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Q61 : The Amplified Bible

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Q61 : The Amplified Bible

I was viewing your site regarding comments on the Amplified Bible, or the New International Standard Version that claims to be the most reliable and accurate English translation ever produced? Any thoughts?

A61 : by Tony Garland

I have not spent much time looking at the New International Standard Version so cannot comment on the relative merits of that translation at this point in time.

In regard to the Amplified Biblea, I don't really recommend it — although some people have been blessed by it and found it helpful. At first acquaintance, the work seems to offer greater insight into God's Word by the expansion of words and phrases by additional thoughts in brackets following the text.

However, upon closer examination, there appear to be several drawbacks with the Amplified Bible:

  1. Many of the original language words are expanded in ways which reflect the full range of meanings each word can have. But words do not have the same broad range of meaning in different contexts. So the same word will not necessarily have the same broad range of possible meaning in different contexts. By this approach, the Amplified Bible seems to pour too broad a meaning into simple words and phrases—as if a greater range of semantic payload is carried by the word in a context where it really isn't.

  2. In other cases, there is great subjectivity in the amplified meaning attached to a word. Even if very similar context, the same word can be expounded in largely different ways.

  3. The resulting text becomes overly wordy in places. This may thrill the devotional reader, but it can sometimes serve to clutter the text and actually make it more difficult to grasp the plain sense of the passage.

As an example of the arbitrary nature of the amplifications, consider this passage from the Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 5:3-11). First, from the NKJV:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

Next, from the Amplified Bible:

Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous-with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! Blessed and enviably happy [with a happiness produced by the experience of God's favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted! Blessed (happy, blithesome, joyous, spiritually prosperous-with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the meek (the mild, patient, long-suffering), for they shall inherit the earth! Blessed and fortunate and happy and spiritually prosperous (in that state in which the born-again child of God enjoys His favor and salvation) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God), for they shall be completely satisfied! Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous-with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy! Blessed (happy, enviably fortunate, and spiritually prosperous-possessing the happiness produced by the experience of God's favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God! Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous-with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they shall be called the sons of God! Blessed and happy and enviably fortunate and spiritually prosperous (in the state in which the born-again child of God enjoys and finds satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of his outward conditions) are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake (for being and doing right), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous-with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of your outward conditions) are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things against you falsely on My account.

This is truly amplification! But is it reliable amplification? Let's take a look at how the word 'blessed' is translated in the passage:

Amplified Blessings?
Verse Word Amplification
Mat. 5:3 makarioi ('blessed') Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous-with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions)
Mat. 5:4 makarioi ('blessed') Blessed and enviably happy [with a happiness produced by the experience of God's favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace]
Mat. 5:5 makarioi ('blessed') Blessed (happy, blithesome, joyous, spiritually prosperous-with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions)
Mat. 5:6 makarioi ('blessed') Blessed and fortunate and happy and spiritually prosperous (in that state in which the born-again child of God enjoys His favor and salvation)
Mat. 5:7 makarioi ('blessed') Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous-with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions)
Mat. 5:8 makarioi ('blessed') Blessed (happy, enviably fortunate, and spiritually prosperous-possessing the happiness produced by the experience of God's favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions)
Mat. 5:9 makarioi ('blessed') Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous-with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions)
Mat. 5:10 makarioi ('blessed') Blessed and happy and enviably fortunate and spiritually prosperous (in the state in which the born-again child of God enjoys and finds satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of his outward conditions)
Mat. 5:11 makarioi ('blessed') Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous-with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of your outward conditions)

Notice that the identical Greek word is used in every one of the verses, yet the amplification varies from verse to verse. Are there really subtle distinctions in each verse which can justify this variation? Does the reader truly benefit from the textual 'explosion' which comes about from translating 'blessed' by as many as 34 additional words in some of the verses? No doubt there are deep implications to the blessings Jesus mentions, but the subtle and lengthy variations provided by the Amplified Bible seem far-fetched and highly subjective.

These are some of the reasons I don't recommend the Amplified Bible as being a valuable study aid. For my money, I'd focus more on comparative word studies, other original language tools, and a deeper understanding of the totality of Scripture than to look for deep insight in what would appear to be somewhat inconsistent and unrestrained elaboration.


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