About a week ago, a friend’s post to Facebook alerted me to something new: an English version of the New Testament called The Passion Translation (hereafter, TPT). This version of the Bible is quite new, so much so that it’s not yet complete. The New Testament portion is complete (released October 31, 2017), along with Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Songs.

I wasn’t aware of its existence before reading the aforementioned Facebook post. My friend Anthony said, “…we can discuss its accuracy later…” In my reply, I said, “Please tag me when you post about that, I’d like to get in on that conversation.” A local clergyman subsequently commented, “So Larry I’d like to hear some of your observations/research regarding this translation. I am intrigued by it.” Since then, I’ve been researching this version, and I thought I would write a review of the TPT.

The Basic Facts Concerning the TPT

This version is referred to as a “single-person translation.” It is principally the work of Brian Simmons, a former missionary and linguist. He began his Biblical studies with the New Tribes Bible Institute, subsequently serving as a missionary with New Tribes Mission in Central America. He co-translated the Paya-Kuna New Testament for the Paya-Kuna people of Panama. I am familiar with New Tribes from when I lived and served in Papua New Guinea in1985-86.

In this version, Simmons is following the same methodology he used in his translation work as a missionary. According to the FAQs on the TPT website,[1] Simmons is considered the “lead translator,” with his work being reviewed by “a team that gives oversight and accountability to the translation project.” The names listed for those reviewing Simmons’ work are Rick Wadholm Jr., Gary S. Greig, Jacqueline Grey and Jeremy Bouma. David Sluka of BroadStreet Publishing Group is identified as the editorial director of TPT.

The project is being published by BroadStreet Publishing and copyrighted by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. The latter organization is Simmons’ own religious enterprise. A visit to his P&F website allows one to read blogs by both Brian Simmons and his wife Candice, purchase his books, study online courses from his TPT Bible School, even tour Israel with the Simmonses later this year, or book passage on a cruise with them in 2020.

Simmons describes his translation philosophy for the TPT as “essential equivalence,” that the TPT “is a meaning-for-meaning translation, translating the essence of God’s original message and heart into modern English.” His understanding of the translation process is that “every translation interposes a fallible human interpretation between the reader and the infallible text,” and so according to Simmons “a translation can be a problem.” But then he then goes on to say:

“However, the problem is solved when we seek to transfer meaning and not merely words from the original text to the receptor language…We believe that the essential meaning of a passage should take priority over the literal form of the original words, while still ensuring the essence of those words is conveyed…The text was interpreted from the original language, carrying its original meaning and giving you an accurate, reliable expression of God’s original message.”

And so Simmons approach to the project has been “… seeking to understand the essence of the text and express and reproduce its meaning in the best English we know. We have worked to remain faithful to the original biblical languages by preserving the essence of their meaning, going further at times than ‘literal’ translations to capture ancient idioms and definitions. Yet we remain flexible to convey the essence of God’s original message in a way that expands its understanding for English readers.”

As far as the “textual source materials used in composing” the TPT, Simmons used “as his Greek base text from which to work” an edited form of the Greek New Testament called the Novum Testamentum Graece, the 27th edition. He also “incorporate[ed] insights from the Syriac (Aramaic) Peshitta, as well as the Roth text.” (More on these sources later.) His use of Aramaic was “meant to act as sort of a prism through which to further illuminate the meaning of God’s original message, acting as an alternative perspective to the typical Greek-centric one.” For the Old Testament portions he “consulted the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible and Aramaic texts, in conjunction with the Septuagint.”

Pros

Okay, there are the basic facts concerning TPT. Moving on now, I want to consider this new Bible version, weighing its pros and cons.

To begin with, one of the favorable aspects of this work is the motive behind the endeavor. Brian Simmons is a brother in the Lord with an evangelistic heart. He wants to produce a version that “recapture[s] the emotion of God’s Word.” Whether or not his claim that emotion is a “lost language” in other Bible versions is something he has not proved, but I have no reason to question that Simmons is sincere in his statements. I will not impugn my brother’s motives in this. Brian Simmons sees this “heart and emotion language” as beneficial to “people’s devotional and spiritual lives in Christ.” This observation doesn’t speak directly to aspects of the work itself, but it does speak to the heart behind it, which is very much an emphasis of Brian Simmons in his version.

