Olive Tree Learning Center
One of the most distinctive and helpful translations I know is The New Testament: an Expanded Translation, by Kenneth Samuel Wuest (1893-1962). A respected professor of New Testament Greek at the Moody Bible Institute, Wuest published over a dozen books on the New Testament, and his Expanded Translation is valued by those who appreciate the nuances of the Koiné or common Greek language, aspects of the original that are difficult to convey in English. In this article we will point out the usefulness of this enlightening resource as a tool for exploring the New Testament.
The term expanded translation is not a common one. Mr. Wuest explains this title in the preface to his translation. In order to accomplish his goal of making the intention of the Greek-speaking authors accessible to non-Greek readers, he "expands" the text, using additional words to express the original meaning. It is not his intention, however, to paraphrase the text, but to assist readers in realizing the force and meaning of the original. As a result, the word order and phraseology of this English translation are not always elegant or even normal. Sometimes the text may seem repetitive, elongated, abrupt, or otherwise out of the ordinary. Students or scholars of New Testament Greek can often see clearly why the translator says it the way he does; one who has not studied the original will be prompted by the unexpected English usage to stop and consider the meaning. Although conceived to help non-Greek readers appreciate what the New Testament actually says, Wuest's Expanded Translation also greatly aids students of Greek in their understanding of the depth and beauty of the language God chose for presenting His gospel to the world.
Wuest never intended his translation to be used in isolation; rather, he conceived it as a complement to other fine translations. I find great benefit in reading the translation side-by-side with another English translation or with the Greek New Testament. Readers not proficient in Greek may find it helpful to use an interlinear Greek-English New Testament along with Wuest's translation.
Wuest's method in writing this work is no secret. In the preface to the Expanded Translation, he states that he wanted to bring out the force of the original text in several important and specific aspects: word order, word meaning, distinctions between Greek synonyms, the special force of the Greek negative, the type of action expressed by Greek verbs, the significance of the use of personal pronouns in Greek, the presence or absence of the definite article, the distinctions between hypothetical and fulfilled conditions, and the meaning of certain words used in earlier translations. All of these are aspects of Greek that scholars realize are not adequately expressed in many English translations.
In his preface, Wuest elaborates on each of these aspects, using examples from his translation. Reading the preface is like reading a synopsis of the crucial distinctions between Koiné Greek and English. Every student of the Bible would do well to read it. In this article, we will briefly examine each one of these points of comparison, nine in all, using a very good standard translation, the New King James Version (NKJV) to assess the uniqueness of the Wuest translation. We have no intention to devalue the more traditional version; rather, our goal is to highlight the purpose, uniqueness, and value of the expanded version as it uses additional English words to render the meaning of the Greek.
Writers and speakers use word order for emphasis. Typically, the first and last words we utter stand out the most. Because Greek, like Latin, is an inflected language, the functions of words are indicated by their endings, not by their sequence. As a result, Greek writers have more choices about where to put words in a sentence. For emphasis, they may put a word first (or last) just to make it stand out. Consider these two translations of John 7:37, where Jesus cried out loudly to those gathered at the Feast of Tabernacles, urging the thirsty ones to come to Him and drink.
|He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.||He who believes on me, just as the scripture said, rivers out of his inmost being shall flow, of living water.|
In this case the NKJV uses normal word order while the Wuest uses the exact word order of the Greek. Notice how the word rivers receives special emphasis, being moved up to the beginning of the clause in which it appears. One can almost hear Jesus shouting this word for emphasis, bidding thirsty souls to come to Him and drink. Comparing the two translations, which is exactly what Wuest wanted readers to do, gives a stronger impression of the emphasis produced by the Greek word order. The intent of the passage may be put this way: those who receive Jesus as the Spirit have not just a trickle, but RIVERS of living water available to them, waiting to burst forth out of their innermost being for the refreshment of others. Such an interpretation is not just a good thought; rather, it is strongly reinforced by the Greek word order.
Koiné Greek is precise and rich in meaning. Wuest points out in his preface that some Greek words are so full of meaning that several English words may be needed to make the sense clear. Notice how many more words he uses to clarify Paul's exhortation in Romans 12:2.
|And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.||And stop assuming an outward expression that does not come from within you and is not representative of what you are in your inner being but is patterned after this age; but change your outward expression to one that comes from within and is representative of your inner being, by the renewing of your mind, resulting in your putting to the test what is the will of God, the good and well-pleasing and complete will, and having found that it meets specifications, place your approval upon it.|
For a Christian to be conformed to this world is incompatible with his or her regenerate nature as a child of God. Such conformity is an outward expression that doesn't match the inward reality. Not only so, it makes one miserable because his or her actions are not in agreement with the Christ-life within. As Christians, we should have an outward expression that comes from our innermost being (see John 7:37 above), matching the life of Christ within and proving the will of God. Notice how emphatically Wuest's Expanded Translation makes this point.
