Why so many versions? 4-17-09
April 17, 2009
Because today is the birthday (1920) of Robert G. Bratcher, the primary translator of the American Bible's Society's Today's English Version, also known as the Good News Bible, I want to explore the question of why we have so many different translations and paraphrases of the Bible today.
For many years after the King James Version was published in 1611, it was in effect Christianity's official Bible. Even Jews relied on it. But in the 20th century, because the English used in the King James -- though often poetic -- became increasingly inaccessible, scholars recognized a need for translations into more modern language. (Some folks, however, continue to believe that the King James is the Bible God wants everyone to read. As a woman once told the curator of the Quayle Bible Collection at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan., if it was good enough for St. Peter, it's good enough for her.)
As this process or producing new translations began, it also became clear that older manuscripts were being discovered. When the King James Version was written, the oldest available manuscript was from roughly the year 1000. Now we have manuscripts -- from such sources as the Dead Sea Scrolls and other findings -- that are hundreds of years older than that. Older means closer to the original.
Each group of translators almost certainly will say that its work has produced the most accurate and readble text available, and once such people have devoted so many years of their lives to arguing over the exact meaning of a Hebrew word or a Greek phrase, it's hard to blame them for thinking they finally have it the way the original author meant it. But, in reality, some of the choices of words used in the translation represent contemporary theological positions as much as original meaning.
For instance, the New International Version generally is recognized as a Bible more in harmony with Christians who would call themselves theologically conservative, while the New Revised Standard Version is more generally accepted as having a mainline character. The New American Bible has become a favorite among Catholics today and is the one offered on the Web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Sometimes you see theological positions in choices about whether language is gender-inclusive. The NRSV, for instance, tends to use more inclusive language than does the NIV. Some scholars say that the King James and other versions tend to use masculine language even when the original Greek and Hebrew is inclusive or at least not specifically masculine.
One of the newer translations I like a lot -- the New Living Translation -- has some really clear and insightful language. But I find that it tends to see things very much through a modern Christian perspective instead of reflecting the times in which the Bible first was written. For instance, when the Apostle Paul writes to people who are followers of Jesus, he often uses the term "the brothers." But the NLT often translates that as "Christians," even though there weren't any Christians in Paul's time. The first time that term was used, in fact, it had a derogatory meaning. Only later did members of the Jesus movement appropriate the term for themselves.
There will continue to be newer translations of both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Bible that is used by Christians for many reasons. And the translations will take various approaches. Some will attempt quite literal translations while others will go for a meaning-for-meaning translation. In addition, we'll continue to get paraphrases, such as Kenneth Taylor's The Living Bible and Eugene Peterson's The Message, which I really love.
What's important to remember is that, with few exceptions, there aren't major differences in the wording of these translations (not paraphrases, but translations). Each tries to be faithful to the original. The disagreements come about mostly in how one reads Scripture -- whether literally or metaphorically or in some combination of the two. To suggest that the existence of dozens of translations means there are dozens of conflicting versions is simply wrong. Rather, the conflicts grow much more out of one's hermeneutics, or the approach one uses to interpret Scripture.
I'm sure Bratcher could have told you all this, and still can. He's still alive at age 89, the folks at the American Bible Society tell me.
(The photo here today shows just a small sample of the Bible translations in my own collection.)
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ADVICE FOR RELIGION JOURNALISTS
Almost everyone, it seems, has some advice for the media. Here's some from a Catholic archbishop. I think he's right when he says journalists too often don't understand how churches work. What's your major complaint about press coverage of religion? And what do you most like (besides, of course, my blog).
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A CORRECTION: On my April 14 blog, I included a note (now removed) about a display called "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race." I said that it was running now through June 10 at the National Archives and Records Administration Building at Union Station in Kansas City. Well, I was about a year off. It runs from March 16 to June 10, 2010. So mark your 2010 calendars now to see this exhibit about Nazi policies.
and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
And Agrippa said to Paul, "In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?"
1 Peter 4:16
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
Posted by: DW | April 17, 2009 at 01:53 AM
Evangeploitation and exploitgelicals! I love it. New words are good, Lynne.
Susan mentioned Rush Limbaugh. Now ‘there’ is a character. How is it a man like him, to have so little character, make so much money? Because there are so many delusional volks out there, beating on the bandvagon.
JT you are missing the point. I do charity for the sake of goodness, no strings attached. Otherwise it’s a form of blackmail. I think you should get over yourself. Quote us some verses. I like to laugh.
Subject of reading minds? I believe not long ago JT, the mental wizard, gave his view on four of us – Lynne, Susan, Iggy and I - how we think. Sounds like a lot of quacking to me. And I don’t mean ducks – more like the physician type.
