The Revised Geneva Translation of The Holy Bible

Books of the Bible" guy & son (BOB and BOB Jr.) visit Perimeter Church in Atlanta for some memorization inspiration.

Books of the Bible" guy & son (BOB and BOB Jr.) visit Perimeter Church in Atlanta for some memorization inspiration.

INTRODUCTION

"Words without thoughts never to heaven go." ~ William Shakespeare

Words matter; especially God's words; and especially if you're acting them out in front of people. You’d better know exactly what you're saying and why.

The Revised Geneva Translation (based on Shakespeare's favorite Bible translation) was borne of an actor’s need to memorize and speak Scripture out loud with specific meanings and inflections. It is a 21st Century update of the very first widely-distributed version of the Holy Bible in English, The Geneva Bible.

Just as in all preceding centuries, Biblical text in the 1500’s was meant to be heard and seen, as much as read, because so many of those who received it were illiterate (especially Gentiles) and needed to memorize it and speak it back to each other often in order to facilitate meditation. The RGT is specifically designed to be SPOKEN and HEARD (repeatedly) and is built on the premise that a crucial key to revival in the present can be found in one simple practice from the past - speaking God’s Word back to each other in community.

To that end, the RGT strives to preserve the textual cadence and poetry that is so essential to Elizabethan literature, while at the same time eliminating archaic and potentially distracting 16th Century words, phrases, and punctuation (such as employing the proper use of parentheses and quotation marks). It preserves the Geneva Bible’s unique poetic style (i.e. beginning every verse on a new line - which aids tremendously in memorization). However, unlike the Geneva Bibles of the 1500’s, there is no commentary or other human adornment. The RGT intentionally omits these things and makes single interpretive choices, based primarily on the translations of William Tyndale and F.H.A. Scrivener (1894). The acknowledgement and study of textual variants is left to other Bibles more properly suited for that purpose. Again, the particular purpose of this Bible is to encourage the speaking, hearing and sharing of the simple, powerful, illuminating Word of God alone (Luke 8:21).

In scholarly terms, the RGT is a formal or complete equivalency, based on the Byzantine text-type family of manuscripts. At this writing, the RGT is one of only four major modern translations of the New Testament to be so - the others being the NKJV (New King James Version), NMB (New Matthew Bible) and MEV (Modern English Version). All other modern translations, including the NASB, ESV, NIV, and NLT, use the shorter Alexandrian text-type family of manuscripts as their base text, which, in addition to excluding passages such as Mark 16:9-20, John 7:53-8:11, and the “Johannine Comma” of 1John 5:7-8, also contains hundreds of other undocumented omissions from the Received Text.

Unique Passages

The RGT is unique in its translation of several passages, departing even from its 3 modern TR-based cousins. Here are a few examples:

Matthew6_13a, Luke2_14, Acts24_27, John1_15, Acts17_22, 1Corinthians9_5, Philippians4_13

The reader/listener is welcome and encouraged to study any variant passages further (in as many different translations as possible) to better understand the RGT’s hermeneutical choices. 

Gender Neutrality

We realize that many readers/listeners regard gender as a kind of “litmus test” for whether or not a TR-based Bible translation is trustworthy. We NEVER change any male pronoun translated from the Greek word "ἄνθρωπος" (anthropos) or its derivatives. We ONLY consider updating definite articles like "ὁ" and indefinite pronouns like "τις" or their derivatives. A great example of how the RGT compares to the MEV and NKJV when updating gender pronouns is 1Corinthians14_1-5. [updated pronouns are in brackets]

1CORINTHIANS 14

(RGT)

1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual things, more so that you may prophesy.

2 For [the one] who speaks in a tongue, speaks not to men, but to God. For no one hears. But in the spirit he speaks secret things.

3 But [the one] who prophesies, speaks to men for edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

4 [The one] who speaks in a tongue, edifies himself. But [the one] who prophesies, edifies the Church.

5 Now, I would prefer that you all spoke in tongues, even more so that you prophesied. For greater is [the one] who prophesies, than [the one] who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the Church may receive edification.

(MEV)

1 Follow after love and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2 For [he] who speaks in an unknown tongue does not speak to men, but to God. For no one understands him, although in the spirit, he speaks mysteries. 3 But [he] who prophesies speaks to men for their edification and exhortation and comfort. 4 [He] who speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself, but [he] who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I desire that you all speak in tongues, but even more that you prophesy. For greater is [he] who prophesies than he who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edification.

