A new translation that is easy to read, understand and teach from.
For the last three millennia, the Bible has exercised an unparalleled influence on the lives of individuals and nations. People of faith throughout the centuries have recorded the revelation of God pertaining to the affairs of daily life. The experiences of prophets, kings, and common people have been communicated through the written text of Scripture. Jewish and Christian scholars have been concerned to make sure that the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts would be communicated to each new generation. Even though governments and rulers have attempted to prevent the distribution of the translated Bible in many periods of history, faithful scholars such as John Wycliffe and William Tyndale gave their very lives to translate and distribute the books of the Bible. In every period of revival and renewal in the church, the Bible was central.
The Holy Bible: International Standard Version® embodies the best results of modern scholarship as to the meaning of Scripture, and it expresses this meaning in clear and natural English. Produced by the ISV Foundation, the ISV® offers an exciting opportunity to read and study the Scriptures in a fresh, new way.
The ISV is “international” in that slang and regionalisms are avoided, and “standard” in that it is designed for public worship, for church school curricula, for religious publishing, and for both personal and group study. And with the ISV text, study tools, and software readily available to the public via the Internet, the ISV provides new opportunities for in-depth study of God’s Word anywhere in the world, by anyone, and at any time.
The Uniqueness of the ISV
With so many English language Bible translations available today, the reader is faced with an important question: “What distinguishes the ISV from other Bible translations?” The ISV offers six features that distinguish it from other recent English language translations:
1. The ISV is a New Translation, Not a Revision
The ISV is a totally new work translated directly from the original languages of Scripture and derived from no other English translation. It was produced by Bible scholars who believe that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 ISV). The ISV takes advantage not only of the most ancient manuscripts available, but also of the most recent archaeological discoveries. The translators of the ISV have selected the English equivalent that most closely reflects the meaning of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.
2. The ISV is a Computer-Friendly Translation
When the ISV project began in October 1994 (actual translation began in the Spring of 1996), the ISV became the first English language Bible translation conceived, designed, translated, and formatted primarily for a computer-literate generation. It has been produced entirely by computer and is the first Bible translation ever published with release numbers after the manner of fine software. (The release number of this edition is 2.0, the build number can be found on the frontispiece.)
3. The ISV is Sensitive to Poetic Forms in the Original Text
The ISV treats subtle nuances of the original texts with special care. For example, several passages of the Bible appear to have been rendered in poetic form when first penned by their authors. The ISV has meticulously crafted these original passages as true poems—thus communicating a sense of their original literary form as well as translating the original intent of the author. As a result, passages that would have been read as poetry by first century readers actually appear in poetic form in the ISV. For example, see Christ’s complaint to the Pharisees recorded in Luke 7:32, the Christ Hymn of Philippians 2:6-11, the Apostle Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13, the Common Confession of 1 Timothy 3:16, Paul’s Hymn to Christ in Titus 3:4-7, Paul’s witty quote of the ancient Greek poet Epimenides in Titus 1:12, and the “trustworthy sayings” of Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15, 1 Timothy 3:1, 1 Timothy 4:8, and 2 Timothy 2:11.
4. The ISV is Sensitive to Literary Forms in the Original Text
The ISV treats synoptic parallels with special sensitivity. For example, historical narratives in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were carefully examined in the original Greek text in order to compare each occurrence in the text where the narratives appeared to describe similar instances. Unlike all other English language translations available today, the ISV translates each separate synoptic instance with exact translational parity in each textual occurrence. In those parallel passages where the Greek text occurs with word-for-word synoptic identity, readers will discover that the ISV translates these passages into word-for-word English equivalents. In those parallel passages where the Greek text in the parallel passages approaches, but does not reach, a word-for-word identity, the ISV has adjusted the English language translation to reflect the similar, but not exact, nature of the parallel passages. Similar attention to detail has been adhered to in the synoptic pre-exilic Old Testament history books of Chronicles, Kings, and Samuel.
The reader will notice—particularly in the Bible’s historical narratives, in the four Gospels, and in the Book of Acts—that the ISV usually shifts its style of English composition in order to utilize contractions when translating quoted words of a speaker, even though the ISV generally avoids the use of contractions when rendering historical narratives or written correspondence. It was intended that a sense of the informal be communicated when people are speaking and that a sense of the formal be communicated when people are writing.
