‘Word Come Alive’ is an extended translation (paraphrase) of the New Testament. Linking phrases and background information in italics are supplied in the text to help make its message more immediately understandable.
It contains additional explanatory phrases
This device was used e.g., by F. F. Bruce in his An Expanded Paraphrase of the Epistles of Paul (Paternoster Press, 1965; Ronald Haynes, 1981). The additions in WCA are set in italics. (There are precedents for this. For example, the KJV uses italics for words that are not in the original but needed to make sense in English and so help readers understand the text.)
Linking phrases and background information in italics are supplied in the text to help make its message more immediately understandable.
This device is used in several different places:
- Additional brief purely discourse words, e.g., ‘then’, ‘in fact’, ‘actually’, ‘simply.’
- Supplying nouns that pronouns refer to, e.g., ‘Jesus’, ‘Peter.’
- With verbs, adding function words e.g., adverbs or prepositions: ‘go over to’ to refer to switching loyalty. See Section 2 below on Contemporary natural English.
- Adding other content words e.g., ‘start walking.’
- Simple time expressions: ‘now’, ‘then’, ‘already.’
- Adding interpretation, where original has ‘say’ or ‘tell’ and I have changed to e.g., ‘warn’, ‘object to.’Repeating the sense, using synonyms in the same terms as the original that has already been mentioned. This is what a teacher does: explaining the same content in different words. I have supplied explanations, in much the same way as a preacher (or a commentary) does. I am aware this means there is some interpretation.My aim in the italics is to be true both to that passage of Scripture but also to the wider canvas of Scripture, i.e., to be in keeping with the teaching of the Bible. This is one of the aims of a Bible preacher and teacher. A Bible preacher and teacher does not simply read out the Bible but comments on it. Cf. ‘[Expository preaching] aligns the interpretation of the text with the doctrinal truths of the rest of the Bible (being sensitive to systematic theology)’ Timothy Keller, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism (Kindle edition, Hodder and Stoughton, 2015). A Bible preacher and teacher seeks to make meaning of the text clear and accessible (see Nehemiah 8:8): that has been my aim with the text I have edited. I write from a conservative evangelical standpoint.John 8:34-38 Jesus went on, ‘I am telling you the truth: everyone who’s ever been born continues to sin. The human heart leans towards sin. Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. This means they want to live their lives independently of God; they miss the mark of perfection and break God’s law. They rebel against him. People are slaves to sin: they’re controlled by it. You cannot break that kind of slavery yourself. Only the Son can set you free from being enslaved to sin. A slave is not a member of a family for ever, but a son is: a son enjoys the full privileges of belonging to a family for ever. So I promise you, if the Son – that’s me – sets you free, you will really be free, released from the burden and guilt of sin for ever. Your sins will be forgiven. You’ll no longer be controlled by the power of sin but you’ll be free to become the people my Father originally intended you to be. I know you are descended from Abraham. But you’re also trying to find a way to kill me, because you reject my word and do not give it free rein in your lives. I’m telling you what I have seen in the presence of my Father, and you’re doing what you have heard from your father.’John 13:10 Jesus explained: ‘If you go out for a meal, you have a bath before you go, so that when you arrive, you only need to wash your feet; your whole body is already clean. In the same way, once you’ve been cleansed and put right with me and have had your sins forgiven, you don’t need to keep washing your whole body. That washing is a once-for-all action when you first come to trust in me. After that, you only need to keep washing your feet, that is, to keep receiving fresh forgiveness for the dirt of the sins you pick up day by day. And most of you have been washed clean and share in my salvation, though not all of you.’
