Diana Butler Bass: Different Bible Translations Guided My Way

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On September 24, 1967, my Methodist Sunday school teacher gave me my first Bible, the Revised Standard Edition, as a gift upon entering the third grade. When I was a girl, I carried it out to the woods near my house to read privately and pray — enthralled by the Psalms, stories of Old Testament heroes and Jesus’ teachings.

I read it like a book, starting with Genesis and trying to read to the end. Every summer, I attempted to read the whole thing. I cannot even remember how many times I read Genesis and the early bits of Exodus — only to stop somewhere around the Ten Commandments and skip around to whatever interested me.

That Bible now sits on a shelf behind my writing desk, its yellowed pages growing brittle. Next to it sit other Bibles I have owned.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* TheologyTheology: Scripture

50 Comments
Posted May 30, 2007 at 8:07 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Christopher Hathaway wrote:

The NRSV: the perfect bible for those who want to avoid discomforting passages.

May 30, 8:22 pm | [comment link]
2. bob carlton wrote:

christopher, is your issues with what you percieve as the gender-inclusive terminology in this translation or something else ?

I’d note that this translation is used in the English-language edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and is the version authorized for liturgical use in Canadian Catholic Church.

May 30, 8:40 pm | [comment link]
3. Christopher Hathaway wrote:

With what I “perceive” as the gender-inclusive terminology?
Gender inclisive language is the sole reason for the NRSV’s existence. Changing the language the prophets and apostles actually used for language the translators think would have been better to communicate what they are sure was the essential meaning is the central conceit of that piece of garbage called a “translation”. The fact that there are aparatchiks in the Catholic Church that can’t see its flaws or who don’t care that much about the text is immaterial. Check out Hebrews 2: “the son of man” becomes “mortals”. Jesus is effectively excised from the text in slavish obediance to a false hermenuetic. That isn’t just poor translation. It’s apostacy.

I’d wipe my rear with the pages of that book, except that Charmin is better.

May 30, 8:52 pm | [comment link]
4. Br. Michael wrote:

If you don’t know the original languages different translations are a must.  No translation, I repeat no translation, can 100% accurately translate another language.  All translations have biases.  And sometimes the original is capable of different “correct” translations because the words in the original are ambigous or have multiple meanings.  The moral of the story:  use multiple translations.

May 30, 9:19 pm | [comment link]
5. libraryjim wrote:

The Catholc Church as disallowed the use of the NRSV for any English liturgical function:

Vatican says ‘no’ to NRSV translation - ‘Inclusive language’ setback
Michael Gilchrist

Late last year a Catholic News Service report revealed that on October 25 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had announced a ban on use of the ‘inclusive’ New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation of the Bible in Catholic liturgical and catechetical texts. This decision underlined the Holy See’s apparently increased awareness of the theological implications inherent in revised vernacular translations.

Archbishop Agnelo of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments stated that the decision had been made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which reversed what the Worship Congregation had earlier approved in April 1992, in confirming a 1991 decision of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference.

Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explained that problems with the NRSV text were partly inclusive language and partly the need for consistency in the Church’s liturgical and catechetical language: “We can have these new translations, but at the same time the Church’s official language in liturgy and catechetics has to preserve some continuity.”

http://www.ad2000.com.au/articles/1995/feb1995p14_791.html

May 30, 9:20 pm | [comment link]
6. bob carlton wrote:

That is actually not accurate.  The NRSV was intended to move away from the second person familiar forms (thee and thou).

I am very thankful to read “brothers and sisters” in the NRSV when other translations use “brothers” to refer to a group that is not known to be all male.

That said, I try to refer to a variety of translations.

Is it in any way appropriate to refer to sacred writings of Judaism and Christianity, what many considered to be the Word of God, as something that you’d “wipe my rear with” ?

May 30, 9:26 pm | [comment link]
7. bob carlton wrote:

libraryjim,

The NRSV-CE is the translations used in the American Catechism of the Catholic Church .

May 30, 9:29 pm | [comment link]
8. libraryjim wrote:

My history with versions of the Bible:
*the first bible I used was the New American Bible (which is still the official Bible of the English Catholic Mass)

*and then I got a copy of the New International Version, given to me by a pastor of a small Church of God in Palm Beach Gardens. Our Catholic Charismatic Prayer Group met there on Wednesday nights for the Bible study. I now have several editions, including an interlinear Greek/English NT with NIV and KJV in parallel columns.

*Following that I picked up a Jerusalem Bible—I like the poetic renderings but I wasn’t quite happy with it.

