Trying out the Williams NT Bible Translation

[Before I begin typing about the topic at hand, let me use this space to apologize to the many of you who have e-mailed me using my AT&T address over the last week-or-so.  I now use Gmail (same address, otherwise), and I keep forgetting to check my AT&T Inbox.  If you’ve e-mailed me there, I will try to respond soon!]

A new (new to me, that is) Bible translation I ordered came in earlier today, and I thought I might post about it to see if any of you have feelings one way or another about it.  It is the Williams New Testament, a private translation by Dr. Charles Bray Williams first published back in 1937.

[Of course, being a New Testament only, it is only a “semi-Bible” in that sense. 🙂 ]

It caught my eye for Dr. Brey’s careful attention to the translation of Greek verbs, for which it has been praised by some.  I referred to it in my recently taped telecast “Seven Signs of the Antichrist” and, having looked into it, decided it was worth getting, especially since it was available for such a reasonable price at

Having checked it out a bit, it is clear that Dr. Williams’ theology has affected his translation in places, but this is ever going to be the case, and it doesn’t mean that the translation is not without its merits.  I don’t anticipate its replacing my usual references to the NKJV, NASB, et al. any time soon, but as another resource to help me rightly divide the word of truth (cf. 2 Tim 2:15), I hope it can be a worthwhile tool in that regard.

So, let me open the comments up to youFirst, are any of you familiar with the Williams New Testament?  If so, let me know your opinion of its merits or weaknesses.  Secondly — a more general question — other than the “major” or popular translations (KJV, NKJV, RSV, NASB, ESV, NIV, Douay Rheims, etc.), are there any lesser known translations out there that anyone can comment on in terms of usefulness?  (As examples of what I am talking about, some of you might be familiar with the Moffatt, Cassirer, or Fenton translations.)

[BTW: There are a few translations that I know of that I am not interested in giving Internet space to, as I believe they have blatantly deceptive content.  If I see a reference to one of those and I believe that giving it potential advertising would violate my conscience, I will try to write you to let you know why your comment did not appear.  Still, this should not happen often!  Also, just because I don’t delete a translation reference from the comments, please don’t think that it means I endorse the translation.]

Enough set up…  Let me know what you think!

11 thoughts on “Trying out the Williams NT Bible Translation

  1. I’ve found that the Recovery Version has some interesting translations.

    Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. But the earth became waste and emptiness, and darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was brooding upon the surface of the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.”

    1 John 5:7 For there are three who testify,
    The Spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are unto the one thing.

    Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

    I found one in the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble and decided to pick it up. I have it in my office if you would like to take a look next time you’re in town.


  2. Craig

    Thanks for this excellent posting. I heard many years ago of the merits of both the William’s & Fenton NTs and have wanted copies but never been able to get them. The link you provided was fabulous since William’s Canadian distributor is near where our services are held. Will contact them. Now to get Fenton (although it is readable on the net.).

    You did not mention the J.B. Phillips NT, which I find excellent in some cases. Also Moffatt, which was a personal favorite of HWA, I have used for decades.

    I have a friend who swears (figuratively) by Young’s Literal Translation, which can be a good reference.

    A personal favorite of mine is one you might not be aware of, the Jewish New Testament, (Jewish New Testament Publications, ISBN 965-359-003-0). It tries to restore the original Jewishness of the NT writings, compared to some modern translations that try to do the opposite. For example, Rom. 10:4 is translated, “For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah…”

  3. I never heard of the Williams New Testament. Your post has perked my curiosity, however.

    For the most part, I use the KJV and the NKJV. (I prefer the Masoretic and Received texts to begin with).

    I have several Bibles that I refer to. I like Moffatt and Young’s Literal Translation. I also like The Living New Testament published by Campus Life in 1967.

    The LNT was a paraphrased translation geared towards young adults. Simple clean language and fairly accurate.

  4. Norbert

    “First, are any of you familiar with the Williams New Testament? If so, let me know your opinion of its merits or weaknesses.”

    I was not familiar with it so I decided to find as much info about as is available without reading it. Thank you for the link, it does share some internal content within the reviews.

    What is quoted from Dr. Tilley’s review and the example he uses is, “The translation frequently resonates with an earthy vernacular {idiom}. In Acts 16:11, ‘we sailed from Troy and struck a bee line for Samothrace.’”

    That could be a weakness yet with merit. While it does have some merit, that it does offer contemporary clarity, I do wonder how well Dr. Williams uses ‘earthy vernacular’ throughout his translation. Seeing that “bee line” is a present day idiom and with my limited wisdom in textual criticism, I would have to ask is euthudromeo (which is translated as “bee line” in the William’s translation while “we came with a straight course” in the literal translations), an ancient Greek idiom to begin with?

