The year was 1966. Mrs. Indira Gandhi had just become Prime Minister of India, President Johnson’s daughter Luci got married, and Cassius Clay won two title fights against the British champion Henry Cooper. But then—bad news. On September 15, 1966, the American Bible Society released one of the worst perversions of Scripture ever produced: Good News for Modern Man.
Subtitled "The New Testament in Today’s English Version," the new "bible," initially released as just a New Testament, had 50 million copies in print within ten years of its publication. It has remained in print ever since, although reincarnated in several different editions, formats, and titles. But now, after an absence of many years—more bad news. Good News for Modern Man is back, only this time it is subtitled "The New Testament in the Good News Translation." How this new translation reinvented itself over the years is a study in not only how men "corrupt the word of God" (2 Cor. 2:17), but in how they handle "the word of God deceitfully" (2 Cor. 4:2)—two verses that are naturally recast in Good News for Modern Man.
The impetus for this new translation came from two sources—Indians and Africans. A Version Popular Spanish translation was made in the early 1960s for the Indians in Latin America. Its use became so widespread that it was being used in the major cities of Latin America as much as among the Indians. Over in Liberia, a women translated the New Testament into the form of English used in West Africa. It too supposedly showed how important it was to have a translation in the "language of the people."
The American Bible Society then appointed Robert Bratcher, a Southern Baptist missionary to Brazil, to undertake a new translation of the New Testament. This was to be the first translation of the New Testament into English by the American Bible Society—a society that at one time only printed King James Bibles, and that "without note or comment."
Assisted by a consulting committee of five members, including Harold K. Moulton (from the Moulton family of Greek scholars), Bratcher was able to complete a preliminary Gospel of Mark. It was released in 1964 under the title of The Right Time. The completed New Testament was issued in 1966 under two titles: Today’s English Version of the New Testament, published by Macmillan, and Good News for Modern Man, published by the American Bible Society. Under this latter name, the new version soon surpassed all records in paperback book sales, finally overtaking Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care.
Work then began on the Old Testament. For this Dr. Bratcher was assisted by seven men, including Dr. Barclay Newman, who in 1969 translated his own New Testament called The New Testament: A New Translation. Selected Old Testament books were completed between the years 1970 and 1975. First came Psalms in 1970, followed by Job in 1971 under the title Tried and True. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes were released together as Wisdom for Modern Man, Jonah was issued as The Man Who Said "No!" and Hosea, Amos, and Micah were published under the title of Justice Now! Exodus appeared in 1975 as Let My People Go! The completed Old Testament was published in 1976. The new name chosen for the complete "bible" was the Good News Bible (GNB), although the title Today’s English Version (TEV) was also used.
Since "a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit" (Mat. 7:17), it is no surprise that the GNB/TEV is evil since its underlying Greek text is corrupt. According to Robert Bratcher, the King James Version "was based on late and corrupt Greek manuscripts, replete with changes, additions and deletions made by copyists during the centuries when the manuscripts were copied by hand." But on the other hand, "the Greek text from which the TEV New Testament is translated is a text based on the most ancient manuscripts now available." Bratcher explains that "we now have a Greek New Testament that is much older than the text available in 1611, because it is based on much older and much better manuscripts. It should be remembered that the British scholars, when they revised the King James New Testament in 1881, made over 5,000 changes on the basis of the Greek text; and now even further changes must be made, as a better text is available."
Bratcher’s "better text" was the first edition of the United Bible Societies (UBS) Greek New Testament, edited by Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce Metzger, and Allen Wikgren, and published in 1966—the same year as Good News for Modern Man. This is the Greek text that, like its predecessors (Westcott and Hort, Nestle, Nestle-Aland, Souter) and its successors (UBS second, third, and fourth editions; Nestle-Aland twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh editions) omits eighteen entire verses from the New Testament (Mat. 17:21, 18:11, 23:14; Mark 7:16, 9:44, 46, 11:26, 15:28; Luke 17:36, 22:43-44, 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37, 15:34, 24:7, 28:29; Rom. 16:24) and portions of many others (e.g., Mat. 1:25; John 3:13; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:14; Rev. 1:11). Beginning with the second edition in 1968, Carlo Martini, from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, joined the abovementioned four men responsible for the UBS text.
Beginning with a favorable review in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly in 1967 ("a fine piece of work which avoids special pleading and serves broadly ecumenical concerns without depreciation of philological data"), Good News for Modern Man has always been a favorite of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Cushing of Boston granted it his imprimatur on March 7, 1969. Catholic churches distributed it to their young people. (I personally remember receiving one in the 1970s in my weekly "CCD" class; it was, in fact, the only Bible I ever saw or read until my salvation and subsequent departure from the Catholic Church.)
The Apocrypha was translated according to the same principles and made available in some editions beginning in 1979. The complete Bible has the imprimatur of John Francis Whealon, Archbishop of Hartford. Another imprimatur was given to a later edition by William Keeler, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Apocrypha was at first inserted between the Old and New Testaments, but now it is available with the Apocrypha as part of the Old Testament. The American Bible Society has come a long way in a short time, for as recently as 1963, the Apocrypha was forbidden to be included in any of its Bibles. This restriction was lifted in 1964, with The British and Foreign Bible Society following suit in 1966.
Catholic editions of the Good News Bible have also been produced. A Catholic edition of the New Testament was issued in the 1970s by the Sacred Heart League under the outlandish title of The Word of God. A Catholic edition of the entire Bible was published by Catholic Bible Press (a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers—the publishers of the New King James Version) in 1986 called The Source. It was variously subtitled as "The Good News Bible for Catholics," "The Bible for Today’s Young Catholic," the "Good News Bible For Today’s Young Catholic," and "The Bible in Today’s English Version For Today’s Young Catholic."
Although the GNB/TEV contains the usual corrupt readings found in most modern versions, these will not be examined here. What will be examined, however, because it is relevant to the debate over the Authorized Version, are the hundreds of changes that have been made to the text of the GNB/TEV since its original publication as Good News for Modern Man.
As mentioned previously, the GNB/TEV was published as a New Testament on September 15, 1966, as Good News for Modern Man and Today’s English Version of the New Testament. That, however, was only the first edition. The second edition was published in October of 1967. This was followed by a third edition in June of 1971, a fourth edition in November of 1976, and a fifth edition in 1992. However, if one looks at the copyright dates in the GNB/TEV, it will be noticed that there is no date listed for the 1967 edition—even though 700-800 changes were made from the first edition.