A Trilogy of Errors
The Plain English Bible, The International English Bible, and The Simple English Bible

Laurence M. Vance, Ph.D. Vance Publications

The flood of new Bible versions continues unabated. It is bad enough when one more new version is published. It is even worse when a publisher releases two. But three is just too much, and results in a trilogy of errors that will further confuse the Christian.

The latest new version is called The Great Book. It is subtitled on the front and back covers The New Testament in Plain English. On the title page it is called The New Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ in Plain English. The actual name, however, is The Plain English Bible (PEB), although it contains just the New Testament.

Although many modern versions claim to be translated into plain English, the original "Plain English Bible" was the 1952 translation of Charles K. Williams, The New Testament: A New Translation in Plain English. This was followed by two works by Alan T. Dale: New World: The Heart of the New Testament in Plain English (1967) and Winding Quest: The Heart of the Old Testament in Plain English (1972).

The claim is made on the back cover of the PEB that every word was translated "from the original Greek text into plain English." However, in the Introduction we find that "not one but several editions of the Greek text were relied upon." These are Westcott and Hort, Nestle, Bover, Hodges and Farstad, Stephanus, and that of the United Bible Society.

The Introduction to the PEB claims that it "may be the most useful one for a majority of English speakers." The PEB "is one of the clearest translations ever written. It is a key to the treasure chest!" Because it "was designed primarily to communicate to a wide spectrum of people throughout the whole world," the PEB uses "only easy phrase structures and draws from a vocabulary of about three thousand words." The publisher (Destiny Image of Shippensburg, PA—a Charismatic outfit) also claims in its catalog that the PEB "reads so smoothly it doesn’t even seem to be a translation."

This translation is said to be by "specialized scholars," with "impeccable" qualifications who "took many years" to complete "this monumental achievement." The translators are part of International Bible Translators, and the "Bible Translation Committee" (all with doctor’s degrees) includes the renowned Greek lexicographer F. Wilbur Gingrich, Jack P. Lewis, C. H. McCord, Clyde M. Woods, S. T. Kang (said to be "a worldclass expert on Sumerian," but how this relates to translating New Testament Greek is unclear), Gary T. Burke, and Milo Hadwin. The chairman is Dr. Stanley L. Morris, who "served as an editor in the Translation Department of the American Bible Society from 1968 to 1972 under the world-famous linguist, Dr. Eugene A. Nida."

The "endorsements page" for the PEB has recommendations from W. A. Criswell, Cliff Barrows (of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association), an anesthesiologist, an attorney, the president of African Christian Hospitals Foundation, and two pastors.

Like most other modern versions of the Bible, the PEB omits Matthew 17:21, 18:11; Mark 7:16, 9:44, 46, 11:26, 15:28, Luke 17:36, 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37, 15:34, 24:7, 28:29; and Romans 16:24.

The PEB also makes the usual changes to other verses: Joseph is Christ’s "father" in Luke 2:33, the words of Malachi are ascribed to "Isaiah" in Mark 1:2, the day of Christ is changed to the "Day of the Lord" in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, an "eagle" speaks in Revelation 8:13 instead of an angel. God is not manifest in the flesh in 1 Timothy 3:16, instead "Christ appeared in a human body." You should "admit your sins" instead of "confess your faults" (Jam. 5:16). Those after the church age who "wash their robes" can partake of the tree of life instead of those who "do his commandments" (Rev. 22:14). Naturally, the warning against corrupting the word of God is changed in 2 Corinthians 2:17 to "We are not like many people who sell God’s message." The word "hell" is also usually altered to something else (e.g., Mat. 11:23; Acts 2:27; Rev. 1:18).

Some standard omissions from verses include: "without a cause" (Mat. 5:22), "and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" (Mat. 19:9), "and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt" (Mark 9:49), "but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4), "struck him on the face" (Luke 22:64), "even the Son of man which is in heaven" (John 3:13), "on me" (John 6:47), "going through the midst of them, and so passed by" (John 8:59), "Christ" (Acts 16:31), "I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem" (Acts 18:21), "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1), "Thou shalt not bear false witness" (Rom. 13:9), "for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof" (1 Cor. 10:28), "Lord" (2 Cor. 4:10), "that ye should not obey the truth" (Gal. 3:1), "of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 3:14), "through his blood" (Col. 1:14), "Lord" (1 Tim. 1:1), "our Saviour" (Tit. 1:4), "by himself" (Heb. 1:3), and didst set him over the works of thy hands" (Heb 2:7), "for us" (1 Pet. 4:1), and "before the throne of God" (Rev. 14:5). Half of Luke 9:55-56 is also omitted, as is half of Acts 9:5-6 and 1 John 5:7-8.

The PEB also contains some peculiar changes. The word believe is now "commit," giving us "Every person who commits himself to Jesus" (John 3:16) and "Commit yourself to the Lord Jesus" (Acts 16:31). The word church is now "congregation" (Mat. 18:17, 1 Cor. 1:2) or "community (Mat. 16:18, 1 Tim. 3:16). Because traditional "religious" words like saints, repentance, baptism, justification, and redemption "do not teach the root meanings of the original Greek text, a special effort has been made to translate all these terms into expressions that can be understood by everyone."

There is nothing on this Bible’s cover or title page or anywhere in its Introduction or text to indicate that it is anything but a recently-completely, newly-published version of the Bible. The copyright date is given as 2003. It is even termed "this first edition" in the Introduction. However, there is something strangely familiar about this Bible. Back in 2001, the same publisher (Destiny Image) released the God Chasers Extreme New Testament. The real name of this version (given on the front and back covers as well as on the title page and in the Introduction) is The International English Bible. It is also said to be "the most useful" new translation. And it too was translated by International Bible Translators. The Plain English Bible and The International English Bible are in fact the exact same translation. The text is the same—even the notes are the same.

Publishing the same Bible under two different names is bad enough. But it is much worse than that. The back of the title page in The International English Bible says that it was "previously published as The Simple English Bible, New Testament." The Simple English Bible, which I also happen to have on my shelf, has a copyright dates of 1978 and 1980 for the international edition and 1981 for the American edition. The copyright holder is listed as International Bible Translators. Like The International English Bible, it has the exact same text and notes as The Plain English Bible. This means that the same Bible has been published under not two but three different names. No wonder all three Bibles are united in changing this verse: "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10).

The Plain English Bible, The International English Bible, and The Simple English Bible—three different names but a trilogy of errors nonetheless.


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