Recovery Version Bible Review

William Tyndale, standing at the head of the great stream of English Bible translations said, “It is lawful for who will to translate and show his mind, though a thousand had translated before him.”[1]

His dictum has been enthusiastically followed—“from Tyndale printing his first complete New Testament in Worms, in 1526, to the year 2000, there have been about 3,000 new translations of the Bible into English.”[2] That is an astonishing number. Think about it—that is more translations than one per year since Christ was born, and in a quarter of the time. Bible translators are like the Hebrew women in Exodus 1—they are a vigorous bunch who can’t be stopped from giving birth.

Who could find fault with this abundance? It is reason to rejoice. Every new translation is a manifestation of a serious love for God’s word and a desire to make it known. Because of this, every proper translation is due a basic honor.

The Orchestra of Bible Translations

All translations seek to answer two questions: what did God say and what does it mean? Formal equivalent (literal translations) attempt to answer a third question: how did He say it? Since most of us can’t access the original form of God’s speaking due to language barriers, we depend on translators to know what God has said. The richness of the divine discourse is brought out only by a multiplicity of translations. No single translation is the perfect translation that says it all. Only a chorus of voices, singing out their parts in balance, can recreate the operatic fullness of the original solo. Some voices sing with greater volume, skill, and clarity, but every voice, however faint, contributes to the whole. No single translation can exhaust the potential of the text and give the final word, rendering all future attempts redundant. No translation can be, like Paul, “all things to all men.” In the introduction to his New Testament for English Readers, Henry Alford says that even the Bible’s “simplest saying has in it a depth which the human mind cannot fathom.”[3]

Of course, the problems that plague orchestras crop up in Bible translations—some people rush, some improvise, some need to play quieter, and some hit wrong notes. Not all translations are created equal, but we can benefit from all of them. All translation is, to some extent, interpretation; and each translator brings his own interpretation to the “musical score” of the text. Each translation bears to the church a particular wealth of understanding and unique perspective on the divine revelation. Each translator plays the score differently—Tyndale is simple but powerful (he is the concertmaster, the man who tunes the whole orchestra), King James is exalted but archaic, the ASV is arid but accurate, Moffatt is refreshing but free, Wuest is technical but expansive. And so on.

With so many options, I believe the best approach is to pick one main translation as your base version for reading, study, and memorization and then use other versions for comparison, commentary, and broad comprehension. My base translation is the Recovery Version (RcV), a lesser known but very good translation. In the rest of this post I will explain why I like it so much.

The Recovery Version

I have read with interest the copies of translations of New Testament epistles in the Recovery Version. This is a version which I had not previously met. The version seems to me to be an accurate and fairly literal rendering of the Greek. The user of this version will get a precise impression of what the sacred text says.[4]

–F.F. Bruce

The Recovery Version is an essentially literal translation, that seeks to “provide the best utterance for the revelation in the divine Word, that it may be expressed… with the greatest accuracy” in English that is “to the point, easy to understand, and readable.”[5] In other words, three things characterize the translation goals—precision of utterance, accuracy of truth, and ease of understanding. Evaluating the third goal (readability) will depend in large part on what kind of version you are used to. Anyone is able to judge a translation on its readability, but not on its accuracy. Bible teachers alone can judge accuracy, but since they are too steeped in the original they are often unable to sense how it will sound to someone reading it for the first time.

But when it comes down to style versus substance, James Moffatt offers this helpful reminder:

There is a truth in beauty of style, but there is a beauty in truth, and whatever we may lose in parting with an English classic, we gain more by contact with the actual meaning of the original.[6]

Thus, the Recovery Version errs on the side of accuracy. The Bible is more than an inspiring book to uplift our soul; it is a book of revelation to enlighten our mind and nourish our spirit. This revelation is conveyed in Hebrew and Greek words (mainly). The words of an English translation can either crystallize or muddle the divine revelation. Translating Scripture is like peering into a pool to see what’s below the water. A good translation yields a calm and transparent surface. Some dynamic translations stir the water too much, and while they make a big splash on the market, they can make it hard to see to the bottom.

