Develops first press run of the International Standard Version of the Bible -- the ISV.
Develops first press run of the International Standard Version of the Bible -- the ISV. Read more
About this project
The Holy Bible: International Standard Version® -- the ISV®
The Origins of the ISV
Before the ISV Bible translation project was undertaken, it was essential that the need for such a translation project be investigated. Although several widely used translations already existed in English, none of these seemed fully satisfactory.
Excessively Literal vs. Excessively Idiomatic
In some cases, the translations examined were deemed to be excessively literal; many of the phrases were found to be unnatural and heavy, and the language used was in many cases archaic. In other cases, the general language and style of the translation were found to be fully adequate, but the level of paraphrasing was so high that people had difficulty using the translation in preaching, teaching, and personal study. Occasionally, the paraphrase of some of the sample texts examined in our initial review was actually the opposite of what the original language actually said!
In both cases, the need was for a translation that was both accurate and readable, dignified and literary. In other words, it was the coherence of the text as a whole and the accuracy of information provided to the reader that needed to be corrected. This could never be done on a piecemeal or haphazard basis.
In view of this situation, a new translation of the Bible in contemporary English was deemed to be justified. This new translation was called the International Standard Version (ISV). The ISV was researched to embody the best results of modern scholarship as to the meaning of Scripture, and was crafted to express this meaning in clear and natural English.
The translators intended that the ISV be employed for liturgical and pulpit uses as well as for devotional reading, Bible study, and reading in the home. The ISV was intended to be a moderately literal translation and the Committee on Translation sought to avoid the paraphrasing tendencies of some modern versions.
The ISV’s new translation concept would require a new translation paradigm. Neither the “literal” nor the “idiomatic” paradigm was considered sufficient. The ISV’s Committee on Translation opted for a third alternative. They called it the “literal-idiomatic” paradigm. Its goal: accuracy and excellence in communication.
The ISV was developed by seeking a compromise between formal equivalence and functional equivalence, highlighted by attempting to stay as close to the source text as possible without losing communication. The target reading level in English was 8th-9th grade.
Fair, Accurate, Non-Interpretive
Further, the Committee on Translation opted not to insert theological biases or preferences into the translation of the text of the ISV. If the meaning of a portion of text was ambiguous in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, the translators opted to reflect the ambiguities as ambiguities, rather than to “help” the reader by “interpreting” the text.
The Features of the ISV for Its Readers
The ISV Bible presents a number of features to its readers:
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 is not a revision of the King James Bible or a modern redrafting of the classic American Standard Version of 1901.
The ISV was produced by Bible scholars who believe that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” – 2 Timothy 3:16 (ISV 2.0)
The ISV references the most ancient manuscripts available, and the most recent archaeological discoveries. The translators of the ISV have selected the English equivalent that most closely reflects the meaning of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.
The ISV is a Computer-Friendly Translation.
The ISV was the first English Bible conceived, designed, translated, and formatted primarily for a computer-literate generation. It was produced entirely in a computer aided media format. In its electronic format, the ISV became the first Bible translation ever published with version numbers, reminiscent of fine software.
Electronic editions are currently available to support the Amazon Kindle® MOBI file format as well as the Barnes and Noble Nook® EPUB format, which is also compatible with the Apple iPhone® and iPad® devices. A variety of smart phone devices are also supported. Printed copies of the ISV also contain version numbers, and will be updated every five to ten years to allow its readers to be equipped with the latest changes and improvements to the text.
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 New Testament author. As a result, passages that would have been read as poetry by first century readers actually appear in poetic form in the ISV New Testament.
For example, see Christ’s complaint to the Pharisees recorded in Luke 7:32-35, 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 “faithful sayings” of Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15, 1 Timothy 3:1, 1 Timothy 4:8, and 2 Timothy 2:11.
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. To the best of our knowledge and belief, this level of translational accuracy has never been attained in any English language translation produced to date.
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.
The Committee 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.
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.
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 for Isaiah and 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 is a Literal-Idiomatic Translation.
The translation theory behind the ISV is different 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. Some of these translations are quite literal (e.g., the King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV®), the American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB®), the Revised Standard Version (RSV®), and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV®).
Other translations lean toward the idiomatic end of the spectrum (e.g., the New International Version (NIV®), the New English Bible (NEB®), the Revised English Bible (REB®), the Good News Bible (GNB®), the New Living Translation (NLT®), and the Contemporary English Version (CEV®).
It is clear that each of these methods of Bible translation has its unique strengths and weaknesses. 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.
The ISV respects the scholarship of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Unlike other modern English translations of the Bible, the ISV does not use the traditional Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Scriptures as the base language original for rendering much of the English language translation of the ISV Old Testament. Instead, the book of Isaiah was translated directly from the text of the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa), which was found among the Qumran Cave 1 collection of manuscripts and dates from the mid-second century BC. In contrast, the Masoretic Text dates much later, from c. 950-1050 AD.
The Benefits of the ISV to its Readers
The ISV presents a number of benefits to its readers. Among them are the following:
The ISV is international.
You won’t find slang, national colloquialisms, or confusing regionalisms. Readers whose English is their second language will love the elegant style and composition of the ISV Bible.
The ISV is standard.
The ISV is perfect for use in public worship services and for private Bible studies.
The ISV is original.
No mere revision of a once useful, but now outdated translation, the ISV is no mere paraphrase, either. Unlike so many other English translations that employ the word “NEW” in their titles (but they’ve really been on the market for decades or more) the ISV is totally new. It comes directly from the original languages of the Bible.
The ISV is accurate.
It’s quite possibly the most insightful version of the Bible you’ll ever read.
The ISV is distinctive.
Subtle nuances of the original languages stand out with a crystal clarity that will astonish you. For example, poetic passages such as Philippians 2:6-11 and Titus 3:4-7 have been painstakingly crafted as true poems. The result: you can actually feel the undistorted sense of the original literary form insightfully rendered in clear English.
The ISV is readable.
Passages flow smoothly in clear, natural English. Despite the intense translational accuracy that is brought to the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts of the Bible, the ISV can be read with understanding even by those for whom English is a second language.
The ISV is contemporary.
The ISV conveys the thoughts, intents, and words of the original text of the Bible in language readers can understand, appreciate, and apply to their lives today.
The ISV is trustworthy.
World-class translators and consulting scholars for the ISV are clearly identified by name and by their credentials on the ISV Foundation’s web site http://isv.org, so you know that the original intent of the authors of Scripture has been rendered with integrity and faithfulness.
The ISV is insightful.
Thousands of detailed footnotes provide comprehensive insights into the meaning and background of the Biblical text. Exhaustive footnotes on the latest Dead Sea Scroll discoveries are even included!
The ISV is intergenerational.
The ISV is the first Bible translation specifically crafted for our computer-literate generations. The ISV is the first and only translation of the Bible ever produced with version numbers in both printed and software editions. Readers can be confident that they’re in possession of the latest scholarship pertaining to the most readable and accurate Bible translation ever produced.
About the Publisher and the Translators.
Davidson Press publishes the International Standard Version Bible and other related works.
The company is owned by a charitable trust and by the ISV Foundation for charitable and educational purposes.
The ISV Foundation is a California non-profit organization. It has been recognized as exempt under §501(c)(3) of the IRS Code for over 40 years.
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