Beck completed his Bible (OT & NT) just before his death in 1966, but was awaiting textual suggestions from two colleagues, Elmer Smick, Professor of Old Testament at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and Erich Kiehl of Concordia Seminary. Smick and Kiehl ensured it was published posthumously in 1976 as An American Translation.
In 1978 it was decided that Beck's translation would be revised. Philip Glessler, a pastor from Cleveland, Ohio then formed a committee and revision work began in 1982. The work of Glessler's committee yielded another revision of the New Testament that was released in 1988 titled New Testament: God's Word to the Nations. This was later renamed the New Evangelical Translation in 1990. In 1994 the New Evangelical Translation was renamed GOD'S WORD and released under that name a year later.
GWT's publishers believe that communicating the original meaning of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts that comprise the Scriptures so one can understand what the Bible means today, requires taking a completely new look at the original languages. Many modern translations, they argue, have chosen simply to follow the traditions of older accepted translations, though the traditional words and grammar may no longer mean what they once did, or are not understood.
The theory followed by the Bible Society's translators is closest natural equivalent translation. The first consideration for the translators of GOD'S WORD® was to find equivalent English ways of expressing the meaning of the original text. This procedure ensures that the translation is faithful to the meaning intended by the original writer. The next consideration was readability. The meaning is expressed in natural American English by using common English punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and word choice. The third consideration was to choose the natural equivalent thatmost closely reflects the style of the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text. This translation theory is designed to avoid the awkwardness and inaccuracy associated with form-equivalent translation, and it avoids the loss of meaning and oversimplification associated with function-equivalent translation.
About their translation, the GWT translators claim:
Traditionally, the Scriptures have been translated into English by teams of scholars serving part-time. This translation project employed full-time biblical scholars and full-time English editorial reviewers. GOD'S WORD is the first English Bible in which English reviewers were actively involved with scholars at every stage of the translation process. Because of the involvement of English experts, GOD'S WORD looks and reads like contemporary American literature. It uses natural grammar, follows standard punctuation and capitalization rules, and is printed in an open, single column format.
Bible language researcher Michael Marlowe is critical of the translation techniques used in the GWT, and feels it takes too much liberty in simplifying the original Greek and Hebrew texts. In so doing, argues Marlowe, the translators have deviated from the original emphasis of scripture. They argue there is a place for translations that can simplify these terms, but GWT is one of a growing number of new translations of the Bible that uses a paraphrasing method which goes beyond the aim of a pure (literal) translation, which may result in difficult, misunderstood terms and produces a translation that also interprets the scripture.
Marlowe more generally questions translation methods such as Closest Natural Equivalence when he writes:
"[The methodology's] pretensions to 'scientific' principles of linguistics are dubious, as has been pointed out by numerous linguists and biblical scholars. It results in a simplification of the text in which important features of the Bible are erased.