The Truth New Testament: A Review

The Truth New TestamentThis is a follow-up to my post yesterday The Truth New Testament by Colin Urquhart. Yesterday I introduced this translation to readers here. Today I am reviewing the book and its text.

The edition pictured here is the standard version, which, from the online sample, has very few footnotes. I have in my hand a borrowed copy of the study edition, which has quite a lot of short notes, although taking up at most a quarter of each page, and over 200 pages of study material at the end including a few translated Old Testament passages. I have not looked at this additional material. Sample pages are available online for the standard version, including Romans 6-8, and for the study edition, including John 1 and some of the study materials.

The study edition is a well presented hardback book, with a dark red cover similar to the standard edition pictured, but without Colin Urquhart’s name on the front. From the outside it doesn’t look much like a Bible, but it is printed on thin Bible paper with two sewn in ribbon markers.

I have looked at two sections of the text, Matthew 1-5 and Romans 6. In general this translation is into good clear contemporary English, with no sign of archaic words or syntax. In places it seems a little stilted, suggesting that a good stylistic editor might have improved it. The less elegant phrasing is not because the Greek text is followed too literally: for example, in Matthew 3:3 “Make ready for the Lord’s coming” (make what ready?) in place of the literal “Prepare the Lord’s way”.

The genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 is somewhat abbreviated into a list of names, with repeated names and “begat” or “the father of” mostly omitted. Josiah has been omitted from this genealogy, presumably as an oversight.

Urquhart wrote, and I quoted in the previous post, about “sometimes giving the literal translation of the Greek followed by another phrase that puts the same truth in another way that can be readily appreciated by the reader”. The cases I have found seem more the other way round: “the Messiah, the Christ” in Matthew 2:4, “The truly humble, those who are poor in spirit” in 5:3, and “Those with gentle spirits, the meek” in 5:5. I am glad that these explanatory additions are exegetically responsible and phrased in a way which preserves the readability of the text. Thus they are much better than the amplifications in the Amplified Bible, which has recently to my regret become a favourite of some Charismatic preachers.

In Matthew 2 I was annoyed by the repeated capitalised “Child” and “He” for Jesus. In 2:8 it might have been an appropriate choice to avoid capitalising Child on Herod’s lips, but more likely this is a mistake as Herod then twice refers to Jesus as “Him”. This made me look at John 20:15 where we have two different people given this honour in one sentence: “Sir, if You have moved Him…”

In Matthew 3:1 “In those days” has become “Some years later”, historically accurate but not justified by the Greek text.

In the following account of John the Baptist there is an interesting alternation between “baptise” and “immerse”. The stylistic variation makes for good English and helps to explain the “baptise” to readers not familiar with the word. But the rendering “immerse” suggests Urquhart’s credo-baptist theology (presumably adopted after he left the Church of England), which is even more clearly reflected in the rendering of verse 11:

I immerse in water those who have truly turned away from their sins and surrendered to God. But after me someone more powerful than I is coming. I am not fit even to carry His sandals. He will immerse people in the Holy Spirit and in God’s purifying fire.

Here we see a good explanation of the parallel between John’s baptism and the otherwise obscure “baptism” in the Holy Spirit. But we also see a theologically loaded definition of “repentance”, and a forced interpretation of the literal “into repentance” as referring to a past act. There may be good scriptural warrant for baptism following repentance, but this verse is not it and should not be translated as if it were.

In the next verse, 3:12, we have another odd explanatory addition: “spiritual threshing floor”. It is hardly likely that this verse could be wrongly taken literally. Similarly in 5:16 we read “spiritual light”. There is more danger of literalism with 5:6, which has lost its vivid imagery in:

Those who long for righteousness are blessed, because they will be filled with God’s life.

But where an explanation might have been useful, of the “salt” in 5:13, none is given.

In Matthew 4 there are more theological interpretations: “He had to be subjected to temptation from the devil” in verse 1 and “Defeated, the devil then left Him” in verse 11. Then in verse 13 Capernaum is simply “near Zebulun and Naphtali”, suggesting that these are towns rather than areas.

I also looked at Romans 6 because of the baptism issue and because this is one of the passages that can be read on the Internet. In this passage Urquhart uses the word “baptise” several times. But there are other explanatory additions, such as “We have died to sin; so can we continue to live in ways that displease God?” in verse 2. In the next verse there is a sign of a non-standard exegesis, taking “into Christ Jesus” as in apposition to “into his death”:

Surely you understand that all of us who have been baptised live now in Christ Jesus. Through our baptism we were made one with his death.