*When they came out with the NRSV, I bought a copy of the Life Application Bible version. It was ok, but I didn’t like some of the ‘revisions’, so don’t use it much.  I like the LAB study notes, however (I also bought a ‘pocket sized leather edition with apocrypha’ to match my leather Book of Common Prayer—it was on sale for a good price, less than $15 at a going out of business sale. they made such a cute couple.) and went back to the NIV

*Now I use the English Standard Version, which started out in reaction to the NRSV to tone down the radical inclusiveness, but update the language of the RSV. It ended up being pretty much a new translation (J. I. Packer headed up the revision/translation committee).  I really like it. I also have a blue covered pocket edition to go along with my blue pocket sized BCP. They also make a cute couple.  wink

May 30, 9:35 pm | [comment link]
9. jumpinj wrote:

I"m with Christopher.  ‘CHOOSE THIS DAY,’ circulated by the Agnlican Network tells us like it really is. 
Give me the NEW KING JAMES VERSION, please!  And if I may, Nelson’s has the best explanations for daily Bible study. 
I miss the lyrical reading of the original King James Bible, but realize few will persevere through what seems awkward to read.  But one does get the rhythm after a while.    JJ

May 30, 9:35 pm | [comment link]
10. In Newark wrote:

So far as the arrangement of paragraphs is concerned, my RSV is set up exactly as the author describes her NRSV—with the paragraph beginning at Eph. 5:21 (be subject to one another), rather than Eph. 5:22
(Wives, be subject to her husband), as in the NIV.  The editing of the paragraphs (which, of course, didn’t exist at all in St. Paul’s day) does indeed make a great deal of difference in the impact of the statement about wifely submission.  I also loathe the NRSV, but in this case I think the author’s point is well taken.

I should add that I also have an Eastern Orthodox New Testament, with patristic commentary.  No less an authority than St. John Chrysostom allows that Eph.5:22 could mean that wives should submit to their husbands for the sake of the Lord, rather than submitting to him as if he were the Lord.

May 30, 9:37 pm | [comment link]
11. libraryjim wrote:

Bob,
That doesn’t change the fact that the Vatican has declared it a sub-standard tranlation. I know wikipedia is not the best source but:

The original RSV-CE was revived in 1994 when Ignatius Press re-published it as the Ignatius Bible. Today, the 1966 edition of the RSV-CE is still published by Ignatius, Scepter Publishers, and Oxford University Press. It is also the Bible translation used in the English edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church alongside the NRSV where inclusive language is not used.

and

The RSV-CE text used to be permitted for use in the Lectionary in the United States. The permission has since been withdrawn. Today, there is only one text approved for use in the United States, a modified version of the New American Bible with the 1986 Revised New Testament, with inclusive language removed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revised_Standard_Version_Catholic_Edition
another site makes this statement:

Since the Catechism is a teaching book instead of a lectionary, the final approval of the English translation rested not with the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments but with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which found the inclusive English of the NRSV translations to be inadequate from a doctrinal standpoint. If the NRSV translation was inadequate for the Catechism it could hardly be considered suitable for use in the liturgy and the result was the withdrawal of the earlier approval of the NRSV lectionary.</blockqoute>
http://www.ewtn.com/library/CANONLAW/VIORIGHT.htm
Cardinal Keeler of the National Council of Catholic Bishops issued this statement Re: NRSV and the Revised New American Bible, NT:

<blockquote>“Last week in Rome, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, kindly met with me and, following the review of the situation, agreed that it would be very helpful if members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission residing in Rome could meet with some of our bishops and scholars who are working on the Revised NAB Lectionary to discuss and clarify principles for translation. It is in the context of the review of the Revised NAB Lectionary that the confirmation of the permission for liturgical use of the NAB Psalter has been withdrawn, as was also indicated in the July 27 letter. Because of the foreseeable modifications in the Psalter, permission was withdrawn so that two versions of the same psalter not be in use.

“The use of either the NRSV or the revised NAB for reading or Bible study is not at issue. Both translations are properly approved for these purposes.

“What is at issue is liturgical use, the public proclamation of the Word of God in the living tradition of the Catholic Church. One of the points which I believe the scholars would want to discuss is the application of the apostolic constitution Scripturarum Thesaurus of April 25, 1969, and the decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and for the Discipline of the Sacraments issued on Jan. 21, 1981, as guides, especially for liturgical translations.

“The continued collaboration between the congregations of the Holy See and the committees of our conference should help us soon to have a Lectionary which will be both faithful to the tradition of the Church and serve the urgent needs of our people for a lectionary in the English currently used in our country.”

The full text of the letter may be found about 3/4 of the way down this website:
http://www.adoremus.org/396-ScripConfus.html

So even though the Catechism does use the NRSV, it is NOT approved for liturgical use.  In fact, the American version of the Catechism was published before the decree against the NRSV.
Does this help?

