Celebrating 50 Years of the Good News Translation

For more than 50 years, American Bible Society has proclaimed the eternal hope of God’s Word in the everyday language of modern society.

In September 2016, American Bible Society celebrated the 50th anniversary of its groundbreaking Good News Translation—one of the world’s first Bible translations to present God’s Word in simple, everyday English.

The New Testament was originally published as Good News for Modern Man in 1966 and sold more than 30 million copies during its initial five years of publication. In 1971, it became an all-time paperback bestseller.

The translation’s unique approach was to use a theory called “dynamic equivalence” developed by American Bible Society translation scholar Eugene Nida (1914–2011). Instead of translating the Bible word-for-word from the original biblical languages, translators of the Good News Translation conveyed God’s Word “thought-for-thought.” What resulted was a clear, comfortable Bible translation for modern readers.

“Perhaps no better compliment could come to a translator than to have someone say, ‘I never knew before that God spoke my language,’” said Nida of his revolutionary translation method.

The other reason Good News for Modern Man stood out was its collection of biblical illustrations by Swiss artist Annie Vallotton. Her timeless line drawings conveyed a biblical narrative that transcended race, gender, and language.

“The nature of these illustrations added to the ecumenical feel of Good News for Modern Man,” says American historian John Fea. “This was a Bible for everyone.”

Far beyond its commercial success, the Good News Translation led to significant advances within the kingdom of God. It paved the way for a whole host of modern Bible translations in English, such as The Message and The New International Version. It also provided fertile ground for partnership between Protestant and Catholic leaders seeking to help parishioners read and understand the Bible.

But as American Bible Society begins a third century of ministry in a new home in historic Philadelphia, the most enduring legacy of the Good News Translation is the bold rallying cry woven into its very name:the good news of God’s Word really is for everybody.

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Jack Newman
Jack Newman

Jack Newman is a Senior Content Specialist for American Bible Society. He loves telling stories about the life-changing power of the gospel and the modern-day heroes who share God's Word where needed most. Jack lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with his wife and daughters.

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