- Adding additional words to complete the sense. I have filled out steps in an argument which seem to be omitted in the original. Cf. ‘Much of the expansion in this paraphrase is designed to fill in […] “gaps” in the wording.’ F. F. Bruce, An Expanded Paraphrase of the Epistles of Paul, Introduction (Ronald N. Hayes edition, page 11).John 6:7-11 Philip thought for a few moments, looking at the number of people there and working out the amount of money it would cost to feed them all. He replied, ‘It would take more than eight months’ wages to buy each one even a piece of bread!’Just then, another one of Jesus’ followers, Andrew (Simon Peter’s brother) spoke up, ‘There’s a little boy here with five small loaves of barley and two small fish, but that’s just a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed for everyone here!’Jesus calmed them all down and told his followers, ‘Get the people to sit down.’ Because it was spring, a lot of grass was growing in that place, so everyone could settle down comfortably. There were in fact about 5,000 men and many women and children there too. Next, Jesus held the bread in his hands, spoke a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the bread and then gave it to his followers to hand out to everyone sitting down. As Jesus broke and distributed the bread, it multiplied miraculously so that they all ate as much as they wanted until they were full. Then Jesus did the same with the fish.John 12:23-26 Jesus answered them, ‘The time has now come for me, the Son of Man, to be honoured and to share in my Father’s glory. I must now follow the path of leaving this world. I will obey my Father completely. I must suffer and die, be buried, rise again and return to my Father’s glory. I am telling you the truth, a grain of wheat must be planted in the ground. Its life-giving seed must first rot, decay and die in order to be fruitful and produce more seeds. If it doesn’t die, it will remain as only one seed. Now my life is like that. I must die: that is the reason I came into this world. This is the only way for many to receive life. My life given up in death will be a sacrifice that will result in a rich spiritual harvest. I must die in order to give life to many. Your lives are rather like that seed, too. If you cling tightly to your life, you will lose it and have nothing in the end. It will be like the single seed that never gives up its life for others to grow. But if you deny yourselves and take more delight in God than in the ways of the world and if you love me above all that is dear to you in this world, sacrificing everything else and putting me first in this life, then you will keep your life for ever and it will flourish. You will be like the seed that dies in order that more life will grow. I will show you how this works out in practice. If you claim to serve me, then you must follow me where I go. Where I am present, my servant is there also. We cannot be separated. If you truly serve me, my Father will honour you. Such honour will more than make up for the sacrifices you make: you will enjoy my presence with you always.’
- Text supplied from other Gospels John 20:1 It was early on Sunday, the first day of the week, and it was still dark. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, expecting to find it firmly sealed by the stone that had been laid across* the entrance. She found that the stone had been moved away. So she immediately rushed off and found Simon Peter and another of Jesus’ followers – his very close friend – and told them, ‘They’ve carried the Lord out of the tomb! We’ve no idea where they’ve have taken him!’* This detail is absent in the original in John but is added to make sense of the text.
- Variant readings and interpretations John 20:31. Scholars disagree on whether the original text is ‘believe’ or ‘continue to believe’. Why not both? WCA: ‘But I want you to know why I have written all these words: my aim has been to encourage you to believe in Jesus, indeed to keep on believing in him, that he is the Messiah, the Son of God.’It is not always desirable to do this. E.g., John 19:11: ‘So the one who handed me over to you is guilty of an even greater sin’ could refer either to Caiaphas or Judas. I have remained silent on this issue.John 4:23-24 1984 NIV edition had ‘worship in spirit’ but 2011 NIV edition has ‘worship in the Spirit’. WCA: But I tell you that a time is coming – and has actually now come – when those who really worship the Father will worship him in spirit and in truth, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Worship isn’t something external; it is about being wholehearted in your humble devotion to God and his truth. That is the kind of worshippers God is looking for. God is not something physical or material; he is spirit: invisible and spiritual – and those who worship him must do so in spirit and in truth. True worshippers need the help of the Holy Spirit to worship him in this way.’
- Giving background to a passage John 8:6 A tense silence came over the whole group. What would Jesus do? How would he respond? Would he side with the chief priests and Pharisees and stone her, so not forgiving her? Or would he agree with the ordinary people and release her, so setting aside the law? Jesus then did something strange that captured the attention of everyone present. Rather than answer his accusers directly, he bent down and began to use his finger to write in the dust.John 15:1 ‘Long ago my Father chose the people of Israel out of all the nations of the world to be his own special people and he planted them in fertile land to be like a vine. He wanted them to produce good fruit for him. Everything was right for them to do so, but although over the ages he lavished his love and care on his chosen people, his own special vine, they repeatedly failed to produce that fruit. But now I am making the bold declaration: because Israel failed to be “the vine” the Father wanted, I, even I, am the true, genuine, and perfect vine, who always produces the fruit the Father wants. I am the trustworthy source of life, growth and fruitfulness. Just as life-giving, fruit-producing sap flows from the vine into its branches, so the essence of life and fruitfulness flows out of me, the true vine, into the lives of my true followers. My Father is the gardener. He looks after the vine so that it produces good fruit. I obey the Father perfectly. The fruit I produce will be what the Father wants. He cares for the vine so much that he won’t allow unfruitful branches on the vine.’
