Review of the “Better Version” of the New Testament

By Luther W. Martin

(Editor’s Note: For many years, Brother Luther Martin has been an avid student of various translations. He owns one of the best collections of translations held by any individual. I specifically requested that he review the new translation made by Brother Chester Estes., Luther wrote the following paragraphs, intending that they be published as three separate articles. But lest his first article appear petty, since it alludes to typographical errors only, I have chosen to publish all three articles as one. Brother Martin has been asked to write three other articles regarding translations, and their proper and improper usage. Brother Estes’ translation entitled the “Better Translation” may be ordered from Truth Magazine Bookstore. The price is $7.00.)

The “Better Version” of the New Testament is the ,. work of Brother Chester Estes, Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It has never been my privilege to, meet Brother Estes. However, I have been requested to evaluate this new version and I shall do so to the extent of my limited ability.

Typographical Errors

Normally, one expects the New Testament to be free from proof-reader’s mistakes and printer’s errors; therefore it is quite a disappointment when one encounters such flaws in this version.

In Matthew 12, verse 38 is mis-numbered “28”.

In Mark 3:4, the word “to” is omitted: “Then he said (to) them.”

In Mark 7:35, the verse number is left out, as is the expression: “And straightway his ears were opened.”

In Mark 15, verse 43 is not numbered.

The word “Sanhedrin” is sometimes capitalized, other times not.

In John 18:13, “has” is printed for the word “was”.

In. John 20:24, Didymas is.spelled with an “a”: in John 21:2, it is spelled “Didymus.” (This is not important to the gospel message, but it does show carelessness in producing the final publication.)

In Acts 4:20, the verse number is ” 21″.

In Acts 5:5, ‘the “Spirit” referring to the spirit of Ananias, is capitalized; in verse 10, Sapphira’s “spirit” is ,not capitalized. Neither of them should be.

In Acts 7, two “verse 9’s” are listed. Actually, the first “9” should be “8”.

In Acts 8:22, the word “entreat” is used: in verse 24, it is spelled “intreat”. Consistency should prevail.

In Acts 13:5, Salamis is mis-spelled “Salimas.”

In Acts 16:7, Bithynia is correctly spelled. In 1 Pet. 1:1 it is “Bithyna.”

In Acts 18:24, it reads .. . . “Apollos, who was a native of Alexander . . . .” instead of Alexandria.

In Acts 20:29, it reads . . . “after my departure, rapious wolves will enter in among you . . . . ” The word should be spelled “rapacious.” ..

In Acts 21:3, Syria is mis-spelled “Syra.”

In Acts 21:16, “of” is changed to “or”: “. . .Mnason, an old disciple, of Cyprus, with whom we should lodge.”

In Acts 22, verse 15 is completely omitted: verse 16 is labeled “15”.

In Acts 23:35, “praetorium” is not capitalized. In other passages it is.

In reference to “King Agrippa,” sometimes the “K” is capitalized, sometimes not.

In l Cor. 14:8-“And; if the trumpet should given an uncertain sound . . . . ” I presume that the word should have been “give.”

In 2 Cor. 4:2, “falsefying” . . . a mis-spelling of falsifying.

In 2 Cor* 11:32, Aretas is mis-spelled “Arteas.”

In Col. 4:17., the man’s name is spelled “Archipus”: in Philemon 2, if is spelled “Archippus.”

In 1 Thess. 4:15, the word should be spelled “precede” instead of “proceed”.

In 1 Tim. 1:18, the word should be “preceding” instead of “proceeding.”

In 1 Tim. 1:20, the name is spelled “Hymenius”; in 2 Tim. 2:17, it is spelled “Hymenias.”

In 1 Tim. 2:11, it reads . . . “Let a women learn in quietness . . . . ” It should be “woman.”

In Heb. 4:13,- it reads in part . . . “before the eyes of him, to whom we must given an account.” The word should be “give.”

In James 2, we are told of the poor man who was to sit under the footstool. In verse 3, the word “men” is used in place of “man.”

In 1 Peter 1:3, the word resurrection is spelled . . . “resurrrection.”

In 1 Peter 1:13, vigilant is mis-spelled. It is correctly spelled in I Peter 5:8.

In 1 John 3, verse 19 is not numbered, and parts of 18 and 19 appear to be missing.

In 2 John, verse 13 is labeled “12”.