Another favorable aspect to this version is its use of italics. Portions of this version cast in italics are thus “highlighted portions not in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts, but are implied from the context and their essential meaning.” Very few Bible versions since the New American Standard Bible have followed this once common practice, but it is a good practice and should never have been discarded. Kudos to Simmons and the editorial team for bringing this back.

Yet another aspect of the TPT that falls in the pro column is its use of footnotes. Simmons’ Bible version utilizes footnotes to convey: “cultural and historical aspects lost to modern readers; important reading of Old Testament verses in light of Jesus Christ; variations in ancient manuscripts; alternative translations; cross references to other Scriptures in the Bible; renderings which depart from traditional expressions; contextual implications; and verses which use the lens of Aramaic for greater insight.”

Cons

I’m sorry to say that’s pretty much it for me in terms of favorable observations or “pros” for this Bible version. I have a number of problems with this version.

Greek text. First of all, let’s look again at the source materials Brian Simmons used for making this version, starting with the edition of the Greek New Testament (hereafter, GNT) he used. The edited form of the GNT he used is formally known by the Latin title Novum Testamentum Graece. It is more commonly known as the Nestle-Aland Greek text, named for the principal editors. The edition Brian Simmons used is counted as the 27th, published in 1993.

This is a predictable but unfortunate choice of Greek texts upon which to base a translation project. The 27th edition of Nestle-Aland (or NA27 for short) is one of the principal examples of the Alexandrian recension of the Greek New Testament found today. The Alexandrian recension (or edition or text type) refers to the edited form of the Greek New Testament that predominated in Alexandria, Egypt in the third century AD.

I described this as a “predictable” choice because most textual critics and Bible translators favor the Alexandrian text type. I also described it as “unfortunate” because I disagree with their assessment of that text type. It is also unfortunate that I can’t go into detail here to explain my position. This topic of discussion, though quite relevant to this discussion of the underlying Greek text of Brian Simmons’ version, is very complex. It involves a long history, as in two millennia, of textual transmission, assessing thousands of Greek manuscript (hand-written) copies of the GNT, and their classification into families or text types. Addressing this topic here, even briefly, would be a very lengthy addition to this article.

At this point, I will simply point out that I disagree with using Nestle-Aland or any edition of the Alexandrian text type as the basis for translating the GNT into English (or any other language). But I hasten to add that while I hold such texts to be inferior, for the most part editions of the Alexandrian text type read the same as the Byzantine text type. All of the manuscripts of the GNT known to exist today (a number approaching 6,000), of all text types, are at the very least 85% identical. And most of the variant readings between them are so slight (differences of word order, spelling, etc.) that they make no difference in English translation.

Aramaic texts. Even more disconcerting than Simmons’ use of the Alexandrian text type is his use of and philosophy about Aramaic sources. As I pointed out above, Simmons used the Nestle-Aland Greek text “while incorporating insights from the Syriac (Aramaic) Peshitta, as well as the Roth text.”

The “Syriac (Aramaic) Peshitta” source Simmons used is the version of the Bible used by churches in the Syriac tradition (various Orthodox and Catholic denominations). Syriac, also known as Syrian Aramaic, is a dialect of Aramaic that developed in the first century. Though closely related to, it is nonetheless a different dialect of Aramaic than that which was spoken by the Lord and the apostles, and different than the portions of the Old and New Testaments containing Aramaic.

The Peshitta is a Syriac version of the Bible that most unbiased scholarship attributes to the fifth century AD, some 400 years after the time of Christ. Manuscripts of portions of the Bible in Syriac can be traced back to the second century AD, but the version going by the name “Peshitta”[2] is a later translation. In light of the facts, therefore, the Peshitta is not the original text upon which the GNT was based, but the other way around. And because it is centuries removed from the first century and a different dialect, the Peshitta shouldn’t be considered an authoritative voice capable of overturning a reading in the GNT. Its primary benefit to the translator should be that of a corroborating witness to the Greek text.

