The Amplified Bible

Frances E. Siewert, ed., The Amplified Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1965. Revised 1987.

The Amplified Bible was first published in three volumes: the New Testament in 1958, the Old Testament in 1962 and 1964. These were produced by Mrs. Frances Siewert (1881-1967) with the financial support of the Lockman Foundation in La Habra, California.

Mrs. Siewert (nee Cornelius) was educated at Willamette College at Salem, Oregon, where she received a Bachelor of Letters in 1900. After her graduation she found employment as a schoolteacher. In 1903 she married the Rev. Samuel A. Siewert, a Presbyterian minister. She began to write articles on Christian education which appeared in such periodicals as the Sunday School Times. Continuing her education, she received a Master of Arts degree from Willamette College in 1910. Her marriage eventually produced one child, a daughter named Carmen, who was sadly afflicted with polio, and who died at the age of thirty. Her husband died in 1940. Throughout her life Frances made good use of her education. She sought and created opportunities to teach Bible classes to women and children, and became a popular speaker at women’s clubs and Sunday-school conventions. 1

Although Mrs. Siewert had but little academic training in the original languages of the Bible, around 1950 she conceived the idea of producing an edition of the New Testament which would employ “amplifications” to bring out the meaning of the Greek words, as she found them explained in various scholarly sources, or as translated in different Bible versions. After obtaining financial support from the Lockman Foundation in 1952, she began working on the “Amplified New Testament.” Her method was to take the American Standard Version as a base text, modernize the style, and, using sources like Marvin Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament, to incorporate glosses, explanatory phrases, and alternative renderings into the text. The complete New Testament was published by Zondervan in 1958, with an Introduction by Mrs. Siewert. It was soon brought to the attention of Billy Graham, who enthusiastically endorsed it, and it quickly became a commercial success. With continuing support from the Lockman Fondation and Zondervan, she then devoted herself to a similar edition of the Old Testament, in which she seems to have relied heavily on the Revised Standard Version. The final volume appeared in 1964, when Mrs. Siewert was eighty-three years old. She died three years later.

After the publication of Siewert’s three volumes, the Lockman Foundation employed several scholars to revise the entire work for a one-volume edition, which was published in 1965. The names of the revisers have not been made public. In this revised edition Mrs. Siewert’s original Introduction is replaced by a “Publisher’s Foreword” in which it is said that the purpose of the Amplified Bible is “to reveal, together with the single word English equivalent to each Hebrew and Greek word, any other clarifying shades of meaning that may be concealed by the traditional word-for-word method of translation,” so that “the full meaning of the key words in the original text is available in an English version of the Bible.”

After the Foreword is a page explaining the use of italics, parentheses, brackets and dashes in the edition. Italic type is used for “certain familiar passages now recognized as not adequately supported by the original manuscripts,” 2 and the conjunctions “and” and “or” are also italicized when the words that follow are to be understood as explanatory or alternative renderings of the preceding words. Parentheses and dashes mark off “additional phases of meaning included in the original word, phrase, or clause of the original language,” and square brackets “contain justified clarifying words or comments not actually expressed in the immediate original text.”

We will examine now a representative passage from the 1965 edition of the Amplified Bible, Romans chapter 1.

   1 FROM Paul, a bond servant of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, called to be an apostle, (a special messenger) set apart to [preach] the Gospel (good news) of and from God,

   2 Which He promised in advance [long ago] through His prophets in the sacred Scriptures,

   3 [The Gospel] regarding His Son, Who as to the flesh (His human nature) was descended from David;

   4 And [as to His divine nature] according to the Spirit of holiness, was openly designated the Son of God in power — in a striking, triumphant and miraculous manner — by His resurrection from the dead, even Jesus Christ our Lord, the Messiah, the Anointed One.

   5 It is through Him that we have received grace — God’s unmerited favor — and [our] apostleship to promote obedience to the faith and make disciples for His name’s sake among all the nations,

   6 And this includes yourselves, called of Jesus Christ and invited [as you are] to belong to Him.

   7 To [you then,] all God’s beloved ones in Rome, called to be saints and designated for a consecrated life: Grace and spiritual blessing and peace be yours from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

   8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because [the report of] your faith is made known to all the world and is a commended everywhere.

