GOD'S WORD Translation
Full name: GOD'S WORD Translation
Abbreviation: GW
Complete Bible published: 1995
Textual Basis: NT: Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament 27th edition. OT: Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia.
Translation type: Closest Natural Equivalence
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Copyright status: Copyright 1995 by God's Word to the Nations

GOD'S WORD Translation (GW) is an English translation of the Bible translated by the God's Word to the Nations Society.


The GOD'S WORD Translation (GW) of the bible was produced by the God's Word to the Nations Bible Society ( in Cleveland, Ohio (although since April 2005 the Society has relocated to the Jacksonville Fl metro area). Although many of its members were affiliated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Society, however, has no official ties to this specific Christian denomination. GW had its beginnings with a New Testament translation titled "The New Testament in the Language of Today: An American Translation", published in 1963 by LCMS pastor and seminary professor William F. Beck (19041966).

According to Rev. Michael Hackbardt, Executive Director of God's Word to the Nations since June 1992, Beck had not completed the Old Testament portion of his Bible prior to his death in 1966, but was awaiting textual suggestions from two colleagues, Elmer Smick, Professor of Old Testament at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and Erich Kiehl of Concordia Seminary. Smick and Kiehl ensured it was published posthumously in 1976 as An American Translation (AAT).

In 1978, it was decided that Beck's translation would be revised. Phillip B. Giessler, a pastor from Cleveland then formed a committee and revision work began in 1982. The work of Giessler's committee (although it was -- much like Dr. Beck's earlier work -- essentially a "one-man" translation team with a single English reviewer) yielded another translation of the New Testament that was released in 1988 titled New Testament: God's Word to the Nations (GWN) This work was later renamed the New Evangelical Translation (NET) in 1990. (Important note: Beck's AAT, according to Rev. Hackbardt, only served as a basis for "English style." In early 1992, according to Hackbardt, all the earlier New Testament work was abandoned by the Society and an entirely new Bible translation based on the best Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek texts and using the translation principle "closest natural equivalence -- beginning with the Old Testament -- was completely re-translated by the Society's five scholars, 17 technical reviewers, and four English reviewers. In early 1994 the translation was renamed GOD'S WORD prior to being turned over to World Bible Publishers in October 1994 for publication in March 1995.

The GOD'S WORD Translation was released by World Publishing of Iowa Falls, Iowa in March 1995. The publishing rights were later acquired in June, 2003, by Green Key Books of Holiday, Florida, [1] and in 2008 rights to GOD'S WORD were acquired by Baker Publishing Group.[2]

Translation theory

Donald Burdick of the Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary states that there are three general approaches to Bible translations: (1) concordant, (2) free paraphrase, and (3) closest equivalence.[3] Within the latter method of closest equivalence, William L. Wonderly proposes a "dynamic equivalence,".[4] and according to Burdick, this approach has been used for GOD'S WORD Translation, along with Today's English Version and the New English Bible.[3]

However, according to Rev. Michael Hackbardt, the Society's executive director who oversaw the complete translation of the Old and New Testaments comprising GOD'S WORD from June 1992 until October 1994, the translation team and English reviewers did not create a "function/or dynamic equivalent" translation, but a "closest natural equivalent" translation of the Scriptures.

GW's publishers believe that communicating the original meaning of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts that comprise the Scriptures so that everyone can understand what the Bible means for all of God's people today, requires taking a completely new look at the original languages. Many modern translations, they argue, have chosen simply to follow the traditions of older accepted translations, though the traditional words and grammar may no longer mean what they once did, or are not understood.

The theory followed by the Bible Society's translators is "closest natural equivalent" translation. The first consideration for the translators of GOD'S WORD was to find equivalent English ways of expressing the meaning of the original text. This procedure ensures that the translation is faithful to the meaning intended by the original writer. The next consideration was readability. The meaning is expressed in clear, natural English by using common English punctuation, capitalization, nearly perfect English grammar (in other words, you can teach English grammar from the biblical text of GOD'S WORD, and word choice. The third consideration was to choose the most "natural equivalent" that most closely reflected the style of the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text. This translation theory is designed to avoid the awkwardness and inaccuracy associated with form-equivalent translation, and it avoids the loss of meaning and oversimplification associated with function-equivalent translation. It's also important to note that GOD'S WORD is "gender accurate," rather than "gender neutral" as are most "function equivalent" translations and paraphrases. [5]

About their translation, GW translators claim:

Traditionally, the Scriptures have been translated into English by teams of scholars serving part-time. This translation project employed full-time biblical scholars and full-time English editorial reviewers. GOD'S WORD is the first English Bible in which English reviewers were actively involved with scholars at every stage of the translation process. Because of the involvement of English experts, GOD'S WORD looks and reads like contemporary American literature. It uses clear, natural English; follows standard punctuation and capitalization rules; and is printed in an open, single column format that enhances readability. And, the poetry is extraordinary. All of this makes GOD'S WORD an exceptional literary work [6]

Criticism and Responses

Proponents claim the result of this new translation is that it reads more easily than a literal translation. The translators claim that GW is one of the "most readable" and "most accurate" translations available today[7]. GW uses a dynamic equivalence translation methodology it calls "Closest Natural Equivalence".[8]. Critics argue that the dynamic equivalence translation method forfeits translation in favor of interpretation and commentary, separating the reader from the actual words of the biblical author.[9]

Bible language researcher Michael Marlowe is critical of the translation techniques used in the GW, and feels it takes too much liberty in simplifying the original Greek and Hebrew texts. In so doing, argues Marlowe, the translators have deviated from the original emphasis of scripture. They argue there is a place for translations that can simplify these terms, but GW is one of a growing number of new translations of the Bible that uses a paraphrasing method which goes beyond the aim of a pure (literal) translation, which may result in difficult, misunderstood terms and produces a translation that also interprets the scripture.

Marlowe more generally questions translation methods such as Closest Natural Equivalence when he writes:

"[The methodology's] pretensions to 'scientific' principles of linguistics are dubious, as has been pointed out by numerous linguists and biblical scholars. It results in a simplification of the text in which important features of the Bible are erased"[10].


  2. History of the GOD'S WORD translation
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bible Translation: Why, What and How?, Donald W. Burdick, March, 1975.
  4. William L. Wonderly, Bible Translations for Popular Use, United Bible Societies, 1968, p. 50.
  5. Translation Process for Laypeople
  6. God's Word to the Nations
  7. GOD'S WORD website
  8. Translation process of GOD'S WORD for scholars
  9. Leland Ryken, The Word of God in English, Crossway Books, 2002, p.26.
  10. Against the Theory of 'Dynamic Equivalence'
  • The History of Our Translation at
  • 'A Guide to GOD’S WORD Translation: Translating the Bible according to the Principles of Closest Natural Equivalence' at [1]
  • Comfort, Philip W. The Complete Guide to Bible Versions, p. 145.

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at God's Word Translation (GW). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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