- Drawing out the rich meaning of certain key passages, e.g., the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus:John 8:12 Jesus spoke once more to the people, ‘The whole world is in darkness, but I give light to everyone. I am the light of the world. If you walk with me through life, trusting me and following my example, you won’t stumble along in the gloom. No, I lift the darkness. My light will shine on you to guide you. I will light up your path and show you the right way to live. You will then be able to see the way ahead clearly and know where you’re going.’John 10:11 ‘I am the perfect shepherd. I care deeply about you, my sheep. I am faithful, kind and strong. I know every one of you completely. Each one of you is important to me. I sustain you and provide for all that you need. I know what is best for you. I support and encourage you. I am alert to possible dangers and warn you about them. I protect you from what might harm or destroy you. When you wander away, I bring you back and correct you. You can trust me to lead and guide you. As the perfect shepherd I am willing to lay down my life for the good of my sheep. I recognise that the only way to save you, my people, is for me to die for you.’
- Introducing a passage. In my thinking, John 1:1-18 needed an Introduction to settle readers down and so the following is all in italics. I would argue that this is an expansion on the word ‘Prologue’:What I’m about to tell you is the most exciting story, the most dramatic event, in the whole of human history. We begin before time itself began, in eternity. I know it’s difficult to think of a time before the world was created, but we need to try to move beyond our own limited thinking back to a time before time itself began. We are not the centre of life; God is and he has revealed himself fully in Jesus Christ. We need to look beyond the physical dimension of what we can see to the deeper reality of God himself.
- Responding to a passage. I want readers to stop reading, consider the text and respond:John 1:3 Everything – just stop and think, every single thing – was made by Christ, the Word of God.John 19:18 Picture the horrific scene … They drove nails through his torn hands and feet. He died an agonising death hanging on that cross. He was put to death with two others, one on either side of him, with Jesus between them.John 19:30 Jesus had fulfilled all he had come to do. It was as if in those moments time stood still. An event of cosmic significance had taken place. Jesus, the unique God-Man, died. He took upon himself the sins of the world. Surely we all need to pause for a while and quietly reflect on his death for us. He died in our place; he took upon himself our sins … He died in my place. He took upon himself my sins.
It is in contemporary, natural, slightly informal and slightly idiomatic English
This reflects the fact that the New Testament is written in Koinē (common, everyday) Greek.
John 5:26 NIV, ESV ‘He [the Father] has granted the Son also to have life in himself’. This is not a natural English structure; the COBUILD* dictionary lists the following structures:
- grant that
- grant someone something
- grant something to someone
- something is granted to someone
but not: ‘grant someone to have something’; WCA: ‘he has appointed the Son to have life in himself’
* Dictionary developed between Collins publishers (‘CO’) and Birmingham (UK) (Birmingham University International Language Database) [my emphasis] first published in 1987 (latest, eighth, edition published 2014), using a very large corpus of actual English text. I worked on this 1981-83. This database, currently running at 4.5 billion words, was used by Zondervan to guide them on e.g., use of gender-inclusive language for the 2011 edition of the NIV.
John 3:26 records the disciples switching loyalty from John the Baptist to Jesus. Most versions have them ‘going to’ Jesus; I added ‘over’: ‘going over to’ him. ‘Go over to’ in the sense of ‘change your allegiance to someone else or your preference to something else’ is an example of a phrasal verb. I copy-edited The Longman Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs by Rosemary Courtney (Longmans, 1983) and wrote with Nigel Turton Student’s Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs (Macmillan, 1984), republished as Phrasal Verbs Dictionary (Global ELT, 2013).
John 11:35 ‘Jesus wept’ is a familiar phrase; COBUILD marks weep in the sense of crying as literary. I have: ‘Tears of sympathy welled up in Jesus’ eyes.’
John 16 ‘convict’ WCA at verse 8: ‘When the Mentor comes in fresh power he will impress on the hearts of those who are hostile to me that they’ve been wrong about sin, about what is right and about judgment.’