   9 For God is my witness, Whom I serve with [all] my spirit — rendering priestly and spiritual service — in [preaching] the Gospel and telling the good news of His Son, how incessantly I always mention you when at my prayers.

   10 I keep pleading that somehow by God’s will I may now at last be prospered and come to you.

   11 For I am yearning to see you, that I may impart and share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen and establish you;

   12 That is, that we may be mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

   13 I want you to know, brethren, that many times I have planned and intended to come to you, though thus far I have been hindered and prevented, in order that I might have some fruit — some result of my labors — among you, as I have among the rest of the Gentiles.

   14 Both to Greeks and to barbarians (to the cultured and to the uncultured), both to the wise and the foolish I have an obligation to discharge and a duty to perform and a debt to pay.

   15 So, for my part, I am willing and eagerly ready to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome.

   16 For I am not ashamed of the Gospel (good news) of Christ, for it is God’s power working unto salvation (for deliverance from eternal death) to every one who believes with a personal trust and a confident surrender and firm reliance, to the Jew first and also to the Greek,

   17 For in the Gospel a righteousness which God ascribes is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith — disclosed through the way of faith that arouses to more faith. As it is written, The man who through faith is just and upright shall live and b shall live by faith. [Hab. 2:4.]

   18 For God’s [holy] wrath and indignation are revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who in their wickedness repress and hinder the truth and make it inoperative.

   19 For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them.

   20 For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made — His handiworks. So [men] are without excuse — altogether without any defense or justification; [Ps. 19:1-4.]

   21 Because when they knew and recognized Him as the God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God, or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and c godless in their thinking — with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations — and their senseless minds were darkened.

   22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools — professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves.

   23 And by them the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God were exchanged for and represented by images, resembling mortal man and birds and beasts and reptiles.

   24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their [own] hearts to sexual impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, abandoning them to the degrading power of sin.

   25 Because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, Who is blessed forever! Amen — so be it. [Jer. 2:11.]

   26 For this reason God gave them over and abandoned them to vile affections and degrading passions. For their women exchanged their natural function for an unnatural and abnormal one,

   27 And the men also turned from natural relations with women and were set ablaze (burned out, consumed) with lust for one another, men committing shameful acts with men and suffering in their own d bodies and personalities the inevitable consequences and penalty of their wrong doing and going astray, which was [their] fitting retribution.

   28 And so, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God or approve of Him or consider Him worth the knowing, God gave them over to a base and condemned mind to do things not proper or decent but loathsome,

   29 Until they were filled — permeated and saturated — with every kind of unrighteousness, iniquity, grasping and covetous greed, [and] malice. [They were] full of envy and jealousy, murder, strife, deceit and treachery, ill will and cruel ways. [They were] secret backbiters and gossipers,

   30 Slanderers, hateful to and hating God, full of insolence, arrogance [and] boasting; inventors of new forms of evil, disobedient and undutiful to parents.

   31 [They were] without understanding, conscienceless and faithless, heartless and loveless [and] merciless.

   32 Though they are fully aware of God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them themselves but approve and applaud others who practice them.


a) Vincent

b) Alternate reading.

c) Souter.

d) Webster, defining “selves.”

In the first verse of this chapter we see that the amplifications include a synonym for “Christ” (Messiah), and explanatory glosses for the words “apostle” (a special messenger) and “Gospel” (good news). In the final clause of this verse an expanded rendering also indicates that the words evangelion theou in the original text may be understood “Gospel of God” and “Gospel from God.” In verse 3, a parenthetical insertion explains that “the flesh” in this context means “human nature.” In verse 4 we find clarifying words in brackets, explaining that “according to the Spirit of holiness” should probably be understood as a reference to Christ’s “divine nature,” and inserted within dashes the words “in a striking, triumphant and miraculous manner” offer an interpretation of the preceding phrase, “in power.” At the end of the verse “Christ” is again glossed as meaning “the Messiah, the Anointed One.” Thus far the amplifications prove to be good and helpful.

