Source Texts For The International English™ Bible

by Dr. Stanley L. Morris

We determined that an English Bible translation should not come from another English Bible. It should be translated directly from the original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). We are only as accurate as our source texts. Therefore, Bible translators must follow the most reliable, ancient Biblical texts.

The New Testament was originally written in a special type of Greek—Koiné Greek. It was not the Classical Greek of Homer or Plato or Socrates or Aristotle. No, it was in an everyday conversational language used by almost everyone in daily life and commerce throughout the Roman Empire during the first century A.D. What does this word Koiné mean? Well, it’s a Greek word itself. The Greek word koiné is used a dozen times in the Greek New Testament, and it means “common” or “(ceremonially) profane.” For example, in the biblical narrative about Peter and Cornelius found in Acts 10, God showed to Peter in a vision some non-kosher animals and then instructed Peter to eat them. That was unthinkable to an orthodox Jew! Peter responded, “I would never do that, Lord! I have never eaten food which is koinos (common or ordinary)” (Acts 10:14). Originally, how might the New Testament have been written in English, if English had been the original language instead of Greek? We determined that a good translation should evoke the same effects today as the original text did upon those who first heard it. It should be completely natural and normal. That is what The International English Bible has attempted to accomplish. God’s message should be conveyed in today’s mode of speech, not yesterday’s. His Word ought to be expressed in the form that people use every day, a style that seems so ordinary to them that generally they are unaware that it is a translation.

English has already become the most generally-accepted language on planet earth. Eighty percent of all the information used in all the world’s computers is written in the English language. We call it “International English” or “Koiné English”. Not only must a translation “make sense”, but, at the same time, it must conform to the meaning of the original message. In creating The International English™ Bible, we wanted the text to communicate as clearly as possible without giving up technical accuracy. Painstaking effort has been exercised so as not to deviate from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts.

Our main source for the 39 books of the Old Testament was the standard printed edition known as Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS). It represents the text of the Leningrad Codex B19A (L), still the oldest, dated manuscript of the complete Hebrew Bible. So, the Hebrew/Aramaic text on which our translation of the Old Testament is principally based does not represent a reconstructed text (as the standard critical editions of the Greek New Testament do. See these editions listed below.). Sometimes the ancient text represented by the Leningrad Codex occasionally needs to be corrected based on other Hebrew manuscripts, some early versions (such as the Greek Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Syriac Peshitta), as well as the very important biblical manuscripts which were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. Not one but several editions of the Greek New Testament text were relied upon, including the following:

  • B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort, The New Testament in the Original Greek, Revised edition, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1891.
  • Eberhard Nestle, Erwin Nestle, and Kurt Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, 26th edition, Stuttgart: Württembergische Bibelanstalt; New York: American Bible Society, 1963.
  • José M. Bover, Novi Testamenti Biblia Graeca et Latina, 4th edition, Madrid, 1959.
  • Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce Metzger, and Allen Wikgren, The Greek New Testament, 4th edition, London and New York: United Bible Societies, 1993.
  • Zane C. Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad, The Greek New Testament according to the Majority Text, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.
  • The Textus Receptus (the Stephanus edition). This text was mostly based on very late manuscripts which were corrupted early on.

Our process has been an eclectic approach (case-by-case), letting each variant reading stand on the evidence presented for it. Dr. Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London and New York: United Bible Societies, 1971) has been of inestimable value in assessing the proper weight (consideration) to give to the most important variant readings.

As far as the original text is concerned, we are all indebted to the hundreds of anonymous scribes who have toiled to hand down accurate copies of the manuscripts to us today. They have transmitted the ancient texts to us with a high degree of integrity long before the modern age of printing. Also, much is owed to thousands of Bible scholars who have preceded us with their very thorough research. Our deep appreciation goes out to all who helped in countless ways, small and great.