Recovery Version Bible Review
Note: I originally posted this review on Amazon.com. This version is slightly updated.
Recovery Version Bible Review: the best study Bible, hands down
The Recovery Version Bible (RcV) is usually published as a composition of four distinct items: the RcV Bible translation; the RcV Bible footnotes; RcV Bible outlines; and RcV Bible cross-references. Different editions of the RcV include various combos of each of these items, sometimes New Testament only, and sometimes the whole Bible. In this Recovery Version Bible review, I will critique each of these components separately, referring mainly to the New Testament editions.
Text translation of the Recovery Version Bible
I can read the Bible in five languages (including Greek, and to a lesser extent Hebrew), and this is definitely one of the best translations out there. In fact, although I personally prefer translations based on the Byzantine/Majority Text (for which I highly recommend Jay Green’s Literal Translation of the Bible and the New King James Version), the Recovery Version is the best Critical Text (Nestle Aland) translation with which I am personally familiar. The RcV doesn’t follow the dynamic equivalence philosophy, which I personally cannot stand (NIV, TNIV, CEV, and so on–note: the NIV was my first Bible, and after five years of careful reading and marking up, I finally had to drop it, especially after I learnt Hebrew and Greek myself); it is solidly in the literal translation camp, and is written in very clear English. In my opinion, it most stands out above other translations in the following two of its translation principles:
- Its treatment of Greek prepositions is the best I’ve seen in any English translation, such as eis (into/unto) and para (from/with), bringing out the fine riches usually accessible only to a Greek reader.
- Its careful and faithful treatment of words referring to the parts of man is unparalleled: psyche (soul/soul-life); sarx (flesh); pneuma (spirit); neshema (breath); ruah (wind/air/spirit/breath). This translation makes crystal clear the Biblical distinctions in the three parts of man–spirit, soul, and body–and presents the flesh in both its good and bad aspects, as the Greek and Hebrew clearly do; thus the English reader can see for themselves the full range of Biblical usage of these critical words. For example, compare the translations of Heb 4:12; 1Th 5:23; 1Co 2:14; 2Pe 1:4 with other Bible versions.
Footnotes of the Recovery Version Bible
Although the RcV is in itself an excellent translation, by far the most outstanding feature of this edition is the footnotes. These range in length and scope from one-line grammatical notes to two-page theological essays. Although I am not a theologian, my personal studies of theology and history fully affirm for me the RcV’s claim to be a “crystallisation of the understanding of the divine revelation which the saints have attained to in the past 2000 years.” I have met for many years in Christian circles as diverse as the emotional, experiential Pentecostals to the rationalistical, theological Calvinists, and the RcV footnotes spans them all. It focuses on experiencing Christ as life in the Bible, but it solidly grounds the key Scriptural doctrines. It affirms all Biblical truths (e.g., BOTH predestination and free will; and BOTH that tongues still exist as a genuine gift and that tongues are the least of all the gifts, certainly not for everyone). It has intimate and tender notes that just cause your heart to soar in love for Christ (for example, see Mat 26:8n1; 1Co 2:9n3; Heb 12:2n2), and detailed, thick theological expositions that span the entire Bible on key items (for example, see 1Jn 1:6n6 [truth/reality] and 2Co 13:14n1 on the classic doxology).
One of the aspects in which the RcV notes never cease to amaze me is in how intricately they use the Bible itself as the basis for interpreting the Bible. An excellent example is in how the footnotes on John 3:14-16 completely expand and enlarge on the classic verse John 3:16. You thought you knew everything about that verse until the RcV interprets it in the context of the verses immediately surrounding it, in the context of the chapter, of the book, and of the entire Bible.
I own many Bible commentaries, including three that focus specifically on Bible difficulties or hard questions, and the RcV trumps them all. I only used to refer to them occasionally, but now I refer to the RcV daily, as it sheds light on passages both apparently simple and hard. Of course, no Bible commentary will answer every question you have, but the RcV answers far more than any other one I own. And its interpretations are particularly compelling, because of its principle of using the Bible itself to interpret the Bible, rather than man’s clever imagination; thus the footnotes usually refer extensively to other Bible verses.
Outlines and cross-references of the Recovery Version Bible
Although the footnotes are the most outstanding feature, the Bible outlines and cross-references contain amazing light. In every other Bible I’ve had, I’ve learned to skip the outline headers as I read, since they didn’t add much other than helping me quickly find the verse I’m looking for. However, the RcV outlines contain amazing revelation. For example, I can never forget the first time I read through the outline of the Gospel of John, and saw that Jesus Christ, the God-Saviour, is Life Himself. Life is not a thing; Life is a living person who has come to meet the needs of every man, meeting us in every situation.