A translation should grant access to the original as clearly as possible, while retaining intelligible English. In my opinion, the Recovery Version does this quite well. In general, the translation is similar in feel and philosophy to the ESV, but diverges at many textual paths, providing a unique vista of the Scriptural landscape.

The Recovery Version is particularly suited for in-depth study, because:

  1. It captures the spiritual import of many deep truths of the faith
  2. It provides a high degree of transparency to the fine points conveyed in the original

History of Translation

The text of the Recovery Version was translated slowly over a period of 25 years, from 1974 to 1999. Translation work coincided with Witness Lee’s monumental life-study of the Bible, with translations of individual books appearing the summer or winter that they would be preached on. The New Testament was published as a whole in 1985, with study notes. The complete Old Testament was published with the New in 1999, as a text only edition. A full study Bible edition came out in 2003.

The Recovery Version met a definite need at the time it was published. The literal translations available in 1985 were not that extensive and needed improving. The general trend was towards dynamic translations (functional equivalence), which could spiral off into creative paraphrase or modern colloquialism. Too much in that direction and the fine points of revelation are sacrificed. As one scholar put it, “ditching traditional theological language can easily slide into ditching theology.”[7]

Here were the major offerings, mainly of the literal camp, at the time, with the dates they were published (first date is NT, second is OT):

Bible Version Date Published
KJV 1611
ASV 1901
RSV 1946, 1952
NASB 1963, 1971
NIV 1973, 1978
NKJV 1979, 1982
Recovery Version 1985

All of these translations left something to be desired. The Recovery Version, though not a perfect translation, met many of these needs. Soon after the Recovery Version was published, a handful of good literal versions appeared on the market. Even though there are many good options available now, the Recovery Version retains its value. I’ll show why I think that is the case below.

Features and characteristics of the text

Every Bible translation must be first of all evaluated based on its text, not any concomitant study aides, as beneficial as those may be. That is because all study and preaching is based on the text itself. The text of Recovery Version is a solid foundation upon which exposition can be confidently built.

Here are some of the basic features of the text of the Recovery Version:

(This is a long section, so I adopted an outline format to help you keep track of where you are.)

1. Consistently renders the personal name of God in the OT as Jehovah.

However you spell it—Jehovah, Yahweh, YHWH—I think it’s important to have a Bible that renders the divine name in English as a name, not as a title. Lord is a title and conveys a very different meaning than Jehovah. Lord implies sovereignty, authority, and power; Jehovah is basically a conjugated form of the verb “to be”, and implies that God is self-existing, ever-existing, and all-inclusive. God’s entire purpose is conveyed in His name—He desires to be something to His people. In his Gospel, John makes explicit use of this theme with Jesus’s many “I am” statements (e.g. I am the bread of life). Salvation is God Himself becoming something to us (1 Cor 1:30). In this way, God’s own name implies the thought of enjoying and experiencing Him as everything. Tyndale coined the term Jehovah, and while it may not be the most accurate pronunciation or spelling, it has the longest historical precedence in English. Pronunciation has never been a real concern when names are transferred into other languages. The most important thing is to use the divine name with understanding and joy.

2. Capitalizes divine pronouns.

Example: Matt 9:1

Sometimes this leads to an interpretive stance on the referent of certain pronouns in OT prophecy. Examples include: Num 24:17; Deut 18:18; Psa 8:5; Isa 53; Jer 23:5-6; Ezek 21:27; Dan 7:13-14: Zech 2:1; Hag 2:7.

3. Often leaves interpretive ambiguities unresolved.

Many literal translations do this in places like Romans 1:5 (the obedience of faith), Romans 1:17 (the righteousness of God), or Revelation 1:1 (the revelation of Jesus Christ), but there are other places where literal translations make interpretative overtures that truncate the potential meaning of a verse. The Recovery Version usually preserves the interpretative potential in ambiguous phrases. Three basic examples are: Rom 5:18; Gal 3:2; 1 Thes 2:3.

