Biblical translation is a difficult job. Behind every new or updated translation of the Bible is a team of faithful individuals representing hundreds of hours carefully agonizing about getting each word, thought, and idea across in the most coherent and respectful way they can (and inevitably catching hate for various difficult decisions). Indeed, a Bible translation bears a piece of those doing the translating. Picking a Bible for reading or study can be a frustrating and confusing task because of the spectrum of translation approaches.

The good news is that you don’t have to choose between literal and interpretive translations anymore. With the Expanded Bible, you can flesh out your understanding of Scripture from the perspective of a translator.


From the introduction of the Expanded Bible:

No translation is ever completely successful. They all fall short for a variety of reasons:

  1. No two languages are equivalent in their vocabulary, sounds, rhythms, idioms, or underlying structure. Nor are any two cultures out of which languages arise equivalent in their way of understanding and expressing reality, their value systems, or their social and political organization, among other factors.
  2. The meaning of a text includes much more than its abstract thought. The sounds and rhythms of words, word play and puns, emotional overtones, metaphor, figurative language, and tone are just some of the other devices that carry meaning. No translation can transfer all these things from one language to another.
  3. All translation requires interpretation. One cannot convey meaning in a second language without first deciding what it means in the original. It’s unavoidable – equally skilled and well-meaning scholars will interpret differently.
  4. A traditional translation requires one to choose a single possibility— whether of a word or an interpretation– when in fact two or more may be plausible.

The Expanded Bible, while also imperfect, helps with all these problems inherent in translation. It allows the reader to see multiple possibilities for words, phrases, and interpretations. Rather than opting for one choice, it shows many. It can, for instance, show both an original metaphor and a more prosaic understanding of that metaphor. it can show a second or third way of understanding the meaning of a word, phrase, verse, or passage. It can provide comments that give the historical, cultural, linguistic, or theological background that an English-language reader may lack. When helpful, it provides the most literal rendering to show what a translator has to work with.


The easiest way to learn to use the Expanded Bible is simply to read it. One may wish to read a verse or passage first using only the bolded text, then go back and read it again using the expanded material. The markers (sigla) used are simple and the method is quite intuitive:

[ ]EXPANSION: Other possible ways of translating a word, phrase, clause, or sentence. Expansions are enclosed within a set of brackets [ ], and provide synonyms, different nuances, or sometimes more sophisticated diction.
[or]ALTERNATE: A different translation possibility that takes the meaning of the original language in a different direction than the base text does. Alternates provide information not possible in a standard translation, which must choose between possibilities for its main text. These are signaled by an or within a set of brackets: [or].
LLITERAL: A more literal rendering of the original language, allowing the reader to see why translations make varying choices. These are signaled by a superscript L within a bracket: [L].
TTRADITIONAL: Provides familiar terms and well-known renderings from past translations, especially those in the King James transition. Signaled by a superscript T within a bracket: [T].
CCOMMENT: Briefly provides historical, cultural, theological, or other explanatory information to help readers better understand a verse or passage. These are signaled by a superscript C within a bracket: [C].
Gen. 1:1REFERENCE: Provides cross-references to parallel passages, quotations from or allusions to another part of the Bible. These usually appear within a bracket.
nTEXTUAL VARIANT: Footnoted material that shows significant differences in various manuscripts in the original language. Signaled by a superscript n that leads to a footnote at the bottom of the page (In some cases a passage in the base text is enclosed within vertical lines, indicating what is not contained in certain early manuscripts, as the footnote indicates.)

The illuminating possibilities of the Expanded Bible method are most apparent when these different devices are used in close succession. Each device builds on the previous one to help us understand difficult passages and bring out the richness of the text more fully than any standard translation can:

Romans 3:21 expanded
Romans 3:21-25, The Expanded Bible

It may seem a bit dizzying at first, but this tool is perfect for gaining an intimate knowledge of Scripture. You can read it on its own or pull it up with the parallel tab to gain insight during your daily reading. For example, here is Psalm 23, with the NIV on the left and the Expanded Bible on right.

psalm 23 expanded bible


Does the idea of exploring different translations at once excite you? Visit our store to learn more or pick up your own copy of the Expanded Bible today!

1 Comment

  1. Michael Potter Reply

    Just wanted to put it out there that I’ve used this Bible to follow along in church – it’s super helpful to see the range of interpretation at a glance.

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