Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Will your long-winded speeches never end?
- Job 16:3a
English Bible translations are a bit like online dating profiles: If they're beautiful, then they're probably not faithful. If they are faithful, then they're probably not beautiful. If they are both faithful and beautiful, then you're still reading their introduction.


If I've said it once on this blog, then I've probably said it five times: All contemporary English translations of the Bible begin with a preface crowing about how their's is the first and only one to win on both scores.

Unless it's the God's Word version.

GOD'S WORD, produced at the end of this century by God's Word to the Nations Bible Society, fills a need that has remained unmet by English Bibles: to communicate clearly to contemporary Americans without compromising the Bible's message. This new translation consciously combines scholarly fidelity with natural English. [page v]

Oh. I was wrong. It is exactly the same as all the others. Sorry everyone.

Traditionally, the Scriptures have been translated into English by teams of Bible scholars serving part-time. This translation employed full-time Bible scholars and full-time English editorial reviewers. GOD'S WORD is the first English Bible in which English reviewers have been actively involved with scholars at every stage. [page v]

Hrrrm. Aside from the inaccurate implication that full-time scholars are somehow better than part-time ones (eg. mothers), the English reviewers that they have employed can't even get the tone of the introduction right.

If any of the preface's aloof self-championing is intended to either demonstrate humility, or score respect, it's going to be an uphill battle to succeed. Further down the first page, the efforts of other translators get called "awkward", "misleading", "incomprehensible" and even "amusing".

Well then, let's hope that this translation doesn't go and contain any verses that sound awkward.

"Please don’t do two things to me
so that I won’t have to hide from you:
Stop oppressing me.
Don’t let your terror frighten me.

- Job 13:20-21

He will eat cheese and honey until he knows how to reject evil and choose good. Indeed, before the boy knows how to reject evil and choose good, the land of the two kings who terrify you will be deserted.

- Isaiah 7:15-16

Or misleading.

Never worship in the way that it's being done here today, where everyone does whatever he considers right.

- Deuteronomy 12:8

When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
pay close attention to what is in front of you,
and put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite.

- Proverbs 23:1-2

Then the LORD told me, "Love your wife again, even though she is loved by others and has committed adultery. Love her as I, the LORD, love the Israelites, even though they have turned to other gods and love to eat raisin cakes."

- Hosea 3:1

Or just plain incomprehensible.

The man measured the distance from the inside of the lower gateway to the outside of the inner courtyard. It was 175 feet from east to north.

- Ezekiel 40:19

Do not answer a fool with his own stupidity,
or you will be like him.
Answer a fool with his own stupidity,
or he will think he is wise.

- Proverbs 26:4-5

Because Damascus has committed three crimes, and now a fourth crime,
I will not change my plans.
The Arameans have crushed the people of Gilead
with iron-spiked threshing sledges.

- Amos 1:3b

You have dug out two ears for me.[a]

a. Hebrew meaning of this line uncertain.

- Psalm 40:6b

And as for amusing...!

He delivered this message: "Oh no! Who will live when God decides to do this?

- Numbers 24:23

But if the priest examines the scabby disease and it does not look deeper than the rest of the skin and there is no black hair in it, the priest must put the person with the scabby disease in isolation for seven days.

- Leviticus 13:31

King Nahash of Ammon was severely oppressing the tribes of Gad and Reuben. He would poke out everyone’s right eye and allow no one to rescue Israel. There was no one among the Israelites east of the Jordan River whose right eye King Nahash of Ammon had not poked out.

- 1 Samuel 11:1a

How long will you lie there, you lazy bum?

- Proverbs 6:9a

The High and Lofty One lives forever

- Isaiah 57:15a (God's Word)

Well, amusement is relative. I have more positive stuff to say later I promise.

Features of GOD'S WORD


The features that distinguish GOD'S WORD from other Bible translations are designed to aid readers. The most obvious of these is the open, single-column format. This invites readers into the page. The single column takes the Bible out of the reference book category and presents it as the literary work that God intended it to be."
[page vi] (apart from all the section titles)

Now, call me an exception, but it seems to me that packing all that tiny print into those enormous blocks, rather than 'inviting me into the page', is going to have just the opposite effect. Even finding the next line down on the left margin is tricky when your eyes, and perhaps fingers, have to return so far back from the right one. For the entire Bible. Still, it does disprove open theism. For if God had foreseen this printing, then he would never have discouraged his people's request for a ruler.

While avoiding very long, complicated sentences, which characterize many English Bible translations, GOD'S WORD strives to vary the word arrangement in a natural way. [page vi]


Huldah added, “But tell Judah’s king who sent you to me to ask the LORD a question, ‘This is what the LORD God of Israel says about the words you heard: You had a change of heart and humbled yourself in front of the LORD when you heard my words against this place and those who live here.