Here are three classic examples (using the ESV for comparison):

a. John 7:39

  • for the Spirit was not yet (RcV)
  • for as yet the Spirit had not been given (ESV)

F. F. Bruce says, “The best attested reading of the second-last clause of verse 39 is simply ‘Spirit was not yet.'”[7] However, most translators supply a word in English to make sense of this bare and baffling statement by John. The ESV follows most versions by adding the word “given” (Vulgate, Geneva, DR, KJV, ASV, RSV, NASB, NEB, NIV, ESV, NLT, CSB). While it is certainly true that the Spirit had not yet been given at Pentecost, other Bible teachers have understood this verse to be saying a lot more.

The RcV translates the verse without any additions, to allow the full interpretive potential to come into play. The footnotes of the RcV follow Andrew Murray’s classic interpretation of this strange verse:

The expression: the Spirit was not yet, has appeared strange, and so the word given has been inserted. But the expression, if accepted as it stands, may guide us into the true understanding of the real significance of the Spirit’s not coming until Jesus was glorified….When poured out at Pentecost, He came as the Spirit of the glorified Jesus, the Spirit of the Incarnate, crucified, and exalted Christ, the bearer and communicator to us, not of the life of God as such, but of that life as it had been interwoven into human nature in the person of Christ Jesus….it is distinctly and literally true; the Holy Spirit was not yet. The Spirit of the glorified Jesus, the Son of man become the Son of God He could not be, until Jesus was glorified.[8]

b. Hebrews 6:1

  • leaving the word of the beginning of Christ (RcV)
  • let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ (ESV)

In context, it is pretty obvious that something like “elementary doctrine” is in view. That is because the next few verses enumerate the basic teachings of Christian faith (vv. 1-2). However, this may not be all that is in view. In the context of the book as a whole, the argument is taking a major turn in chapter 6 and 7. The focus is shifting from Christ’s work on earth in His priesthood according to the order of Aaron to Christ’s work in heaven in His priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek, which is the chief point of the whole book. In this light, the “word of the beginning of Christ” may refer to the word about Christ’s beginning, aka His earthly ministry and its accomplishments. What will bring Christians on to maturity is not continual preaching on Christ’s redemption, but preaching on Christ’s heavenly ministry to save us to the uttermost. This mirrors Paul’s word in Romans 5:10 about the difference between reconciliation through Christ’s death and salvation in Christ’s life. The RcV translation allows this larger interpretation to come into view. The footnotes of the RcV explain both views.

c. Colossians 2:19

  • grows with the growth of God (RcV)
  • grows with a growth that is from God (ESV)

The RcV leaves the genitive unresolved. The ESV provides an interpretation of what the genitive means, which is that God is the source of growth. The RcV text allows for a deeper understanding of what Christian growth is, which is God growing and increasing within believers. The ESV answers the question “where does growth come from?”; the RcV answers the question “what is growth?”, while not precluding the thought of source.

4. Words supplied by the translator for clarity that are not in the original are in italics.

The Recovery Version follows the convention set by the Geneva New Testament of 1557, of printing in italics those words which have been supplied by the translator for clarity, but which are not in the original languages. This provides a great degree of transparency to the original and also lets a reader know what has been added. This is ideal for a Bible designed to be studied and taught from.

Here are a some conspicuous examples:

Luke 4:19

  • the acceptable year of the Lord, the year of jubilee (RcV)
  • the year of the Lord’s favor (ESV)

Philippians 1:5

  • your fellowship unto the furtherance of the gospel (RcV)
  • your partnership in the gospel (ESV)

Isaiah 53:11

  • He will see the fruit of the travail of His soul and He will be satisfied (RcV)
  • Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied (ESV)

Ezekiel 28:14

  • you were the anointed cherub who covered the Ark (RcV)
  • you were an anointed guardian cherub (ESV)

John 8:44

  • when he speaks the lie, he speaks it out of his own possessions (RcV)
  • when he lies, he speaks out of his own character (ESV)

1 Corinthians 2:13

  • interpreting spiritual things with spiritual words (RcV)
  • interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual (ESV)

1 Corinthians 14:23

  • some unlearned in tongues or unbelievers enter (RcV)
  • outsiders or unbelievers enter (ESV)

Ephesians 6:17

  • the sword of the Spirit, which Spirit is the word of God (RcV)
  • the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (ESV)

