By Ray W. Johnson
Life Messengers. 1999. 528 pp. $14.95
After 43 years of publishing the great news about God’s magnificent salvation, Ray W. Johnson, founder and president of Life Messengers felt led to produce this translation. While the cover bears the words “Prophecy Edition” the explanatory pages within say “Bible prophecy is not our main concern in bringing this translation and the notes to you…Our main concern is that you are ready to meet God …”
Life Messengers is an organization that has produced and published over 66 million “witnessing booklets” that have been distributed in over 50 languages in scores of nations. Johnson also is working on the Old Testament which is predicted to be available soon. The translator claims that about a year after beginning this translation he was awakened sharply from his sleep and told to “Build an evangelistic center into the translation you are working on.” That is the explanation given for the rather extensive footnotes and appendices accompanying this version.
Johnson has translated from the Textus Receptus and has incorporated a few modern terms into his rendering, e.g. “masters” to “employers,” “slaves” to “employees,” and “brothers” to “brothers and sisters.” He notes also that in this version he has tendered only two of many English “strange spellings” to what he calls upgraded spellings, such as “through” to “thru” and “throughout” to “thruout.”
Virtually every page of text includes explanatory and/or expositional footnotes, in addition to his 62-page Appendix. He attempts to take a “mediational” position with regard to the various prophetic viewpoints, such as the Rapture, though his view is basically premillenial. In the notes, he defends his strong position concerning the immediate necessity of obedience, but he believes unqualifiedly that “We are living in the last days when a soft, comforting message is being demanded by an unregenerate audience.”
Johnson considers his to be a close word-for-word translation, but he also recognizes the concessions that are needed to make the rendering free-flowing in today’s way of speaking. The notes reflect unapologetically the biases of the translator, such as when he vigorously objects to the use of wafers rather than bread in celebrating the communion service. In III John, Johnson has no notes at all and for some other problematical passages, such as I Cor. 11:1-16, he has virtually none.