John 14:3 ‘And if I go and get your rooms ready, I will then roll out the red carpet for you all. I will return and welcome you with open arms.’
John 15:4 ‘Depend on me all the time and wherever you are. Don’t break away from me. Don’t let anything come between you and me. Stay as close as possible to me, just as I stay as close as possible to you. Keep the intimate bond between me and you. I am the source of your life. Draw on my resources. Immerse yourself in me, because you receive your life from me. Deepen the relationship I have with you. It’s impossible for a branch to be fruitful by itself. It cannot bear fruit on its own; it must remain part of the vine. You have no spiritual resources of your own. You cannot bear fruit unless you stay as close as possible to me. The fruit of your lives will be doing good, advancing the kingdom and growing in Christian character.
John 16:8 ‘the Mentor’ for paraklētos is I believe stronger in our present culture than for example ‘Helper’ (NASB, NKJV, NCV). NIV 1984 had ‘Counsellor’; other translations include ‘Comforter’ (KJV), ‘Advocate’ (NLT, NIV 2011, NRSV, JB), ‘Friend’ (The Message), ‘Someone to stand by you’ (J. B. Phillips). See also Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont, The Eagle Handbook of Bible Promises (Eagle, 2000) part 3; Martin Manser (editor), I never knew that was in the Bible (Nelson, 1999), ‘Comforter.’
John 16:20 ‘I am telling you the truth, you’ll weep and mourn while the people who are against me will be glad to have seen the back of me.’
1 Thessalonians 3:12 May the Lord take your love for one another to the next level so that it flows over into all your relationships, just as our love for you does.
Where possible, the text is simple, keeping to the principle ‘one thought per sentence’. ‘Spoken English is simple when: (1) we make one point per sentence (2) most of our sentences are about ten words long (3) 90 per cent of our words are of one or two syllables (4) we do not use any words that our hearers do not understand easily’ Stuart Olyott, Preaching – pure and simple (Bryntirion Press, 2005), p.133 [italics in original]. Stuart’s preaching and writing models these principles well.
It is in British English
Spellings and punctuation
The text uses single quotes not double at first level; -t rather than -ed: ‘leant’, not ‘leaned’
John 4:39 ‘He’s told me everything I’ve ever done.’ (US would have: ‘He told me everything I ever did’)
- garbage/ rubbish Philippians 3:10 ‘garbage’ (NLT, NIV) jars to British readers. We would normally say ‘rubbish.’
- get/ have John 6:10 Jesus calmed them all down and told his followers, ‘Get the people to sit down.’ (US would have: ‘Have the people sit down’)
- undershirt John 19:23 ‘When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four parts, one for each of them, leaving only a long undershirt. This didn’t have any seam but was woven in one piece from top to bottom.’ British English might say ‘vest’, but this is not usually a long garment. I opted for the more international ‘undershirt.’
John 6:8-9 Just then, another one of Jesus’ followers, Andrew (Simon Peter’s brother) spoke up, ‘There’s a little boy here with five small loaves of barley and two small fish, but that’s just a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed for everyone here!’ (US would have: ‘a drop in the bucket’)
John 8:13 The Pharisees took issue with him, because they thought his claims were arrogant, ‘You’re getting too big for your boots! You cannot give evidence as your own witness; if you do so, your evidence cannot be accepted. According to our law, you need another witness to support you.’
What text has been used for ‘Word Come Alive’?
Word Come Alive is an expanded translation (paraphrase) that uses the dynamic equivalent principle of translation.
I and my reviewers have worked from and checked my text against United Bible Societies’ 4th edition/26th and 27th editions of Novum Testamentum Graece
[Greek New Testament] (Nestle-Aland) as well as other English translations.
My reviewers are respected authorities on the New Testament:
- Dr Gervais Angel, formerly NT Greek Examiner for the Church of England and tutor in NT Greek at Trinity College, Bristol, England.
- Dr Pieter Lalleman, Tutor in Biblical Studies at Spurgeon’s College, London, England.
How have you dealt with anachronisms and cultural aspects?
Every Bible translator (and indeed every writer) has to make decisions about their choice of words. Even the previous sentence here is a case in point. It shows a particular choice in the word ‘their’. If I had been writing this text forty years ago I might well have put ‘his’ [to refer to male or female writers] or possibly ‘his or her.’ My choice is ‘their.’
