Tag Archives: Authorized King James Version

The Africana Bible: Women, Art, and Responsibility

Isaac Hayes

My Ethiopian Bible is bigger than Your White King James Bible!!!

“Let me add one more line in order to connect my African-South African reality with that of my fellow Africana sisters: ‘Isono sethu ubulili bethu besifazane–“Our sin is our female sex.’ ” Madipoane Masenya (page 33)

Like many posts I do, I begin this one with a personal story. A while back I was riding the Fort Worth T bus on the way home from a long morning at work. I sat in the back, wearing my blue “Got Jesus?” hoodie when a elderly black man across the aisle from me, informed me that my hoodie was wrong, that I had the wrong name on that shirt. And I responded, what am I doing wrong? And the man said, God’s name is Jehovah, and Jehovah only. Of course, my reply was well Jehovah is the German rendition of the divine name in the “Old Testament.” He tried to call himself persuading me to his “argument” but I tuned him out, and went on my merry way. Lovely story right? Probably wondering what exactly does that have to do with this post on Women, Art, and Responsibility in The Africana Bible?

Well, my friend, for Christians in the African Diaspora, the Bible is a cherished book. West Africans generally, according to Steed Vernyl Davidson, Justin Ukpong, and Gosnell York in “The Bible and Africana Life: A Problematic Relationship,” sometimes sleep with their Bible under their pillows (hey in Texas, it’s guns–okay okay, I kid, well maybe not) (p 39-40). The Bible is seen as being able to be reconciled with African worldview(s), but funny thing is, some white Christians identify their own brand of Christianity as THE only way of being biblical. Funny how that works, eh? The Bible permeates so much of African diasporic life that the Hebrew Bible inspires artwork, from John Edgar Wideman’s novel Two Cities to Harriet Power’s “Bible Quilt” to the spirituals of enslaved Africans sung on American shores to Isaac Hayes’ album, Black Moses. Need I go on? — see “The Hebrew Bible in Africana Art, Music, and Popular Culture” by Kimberly N. Ruffin (page 52-57).

Back to my story: is Jehovah, the German iteration of YHWH, the Holy Name, the SINGULAR, ONE AND ONLY WAY to address God, to have a relationship with God. 1000 years ago, God became Incarnate in a German Barbarian, and it is by being a part of the Prussian race that one is saved, right? Looks that way. That’s the logic my friend on the bus. My friend and his fellow co-religionists are reading the Bible irresponsibly. Rev. Wil Gafney argues that responsibly reading Israel’s Scriptures means “putting an end to the mediation of the scriptures through gentile languages, especially German, in this post-Holocaust world” (48). Indeed, even Israel’s Scriptures depiction of God’s Gender is not masculine (sorry, John Piper), but the only reproductive organ God has in the Bible is a womb (50). Whoopsy! Looks like androncentrists, sexists, and masculinists have a problem with God! Gafney continues, “The reception of the scriptures of Israel into the Christian canon was and is marked by usurpation, colonization, anti-Judaism, and anti-Semitism. Specifically in the West, the scriptures of Israel have regularly been mediated through gentilic culture and languages, particularly German, which is especially onerous in a post-Holocaust world” (47). When you think about it, misogynists who hate women, they read the Bible irresponsibly too.

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What Now Shall I Read? The Exciting Conclusion

The Codex Gigas from the 13th century, held at...
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A hearty, chunky, beefy, soupy “thank you” to everyone who has kept up with my search for a Bible translation, post-TNIV. Previous entries can be read here: Intro , NIV, NRSV, NAB, NLT, ESV, NASB, and the HCSB & KJV. For this concluding post, I would like to thank everyone who contributed and encourage everyone reading to check out the home blogs of these misunderstood, lonely, nerdy, and amazing Bibliophiles. They are, in order of appearance: Mark Stevens, Rodney Thomas Jr., Jeremy Thompson, Joel Watts, Jason Skipper, Dustin Smith, and me. Since I know you are all dying to know who the most convincing was, I will interact briefly, and without further ado, with each translation that was posted on.

The NIV: The problem here is that I agree with everything Mark had to say about the NIV. He claims that it “just felt right.” This is a claim that I can make as well. The language just feels comfortable to me. The NIV is the Bible I was first introduced to, and the Bible that I can quote from most comfortably. Mark also makes some very good statements about the gender inclusivity of the NIV family of Bibles. The readability is there, and the translators are generally well respected. The problem is that most of this applies to the TNIV, not the newer NIV 2010. In fact, the gender regression and my lack of trust in the current round of translators (as opposed to the TNIV) is why I am looking for a new translation in the first place. Verdict: Unless the TNIV makes a comeback, I will read elsewhere.

The NRSV: As a student of the scriptures, I am convinced that the NRSV has much good to offer. I don’t find the more literal translations of words to be “wooden” as some others have, but I also appreciate that it is not as gripping as one might hope for in their religious literature. The readability does not bother me as much as it might otherwise, since the general narrative is already embedded within me. At this point in my life, I am looking for more literal/faithful translations than gripping ones. Having said that, I don’t like preaching from this Bible. It does feel wooden when I preach from it. The problem compounded is that my church, and most PC(USA) churches I have been to, use this version. I am stuck at least using this translation liturgically for the foreseeable future. But that isn’t so bad. Verdict: Unless I have a say in the matter, I will read this version liturgically and for some study purposes.

