The Word

How We Translate the Bible—and Why It Matters


By John Barton

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$40.00 CAD



  1. Hardcover $32.00 $40.00 CAD
  2. ebook $19.99 $25.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 2, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

From a distinguished Oxford scholar and the author of A History of the Bible, an examination of how biblical translation works and why it matters 

Throughout history, most Jewish and Christian believers have understood scripture not in the languages in which it was first written but rather in their own—in translation. In The Word, acclaimed Bible scholar John Barton explores how saints and scholars have negotiated the profound challenges of translating the Bible while remaining faithful to the original. In addition to considering questions of literal versus free translation, literary style, inclusive language, and more, Barton draws out scriptural translation’s role at critical junctures in religious history. Far from a mere academic exercise, biblical translation has shaped how we answer faith’s most enduring questions about the nature of God, the existence of the soul, and the possibility of salvation. 

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  • The Word fully displays John Barton’s great gift for explaining complicated things lucidly and judiciously. He addresses the challenges facing all Bible translators, showing that every translation must be judged by the purposes for which it is framed and the community it addresses, persuasively demonstrating why there can never be one definitive translation of the Bible.” 
    Robert Alter, award-winning translator of the Hebrew Bible
  • “A thorough mapping of the translator’s terrain…erudite and even-tempered.”
    Washington Free Beacon
  • “[Barton] has a good eye for the sort of detail that carries readers with him into what might be unfamiliar territory.…The joy of The Word isn’t reaching its final conclusion, but the unexpected journey itself, told so well that it will engage those who have never set foot in churches as readily as the faithful in the pews.”
    The Sunday Times (UK)
  • “Sage and measured, scholarly but accessible.”
    Spectator (UK)
  • “Barton is one of our leading historians of religion.… [The Word is] a book bejeweled with insight and erudition and compassion.”

On Sale
May 2, 2023
Page Count
368 pages
Basic Books

John Barton

About the Author

John Barton was Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture at the University of Oxford from 1991 to 2014. He is co-editor of The Oxford Bible Commentary, and his previous book A History of the Bible won the Duff Cooper Prize for nonfiction. A priest in the Church of England, Barton lives in Abingdon, UK. 

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