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What Now Shall I Read? The Exciting Conclusion

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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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What Now Shall I Read: the HCSB and the KJV

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I could not find anyone who wanted to persuade me about these translations, and yet they are bestsellers and so deserve at least passing treatment. A very special thank you to my friend and colleague, me. I am joining myself in this project, “What now Shall I Read?” Previous entries are here: Intro , NIV, NRSV, NAB, NLT, ESV, and the NASB. And now, for the penultimate post on WNSIR, a very warm Political Jesus welcome to me as I tell me why I should read the HCSB and the KJV (based on what I was able to find).

First, the HCSB –

Chad, it is clear that you are as theologically dedicated as you are smart. Perhaps you are more dedicated to God than you are smart. Perhaps you are not smart at all and just theologically and overly religiously inclined. That is why you should choose the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

Far from being written in today’s language, it keeps theologically important, but ultimately meaningless words like justification, sanctification, redemption in tact, although they really don’t mean anything to our readers beyond what our pastors tell us they mean.

The HCSB also keeps traditional names of people and places in the Bible in tact, regardless of new scholarship, so that we don’t have to change any of our curriculum, church names, and just because that might be controversial. Avoiding controversy is super important to being Biblical. The one exception is the Tetragrammaton. We just love big words.

You see, most Bibles are just plain wrong when they translate the Bible. You see, LORD is not a good translation of the Tetragrammaton. That is why we use Yahweh. Even though tradition tells us not to, and even though we aren’t completely sure of how it should be pronounced, and even though some people will be offended, this is really the only innovation we have going for us, so we stuck with it.

Chad, you should know that we kept the little headings above groups of text that let you know what you should be thinking about the story before you read it. Also, the red letters. We love color coordination. There was an argument about this apparently. Some of us thought that the innovation of color text was “adding to the words of this book” and thus were afraid of judgment, but the marketing guys were able to convince us that it made better financial sense.

Lastly, we don’t accommodate to the culture like some other liberal translations do. Even when the text clearly includes women, we exclude them just to be on the safe side. We toyed with translating “Eve” as “Adam without a penis,” but then we might have to change some of the pictures in our kid’s Bibles. Also, we wanted to avoid any potential homosexuals using our Bible as a proof-text. We should be the only ones using our own translation as a proof text.

Chad, we sincerely hope that you choose the HCSB as your new translation. It is the standard after all. Blessings of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, our El Shaddai.

Now, the KJV –

If it is good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for you, Chad.

The KJV was written by Christians, in the original language of God.

Many will tell you that the original languages of the Bible were Hebrew, Greek, and sometimes Aramaic (which is like the leap year of Biblical languages, am I right?). That is false. The Bible was written in the King James English, then taken back in time and translated into Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Later, when the Christian Empire was at its golden zenith (which hopefully will return as soon as we can kick all of those liberals out of Washington), it was re-translated from the only slightly inferior Latin Vulgate (may it rest in peace).

The King Jimmy Bible has taken God’s nation, I mean America, through its toughest times. Without it, we may never have been able to twist scripture as well as we have, and Moses might not have ever had horns. Don’t innovate on God’s original plan – the KJV.

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What Now Shall I Read: A Case for the NLT

A very special thank you to Joel Watts from Unsettled Christianity (one of the two highest ranking Biblioblogs on the web) for joining us in this project, “What now Shall I Read?” You You can read the first post on my search for a new Bible translation here. The case for the NIV can be found here. The case for the NRSV can be found here. The case for the NAB can be found here. And now, let’s give Joel a very warm political Jesus welcome as he tells me why he uses the NLT version.

I want to thank Chad, clearly the better half of this blog, for inviting me to write this blog post on the New Living Translation (NLT) and my reasons for reading it. Of course, anyone, anywhere, who gives me a chance to write about the NLT deserves my gratitude.

Unfortunately, and this goes against my standard arguments for the NLT, but I want to start with the Living Bible. Remember that puffy green bound bible published in 1971? I’ve seen several around, in homes or churches. But, my earliest memory was the one used by my mother. I grew up in a divorced home, and the Christianity that influenced me at that time was the King James Only version, but I can still remember a night of turmoil as she read from it to try to instruct her ex-husband, the father of her only children, on the the duty of a husband in caring for his family. Later, this bible would follow her and she would use it from time to time, although, unfortunately, not as much as she might should have. But, what was it about this bible which attracted her to it? She was college educated, had a wonderful mind, and didn’t need ‘help’ in reading the text?

Growing up King James Only allowed me to hide behind the tough, archaic, language of the text in inflicting harm upon others. I mean, it just sounds more godlier when -eths are included and neither you nor the other person can understand exactly what you are saying, right? The KJV-Onlyism allowed me keep the word of God closed up for only those with the ‘revelation’ to understand it. Unfortunately, a little light hurts the eyes. After briefly studying a translation or two, reading a book or two, and a prayer or two, the light on the darkness of the KJVO movement came on, and I slowly left it.

Many assume that I went directly from the KJV to the NLT, but I didn’t. I used the NKJV for a long time. Along with this came the NIV and the N/RSV. For several years, I would hide this bibles at home while taking my KJV to church. They were fine, because they still have the ‘godly’ feel of not always being in the common-speak of the people to whom I was ministering. It was not until I picked up my a pink metal bible for my daughter, which she begged me for, that I looked at the ‘immature’ bible, the NLT, for the first time. I vetted it, so to speak, and examined it. I compared it to several versions and found that it spoke to her, barely (she was still pretty young) but more – more than that – the NLT spoke to me! My love affair didn’t take off immediately either.

I continued vetting until I found that I just liked reading the NLT. I didn’t fall in love with the NLT; I came to realize that I was reading the NLT for more than vetting procedures. For me, suddenly, reading the NLT restored my ‘just read the bible’ mentality. It became my devotional bible, and my study bible. I no longer measure the NLT to other translations, but now measure other translations to the NLT. Yes, I used another one for my pointed posts and articles, but the NLT is my primary translation by far. Why? Because it is clear. In this, I think of Christ who took on the form of a slave to allow everyone to share in the nature of God. Yet, we try to bind up the word of God in archaic sounding language, or academic sounding language, or the myth of a literal, word for word, translation. The NLT helps to remove these walls, and does so not just for children, but so too for those who crave to hear and understand the word of God.

I return to thoughts about my mother and the bible of her generation. So many people feel in love with it, not because the ‘newness’ of the translation, but because it showed that the word of God was still speaking, and they could hear it. We have moved, it seems, beyond having the Scriptures understood, back to trying to bind up the word of God in denominational needs or ideological needs. The NLT includes inclusive language (brothers and sisters), but not to the extent that others do. Further, where they err’d once (Acts 2.38 in 2004 vs 2007) they corrected it. There is not a distinctive ideological nature to it (ESV) although they are generally conservative in their translation. But, they have shown that they are not above changing their mistakes (see example above). They also have an Apocrypha edition, which needs to be updated, but even in this, they show that they are concerned for the broader Body of Christ. They are not producing a bible for a consumer base, except for Christians who just want to read the bible as they might themselves write it. The NLT is my voice, not because it is ‘new’ or because of denominational endorsements, but because it speaks to me in how I speak to others about God in Christ.

Do I use other translations? Yes, of course. But, I read the New Living Translation.

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