, on this blog, and then removed by one of the moderators.

    As to the comments of mine that you have edited, I kindly request you simply delete them. By altering the context of my original statements, you have changed their meaning. I have made a post on my own blog with the contents of John’s original comment and my reply.

  15. Peter Kirk says:

    Theophrastus, thanks for the correction. I never saw John’s comment that you quoted, which was perhaps deleted before I saw this comment thread, only your quotation of it.

    I don’t see how I can now delete your one comment, from which I removed only a small part of John’s words and a sentence which you marked out in parentheses, without thereby destroying the context of what John Hobbins wrote. Since you have published the same material elsewhere, we at BBB are within our rights to quote from it.

    You can hardly insist on our cooperation in this while you are continuing to spread on several blogs what look rather like accusations of racism and sexism against the BBB team, accusations which if you knew us well you would realise are well wide of the mark.

  16. Dru says:

    If I might spoil the fun, could I leave sex and revert to the original topic and my previous post?

    This has almost certainly been said before. I understand IT programmers, particularly in the open source realm, use the term ‘fork’, to describe how over time one tradition of programme gradually splits into two derived from the same underlying origin. I’ve often thought the same analogy can be applied to Bible translations.

    One could draw an interesting chart on how they all relate to each other.

    The WEB is a fork from the ASB, as also is the NASB. They are now different, and have different preferences as to which source code they opt for. The ASB is itself a fork from the RV which is a fork from the AV. I suppose the AV is officially a fork of the Bishops’ Bible. There are good arguments for regarding the RSV and the NRSV as successive forks from the same root as well as from each other.

    On the other hand, the REB is a fork from the NEB, which was a fresh programme, not a fork from somewhere else. The NJB is a fork from the JB, which in theory is a fork from a French translation, not the original languages, but I’ve never believed this.

    Question – is the NLT is a fork of the Living Bible or not?

    It is important to ask of any translation which original language source code it is translating, which it regards as having priority and on what basis. I think it is also an important question to ask of any translation, to what extent is it a fork on a previous one, and to what extent is it placing its own reliance on the underlying source code? In making its translation choices how does it weigh respecting the translation decisions of the version it has forked from against readability and accuracy whether literal or dynamic?

  17. Peter Kirk says:

    Good questions, Dru. But the situation is not always as simple as this. Any good translation depends to varying extents on a variety of previous translations as well as on the original language text. The extent of this dependency may vary from verse to verse – sometimes quite literally: I have seen draft translations (not into English) which are mostly based on a literal English version but occasionally, in difficult places, become obvious translations of the Good News Bible. So the kind of classification you have in mind works in only a very broad and basic sense.

  18. WilliamW says:

    I am so tired of this anti ESV pro gender discussion.

    [Two questions edited out by a moderator]

    Greg Boyd was mentioned before. READ his book…… the kingdom of the world/sword is the demonic’s realm, not God’s. While we diddle away with what to say our culture and the culture of the world just goes further down the toilet

  19. Peter Kirk says:

    William, we are almost all tired of this discussion, and this is the main reason why we are not allowing any more comments about it, and why I am editing out the two middle paragraphs of your comment which seem to be an attempt to provoke the discussion to continue. If you really want to ask these questions, please do so on Suzanne’s blog (and use question marks – they do tend to signal to readers that answers are wanted!)

    Thanks for the Greg Boyd point.

  20. WilliamW says:

    No I am not trying to provoke a gender discussion. Obviously quite the difference. I think it is fascist and biased to edit the question about intentional sex bias on the part of the ESV. My very point is , prove its really there before you deny discussion. Opinion is not fact. Just because someone thinks that the ESV is trying to keep women from God is pure baloney and you know it……so much for unbaised Christian intellectual editing. To let someone imply that is is and then bar posts……….we look to your heart.

    If this blog cannot keep an open mind about the ESV then quit discussing it to.

  21. CD-Host says:

    Dru —

    Virtually every bible is a “fork” in your sense from the Vulgate. The NEB is a response to the KJV. The “bible” that I know of that breaks the furthest from tradition is Robert Price’s Pre-Nicene New Testament, 54 formative texts. It attempts challenges every convention. Starting with the organization of books (by geography) and the canon itself.

    Anyway here it the policy of the NJB. Translation is directly from Hebrew / Aramaic / Greek. Where the original language is ambiguous the NJB follows the lead of the 1973 French JB. In places where Greek -> English would be a problem and Greek -> French was not both committees worked together.


    William —

    Right now there are ESV discussions on my blog, Sue’s blog, John’s blog, Theo’s blog, J.K’s blog and Bryon’s blog. I can’t invite you to the others but feel free to pop over to my blog (where this discussion has spilled over) and ask your two question. But in the meanwhile the ESV isn’t based on the Byzantine text and no one has asserted it is.

  22. Peter Kirk says:

    William, I think Suzanne, in the post I linked to above, has provided the proof you are looking for. Plenty of other proof has been given on this blog in the past. Many people, including yourself, are fed up with continued discussion here. That is why we have put an end to such discussion. There are other places where you can discuss such matters. Please stop doing so here.

  23. Glenn says:

    I think you will find that all Suzanne has provided is her opinion (with which some here agree), but that is a long, long way from being ‘proof’ of anything.

    I would also contend that the “Plenty of other proof…” that you refer to falls squarely into the same category – an opinion which finds favour here, but again it is no more than that.

  24. WWilliam says:

    “There are other places where you can discuss such matters. Please stop doing so here.”

    Hey, I just jumped on here with one comment and an objection to your edit. Why blame me for the whole thing?

    I have no desire to discuss this further and my point was clearly to stop the discussion of gender in the ESV.

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