Again, the language of the New Testament is very precise. Greek distinguishes, for example, between three different kinds of love. The same is true of life, where bios refers to physical or temporal life, psuche to the life of the soul (psychological life), and zoe to the eternal life of God, which is Christ Himself (John 14:6; 1 John 5:12). Often, English translations do not make these distinctions clear. Notice how Wuest brings out the difference between two words for see in John 16:16.
|A little while and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me...||A little while and no longer are you attentively contemplating me, and again a little while, and you shall look at me with discerning sight.|
The first translation, though not inaccurate, does not show the difference between two kinds of seeing. The second translation not only points out the difference, but it suggests that the disciples will experience their Lord in a deeper and more discerning way when they perceive Him in His resurrection state. One is reminded of 2 Cor.5:16, where Paul says, "Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer" (NKJV). Both verses speak of a new kind of perception of Christ in resurrection as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45), no longer as a mere man of flesh and blood, but as the risen Lord Himself. The word see, without further definition, may fail to suggest such a profound change in the disciples' appreciation of their Lord.
There are numerous examples like this in the Expanded Translation. Let's look at one more, the Lord's declaration to Peter in Matt.16:18, where two words for rock are used, petros (also Peter's name) and petra.
|And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.||Moreover, as for myself, I also am saying to you, You are Rock [petros, masculine in gender, a detached but large fragment of rock], and upon this massive rock [petra, feminine in gender, feminine demonstrative pronoun cannot go back to masculine petros; petra, a rocky peak, a massive rock] I will build my Church. And the councils of the unseen world shall not overpower it.|
The large, massive, rock which is Christ and the revelation of Christ as the foundation of the church is carefully distinguished from the smaller fragment of rock which is Peter, who, as one of the apostles, will be one of the twelve foundation stones of the New Jerusalem's walls (Rev.21:14), but not the whole foundation.
In Greek, the use of the negative particle me implies a negative answer and tends to make the question more emphatic. Notice the translations of John 18:17.
|Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, "You are not also one of this Man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not."||Then the female slave, the one who had charge of the door, says to Peter, And as for you, you are not also one of this man's disciples, are you? That one says, I am not.|
Both of these translations successfully bring out the incredulous tone of the girl's question by repeating the words "are you?" expressed in Greek by the negative particle. The servant girl's question anticipates a denial for an answer, and Peter gives it. How much the one who said, "Even if all are made to stumble, I will not be" (Mark14:29, NKJV) must have been humbled at this moment! Yet God was not finished with Him and went on to make Peter a testimony of grace (1 Pet.5:5).
Whereas in English, verb tense is mainly related to the time of the action, tense in Greek often emphasizes the kind of action. In his Expanded Translation, Wuest faithfully highlights this very significant aspect of Greek verbs again and again.
The perfect tense in Greek refers to an action completed in past time which has a present and in some cases permanent result. Although the English perfect tense (have or has with the past participle) expresses a similar concept, it comes short of the full force of the Greek perfect. In Wuest's translation, there is no mistaking the significance of the perfect tense. Compare two versions of 1 John 1:1.
|That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life.||That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard with the present result that it is ringing in our ears, that which we have discerningly seen with our eyes with the present result that it is in our mind's eye, that which we gazed upon as a spectacle, and our hands handled with a view to investigation, that which is concerning the Word of life.|
The verbs have heard and have seen are expanded considerably to bring out the full force of the perfect tense.
The present tense in Greek is typically durative in nature, expressing a continuous rather than a momentary action. This fact has refreshed many a Christian, for it reveals the secret of the Christian life: continual dependence on Christ to live His life in us. Hudson Taylor testified that he was helped to enter into this kind of life, where Christ is everything, when he realized that the force of the Greek present tense in John 6:35 implies not a once-for-all coming to Christ, but a continual coming and partaking of Him (Taylor, Dr. and Mrs. Howard, Biography of James Hudson Taylor. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1995, pages 323-324). Notice how Wuest's translation of the present imperative in John 15:4 conveys the same reality.
|Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.||Maintain a living communion with me, and I with you. Just as the branch is unable to be bearing fruit from itself as a source unless it remains in a living union with the vine, so neither you, unless you maintain a living communion with me.|
Think about this as you read your New Testament in any translation: a present tense verb, whether indicative, imperative, or subjunctive, describes a continuous action unless the context somehow suggests otherwise. This one fact can have a mind-renewing influence on our understanding of many passages; moreover, as it did for Hudson Taylor, such a revelation can change our life and experience.
