The Gift New Testament gets its name from several ideas: that salvation is a gift, that the Christian community is to be gift-based rather than flesh-based, and that the text is absolutely free in electronic form. The central message of the New Testament is of course the good news of the risen Jesus (the meaning of Gospel), as opposed to bad news or another work-based religion, and was given freely to us all. So no one can claim spiritual or intellectual property rights over it, and it would seem a violation of the Gospel message to demand payment for passing on what we have learned freely from the Spirit. Some would appeal to the right of the worker to be paid, but if the apostle Paul is any example to follow, we should instead say, “Yet I have not exercised any of these rights” (1 Cor. 9:13-15). Printed copies should only be sold at cost, or at minimal royalty if publishers do not allow zero royalty.
This particular translation was based on a variety of Greek manuscripts, largely favoring the earlier ones. Word meanings are from the Liddel and Scott Greek/English Lexicon as primary authority, but the translation also considers the larger context of figures of speech, customs, and plays on words. The Commentary is not claimed to be anything but the translator’s opinions, except where scholars are referenced.
But why make yet another English translation of the New Testament? The radical Gospel message of freedom is often obscured by translation choices that seem more loyal to tradition or ideology than accuracy. But it is nearly impossible to achieve technical accuracy while preserving good communication, which includes the use of figures of speech that only make sense in English by using completely different words than the Greek dictionary meanings would allow. The best solution, it would seem, is to consult an interlinear for technical grammatical information, and a quality lexicon for word meanings. In that way the reader can go right to the source if desired, without having it forced upon them in the translation. Footnotes can provide some additional information on historical perspective, linguistic issues, and conversions for weights and measures. A commentary, while one person or group’s opinion and interpretation (as is also the case for every translation), can be another valuable resource.
No translation can or should last forever, because living languages don't stand still. And since English is an especially volatile language, there is justification for at least some of the many translations. Archaeological finds that improve our understanding of Koine Greek vocabulary are not always incorporated in the popular Bible dictionaries, and there is some evidence of deliberate concession to pressure from special interests to keep some words from being updated, even if they are known to be inaccurate.1 So while too many translations can be more confusing than helpful, it seems better to err on the side of having more eyes examining this sacred text in order to minimize human bias.
Format and Abbreviations
Though individual verses are indicated, the text is arranged into paragraphs which roughly indicate units of thought. Even among scholars there is no unanimous agreement as to where a paragraph, sentence, or chapter should begin or end. But the usefulness of this format is in two primary areas: English readability and keeping verses in their context. The very word “verses” suggests something more akin to poetry or mysterious writings rather than letters written as any others, inspired though they were. Displaying such writings as individual verses also tends to foster “proof-texting.”
Some abbreviations used in the notes include OT or NT for the old and new Testaments, and LXX for the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT from which the NT writers quote).
In many places a verse is indicated without any text. These are instances where the content is deemed non-original. None of these have any effect upon the teachings, events, or truths of the New Testament.
Figures of Speech
The writers of the NT were likely to have been Hebrew thinkers recording Aramaic speech in Greek. Thus we need to be especially careful about interpreting any given expression, considering all the factors involved. All three languages would have their own expressions and colloquialisms, and at times a Hebrew idiom may be expressed in Greek words for example. One such expression is typically “And he spoke to them, saying…,” and this is rendered simply as “And he said to them….”
A similar situation exists concerning word order. Greek word order does not affect meaning for the most part. It can, however, indicate emphasis. John 1:1 ends with “and God was the Word,” but the order simply emphasizes the divinity of the Word.
Phrases that begin with “son of” are often a Hebrew expression for a member of a group. For example, “son of Israel” means an Israeli, “son of God” means one of the God class of beings, and “son of man” means one of the human class of beings. So when Jesus uses these expressions for himself, he is either emphasizing his divinity or his humanity. And when preceded by the definite article (the), it becomes a title, rendered here as The Human or The God-Man.
Koine Greek also tended to use the male gender of words as inclusive; that is, “sons” could be either male or female, while “daughters” were only female. Likewise, “brothers” could also include females. In both cases the male form was used if there was at least one male in the group. It is a term of inclusion, not exclusion. So if the Greek text is ambiguous, the English word “siblings” is used.
Second-Person Pronouns, Proper Names, and Titles
To distinguish between second person singular and plural, the plural is rendered “yous” in the interlinear, rather than “you(pl.).” It is rendered “you” or “you all” in the paragraphs, depending on whether the context clearly indicates that more than one person is in view.