Hebrews 10:22

  • let us come forward to the Holy of Holies with a true heart (RcV)
  • let us draw near with a true heart (ESV)

5. Preposition treatment is often literal to capture a theological meaning.

Rendering prepositions accurately can unlock a lot of light from the biblical text. Here are some examples:

a. John 3:16

  • everyone who believes into Him (RcV)
  • whoever believes in him (ESV)

Maybe just because this is the most famous verse, but this rendering always seems to attract skepticism online. Anyone who has ever taken an introductory Greek course should be able to defend this rendering. The Greek preposition here is eis, which properly means into or unto. Greek has another preposition, en, which means in or by. What is the difference? Believing in Christ implies trust and intellectual assent, whereas believing into Christ implies that faith transfers persons into a union with Christ. While the former is certainly not false, it’s just not what John says here (and in many other places). This is an instance where a little translation decision in the Recovery Version opens up a deeper truth. The Greek preposition eis denotes motion. Believing into Christ is how believers come to be in Christ, a truth the New Testament authors never tire from repeating (1 Cor 1:30).

Although the ESV doesn’t translate as the RcV does here, it later recognizes this translation in a note on John 11:25, where John has the same exact phrase, believe into me.

The preposition translated “in” (Gk. eis) is striking, for eis ordinarily means “into,” giving the sense that genuine faith in Christ in a sense brings people “into” Christ, so that they rest in and become united with Christ. (This same expression is found in 3:16…)

It is hard for me to understand why the ESV did not decide to go with “into” when it recognizes the massive theological significance of this little word.

b. Romans 3:22

  • through the faith of Jesus Christ (RcV)
  • through faith in Jesus Christ (ESV)

The Greek phrase has Jesus Christ in the genitive case (just like those phrases above, “the righteousness of God”). If Paul had wanted to say “faith in Jesus Christ”, he could have unambiguously done it with the preposition en. That he didn’t write that may imply that he had something else in mind. The problem is what does “the faith of Jesus Christ” mean? The RcV leaves the phrase unresolved, for interpreters to wrestle with. The RcV translators offer their understanding in notes on this phrase, which is essentially: as sinners, we have no believing ability in ourself; faith is a gift from God; the object of faith is Jesus Christ and faith issues from this glorious object; when we hear the gospel, we are infused with the preciousness of Christ; this Christ becomes in us the faith by which we believe and our capacity to believe; this faith creates an organic union in which we and Christ are one; thus we are made righteous through the faith of Jesus Christ.

c. 1 Timothy 2:4

  • come to the full knowledge of the truth (RcV)
  • come to the knowledge of the truth (ESV)

The Greek preposition here is epi, which indicates fullness. Salvation is knowledge of the truth, after which God desires believers to come to full knowledge of the truth. According to Alford, “The word imports a fuller and more assured acquaintance than mere knowledge.”[9] J.N.D. Kelly says it indicates apprehension and acceptance of “the whole revelation of God in Christ.”[10] Wuest says the word “denotes a larger and more thorough knowledge. It is a knowledge which grasps and penetrates into an object.”[11]

d. Philippians 1:19

  • the bountiful supply of the Spirit (RcV)
  • the help of the Spirit (ESV)

The Greek preposition here is epi. The Spirit doesn’t simply help us, He fully or bountiful supplies us with all that we need to perform the drama of Christian life. The rest of the Greek word comes from theatre terminology and refers to the choragus, which referred to the person who funded and supplied all the needs of the chorus. Barclay says, “The word has a certain lavishness in it. It never means to equip in any cheese-paring and miserly way; it means lavishly to pour out everything that is necessary for a noble performance.”[12]

e. Philippians 3:11

  • attain to the out-resurrection from the dead (RcV)
  • attain the resurrection from the dead (ESV)

The Greek preposition here is ek, meaning out of. The RcV follows Wuest’s translation to render it literally as “out-resurrection”. This is the only place in the NT that the word occurs. Regardless of your interpretation of Paul’s use of this unique compound word, the RcV draws attention to this Pauline peculiarity, marking a spot for deeper digging. The RcV notes offer an interpretation: that Paul is referring to an “outstanding” or “extra” experience of resurrection, the resurrection of reward (Rev 11:18), which is contingent on the present experience of the power of resurrection Paul mentions in verse 10.