5. The ISV is Sensitive to Conservative, Modern Textual Scholarship
The ISV includes the latest scholarly analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls and is the first modern English language translation to contain an exhaustive treatment of catalogued Dead Sea Scrolls materials produced courtesy of Dr. Peter Flint and Dr. Eugene Ulrich, two authorities on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Every major variant from the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Scriptures contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint was carefully examined and catalogued for the ISV by a special team of scholars under the direction of Dr. Peter Flint. All significant departures from traditional understandings of various Old Testament readings were carefully analyzed and are presented for the reader’s consideration in footnotes. The present release of the ISV contains these analyses only for the Psalms and Proverbs. A future version release of the ISV will contain an analysis for the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures. The ISV’s book of Isaiah was translated by Dr. Peter W. Flint directly from the text of the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa), which was found among the Qumran Cave 1 collection of Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts.
6. The ISV is a Literal-Idiomatic Translation
The translation theory behind the ISV differs from theories employed in previous Bible translations. Traditionally, two basic methods of Bible translation have been used. The older method (and for many centuries practically the only method used) has been labeled “literal” or “formal equivalent.” This type of translation allows readers to identify as fully as possible with the source languages of Scripture and to understand as much as they can of the Bible’s customs, manners of thought, and means of expression.
The other method is termed “idiomatic” or “functional equivalent.” The goal of an idiomatic translation is to achieve the closest natural equivalent in modern language to match the ideas of the original text. Idiomatic translations have little or no concern for maintaining the grammatical forms, sentence structure, and consistency of word usage of the source languages.
All major translations of the Bible fall somewhere on a scale between complete formal equivalence and complete functional equivalence. It is clear that each of these methods of Bible translation has its limitations. Competent Bible translators have always recognized that a strictly literal translation of the words of Scripture can be misleading. For example, “the wicked will not stand in the judgment” might be interpreted as proving that evil people actually would not be judged. Hence literalness is not always equivalent to accuracy.
On the other hand, the limitations of idiomatic translations are also obvious. Such translations frequently tend to cast the words of Scripture into new molds that convey the ideas in a significantly different spirit or emphasis. Idiomatic translations have, in a sense, a commentary built into them; they represent a choice made by the translators as to what the translators think a passage means. For that reason, an idiomatic translation is easier to read but less reliable for careful study.
A good translation will steer a careful course between word-for-word translation and interpretation under the guise of translating. In other words, a good translation will be both reliable and readable. The best translation, then, is one that is both accurate and idiomatic at the same time. It will make every effort to reproduce the culture and exact meaning of the text without sacrificing readability. The ISV Foundation calls this type of translation “literal-idiomatic.”
Of these three basic types of translation—literal, literal-idiomatic, and idiomatic—the translators of the ISV have, without hesitation, opted for the second. This is not because it happens to be the middle option, simply avoiding extremes, but because the literal-idiomatic translation is the only choice that avoids the dangers of over-literalness and of over-interpretation discussed above. Teaching biblical truth demands extreme fidelity to the original text of Scripture. However, a translation of the Bible need not sacrifice English clarity in order to maintain a close correspondence to the source languages. The goal of the ISV, therefore, has been both accuracy and excellence in communication.
Principles of Translation Used in the ISV
The following principles of translation were followed in producing the ISV.
1. For the Tanakh, or Old Testament, the Masoretic text as published in the latest editions of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and Quinta is used as the base text, in consultation with other ancient Hebrew texts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and a select number of ancient versions (the Septuagint, the Vulgate, the Syriac Peshitta, and the Targums). All significant departures from the base text, as well as all significant textual variants, are indicated in footnotes. With respect to the book of Isaiah, Qumran Cave 1’s Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa) was used, along with certain other Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts, as the base text for translation, with the MT secondarily consulted for variants to 1QIsa.
2. For the New Testament, the main text of the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece and the main text of the 4th Revised Edition of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament is used for the base text. The ISV New Testament does not rely solely on one family of manuscripts, such as the Textus Receptus redaction (commonly known as the Received Text), or the Westcott-Hort redaction. Instead, a wide choice of manuscript traditions was consulted. All significant departures from the base text, as well as all significant textual variants, are indicated in footnotes.
3. The ISV uses literary English, avoiding idioms that come and go, and is as traditional as necessary. Terms such as “justification,” “redemption,” “atonement,” and the Johannine “abide in” formulae have been retained. Where the Committee on Translation determines that a word-for-word translation is unacceptable, a change can be made in the direction of a more current language idiom. In these instances, the more literal rendering is indicated in a footnote.
