Having This Ministry
A Digital Newsletter from Living Stream Ministry

A Short History of the English Recovery Version

When Brother Lee began ministering in the US in 1962, he typically used the King James Version (1611) as his text of the Bible, and often he was compelled to make adjustments to that translation, which were closer to the original languages. The old-timers among us probably still have their KJV with necessary improvements carefully handwritten in the margins or between the lines. For example, Ghost was changed to Spirit in Matthew 28:19; mansions to abodes in John 14:2; godly edifying to God’s economy in 1 Timothy 1:4; blessed are they that do his commandments to blessed are those who wash their robes in Revelation 22:14; and these are only a very few of the hundreds of corrections made. In his early printed ministry he often used the American Standard Version (1901), which is a much more accurate translation, though sometimes painfully so and woefully archaic. For this ministry and for us in the Lord’s recovery, who love His Word and desire to know it thoroughly and accurately, a new translation of the Bible was needed that would present the text in as accurate a way as possible while still respecting the readability of God’s Word. Thus, when he began his life-study of the Bible in December 1974 with the book of Romans, Brother Lee asked some brothers to prepare an improved text of Romans. If we look at this first book published, we see that it was more of an improvement of the existing KJV and less of a newly-executed translation from Greek. Further, it had the enhancements found in many study Bibles: outlines, some footnotes, explanatory opening paragraphs over sections of the text, and marginal cross references. These enhancements alone helped the saints in the study of Romans, not to mention what eventually came out in the printed messages of the Life-study of Romans. For the Life-study of John and the Life-study of Hebrews, similar standalone translations were prepared, but the explanatory paragraphs were dropped and more footnotes were added, and thus, even greater help on understanding these books was provided.

“The Recovery Version in its final developed format was now in place, and what was presented in the Recovery Version of Revelation became the norm and even the expectation for the rest of the New Testament. A major way to study the Bible in the Lord’s recovery was established.”

Then, in the summer of 1976, in a new meeting hall on Ball Road in Anaheim, CA, Brother Lee held the first semiannual training on the book of Revelation, and the trainees found on their seats the first half of the Recovery Version of Revelation, this time with extensive footnotes! Those of us who were there were astounded by these footnotes, even before the sharing of the message began. The explanations, the unveilings, the truth, and the light raced before our eyes and burned in our hearts! Also, charts were added that explained the details of the prophecies in Revelation. The Recovery Version in its final developed format was now in place, and what was presented in the Recovery Version of Revelation became the norm and even the expectation for the rest of the New Testament. A major way to study the Bible in the Lord’s recovery was established.

Year after year new translations of the books of the New Testament were released, all with many footnotes, extensive outlines, and a wealth of cross references. The translation of the text from Greek steadily improved as the team working on it gained greater knowledge and skill. By the time that Acts, the last book to be published, came out in December 1984, the team was providing newly-executed translation according to its final principles for the Recovery Version, but what had been produced as the whole New Testament was somewhat uneven and inconsistent. Therefore, three days after concluding his life-study of the New Testament, on January 1, 1985, Brother Lee initiated the work of revising the New Testament to make it more accurate and consistent in relation to the Greek text. However, though the revision work was in progress, he did not delay in putting all the standalone first translations of the New Testament into a single volume so that the saints could easily have the existing text and notes in hand. These were reproduced in the 1985 first edition, which one of the dear co-workers affectionately called the Gold Bar because of the gold stamping on the edges of the printed book. The name stuck, and many continued to refer to the first edition of the Recovery Version as the Gold Bar for years to come.

In March 1986 a new development in the work on the Recovery Version took place when Brother Lee made the decision to work on the Chinese New Testament Recovery Version himself in Taiwan. This happened during the first year and a half of what we call the New Way, when the full-time training in Taipei was started. Many saints from across the globe went to Taiwan to be trained in truth, life, and service, and many thousands of unbelievers were led to the Lord, baptized into the Triune God, and brought into the church life. While the New Way was being developed openly, Brother Lee was steadily working privately, usually eight hours a day, on the Chinese Recovery Version with a team of over sixty serving ones. During this time Brother Lee had the opportunity to re-study every verse in the New Testament in relation to the original Greek with the aid of his helpers, and many new renderings of the original text were adopted. Also, he asked a team of brothers in the US to go through his published Life-studies of the New Testament and compile materials that were not already in the current footnotes for possible inclusion in the final New Testament Recovery Version. These compilations were sent to Taiwan, and Brother Lee and his helpers selected, condensed, and edited much material for the final footnotes. Additionally, Brother Lee composed many, many new footnotes, dictating them to his helpers (something amazing for his helpers to witness since he usually did this with his eyes closed!) and polishing them for final publication. Thus, what we have today as the footnotes in the New Testament Recovery Version have come to us in three stages: the notes Brother Lee dictated for the individual New Testament books of the Recovery Version (reproduced in the Gold Bar), the compiled and edited notes from the Life-study messages, and the notes newly dictated by Brother Lee in Taiwan. His new translation of the Greek text into Chinese with this full body of footnotes constitutes the Chinese New Testament Recovery Version, which was first published in 1987. Given the fact that most New Testament Recovery Version teams take about five years to produce a new translation, Brother Lee’s sixteen months to produce the Chinese edition is simply amazing, especially when we bear in mind the other things that he was doing in his ministry at the same time.

