Good News For Modern Man or . . .

Bad News From The Bottomless Pit!

By Laurence M. Vance, Ph.D.

The year was 1966. Mrs. Indira Gandhi had just become Prime Minister of India, President Johnson’s daughter Luci got married, and Cassius Clay won two title fights against the British champion Henry Cooper. But then—bad news. On September 15, 1966, the American Bible Society released one of the worst perversions of Scripture ever produced: Good News for Modern Man.

Subtitled "The New Testament in Today’s English Version," the new "bible," initially released as just a New Testament, had 50 million copies in print within ten years of its publication. It has remained in print ever since, although reincarnated in several different editions, formats, and titles. But now, after an absence of many years—more bad news. Good News for Modern Man is back, only this time it is subtitled "The New Testament in the Good News Translation." How this new translation reinvented itself over the years is a study in not only how men "corrupt the word of God" (2 Cor. 2:17), but in how they handle "the word of God deceitfully" (2 Cor. 4:2)—two verses that are naturally recast in Good News for Modern Man.

The impetus for this new translation came from two sources—Indians and Africans. A Version Popular Spanish translation was made in the early 1960s for the Indians in Latin America. Its use became so widespread that it was being used in the major cities of Latin America as much as among the Indians. Over in Liberia, a women translated the New Testament into the form of English used in West Africa. It too supposedly showed how important it was to have a translation in the "language of the people."

The American Bible Society then appointed Robert Bratcher, a Southern Baptist missionary to Brazil, to undertake a new translation of the New Testament. This was to be the first translation of the New Testament into English by the American Bible Society—a society that at one time only printed King James Bibles, and that "without note or comment."

Assisted by a consulting committee of five members, including Harold K. Moulton (from the Moulton family of Greek scholars), Bratcher was able to complete a preliminary Gospel of Mark. It was released in 1964 under the title of The Right Time. The completed New Testament was issued in 1966 under two titles: Today’s English Version of the New Testament, published by Macmillan, and Good News for Modern Man, published by the American Bible Society. Under this latter name, the new version soon surpassed all records in paperback book sales, finally overtaking Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care.

Work then began on the Old Testament. For this Dr. Bratcher was assisted by seven men, including Dr. Barclay Newman, who in 1969 translated his own New Testament called The New Testament: A New Translation. Selected Old Testament books were completed between the years 1970 and 1975. First came Psalms in 1970, followed by Job in 1971 under the title Tried and True. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes were released together as Wisdom for Modern Man, Jonah was issued as The Man Who Said "No!" and Hosea, Amos, and Micah were published under the title of Justice Now! Exodus appeared in 1975 as Let My People Go! The completed Old Testament was published in 1976. The new name chosen for the complete "bible" was the Good News Bible (GNB), although the title Today’s English Version (TEV) was also used.

Since "a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit" (Mat. 7:17), it is no surprise that the GNB/TEV is evil since its underlying Greek text is corrupt. According to Robert Bratcher, the King James Version "was based on late and corrupt Greek manuscripts, replete with changes, additions and deletions made by copyists during the centuries when the manuscripts were copied by hand." But on the other hand, "the Greek text from which the TEV New Testament is translated is a text based on the most ancient manuscripts now available." Bratcher explains that "we now have a Greek New Testament that is much older than the text available in 1611, because it is based on much older and much better manuscripts. It should be remembered that the British scholars, when they revised the King James New Testament in 1881, made over 5,000 changes on the basis of the Greek text; and now even further changes must be made, as a better text is available."

Bratcher’s "better text" was the first edition of the United Bible Societies (UBS) Greek New Testament, edited by Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce Metzger, and Allen Wikgren, and published in 1966—the same year as Good News for Modern Man. This is the Greek text that, like its predecessors (Westcott and Hort, Nestle, Nestle-Aland, Souter) and its successors (UBS second, third, and fourth editions; Nestle-Aland twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh editions) omits eighteen entire verses from the New Testament (Mat. 17:21, 18:11, 23:14; Mark 7:16, 9:44, 46, 11:26, 15:28; Luke 17:36, 22:43-44, 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37, 15:34, 24:7, 28:29; Rom. 16:24) and portions of many others (e.g., Mat. 1:25; John 3:13; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:14; Rev. 1:11). Beginning with the second edition in 1968, Carlo Martini, from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, joined the abovementioned four men responsible for the UBS text.