Another enlightening feature of the Expanded Translation is its treatment of personal pronouns. The person of a Greek verb is indicated by the ending; therefore, the personal pronoun is not needed to indicate the subject of a verb. When it appears, it indicates emphasis. English translations often do not bring out the emphasis intended by the use of a personal pronoun along with the verb in Greek. Look at the following example from a very familiar verse, John 14:6.
|Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."||Jesus says to him, I alone, in contradistinction to all others, am the road and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.|
Reading Wuest's translation, it is impossible to miss the fact that Jesus alone is the way to the Father; there is no other.
Unlike English, Greek has only the definite article, no indefinite article. Since the definite article in Greek originated from the demonstrative pronoun, it is somewhat more emphatic than in English. The presence of the definite article emphasizes identity while its absence qualifies, or indicates the nature of a person or thing. Note the striking difference between these two translations of John 1:1:
|In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.||In the beginning the Word was existing. And the Word was in fellowship with God the Father. And the Word was as to His essence absolute deity.|
In this verse, the first of the two references to God includes the definite article in Greek, which emphasizes identity rather than essence or nature. Notice how Wuest carefully preserves the sense of the original by rendering this as God the Father, showing the identity of God. The second reference to God, however, is lacking the definite article, which means that the essence or nature of God is indicated. Here, Wuest expresses the meaning of the original this way: "and the Word was as to His essence absolute deity." The Son who is the Word was existing in the beginning, face to face with God the Father, and was in His essence and nature fully God. How beautifully this reality is expressed both in the Greek and in the Expanded Translation.
Here we can see how the translator's intention was to let his readers in on what he himself, as a Greek scholar with keen spiritual insight, could see in the original language. We can also see how this unique translation functions as a kind of abbreviated commentary on the simpler, more compact, and word-for-word translation to which we are comparing it. If the definite article, or its absence, were the only aspect of Greek that the Expanded Translation addressed, it would still be a tool of great value to those who want to understand what the word of God is really saying.
A fulfilled condition is one that is assumed by the speaker to be a fact already. The first translation of Gal.5:25 below is ambiguous in this regard while the second strongly indicates a fulfilled condition. Wuest bases his translation on the presence of the particle ei in Greek (usually translated if or since), which indicates that what is stated as a condition is considered to be a fact.
|If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.||In view of the fact that we are being sustained in spiritual life by the Spirit, by means of the Spirit let us go on ordering our conduct.|
Another way to put it would be like this: if we are living in the spirit, and we are, let us also be ordering our conduct in the spirit, step by step. Whether or not a condition is regarded as fulfilled is a critical distinction for understanding the writer's intent, and since faith is based on the facts presented in God's word, a proper rendering of this small word ei can be very encouraging.
Finally, Wuest's goal in this translation is to clarify the meaning of certain words that appear in earlier translations. Some of these words are transliterations, Greek words spelled with English letters, such as baptize, angel, and apostle. In Greek, these words may mean something a little different from what they have come to mean in English. The word angel, for example, is the anglicized form of the Greek word for a messenger. The word apostle means an ambassador, one sent by another as a representative. Wuest is careful to preserve the original meaning of such words in his translation.
Something not mentioned in his preface, but which I find interesting, is that the converse is also true. Where an anglicized Greek word (there are many of them hiding out in the English language) might be employed to shed light on the original, the Expanded Translation may take advantage of this potential, as happens in Eph.1:3:
|Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.||May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be eulogized, the One who conferred benefactions upon us in the sphere of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.|
In this verse, the Greek word for blessing, eulogia, is used in different forms three times, as the NKJV shows, twice as a verb and once as a noun. Wuest translates the words as eulogized (a transliteration), conferred benefactions (a different shade of meaning achieved with Latin derivatives), and blessing (a word commonly used in English but perhaps not always fully understood). A eulogy, in English, is a kind of speech commending someone, akin to the real sense of the Greek word, which literally means a "well-speaking." Thus, in attempting to bring out the fullness of the original, Wuest appears to have desired to enrich the translation by using three different terms, one of which is a transliteration. The important thing is that the words he chooses do indeed eulogize the Father for the spiritual blessings conferred on us in Christ, blessings innumerable and beyond compare.
While Kenneth Wuest's Expanded Translation is a one-volume compendium of spiritual insights into the Greek New Testament, it is not, strictly speaking, a paraphrase or interpretation; rather, the author wanted to share the wealth God had given him through years of studying and teaching Greek, making it available to non-Greek readers in the simplest form possible — not a verse by verse commentary, not a series of study notes, not even a paraphrase, but a literal translation that uses as many words as are needed to capture the original meaning. I have greatly enjoyed this translation as a companion to my reading of the New Testament, whether in English or Greek. I trust you will too.
For questions and comments contact: