Tag Archives: New American Bible

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? A Case for the NAB

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A very special thank you to Jeremy Thompson from Free Old Testament Audio (where coincidentally you can find the rankings of the top 50 Bibliobloggers on the interwebs) 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.  Jeremy recommends checking out the USCCB lectionary page and iMissal (an NAB iphone app). And now, let’s give Jeremy a very warm political Jesus welcome as he tells me why he uses the NAB version.

Thanks to Chad for inviting me to write the third part in this series on Bible translations.  As happens from time to time in the Biblioblogoshpere, I may be a bit of an odd one out.  As a Roman Catholic, I’m likely writing a post about a translation that many readers will dismiss, the New American Bible.  So, humor me … 😉
There are only two Bible translations that I read with any kind of consistency, namely the NRSV and the NAB.  I generally use the NRSV in academic settings and the NAB in parish settings.  That is not to say I don’t use other translations.  In fact, when I am studying a particular passage I almost always compare translations using either BibleWorks or Logos.  I don’t believe that there is any one translation that is adequate taken on its own.  Be that as it may, there are three underlying reasons why I primarily use the NAB for daily reading and in parish settings: canon, community, and liturgy.
From the standpoint of canon, I use the NAB because it contains the deuterocanonicals.  I doubt anyone would read a version of the Harry Potter series that left out all or part of book three. In the same way, I don’t read Bibles that leave out books that I believe to be canonical.  If you are a Protestant, would you read from an NIV that was missing the Book of Esther or Job?  Doubtful.  In the same way, I wouldn’t expect an Orthodox Christian to consistently read from the NAB.
Let me give you one illustration where this would play an important role.  My NAB is a study Bible, as most of them are.  In its cross-references and notes it sometimes refers to the deuterocanonicals.   A translation that doesn’t contain these books cannot do so.  I think this is a major weakness even in Bibles where these texts are not taken as canonical (i.e. perhaps they could be included as an appendix somewhat like the NRSV).  At the very least, the deuterocanonicals do shed some light on the New Testament, even for the Protestant.  The inability to cross-reference these texts or refer to them in notes such that the reader can easily look them up without going to another text is problematic.
Now, I have no intention of arguing about issues of canon here.  This is not my blog.  I’m only explaining to you why I read a particular translation.
Against that backdrop, one might say that there are a number of texts that include the deuterocanonicals other than the NAB.  This is certainly true, which brings me to the point of community.  To be quite honest, many Catholics are not entirely happy with the NAB.  I’m not always happy about the translation decisions either.  I hate the way it sometimes handles text critical issues.  But, the fact of the matter is that it is what most people in my church parish read.  So, if I am teaching my adult Sunday School class on Sunday morning and read from anything other than the NAB, I am likely to cause confusion.  Therefore, I read the NAB as a part of my community and point out possible translation issues as I am teaching.
I remember what it was like being in an evangelical Protestant church and everyone using a different translation.  I could walk into church on Sunday morning and find people reading from the NIV, the NLT, the ESV, the NASB, the KJV, the NKJV, the Message, or the HCSB.  And, then there was the continual interjecting in Sunday School class: “but mine says …”  and me thinking “well that’s nice” ;-).  It is refreshing not to have to deal with that so much anymore.  Of course, some people in my church parish do have different versions, but I would say that over 90% of the people who come in for any teaching that I do in my parish use the NAB.  And, any time I listen to another person in my parish teach, they use the NAB.  So, do I love it? No.  I love Hebrew and Greek texts.  Is it adequate? Yes.  And, most people in my community use it.
Finally, and tied to the aspect of community, is liturgy.  The NAB is the text used in the lectionary from which my church and most others in North America read.  When I do devotional reading I generally read from the lectionary.  I always try to interact with the lectionary texts in Hebrew and Greek when I have time, but that is a bit idealistic considering everything I’m currently doing.  Whether I study the lectionary readings in Greek and Hebrew or English I always go to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops website or to iMissal to find where the lectionary readings are.  If I read the lectionary in English, I am reading the NAB.  If I do that, then I am seeing the same readings from the same translation as any Catholic in North America who has attended mass that day or who has read from the lectionary.  And, I think there is something really wonderful about that – Christians reading the Bible together in some unified way.
I love the lectionary.  In the tradition of which I was a part, the usage of scripture was somewhat myopic.  Rarely were there sermons on the Old Testament or the gospels.  Our preachers spent most of their time in the epistles.  The lectionary forces me to remove my blinders to some degree because I am not choosing what I want to read.  I get an Old Testament reading (usually), a psalm, and a gospel reading.  I must interact with readings that I might ordinarily overlook.  And, I believe that is important.  At the very least, I think it humbles me.  It makes me realize just how difficult it is to do theology considering the variety of perspectives found in the text of the Bible.  Some may believe that all of the Biblical authors are saying similar things only in different ways, but even still, that is a lot to sort.  I am thankful that lectionary makes me ever more aware of this.  And, the Bible version that makes it easiest for me to experience these benefits of the lectionary is the NAB.
With all this said, I am not recommending that everyone read the NAB.  For me, it just makes sense.  I would recommend though that we should all take into account canon, community, and “liturgical” context when making decisions about which translation we read from, even if you don’t use a lectionary – God help you ;-).
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