The “Roth text” mentioned in the FAQs of TPT is a reference to the Aramaic English New Testament by Andrew Gabriel Roth. So technically, Simmons is referencing another man’s English translation of Aramaic texts, not some other source of manuscript evidence. And Roth claims that the “True ‘authority’ of Scripture is retained within original Hebrew and Aramaic,” and that the authentic text of the New Testament is supposedly found in “an Aramaic original.”

As for Simmons’ philosophy about the usefulness of Aramaic in the translation process, he is basically following a recent trend. To quote from his FAQ on the subject, “Recent Biblical scholarship has begun tracing many of Jesus’ teachings back to an original Aramaic source. Some even argue the original Greek manuscripts were translations of even more original Aramaic sources…for several decades there has been a debate surrounding the primacy of Greek versus Aramaic as original texts for the New Testament. There is a growing interest in an apparent Aramaic layer undergirding much of the New Testament, particularly the Gospels.”

The trouble with this is there is little evidence to support the claims of Aramaic primacy. Yes, there are places here and there in the New Testament that contain Aramaic names and words, but it’s a huge leap of faith to argue from that fact for Aramaic primacy. Yes, Jesus (and the apostles) undoubtedly spoke Aramaic, but almost certainly spoke some Greek as well. In the first century AD, even though Rome was the occupier of the land of Israel, Greek was the universal language.

Matthew 16:17-18 gives a very clear picture of a multilingual Jesus. When He blessed Peter for his confession, Jesus addressed him with the Aramaic form of his name: Shime‘on breh-d’Yona’ [שׁמעון ברה־דיונא], which means “Simeon son of Jonah.” The Greek text of the New Testament actually transliterated that Aramaic name into Greek. Notice I said “transliterated,” not “translated.” Transliteration is spelling a word from one language with the characters of another alphabet. So Matthew wrote Σίμων Βαριωνᾶ, using the Greek letters to approximate the form of the Aramaic name.

In verse 18, Jesus addresses him by his nickname, Peter, the name we most associate with this apostle. In the Greek text, this nickname is Petros [Πέτρος]. Jesus then says to him that “upon this rock I will build my assembly.”[3] The word translated “rock” here is petra [πέτρᾳ], which means bedrock, a ledge or shelf of rock. In the Greek text, then, it is clearly two different words, and a bit of wordplay on the Lord’s part with respect to Simeon son of Jonah’s nickname.

Those contending that Jesus spoke these words to Peter in Aramaic lose the word play here, for in the Aramaic text the word for rock, stone is k’efa’ [כאפא], which is also the Aramaic form of Peter’s nickname, usually rendered into English as “Cephas.” So k’efa’ is used in both places in Matthew 16:18, which in English would be “…you are Kefa, and upon this kefa…” This could be construed as Simon Peter/Kefa being the foundation upon which the Lord will establish His assembly. The Roman Catholics would love this, but that is not what Jesus was saying. It is Peter’s confession of Jesus being the Messiah or Christ, the son of the living God, that is the foundation upon which Christ builds. So, the fact of the wordplay in Greek is clear evidence that Jesus Himself used the Greek play on words when He spoke to Peter.

Gender-neutral language. Another issue I have with Simmons’ TPT is its philosophy of gender-neutral language. To quote again from the FAQs, “One area that challenged us was translating the original male-oriented pronouns and terms from the ancient biblical text in away [sic] that was clear and readable in our twenty-first century context…Therefore, where appropriate, we translated male-oriented pronouns and terms in a gender-neutral way when it was clear God’s message applied not merely to men, but men and women collectively.”

My problem with the gender-neutral agenda so prevalent in our society is that it is not Biblically but culturally driven. As recent as fifty years ago, terms like “brethren” and “brothers” were understood as inclusive, and a change in language was not sought after. But for more than five decades radical feminism has re-shaped our society and literally effected language change. Now we write things like “MS.” and “he/she.” Groups like the National Organization for Women (NOW) have been greatly responsible for a shift in moral values in our nation, and they have fomented outright misandry. This word is not as well-known as its counterpart, misogyny, the hatred of women; misandry is the hatred of men.