In verse 5 we encounter some questionable exegesis. The word “grace” is explained as denoting “God’s unmerited favor,” but it is more likely to denote a spiritual endowment here. The words “to promote obedience to the faith and make disciples” represent a rather clumsy double interpretation of eis hupakone pisteos, lit. “for the obedience of faith,” in which the first interpretation, “obedience to the faith,” seems unwarranted. In verse 6 the clause “and invited [as you are] to belong to Him” adds far too much to kletoi Iesou Chistou “called of Jesus Christ” to be presented as an alternative rendering of the phrase, and we notice that the “call” of God is here interpreted as a mere invitation.

In verse 7, “designated for a consecrated life” is a good explanation for the word hagiois “saints,” and “spiritual blessing” correctly explains the meaning of “grace.” In verse 8, “is made known ... and is commended” correctly interprets katangellitai (lit. “proclaimed”) in this context. In verse 9, “rendering priestly and spiritual service” brings out the special religious meaning of the Greek word latreuo, “serve.”

Skipping down to verse 16 we find there an example of the version’s use of italics to indicate some doubt as to the originality of some words: the phrase of Christ is italicized because it does not occur here in some of the oldest manuscripts. Also in verse 16 we note that the words “salvation” and “faith” receive good definitions, “salvation” being explained as “deliverance from eternal death,” and “faith” as “personal trust and a confident surrender and firm reliance.” In verse 17 the editors venture to explain the “righteousness of God” as “a righteousness which God ascribes,” which may not be the right interpretation here, and the phrase “from faith to faith” is paraphrastically expanded to “both springing from faith and leading to faith” or “disclosed through the way of faith that arouses to more faith.” These interpretations are possible, but others might also have been given, and reader should be told that the precise meaning intended by Paul is uncertain. In verse 23 we doubt that the phrase “and represented by” can be justified on linguistic grounds.

In general, the expanded renderings found in this chapter are helpful. But as we have noted, in a few places they are paraphrastic and rather questionable. Some other questionable amplifications which we noticed in the New Testament are these:

In Matthew 1:21 we find “He will save His people from their sins [that is, prevent their failing and missing the true end and scope of life, which is God].” The interpretation given in brackets here depends upon the idea so often repeated in sermons, that the word for “sin” in the Greek “literally” means “to miss the mark” (in archery), and so the Biblical teaching about “sin” basically has something to do with “missing the mark.” But this amounts to an etymological fallacy. It is true that in Classical Greek the verb hamartano was used in that particular sense, but it is not true that this sense of the word reveals anything about the meaning of hamartano or hamartia in the New Testament. As W.E. Vine says in his Expository Dictionary, “this etymological meaning is largely lost sight of in the New Testament.” 3 In the Bible “sin” denotes a turning away from God, a disobedient and corrupt state of mind, manifesting itself in attitudes and behaviors that are much more blameworthy than a mere failure to achieve one’s goals.

In Matthew 2:18 the Amplified Bible reads “[Tenderly] take unto you the young Child ...” And likewise “Tenderly” is inserted with brackets in verses 20 and 21. A footnote here attributes the rendering to Charles B. Williams’ New Testament in the Language of the People. But the words of the Greek text here do not include anything corresponding to “tenderly,” and we have to wonder why anyone should have thought that the addition of this word was helpful or desirable.

Matthew 3:11 reads, “I indeed baptize you in (with) water because of repentance — that is, because of your changing your minds for the better, heartily amending your ways with abhorrence of your past sins.” Here we have a good definition of “repentance” worked into the text, but the problem is the translation of the preposition eis as “because of.” The idea that eis is used in a causal sense here, and in some other places of the New Testament (e.g. Acts 2:38), is a very controversial one, and most scholars do not accept it. The preposition eis ordinarily expresses movement into, or toward something, or, by extension, a mental purpose, “with a view to,” “for,” etc. So the more commonly accepted explanation of “I baptize you unto (eis) repentance” is that John’s Baptism was intended to symbolize and thus promote an attitude of repentance. Its was a baptism for repentance (RSV, NASB, NIV, ESV).