2 Kings 22: 18-19b

Those 58 words form just one sentence.

And yet, there are a lot of sentences in this tome.

Whoever kills a bull is like someone who kills a person.
Whoever sacrifices a lamb is like someone who breaks a dog’s neck.
Whoever offers a grain sacrifice
is like someone who offers pig’s blood.
Whoever burns incense is like someone who worships an idol.
People have certainly chosen their own ways,
and their souls delight in detestable things.

- Isaiah 66:3

Those five sentences form just one single verse. Perhaps this verbosity better reflects the original prose, but the rule of thumb in here seems to be to never say anything once, when you have the option of instead repeating it multiple times:

The wicked are dead.
They are no longer alive.

- Isaiah 26:14a

Then the Spirit lifted me and took me to the east gate of the LORD’s temple. (It’s the gate that faces east.)

- Ezekiel 11:1a

David quietly got up and cut off the border of Saul’s robe. But afterward, David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the border of Saul’s robe. He said to his men, “It would be unthinkable for me to raise my hand against His Majesty, the LORD’s anointed king, since he is the LORD’s anointed.”

- 1 Samuel 24:4b-6

I will take my sword out of its scabbard and kill the righteous people and the wicked people among you. I’m going to kill the righteous people and the wicked people among you. That is why my sword will come out of its scabbard to be used against everyone from the south to the north.

- Ezekiel 21:3b-4

Ahaziah also followed the ways of Ahab’s family, because his mother gave him advice that led him to sin. He did what the LORD considered evil, as Ahab’s family had done. After his father died, they advised him to do what Ahab’s family had done.

- 2 Chronicles 22:3-4a

You also saw the feet and toes. They were partly potters’ clay and partly iron. This means that there will be a divided kingdom which has some of the firmness of iron. As you saw, iron was mixed with clay. The toes were partly iron and partly clay. Part of the kingdom will be strong, and part will be brittle. As you saw, iron was mixed with clay. So the two parts of the kingdom will mix by intermarrying, but they will not hold together any more than iron can mix with clay.

- Daniel 2:41-43

Maybe I should have cited fewer examples than that, but that's kind of my point.

But the God's Word version doesn't just have a low opinion of all the other English translations - it also reckons that you might be a bit simple-minded too. The choice to use gender-neutral language where they interpret scripture as intending it, is a valid belief, but just listen to their decision process:

For example, traditionally, Psalm 1:1 has been translated, "Blessed is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked…" As a result, many readers will understand this verse to mean that only adult males, not women or children, can receive a blessing. [page vi]

I mean just who do they reckon is going to be dimwitted enough to think that? Apparently, "many readers". Or perhaps by taking that literally I'm proving their point…

My opinion here is that the editorial reviewers just don't seem all that great at editorial reviewing. I don't mind that at all, in fact I like this translation, I'm just really put off by the preface's judgement of others' work as inferior by comparison.

I have no observation on the work of the full-time scholars, none of whom are credited in this 1995 paperback edition.

Anyway the good news is that, if you can tear out the preface, keep taking a lot of deep breaths, and find a large print edition with narrower pages, (or just paste it all into a more reader-friendly layout and font from then you might just come to the same conclusion that I have about this Bible version - that it's one of my favourites.

Allowing for its extreme wordiness (I think this is the longest English Bible), the style of prose is very easy to read. When I got to read the whole of the book of Ruth at a church series a few years back, I first test-read it in a good dozen translations, until this one very narrowly beat The Message.

They also used to offer most of it for download as pdfs from their website (although various occasional verses somehow got missed out). This trumpeted the publishers' very proper interest in getting it out to as many people as possible, rather than just using it to make a profit. Then however they took it down, which since I had just started on their versions of the apocrypha, disappointingly compelled me to stop reading. That's not really on the agenda of any Bible translation is it?

The other thing about the pdfs was that they came with notes in the margin. These regularly explained the obvious and not-so-obvious, offered bizarre trivia, and even gave away spoilers, which at the very least made reading the whole thing a lot more fun…

Does God have
(Psalm 61:4)
Talking about
God’s wings is a
metaphorical way
of referring to his
care and protection.
Just as a
mother hen
gathers her chicks
under her wings,
so God protects
his people.

How big was a
(Psalm 108:2)
This portable
stringed instrument,
often made
of cypress wood,
may have originated
in Syria. It
may have had 8 or
10 strings.

(yes but how BIG A LYRE was it?)

When was Solomon’s
(2 Chronicles 7:20)
The Babylonians
destroyed the
lavish temple in
586 B.C.—over
400 years after it
was built.

