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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What makes a better Bible?

The focus of this blog is on qualities that make some kinds of Bible translations better, at least for certain audiences and different uses for the Bible.

I'd like to throw a big question out to you, our blog visitors. Some of you are long time members of faith communities, whether Jewish, Christian, or perhaps another. Some of you may be English language majors. Some of you may be in tune with the kind of English that is required for Bibles to communicate to those who are not yet members of a faith community. Some of you may be familiar mostly with the language of faith communities.

What, in your opinion, makes a Bible better for specific audiences and uses? Feel free to give more than one answer if you want to mention one kind of Bible translation that is better for one audience and another kind better for a different audience.

This is your chance to tell what is on your minds. Speak from your own experience, and, if you can, speak from your experiences working with people who can benefit from the Bible but do not speak dialects of English which are mostly confined to faith communities.

I hope that there will be many comments to this post. And may I suggest that we be gracious to each other when we have differences of opinions? Let's allow for that. Let's not be too quick to judge someone to be wrong, based on our own experience or beliefs.

OK, your turn to write, in the Comments to this post.


At Wed Sep 27, 09:39:00 AM, Blogger codepoke said...

I vote for three versions. In order of importance to me:

1) A moving bible. One that employs serious stylists to tease out of the text every evocative image that is there in the original, but opaque to us.

2) A blue-collar bible. One that employs serious stylists to make sure that every sentence is unambiguous to my diesel mechanic buds.

3) A technical bible. One that fires all the stylists, and lets me see the decisions that were on the table. I want to see alternate readings in the text, and footnotes about why they are alternates.

At Wed Sep 27, 12:25:00 PM, Blogger Sylvanus said...

Overall, I totally agree with Codepoke above, with 3 versions.
I have preached outdoors for quite a few years, just outside north London, where the diversity of the population is versatile, and I think I could divide them this way:

1)- Christians who don't like things to change.
2)- Christians who want to move with the time.
3)- Christians too attached to their denomination to see beyond.
4)- Scripturally unlettered, searching or ex-Christians
5)- Muslims
6)- Hindues or other faiths
7)- Bible students
8)- The unclued :)
Ok I know that this a very gross generalisation, but quite representative of my own experience out there.

The common factor in all these are: They all want a simple version, easy to read and very, very, very accurate, with unbias and uncompromising honesty.

For groups 4, 6 and 8, I would favour a version that is really easy to read, like the Easy English Bible, simple, straight forward, and memorisable, and mostly enjoyable. When I speak to people on the street, I don't really want a debate about true rendering or about that word that changes that doctrine, or the obscurity of that verse. I want to talk about the Light in their heart; and so when I read it for myself.

For groups 1 and 2, I would favour a version with a traditional 'awe' feel (grand sayings worthy of being repeated), with a variety of tempo (reflecting the various moods encountered), and with a very natural phraseology (like you and me are talking now) The KJV did a great work of that for its time.

For groups 3, 5 and 7, I would favour a version with a plain Greek text in parrallel (There isn't many around) - Not an interlinear (but maybe one also aside). The text would focus on literal accuracy, though not as unreadable as the Emphatic Diaglott. However, I don't realy want to have to break the rythm by check the footnotes all the time - why not imbed them in the text itself?

In my experience, the best Bible there could ever be is one that speaks to me; me personally.

At Thu Sep 28, 02:55:00 PM, Blogger codepoke said...

Sorry, Sylvanus. It looks like we were caught in a honey pot. None of the cool kids commented. :-(

I'm with you though!



At Thu Sep 28, 03:49:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

There's still a lot of honey left. And anyone who posts can be cool!


At Fri Sep 29, 06:59:00 AM, Blogger Sylvanus said...

Thanks Codepoke.

Wayne: I noticed that on the blog, it's not the first time you asked that question (in one form or another...)

Why not add it to the sidebar somewhere? (timeless feature)

Thanks though for the question.

At Fri Sep 29, 12:02:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Sylvanus suggested:

Wayne: I noticed that on the blog, it's not the first time you asked that question (in one form or another...)

Why not add it to the sidebar somewhere?

Most excellent (idea), oh, Sylvanus! (Whoops, I think Theophilus got those nice words.) Well, anyway, thanks for your helpful idea. Look for something in the margin (when I get time which is in short supply).

At Fri Sep 29, 01:31:00 PM, Blogger Sylvanus said...

'Glad to help such a nice blog Wayne !

I'll look soon.

All the best.

At Fri Sep 29, 09:35:00 PM, Blogger lingamish said...

I finally had a chance to post on my "Better Bible" on my blog.

At Fri Sep 29, 10:26:00 PM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

I like what Billy Graham said, "The best translation is the one a person uses." (words to that effect)

I think the differences in translations can be seen as a blessing. One kind seems good to one, another kind to another. And I find many of us move from one translation, or one kind of translation, to another translation, or another kind of translation.

I opt, as the best for all, in general, a translation that gives us good English, but is fairly literal. The NRSV is too literal, and so its English suffers. The NLT is good English (second edition is a better translation, though I'm not thinking of its English in saying that), but for me, is sometimes too free, though I know all translation involves interpretation. So saying that, yes, the CEV is good, and helpful.

I prefer the TNIV. It is good English overall, very good. And is more literal. For people like me, who are interested in scholarly work, we have to have a translation that has some semblance of literalness. Yet not at the expense of good English, as far as I'm concerned. Of course, no translation was ever perfect. But for me, the TNIV fits the bill, and fits it well.

My only question: When is it going to translate the Apocrypha, or Deuterocanonical books (as found in the NRSV)? We need a good evangelical translation of them (though the Roman Catholics have a NLT Bible that includes those books). I would like to see the TNIV do that. I'm not convinced myself, that those books should not be included in our Bibles.

Thanks for the stimulating post.

At Fri Oct 27, 10:14:00 AM, Blogger Sylvanus said...

Just a thought........

Today I went into a Christian book shop, and I realised that my library of hard copies of the Bibles lacked the KJV1611 (AV).
Yes I know, not every one likes it, but for the sake of preservation, I thought it might be a good idea.

And Lo and Behold !! I found therein something called 'Read-Along'.
Basically, alternative renderings and cross references are inserted within the text, at the end of each verse, with a smaller print.
Although it might be old news to you, it not to me.

ISBN: 0718008960

ISBN: 0718008960


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