Tag Archives: what now shall i read?

What Now Shall I Read: A Case for the ESV

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A very special thank you to Jason from Pastoral Musings for joining us in this project, “What now Shall I Read?” Previous entries are here: Intro , NIV , NRSV , NAB and NLT. And now, let’s give Jason a very warm political Jesus welcome as he tells me why he uses the ESV version.

First of all, I must say that I primarily use the King James Version.  I am a former King James Only-ite.

The English Standard Version (henceforth ESV) was one of the first translations other than the KJV that I took seriously.  The NKJV simply didn’t leave me feeling comfortable.  As one friend stated, reading the NKJV after the KJV is like kissing one’s cousin.

I truly like the NASB, but there’s a certain stuffiness about it that I can’t explain.  I like the reading, because it’s pretty clear.  It simply doesn’t have the cadence that the KJV has.  The ESV has retained much of that cadence.

The ESV has managed to capture a good deal of the beauty of the KJV while still updating the archaic language.  It is also an understandable translation.  There is one very unfortunate place in the Old Testament that I dislike.  I hope that they will correct it later.

For a person who is leaving the KJV as his only Bible, the ESV is something that I highly recommend, as it will leave that person relatively comfortable.

The ESV is readable, too.  It’s not difficult to me.  I like that.  I also like a translation that seeks to be “essentially literal” (to use the words of Leland Ryken), or a formal equivalence translation.  The ESV does a good job, I think, and is a good English translation.

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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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What Now Shall I Read? A requiem for the NIV

The NIV (New International Version) translation of the Bible was the Bible I first encountered the Scriptures with. I used it exclusively from my freshman year of high school until I started Seminary. I began to use the TNIV (Today’s New International Version) when the full version came out in 2005.

I liked the TNIV because it addressed many (but not all) of the translational errors of the 1984 NIV, but more important, it used gender inclusive language where the text itself seemed to indicate that this was appropriate. There was a large controversy regarding the TNIV, like it was some sort of liberal agenda at work, and this stifled the broader appeal it might otherwise have had among the evangelical community. Nevertheless, I found it to be a non-perfect, but adequate and readable/preachable translation.

But this week, the NIV 2011 was released electronically. The NIV 2011 will supersede and replace both the 1984 NIV and the TNIV. Many things have been changed for the better. Some things haven’t. Below is a comparison of a few verses from the 1984 NIV, the TNIV, and the NIV 2011. I will address the changes afterward.

NIV TNIV NIV2011
Gen 1:6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” 

Matt 25:31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.

1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

Gen 1:6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 

Matt 25:31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.

1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human

Gen 1:6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 

Matt 25:31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.

1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus

In the first two examples, you can see how the NIV2011 has taken the updated, better translation of the verse. Thus “expanse” is properly rendered “vault” (actually “dome”, but lets not get picky) and the “heavenly” glory properly gets replaced to fix the addition of “heavenly”, fixing the bias of the 1984. However, notice what happened with 1Tim 2:5. The TNIV authors made a conscious decision to use inclusive language where appropriate. The word “anthropos” in Greek, while masculine,  is not necessarily gender specific to males. It can and does mean “humanity”. There is another word to use in Greek that is specific to maleness, but that is not used, and clearly here, the author wanted to communicate that Jesus is the mediator for all humanity, not just for men.

So why make the change backward? Politics. When the TNIV hit the scene, there was a backlash from people like James Dobson (Focus on the Family), crying that the TNIV translators were liberals and trying to make God a woman, etc… This whipped up such a frenzy among conservative evangelicals (the NIV’s prime audience), that the TNIV, while being the third most downloaded electronic version, did not have nearly the commercial impact it might have.

So the translators gave in to pressure and went backwards. Because they were convinced it was right to do so? To remain true to scripture? No. Doug Moo, Chair of The Committee on Bible Translation, said (speaking of the TNIV), “We felt certainly at the time it was the right thing to do, that the language was moving in that direction.” Has the language stopped moving in that direction? No. In fact, there is a constantly growing cry for more gender-equal language in scripture translation. No one is asking you to translate the Bible in a way that is false. We are asking for responsible use of gender language in our Holy Scriptures.

All of this to say that while I applaud the NIV for fixing some of the larger errors in translation from the 1984, the giant step backwards in gender language, while not a complete deal breaker for me, leaves a bad taste in my mouth regarding the NIV2011.

Over the next few weeks or more, we have some guest bloggers from other Biblioblogs stopping by to give insight into their preferred Bible translations for our discussion. After we have had reasonable discussion, in which I wrestle with issues raised, I will choose my new translation in conversation with you all.

This should be fun.