(NKJV)

1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2 For [he] who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But [he] who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. 4 [He] who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but [he] who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; [a]for [he] who prophesies is greater than [he] who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.

When done properly (i.e. not changing any Greek, doctrinal or proper grammatical structures), we believe a very selective neutralization of certain pronouns invites more female participation in the Gospel without compromising one jot or tittle of what Jesus received from the Father. In the case of 1Cor14_1-5, if we agree that the spiritual gifts have been bestowed upon ALL believers, both male and female, why even take the chance of letting some archaic human grammatical practice hinder a modern woman from hearing that truth?

Conversely, if one were to consistently translate the Greek word 'ἄνθρωπος' (anthropos) and its derivatives as gender-neutral, then one of Jesus' most common names for Himself must become "Son of Humans" or "Son of People", instead of “Son of Man”. We believe the RGT takes the logical middle ground here.

Divine Pronouns

Capitalization of divine pronouns was not a part of the original Greek autographs. They were added later by translators. The RGT adds them as well, but not always. At strategic places, they are left in lower case in order to emphasize the unique God/man nature of Christ. Hebrews 2:16-18 is just such a place:

16 For He in no way took on the nature of angels, but He took on the seed of Abraham.

17 Therefore it was fitting for him to be made like his brothers in all things, so that He might be merciful, and a faithful High Priest in things concerning God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

18 For in that he suffered, and was tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted.

Thee’s, Thou’s and Ye’s

Some have objected that since the Elizabethan pronouns “ye” and “thee/thou” have plural and singular meanings respectively, homogenizing them into one “you” corrupts the meaning of the text. However, the cases where doing so could even cause confusion are so rare (and the context so clear when it might) that we believe the benefits outweigh the risks. Thus, the RGT replaces potentially confusing archaic pronouns with their modern equivalents a vast majority of the time.

We have also made one other major revision to the text with respect to pronouns. In Reformation- era texts, the word “that” is often used incorrectly to modify a human subject such as “they”, “he”, “we” or “the one”. The RGT changes “that” to “who”, and “they” to “those” wherever appropriate. We believe this helps avoid confusion (if not alienation) in a modern audience.

Quotation Marks, Parentheses and Periods

With the utmost respect to the great scholars Tyndale, Coverdale, Scrivener, etc., it is evident that proper use of quotation marks, pronouns, parentheses and periods were not their greatest gift. Why should it have been? Modern English punctuation standards did not begin to appear until the late 18th century. Keeping in mind that the goal of the RGT is to promote more SPEAKING and HEARING of the Word, we believe it is even more essential that these tools be used correctly, to ensure the proper inflection of the text by a modern audience. Here is an example from Luke 19:

1 Now when Jesus entered and passed through Jericho,

2 behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, who was the chief receiver of the tribute. And he was rich.

3 And he sought to see Jesus (who He was) and could not because of the crowd, for he was small in stature.

4 Therefore he ran ahead and climbed up into a wild fig tree, so that he might see Him. For he would be coming that way.

5 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus! Come down at once! For today I must stay at your house!”

6 Then he quickly came down and received him joyfully.

7 And when they all saw it, they murmured, saying that He had gone to lodge with a sinful man.

8 But Zacchaeus, standing, said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have taken from anyone by false accusation, I restore it to him fourfold.”

9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this house! Because he has also become the son of Abraham!

10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save those who have been lost.”

Notice in verses 5 and 9, the RGT uses exclamation points when Jesus is speaking to make sure the speaker conveys the proper proximity of the hearer to Jesus (Zacchaeus in a tree) as well as the excitement Jesus must have felt over Zacchaeus when he repented (along with all the angels in Heaven ~Luke 15:10). We believe doing so adds a unique “layer of life” to God’s word without compromising it in the slightest. On the contrary, we believe He intended it this way.

Also, note the aforementioned “Son of Man” conundrum in v10. If one were to translate 'ἄνθρωπος' as ‘people’ or ‘human’ (as most modern translations do), but do so CONSISTENTLY, that verse (and every other instance in Scripture where Christ is referred to as the “Son of Man”) would now have to read: 10 “For the Son of People (or Humans) has come…”

Our Hope

Finally, it is our hope that this project will be a living and active Bible for this generation, built for hearing and doing (Matthew 7:24), and that it will be profitable for teaching, convicting, correcting, and instructing in righteousness (2Timothy 3:16)…

“…that your faith might not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” ~1Corinthians 2:5

Steve Cook

Robert J. Bagley, MA (Theology)