6. High degree of lexical consistency.

The first step in receiving divine revelation from the Bible is collecting the facts. At a minimum this requires a word study based on the accurate meaning of the words used in the biblical text. Lexical consistency is a big help in making the connections that are inherent in the Bible.

a. Rom 6:9, 14; 7:1—”lord it over”

This Greek verb (kyrieuō) is used three times in Romans chapters 6-7 in reference to death, sin, and the law. These three are closely related and appear within a span of 16 verses. Paul links them together in a systematic argument that reaches back to chapter 5 concerning sin, death, and the law and their present relations to the believer in Christ.

Paul says that because of our identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, these negative things will no longer “lord it over” us. In Romans 6:9—7:6, Paul shows how the reign of sin and death (with the law) revealed in 5:12—5:21 is annulled. In chapter 5, Paul says that death entered the world through sin and reigned from Adam until Moses. Then the law entered in, causing sin to reign in death. In chapters 6—7, Paul shows that death no longer lords it over us because we have died and have been raised with Christ. Then he says that sin will not lord it over us because we are not under law. In chapter 7, he sets out to show how we are no longer under law and therefore how the law no longer lords it over us. This is important because it lumps the law in with sin and death.

The RcV consistently translates these words, highlighting the continuity of the argument. The result is—“death lords it over Him no more” (6:9), “sin will not lord it over you” (6:14), and “the law lords it over the man as long as he lives” (7:1). The ESV translation obscures the connection between the law, sin, and death at the crucial moment, right when Paul shows how the law no longer lords it over us (the key to no longer being under sin and death). The result is—“death no longer has dominion over him” (6:9), “sin will have no dominion over you” (6:14), and “the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives” (7:1).

Robert Jewett, in his massive commentary on Romans, says, “The verb kyrieuō… is derived from Paul’s earlier references to believers’ being set free from the reigns of death (6:9) and sin (6:14). This verbal choice signals that Paul intends to place law in a parallel category as a force from which believers have been freed.”[13] Joseph Fitzmyer says that Paul’s consistent use of this word, “Draw[s] the law into the threesome that tyrannize human existence apart from Christ.”[14] Without the verbal resonance in the third verse in the ESV, it would be hard to notice this connection in the text.

b. 1 Peter 2:1-2—”guile, guileless”

Peter uses the same root Greek word in verse 1 and 2 (dolos). The Recovery Version translates this word consistently: “putting away… all guile… long for the guileless milk of the word.” This draws a very clear connection between the participle in verse 1 (putting away) and the imperative in verse 2 (long). Also, note the clear translation of the participle in verse 1 in the RcV, that links the two actions. In other words, the way we put away guile is by drinking the guileless milk of the word. As we are putting away, we long. We are powerless to put away guile by our own strength. However, the word of God introduces into our system a guileless element, like an antibiotic, that deals with all guile within us. The ESV doesn’t allow this inference to be easily made, as it translates: “put away… all deceit… long for the pure spiritual milk.”

c. Matthew—”worship”

In his gospel, Matthew uses the Greek word for worship (proskuneo) 13 times[15], presenting an impressive litany of people who worship Jesus. This accords with Matthew’s purpose and perspective in writing his gospel—to demonstrate that Jesus is the royal heir to the throne of David, the Messiah King. The RcV consistently translates this word in all instances as “worship”. There may be nuances as to what was involved in each case of worship[16], but a consistent translation allows a reader to easily study this theme and draw his own inferences.

The ESV renders the word as worship in only 8 of the 13 instances. This involves a interpretative decision (which is within their full rights as translators) that 5 of the occurrences were not worship, but mere posture change—kneeling down in front of Jesus. This weakens a thematic line running through Matthew and close the theological point that Matthew may also be making: showcasing the worship Jesus receives from all sorts of people to incite Jews to do the same and accept Jesus as the Messiah.

d. Romans 9:22-23—”fitted” vs “prepared”

There is a difference in the verbs used of the vessels of wrath and mercy in verses 22-23. The vessels of wrath are katērtismena (RcV—fitted; ESV—prepared), whereas the vessels of mercy are proētoimasen (RcV—prepared; ESV—prepared). The ESV obscures this distinction. The fine distinction carries massive consequences in the debate about predestination and free will.

