The Truth New Testament by Colin Urquhart

For more than thirty years I have been involved in various manifestations of the Charismatic Movement here in the UK, and more recently also in the USA. In that time I have seen many good things and also some less than good. Very often among those less good things has been Charismatic preachers’ use of the Bible. I have noticed a strong tendency to use very literal Bible versions (NASB has often been a favourite) and to support sermon points with very dubious exegesis of those versions.

Colin UrquhartAmong the UK Charismatic leaders I have long had great respect for is Colin Urquhart. So I was interested to discover, only yesterday for the first time, that he has translated and published his own version of the New Testament, called simply The Truth New Testament. And this version is by no means another literal translation. Here, for example, is John 1:1:

Jesus is the Word. He existed in the beginning, before time began. This Word was with God and, indeed, the Word was God.

The surprising claim is made that

The Truth New Testament is the first UK translation of the New Testament for 50 years.

That can only be true because this version was published in 2009, and so predates N.T. Wright’s 2011 The New Testament for Everyone, sold in the USA as The Kingdom New Testament. Also, to be pedantic, the claim is true only if restricted to translations into standard English, as in those 50 years there were at least two new Welsh translations, one in Scots (not to be confused with Gaelic), and various attempts into English dialects, as well as numerous versions in world languages largely translated and published in the UK.

The Truth New Testament seems to be a genuine translation from the original Greek, not a paraphrase. Urquhart is clearly not a New Testament scholar and theologian in the same league as Wright (but then is anyone?), but he studied for the Church of England ministry (which he left in the 1970s) at a time when he probably had to learn Greek to a reasonable level.

Here is part of Colin Urquhart’s introduction to the version, as found also on its website but here edited and reformatted to match the printed text:

Having been a preacher and teacher of God’s Word for over 45 years, I have a great love for the scriptures. I have been devoted to bringing understanding of its significance for modern living to people in over 40 nations, where I have had the privilege of ministering in the name of Jesus Christ.

As someone who has been interpreted into several languages I am familiar with the process of translating the meaning of the truth from one language to another. I have been blessed with many wonderful interpreters over the years. They have impressed on me that the best interpreters do not necessarily translate what I say literally, but express what I say in a way that will be understood clearly in their own language.

As the principal of a Bible College, among several other aspects of ministry, I have always been deeply concerned that any version of the New Testament should be accurate. But I have also been acutely aware that people will only translate God’s Word into action in their lives if they clearly understand its meaning and implications for them personally.

I mention these things so that you can understand the principles behind this particular version, ‘The Truth’. Any translation inevitably involves a certain amount of interpretation.

There are two types of translation available today. Some are strict word by word or phrase by phrase translations. These are accurate translation of the original Greek text, but do not necessarily draw out the meaning of the text. On the other extreme are modern paraphrases which are certainly edifying but often seem to depart from the original. I believe that God wanted me to chart a middle course between these two extremes.

I sought to do this by first translating the text literally, and then asking the questions, ‘What does this mean? How would you express this in today’s world, with the modern mindset that people have?’

It seemed an awesome task to maintain accuracy with the Greek text and yet have the freedom to expand the translation where necessary so that it can be readily understood. This I have done by sometimes giving the literal translation of the Greek followed by another phrase that puts the same truth in another way that can be readily appreciated by the reader.

I sensed the Lord encouraging me in this by reminding me frequently that this exactly what a good preacher does. He reads the Word and explains it. Yet this had to be done without turning this edition into either a commentary or a study Bible! The text needed to be easily readable and readily understood.

I intend to review the text of this version. But this post is already long enough, so I will leave that to a follow-up post.

The Truth New Testament is available from amazon.co.uk: paperback £10.80, Kindle edition £4.62, hardback study edition £14.99; also at amazon.com: Kindle edition $7.13, print editions available only as over-priced special imports. (Disclosure: these are affiliate links.)

11 Comments

  1. Ted
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Wouldn’t William Barclay’s translation of the New Testament which was published in 1969 be considered a UK translation?

  2. Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Ted, I guess you are right. I found that claim hard to believe when I first saw it. The only get-out that Urquhart might have is that Barclay’s version seems to have been published by a US publisher, Westminster John Knox Press.

  3. Ted
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Yes, it was later picked up by the Westminster John Knox Press, but I believe that the original UK edition was a two volume hardback set published by Collins.

    I also know of a UK translation from 1973 called the Translator’s New Testament that was released by British and Foreign Bible Society.

  4. Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I have now found details of the Fontana/Collins edition from 1968. And The Translator’s New Testament is at least a UK publication. Also there is the New English Bible NT from 1961, and the Revised English Bible from 1989 – according to Michael Marlowe’s somewhat tendentiously annotated list. So this claim for The Truth New Testament is certainly inaccurate.

  5. Bradley J. Weidemann
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    When Urquhart writes, “What does this mean? How would you express this in today’s world, with the modern mindset that people have?” isn’t he echoing something that Martin Luther also said?

  6. Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Good question, Bradley. I realise that Urquhart was not being original here. It is a commonplace in meaning-based translation theory. But whether this thought can be traced back to Luther, I don’t know.

  7. Posted January 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    The Revised English Bible in 1989 was also in the past 50 years. I know it is a revision, but it is quite an extensive revision.

    I’m curious why the publishers keep this version such a big secret and do not seem to permit it to be used in electronic software, other than on their own website.

    It is quirky and stuffy at times, but i like it because it is not a slight variation on the KJV-RSV-NASB-NIV-ESV tradition but has some fresh, original renderings.

  8. Posted January 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, David. I am guessing that Urquhart or his publicity team discounted REB as a revision, and wrongly thought NEB was a couple of years older than it is. Either that or they just didn’t do their homework properly.

  9. Dru Brooke-Taylor
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    The REB is available for Accordance and possibly eSword. However, it is a complete bible except for the extra books added to the NRSV Apocrypha. So perhaps the basis of Colin Urquhart’s claim is that the REB is not a “translation of the New Testament”. If so, it seems to me misleadingly pedantic.

  10. Posted January 29, 2012 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the REB info, Dru

  11. John Macintly
    Posted July 2, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think that it really matters whether it was the first translation in 50 years or not, it seems that what he has attempted (very successfully I might add) here is to produce a fresh, compelling and very readable version of the new testament and one which I and I’m sure many others have benefited from immensely.


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