Right through the chapter there continues to be expansion, as if Urquhart the preacher is showing through more than Urquhart the translator, right through to the final verse 23:

You have seen for yourself that sin pays wages: eternal death and separation from God. But God’s gift to you is eternal life that is yours in Christ Jesus, your Lord.

I am pleased that Colin Urquhart has taken the effort to produce this translation. He has thus given the lie to the old charge that Charismatics aren’t interested in serious study of the Bible. In general terms he seems to have done a good job, in producing a clear, natural and generally accurate translation – although one which could have done with a bit more careful tidying up.

However, I did find more theological interpretation in this version than I would expect to find in a general purpose Bible. For that reason, and also because there is no Old Testament, I cannot recommend this version as anyone’s primary Bible. It has to be taken as what it is, one person’s, one respected leader’s reading of the Bible. Colin Urquhart is a man whose teaching I am happy to receive, and on that basis I would find this version useful, but I would always want to check it against a more reliable version, or against the original Greek.

8 thoughts on “The Truth New Testament: A Review

  1. Bradley J. Weidemann says:

    Thank you for your review of Colin Urquhart’s translation. I have two, somewhat off-topic, questions about the Amplified Bible.

    “Thus they are much better than the amplifications in the Amplified Bible, which has recently to my regret become a favourite of some Charismatic preachers.”

    I have noticed that trend as well. First, why do you suppose the Amplified Bible is enjoying such popularity in Charismatic circles? Second, why do you regret that?

  2. Peter Kirk says:

    Bradley, I suspect a large part of the reason for the revival of the Amplified Bible is that it is the favourite of Joyce Meyer. Certainly the people I know who like it are her fans. I have nothing against her, but would not follow her example in this matter.

    The problem I have with the Amplified is with the way it is abused. First, it was never intended for public reading, and is quite unsuitable for this as it is impossible to do justice to its parentheses orally. Second, where there are several alternative renderings given for one original language word, preachers (and I am not accusing Joyce Meyer of this) tend to take the meaning of the word not as a small area somewhere in the general semantic domain of those alternative renderings, but as very broad to encompass the full meanings of all of the alternatives. That is the illegitimate totality transfer fallacy, noted by James Barr and explained in this BBB comment. I consider that the Amplified Bible, in the hands of people who don’t understand its intended use, encourages this kind of misunderstanding.

  3. James Snapp, Jr. says:

    What is the Greek base-text of Urquhart’s “The Truth” and how are textual variants treated? What happens in “The Truth” at John 8 and at the ending of Mark??

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  4. Peter Kirk says:

    Good question, James. But I’m sorry, I can’t answer it. I meant to look into the issue. But I have now had to give back my borrowed copy. And nothing was stated in the introduction. I hope to be able to answer this in a few days.

  5. CD-Host says:

    Just to throw $.02 in on the Amplified.

    I think there is a huge problem in the degree of culture divide between modern English readers and the target audience of the New and Old Testaments. Quite often there really is no way to phrase a sentence in grammatical English the captures the key components of the original. A translator ultimately has to make really fundamental choices about what aspects of the bible are important and which aren’t, and this inevitably creates theological biases.

    For example the widespread availability of Greek study tools in the 19th century led to a rebirth in Arianism. English New Testaments were explicitly non-Arian to a degree unwarranted by the underlying Greek and once this was discovered there was a reaction in the opposite direction.

    I think the Amplified bible is trying to be helpful in unraveling, these issues. As an aside the Amplified has competition, Thomas Nelson a few years back put out another bible with a similar sort of approach called “The Expanded Bible” which is a New Century Version with even more notes in the text.

    Pentecostals have always been theologically innovative. I think on balance the Amplified is likely to be helpful in cutting through 2000 years of accumulated cruft, but my crystal ball doesn’t work well on this one.

  6. Peter Kirk says:

    CD-Host, I would agree that “the Amplified bible is trying to be helpful in unraveling, these issues”. Indeed I would go further and say that it actually is helpful, if used in the way it was intended – for private study, and with the alternative renderings properly understood. As I said before, the problem I have is with misuse of the Amplified.

  7. Peter Kirk says:

    James, I had another look at The Truth New Testament, the study edition. It includes both the story of the woman in John 8 and the longer ending of Mark, with notes that these are not in the oldest manuscripts but should still be treated as part of Scripture. It does not include the Trinitarian formula in 1 John 5:7-8. This suggests to me that the textual basis is the critical text, UBS, Nestle-Aland or similar.

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