If you think I’m exaggerating the problem, I remind you of the contemporary hateful rhetoric coining the phrase “toxic masculinity.” Before that it was the buzzword was “testosterone poisoning.” Such attitudes so prominent, so politically correct in our secular culture, are inappropriate ideologies for translating God’s Word. Granted, Bible translators as a general rule are not on the extreme end of this cultural shift regarding gender roles. But it is this very cultural shift that drives the agenda of changing male oriented terminology in Scripture. If you think otherwise, well, there’s this bridge I own in Brooklyn that I will sell to you for a great price.

All that said, I can accept some changes of wording along this line, to a point. I do believe there are instances in the New Testament where “brethren” are mentioned when “sistern” are included in the reference. In such cases, I won’t quibble too much if a translation decides to render it into English as “brothers and sisters,” provided the added words are cast in italics, i.e., “brothers and sisters.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t standard practice for modern English versions, nor is it the practice of Simmons’ TPT. Quite a few times in Simmons’ version, he renders the plural forms of the Greek noun adelphos [ἀδελφός] as “brothers and sisters,” but he does not put the added words in italics, even though he uses italics in his version for other things. Worse still, he often avoids translating adelphos altogether, in different ways.

On some occasions, he simply doesn’t translate the plural forms of adelphos at all. (Acts 20:32 is but one example of this.) This approach, far from being the accurate expression of the meaning of the GNT that Simmons claims, actually obscures the text, outright hiding from the modern English reader what was intended to be conveyed by the inspired authors.

Sometimes, he uses the rendering “beloved friends” (as in Romans 12:1), or “beloved ones” (as in Galatians 4:12), where the original Greek text has a plural form of adelphos. Many times, he uses the rendering “believers” instead of translating the plural forms of adelphos. (Cf. Acts 15:32, 36, 40; 16:2; 17:10, 14; 18:18, 27; 21:7, 17; 28:14, 15.) Each of these instances are outright changes to what was written in the original text.

Paraphrase. Which brings up my next point: The Passion Translation is in fact a paraphrase. Oh, I know Simmons made the word “translation” part of the title. And in his FAQs he maintains that “…The Passion Translation is a new version of God’s Word that is considered a translation because it uses the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts to translate the essential message of the Scriptures into contemporary English.” But in both philosophy of translation and actual practice, it is a paraphrase.

Simmons refers to his translation philosophy as that of “essential equivalence.” He chose this designation because his philosophy “is a meaning-for-meaning translation, translating the essence of God’s original message and heart into modern English.” (Emphasis mine.) The “essential equivalence” designation is Simmons’ take on the more standardized designation (in translators circles) “dynamic equivalence.”[4] This approach emphasizes a rendering that is more natural in the target language, even at the expense of the literal accuracy of the original language. It is a sense-for-sense translation philosophy, also called thought-for-thought, wherein the message of the author is kept but the words and their form in the original language are not strictly followed, and can be altered or amplified. Sounds like a paraphrase to me.

At this point, I should define the term paraphrase. According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, a paraphrase is “a restatement of a text, passage or work giving the meaning in another form; to say (something that someone else has said or written) using different words.” The etymology of the word in English comes from the compound Greek word paraphrazein [παραφράζειν], to tell in other words.[5] That definition tracks very well with Simmons’ “essential equivalence” philosophy delineated in his TPT FAQs.

The fact that Brian Simmons consulted Greek and Aramaic for his New Testament (and Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek for the Old Testament portions) does not automatically make his version a translation. The guiding philosophy and approach to translation determines that. The word paraphrase does not intrinsically mean “not having consulted the original languages.” It is entirely possible to consult the grammar and vocabulary of the Greek New Testament and still paraphrase its contents. And that is just what Simmons has done.

But don’t take my word for it; let’s see some examples from The Passion Translation. I have already cited some TPT verse under the heading of gender-neutral language that demonstrate changing the wording of the original completely for the sake of Simmons’ view of the message he wants to convey. Bear with me now as I delve into one of those verses in TPT in much greater detail.

In one of the FAQs of TPT, “What is the approach to gender usage in The Passion Translation?” Galatians 4:12 is given as an example of how the Simmons’ version handles such issues. This verse in the Greek address the adelphoi [ἀδελφοί], literally, the “brothers” in Galatia. Referring again to the FAQ in question, it states “It is clear in the context that his message is to both brothers and sisters in the faith, to the ‘beloved ones,’ as The Passion Translation says.”