May 30, 9:51 pm | [comment link]
12. libraryjim wrote:

Blast! I misspelled “blockquote” in one of the brackets above. :-(

May 30, 9:55 pm | [comment link]
13. Christopher Hathaway wrote:

That is actually not accurate.  The NRSV was intended to move away from the second person familiar forms (thee and thou).

What on earth are you talking about? The NRSV is a revision of the RSV, which has no thees and thous.

I am very thankful to read “brothers and sisters” in the NRSV when other translations use “brothers” to refer to a group that is not known to be all male.

How quaint. So you have no problem with eliminating Jesus from a passage in Hebrews where the author clearly meant to refer to Him?

I actually do consider the sacred writrings of Judaism and Christianity, at least those in the canon, to be the Word of God. This is something which the makers of the NRSV clearly did not do, which is why they felt so free to rewrite it, and which is why I don’t consider their product to be identical with the sacred texts.

This is probably also why it is no longer favored by Rome. Despite being unwisely used for the Catechism they have repented of that error and seen it for what it is. Too bad others can’t or won’t.

May 30, 10:03 pm | [comment link]
14. bob carlton wrote:

Christopher - could you possibly give some respect to the folks involved in a translation that so many see as the Word of God ?  The Chairman of the NRSV translators, Bruce Metzger, is a hero to many for his utilization of historical criticism and higher criticism to explain the literary and historical origins of the Bible and the biblical canon.  Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, called Metzger “one of the great Christian statesmen and New Testament scholars of the last century.”

May 30, 10:16 pm | [comment link]
15. Jody+ wrote:

The author’s point in regards to paragraph divisions etc… is well taken.  I also stay away from annotated Bibles as a rule… give me a wide margin with cross-references any day.  That said, I have a love-hate relationship with the NRSV.  I appreciate the translation choices that were made in some passages, as well as the formatting choices.  I don’t really have a problem with “Brothers and sisters.”  What I *do* have a problem with is the lack of connection between the translation choices of the Old Testament and the New Testament (so that Matthew (for ex. in 26:64 says “Son of Man” while the prophetic passages from say, Dan 7 say “mortal.”), or the choices which basically threw out the messianic implications of various Psalms etc…  Those decisions introduce a disconnect between the Old and New Testaments that is completely improper for a Christian Bible (which, if it has a NT attached, it should be), and makes it impossible for a new Christian to understand the links between the books without an annotated Bible to point it out to them.  I tend to use the ESV as my primary modern translation these days, but use it in tandem with a small NRSV that contains the Apocrypha.  I hope there will eventually be an ESV with apocrypha, but I worry there may not be enough demand to justify it to the publisher.  I would love to see a joint ESV-BCP version like the small NRSV-BCP from Oxford.

May 30, 10:26 pm | [comment link]
16. Jody+ wrote:

oh, one other point…I mentioned mostly what I dislike about the NRSV… but I still use it because I’d prefer any Bible translation in the tradition of the Authorized version over the NIV and it’s successor the TNIV, whether it be RSV, NRSV or ESV.

May 30, 10:28 pm | [comment link]
17. libraryjim wrote:

ESV is actually in the tradition of the Authorized Version.  And from e-mail correspondence with the publisher, they are planning a joint edition with Oxford Bibles to include the Apocrypha (date to be announced).

(T)he ESV builds on the great translations of the past—including William Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526 and the King James Version (KJV) of 1611.

But the ESV Bible also builds on the best Christian scholarship of the last 100 years. The result is a fresh and compelling Bible translation with a timeless quality, that’s trustworthy and true.

That’s why the ESV “sounds like” the Bible—with the kind of beauty, clarity, and dignity that we love to hear and read. That’s also why the ESV retains the Bible’s rich imagery and theological words—words like grace and justification and salvation—that are essential to our faith.

The result is a Bible that conveys the timeless quality of God’s Word and that remains trustworthy and true to the original words breathed out by God. As Moses wrote more than 3,000 years ago, the words of God are “your very life, and by this word you shall live” (Deuteronomy 32:47).

and

With the greatest respect for the KJV and deep gratitude to its translators for their work, the English Standard Version Translation Team endeavored to carry on the KJV’s historic translation legacy in a way that is fresh and compelling for today and that will endure for generations to come.
As the direct descendant of the historic King James Bible, the ESV retains the beauty and majesty of the original languages and the rich theological words of the Bible in English. It is highly readable in a clear, literary style that does not sacrifice depth of meaning for easy reading.

Given this legacy and commitment, the ESV is uniquely positioned to become a true standard, unifying the church and families under the Word of God—around one Bible for preaching and teaching, for family devotions and personal study, for memorizing and daily reading, for young and old.

http://www.esv.org/about/intro
There is a lot more info on this site about the translation philosophy behind the ESV. It is really a wealth of information!