In Luke 7:47 we read, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, many [as they are], are forgiven her, because she has loved much.” The problem here is the translation of the conjunction ὅτι in the phrase ὅτι ἠγάπησεν πολύ (for she loved much) as “because,” without an explanation. This will give readers the impression that Christ is saying that the woman’s love is the basis of her pardon, but the whole context of verses 36-50 demands a different understanding the conjunction. As Thayer says, ὅτι introduces “the reason why anything is said” and “it is added to a speaker’s words to show what ground he gives for his opinion.” And Godet explains that ὅτι “frequently expresses, just as our for does, not the relation of the effect to its cause, but the relation (purely logical) of the proof to the thing proved. We may say, It is light, for the sun is risen; but we may also say, The sun is risen, for [I say this because] it is light. So in this passage the ὅτι ... must mean: ‘I say unto thee that her many sins are forgiven, as thou must infer from this, that she loved much.’” 4 This is surely a place where an “amplification” like Godet’s was necessary to bring out the true meaning.

Romans 3:23 in the Amplified Bible is disappointing. It reads, “Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives.” The “are falling short” is an unusual attempt to express the present tense of ὑστεροῦνται, but there is no alternative rendering “they lack” or “are deprived,” according to the interpretations in the Vulgate, Luther’s German version, Calvin’s commentary, the Geneva Bible, the commentaries of Godet and Meyer, the REB and NAB versions, etc. And if the present tense of ὑστεροῦνται was thought to be interesting enough to justify the awkward “are falling short,” why not also indicate the aorist tense of ἥμαρτον by rendering it “sinned” instead of “have sinned”? This seems more interesting from an exegetical standpoint, because it suggests a connection with the sin of Adam (see 5:12, where πάντες ἥμαρτον is translated “all men sinned”).

In Acts 8:33 we find several questionable “amplifications.”

Amplified Bible

American Standard Version

In His humiliation He was taken away by distressing and oppressive judgment, and justice was denied Him (caused to cease). Who can describe or relate in full the wickedness of His contemporaries (generation)? For His life is taken from the earth and a bloody death inflicted upon Him. [Isa. 53:7, 8.]

In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: His generation who shall declare? For his life is taken from the earth.

Although the treatment of Christ foretold in this quotation from the Septuagint was certainly unfair, there is not in the Greek text here any basis for modifying “judgment” with “distressing and oppressive.” The sentence “Who can describe or relate in full the wickedness of His contemporaries (generation)?” is offered as an interpretation of “who can declare (describe) his genea (race, progeny, generation),” but this may not be the intended meaning at all. We also see nothing in the Greek corresponding to the final clause, “and a bloody death inflicted upon Him.” Again, we do not wish to deny that Christ was treated unfairly by wicked men, and suffered a bloody death. All these things are true. But they are not expressed in the Greek words of this verse, and they should not have been presented as “clarifying shades of meaning that may be concealed by the traditional word-for-word method of translation.”

In short, we would warn readers of the Amplified Bible that the “amplifications” in the version are sometimes merely paraphrastic expansions, unreliable, and somewhat arbitrarily inserted. They also sometimes fail to indicate important alternative renderings.

Turning to the Old Testament, we find that it is much less “amplified” than the New Testament. Sometimes as many as a dozen verses go by without any expanded rendering, and some of the key words which we would expect to receive amplification do not receive any such attention. For example, the Hebrew word chesed, usually translated “kindness” in the KJV, carries an important connotation of covenant loyalty, or family duty, which is often hard to express in translation. This is the sort of word we would expect the Amplified Bible to explain more adequately than other versions. But in most places it is rendered simply “mercy” or “kindness,” as in the KJV.

The influence of the Revised Standard Version is quite obvious in the Old Testament of the Amplified Bible. There are hundreds of verses which reproduce the RSV renderings exactly. In some cases even the RSV renderings based upon conjectural emendations are reproduced, as in Genesis 10:4, where the Amplified Bible includes the RSV’s insertion “These are the sons of Japheth.” One gets the impression that the RSV was one of Mrs. Siewert’s main resources in creating this version. (But the RSV is not followed uncritically. For example, in Genesis 9:20 the RSV had “Noah was the first tiller of the soil,” but the Amplified Bible “Noah began to cultivate the ground.”) In a few places where the RSV rendering is based upon an emended Hebrew text, she presents it as an “amplified” rendering. For example, in Jeremiah 23:33 the RSV’s “you are the burden” is worked into the text thus:

And when this people, or the prophets, or a priest shall ask you, What is the burden of the Lord—the saying to be lifted up now? Then you shall say to them, What burden, indeed!—You are the burden! And I will disburden Myself of you and I will cast you off, says the Lord.