Now, you could say that these two different terms, “brothers” and “beloved ones” are synonyms, that a brother can be a beloved one. But words that are synonymous in the same language don’t necessarily mean the exact same thing. In this instance, adelphos [ἀδελφός], the singular form of adelphoi in this verse, has the same range of meanings as brothers in English: a male sibling with at least one parent in common with another, one related to another by common ties or interest, a kinsman, etc.

To avoid dealing directly with the “brothers” versus “brothers and sisters” issue, Simmons chose to change the word entirely, going with a synonym that has a different, albeit related, meaning: beloved. Now this term is found in Biblical Greek as well. It is agapētos [ἀγαπητός], or agapētoi [ἀγαπητοί], the plural form. It is found dozens of times in the GNT, and is typically translated into English as “beloved,” or in some versions, “dear.” There are times, such as in James 1:16, where both agapētoi and adelphoi appear together, referring to “beloved brothers and sisters.”

So, in Galatians 4:12, the apostle Paul, if he had wanted to, could have written “beloved.” The Greek word for it certainly exists. But Paul, writing by inspiration from the Holy Spirit, chose a different word, to convey a different meaning. However, in TPT, Brian Simmons chose to change the meaning of the underlying Greek word to something different. He did not translate; he paraphrased, pure and simple.

Furthermore, the rest of Galatians 4:12 in TPT is a clear example of paraphrase as well. Here is that verse in the original Greek text:

Γίνεσθε ὡς ἐγώ, ὅτι κἀγὼ ὡς ὑμεῖς, ἀδελφοί, δέομαι ὑμῶν. Οὐδέν με ἠδικήσατε·

This verse is comprised of just 13 words. Now, given the nature of translating from one language to another, you can’t expect to have an exact correspondence of the number of words from the Greek to English. Greek is a highly inflected language, meaning that a single word in a Greek sentence can have a lot grammatical information packed into it, and “unpacking” that one word in translation may require two or more words. I have looked this verse up in several translations. Here are some examples.

“I beg you, brothers: Become like me, for I also became like you. You have not wronged me.” That was the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and this translation of that Greek verse has 18 words.

“I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong.” That was how the New International Version (the 1978 edition of the NIV, not the 2011 edition) renders it, in 19 words.

“I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong.” That was the 2011 edition of the NIV, 20 words.

“Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all.” This is the rendering found in the New King James Version, 20 words.

“Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong.” And that is how it appears in the English Standard Version, 21 words.

You get the idea. Even with the translational “unpacking” of the verse, 13 Greek words may grow into between 18-21 English words. It would therefore be reasonable to expect that a translation focused on accuracy would be in that same ballpark relative to the number of words. So, how does The Passion Translation compare in this regard? Brace yourself…

“Beloved ones, I plead with you, follow my example and become free from the bondage of religion. I once became as one of you, a gentile, when I lived among you—now become free like me. When I first came to minister to you, you did me no wrong. I can’t believe you would do wrong to me now!”

That’s 59 words! Fifty-nine! More than four and a half times as many words as the original Greek! I’ll give Simmons credit here, 24 of those 59 words are cast in italics to show that they are indeed paraphrased, that they are words added to the original text. But the 35 remaining words are not, and that’s still 22 words more than the original Greek.

Pronouns of deity. Simmons, in his TPT, chose not to capitalize pronouns (him, he, his, you, your, my and mine) pertaining to God. In the FAQ explaining this decision, one reason given is that the original manuscripts of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek do not do this. But while this is true, it is also a bit misleading.