The NAB: Jeremy’s post did not convince me to use the NAB whatsoever. But, it was very helpful. Jeremy’s honesty with why he uses the NAB, along with his acknowledgment of its imperfection, and yet his comfort with using it, really felt genuine. He uses the NRSV in tandem with the NAB and it works in his context. And his context, for him, is comfortable with the NAB, therefore so is he. I am confident that wherever the NAB is not quite adequate, Jeremy is doing a good job with his parish to guide them into a clearer picture. So while Jeremy did not convince me to use the NAB, he gained my respect and along the way, allowed me to be more comfortable with my decision to use the NRSV liturgically. Verdict: Unless my Presbytery turns into a Parish and adopts the NAB, I will read elsewhere.

The NLT: I actually like the NLT. Like Joel, I find it to be highly readable, and therefore, very useful, especially to the person who is looking into a devotional Bible or someone who is primarily concerned with narrative/spiritual matters. I have many good friends who love the NLT to death and read the scriptures more because of it than they would without it, which in my book is a great thing. However, at the stage I am in right now, I find the NLT, while highly readable, sometimes sacrifices a more sure reading of certain verses for the sake of the reader. Not that this makes it a poor translation, but the slippery slope of leaning more on a particular translator’s interpretation than on what the text might say more literally is a hard slope for me to start down. Readability, while good for most, is not what I am looking for at the moment. Also, Joel made a very good point. He fell in love with the NLT. Any version that I use has to be a version I can fall in love with in the same way. Verdict: Unless I go back to my roots and join my wife’s family at a more modern Charismatic church, I will read elsewhere.

The ESV: While I appreciate that those who support the ESV wear their theological commitments on their sleeves, it is more off-putting to me that this translation was essentially marketed as “We are not the liberal TNIV.” And while I appreciate Jason’s candor, I am afraid that a translation described by him as basically, “better than the KJV.” I appreciate that much of the theological language and poetic cadence is kept, but my fear is that those who translated it had much too much of their own selves in it, much like the translators of the KJV did. While it is impossible to do away with that danger completely, a reactionary Bible like this one feels like it doesn’t even try to avoid it. And I think for them and their audience, that is alright. But for me, I am not persuaded. Verdict: Unless Jesus comes back as a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed, I will read elsewhere.

The NASB: I must admit that this one caught me a little off guard. As I haven’t really examined the NASB as thoroughly as some others, I had no preconceived notions about it. Actually, that isn’t true. I actually confused it initially with the NAB, and so I thought the NASB was a Catholic translation. I was wrong. But on the other side of it, I am impressed with what I have read so far. Dustin did a far more technical evaluation than most of the other contenders, and as such, I was able to do a 1-1 evaluation myself. I wish Dustin would have done a comparison of the NASB with the NRSV instead of the NIV, but regardless, much of his point was made. The NASB (with many exceptions, as in every version) does a very good job with a more literal translation. Verdict: Unless another more literal translation comes along, I am reading the NASB alongside the NRSV for much of my study.

The HCSB: I like the Transliterations for the names of God, especially YHWH, but the rest of the translating decisions are thoroughly spiritually partisan, and I have no use for that. Verdict: Unless El Shaddai convinces me through a convention, Southern or otherwise, I will read elsewhere.

The KJV: A beautiful, poetic, and culturally significant translation. However, it suffers from an imperialistic nature. A poor translation, in archaic language, based upon a poor Latin translation (no offense, Jerome). I tried, Jimmy, I tried. But I just can’t read you. My horribly mentally scarred 8-year-old self still remembers trying to reach God through you and failing miserably. Verdict: Unless King James comes down from Heaven and tells me otherwise (I have so many theological problems with that last statement I made), I will read elsewhere. Actually, I will read elsewhere no matter what. I would likely treat James as a zombie and shoot off his head.

Overall Verdict: For my part, I am personally comfortable using the NRSV for liturgical purposes. I am now glad to add the NASB to my NRSV and the TNIV I will keep around for the purposes of quick reference or study. However, I believe that at this stage, no English translation can do what I need it to do. I need a translation that I feel has accurately translated the original languages in a way that is relevant and faithful to the original writer’s intent. And probably shocking in a way that most Bibles will not be for commercial purposes. This is why I have decided on a new version. A version that does not exist yet. The PJV.

The PJV (Political Jesus Version) is a serious project (with a tongue-in-cheek name) that springs out of my search for a Bible translation I can get behind. After reading the posts and talking with Rod and Kurk Gayle, Rod and I decided that the only translation we could get behind was the translation we did ourselves. Essentially, Rod will translate a passage, as will I. Then we will compare, get input from others (English, Hebrew, and Greek, general language scholars) and post that passage to political Jesus. We will also include commentary on that passage from Rod, myself, and hopefully other, more diverse voices, in order to facilitate a translation that we hope will be faithful, helpful, and will start conversations. It must also be said that anything we attempt is frail and feeble without God’s blessing. So YHWH, this is my formal request for your help in this project.

Blessings!

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