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"Is there a man, learned or unlearned, who will not, when he takes the volume into his hands, and perceives that what he reads does not suit his settled tastes, break out immediately into violent language, and call me a forger, and a profane person for having the audacity to add anything to the ancient books, or to make any changes or corrections therein? It is idle to play the lyre for an ass. So great is the force of established usage that even acknowledged corruptions please the greater part, for they prefer to have their copies pretty rather than accurate."

                                                                                     — Jerome

What makes the International Standard Version® different from other Bibles?

Our Current Release:
ISV Bible 2.0

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The Uniqueness of the ISV®
by the Committee on Translation
for the International Standard Version

With so many English language Bible translations available today, the reader is faced with an important question: "What distinguishes the ISV from other English language translations?" The ISV offers four features that distinguish it from other recent English language translations:

1. The ISV is a New Translation, Not a Revision.

The ISV is a totally new work translated directly from the original languages of Scripture and derived from no other English translation. A number of other English translations have their origins in revisions of earlier works. Though labeled "new," perhaps they more accurately should be called revisions. A partial list includes:

  • The New King James Version (NKJV®). This is a revision of the Authorized (King James) Version of 1611.

  • The New International Readers Version (NIRV®). This is a revision of the New International Version (NIV®).

  • The New American Standard Bible (NASB®). This is a revision of the American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV®).

  • The updated New American Standard Bible. This is a revision of the NASB.

  • The Revised Standard Version (RSV®). The RSV is also a revision of the ASV.

  • The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV®). The NRSV is a revision of the RSV.

  • The New Living Translation (NLT®). The NLT appears to be related to the Living Bible, although differences of opinions exist as to whether it should be considered a revision of the Living Bible or truly a new work.

The ISV was produced by Bible scholars who believe that "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16 ISV) The ISV takes advantage not only of the most ancient manuscripts available, but also of the most recent archaeological discoveries.

The translators of the ISV have selected the English equivalent that most closely reflects the meaning of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. For a more detailed account of how the English speaking world received its Bible, see the article by ISV Committee on Translation member Dr. Ronald Reitveld entitled How Our English Bible Came to Us.

2. The ISV is a Computer-Friendly Translation

The ISV is the first English Bible conceived, designed, translated, and formatted primarily for a computer-literate generation. It is being produced entirely in a computer aided media (CAM) format. In its electronic format, the ISV will be the first Bible translation ever published with version numbers. English language Bible readers who have access to the Internet’s World Wide Web will be able to read the ISV under The ISV Foundation’s tradename International Standard Version (Internet) (ISVi) at The ISV Foundation’s publisher's web site at http://davidsonpress.com. The latest electronic version of the ISVi will also be available in compressed formats compatible with many contemporary Bible research software programs. Printed copies of the ISV also contain version numbers. The current version number can always be found on the reverse of the title page of printed editions and on the Davidson Press Home Page.

3. The ISV is Sensitive to Poetic Literary Forms in the Original Text

The ISV treats subtle nuances of the original texts with special care. For example, several passages of the Bible appear to have been rendered in poetic form when first penned by their authors. The ISV has meticulously crafted these original passages as true poems—thus communicating a sense of their original literary form as well as translating the original intent of the New Testament author.

As a result, passages that would have been read as poetry by first century readers actually appear in poetic form in the ISV. For example, see Christ’s complaint to the Pharisees recorded in Luke 7:32-35, the Christ Hymn of Philippians 2:6-11, the Apostle Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13, the Common Confession of 1 Timothy 3:16, Paul’s Hymn to Christ in Titus 3:4-7), Paul’s witty quote of the ancient Greek poet Epimenides in Titus 1:12, and the "faithful sayings" of Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15, 1 Timothy 3:1, 1 Timothy 4:8, and 2 Timothy 2:11. For a more detailed analysis of how the ISV renders New Testament poetry, see the article by ISV New Testament Editor Dr. David Alan Black entitled The Poetry of the International Standard Version New Testament.

4. The ISV is a Literal-Idiomatic Translation

The translation theory behind the ISV is different from theories employed in previous Bible translations. Traditionally, two basic methods of Bible translation have been used. The older method (and for many centuries practically the only method used) has been labeled "literal" or "formal equivalent." This type of translation allows readers to identify as fully as possible with the source languages of Scripture and to understand as much as they can of the Bible’s customs, manners of thought, and means of expression.