May 30, 10:44 pm | [comment link]
18. Bill Cavanaugh wrote:

Christopher - With all due respect, think and investigate before you blog.

What on earth are you talking about? The NRSV is a revision of the RSV, which has no thees and thous.

Here is the RSV translation of John 17:1b-2 “Father, the hour has come, glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee, since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him.”
Truth be told, in 1946 the revisers made the EDITORIAL decision that any scriptural language directed toward God in prayer would use the traditional Thee and Thou format, EVEN THOUGH there is no difference in the original languages between language between people and language directed toward God.
I realize that I am a minority voice here, but Bruce Metzger (recently deceased) was one of the if not the giant in textual criticism in the late 20th century.  His stewardship of the NRSV project resulted in a translation that, yes, made the editorial decision to de-genderize language about men and women, but he carefully kept language toward God masculine, as the text supports.
While not perfect, I have found the NRSV edifying both to myself and to my congregation.

May 30, 10:48 pm | [comment link]
19. Wilfred wrote:

Today we laugh at Thomas Bowdler’s version of the works of Shakespeare, in which all indelicate words & phrases were altered, to avoid offending the mores of polite society.  The effect was to render the original poetic & stirring dialogue, insipid & bloodless. 

In the same way, I am sure that this bowlderized NRSV is destined (predestined?) to become a laughingstock, once its excruciatingly politically-correct misphrasings become better-known.  Translators should be faithfully spreading the Word of God, not re-writing it to promote their political agendas.

May 30, 10:52 pm | [comment link]
20. Christopher Hathaway wrote:

Comment deleted by elf.

May 30, 10:58 pm | [comment link]
21. Christopher Hathaway wrote:

Bill, my bad. thanks for putting me straight. It’s been so long since I used the RSV that I had forgotten it used thee and thou for language addressed to God. Actually, the use of that is one thing I wish was preserved in all translations. The lack of a 2nd person singular is a deficit, and the reverence/intimacy of thee/thou is sadly lacking in so much spritual language today.

In what way is your faith in God built up by the NRSV?

May 30, 11:22 pm | [comment link]
22. Christopher Hathaway wrote:

Elves, you crossed a line here. Nothing I said was false or defamatory. And considering it was in defense of the integrity of the Bible I consider your deletion of my comment a partisan defense of the indefensible.

You censorship has now evolved into a bias for corruption of the sacred, which is what The NRSV and TNIV are. A sad devolution of your blog. But I guess you are now in step with the modernist bias, They didn’t want to hear the exclusive masculine and you don’t want to hear criticisms of the motivations behind re-writing God’s Word.

May 30, 11:35 pm | [comment link]
23. Cousin Vinnie wrote:

My problem with the NRSV, aside from my reluctance to enrich the liberal NCC by purchasing one, is that it approaches translation with the premeditated intent of introducing editorial changes.  Even though the original language had the convention of using a masculine pronoun as inclusive of both sexes, and English has the same convention, the editors decided to deviate from the straight translation and use clunky PC English to appease its political base. 

Even so, the NRSV does not deviate much from the norm of English translations—as is true of all the major translations—and I would encourage people who like it to use it more frequently.

On a personal note, I use the NIV, but I also carry an Authorized Version.  When I compare translations of a passage that is difficult to understand, I find that in about one-third of the cases the KJV is actually clearer. 

A further note:  for those who want the apocrypha, I am told that King James’s men translated the deuterocanonical books as well as the Protestant canonical books.  It is hard to find a KJV with the apocrypha, though. 

The old Douay-Rheims translation is pretty good, too.

May 31, 1:41 am | [comment link]
24. Jim the Puritan wrote:

I have real problems with the NRSV.  In my church the NRSV is read from the pulpit, but I still have my old RSV that I am following along in at the same time.  Over time I have realized that numerous passages of scripture have been rewritten in the NRSV for political correctness reasons, generally relating to trying to avoid all references to gender, even when it changes the meaning.  Some of the changes are very disturbing.

The first time I picked up on this was when the NRSV version of the Massacre of the Innocents in Matthew was read.  Obviously, it was only the boy children that were killed, and the RSV correctly says “male children.” The NRSV, however, changes this to say, instead, that “all the children” were killed, thus meaning both male and female children.  Obviously, that is a faulty translation of the original (yes, I went back to my “Englishman’s Greek New Testament” and looked and children is in the masculine, which of course is what makes sense—why on earth would Herod kill the girl children since a *king* was coming to replace him).  So the NRSV mistranslation changes Herod from not only being cruel, but being cruel and also stupid.

That epiphany led me to scrutinize more closely the NRSV against the RSV, and as a result, I have noticed numerous places where the NRSV has rewritten scripture in a way that changes its meaning.  For example, the prophetic scriptures in the Old Testament that refer to the “son of man,” thus prefiguring the specific term that Jesus used to describe Himself, have been rewritten to read “mortals” or “humankind,” thus completely obliterating the meaning of the term.