Summary On Typography

Perhaps I have gone into too much detail concerning the foregoing printing and proof-reading errors. But my sincere sympathy goes out to Brother Estes when I think of the years of effort that he must have devoted to this version, only to have it “messed up” by poor proofreading, and possible carelessness. It is not my purpose or intent to harm or embarrass the brother who lists himself as the “Author” of this version. I simply regret that it contained so many mechanical short-comings.

Generally, Brother Estes arrived at some exceptionally good renderings of many New Testament passages. However, as is usually the case with “one man” versions, there are some things left to be desired.

General Procedure Followed

Brother Estes does not inform his readers as to which Greek text he used or perhaps what combination of Greek texts used. It is assumed that he used the Textus Receptus as his basic source, inasmuch as he did not imitate one or two of the more modern texts which drop Acts 8:37 or lop off the last twelve verses of the Gospel according to Mark. He is to be commended for this as far as this writer is concerned.

In most instances, the word “belief” is used rather than “faith.” In all cases I believe, “immerse” was used in place of “baptize.” I heartily agree with the goal of translating bapto, baptidzo, and such, instead of making English words out of the Greek. The King James translators were guilty of forming new English words (and many others since then) in place of settling the actual meaning of “baptism.” In 1865 the American Bible Union published an English Version which rendered all usages of the term baptize, as “immerse.” So, this is not new, but it is good.

On the other hand, instead of translating the word sunedrion, Brother Estes rendered it “Sanhedrim” or “Sanhedrims.” The. King James Version had consistently used the word “council” or “councils.” In nearly all instances, I think, Brother Estes rendered charis as “favor,” while we have been used to “grace.” Either term is correct. I am sure there may be other general procedures followed which I have failed to notice.

Another instance of not translating is found in Matt. 17:24 where the Greek coinage, didrachmas, is mentioned in place of “tribute.” In the 27th verse another coin called the stater, is mentioned. For those interested, a stater was equal to four drachma, and didrachma is equal to two drachma. The point is, that a reader of the New Testament should not have to “bone up” on the then current system of coinage. It would be far better to translate it to something equivalent in our system of coinage, so as not to discourage the first casual reading of the New Testament that someone might engage in.

The same charge can be made relative to Luke 12:6 where the King James uses the old English word “farthings,” and Brother Estes has come a little nearer by the word “pence.” In this case, the Greek was not used, but we are about as unfamiliar with “farthings” as we would be, the Greek. The preferred goal is to make the Scriptures more easily read, and more readily understandable.

The `praetorium” is found in John 18:28, 18:33 and 19:9. This is rendered “judgment hall” in the King James, and I believe the KJ is more easily understood. John 12:3 has the expression “pure liquid nard.” The King James uses “ointment of spikenard.” Since there is a word in the text for “ointment” and none for “liquid,” I prefer the KJ. In Acts 7:58, Brother Estes’ version uses the word “mantle.” The King James uses “clothes,” other versions use “garments.” Is not “mantle” archaic? In Acts 12:4, no change was made in the “four quaternions” of soldiers. This is an expression that needs modernizing, such as “four squads” or “four watches of four,” etc.

Another instance of using the Greek instead of translating, occurs in Gal. 3:25, wherein the word `pedagogue” is used. A modern reader would do better with “tutor,” “school-master,” or “trainer.” For ease of understanding “pedagogue” is not the answer! In Gal. 4:15, Brother Estes uses “gratulation” which is also used in the Revised Version. “Felicitation” could be used, but the King James’ “blessedness” is more readily understood.

Summary On General Procedure

Again, perhaps I have dealt with the small, trivial and petty things in this version under study. However, the goal of any version or translation is that of clarifying the message from God to man. Therefore, when it can be reduced to words that stand to be more easily understood by 20th century Americans, these are the terms that should be used.

Some Renderings Considered

Now we wish to comment upon some renderings that, in our limited understanding, lack either accuracy or wise choice.

Matt. 16:19 and Matt. 18:18

“. . . and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven . . .” (16:19). “Whatever you may bind on earth, will be bound in heaven” (18:18). In both of the above, the “Better Version” misses the mark of the original text, wherein Peter and then the twelve are promised the privilege of binding and loosing on earth, that which heaven has pre-determined, should be bound and loosed. As it is given in the BV, the impression is conveyed that heaven would subsequently agree to what Peter and the apostles had previously bound and loosed.

