The Meh Version

The Meh Version May 29, 2014

A couple of people on Facebook mentioned an article about a new English language Bible translation, the Modern English Version (MEV for short). The website for the translation, quoted in the article, says the following:

Every effort is made to ensure that no political, ideological, social, cultural, or theological agenda is allowed to distort the translation. The Scriptures are accurately translated without loss, change, compromise, embellishments or distortions of the meaning of the original text.

The claims are nonsensical in and of themselves, since no one ever fully realizes the extent to which their social, cultural, theological and other assumptions influence their perceptions. That the folks at Charisma think otherwise is sadly ironic.

But the claims are even less impressive given the fact that (1) the translation is being hyped as superior to others, and (2) as these samples indicate, it isn’t radically different from previous translations – which is to be expected, because most previous translations were not awful.

Oh, and they also claim it is a “word for word” translation. In fact, it is just an updated King James Version.


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  • The interpretive worldview of the translators is naive realism at its finest.

  • Brian P.

    That the these claims are nonsensical are merely a layer of turtles that go all the way down.

  • Jeff

    It will be interesting to see how the KJVO crowd reacts to this. For the NT, the MEV claims to be based on the TR, which, of course, is the Greek text behind the KJV, which basically no modern English translation has followed (except NKJV) since 1881 when Westcott & Hort published their Greek NT. And the KJV/TR purists can be quite adamant about the TR. But looking at the MEV sample text of Ephesians, twice the MEV editors chose a Byz maj reading instead of the TR (Eph 1:18; 5:21), but in two other places (Eph 4:6, 32) they chose a TR reading instead of the Byz maj. But of course, all of this is rather irrelevant since the MEV tried to update the language of the KJV without updating the manuscript base in light of all the important, early manuscripts discovered since 1611.

    • Gerhard

      Jeff, you should know that the MEV in Eph 1:18 and 5:21 is not directly following the Byz, but rather Stephanus 1550, which mirrors the earlier Complutensian in both places.

      • Jeff

        Gerhard, look at it again. MEV isn’t following Stephanus 1550 (or Scrivener 1894) at these two points (cf. understanding/heart in 1:18; Christ/God in 5:21). I have no dog in this fight. Just pointing out that MEV isn’t translating the TR at every point like they claimed.

        • Gerhard

          Mea culpa, Jeff! So of what really is the MEV a translation, if not the TR?

  • Evan Hershman

    According to the website, they’re using the Textus Receptus. So much for “accuracy.” *eyeroll*

  • arcseconds

    Something that was really word-for-word, i.e. had a word (or, in many cases by necessity, a short phrase) for every word in the original language, in the same order as the original language, might be very interesting for those of us with extremely limited but not non-existent facility with the original language.

    But it would be extremely stilted and difficult to read.

    How can someone competent at translation even utter the words ‘word-for-word’ when they haven’t produced anything like that?

    • Tim

      I know, right? Trying to read the English translation directly in an interlinear would confuse Yoda…

      • arcseconds

        It really bugs me when otherwise intelligent people appear to think that all languages are just English in some kind of code.

        And I would have thought it’s simply insulting to translators to suggest that a word-for-word translation is either possible or desirable.

        I suppose it may not really be the translators’ statement, but that of their marketing team, but if my marketing team made my activities sound like they were, at most, simply a matter of solving a kind of jigsaw puzzle, I would be deeply offended.

        • Given that this seems, on close examination, to be an updating of the King James Version, there may not have been any actual translators or translation involved in the process of producing it.

          • arcseconds

            So, do they mean a ‘word for word translation’ from the King James Version?


          • MattB

            Hey Dr.McGrath, I was wondering if you might like this video as it kind of reminds me of how mythicists typically argue during a conversation(I’m not trying to make fun of mythicists but I thought this was funy).

          • How is this relevant to this post?

          • MattB

            It’s not

          • Then why did you post it here?!

