Open Bible

Unlocked Literal Bible Translation

Anyone who knows two languages well realises that translation from one language to another is fraught with problems. Most people who read the Bible do so in translation, and most who read it place great weight on it – treating it as God’s Word. So translating the Bible is a task not to be taken lightly.

Scholars who translate the Bible must take great care that what they wished was written there does not bias what is actually written there. Otherwise, rather than reading what God has given us, we will be reading what we wished God had given us.

Unlocked Literal Bible is a new kid on the (frankly) over-populated-English-Bible-Translations block. I have already been recommended it – and I am concerned.

This translation acknowledges:

We use a three-level, Church-centric approach for identifying the fidelity of translated Biblical content:

Level 1: internal — Translator (or team) affirms that translation is in line with Statement of Faith and Translation Guidelines.

Let me just reinforce this: for a draft to get to “Level 1” (the lowest possible level of “quality assurance”) the translation has to be “in line with Statement of Faith”! This completely reverses what I would hold – a statement of faith has to be in line with the Bible – rather than the other way around. However inconvenient a Biblical text is, contrary to the approach taken by this translation, it needs to be translated as accurately as possible, not filtered through and biased by the translators’ belief views. That’s not even going down their actual statement which I certainly would not sign up to. Nor could I agree that Baptism, and what they call the “Lord’s Supper“, are “peripheral” to the Christian faith.

Psalm 3

Psalm 3

A Flawed Text

On being recommended the translation, one of the first places I looked was how it dealt with the Psalms. On a quick skim, I immediately spotted the error in Psalm 3: “lifts” written with the letter “l” twice!

And the site claims that this has passed their highest level “Checking level 3“. That means it has passed the doctrine police (level 1), has been independently checked and confirmed by the language community as well as three church leaders not on the translation team (level 2), and checked and confirmed by leadership of at least three Church networks with native speakers of the language, or a translation consultant in coordination with a Church network (level 3). And after all this supposed checking of theirs, I spot a mistake at a glance within the first minute. The simplest word-processor would not let such a basic error through.

A Biased Text

The translation of the complex, problematic concept ἱλασμός (and ἱλαστήριον) loses any multifaceted interpretation by being seen through the limiting lens of the Statement of Faith. When it comes to the theory of salvation presented by this translation, there is no room for a variety of models in the great multi-faceted jewel of our redemption – it is “propitiation” all the way home.

For God provided Christ Jesus as a propitiation (ἱλαστήριον) through faith in his blood; (Rom 3:25)
He is the propitiation (ἱλασμός)for our sins (1 Jn 2:2)
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation (ἱλασμός) for our sins. (1 Jn 4:10)

The debatable, tiresome-topic-du-jour also is “solved” by translating with an English word that only relatively recently has been introduced to translate the Bible’s difficult-to-translate ἀρσενοκοῖται.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not believe lies. The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, those who practice homosexuality (ἀρσενοκοῖται), …—none of them will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)
we know this, that law is not made for a righteous man, but for a lawless and rebellious people, for ungodly people and sinners, for those who are godless and profane, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for sexually immoral people, for homosexuals (ἀρσενοκοίταις)… (1 Tim 3:9-10)

An Inconsistent Text

Sometimes texts are rendered gender-inclusive. At other times the exact same word is rendered exclusively masculine in English.

Just as water reflects a person’s (אָדָם ‘adam) face,
so a person’s heart reflects the person. (Proverbs 27:19)

In Genesis 2, the translation makes no distinction made between אָדָם ‘adam (which there is translated as “man” rather than the “person” of Proverbs) and אִישׁ ‘iysh (which actually does mean “man”).

Furthermore, we know that the plural Greek word ἀδελφοί refers to siblings (“brothers and sisters”) in a family. And the context is clear that all believers, men and women, are being addressed. But that doesn’t stop this translation from inconsistency – so much so that one could be forgiven for concluding that Romans and 1 Corinthians are by different authors.

Now I urge you, brothers (ἀδελφοί), by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me. (Romans 15:30)
About spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters (ἀδελφοί), I do not want you to be uninformed. (1 Cor 12:1)

Absolutely the exact same word is translated one way in Romans, and differently in the letter to the Corinthians – both by the same author! And both have been checked to Level 3. The translators are being irresponsible. The Bible is not a play-thing.


Of all the constantly-increasing plethora of translations of the scriptures, this one must be one of the shoddiest. At least this appears not to be a money-making venture. And to their credit they are clear that they are biasing this translation to fit in with their particular predetermined beliefs. What is most disturbing is the intention to produce similar translations in every language.

The danger with my writing this post is that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Yes, if you want or need a God who requires propitiating, if you prefer a Bible that fits in with rather than challenging your preconceptions, if you want a Bible that condemns committed-same-sex couples (a concept obviously unknown in the context of the original), if you want a Bible that is more misogynist than the original – then this just might be the translation for you.

For those of us who prefer a more rigorously honest translation, this is just one more in a growing list of distortions.

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