I usually read the electronic version of the RcV (available directly from the publisher, Living Stream Ministry), and the cross-references have made me click-happy, clicking from one reference to another. I used to own a Thompson Chain Reference Bible, which was the best cross-reference Bible I had known priorly. However, I eventually gave it away when I realized that I just wasn’t using it anymore. The RcV cross-references reference more or less the same key verses, and even more, linking not only literal co-references, but linking verses based on those that convey the same revelation. The footnotes are also heavily referenced with related Bible verses that shed further light on the verse at hand.
I could say a lot more in praise of the Recovery Version Bible (I’ve read the entire Old and New Testament text with all the notes), but I think this suffices. I heard that DL Moody said something to the effect that if he were stuck on a desert island, as long as he had a Bible and CH Macintosh’s Notes on the Pentateuch, he would be a happy camper. Well, if all you had today was a copy of the Recovery Version with footnotes, you would have the Bible plus a devotional and theological library in your hands. I repeatedly thank God for giving the Body of Christ such a gift, and for placing it in my hands.
You can obtain a free New Testament Recovery Version:
- Bibles for Canada – Canada only (English and French)
- Bibles for America and other sources – outside Canada (English and Spanish)
Amen! I love RCV, too, brother! It’svery good for reading.
Amen! The Recovery Version footnotes help me love and appreciate the Bible even more!
Thank you brother for the interesting review on the RV of the bible. I have only been in the church life for a few years and have wondered about the translation used. Previous to TLR I was in a denomination that proclaimed absolute dominance,excellence and integrity of the KJV, so thank you I have enjoyed your opinion and critic.
God be with you.
Sister Andrea from new Zealand
I’m very familiar with the KJV-only arguments. On one hand, there is some merit to the arguments in that the KJV is still one of the most accurate English translations today, largely because most new translation are full of the interpreters’ opinions instead of simply translating the Bible. (However, I think the New KJV is much of an improvement on the original KJV, and is one of the best translations available; actually, it is very similar to the Recovery Version in many verses.) Also, even though the KJV is hard for many contemporary English readers to understand, it is the only common English translation I know of today that uses thees and thous correctly to accurately reflect nuances in the original Hebrew and Greek use of personal pronouns–even the Recovery Version can’t do that, and loses this important element of accuracy that has been lost in the contemporary English language. (Here, the New KJV also loses out on the original.) On the other hand, all translations (including the Recovery Version) are the work of men, and all have some errors. To believe that God miraculously inspired the KJV translators is a decision of faith, which I can respect, but it certainly is not based on anything that the Bible teaches.
That said, the whole matter of seeking for the “perfect” Bible translation or even the “original” Bible is a major enterprise in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Believe me, I’ve been there before I started meeting with the local churches–that’s one of the main reasons I’ve read so many different Bible translations. One thing that has become clear to me is that the differences between translations are quite minor in comparison with the differences in interpretation, even among people who use the same Bible translations (such as the KJV). I have come to realize that one of the most important things a Christian can learn in this matter is to see a vision of God’s New Testament economy. If we have such a vision, then no matter what translation we use, we can see and enter into God’s central purpose. I have come to realize that the search for the perfect translation is a major deviation from God’s economy. For example, when some of us distribute Recovery Version New Testaments with Bibles for Canada, we occasionally meet people who refuse to listen to anything we have to say simply because it is not the KJV. This concept shuts up people’s hearts so that they have no room to listen to what God might want to say to them.
This is not to say that accurate translation does not matter. In fact, a translator’s interpretations will always influence their translation. Because of this, many translations mistranslate important words based on the translators’ concepts. Because the Recovery Version translators clearly saw God’s economy, they appreciated so many fine nuances in the Hebrew and Greek and took care to do their best to preserve these nuances in their translation. Like Witness Lee said, if you don’t have a vision, you might say “G-O-D”, “D-O-G”, it’s all more or less the same thing. But when you have a proper vision, then you realize that the two are distinct and that the distinction needs to be maintained in the translation.
After I saw this, it has strengthened my prayer and pursuit to see a clear vision of God’s economy, and for this vision to become brighter and brighter. Thus, the Bible remains a fresh and living book for me as I pursue knowing God together with His Body through His word.