C.E.B. Cranfield says, “It is perhaps significant that, whereas in v. 23b Paul both uses a pro– compound and uses it in the aorist indicative active… thus emphasizing clearly the divine predetermining, [in v. 22 he] uses the verb katartizein, not prokatartizein… and also uses the perfect passive participle.”[17] Jewett makes the same observation and then says, “The passage is carefully designed to suggest the priority of mercy.”[18] Comparing these two words, Sanday and Headlam say, “The construction is purposely different.”[19] Marvin Vincent says, “The studied difference in the use of this term instead of katartizo, to fit (v. 22) cannot be overlooked. The verb is not equivalent to foreordained (proorizo)….In the former case the result is indicated; in the latter, the previousness. Note “before prepared”, while “before” is wanting in verse 22. In this passage the direct agency of God is distinctly stated, in the other, the agency is left indefinite. Here a single act is indicated; there a process.”[20]

e. Romans 11:1, 15—”cast away” vs “cast aside”

Two different Greek words are used in verse 1 (apōsato) and 15 (apobolē). The ESV translates them as “reject” and “rejection”, while the RcV translates them as “cast away” and “cast aside”. God has not cast away His people; they have been temporarily cast aside. The ESV obscures the difference in the Greek and leads to a unclear situation—God has not “rejected His people”, but “their rejection means…” Jewett says, “The normal lexical range of apobolē is (1) ‘throw away, jettison’ or (2) ‘loss,’ whereas there are no clear examples of the widely popular translation, ‘reject.'”[21]

7. Preserves “redundant” Greek conjunctions that often begin sentences.

Hebrew and Greek use a lot of conjunctions, like “and”, to begin sentences. And although they seem redundant, these connectives can provide important information about the flow of the author’s logic.

Commenting on their usage, Cranfield says:

Whereas in English it is not at all unusual for sentences to be set down one after another without connexion, in ancient Greek it was normal to link each sentence with the preceding one by means of a connective of one sort or another. The Greek custom has two great advantages: it helps the writer to think clearly and logically and it enables the reader to know what was the connexion of thought in the writer’s mind between his sentences. In those parts of the NT where…  there is continuous argument, they are a most important clue to the author’s meaning, of which full use should be made….one is well advised to watch the connectives with the utmost attentiveness, wherever they are present.”[22]

The Recovery Version consistently translates these little connectives, and where they seem to be significant, a footnote explains their import. Examples of some significant connectives include: John 3:1; 1 Cor 10:1; 12:4, 11; 2 Cor 6:1; 10:1; Eph 2:1.

8. Retains theological terminology.

Examples include: repent, grace, faith, church, justification, sanctification, redemption, regeneration, reconciliation, propitiation.

9. Transliterates some Greek and Hebrew words, place-names, proper names, monetary units, measurements.

Examples include: Gen 22:14; Exo 17:15; Hos 2:1; Matt 5:18, 22, 26; 6:24; 10:29; Mark 12:42; Rev 6:6

10. Dialogue is not set in quotation marks; rather, the beginning of the sentence is capitalized. Old Testament quotes are set in quotation marks.

Example: Matt 2:5-6

11. Large numbers are expressed in words rather than digits.

Example: Num 1:46

12. Verse per line format.

Examples of some significant translations

After looking at some of the characteristics of the text of the Recovery Version in detail, it’s time to look at significant translation decisions of some words. There isn’t space to discuss these, but many are supported in technical commentaries; some are supported in other Bible versions. All of them are based on serious scholarship and consideration.