Similarly, references to the need for individual salvation and an individual relationship with the Lord (because written in the masculine gender), have instead been changed to the indefinite plural and thus changed to a collective group salvation.  For example, John 14:23 (RSV) makes it clear each believer needs to abide by the commandments of God:  ‘If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’.”  The NRSV waters this down to make it seem like it is a collective requirement:  “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  Similarly, Proverbs talks about a personal one-on-one relationship with the Lord:  “A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Prov. 16:9).  This has been rewritten by the NRSV into an impersonal mechanistic relationship between God and “humankind”:  “The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.”

All of this plays right into the false universalist theology preached today in TEC; that we are somehow all collectively saved, no matter how unregenerate the individual may be.  Viz, the recent universalist statements of Mrs. Schori to the Virginia clergy:  “Our understanding as Christians is that Jesus is our salvation, that he died for the whole world. That said, we don’t necessarily know the mechanisms by which God saves the whole world ... My understanding of idolatry includes the assumption that I can know and comprehend the way in which God saves people who are not overtly Christian. I understand that Jesus is my savior, I understand that Jesus is the savior of the whole world. But I am unwilling to do more than speculate about how God saves those who don’t profess to be Christians. I look at the fruits of the life of someone like Mahatma Ghandi and the Dhali Lama and I see Christ-like features.”

May 31, 2:12 am | [comment link]
25. Peter dH wrote:

If you don’t know the original languages different translations are a must.  No translation, I repeat no translation, can 100% accurately translate another language.  All translations have biases.  And sometimes the original is capable of different “correct” translations because the words in the original are ambigous or have multiple meanings.

Can I second that? Some of the discussion here is actually quite crude. You might complain about the “distortions” of the NRSV, but the same type of “distortions” are present in your own favourite translation as well.

It is so much more than looking the words up in BDAG (industry standard lexicon), writing down the meaning and then getting the words in the right order in the English. The Greek (or Hebrew) has a slightly different meaning, different stress, different shade, different connotations, different ambiguities, different cultural echoes than any English you can come up with. Any translation is an interpretation, and no translation renders the original faithfully - something like Young’s Literal Translation is a deeply flawed enterprise. Try come up with something decent for hilasterion in Rom 3:25, I say. Expiation? Propitiation? Mercy-seat or atonement cover? All of these and more, and even worse, it would have had different echoes for the different sections of Paul’s audience (Jewish and Gentile Christians) which is actually part of the genius of Paul’s language in Romans. Untranslatable but wonderful stuff.

Nevertheless, I do dislike the NRSV and even more so the TNIV. Put in the simplest terms, yes, when the Greek says “brothers” it usually means “brothers and sisters” (like the English “mankind” used to do before political correctness banned the word). But translating it in a gender-inclusive way has two consequences. (1) you have to be on your guard whether perhaps in this case only men are intended after all; Herod’s children have already been referred to. If you can faithfully translate the ambiguity, you should do it! (2) You start losing touch with the cultural context. It is impossible to understand scripture if you have no sense whatever of its setting. In it is God’s word for us, but it was written from a specific time, and that is worth keeping in mind. If you are freely transporting “brothers” to our own culture, but leave, say, 1 Cor 11:2ff where it is, you are hopelessly confusing your readers who are stuck in a schizophrenic cultural limbo that is neither 1st century nor 21st century. It seems to me that readers of a non politically correct Bible have a head start in understanding what they are reading.

May 31, 2:52 am | [comment link]
26. azusa wrote:

I can’t find my NRSV at the moment, but doesn’t it often render adelphoi as ‘friends’? ‘adelphoi’ very often means ‘brothers and sisters’ (cf. German ‘Geschwister’), sometimes just ‘brothers’ (Acts 2.29, 37). Context is all important.
There are a lot of infelicities and losses of meaning in the NRSV in its attempts at gender-inclusivity. D A Carson deals with these, and more so with TNIV, in ‘The Inclusive Language Debate. A Plea for Realism’.

May 31, 4:24 am | [comment link]
27. driver8 wrote:

If anyone is actually interested and has enough time here is a pdf of a thorough review of the ESV by an excellent evangelical scholar. A little knowledge of Greek will help you to follow the review.

May 31, 4:39 am | [comment link]
28. badman wrote:

No-one has yet mentioned the internet Bible access which we now so lucky to have, especially Bible Gateway. 

When looking at particular passages - a few verses or a single chapter, intensively - I find the ability to generate half a dozen or more different translations of the same passage a very good way of picking up what different interpretations may be possible.  Often, this shows the “core meaning”, which comes across in all the translations.  I find this particularly helpful in the Old Testament as I have no Hebrew at all. 