Beginning with a favorable review in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly in 1967 ("a fine piece of work which avoids special pleading and serves broadly ecumenical concerns without depreciation of philological data"), Good News for Modern Man has always been a favorite of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Cushing of Boston granted it his imprimatur on March 7, 1969. Catholic churches distributed it to their young people. (I personally remember receiving one in the 1970s in my weekly "CCD" class; it was, in fact, the only Bible I ever saw or read until my salvation and subsequent departure from the Catholic Church.)

The Apocrypha was translated according to the same principles and made available in some editions beginning in 1979. The complete Bible has the imprimatur of John Francis Whealon, Archbishop of Hartford. Another imprimatur was given to a later edition by William Keeler, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Apocrypha was at first inserted between the Old and New Testaments, but now it is available with the Apocrypha as part of the Old Testament. The American Bible Society has come a long way in a short time, for as recently as 1963, the Apocrypha was forbidden to be included in any of its Bibles. This restriction was lifted in 1964, with The British and Foreign Bible Society following suit in 1966.

Catholic editions of the Good News Bible have also been produced. A Catholic edition of the New Testament was issued in the 1970s by the Sacred Heart League under the outlandish title of The Word of God. A Catholic edition of the entire Bible was published by Catholic Bible Press (a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers—the publishers of the New King James Version) in 1986 called The Source. It was variously subtitled as "The Good News Bible for Catholics," "The Bible for Today’s Young Catholic," the "Good News Bible For Today’s Young Catholic," and "The Bible in Today’s English Version For Today’s Young Catholic."

Although the GNB/TEV contains the usual corrupt readings found in most modern versions, these will not be examined here. What will be examined, however, because it is relevant to the debate over the Authorized Version, are the hundreds of changes that have been made to the text of the GNB/TEV since its original publication as Good News for Modern Man.

As mentioned previously, the GNB/TEV was published as a New Testament on September 15, 1966, as Good News for Modern Man and Today’s English Version of the New Testament. That, however, was only the first edition. The second edition was published in October of 1967. This was followed by a third edition in June of 1971, a fourth edition in November of 1976, and a fifth edition in 1992. However, if one looks at the copyright dates in the GNB/TEV, it will be noticed that there is no date listed for the 1967 edition—even though 700-800 changes were made from the first edition.

To further confuse things, the fourth edition of the New Testament was issued along with the first edition of the Old Testament, and subsequently referred to as the first edition of the complete Bible. Likewise, the fifth edition was issued with the second edition of the Old Testament, and called the second edition. These are just the official editions—for we read in the preface to the second edition of the GNB/TEV that "since the appearance of the full Bible in Today’s English Version in 1976, some minor editorial changes and corrections of printing errors have been introduced into the text in connection with various printings."

And if all of these editions were not enough, there are also special British and Australian editions. Although an edition with British spellings was published by Collins Fontana in the 1960s, the "official" British edition was not published until 1976 by the British and Foreign Bible Society. The Australian usage text was first published in 1988.

The first four editions of the New Testament contain changes in their texts because of many "comments and suggestions" that were received regarding "(1) greater faithfulness to the meaning of the original Greek; (2) greater consistency in translating passages that are closely similar or identical in form; and (3) greater naturalness and clarity of the text in English." Although an attempt was made beginning with the fourth edition of the New Testament in 1976 to avoid male-oriented language, one of the two stated reasons the revision of 1992 was undertaken was because of "passages in which the English style has been unnecessarily exclusive and inattentive to gender concerns."