Either the Pope, jt and chotock, intends to insult or doesn’t know he insults. Both ways he is unqualified for the world mental wizard position. Cool cloths though, huh?
This is so damn funny! Xs are doing a great job of destroying their own beliefs.
Baptisms. I don’t know, I like water. Usually for me it’s for exercise or pure enjoyment. Mumbo jumbo normally doesn’t play an importance unless…I have had a few drinks. LIFE!
I think Red Biddy said it all, “I think we should tell our representatives in Washington to cut this ambassadorial position permanently. I've never understood why the pontifications (!) of a bunch of senile old celibates in Rome should get so much publicity and carry so much weight on the world scene. Surely the recent pronouncement by the present Pope regarding contraception, as making the AIDS epidemic worse, was an indication that he is completely out of touch.” Continued
Posted by: memberofKCFreeThinkers.org | April 17, 2009 at 06:42 AM
Red Biddy continues, “It is not possible to fire a Pope because he has become senile but the world and that includes the media we could just ignore anything he has to say couldn't we ?”
I do, Red. And I would suspect most do…Lets send some emails.
‘All’ children should have the right to medical care, a home, food and an education of “ALL” levels. Maybe, then the USA – THE WORLD – WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE. Education and science people…
Here’s that word again. Jt writes to Susan, “Your stereotypes of everyone are offensive.”
Please explain what happens when you are offended. Headache? Stomachache? Nosebleed? Earache? How does that work? Are you that insecure with your belief or simply thin-skinned, or both? Of course you probably won’t answer since you don’t have an answer as you don’t have any proof of your belief other than you believe. You are simply offended. So many Xs are such crybabies.
And what on earth does “Ahhhhoooohhhhmmmm” mean, jt? Except for the ‘A’ and the last ‘m’, a whole lot of 4s going on… Is 4 a magical number for you? In numerology that would be wind, water, fire and earth. But who believes in numerology, right? I believe I was told once - in your holy myth bible - jesus prayed before a rune. Is that true?
Peace For the Sake of Goodness Cole
Posted by: memberofKCFreeThinkers.org | April 17, 2009 at 06:44 AM
Bill said, “But the NLT often translates that as "Christians," even though there weren't any Christians in Paul's time.”
Jesus said pick up your crosses and follow me. Jesus wasn’t dead yet.
Nazi policies should get the High Schoolers going….
This is interesting from the History channel.
Who Wrote the Bible? - History Channel (Part 1 of 12)
Peace For the Sake of Goodness Cole
Posted by: memberofKCFreeThinkers.org | April 17, 2009 at 07:28 AM
The word Messiah in Hebrew, means Anointed. In Greek Messiah means Anointed. Messiah and Christ have had different meanings ever since Jesus.
With our High Tech Science Knowledge, the King James Version, should be translated with the Supernatural High Tech Knowledge today.
The Lord God in Genesis, is our High Tech Ancestors that Colonized Earth. This act is supernatural to Natural Humans.
The Lord God made Male and Females in their Image, by High Tech Cloning, also supernatural to Natural Humans.
The Supernatural God in all Scripture and Myth, will explain, the Literal High Tech Truth, of Human Colonization and Reproduction.
In Genesis, the Fall of the High Tech Human Clone Colony of Adam and Eve, to Natural Human Heterosexual Body Birth, and their Killing Lifestyle, is recorded.
Their Killing History continues, up to the Killing High Tech Human Species of the Noah/Atlantis Society, and the Planetary Flood.
High Tech Humans today, again have the High Tech Pollution Killer Lifestyle that will cause the Planetary Judgment Day Fire.
The Repopulation of a Destroyed Earth, up to our High Tech Humans Killers again today, is recorded as Evolution, as well as Recent History.
A High Tech Translation of God, should separate our High Tech Peace Ancestors from the High Tech Killer Noah/Atlantis Society.
Genesis will prove High Tech Colonization, instead of Evolution on Planet Earth.
It is Time for a 'Literal' High Tech Translation of all Scripture and Myth, even if we cannot Change our Destiny, of Killing our Home Planet for the last time.
Was the Movie "Planet of the Apes" Prophecy also?
Posted by: Dolores Lear | April 17, 2009 at 08:03 AM
It is interesting that Christianity has encouraged a variety of translations. Consider the groups who work to translate the Bible into a variety of languages. This attitude is in contrast to religious groups who believe something important is lost if the sacred text is translated from the original language. Some good work could be done on this topic, exploring how the willingness to translate or not to translate one's sacred texts affects and is affected by one's theology.