Mark 8:36-37

“For what profit is it to a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? For what could a man give in exchange for his life?” The word psuche is under consideration here, and in this context, the term “life” falls short of the correct meaning. Man stands to lose far more than his “life.” After all, since it is appointed unto a man once to die, and after this, the judgment, man’s “life” is really not so important, but man’s soul is of great importance. The BV has missed the point in this passage, and done truth a disservice.

Luke 11:4

“. . . and lead us not into temptation. . . :’ This excerpt from the prayer which Jesus taught to His disciples has nearly always been so worded in English as to leave the impression that God leads man into temptation . . . a thing which God does not dot (Jas. 1:13). However, the BV did not clarify this passage.

Luke 18:13

“. . .O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

Actually the publican did not really classify himself with others in the use of the article “a” . “a sinner.” In reality, he prayed, “God, be merciful to me the sinner.”. Thus, placing himself in his estimation, below all other men. Again, the BV missed this.

John 14:26; 15:26; and 16:7

In the above passages, the BV uses the word “Advocate” in place of “Comforter.”

Brother Foy E. Wallace, Jr., in his monumental work “A Review of the New Versions, ” page 492, has the following to say about The New English Bible’s use of “Advocate.”

“In the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of John, Jesus promised the Comforter to the apostles. The word is from parakletos, and means to supply, to make adequate, and it is connected with the Lord’s statement that he would not leave the apostles comfortless (14:18)-he would not leave his place with them vacant, he would send the Comforter to fill his place. This Comforter is equated with the Spirit of Truth, which is revelation, inspiration (14:16-17, and 15:26), and is equated with the Holy Spirit (14:26), all of which is equal to “endued (clothed) with power from on high” (Luke 24:49), and therefore means the Holy Spirit baptism promised to and received by the apostles for’ the purpose of inspiration. This is made evident in 14:26 and 16:12-13, in the Lord’s explanation of the functions of the Comforter which only inspiration could fulfill. But in the New English Bible (and also the BV. LWM.) the word “Advocate” is put in place of the Comforter, and the Holy Spirit is thus made Intercessor–but there is one Advocate (1 John 2:1), one Intercessor, one Mediator, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5)-and the term Advocate does not express the office of the Comforter in the apostles, and there is no valid reason to change it.”

Some Good Points

It is not my intention to leave the impression that I disagree with every thing in the BV. Let me list some very good renderings:

Luke 6:41- “splinter” and “beam” are much better than the “mote” of the King James Version.

Luke 18:16-“. . . Permit the little children to come to me, and do not forbid them; for to such like belongs the kingdom of God,” This is a great improvement over “suffer,” etc.

Acts 7:45-Brother Estes used the name Joshua in place of the King James’ error, which used “Jesus.” Brother Estes was right!

Romans 13:7-“Render, therefore, to all his dues; to whom tax is due, pay tax; to whom custom, pay custom; to whom fear, fear; to whom honor, honor.” Another good rendition.

Romans 14:20 and other verses-`Do not, then on account of food, demolish the work of God. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil to that man who eats so as td cause stumbling.” Very good!

1 Cor. 3:6-“I have planted, and Apollo: has watered, but God caused it to grow.”

1 Cor. 3:16-“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells among you?”

1 Cor. 9:26-27-“I do not run, then, with uncertainty; nor do I box as one who beats the air; But I severely discipline my body, and bring it into subjection, lest possibly, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.”

1 Cor. 14:13-14-“If any one, then, speaks is another language, let him pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a foreign language, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.”

1 Cor. 15:33-`Do not be led astray; evil companionship corrupts virtuous habits.” All of the above, are, in my estimation, improvements over the King James Version.

In conclusion, I list some more passages that are worthy of study: Luke 1:4; Luke 8:36; 1 Cor. 14:19; 1 Cor. 15:21; 1 Cor. 15:45; 2 Cor. 3:14; 2 Cor. 9:5; 2 Thess. 1:8; and many other passages.


If a second edition of the BV could be published, with all the typographical errors corrected, it would be a great improvement. But, even better, if Brother- Estes could see fit to improve a relatively small number of passages, it could be yet, an outstanding version.

Truth Magazine XIX: 16, pp. 248-250
February 27, 1975