Readers who want to pursue this could examine the relevant usage notes in successive editions of the Concise Oxford Dictionary
e.g., from 1964 (fifth edition) onwards and also the Oxford Dictionary of English
(first edition 1998). ‘In the late 20th century, as the traditional use of he
to refer to a person of either sex came under scrutiny on the grounds of sexism, this use of they
became more common. It is now generally accepted in contexts where it follows an indefinite pronoun such as anyone
, no one
, or a person
… In other contexts, coming after singular nouns, the use of they
is now common, though less widely accepted, especially in formal contexts.’ Oxford Dictionary of English
(second edition 2003, usage note at they
, page 1832). I have also commented on this in my Good Word Guide
, 7th edition (Bloomsbury, 2011).
- On cultural matters, my preference has been to express the text as far as possible in contemporary terms: I was faced with similar difficulties in updating Matthew Henry’s 8-million-word Commentary (Martin Manser, Revising Editor, The New Matthew Henry Commentary: Unabridged, Zondervan, 2013).
- Days of the week: alongside ‘Sabbath’ to say ‘Sunday’, ‘Friday’, etc.
- Times of day: to use our clock, e.g., ‘12 noon’
- Weights and measures: normally to use metric, except for certain non-metric ones, for example, miles.
By ‘anachronism’ I mean something that is set in a different time, not something that is old-fashioned. Examples of things that existed in Bible times but not then known by contemporary words that I may use:
- Jacket The moment Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It’s the Lord!’ he wrapped his fisherman’s jacket tightly round him (because he had hardly anything on) and jumped into the water. John 21:7
- Leave your comfort zone ‘You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and commissioned you to go and leave your comfort zone to bear fruit.’ John 15:16
- Library Jesus did very many other things as well. Actually, I think if they were each written down then all the libraries of books that would be needed would not fit into the whole world. John 21:25
- Not in a million years Peter insisted, ‘I’ll never let you wash my feet, no, not in a million years!’ John 13:8
- Olympic games You are our ‘Olympic gold medal’: our hope and joy are summed up in what you yourselves will be when we all stand as medal winners with our Lord Jesus Christ when he returns to this earth. 1 Thessalonians 2:19 [first Olympic Games 776 BC]
- Roll out the red carpet And if I go and get your rooms ready, I will then roll out the red carpet for you all. I will return and welcome you with open arms. John 14:3 [cf ‘mat’ e.g., Mark 2]
- Take to the next level May the Lord take your love for one another to the next level so that it flows over into all your relationships, just as our love for you does. 1 Thessalonians 3:12
- Undershirt When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four parts, one for each of them, leaving only a long undershirt. This didn’t have any seam but was woven in one piece from top to bottom. John 19:23
- University At university ‘How come this man is so clever, when he’s never studied at university?’ John 7:15Alternatives I considered:
- ‘when he’s never studied under one of the great teachers?’ – I don’t think that has the same ring
- or ‘when he’s never studied under one of the recognised authorities?’ – that sounds rather unwieldy
- or ‘when he’s never even been to school?’
- or ‘when he’s never even been to Bible college?’
- Special case: The Trinity clearly existed in Bible times but was not formulated at that time. In an early draft I had in my introduction to John 1: ‘I cannot say it too often, Christ himself, fully God and a distinct Person of the Trinity, has always existed from all eternity in the immediate joyful presence of God.’Pieter Lalleman: ‘I do believe in the Trinity, but the term only came up after the time of the NT so in John’s writing it sounds anachronistic.’The final version is ‘I cannot say it too often, Christ himself, fully God but distinct from the Father, has always existed from all eternity in the immediate joyful presence of God.’
My preference is to allow anachronisms [such as ‘university’] occasionally. These help make the text clear and interesting and increase its impact. Pieter Lalleman: ‘As long as you throw in anachronisms from time to time, people will understand what you are doing and appreciate it. I would not do it myself but that’s more a matter of taste than principle.’
Use of footnotes
Footnotes are used in the New Testament to refer to passages quoted from the Old Testament. I have also included an explanation on the status of John 8:1-11 in a footnote.
Footnotes are also used to show metric and non-metric equivalents of weights and measures.