In many other places we find a similar conflation of alternative renderings of the Hebrew. For example, in Isaiah 21:5.

They prepare the table, they set the watch, they eat, they drink.They prepare the table, they spread the rugs, they eat, they drink.They prepare the table, they spread the rugs, and having set the watchers [the revellers take no other precaution], they eat, they drink.

The Hebrew does not mention both “rugs” and “watchers” in this verse, as one might suppose from the Amplified Bible; rather, it has a phrase (tsaphoh hatsaphith) of uncertain meaning, which might be understood either “spread the rugs” (RSV), or “set the watch” (ASV). Mrs. Siewert has combined the interpretations, without indicating that it must be one or the other, but not both.

The Amplified Bible was revised again in 1987, by anonymous editors; but the changes in this last revision were very few and minor. The main difference seems to be a systematic replacement of the dashes with square brackets.

1. The page giving information on Mrs. Siewert at the website of the Lockman Foundation also attributes to her a Doctorate (Litt. D.), but this was not an earned degree; it was an honorary degree given to her by Wheaton College in 1961. Another degree attributed to her is the Bachelor of Divinity, obtained from the short-lived “Schuylkill Seminary (to which the credits had been transferred to make the graduation of a woman possible.” The page does not say when or where she actually earned the credits, or why she transferred them to obtain a minister’s credential.

2. The Story of the Adulteress, as it appears in the Received Text of John 7:53-8:11, should be italicized as one of the “familiar passages now recognized as not adequately supported by the original manuscripts,” but it is not. A footnote here says, “John 7:53 to 8:11 is not found in the older manuscripts, but it sounds so like Christ that we accept it as authentic, and feel that to omit it would be most unfortunate.” But this does not explain why it was not italicized. Some other portions which are italicized (e.g. Matt. 16:3, 17:21; 18:11; 21:44; 23:14) sound just as much “like Christ,” and have better manuscript support than this one. The treatment of John 7:53-8:11 is inconsistent with the principle employed in all the other cases.

3. The sense “miss the mark” should be seen not as a basic sense but as a specialized and rarely used sense (perhaps archaic) which has little to do with the common sense of the word. Some have thought that this sense is intended in Romans 3:23 (Girdlestone: “the sinner is one who has missed or come short of the mark”) mainly because of the collocation with the passive of ὑστερέω, which might be understood in the sense “fall short.” But I think ὑστεροῦνται probably means “they are deprived” here, rather than “they fall short,” and I doubt very much that Paul had any archery metaphor in mind. See my remarks on Romans 3:23.

4. A Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, by F. Godet ... translated from the second French edition by E.W. Shalders and M.D. Cusin, 3rd ed. (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1894), p. 230. The same interpretation is given in nearly all commentaries. The Revised English Bible even translates “I tell you, her great love proves that her many sins have been forgiven.” The New Revised Standard Version’s “hence she has shown great love” is designed to prevent misunderstanding of the phrase, but it cannot be accepted as an accurate translation, because ὅτι does not have a consecutive sense (contra the BAGD lexicon, p. 589). The interpretation of this phrase has some importance in the history of theology. Formerly, most Roman Catholic interpreters asserted that “because she loved much” proved that love, in addition to faith and repentance, was the basis of forgiveness. And so we find in the Saint Joseph Edition of the Confraternity Version (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1963) the translation “her sins, many as they are, shall be forgiven her, because she has loved much,” and a note saying, “The parable appears at first sight to imply that the woman loved much because of the greatness of the sin remitted; but our Lord’s words at the end indicate rather that her love was the cause of her pardon.” More recently, however, the opinion of Catholic scholars is represented by the Jerusalem Bible (1966), which translates, “For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love,” with the note: “Not, as usually translated, ‘her many sins are forgiven her because she has shown such great love.’ The context demands the reverse: she shows so much affection because she has had so many sins forgiven.” The traditional Catholic teachings, that true faith and forgiveness require repentance, and that love toward God is essential to repentance, are substantially true. But these teachings are not expressed by the phrase in Luke 7:47. One should not argue “the right doctrine from the wrong text.”