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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Bible versions for zealots

Today Scot McKnight blogged on zealotry. It is, or should be, a sobering read for many of us--and it should be sobering not because he specifically writes about whether truly spiritual people should interpret the Bible to mean that they should be teetotalers. I think I understand what Scot is saying. I suspect that my own religious background is largely that of zealots who in Scot's words go "beyond the Bible to defend things that are not in the Bible."

As a Bible translator and someone deeply interested in the English Bible translation scene today, I ask after reading Scot's post: "To what extent are well-intentioned Bible translation zealots today creating "fences" (Scot's term) around the very Bible that they are translating?"

Are we creating litmus tests for Bible translation "orthodoxy" that "go beyond the Bible" itself?

I think the answer is yes. I feel the fences when I enter Christian bookstores and peruse the English Bibles section. The fences become even clearer when a store clerk asks me if I would like any help and I ask about some version which does not appear in their store but which is at least as accurate, if not more so, than some of the other versions stocked.

Today zealots are telling their audiences what Bible versions to avoid and what kinds of versions they should read. Often the advertising and other promotion for a Bible version lets us know if that version has been produced by zealots. There is something about this that has the ring of deja vu, something that sounds like when Jesus was alive on earth, proclaiming his own good news which often was at odds with the well-intentioned, often spiritually-motivated zealots of his time.

If present-day zealots have truly gone beyond the Bible, in their desire to defend the Bible, what are some appropriate responses? What healthier ways of talking about and translating the Bible might there be?


At Fri Jul 07, 09:35:00 AM, Blogger ChristMyLife said...

FYI: McKnight not McNight.

At Fri Jul 07, 07:15:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

FYI: McKnight not McNight.

Oh, yes, thanks. I was using my Type-O font when I keyboarded that post.


I have corrected the error.

At Fri Jul 07, 09:32:00 PM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Wayne, Good thoughts. Here in Grand Rapids (MI) we're blessed. But even so, I can find bookstores here that mirror the American evangelical bias that is seeking to control what translation people should buy.

It is a shame. I know one evangelical who endorsed the TNIV. At a meeting he had his NIV and said (about it), something like, "Is this safe (to use)?"

I think patience over time, and persistence in continuing to make the best translations possible, of Scripture, according to your conviction of how it should be translated- is the path translators should take. Of course that will mean a parting of the ways for some. But for the church, I see it as important, as we seek to get the Word of God accurately into the language of the readers. A big subject and issue, indeed.

And I opt for clarity, honoring tradition to a point, but not when it obscures, in my "judgment", the meaning of Scripture (such as gender issues, so hotly debated among us, at times).

Thanks again, Wayne.


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