Concerning the various English translations. You are, I think, quite right about the ways they reflect our theological points of view. Interpretation is necessarily a part of translation. It is unfortunate the some Christians spend time and engery defending one translation or criticising another. Perhaps if foreign language instruction was more commonplace in our schools, people would be less threatened by variations in translation. There is nothing like having to struggle to translate something to appreciate the translator's work. As you point out, usually the differences are for the most part insignificant.
Posted by: Nancy | April 17, 2009 at 09:21 AM
Words have meaning. You're now playing the Bill Clinton "it depends on what 'is' is" game. People in this society know (a) what offensive means (b) what stereotypes are and (c) that stereotypes are offensive. Stereotypes are a way of attacking, without merit, by FALSELY attributing characteristics to people through group identification. Attack -- offense. You don't have to "feel" any way to recognize that something is an attack. Lies are an attack. Words have meaning, Cole, even though you would like to redefine the language to suit your manipulative purposes.
You do charity, Cole? I doubt it, because it takes more than handing out money to do charity. Handing out money, with no strings attached, is not charity. It's mindless paper throwing, and it can be extremely harmful. You have to actually care about the good of someone *else*, Cole, in order to do real charity. Mindless handouts don't qualify. We've seen before that your definition of "goodness" and "good" is completely arbitrary, which we expect since you accept no absolute authority in that regard. Your notions of "good" and "goodness" will always be spurious because of that. Uh, oh, another new word for you, Cole:
1: of illegitimate birth : bastard
2: outwardly similar or corresponding to something without having its genuine qualities : false
3 a: of falsified or erroneously attributed origin : forged
b: of a deceitful nature or quality
Charity isn't handing money to able-bodied people who refuse to work. Let them not eat. Charity isn't supporting the addictions of alcoholics and drug addicts. Let them hit bottom. Charity isn't throwing money in the name of spurious "goodness." Mindless, bleeding-hearted experiments often start by stereotyping entire groups as "good," but rarely consider individuals.
Posted by: Just Thinking | April 17, 2009 at 10:02 AM
"It is interesting that Christianity has encouraged a variety of translations. Consider the groups who work to translate the Bible into a variety of languages."
What was the Original Language of writings, that became Scripture and Myth?
What was the language of the Old Testament Writings? Mesopotamian, Hebrew, Buried Tablets, Egyptian, Myths, and other Ancient languages?
These Writings, Saved After the Planetary Noah/Atlantis Flood, or dug up in the new Strata, made their Way into the all types of Religions today, and into the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.
No matter what Language the Writings Saved were, they all have the Supernatural High Tech Knowledge of High Tech Humans, in our Image, that flew in fiery chariots, traveled in Space, and Created Life on a null and void Planet. All High Tech Actions, are supernatural to Natural Humans.
The Human Killing Lifestyles, of the Noah/Atlantis Humans, that flew in the air, with supernatural weapons, and fire from heaven. Our High Tech Humans today, do have and used, Atom Bombs/Fire from Heaven, also.
Today, Religion teaches God is a God of Peace, and Jesus is the Prince of Peace. So who are the Killer Humans in Religion and Myth? Not God.
With a High Tech Translation, the Peace God, our High Tech Ancestors, who Colonized Earth, can be translated and separated from the Body Birth Killer Noah/Atlantis Society in the Old Testament and Myth.
Eternal Human Life, is for High Tech Peace Human Male and Female Clones, on Planets and in Spaceships, is the Message Translated in All Religious and Myth Writings.
It is up to High Tech Humans today, to translate these Ancient Writings, and Find the Literal Truth of Eternal Human Life, on Planets and in Spaceships.
Posted by: Dolores Lear | April 17, 2009 at 10:37 AM
Cole's idea of "scholarship" seems to be You Tube cips and Wikipedia links! LOL!!!
Posted by: Will Graham | April 17, 2009 at 02:09 PM
Here's an article about a relatively new translation of the Christian Testament --
Ann Nyland did this translation not as a theologian, but as a Greek scholar: she has attempted to give a direct word-for-word, meaning-for-meaning translation, utilizing newly-available manuscripts that shed light on the meanings of some ancient words and phrases that were previously unclear. Nylamd's work seems to be a threat to Christians who've attached themselves to the idea that homosexuality is clearly condemned in Scripture.
Just Thinking, I don't know what to say to you anymore. Maybe it's best if I just let you rant on ... you accuse me of stereotyping and attacking others -- yet you continuously stereotype me ... now you are implying that Cole is a liar when he says he does charity. You attempt to do your Aaaaaaahoooom stuff and read his mind, and ASSume that he doesn't care about the people who he decides to help with no strings attached.