Hebrew manuscripts contained line after line of what is called the consonantal text, that is, all of the characters in the line are consonants. The consonants were the same size; there were no capitalizations for any proper nouns. For hundreds of years, knowing how to read the text without any vowels was a matter of tradition. Hundreds of years after Christ, with the dispersion of the Jews and the Hebrew language being largely the language of Biblical study and liturgy, scribes devised a system of “points” to indicate vowels. These vowel points were inserted into the appropriate words in the line of consonants to indicate pronunciation. In most cases, the vowel points are inserted underneath the consonants, but a few are placed above the consonants. It looks like this:

Therefore, since in the manuscripts and printed texts of the Hebrew Scriptures nothing was capitalized, it is a bit misleading to portray that text as deliberately not translating pronouns of deity. If Simmons is going to cite the Hebrew texts as a precedent for not capitalizing such pronouns, then to be consistent he should not capitalize anything in his version: not the first letter of the word in a sentence, none of the proper nouns of God or otherwise, nothing.

As for the Greek manuscripts, in the time of the apostles and for a few centuries after that, every letter was a capital. The manuscripts written in this way are called uncials, after the term in classical Latin uncialis, which could mean either “inch-high” or “weighing an ounce.” Here is an example of an uncial text of a GNT manuscript, specifically Philippians chapter 1 in the Codex Sinaiticus.

So once again, since every letter in the Greek uncials was a “capital” letter, and they were written this way when the apostles penned their originals, it is not intellectually honest to argue by implication from this that the pronouns pertaining to deity in the Bible should not be capitalized.

Ironically, one of the reasons given in the FAQ explaining this decision was that to capitalize pronouns of deity “is adding something to the text that does not otherwise exist.” I found that statement outright laughable, given the extensive amount of adding to the words of the text that Simmons does.

In my evangelistic efforts with cult groups that deny the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit, I have learned that they chose not to capitalize certain pronouns or even nouns (such as “holy spirit” versus “Holy Spirit”) in their perversions of the Scriptures. While I know that this is not Brian Simmons intent, his decision not to capitalize could be problematic when dealing with heretical doctrine. So I for one am not in favor of this feature in TPT.

Summary

So, I’m sad to say that my assessment of Brian Simmons’ The Passion Translation is mostly negative, as I’ve indicated in this article. To recap…

The text of the GNT that he used for translation, which, though having a very high percentage of agreement with better texts, is inferior. I readily admit that this view is in the minority, but I nonetheless sincerely believe it to be the case.

Even more troubling is his estimation and use of Aramaic materials. While I do not disagree with consulting these sources (my Bible software program has the Peshitta in both Aramaic and Hebrew fonts), as I said above, it should be for the most part relegated to the status of a corroborating witness to the Greek text. It should not be considered on a equal footing with the Greek text, much less viewed as the primary text.

His philosophy of translation is flawed, favoring an approach that is essentially to paraphrase. Indeed, it is a paraphrase.

I personally do not agree with the politically correct trend of retranslating pronouns and collective nouns to conform to gender-neutral language. Unfortunately, Simmons does.

I personally do not agree with Simmons’ judgement call to not capitalize deity pronouns in his version.

It is a good thing that Simmons uses italics to show words he has added, that are not found in the Greek text. Unfortunately, there are quite a lot of examples where he has paraphrased and added to the text but not cast those added words in italics.

It is a good thing that Simmons supplies footnotes containing variant readings in the Greek text, alternative translations, cultural and historical information, etc.

I cannot and will not recommend this version. It isn’t a translation, it’s a paraphrase, in which Simmons passes off an awful lot of his own interpretation as though it were an accurate translation of the Word of God. It might read well, but for study of the Scriptures, where the actual inspired words of the original text matter, it’s virtually useless.

For what it’s worth, the Bible translation I carry is the New King James Version. Although when I study the Scriptures, I study from the original languages and compare that with a variety of English versions, the Bible I carry to studies and church services is a NKJV. I do so, not because I believe it to be 100% accurate, or “the best,” but because it is a translation that is based on a philosophy of word-for-word translation, not thought-for-thought, and because the underlying Greek text of the NKJV New Testament is nearer to what I believe to be the most accurate edition from which to base a translation. The edition of the GNT that I believe is best is The New Testament in the Original Greek: Byzantine Textform, edited by Maurice A. Robinson and William Grover Pierpont, 2005. There are one or two more or less contemporary English versions that follow a Byzantine type of text, but to my knowledge none have yet been based on Robinson/Pierpont. So for now, I carry the NKJV.

