Why I Hate the Amplified Bible

I hate the Amplified Bible because I much prefer Bibles with commentaries to separate the commentary from the text.  I also hate the Amplified Bible because it makes people think that they can pick and choose from any number of options given in brackets and create their own translations.  Of course, they can do this, but words mean things in relation to other words in a broader context, therefore every possible meaning of any given word is not possible in every context the word appears.  And lastly, I don’t believe that it actually “unlocks subtle shades of meaning” at all.  In many cases I think it obscures it!

Why do you hate (or love) the Amplified Bible?



32 thoughts on “Why I Hate the Amplified Bible

  1. oh bother it hasn’t worked. I tried uploading an ‘image’. Karyn Traphagen made it for me but my computer skills are zilch!

  2. Tony: I’d rather they read Mein Kampf! Okay, not really, but you see how much I dislike this Bible.

    TC: It certainly makes it more complicated than it need be.

    Steph: If you need some help feel free to email me and I’ll try to walk you through it. Or, it might have worked and it’ll just take a little while to cycle through the old stuff before the new pic shows up.

  3. The Divine Sperm: 1 John 3:9, Amplified:

    “No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God.”

    I know what the Greek word there is and what it means. But do I really need that translation in order to “get it”? Really? The divine sperm. Really?

    I am NOT a fan of the Amplified.

  4. I always thought it was more fun to do your own word studies, but what do I know?

    On the other hand, I do have fond memories of that steadily falling apart maroon hardcover Amplified Bible my late father carried for years. Not that I ever really read it, though.

  5. Nick,

    I hate the Amplified Bible too, but I don’t get *your* hating it. The reasons you give for hating the Amplified Bible are the same as the reasons I gave for hating these newer translations that add words that don’t represent anything in the original text.

    What’s the difference between the Amplified adding a bunch of extra words, and modern translations adding the words “to heaven” in Acts 1:2? Or their changing “charism” in 1 Cor 7:7 to “the gift of singleness”? Or their changing “miracles” in 1 Cor 12:28 to “workers of miracles”?

  6. Diglot: Amen.

    William: That’s just horrible!

    Chuck: Yeah, doing your own word studies is more fun. Until you read one of these authors that shows just how useless word studies are!

    John: Refresh my memory, when did you ever give those reasons? Your reasons have always seemed to focus on your dislike of the exegetical decisions made for individual passages. Mine reflect the entire Amplified Bible. Also, I like the NLT, (T)NIV, and other such translations because they actually make a decision; the Amplified does not. It just lists all the words in a lexicon in brackets and leaves the reader to pick and choose whichever they feel like saying a word means regardless of the context.

    Brian: Because hating it is easier than loving it!

  7. I have to wait til later to email when I’m on my own computer – I’m in the other room. :-)

  8. Steph: Take your time. I’ll be here all day.

    Nancy: I thought he communicated through holy laughter… ;-)

    I think when word studies are done right they should seek to identify the meaning of the word in the context of the passage you’re studying.

  9. I just hate trying to follow along in church when people read from it. I just stop listening to them.

    If I’m not mistaken the Amplified isn’t just clarifying a text like what a translation like the NLT does but often lists the various semantic possibilities of various words suggesting that those are all inherent in that word.

    Bryan L

  10. Bryan: Same here. Last night at Bible study my friend started reading 1Corinthians 13 from the Amplified and I let my mind wander.

    And you’re not mistaken. That’s exactly what it does and it’s horrible.

  11. Yes, I dislike the “exegetical decisions” of the translators, because translators aren’t even supposed to be doing exegesis. They’re supposed to render the text, and the reader is supposed to do the exegesis.

    Am I missing something?

    My problem with the newer translations is that they add things that shouldn’t be there. That’s the same as what the Amplified does. The things that annoy when the Amplified is read are the same things that annoy me when the NLT is read.

    And, please, no one tell me that translators have to do exegesis in order to translate. That’s missing the point. Translators are supposed to do just that amount of *lower critical* spadework that is required to render the text in English.

  12. John: You obviously recognize that translators have to do exegesis to translate so why say they’re not? You deny the point, then make the point, then tell us that if we point out the same point that you both affirm and deny that we’re missing the point. I think I need a functionally equivalent translation of your comment! ;-)

    But we get it, you don’t like newer translations. Good and well. No one will hold it against you.

  13. Bryan – this is called “illegitimate totality transfer” (all possible meanings are valid) it’s an extremely common exegetical fallacy many people commit.

