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Unvarnished New Testament

The Unvarnished New Testament was translated by Andy Gaus as an attempt to produce a translation of the New Testament that was simpler and more straightforward (1991) than most Modern English Bible translations. In addition to simpler sentence structure, he also chose to translate a number of words that are important in Christian theology with words that are more commonplace and familiar (such as "doing wrong" for the more traditional word "sin"). Both of these approaches leading to the label “unvarnished”, separating this translation from most approaches in the Bible version debate‎. He explained his approach briefly in the beginning of the volume, with more examples presented in the “Introduction” by George Witterschien, who summed it up saying "the effect of this is refreshing" (1991:13).

In English-speaking Christian circles, there has been a long tradition of dissatisfaction with older translations of the Bible that sound archaic (e.g. Helen Barrett Montgomery, Clarence Jordan, Olaf M. Norlie, Kenneth N. Taylor, Jay P. Green, Richard Francis Weymouth). Gaus is one of many in this long line who have tried to produce a translation that was easier to understand. He had earlier produced the four Gospels in 1988, titled “The Unvarnished Gospels”. "Gaus then produced a complete New Testament... The work contains a slightly revised edition of his Gospels, together with the remainder of the New Testament" (Paul 1991:87). That book had generated interest in some circles, so he went on to translate the rest of the New Testament.

The volume contains a 15 page glossary in the back, allowing readers to look up words in their traditional translated forms. Each entry then gives the Greek form, an explanation of the meaning, and his choice of a translated form with some explanation of his choice. For example, the familiar word “disciple” is from the Greek word ‘’mathetes’’, which Gaus explains is the usual word form “student”, which is how he translates the word in the Gospels. Some other familiar words that are translated in innovative, less theological-sounding, ways include “sin” as “doing wrong”, “blessed” as “in luck” (in the Beatitudes, and “behold” by a number of phrases including “look” and “all of a sudden.” Being a Roman Catholic, under his entry for "virgin", he discusses the evidence for and against the perpetual virginity of Mary.

The books are arranged in the usual order. He marks chapter divisions, but does not mark verse numbers (Paul 1991:87).

Sample passages

Matthew 7:2-5

“Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but you don’t notice the log in your own eye? And how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me get that splinter out of your eye,’ with that log there in your own eye? You fake, first get the log out of your own eye, and then you can see about getting the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”

Hebrews 12:1,2

“Well now, with such a swarm of good examples on every hand, lest us cast off all our dead weight including sinfulness that gets into everything, let us run the endurance race that lies before us, taking our cues from the captain and trainer of our faith, Jesus, he who turned from the joy that beckoned to him to endure the death of the cross, caring not a whit how shameful it was, and now sits at the right of the throne of God.”

Facts of publication

  • The Unvarnished Gospels. 1988. Brattleboro, VT: Threshold Books. ISBN 978-0-939660-25-4
  • The Unvarnished New Testament. 1991. Grand Rapids: Phanes Press. ISBN 0-933999-99-2


  • Paul, William. 2003. English Language Bible Translators. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

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