Pronouns associated with God are not capitalized, as no special treatment was given them in the Greek text. But even though nothing else is capitalized either, proper names are always capitalized in English. “Father” is capitalized if it clearly refers to God.
Pronouns and Gender
There is great controversy over the use of the third-person plural pronoun (they) when an individual’s biological gender is unknown. For example, “If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he or she desires a good thing” is more awkward than “If anyone aspires to be an overseer, they desire a good thing.” The word for “anyone” is ambiguous in the Greek; it does not specify male or female. Yet some accuse any translation that does not render it “he desires” of “emasculating” the text. This translation has accuracy and faithfulness to the Greek as its top priority, rather than tradition or prejudice. There is nothing to fear from the truth.
In Greek the Holy Spirit takes the impersonal pronoun (it), though it is clear from the entirety of the NT that the Spirit is a personal entity. For example, the Spirit can be grieved (Eph. 4:30), and some were struck down dead for lying to it (Acts 5:3). Hebrew uses the feminine pronoun (she) for the Spirit of God, but again, this does not make God either feminine or masculine.
God is spirit (John 4:24), not flesh, and thus not gendered. If we insist upon assigning biological traits to that which is not biological, we come closer to myth than scriptural truth. For this reason it is just as wrong to think of God as male as it is to think of God as female or an impersonal force. So if the Greek text uses neuter or feminine terms for any Person of the Trinity, this translation will convey it as such.
The phrase “believe in someone” carries the connotation of blind faith, as one might believe in the tooth fairy. The phrase “believe someone” means to mentally agree with something they said. But “to have faith in someone” or “to trust someone” adds the meaning of personal conviction, of mental assent plus emotional attachment and dedication. That is why the word “trust” was preferred in this translation, since the Koine Greek of the first century did not have our English concept of merely “believing in” someone’s existence without additional contextual information, such as that used in James chapter two. It also avoids the connotation of “faith” as is seen in some Christian communities, who seem to view it almost as a force or power to be manipulated.
The Greek word translated “eternal” has the literal meaning of an age or a time of unknown duration. This does not require a limited time, since eternity is also of unknown duration. Jesus used the same term in Mat. 25:46 for both punishment and life. So if punishment must be limited in duration, then life in heaven is also limited in duration. Some contend that this is indeed the case, but this logically leads to an endless series of ages, which is indistinguishable from eternity.
Cross or Stake?
The Greek word traditionally rendered “cross” referred to an upright stake or pole. But there is a separate word for the actual cross-piece, the board upon which the outstretched arms of the victim were nailed at the wrists. So the net result is the familiar “cross” shape. This translation simply uses “cross” since the distinction of each piece really has no great impact on understanding the text.
As for why the religious leaders wanted Jesus crucified by Rome rather than simply stoning him themselves as they almost did on at least one occasion (and did to Stephen later), there are a number of theories. One is that the night trials were illegal, so they used his claim to be a King as grounds for sedition against Rome, which would require an official Roman execution. Another is that they feared the people would riot if they killed him themselves, though the next day the people would all join in demanding his crucifixion. A third is that they could not execute anyone at all (John 18:31), and that the stoning of Stephen was simply mob violence.
The Greek word ekklEsia is rendered “Congregation” when referring to the community of believers, but uncapitalized when referring to some other gathering. The word sunagogE is transliterated “synagogue” to differentiate it from the community of believers (Christians) or when it clearly refers to the building.
Jew and Gentile
While Jew and Gentile are familiar terms to most people, this translation renders each word as it appears in the Greek: Judean and non-Judean (or “the nations”). Judea was the name of the area, not simply the name of the Hebrew tribe of Judah. All the tribes were represented there, as indicated in such passages as Mat. 19:28, Acts 26:7, Rom. 9:4, and James 1:1.
Times and Dates
A 24-hour day in Israel began at sundown and was divided into segments called “hours” or “watches” (as relates to guard duty). Each “hour” was really a three-hour span, but it was known by its beginning; that is, the “third hour” lasted from 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock, counting from either 6 a.m. or 6 p.m. Going by the position of the sun or moon in the sky made greater precision impractical. But more importantly, the expressions “the third hour” and “almost/about the sixth hour” refer to the same three-hour span, with the latter meaning it was close to the end of that span:
The whole time from the third hour to the sixth, that is, from nine to twelve, was called the third hour; and the whole intervening time from the sixth to the ninth, that is, from twelve to three, is called the sixth hour. John does not say it was the sixth hour, but about or near the sixth hour. So when he says about the sixth hour, and Mark the third hour, we are to understand that Mark takes the whole time of the third hour, from nine to twelve, and that John puts it near twelve. So in either case our Lord was sentenced between the hours of nine and twelve. [David Lipscomb (1831-1917), A Commentary on the Gospel According to John, p. 295-296].