The other method is termed "idiomatic" or "functional equivalent." The goal of an idiomatic translation is to achieve the closest natural equivalent in modern language to match the ideas of the original text. Idiomatic translations have little or no concern for maintaining the grammatical forms, sentence structure, and consistency of word usage of the source languages.

All major translations of the Bible fall somewhere on a scale between complete formal equivalence and complete functional equivalence.

Some of these translations are quite literal (e.g., the King James Version (KJV), the New King James Version (NKJV®), the American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB®), the Revised Standard Version of 1901 (RSV®), and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV®).


Other translations lean toward the idiomatic end of the spectrum.

Some of these familiar works include the New International Version (NIV®), the New English Bible (NEB®), the Revised English Bible (REB®), the Good News Bible (GNB®), the New Living Translation (NLT®), and the Contemporary English Version (CEV®).

It is clear that each of these methods of Bible translation has its weaknesses. Competent Bible translators have always recognized that a strictly literal translation of the words of Scripture can be misleading. For example, "the wicked will not stand in the judgment" might be interpreted as proving that evil people actually would not be judged. Hence literalness is not always equivalent to accuracy.

On the other hand, the limitations of idiomatic translations are also obvious. Such translations frequently tend to cast the words of Scripture into new molds that convey the ideas in a significantly different spirit or emphasis. Idiomatic translations have, in a sense, a commentary built into them; they represent a choice made by the translators as to what the translators think a passage means. For that reason, an idiomatic translation is easier to read but less reliable for careful study.

A good translation will steer a careful course between word-for-word translation and interpretation under the guise of translating. In other words, a good translation will be both reliable and readable. The best translation, then, is one that is both accurate and idiomatic at the same time. It will make every effort to reproduce the culture and exact meaning of the text without sacrificing readability. The ISV Foundation calls this type of translation "literal-idiomatic."

Of these three basic types of translation—literal, literal-idiomatic, and idiomatic—the translators of the ISV have, without hesitation, opted for the second. This is not because it happens to be the middle option, simply avoiding extremes, but because the literal-idiomatic translation is the only choice that avoids the dangers of over-literalness and of over-interpretation discussed above. Teaching biblical truth demands extreme fidelity to the original text of Scripture. However, a translation of the Bible need not sacrifice English clarity in order to maintain a close correspondence to the source languages. The goal of the ISV, therefore, has been both accuracy and excellence in communication.

  • ISV07.jpg (60074 bytes)The ISV is international. You won’t find slang, national colloquialisms, or confusing regionalisms in the text of the International Standard Version Bible.

  • The ISV is standard. It’s perfect for use in public worship services and for your private Bible studies.

  • The ISV is clear. Passages flow smoothly in clear, natural English.

  • The ISV is accurate. It's quite possibly the most insightful version of the Bible you'll ever read.

  • The ISV is contemporary. It conveys the thoughts, intents, and words of the original text of the Bible in language you and your children can understand, appreciate, and apply to your life today.

  • The ISV is distinctive. Subtle nuances of the original languages stand out with a crystal clarity that will astonish you. Poetic passages such as Philippians 2:6-11 and Titus 3:4-7 have been painstakingly crafted as true poems. The result: you can actually feel the undistorted sense of the original literary form insightfully rendered in clear English.

  • The ISV is original. It’s no mere paraphrase. It’s no mere revision of a now outdated translation. The ISV is totally new. It comes to you directly from the original languages of the Bible.

  • The ISV is faithful. The text is translated without reading any presuppositions into the text. You know that the original intent of the authors of Scripture has been rendered with integrity and faithfulness.

  • The ISV is trustworthy. Its world-class translators and consulting scholars are clearly identified by name and by their credentials.

  • The ISV is insightful. More than 3,100 exhaustive footnotes in the ISV New Testament alone provide comprehensive insights into the meaning and background of the Biblical text.

  • The ISV is intergenerational. It’s the first Bible translation specifically developed for today’s computer-literate generation.

  • The ISV is cutting-edge. It’s the first translation of the Bible ever produced with version numbers in both printed and software editions. Software text upgrades of the ISV New Testament in the e-Sword format are always downloadable from the internet free of charge. You'll have the confidence that you’re reading the latest print or software edition available.

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