RcV Translation Verse(s)
Economy Eph 1:10; 3:9; 1 Tim 1:4
Tabernacled John 1:14
Propitiation place Rom 3:25
Masterpiece Eph 2:10
Made it known by signs Rev 1:1
The all-sufficient God Gen 17:1; Exo 6:3
Local church Acts 13:1
Have life and live by faith Rom 1:17
Soul-life Luke 17:33
Sonship Eph 1:5; Rom 8:15, 23; Gal 4:5
Abode / abide John 14:2, 23; 15:5
Laboring priest Rom 15:16
Allotted portion Col 1:12
And through the operation Eph 4:16
New man Eph 4:16
Milk of the word 1 Pet 2:2
Faith is the substantiation Heb 11:1
Beholding and reflecting 2 Cor 3:18
Soulish 1 Cor 2:14
Salvation Phil 1:19
Magnified Phil 1:20
Healthy teaching 1 Tim 1:10
Regenerated 1 Pet 1:23
Partners of Christ Heb 1:9; 3:14
Healthy teaching 1 Tim 1:10
Blended 1 Cor 12:24
Built the rib Gen 2:22

Study Aides

I have purposely delayed until now to review one of the richest aspects of the Recovery Version, the study aides. That is because many readers who disagree with the theological interpretations offered in the footnotes impute their antagonism onto the version as a whole. That kind of criticism is misguided and conflates explanatory notes and the text of the translation. And I think it is unfortunate because it dismisses a very good translation for reasons other than translation. The two must be evaluated separately. For example, I can enjoy the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) translation with or without agreeing with its interpretive notes, which have a liberal Catholic slant.

Also, it is important to recognize that someone can greatly profit from much of the commentary without having to be on board with every footnote. You don’t have to agree with everything Luther said to benefit from his key and pioneering insights. Same with the notes of the Recovery Version.

The footnotes in the RcV approach the text from the perspective of God’s economy, that is, God’s plan and arrangement to dispense Christ into His chosen people to produce the church as His expression. The notes focus more on exposition, spiritual application, and theological interpretation of Scripture than on historical-criticism and technical analysis. They are thoroughly Christocentric and favor a typological reading of the Old Testament. I think it’s fair to say that the notes represent patristic sensibilities tempered by Brethren insights and sharpened by Witness Lee’s own understanding of the divine revelation. In this sense, Lee can call the footnotes a “crystallization”. For a sampling of footnotes, you can look here (doesn’t work well on mobile).


The Recovery Version is an excellent, literal translation (slightly more so than the ESV) suited for serious study. I use it as my primary Bible and supplement with other versions for various specific needs (NJB, Moffatt, and ESV have been close by my side recently). The study version with footnotes has a wealth of commentary that can seriously deepen your understanding of Scripture and enrich your spiritual experience. There are no perfect versions, and this is true of the Recovery Version too, but in the orchestra of Bible translations this one deserves to be heard.

If you want to check it out for yourself, order a free copy of the NT with footnotes from Bibles for America.


1. William Tyndale, The New Testament, introduction
2. David Daniell, The Bible in English, p. 767
3. Henry Alford, New Testament for English Readers, Vol. 1, p. 4
4. F.F. Bruce, cited at
5. Recovery Version, introduction
6. James Moffatt, A New Translation, p. xl
7. Daniell, The Bible in English, p. 759
8. F.F. Bruce, Commentary on John, p. 182
9. Andrew Murray, The Spirit of Christ, Ch. 5
10. Henry Alford, New Testament for English Readers, notes on 1 Timothy 2:4
11. J.N.D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, p. 62
12. Kenneth Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, notes on Colossians 1:9
13. William Barclay, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, notes on Philippians 1:19
14. Robert Jewett, Romans: A Commentary (Hermeneia Series), p. 430
15. Joseph Fitzmyer, Romans (Anchor Bible), p. 457
16. Matt 2:2, 8, 11; 4:9, 10; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 18:26; 20:20; 28:9, 17
17. John Paul Heil identifies seven kinds of worship in Matthew: reverential, supplicatory, ritualistic, ethical, cultic, doxological, sacramental. (The Gospel of Matthew, pp. 1-2)
18. C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans 9-16, p. 495
19. Jewett, Romans, p. 598
20. William Sanday and Arthur Headlam, Romans (ICC), p. 261
21. Marvin Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, notes on Romans 9:22
22. Jewett, Romans, p. 680
23. Cranfield, Romans 1-8, p. 27

3 thoughts on “Recovery Version Bible Review

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