  14. Brian:
    Yeah I know I just try to avoid using technical terms as much as possible since they sound so pretentious to me. I didn’t even want to say “semantic”. ; )

    I’m interested in how you can do translation of an ancient document without doing exegesis. Try the ‘just translate don’t exegete’ thing on an ancient Greek document that you haven’t already read in a dozen English translations and exegeted yourself from the original language for many years. I think that’s what many Christians forget is going on when they advocate that particular idea of translation. They’ve already overexegeted the text and are using those decisions in their translations.

    btw I think it’s 1st Corinthians not 1Corinthians.
    ; )

    Bryan L

  15. Bryan: I don’t think you can do translation without exegesis. All translation is interpretation they say.

    And when I say it I say First Corinthians (not One Corinthians), but I’d never write it as 1st Corinthians. That’s just weird!

  16. Once again, you guys are missing my point.

    There’s exegesis, and then there’s exegesis.

    If, say, Acts 1:2 does not contain the words (in Greek) “to heaven”, then the translation should *not* contain the word “to heaven”. If Luke had meant to say “to heaven”, he’d have said it!

    There’s the requisite amount of exegesis needed to render the words in English–I specifically referred to that as “lower critical”–and then there’s the unjustified step of going beyond this to make the verse say something that it just doesn’t say.

    It is ridiculous to say, “Oh, all translation is exegesis, therefore translations that present a particular exegesis of the text are justified.” Grammatical exegesis is the *only* type of exegesis necessary for translation. *Contextual* exegesis (which is the sort that would add the words “to heaven”) is never necessary, and should never be a part of a translation *per se*, especially a translation of the Bible. Contextual exegesis is what the reader is supposed to do *after* reading the text. It should not be rolled into the text if the original author did not do that.

    The upshot of rolling contextual exegesis into a translation is that the reader is *being lied to* about the Bible actually says.

    What is it that you guys aren’t getting about this?

  17. John: We get it, and we (or at least I) disagree. The one thing that I notice in all your rantings about these newer translations is that you bring isolated verses up as if these represent the entire translation or the translation theory in general. They don’t. Pick your favorite formal equivalent translation and we’ll go through it and find isolated verses that can be criticized. I don’t think anyone has claimed that any translation is perfect or that some aren’t better than others, so all the quibbling about Acts 1:2 or 1Cor. 7:7; 12:28 is moot. There’s problem passages, we know.

    I think what’s most bothersome about all this to me is that you seem to think that your personal views on how translation should be done trumps all others. It doesn’t. Entire teams of professional translators disagree with your position on a number of things and they do so with good reason. There are competing translation theories and they exist for good reasons. What is it that you aren’t getting about this?

  18. It’s this: the Nida-Louw school of translation has been spouting for years that the sentence (rather than the word) is the fundamental unit of meaning. Their argument seems to assume that there can only be one size of a unit of meaning, and that all others are crowded out. That’s nonsense. As the KJV (and NASB, etc.) translators showed, semantics can be bifocal–giving proper due to both the sentence and the individual word at the same time.

    It only takes a moment’s reflection to see the error in the Nida-Louw argument, but moments of reflection are often rare in critical scholarship.

    Part of the problem is that the translational philosophy of most of these recent translation committees is based squarely on the dictates of Nida-Louw, and they are also fueled by the publishers’ realization that more easily readable Bibles sell better than accurate Bibles.

    Nick, you seem to assume that if so many translation committees follow a different path from I’m advocating, then that path must at least be a valid option. This is the “20 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong argument”, and, although I happen to like Elvis, the argument is a fallacy.

    There is also the matter of translation committees being told that a Bible will be aimed at a certain readership (usually a group that’s challenged in some way), but, when it finally comes out, it is marketed to everyone.

    I don’t for a minute think that the number of translation committees that think one thing or another lends credence to a particular view. Just look at how these translation committees blindly follow the decisions bound up in the most recent updates to critical editions of the Greek text (UBS/NA).

    The first step to being a good scholar is realizing that you can be right about something and the whole world wrong.

  19. John: I’m going to return to the earlier part of your comment later when I have more time. But for right now I’ll just say that I’m not appealing to popularity. If you re-read my comment you’ll see that I said “Entire teams of professional translators disagree with your position on a number of things and they do so with good reason.” It’s not just that a lot of people disagree with you, it’s that they have good reasons for doing so. And of course you could be the only one who’s right about something; this just happens to be a case where you’re not that guy.

    Robert: And they do well to agree with me. ;-)

  20. i know this comment is a bit late considering the date is Saturday, April 21, 2012 lol but i do like the amplified Bible.. I just think God can speak to people from any versions so there’s no need to act like there’s a ‘bad’ or ‘good’ translation(Well, as far as the difference doesn’t leave out anything major)… My taste of Bible translations has actually evolved over time from KJV to NLT to NIV then now the Amplified Version.. And tomorrow i might prefer another translation to the amplified Bible.

    Also, for some verses, i do prefer looking at the KJV and the NIV.. Like i said earlier, God speaks to different versions at different times :)

  21. mrkelechistevenson: God can speak through donkeys if he wants to. If anyone finds the Amplified Bible to be helpful then that’s great. I’m just not one of them.

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