“...what we have today as the footnotes in the New Testament Recovery Version have come to us in three stages: the notes Brother Lee dictated for the individual New Testament books of the Recovery Version (reproduced in the Gold Bar), the compiled and edited notes from the Life-study messages, and the notes newly dictated by Brother Lee in Taiwan.”

After the Chinese New Testament Recovery Version was completed, Brother Lee directed the LSM editorial section to revise the English New Testament Recovery Version accordingly. He was very particular in his direction for this work. On the verses of the New Testament he instructed the lead translator to work only from the Greek text directly and not to consult his work on the Chinese at all. Then, he provided a brother who knew Chinese, English, and Greek to compare the revised English text with the Chinese text and point out differences. He then instructed the lead English translator to examine the differences and follow particular ways to resolve them. In those places where the Greek text could be translated in more than one way, the way taken in the Chinese was adopted in the English. Those places where the Chinese did not seem to convey the Greek text accurately were gathered together and discussed thoroughly with Brother Lee one by one. In most of these cases he made adjustments to the Chinese text to better improve its accuracy. But in some cases it was not possible to be more accurate in Chinese (just as in English it is sometimes not possible to be more accurate according to the Greek), and in these places he allowed the English and the Chinese to differ. This, of course, is the nature and necessity of translation. Thus, through this arrangement in the work on the revised English he was able to do a further check of the Chinese New Testament against the Greek (published as the sixth edition of the Chinese) and to finalize the English New Testament. For the English footnotes Brother Lee had the LSM editorial section first translate all the footnotes from Chinese and then compare them to the existing footnotes in the 1985 Gold Bar. The utterance of the original English notes was preserved as much as possible, and the new material from the Chinese footnotes was incorporated. Then, a full editing of the footnotes was done to make them cohesive, coherent, and smooth. Finally, all the pieces were put together and typeset, proofread, and printed as the revised edition in December 1991 by Cambridge University Press.

The work on the English Old Testament Recovery Version followed a somewhat similar pattern, except for the footnotes. Brother Lee began his Life-study of the Old Testament in 1974 with the book of Genesis, but he gave these messages in weekly ministry meetings, not in the semiannual trainings, which he reserved for his Life-study of the New Testament. He also gave the Life-study of Exodus in weekly ministry meetings. In the summer of 1988 he began using the semiannual trainings for the Life-study of the Old Testament, beginning with Leviticus, and for these trainings he had the LSM editorial section prepare a new translation of each Old Testament book from Hebrew (and Aramaic, as the case may be). These new translations did not have footnotes or cross references, but most of them had an outline of the book, which was derived from the outlines for Brother Lee’s Life-study messages. In July 1995 Brother Lee completed his entire life-study of the Bible with his messages on the Song of Songs, and at that time the translation of the text of the Recovery Version was almost complete. Brother Lee directed the LSM editorial section to translate the remaining books (Genesis, Exodus, and Ezekiel), revise the entire Old Testament text, and publish a text-only edition of the Holy Bible Recovery Version because, he said, “the saints should read the Bible.” This text-only edition of the Holy Bible Recovery Version was published in 1999.

The footnotes for the Old Testament Recovery Version, of course, did not benefit from Brother Lee’s direct involvement, but they are directly from his ministry. Long before he went to be with the Lord on June 9, 1997, he directed two brothers to compile notes from the Life-studies of the Old Testament. This compilation work was carried out independently by the two brothers, and then the two compilations were compared, merged, and carefully edited by the LSM editorial section. Then, all the footnotes were reviewed, adjusted, and approved by the senior editors at LSM to make sure that they were in line with Brother Lee’s own editorial preferences. Finally, after nearly thirty years in the making, all the parts of the Holy Bible Recovery Version were brought together and reviewed one last time by the editorial section; then, it was typeset by a group of several sisters, proofread by over one hundred volunteers from several local churches, and printed by Cambridge University Press in December 2003.

Praise the Lord that we have this version in our hands today, close to 2,800 pages of God’s holy Word with extensive helps to open it to us. We are so thankful to the Lord for His abundant grace that operated in Brother Lee and so many serving ones throughout the earth to bring the Holy Bible Recovery Version into existence. We echo the closing words of the introduction to the Recovery Version with this prayer, “that through it the Holy Spirit will shine in the hearts of all its readers ‘to illuminate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor. 4:6).” Amen!