Some of you know that I have a collection of Bibles. They aren't rare and aren't especially valuable books in terms of their monetary cost. That's not why I gather them (a few are shown in this photo). Rather, I seek out different English translations so I can compare them as I seek to understand what was meant in the original Greek and Hebrew (and a bit of Aramaic).
The problem is that I have yet to find a translation that every single time renders a passage better than another translation. For some passages I prefer the New Revised Standard Version. For others the old King James Version. For still others the New Living Translation or the Common English Bible or the New International Version. Or the Jerusalem Bible. Or the J.B. Phillips version of the New Testament. And on and on.
Perhaps I should create my own version by pasting together what I consider the best translations from all these and others. But who has that kind of time?
I am thinking about English translations because a friend recently gave me a book called A Visual History of the English Bible, by Donald L. Brake. This is not an academic study but more like a love story by a collector of rare English Bibles who is also the dean of a seminary.
But toward the end of the book he writes this: "Bible students seeking sound exegesis, cultural clarity and theological accuracy will never be completely satisfied with a single English translation -- no matter how careful the word-for-word or thought-for-thought translation -- nor should they (be).
"No English word study, no diagramming of a sentence, no comparing of verses can substitute for an immersion in the original languages. The scholar must study the original documents in their original languages, cultural setting, theological worldview and biblical contexts. That does not mean nonscholars can't understand the Bible. It does mean they must pay careful attention to the translations they use."
The other thing using a variety of translations does is to help the reader see new things in familiar passages. Sometimes passages become so familiar that they lose their original freshness and even shock value. That's particularly true of the parables Jesus told. The book to read on that subject, by the way, is by Vanderbilt scholar Amy-Jill Levine and is called Short Stories by Jesus.
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A BIT OF ANACHRONISTIC BIBLICAL FUN
And speaking of Bible translations, a Christian satire website called The Babylon Bee (you can read about it here) has posted this piece alleging that the old (1611) King James Version of the Bible finally has been translated into Greek and Hebrew. As the article reports, "'If only we had completed this translation before Koine Greek fell out of use, the people who lived during New Testament times could have heard the gospel,' Pastor Steven Anderson said in a YouTube video. 'Sad!'” Sad, indeed.