    If it is not an idiom then where else has Dr. Williams used one where it isn’t totally necessary? However if euthudromeo is an idiom a person might begin to wonder where the literal translations convert idioms to plain English! 🙂

    Now just on the merit side, John Mostert, a faculty member at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago wrote:

    “As students of the Greek New Testament are well aware, the present tense in the Greek possesses the predominant idea of continuing action; the imperfect, durative action in the past; the aorist, punctiliar action; and the perfect, completed action. Observe how Williams treats the Greek verbs in his rendering of Luke 7:22,23. This is typical of his handling of the present tense:

    …“Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind ‘are seeing’ and the crippled ‘are walking’, the lepers ‘are being healed’, the deaf ‘are hearing’, the dead ‘are being raised’, and the poor ‘are having’ the good news preached to them.” (‘___’ designate the verbs in question.)”

    I believe the merit to express that verse in that particular way provides the reader with the understanding that those words are more real, vibrantly alive and actually occurring, compared to something that is theoretical and in the background. “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed…”

    By the sounds of it, Dr. Williams’s translation would make for an exciting read! On the other hand, when it comes to all the bells and whistles with the great signs and wonders. I still like to ponder what is mentioned in the passage surrounding 1 Ki 19:12

    “Secondly — a more general question — other than the “major” or popular translations (KJV, NKJV, RSV, NASB, ESV, NIV, Douay Rheims, etc.), are there any lesser known translations out there that anyone can comment on in terms of usefulness?”

    Recently I ran across other translations while re examining the Wednesday crucifixion scenario, seeing that there is also a Thursday crucifixion doctrine around.

    The translations are:

    The New Berkeley Version in Modern English– Gerrit Verkugl

    The Syriac New Testament Translated Into English from The Peshitto Version — James Murdock

    The simple rebuttal of Lu 24:21 by putting the word since in quotation marks take a pretty good hit because of its simplicity. A simplicity the Thursday doctrine does a rather good job of taking advantage of right from the get go. Friday proponents can also mention it.

    You see by using the popular translations the Thursday proponents can actually turn the word “since” into meaning Thursday. Perhaps Mr. Wallace you can appreciate the following math they use. 🙂

    As an authority to establish why “since” can only mean Thursday, they use Peter’s trip to Cornelius and Lu 13:32 to prove that the ancient culture spoke of time differently from ours today. “Since” to the people of Jesus’ time has a different meaning than “since” to us today. The people during that time expressed the counting of days inclusively and not exclusively as we do today.

    So when they read Lu 24:21 it turns into this reasoning.

    to day (Sunday) is the third day since these things were done.

    To day (Saturday) is the second day since these things were done.

    To day (Friday) is the first day since these things were done.

    Thus To day (Thursday) is the day the thing was done.

    That is where the New Berkeley Version and the Syriac New Testament begin to lend clarity to the verse.

    “Moreover, three days have already passed, since all these events occurred” (NBV) plus “…and lo, three days have passed since all these things have occurred.” (SNT) and so the KJV would more correctly read “today is after the third day since these things were done.” It could be said to understand that verse properly is as subtle as understanding where to put the comma in “Assuredly, I say to you today you will be with Me in Paradise.” And those two translations have picked up on that.

    But considering all of the above the internet does contain most of the translations a person could use, as far as I know there are three good web sites that offer numerous translations. Plus Strong’s concordance would be the first thing I would think of adding if I only had one Bible.

  5. Norbert

    I’m wondering if the above comment is clear enough. Would adding the following into the previous statement, just after “The people during that time expressed the counting of days inclusively and not exclusively as we do today.” and before “So when they read Lu 24:21 it turns into this reasoning” make it more clear?

    As an example if today were the 10th and I let you know we should meet in two days, that would be the 12th. However if someone during Jesus time say the same thing, because the 10th is included as a day, it would mean the 11th to them.

    If possible I’ll leave it to your discretion.

    Just a thought and thanks much again for your blog.

  6. Randall Moran

    There is certainly no shortage of Bible translations out there and study tools abound. One could spend a fortune on research materials and translations. However, the most comprehensive collection I have come across is available on the internet for free. The Online Bible is a software application that includes a multitude of Bible translations including the Williams NT. It also includes concordances, commentaries and a plethora of other resources including maps. A few of the translations are copyrighted and have a nominal fee to use them but, for the most part it is free. I use every translation and tool I can get my hands on to gain a good understanding of God’s word and the Online Bible provides a centralized study and research center with the ability to compare versions, notes and commentaries side-by-side. Since no single translation is flawless, I use an interlinear style of display so I can compare translations simultaneously. For those who are interested in comparing the Williams NT to other translations, the Online Bible would be a fast and efficient way of doing so. The application and associated resources can be downloaded (again for free) at the following web site:

    I have used the Online Bible for years and I believe it is the best Bible study tool available at any price. I hope you also find it useful and valuable.