But, somehow, you see your attacks on others as "truthful," and therefore as not attacks. Whereas you ASSume that everyone who disagrees with you is a liar. You can't seem to acknowledge that some of us may have perspectives that you lack. And I'm not making any assumptions about where you're from: I just think your associations with poor people has been seriously-limited. You keep throwing around the phrase "able-bodied people who refuse to work," as if this group constitutes a significant proportion of people utilizing government assistance programs.
I kind of think I'm talking to a wall. But you never know who else might be reading, so I guess it's not a total waste.
Posted by: Susan | April 17, 2009 at 02:55 PM
Susan, Just Thinking is quite right about "Cole". He is not doing any charity work; it reminds me of all those programs and "atheist relief funds" that Iggy bragged about but somehow never off the ground.
We all know it, and I think you do to...especially since Iggy sent you here.
Posted by: Will Graham | April 17, 2009 at 03:32 PM
JT wrote: "Charity isn't handing money to able-bodied people who refuse to work."
JT, you have GOT to stop picking on those poor innocent strawmen!
Posted by: Lynne - www.kcfreethinkers.org | April 17, 2009 at 04:28 PM
Just in case anyone doesn't already know what the strawman fallacy is, check out:
Posted by: Lynne - www.kcfreethinkers.org | April 17, 2009 at 04:31 PM
Lynne, thanks for sharing about the straw man fallacy. I think low-income people, especially those using public assistance, are easy targets because, as I've said before, someone in this position is less-likely to speak up when they hear someone like JT spouting off, because of all the shame many in our society attach to being in such a position.
About Bible translations, I'd agree with Nancy that it's unfortunate for people to expend so much energy debating which one is more accurate, except that some use these translated Scriptures to condemn people such as gays and lesbians. That's the hard part: Attitudes towards others are shaped by how some of these Scriptures are interpreted, so, for instance, I can agree that a translation like Ann Nyland's Source New Testament probably has many similarities to other translations, but the differences can obviously make a huge difference to people who are affected by them.
Posted by: Susan | April 17, 2009 at 04:53 PM
I totally agree with Bill that it's how you read the Bible, whether literally or metaphorically that is the cause of much disagreement. As an atheist I read it quite objectively, like any other book, purely as Literature! Religious folk should try reading it that way sometimes; it puts a whole different perspective on those disagreements you all wrangle over ! Really it does.
There was historically a great deal of resistance from the Roman church even translating the Bible into the vernacular. It had already gone through one translation from Hebrew/Greek into the Latin of the Romans. The first scholar to translate the Bible into English, which became the basis of the King James Bible (1611) was burned at the stake in 1536 ! Poor John Tyler - the first Protestant martyr.
Controversy over the translation of certain words continues though.
Read your Anne Nyland blog. The Greek word they are questioning is "arsenokoites" translated as "effeminate" in the King James version.
Posted by: Red Biddy | April 17, 2009 at 05:19 PM
Every translation of the Bible is an interpretation, a commentary on the text by the translator or translating committee. That is why knowing the original languages proves fruitful.
I prefer the NASB translation for English. I find this wooden translation to be the most faithful. Otherwise, the new ESV is a handy translation when working in group settings - Bible studies, worship etc. It lies in between the "letter" of the NASB and the "spirit" of the NIV. It heavily is based on the RSV, yet has added a lot of verbal aspect to its translations.
Posted by: Michael | April 17, 2009 at 05:51 PM
Red Biddy, I think the word "effeminate" actually comes from the word corresponding to "arsenokoites" in that verse -- and some have interpreted it as the "arsenokoites" being the man who penetrates a young boy prostitute, and the effeminate being the prostitute. The word that's often translated as "effeminate" also has an alternate meaning of "soft" or even "morally soft."
I think a much broader perspective of these verses can be gained, through an understanding of the gross inequalities of the culture of those times -- as I've mentioned before, men in positions of power often sexually-used people under them, male as well as female. This sort of behavior bears no resemblance to the gay and lesbian relationships I personally know of, which are between consenting adults.
Posted by: Susan | April 17, 2009 at 06:04 PM
When I said "corresponding to" -- what I meant was that some pair up the word "arsenokoites" with the word that translates as "soft" or "effeminate" -- and assume it to mean that God condemns both penetrative and receptive roles in homosexual relationships. While others, like me, believe it is specific exploitative behaviors that are being condemned, and not male-male sex in and of itself.
This is what I meant the other day when I talked about love always being a good thing, whether it is shared between two lovers of the same sex, or two of the opposite sex. Relationships of honesty, empathy, affection, and caring for one another, are always pleasing to God in my opinion.
Posted by: Susan | April 17, 2009 at 07:18 PM
What does "consent" have to do with anything?
Sinful human beings can consent to do all sorts of things that are not righ, moral, or pleasing to God.
Posted by: DW | April 17, 2009 at 08:21 PM