GAGH! DON'T tell me THAT!!! It's not even BUILT YET!!!!!

When was the
book of Isaiah

Isaiah may have
written this book
over the course of
his life. He lived
from 771 B.C. until
681 B.C.


A child will be born for us.
A son will be given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
He will be named:
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.

- Isaiah 9:6

What are some
of the names
this chapter
uses to describe
God’s Son?
(Isaiah 9:6)
Some of the
names are
Counselor, Mighty
God, Everlasting
Father, Prince of

Today (end of Micah)
During your prayer
time, write down
the names of
friends who need
to change their
sinful lives. Carry
that paper with
you and pray for
them throughout
the day.

I think the thing that I will always be grateful to the God's Word for though, will be its translation of a single word - repent. Realising that such an old-fashioned word had no modern English synonym, they composed a dictionary definition instead: "Change the way you think and act." I really never had a clear concept of what repentance was until I first heard those words, and obviously, this fat translation of the Bible is littered with them.

“Tell them, ‘As I live, declares the Almighty LORD, I don’t want wicked people to die. Rather, I want them to turn from their ways and live. Change the way you think and act! Turn from your wicked ways! Do you want to die, people of Israel?’

- Ezekiel 33:11

Anyway, as I've been through the whole thing, I've compiled a bit of scrapbook of quotes which, for one reason or another, have struck me as worth saving. Here are 14 of them, all of which speak to me.

If your spiritual nature is your guide, you are not subject to Moses’ laws.

- Galatians 5:18

Then I will smash them like bottles against each other. I will smash parents and children together, declares the LORD. I will have no pity, mercy, or compassion when I destroy them.’ ”

- Jeremiah 13:14

Many sleeping in the ground will wake up. Some will wake up to live forever, but others will wake up to be ashamed and disgraced forever. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness on the horizon. Those who lead many people to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever.

- Daniel 12:2-3

Then I sent someone to tell him, “None of your accusations are true. You are making them up out of your own imagination.”

- Nehemiah 6:8

What strength do I have left that I can go on hoping?
What goal do I have that I would want to prolong my life?

- Job 6:11

A righteous person cares even about the life of his animals,
but the compassion of wicked people is nothing but cruelty.

- Proverbs 12:10

A heart that turns from God becomes bored with its own ways,
but a good person is satisfied with God’s ways.

- Proverbs 14:14

Every day is a terrible day for a miserable person,
but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.

- Proverbs 15:15

Who do you have
a difficult time
being kind to? Ask
God to help you
be kind to that
person during the
next week.

- Proverbs 18 sidebar

Just as you don’t know how the breath of life enters the limbs of a child within its mother’s womb, you also don’t understand how God, who made everything, works.
Plant your seed in the morning, and don’t let your hands rest until evening. You don’t know whether this field or that field will be profitable or whether both of them will turn out equally well.

- Ecclesiastes 11:5-6

The LORD created the heavens.
God formed the earth and made it.
He set it up.
He did not create it to be empty
but formed it to be inhabited.
This what the LORD says:
I am the LORD, and there is no other.

- Isaiah 45:18

You covered yourself with a cloud
so that no prayer could get through it.
You made us the scum and trash of the nations.

- Lamentations 3:44-45

I went to the potter’s house, and he was working there at his wheel. Whenever a clay pot he was working on was ruined, he would rework it into a new clay pot the way he wanted to make it.
The LORD spoke his word to me. The LORD asked, “Nation of Israel, can’t I do with you as this potter does with clay? Nation of Israel, you are like the clay in the potter’s hands.
“At one time I may threaten to tear up, break down, and destroy a nation or a kingdom. But suppose the nation that I threatened turns away from doing wrong. Then I will change my plans about the disaster I planned to do to it.
“At another time I may promise to build and plant a nation or a kingdom. But suppose that nation does what I consider evil and doesn’t obey me. Then I will change my plans about the good that I promised to do to it.
“Now say to the people of Judah and to those who live in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the LORD says: I’m going to prepare a disaster and make plans against you. Turn from your evil ways, change your lives, and do good.’

- Jeremiah 18:3-11

A scroll was found in the palace of Ecbatana, which is in the province of Media. This was written on it:


Date: Cyrus’ first year as king
From: King Cyrus
Subject: God’s temple in Jerusalem.

The temple should be rebuilt as a place to offer sacrifices. Its foundation should be laid. It should be 90 feet high and 90 feet wide with three rows of large stones and a row of wood. The king’s palace will pay for it.

- Ezra 6:2-4

Now that's what I call a modern English translation! :)

(with thanks to Shane)
Other Bible translation reviews:

Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Good News, AKA Today's English Version (TEV)
The Message
New International Version (NIV)

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