For the New Testament, I have the Greek I learned at school, and an “interlinear” Bible, which interlines a literal translation under the Greek, and has the RSV on the facing page, to provide a more elegant translation, which can still be referred back to the Greek text.

For reading the Bible in long passages at a time, not just in snippets, I suppose I am left with the translations current when I first started reading the Bible systematically as boy.  This means that I favour the New English Bible for the Old Testament (since it is so readable, and the Old Testament is often difficult to read), and the Revised Standard Version for the New Testament (because it is close to the Authorised or King James Version, which is what was read in church in my boyhood, so it was most familiar to me, but is slightly simplified, and so easier to understand).

I have marked up my NEB Old Testament and RSV/Greek interlinear New Testament, which deters me from embarking on a whole reading of a more recent translation.

All my children are under 12, and they have largely been brought up on Bible retellings - notably the Lion Bible, which tells the stories faithfully, in straightforward English, with good illustrations - not sentimentalised as with too many child-oriented Bibles.  But I did give my daughter and oldest son, and my niece, funky Bibles - for the girls, the ESV Compact Trugrip Bible in amazing pink rubber by Crossway Books, and for the boy the same but in a sort of metal army-style casing - both of these have the words of Jesus highlighted in red.

May 31, 5:10 am | [comment link]
29. driver8 wrote:

For another, rather more critical review of the ESV, have a look at this pdf review. Very little/no Greek required.

May 31, 5:21 am | [comment link]
30. DavidBennett wrote:

My understanding (backed by the quotes from sources on this thread) is that the Catechism only uses the NRSV when the quotations haven’t been mangled by inclusive language, otherwise the catechism uses the RSV-CE (check out the entry on Wikipedia). The Vatican rejected the use of the NRSV for use in liturgy and for the English translation of the English catechism because of its inclusive language. The version of the New American Bible read aloud in Catholic masses is actually different from the version available in printed NAB Bibles, because the Vatican would not approve all of the more liberal changes in the 1986 edition (including greater use of inclusive language).

The RSV-CE is a Catholic version of the RSV with certain changes to the New Testament, including making Christ’s deity more clear. There is a new second edition of the RSV-CE which is nice too.

May 31, 7:06 am | [comment link]
31. Br. Michael wrote:

Peter, good comment.  I also recommend a good computer program with multiple translations.  Bibleworks is very good, but expensive.  However, I use mine all the time.
My favorite translation is the ESV because I like a more formal translation than a dynamic one.  On the other hand for devotional reading and a different translation slant I like the New Living Translation.  For most of the reasons stated I don’t like the NRSV.
And I do wish that modern English retained a “you” plural.  May I suggest that the translators consider the good Southern expression of Y’all.

May 31, 7:54 am | [comment link]
32. An Anxious Anglican wrote:

Crosswalk.com also has a great selection of online Bible translations available at no cost: http://bible.crosswalk.com/.  IMHO, I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the NIV and its translation theory of “dynamic equivalence.”  I prefer using parallel Bibles when doing studies or devotions so as not to be subject to the biases of one particular translating team. The ESV is growing on me, and is rapidly displacing the RSV as my serious, go-to Bible.  I look forward to inclusion of the Deutero-canonical books in the new edition. 

That being said, I have to say that the tone of this string was a bit disappointing. Leave the shrill polemics on another blog, please.

May 31, 9:08 am | [comment link]
33. Ross Gill wrote:

It would be best if everyone could read the original languages.  I heard Tom Wright once liken reading the Bible through an translation to drinking fine wine through a tea bag.  But since very few people in our pews - and very few clergy - are fluent in either, a translation is required.  Wright wasn’t a fan of the NIV especially when it came to its take on Paul.  The best of the bunch in his opinion was the NRSV.

May 31, 9:27 am | [comment link]
34. libraryjim wrote:

I like both Bible Gateway and Crosswalk. BG is easier to search and includes the ESV, Crosswalk has study guides for each passage search as well as just the Bible verses and includes versions not carried on BG.

May 31, 10:10 am | [comment link]
35. Pb wrote:

Leland Ryken’s The Word of God in English has a lot to say aobut the newer translations.  The reasons for inclusive language are shaky. Who would believe that this is the way Simon Peter would talk today? And why the bible? Could it be that rather than reflect current usage, this is an attempt to change current usage? Why not change everything that has been written in the last 2,500 years out of concern for anyone who might be offended?

May 31, 11:07 am | [comment link]
36. AquinasOnSteroids wrote:

Cousin Vinnie, there is the 1611 Holy Bible in the King James(if you can get over the early English!).  It can be ordered through the Christian Book Distributors: http://www.christianbook.com

ErikC

May 31, 12:42 pm | [comment link]
37. AquinasOnSteroids wrote:

Sorry, Vinnie… it has the apocrypha!