Calendar, Holy Days, Feasts, Festivals
Israel used a lunar calendar, meaning the beginning of a month was marked by the first sighting of the waxing (increasing) crescent moon. Thus the full moon occurred approximately in the middle of the month. The first month of the year was the beginning of spring (our March/April) and was called Nisan (or Aviv/Abib, after the ripening of the barley harvest). This was stipulated by God in the instructions concerning the Passover Festival in Exodus 12.
That passage, which is about commemorating the passing over of the death angel when Israel was enslaved in Egypt, states that a flawless year-old male lamb (or goat) was to be selected for each family on the 10th. It was to be cared for until the 14th, when at twilight all the lambs were to be slaughtered and then eaten. This marked the start of a 7-day period beginning and ending with a “sacred assembly” (a.k.a. a special or “high” Sabbath), and all yeast had to be purged from every house for the entire 7 days. The 14th became known as Preparation Day, and the 15th was the actual Passover, though the whole festival was also called the Passover. So regardless of the Gregorian calendar dates, the Preparation was the 14th and the Passover was the 15th.
No work was to be done on any Sabbath except for certain types of food preparation (e.g., Ex. 20:9-10), and people were not to travel (Ex. 16:29). By the time of Jesus the rabbis allowed people to walk less than a mile. So if anyone is said to have worked, done business, or traveled more than a mile at some point in the Gospels, we can be sure that it was not a Sabbath day.
The Feast of Firstfruits (the first day of the week following Passover per Lev. 23:9-16), began a seven-week festival called the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:15-22). Firstfruits was known as “one/first of the Sabbaths,” and this phrase in Greek is imprecisely rendered “the first day of the week” in most Bibles. The Day of Pentecost was a feast marking the final day of the final week.
Questions and Statements
There are times when the meaning of a passage hinges upon whether a phrase is a question or a statement of fact. This cannot always be known with absolute certainty in Greek, but there are some general guidelines:
- Most often, questions are in the indicative mood; they are never in the imperative, subjunctive or optative.
- Sometimes there are question indicators such as tis, ti, pOs, pou, or poi.
- Sometimes the word hara (with the circumflex) is the first or second word.
- It may be an indirect question if it includes words like hopOs.
- It may still be a question without any of these indicators, but the presence of them increases the likelihood.
The NT uses a variety of words all typically translated simply as “sin.” But though there is overlap in meaning and various writers may use terms interchangeably, this translation uses a different English word for each one, primarily to indicate the different Greek words. Though it is usually clear from the context, the following table shows that sin can be either accidental or intentional, and it can be either our own act or the result of someone else’s treachery. By far, the most common one in the NT is hamartia, which is the most generic in meaning. But regardless of the particular word, they all denote a sin against God. This translation in no way seeks to diminish or trivialize any sin, but rather to give the English reader some idea of the different Greek words.
Greek words for “sin”:
- paraptOma (blunder): An accidental false step caused by someone else
- astocheO (off-course): To miss the mark due to being unqualified
- parabasis (step over the line): To unlawfully set foot upon another’s property
- hamartia (fault): Failure, fault, or guilt
- proskomma (stumble): To set an obstacle or stumbling block for others
- skandalon (trap): To set a trap for others
The Gift New Testament, though the work of one person, would not have been possible without the gifting and drive of the Holy Spirit. Neither would it have happened without the support of family and friends, and the vast resources of the internet. Many others have done the work of preparing scholarly references including lexicons, interlinears, and commentaries, which made this effort possible. In addition, much credit is due to the proofreading skills of Adele Hebert, whose sharp eye helped to clean up many typographical errors from the first edition.
About The Author
Paula Fether has been a Christian and a student of the scriptures for over forty years. She considers this, and her other writings such as The Gift New Testament Commentary and You Are All One: Debunking Hierarchy In Christianity, to be non-scholarly yet thoroughly-studied efforts. These are offered in a sincere effort to contribute whatever she is able to the Christian community, and to glorify God by using the gifts He has so graciously given.
About This Edition
The 2015 edition of The Gift New Testament has changed from the original version in the following ways:
- Individual verses are now marked, while paragraph format is retained.
- Typographical errors were corrected.
- Readings in some places were altered to improve clarity or to better reflect the sense of the Greek texts.
- Some new footnotes were added.
- Acknowledgments, About the Author, and About This Edition were added to the Preface.