4. In the ISV Messiah Edition, the word Christos (itself a Greek language translation of the Hebrew word moshiach) is translated as “Messiah”. For example, the ISV renders Jesus Christ as Jesus the Messiah in order to emphasize the unique claim made by the New Testament writers that the things about which they wrote pertained to Jesus as the claimed fulfillment of the hope of Israel’s Messiah. The alternate rendering “Christ” appears in footnotes. The rarely utilized NT Greek transliteration messias of the Hebrew language moshiach is rendered in the ISV NT as “Anointed One”. In the ISV Standard Edition, we have rendered Christos as the traditional Christ.
5. When the text can be understood in different ways, an attempt is made either to provide a rendering in which the same ambiguity appears in English, or to decide the more likely sense and translate accordingly. In the latter case, a footnote indicates the alternative understanding of the text. In general, the ISV attempts to preserve the relative ambiguity of the text rather than to make positive statements that depend on the translators’ judgment or that might reflect theological bias.
6. Whenever possible, a short sentence is translated by a short sentence. However, a very long sentence may be translated in two or more sentences, provided the original intent of the text is accurately reflected.
7. Regarding the Greek tenses, the ISV is guided by observing the grammatical nuances of the Greek in conjunction with the language rules of contemporary English. The policy of distinguishing the Greek imperfect tense from the aorist indicative is followed when the distinction is grammatically significant and stylistically acceptable. For example, in addition to the progressive imperfect (e.g., “he was proclaiming”), other possible renderings of the imperfect tense include the inceptive imperfect (“he began to proclaim”), the iterative imperfect (“he used to proclaim”), and the customary imperfect (“he would proclaim”). Where the context indicates that no distinction is being made between the imperfect and the aorist, the aoristic imperfect (“he proclaimed”) is used.
8. Special attention is given to the translation of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek conjunctions. They are rendered in ways that best fit the immediate context or omitted in translation without a footnote when deemed pleonastic.
9. In the Old Testament, the traditional “Lord” is used for Yahweh. Where the Hebrew Adonai Yahweh occurs, the rendering “Lord GOD” is used. Yahweh Elohim is rendered as Lord God. Most titles of God are translated in the text, with the original title placed in a footnote.
10. A noun may be substituted for a pronoun when it is needed for clarity. In these cases, the literal rendering is placed in a footnote.
11. Characteristic features of the original languages, such as order of words and the structure of phrases and clauses, are to be reproduced in translation wherever possible without sacrificing English style.
12. The use of inclusive language is limited to where the meaning of the original text is inclusive of both sexes, and then only without compromising scholarly integrity or good English style. Specifically:
a. The generic use of “he,” “him,” “his,” “himself,” etc. may be used to translate generic third person masculine singular pronouns in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Person and number are retained: Generally, singulars are not changed to plurals, and third person statements are not changed to second person or first person statements.
b. Substantival participles such as ho pisteuon may be rendered inclusively: “the one who believes,” “the person who believes,” etc.
c. “Man,” “mankind,” “humankind,” “humanity,” “people,” “human beings,” etc. may be used to designate the human race or human beings in general.
d. Hebrew zaqar and Greek aner are usually translated “man” or “men.” The Hebrew ‘am, usually translated “people”, is occasionally rendered “army” when utilized in a military context. Hebrew tribal names usually are referred to with the introductory phrase “the tribe of,” even if the base text does not utilize this phrase, with the additional words noted in an explanatory footnote.
e. The Greek plural noun anthropoi may be translated “people” or “persons” instead of “men.” The singular anthropos may be translated “person” or “man” when it refers to a male human being.
f. The Greek indefinite pronoun tis may be rendered “anyone,” “someone,” “a person,” “a man,” etc.
g. Pronouns such as the Greek oudeis may be rendered “no one,” “no person,” etc.
h. When used substantivally, the Hebrew kol and the Greek pas may be rendered “everyone,” “every man,” or (in the plural) “all people.”
i. “Son of Man” as a traditional reference to Messiah is retained.
j. Masculine references to God are retained.
k. The Greek plural noun adelphoi is normally rendered “brothers” but may be changed to such expressions as “fellow believers” or “dear friends” in appropriate contexts.
l. Hebrew ben and Greek huios may be rendered “child” or “children” and “son” or “sons.” When used as a descriptive term preceding an ethnic group meaning “descendants of,” the Hebrew term ben may be rendered “descendants of” or the term may be conflated into a generic descriptor (e.g., bene Israel is rendered “Israelis”), depending upon context
m. Hebrew ab and Greek pater may be rendered “parent” or “parents,” “ancestor” or “ancestors,” or “forefathers.”
13. Because the original languages of Scripture provide no special indication other than grammatical context to identify pronouns or predicate nominatives that refer to deity, predicate nominatives and pronouns whose antecedent is God the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit are not capitalized.