ErikC

May 31, 12:43 pm | [comment link]
38. Jim the Puritan wrote:

I echo others that BibleGateway is great, I use it all the time, especially in preparation for our small group Bible study.

Another good one not mentioned yet is Blue Letter Bible (http://www.blueletterbible.org/).  Not only does that have the various translations and commentaries on each verse, but they have a function to interlineate the Greek/Hebrew text, and the interlineation goes through the meaning of the original words, word by word.

It’s almost like you don’t have to go to seminary any more, if you use some of these free online resources.

May 31, 1:38 pm | [comment link]
39. Occasional Reader wrote:

It’s almost like you don’t have to go to seminary any more, if you use some of these free online resources.

“Almost” is the key word.  The online and Bible software tools are fantastic, but there is still an issue of competently assessing the data.  For example, #24 suggests that the masculine gender of Matt 2:16 means that those slaughtered were obviously male and then castigates the NRSV for getting is so badly wrong.  But this confuses grammatical gender with real gender. (This is the same sort of mistake made by the Sophia crowd a few years back.)  The context indeed implies that the children slaughtered were males, but it is quite wrong to make the argument from grammatical gender (a group of humans would always be masculine pl in the NT, even if a mixed group).  Even the very theologically conservative NET Bible recognizes as much and rightly retains “all the children,” leaving it to the reader to infer that it would have most probably only have been the male children.  In doing so, it follows the KJV, that purveyor of all things feminist.  wink

May 31, 2:35 pm | [comment link]
40. libraryjim wrote:

ErikC,
I have a “1611 KJV” that Thomas Nelson published to go along with the publication of the NEW KJV.  It’s taken from the third printing of the 1611 KJV and does, indeed, include the apocrypha. The only thing they changed was the typeface for easier reading.  (It also includes the now-omitted introduction by the translators!)

By the way, on the site you mention, if you do a search for “KJV with apocrypha” a few choices comes up, including the apocrypha alone.

May 31, 2:45 pm | [comment link]
41. mellowmama wrote:

Has anyone taken a breath and a moment to realize the extraordinary privilege we have in our culture and country to be choosy about our Bible translation? To have multiple Bibles on our shelves when others in the world have DIED for being caught with ONE page of a new testament hidden in their pocket is a sobering reality - and one which, I pray, will encourage you to send a gift today to a ministry like ibs.org [international Bible society] - or to box up the ‘extras’ sitting on your shelf and take them to the local shelter or inner city ministry. It’s fun to ‘collect’ them, I know, but it’s also really convicting to spend this much time arguing - crassly, in some cases - about something for which people have died, and which contains the Word of God and of LIFE for those who are perishing.

May 31, 3:07 pm | [comment link]
42. libraryjim wrote:

I’ve given quite a few to our local Prison Ministry.

May 31, 3:15 pm | [comment link]
43. Danny Garland Jr. wrote:

Bob Carlton,
This might have already been addressed (I didn’t bother reading every single comment), but as to your comment :“could you possibly give some respect to the folks involved in a translation that so many see as the Word of God ? “, I just wanted to remind you that no “translation” is the Word of God. The original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts are the Word of God. Not a mere “translation.”

May 31, 4:30 pm | [comment link]
44. bob carlton wrote:

danny
much of what we see now as jewish scriptures were oral traditions long before they were manuscripts

May 31, 5:24 pm | [comment link]
45. Br. Michael wrote:

44, Writing goes back to 5 to 4,000 BC.  Moses was an educated Egyption.  Maybe he wrote down the first 5 books?  And he lived after 2,000 BC.

May 31, 5:34 pm | [comment link]
46. AquinasOnSteroids wrote:

Libraryjim,
hmm, I’ve been looking for a copy of the apocrypha alone…. thanks…

ErikC

May 31, 5:52 pm | [comment link]
47. Peter dH wrote:

Br Michael, with all due respect, that Moses wrote the first five books of the bible as we have it is not tenable: there are so many different layers and voices in it. It’s a pious notion that lacks scriptural support, for a start, and I won’t even touch on what source critics make of it. The Pentateuch’s present form is quite late. I’m already an arch-conservative for holding it likely that the Pentateuch actually preserves the book of the law of Moses, even though we basically have to guess what it is (20:21-23:19? I don’t pretend to know exactly).

