The Bible in Basic English

S. H. Hooke, ed., The Basic Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments in Basic English. Cambridge: The University Press, 1949.

The New Testament was published in 1941. The vocabulary is limited to C. K. Ogden's Basic English vocabulary of 850 words proposed as an international auxiliary language, with an additional 150 biblical words.

The following is the Introduction as it appeared in a 1965 printing of the Bible in Basic English.


The form in which the Bible is given here is not simply another example of the Bible story put into present-day English. The language used is Basic English.

Basic English, produced by Mr C. K. Ogden of the Orthological Institute, is a simple form of the English language which, with 850 words, is able to give the sense of anything which may be said in English. By the addition of 50 Special Bible words and the use of 100 words listed as giving most help in the reading of English verse, this number has been increased to 1000 for the purpose of putting the Bible into Basic.

Working with the Orthological Institute, a Committee under the direction of Professor S. H. Hooke, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Studies in the University of London, has been responsible for a new English form of the Bible made from the Hebrew and the Greek.

In this undertaking, the latest ideas and discoveries in connection with the work of putting the Bible into other languages were taken into account, and when the Basic form was complete it was gone over in detail by a Committee formed by the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press.

The Basic Bible, which in this way was watched over by two separate groups of experts through its different stages, is designed to be used wherever the English language has taken root.

Frequently, the narrow limits of the word-list make it hard to keep the Basic completely parallel with the Hebrew and the Greek; but great trouble has been taken with every verse and every line to make certain that there are no errors of sense and no loose wording. It is only natural that, from time to time, some of the more delicate shades of sense have not been covered; on the other hand, it is well to keep in mind that in the Authorised Version the power and music of the language sometimes take so much of the reader's attention that these more delicate shades are overlooked.

In fact, the Basic expert is forced, because of the limited material with which he is working, to give special care to the sense of the words before him. There is no question of the Basic work taking the place of the Authorised Version or coming into competition with it; but it may be said of this new English Bible that it is in a marked degree straightforward and simple and that these qualities give it an independent value.

Signs Used in the Bible in Basic English
... are used where it is no longer possible to be certain of the true sense of the Hebrew words, and for this reason no attempt has been made to put them into Basic.
*** are used as a sign that one or more Hebrew words, necessary to the sense, have been taken out at some time or other.
[] are used for marking additions made by later writers.
() are used for marking additions put in for the purpose of making the sense clear.

The numbers used for divisions of books and for verses are the same as in the Authorised and Revised Versions of the English Bible.