          • MattB

            I was too lazy to look for the other blog posts you’ve written on mythicism:)

      • arcseconds

        Also, I had forgotten the word ‘interlinear’, so thanks 🙂

  • Tim

    Great; just what we need: a YACV. (Yet Another Crappy Version).

  • Judy Redman

    I hadn’t heard of group before but it’s come up in my feeds several times in the last couple of days. It struck me particularly because they misquoted a research article on sexual orientation (claiming that it said the opposite to what the data actually showed and the authors said) and one commenter said “I wouldn’t trust Charisma to quote the date correctly”. It appears that they are not particularly aware of their own biases.

  • Jim Linzey

    I am on the translation committee for the MEV. I read each of your posts and I am grateful for the opportunity to reply. The translation committee is not in control of the PR. Some of you seemed to have picked up on that as a possibility.

    None of us on the committee believe this is truly a ‘word-for-word’ translation, a term, like the term ‘literal,’ that is often meant simply to mean ‘formal equivalence.’ That is the sense of the term as it is used by us. When we, the translation committee, use the term, we mean it in so far as proper English syntax and grammar will allow it, and in the sense that laity understand the term.

    Furthermore, it is no secret that none of us believe that the KJV is the ideal translation or that the TR is the best Greek manuscript, but it simply must be used for a KJV update. And this, of course, requires an answer to the verses in the unfinished edition of Ephesians posted on the publisher’s website, which I wish had not been posted until they received the finished edition. The translation was entirely completed with the TR. Several editors went over it, and one accidentally was looking at the wrong Greek text, resulting in what you saw. It has since been corrected as per the TR. I have asked the publishing firm to post the finished edition of Ephesians.

    I greatly appreciate camaraderie with people of all traditions and the freedom to openly dialogue in a constructive environment. I especially appreciate being around those who value the health of airing differences in an honest and constructive and “non-confrontive” manner, and especially with scholars and
    gentlemen and ladies who give the benefit of the doubt as you all graciously

    As a retired military chaplain, the original motive for creating the translation was to provide an update by military chaplains for the troops so they could understand the KJV better. This snowballed to something much bigger than anticipated in the search for academically qualified scholars when we had ‘enlist’ the help of non-chaplain scholars to get the job done and when we were offered a contract. The objective mushroomed into doing this for the English speaking world.

    In reply to Jim McGrath: 1) You are correct. It is difficult to remove all prejudices. To illustrate, the OT writers were polytheistic, but I noted an attempt in the MEV
    to minimize this reality from the Hebrew. I did not allow that to happen. 2) Best translations cannot a) use the TR as its base text; but if they do then they cannot b) use archaic, non-standard, literalistic English c) nor fail to use what we know today about linguistics and our ancient literary and cultural findings in our contemporary English translations.

    • Thank you so much for the additional information and clarifications! I do know that the marketing folks can sometimes do a successful job of promoting a new book, by saying things that the book’s authors or translators are horrified by!

      • Jim Linzey

        Thank you for the warm reception. I am very glad to be in touch with a community of people on your blog site filled with perhaps more understanding and insight than I have. I am attempting to avoid making any disparaging remarks about other translations in my position with the MEV, yet I am often asked to make comparisons between the NKJV and the MEV. I can see why since the goals of both are similar, and based on the same texts with the same objective of updating the KJV. So perhaps I will get this out, since it is inevitable it may come up in your community. I like the NKJV. We are simply trying to bring the English into the 21st century, and that includes not translating the Semitism “And He answered and said unto them…” which does not make sense in modern English. Not translating ‘idou’ or using alternatives when it flows (‘look,’ ‘see,’ etc).
        I would say that among the scholarly translations, my favorite translation may be the NRSV. I like to focus on the positive aspects of other’s work and I seek to be a team player among my peers. Again, thank you for your hospitality. And I might add: all the comments posted here give me psychological air and do not bother me. Honest people are the best friends.

    • Joe Dokes

      “the OT writers were polytheistic”

      Please explain this, I have no clue what you may be referring to, thanks much.