You are absolutely right, though, to point out that not everything in the OT (or NT) necessarily started life as an oral tradition; but I note that Bob said “much”, not “all”. When the Bible says that Moses wrote down the stuff he heard from YHWH, I’m happy to entertain the notion that he might actually have done what it says on the tin smile

Bob, I’m probably an arch-conservative again but as far as I’m concerned the canonical form we have is the word of God (or perhaps I should nuance that as the word through which the Word is heard). How God hammered it into shape is interesting and worthy of study, but for me not decisive for the status of the final product. Put differently, if someone would unearth the original 1st edition of the book of the law of Moses, complete with his autograph, or the mp3s of Amos’ greatest rants, do we think it must somehow be closer to what God actually really intended to say?

May 31, 6:51 pm | [comment link]
48. libraryjim wrote:

BCP
Rite I and Rite II
The Lessons
The people sit. One or two Lessons, as appointed, are read, the Reader first saying
A Reading (Lesson) from   .

A citation giving chapter and verse may be added.

After each Reading, the Reader may say
The Word of the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.

May 31, 8:23 pm | [comment link]
49. mathman wrote:

Peter dH:
You observe that Moses writing the first five books of the Bible is not tenable. You document your observation by stating that there are so many different layers and voices in it. You further state that the authorship is a pious notion which lacks Scriptural support. The Pentateuch is quite late in form, in your view. Who, then? Redactor? Who was he? Where did he live? When? No one would ever tell me. Trust me, all the scholars have said. Well, I want to know. Who? When? Why was it received? And how did the writings of this person or committee come to be held in such reverence?

Well. What of Jesus? They have Moses and the Prophets, He said. Is this not scriptural? What of Paul? Just where do the Scriptures not support the authorship of Moses?

How does Exodus tell the story? Moses is among those Habiru males condemned to die because the Habiru are becoming too numerous. His mother sets him in a reed boat and he is taken from the water by an Egyptian princess. Now where would he have been educated? In the best schools Egypt had to offer. And the Egyptians had been extant for 1500 years already. Are you claiming that Moses was illiterate?
Of course Moses did not literally write (create) Genesis. It was before his time. You cannot be an eyewitness of stuff that happened before you were born.
Abraham made records of all his life. He left them to Isaac. Isaac in turn added to those records, and left them to Jacob. Jacob took those records with him and left them with Joseph. It is certainly consistent that Joseph should have left a repository of all of those records behind, to be found by Moses and reprinted by him at the right time.
Otherwise we are stuck with the notion that it is all a made-up story.
Now if the other four books do not read like the literal writings as copied literally from the lips of a 120-year old man, we have a profound disagreement. Remember: all of the rest of those who escaped in the Exodus (with only a couple of exceptions) perished in the desert. Only Moses had been on the Mountain. Only Moses had a face that glowed so much that he had to be veiled. Who his amanuensis (Joshua) (someone else) was I do not know. But Moses was such a significant figure that no one DARED to touch a word. Does he meander? Yes. Does he repeat himself? Yes. Is some of what he wrote interminable? Yes. It is for all of those reasons, and many more, that, were the Torah not written by Moses, no one would have any use for it whatever. One must account for the Jewish reverence (remember jot and tittle) for the actual written printed (using special ink, special parchment, and never touched by the hand of anyone except for a specifically consecrated Rabbi) Word of God somehow. Did someone simply decide one day that some writing was special? Every human custom has a source. If the Bible (especially the Torah) is not expressly as handed down by the Holy Spirit, then where did the custom (which is rather inflexible) originate? And why did Jesus deem it so authoritative?
If the canonical status of what we have today does not depend on what was originally delivered to the Saints I should be very much surprised, as my salvation and eternal life are strictly dependent on the accuracy and authority of what is written.

June 1, 2:40 pm | [comment link]
50. libraryjim wrote:

I had one professor who was very keen on the Wellhausen documentary hypothesis (JEDP + redactor) theory.  When I asked why it couldn’t have been Moses who wrote it, he replied, “because then this would be a very dull course!”.

The Wellhausen DH has fallen out of favor recently, thank goodness.
And for those who say, ‘well Egypt only wrote in hyroglyphics, in an archeological dig in Egypt, they discovered over clay tablets dating back to the pre-cananite period in cuniform script:

<blockquote>Almost immediately following their discovery, the Amarna tablets were deciphered, studied and published. Their importance as a major source for the knowledge of the history and politics of the Ancient Near East during the 14th Century B.C. was recognized. The tablets presented several difficulties to scholars. The Amarna tablets are written in Akkadian cuneiform script and present many features which are peculiar and unknown from any other Akkadian dialect. This was most evident in the letters sent from Canaan, which were written in a mixed language (Canaanite-Akkadian). The Amarna letters from Canaan have proved to be the most important source for the study of the Canaanite dialects in the pre-Israelite period. </blockquote>
http://www.crystalinks.com/armanatablet.html

I first found out about these in the archaeology section of the Thompson Chain Reference Bible, NIV.

June 1, 3:01 pm | [comment link]
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