  7. D Lindemann

    There are a number of more good, but obscure, Bible translations that you may find interesting and useful. Some include:

    1. Pioneer’s New Testament by Ruth P Martin – a top notch translation.
    2. The New Testament in Modern English – Helen Montgomery (1924)
    3. Norlie’s Simplified New Testament
    4. The Holy Bible – An American Translation – William Beck
    5. The Bible – An American Translation – Smith & Goodspeed
    6. The Holy Bible in its Original Order – Coulter
    7. A Non-Ecclesiastical New Testament – Frank Daniels – (an excellent translation).
    8. Holy Bible Recovery Version (1st Ed without biased notes) – Living Stream Ministries – The translation itself is very accurate.
    9. Holy Bible from The Ancient Eastern Manuscripts – George Lamsa (for something different)
    10. Complete Jewish Bible – David Stern – (Both OT and NT – Jewish New Testament Publications).
    11. Modern Language Bible (New Berkeley Version) – The NIV of its day but more accurate.
    12. Revised English Bible
    13. Gods Word – World Publishing
    14. NET Bible – (both accurate and readable)
    15. Good News Translation (1992 revision)
    16. Christian Community Bible
    17. The New Testament – Richmond Lattimore
    18. Aramian Peshitta New Testament – Magiera
    19. EOB: New Testament – (highly recommended)
    20. JPS Tanakh Holy Scriptures – Jewish Publication Society – (highly recommended).
    21. The Bible in Living English – Steven Byington (This translation DOES NOT have ANY JW bias although published by the Watch Tower Tract Society).
    22. The Holy New Covenant – Galilee Project Team
    23. Holman Christian Standard Bible – (prefer it over the ESV, NASB)
    24. New Jerusalem Bible
    25. The Geneva Bible (1560 translation fascimile) – Henderson Publishing
    26. Darby Bible
    27. The Last Days Bible – (NT Prophecy Edition) Life Messengers Pub. (take it with a grain of salt).
    28. The New Testament – Kleist & Lilly

  8. Thank, Mr. Lindemann, that’s quite a list. A few of those I have, a few I want, and a few would be better if the space between their covers wasn’t choking in bad commentary. 🙂

  9. Randy Martens

    I absolutely love the Williams translation! As others have pointed out, Charles Williams was a master at Greek verbs. Reading the Bible in the original languages is the best way to understand it’s profound insights, but the second best way is to read it through a superb translation, and Williams’ is second to none!

  10. There is one I don’t see mentioned here, it’s hard to get these days, but it is useful indeed once one understands the limitations of its Greek text (the famous Vatican MS.): Benjamin Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott (Greek-English NT), published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It makes a fine and so far as I know, scrupulously accurate distinction between definite and emphatic articles. The English version is much better than the New World Translation published later by the JW’s. It is the only version I’ve seen thus far which makes clear the meaning of 1 John: presently we are “begotten” of God the Father, not “born” of Him. (The distinction in Greek actually is that between the role of the father and the role of the mother in the same process of conception to bringing a child into the world: the father begets, this is the primary meaning, and the mother bears.) It also helps one understand what Jesus is saying when he describes the Holy Spirit as the Comforter; he alternates between neuter and masculine, but while Comforter is indeed a personal word for a personal role, Jesus is using a figure of speech and in fact he tells his disciples he said that and everything else in his monologue in figures of speech. 🙂

    I’ve only seen a very little of Williams so can pass no judgment on it presently.

    In my Bible study I use the Meir Letteris Edition (technically the second one) of the Masoretic Text (the Hebrew/Aramaic text), and also the Franz Delitsch Hebrew New Testament for its elegance and overall accuracy in Classical Hebrew. I only look at the Greek text families when I really need to be sure on something, and even then I must use parsing-coded texts. Hebrew, not Greek, has been my specialty. I keep up the practice in Hebrew and it’s taught me as a side effect a sort of cultural rooting in my northern-Israelite heritage without mistaking biblical faith for Judaic faith or ideology.

    Delitzsch was a Lutheran Jew and so his version has most of the typical Protestant weaknesses but I much prefer it to The Complete Jewish Bible in English. If one is going to “go Hebraic”, why not learn to read in Hebrew? It’s not as hard as most people suppose. Learning the basics is easy. Mastering the language – that’s hard! – but the effort pays off handsomely. And the task is much easier with the Classical/Prayerbook Hebrew of the Delitzsch NT than with much of the Masoretic OT.

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