But if the GNB/TEV is so corrupt that none of its editions are worth considering, then what is the point about all the editions? The point is simply this: one of the standard attacks made on the Authorized Version is that the edition of the Authorized Version we use today is considerably different than the original edition in 1611. But a look at the evidence, in the form of a comparison between a chapter in the original 1611 and the present edition of the Authorized Version, and an examination of the same chapter in the various editions of the GNB/TEV, shows that it is the modern versions that are guilty of this very thing.

For purposes of comparison, a detailed examination of Ephesians chapter one was undertaken, both in the Authorized Version and in the GNB/TEV. Aside from changes in spelling and italics, there are no actual word changes between the original 1611 Authorized Version and the latest printing of the Authorized Version by any publisher. However, when we look at Ephesians chapter one in the GNB/TEV editions, we see the following.

In verse one, editions four and five omit "who live" and "those," and add "union with." In verse three, editions two and three transpose the phrases "in our union with Christ" and "he has blessed us." Also, editions four and five replace the word "gift" with "blessing." Additionally, all editions beginning with the second omit the word "greatly" and change the word "God" to "he." In verse four, editions four and five add the word "even" and change the word "in" to the phrase "through our union with." In verse five, editions four and five change the phrase "bring us to himself as his" to "make us his." The word "sons," found in editions one through four, is altered in edition five to "children." In verse seven, "death" becomes "sacrificial death" in edition four and "blood" in edition five. Also, the word "and" is changed in editions three through five to "that is." In verse ten, the word "God’s" is changed to "this" in editions four and five. In verse eleven, the word "for" at the beginning of the verse is removed after the second edition. In verse thirteen, the phrase "so it was with you also" is altered to "you also became God’s people." In verse fourteen, the word "this" is omitted in the fourth and fifth editions. In verse fifteen, the word "of" is likewise omitted in the fourth and fifth editions. In verse nineteen, the word "working" is added to the fourth and fifth editions. In verse twenty-one, the phrase "is above" is expanded in the fourth and fifth editions to "has a title superior to." Also, the word "power" is changed to "authority."

These are just changes in one chapter in one book of the Bible. Thus, from the publication of the original Good News for Modern Man in 1966 to the fifth edition of the New Testament (or second edition of the entire Bible) of the Good News Bible—a period of only twenty-six years—there are hundreds, if not thousands, of changes in the text.

But the text of the Good News Bible is not the only thing that has changed over the years. If one were to browse through the typical Christian bookstore today he would find, perhaps side by side, a translation called Good News for Modern Man and another one called the Good News Translation. The unsuspecting consumer might even purchase both versions—the Good News Translation for himself, and Good News for Modern Man for his public-school educated teenager, since it is a "distinctively modern translation" that "does not conform to the vocabulary or style of older Bible translations, but seeks to express the meaning of the Greek text in words and forms accepted as standard by people everywhere who employ English as a means of communication." Yet, when both versions are brought home, and their respective prefaces are read, it becomes apparent that the translations are in fact one and the same, and the publisher has made two sales.

Good News for Modern Man—whether called The Right Time, Today’s English Version, The New Testament in Today’s English Version, the Good News Bible, the Good News New Testament, The Source, The Word of God, or the Good News Translation—is not "good news from a far country" (Pro. 25:25), it is bad news from the bottomless pit.

Laurence M. Vance, Ph.D., is a teacher, an author, a publisher, a freelance writer, the editor of the Classic Reprints series, and the director of the Francis Wayland Institute. He holds degrees in history, theology, accounting, and economics. The author of seven books and two collections of essays, he regularly contributes articles and book reviews to both secular and religious periodicals. Dr. Vance's writing interests include free market economics, government spending and corruption, the socialism and statism of conservative pundits and Republican politicians, Baptist theology, English Bible history, Greek grammar, and the folly of war. He is a regular columnist for, and blogs for,, and Dr. Vance is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Grace Evangelical Society, the Society of Dispensational Theology, the International Society of Bible Collectors, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

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