14. Words that describe portions of Scripture, such as “law” are capitalized when they refer to a specific section of Scripture (e.g., the “Law and the Prophets”) or are used as a part of a title (e.g., “this Book of the Law”). In certain contexts, particularly in the Psalms, the Hebrew word “law” may mean either divine instruction in general, or the Torah (Genesis – Deuteronomy), or both. In these instances, the word “law” is rendered as “instruction”.
15. The serial comma is used before the last item in a series of persons, places, or things.
16. The relative pronoun “which” is used (1) after a comma, (2) in the expression “that which,” and (3) in a question. Otherwise, the pronoun “that” is used.
17. For the future tense, the auxiliary verb “will” is used in place of “shall.” The Hebrew verb form traditionally rendered as an imperatival future (e.g., “You shall not murder”) is translated in the ISV as a descriptive imperatival (e.g., “You are not to murder.”). With the simple future, “will” is used.
18. Hebrew and Greek exclamatory indicators (e.g., the Hebrew hine and the Greek idou) traditionally translated “Behold!” or “Lo!” are rendered in ways that best fit the immediate context and that best represent contemporary English usage (e.g., “Look,” “See,” “Suddenly,” “Here,” “Indeed,” etc.). In certain cases, exclamatory indicators have been omitted entirely, with an exclamation point added at the termination of the sentence to indicate the placement of exclamatory indicators in the base text.
19. Because the Hebrew and Greek equivalents to the English “It came to pass…” are often only transitional words marking the beginning of a new episode, they are sometimes not reproduced. In other instances, the translator may use a more natural English equivalent (e.g., “It was so,” “And then,” “Later,” etc.).
20. In parallel texts such as the Synoptic Gospels, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles, consistency of rendering is carefully observed.
21. The Hebrew and Greek counterpart for “saying,” when pleonastic, may be omitted in translation without a footnote. When introducing a question, the Hebrew and Greek “said” may be rendered “asked” or “inquired”.
22. Marginal notes may include literal renderings (Lit.), alternate renderings (Or), explanatory words or phrases (I.e.), notes on significant textual variants, and other explanatory comments. With textual variants, language such as “the earliest and best manuscripts omit…” or “most manuscripts add…” is avoided. Instead, the following language is used: “other manuscripts lack…,” “other manuscripts read…,” etc.
23. When the New Testament quotes from the Tanakh or Old Testament, quotation marks surround the quote and a reference to the source of the quotation is footnoted. The sources of New Testament quotations from literature other than the Old Testament are also referenced in footnotes, when known.
24. If additional words are necessary to clarify the sense of the translation, the literal rendering is set forth in a footnote. Alternatively, an explanatory footnote may be added indicating that the original text lacks the additional wording.
25. The Greek term Hades appears to be employed as the equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol, the general realm of the dead. Both terms rarely appear in transliteration; instead, the ISV New Testament usually renders these terms as “realm of the dead,” “afterlife,” or “where the dead are,” depending upon context. Departures from this policy are clearly footnoted, and usually occur in Old Testament poetry. The Greek Gehenna is rendered “hell.” Tartarus is rendered “lowest hell,” with an explanatory footnote.
26. Subheads are used to identify flow of thought and themes. Parallel passages, where they exist, are cited in subheads.
27. Parentheses may be used in the text whenever called for by the sense of the passage. The ISV does not use brackets to indicate disputed verses. Instead, footnotes indicate the absence of such verses in some manuscripts.
28. Poetic passages in both the Old and New Testaments are printed in poetic form. Certain New Testament hymns and sayings are rendered in poetry (e.g., 2 Timothy 2:11-13).
29. Quoted statements of speakers may be rendered into English using contractions (e.g., “can’t,” “won’t,” “don’t,” etc.) in order to communicate a sense of natural spoken informality. The use of English language contractions will usually be avoided when translating historical narratives or apostolic correspondence in order to communicate a sense of formal literary composition.
30. Numbers less than 20 are rendered as words unless they comprise part of an inventory list or census enumeration. Numbers from 20 and above are rendered with Arabic numerals unless they begin a sentence. Measurements are rendered in English units with metric equivalents placed within an explanatory footnote.
