As I discussed in my post on Bible translation, there are many, many benefits to studying the Bible in an alternate translation. In that blog, I mentioned a translation of the New Testament that was coming out later this year just for Latter-day Saints. I’m very happy to say that it is now out and available! You can even hear an interview with the translator on a recent LDS Perspectives podcast.
Thomas A. Wayment is a New Testament and Greek scholar at BYU and who has been my friend for about fifteen years. When I found out he was working on a translation of the New Testament, I was thrilled, and easily volunteered to be a reader. I read the entire manuscript in draft form, and now the full, printed version has arrived at my house just this week. It’s nicely formatted, with the text broken into pericopes (a fancy word for content that makes up a single story or event) with clear headings. In the gospels, it also gives cross-references right in the headings to similar accounts in the other books for quick comparison. Everything is arranged in paragraph format, so it’s very pleasant and easy to read. The verse numbers are there to help you find your way to a specific passage, but small and out of the way, so they don’t distract from reading it like any great book. The language is modern, so easy to understand, but still scriptural and noble (not full of slang like some modern translations). When I first read it, the best way I could describe it was that it just made the New Testament more fun to read.
In addition to the great translation, this is a study Bible, so each page is full of helpful features that enhance reading and study. Footnotes are abundant, serving many purposes. Some explain textual variants—where various New Testament manuscripts have different readings. Some help with cultural background, language, or other useful information. Many provide cross-references to other scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, which are extremely thorough, citing “quotes, allusions, or echoes” of the New Testament in both of these other volumes. Seeing how the New Testament is related to these other texts is invaluable and will greatly deepen our understanding as we examine them in our study. When people talk, their words are in quotation marks, and quotations from the Old Testament are in italics, with a clear cross-reference for comparison.
Each book has a helpful explanatory heading that includes background of the author, audience, purpose, and a section called “Connection to Latter-day Saint Beliefs” that offers insight into how that book plays into the doctrine and beliefs of the church.
A Word From the Author
I asked Thom if he would say a few words about it for this blog, and he sent me this, which I include in its entirety:
For the past decade I’ve been pondering, working on, and refining a new translation of the New Testament that grew from my own deep-seated concerns that the King James Bible had become a barrier to understanding the word of God. It’s taken me some time to develop my initial interests and hopes into something meaningful that could be more than a statement of protest against the King James Bible. I respect the great biblical heritage of our past, but at some point the reality that it is quickly becoming more of an obstacle than a pathway to inspiration dawns on all of us. For these reasons, and several others, I recently completed an entirely new translation of the New Testament with extensive new footnotes and introductions to the 27 books that comprise the New Testament. Many friends and relatives have asked why I wanted to do such a thing. Some have even remarked that Bible translators often meet a bitter end. So here are some of examples of what I found to be compelling reasons to consider retranslating the New Testament.
Some verses in the KJV seem clear when they are not. For example, 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The problem is that there is nothing in the original about studying or dividing the word of truth. Rather, the verse should read, “Be diligent to present yourself before God as a proven work beyond reproach, correctly explaining the word of truth.” Another example of a very confusing verse in the KJV is found in James 3:1, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” James did not speak about there being many masters among us, but rather teachers. The verse should read, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, knowing that we who teach will receive the harsher judgment.”
A second matter that was an issue for me was the gender exclusive language of the KJV. So much of it appears to be written to men exclusively when in reality it was written to male and female followers of Christ equally. I have used gender inclusive language where appropriate to recover the prophetic messages to both the men and women of the New Testament. I have also highlighted in the notes the places where priesthood callings are informed by female service in the church. For example, the early deacons modeled their service on that of women in the household, and the New Testament contains very specific information about that connection. Similarly, I have tried to recover all of the language regarding priesthood offices in the footnotes so the reader can understand how those offices arose, how they developed, and how they were administered.
I had always wanted to translate the entire New Testament from my early graduate school days. It has always felt like something I should do on a personal level, and I am immensely glad that I did so. It was simply a pleasure to translate Romans, the book where the KJV reaches its low point, and Hebrews, probably the best Greek in the New Testament. I came away with new perspectives that I had never anticipated. I have tried to record some of that in the notes of my translation.
Finally, the notes were immensely important to me. The Restoration introduced an incredible corpus of new scripture, but so much of that new scripture is infused with the wording of the Bible. I had always shied away from that recognition, but the recovery of hundreds of intersections between the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the New Testament helped me see how closely interwoven these texts are. Every footnote in this new translation is new, the result of hundreds of hours of research. I think the student of the Bible will love the text, but the notes will be a real treasure. I believe that I have recovered all instances where Restoration scripture uses the language of the New Testament, every instance where the New Testament quotes the Old Testament, and every place where Restoration scripture comments on the meaning of the New Testament. I have also added historical notes, brief discussions of historical events, and alternate translations when the Greek can be translated in multiple ways.
I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed doing it.
I encourage every Latter-day Saint to get a copy of this in their home and use it with their study of the New Testament in 2019. Bring it to church classes and read from when you’re asked to read a passage. Your ward members will thank you. The gospels will be more meaningful, the letters more understandable, and even Revelation is more enjoyable. To be clear, I do not make any money by promoting this—I just think it’s that good, so I’m including links below to make it easy. I am certain that with the help of this study Bible, you will read with new eyes and greater understanding and appreciation for this marvelous text.