If you are not inclined to read the NKJV (it’s better than its 408-year-old daddy, but isn’t what you would call contemporary in style), then most every other version that is in publication and readily available will be based on some form of the Alexandrian text type for its New Testament. But of the English versions translated from Alexandrian type of GNT, if you want a modern translation that is readily available, reads well and yet more accurately relates the words of the original, there are better choices than The Passion Translation. My recommendations of versions for personal/devotional reading and study are as follows, in descending order:

English Standard Version. Its New Testament is based on the same Greek text as TPT, but as I’ve said, the great majority of the readings of the Greek text in all the available manuscripts is at least 85% the same. The ESV bills itself as an “essentially literal” translation, with the goal of seeking “to be ‘as literal as possible’ while maintaining clarity of expression and literary excellence.” In my estimation, it lives up to its claims. It was published in 2001, and the latest/online edition is copyrighted 2016. I have this version both in my Bible software program and in a TruTone (synthetic flexible/leather-like material) binding. Both are dated 2007.

New American Standard Bible. The New Testament portions of the NASB were first published in 1960, with the completed Bible being published in 1971. The GNT for this translation was an older edition of Nestle-Aland, the 23rd (1957). It was a revision of the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901, and it retained archaic forms of address to God (e.g., the pronouns “Thee,” “Thou” and “Thine”). In the 1995 Updated edition, this policy of retaining archaic language forms was reversed, so I would recommend the 1995. The Updated edition consulted the 26th editon of Nestle-Aland (1979), and made other changes in the translation as well. Many were improvements, some were not. But it is a good translation focused on being literal. It is good for reading and study.

Holman Christian Standard Bible. Though there is now a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) called the Christian Standard Bible (CSB), the HCSB is the edition that I have in my Bible software program and bound in leather. The copyright dates for the HCSB are 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003. I think the revised edition CSB was available in 2017. So while it might be that there is no drastic difference in the renderings of the CSB compared to the HCSB, the latter is what I’m recommending, because it’s what I know. Once again, the Greek text upon which the New Testament of the HCSB is translated is the NA27. With regard to its translation philosophy, it tries to strike a middle ground between formal and dynamic equivalence. They call it “optimal equivalence.” It is a proper translation, and good for reading and study.

New International Version. This recommendation is last on the list because it is more prone to the paraphrase side of the spectrum than the others listed above. Its New Testament is also based on an Alexandrian text type. This NT was released in 1973, and I got one that same year. When the full Bible was released in 1978, I made the switch from the 1901 ASV to the NIV and used it for about 15 years. It’s great for devotional reading, and in many of the instances that are rendered in a thought-for-thought style they are still good representations of the original. I do not know how extensively the version was revamped in 2011, so my recommendation here applies to the 1978 and 1984 editions.


[1] https://www.thepassiontranslation.com/

[2] “Peshitta” can mean either simple or common. The former could refer to a version without a marks and signs in the nature of a critical apparatus, the latter probably an indicator that the version was for all the people. The designation “Peshitta” is not referenced by any Syriac authors prior to the ninth century AD.

[3] The Greek word I have translated as “assembly” here is typically rendered into English as “church.” See my articles https://www.larryoverton.com/my-faith/articles/the-origin-of-the-word-church-part-i/ and https://www.larryoverton.com/my-faith/articles/the-origin-of-the-word-church-part-ii-the-acceptance-of-a-mistranslation/ for more on this subject.

[4] The terms dynamic equivalence, and its opposite, formal equivalence, were both coined by Eugene A. Nida, and the concept of dynamic equivalence translation was developed by him. Nida was a founding charter member of Wycliffe Bible Translators and served as a missionary for a short time among the Tarahumara Indians in Chihuahua, Mexico in the mid-1930s. Beginning in 1943, Nida began a long career as a linguist with the American Bible Society, as Associate Secretary for Versions, then Executive Secretary for Translations until his retirement forty years later. “Despite his conservative background, Nida became increasingly ecumenical and New Evangelical in his approach.” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Nida] In his later years, Nida felt that his term “dynamic equivalence” had been misunderstood and partly responsible for versions like the Living Bible, so he substituted for it the term functional equivalence. But the philosophy was the same.

[5] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paraphrase