About The ISV Foundation Triglyph
The ISV logo is a triglyph of three historic symbols. The upper symbol is the Menorah, the traditional symbol of Judaism. The center symbol is the Magen David (the “Shield of David”). The lower symbol, the Ichthus, is that of a fish. Early Christians used the Ichthus as an identifying mark between believers. In the Greek language, the word “fish” (ΙΧΘΥΣ) is an acrostic that spells out the words “Jesus Christ Son of God Savior.” The ISV triglyph is a combination of all three historic images, thus symbolizing the historic roots from which the Church developed. In an informal archaeological dig, a Greek Orthodox monk on Mount Zion, Jerusalem discovered the original triglyph from which the ISV logo is derived. The original triglyph may have its origin as early as the mid-second to the mid-fourth century A.D. If this theory is accurate, the existence of this triglyph means that the Magen David has existed as a symbol of dispersed Israel from the early Christian centuries. The ISV Foundation claims the image of the triglyph backed by a stylized Torah scroll as a trademark to indicate the foundation’s exclusive rights to utilize it for use in Bible translations and Bible study tools. These tools include volumes produced by various ministry subsidiaries of The ISV Foundation.
ISV Research and Translation Team
The ISV Foundation initially provided for the work of translating by appointing:
A Committee on Translation, which was tasked to oversee the work of translation, including supervision of all consultants. Members were selected for their competence in biblical studies and on the basis of an inter-denominational representation of the worldwide Christian community.
A General Editor, who was to be responsible for organizing and directing the work of the Committee on Translation. The General Editor continually evaluated the project in terms of the quality of the translation and the efficiency with which the work was being pursued.
Associate Editors for the Old and New Testaments, who were capable in the biblical languages and exegesis. From 1996 to mid-2001, Associate Editors coordinated Committee procedures related to their areas of expertise.
After base renderings were produced by individual scholars, the Committee on Translation refined the base rendering to produce a review draft for further examination. From mid-2001 through completion of the ISV in mid-2010, a select group of Contributing Scholars was utilized to offer suggestions for improvement of the review drafts. At the same time, selected English Reviewers checked the translation for adherence to modern literary and communication standards and suggested stylistic improvements for further consideration. The following is a list of individuals who contributed to the development of the ISV:
General Editor. Dr. George Giacumakis supervised the work of translation, including retention of consultants, who were selected for their competence in biblical studies and on the basis of an inter-denominational representation of the worldwide Christian community. Dr. Giacumakis periodically evaluated the ISV project in terms of the quality of the translation and the efficiency with which the work was produced.
Associate Editor of Old Testament. Dr. Edward M. Curtis served from 1996 until mid-2001, providing base translations of Exodus, 1 Samuel, Esther, portions of Proverbs, and Jeremiah.
Associate Editor of New Testament. Dr. David Alan Black served from 1996 until mid-2001, providing base translation of the New Testament.
Associate Editor. Dr. William P. Welty served until completion of the ISV in late 2010. He was primarily responsible for day-to-day operations, crafting of a large portion of the base translation of the ISV Old Testament, text formatting, general “look and feel” of the work in progress, and quality review.
Committee on Translation Members. Dr. Ronald D. Riveted also served on the Committee on Translation from 1996 until mid-2001.
Other Contributing Scholars
Gleason Archer, Ph.D.
Kyung S. Baek
Mona Bias, Ph.D.
Craig L. Blomberg, Ph.D.
James A. Brooks, D.Phil.
Gary M. Burge, Ph.D.
Richard J. Erickson, Ph.D.
Peter W. Flint, Ph.D.
Harold W. Hoehner, Ph.D.
Arthur H. Lewis, Ph.D.
Malcolm F. Lowe, Ph.D.
Scott E. McClelland, Ph.D.
Douglas J. Moo, Ph.D.
Robert Morey, Ph.D.
J. Robert Vannoy, Ph.D.
Selected English language readers served as reviewers of the ISV. Because some reviewers prefer that their work be rendered and acknowledged anonymously, the list below identifies only those individuals who permitted publication of their names:
John J. Brugaletta, Ph.D.
Robert D. Carpenter, M.D.
Charles W. Missler, Ph.D.
Shirley Pigott, M.D.
Ted Curtis Smythe, Ph.D.
Ingo Sorke, Ph.D.
Charles R. Welty
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.
Supplemental Study Aids
The ISV is also released electronically in a number of popular electronic Bible formats such as Logos® Bible Software, e-sword®, Bible+®, in formats compatible with a number of personal data assistants and mobile phones such as the Android®, Blackberry®, iPhone®, iPad®, iPod®, etc., and in formats compatible with a number of personal ebook readers such as the Barnes and Nobles Nook® and the Amazon Kindle®. Most of these electronic editions are downloadable from http://davidsonpress.com (the Davidson Press web site), or through links located on the ISV Foundation’s web site at http://isv.org/.