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Saturday, April 14, 2007

British and American Bible version differences

Until a few months ago I thought that the replacement of "rooster" by the good old English word for this bird, as used in KJV, was the only difference, apart from trivial matters of spelling, between American and British (or Anglicised) editions of modern Bible translations. Then I discovered a difference in TNIV related to "empathize", which I consider to be an error. Since then I have discovered a few more differences. Here is a catalogue of what I have found so far (mostly from the gospels because these are the books I have been working on recently), giving just one example for each wording change. I have included KJV and REB which are both British translations with no American editions.

"Rooster" / "Cock": Matthew 26:34

KJV: "this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice"
RSV and RSV-UK: "this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times"
NIV and TNIV: "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times"
NIV-UK and TNIV-UK: "this very night, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times"
REB: "tonight before the cock crows you will disown me three times"
CEV: "before a rooster crows tonight, you will say three times that you don't know me"
CEV-UK: "before a cock crows tonight, you will say three times that you don't know me"

"Empathize" / "Feel sympathy": Hebrews 4:15

KJV: "cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities"
RSV, NIV, REB: "unable to sympathize with our weaknesses"
RSV-UK and NIV-UK: "unable to sympathise with our weaknesses"
TNIV: "unable to empathize with our weaknesses"
TNIV-UK "unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses"
CEV, CEV-UK "understands every weakness of ours"

Note that REB uses an "American" spelling which is also considered a valid alternative here in Britain.

"Grain" / "Corn", "Heads" / "Ears": Matthew 12:1

KJV: "through the corn ... began to pluck the ears of corn"
RSV: "through the grainfields ... began to pluck heads of grain"
RSV-UK: "through the grainfields ... began to pluck ears of grain"
NIV and TNIV: "through the grainfields ... began to pick some heads of grain"
NIV-UK and TNIV-UK: "through the cornfields ... began to pick some ears of corn"
REB: "through the cornfields ... began to pluck some ears of corn
CEV and CEV-UK: "through some wheat fields ... began picking and eating grains of wheat"

Note that in Britain "corn" is not maize but a generic word for grain.

"Spit" / "Spat": John 9:6

KJV, RSV, RSV-UK, NIV-UK, TNIV-UK, REB, CEV-UK: "he spat on the ground"
NIV, TNIV, CEV: "he spit on the ground"

"He spit" would be an error in British English.

"In your midst" / "Among you": 1 Corinthians 3:16
(example added 17th April, see the first comment)

NIV and NIV-UK: "God's Spirit lives in you"
TNIV: "God's Spirit dwells in your midst"
TNIV-UK: "God's Spirit dwells among you"

TNIV-UK did well to remove "midst", which sounds like an archaism in British English. It would have done better to make this change more consistently. But I don't understand the change from NIV's normal "live" to TNIV's archaic sounding "dwell".

And here is a change which should have been made, for "broil" is not used in modern British English, but mostly has not been:

"Broiled" / "Baked": Luke 24:42

KJV, RSV, RSV-UK, NIV, NIV-UK, TNIV, TNIV-UK, CEV: "a piece of broiled fish"
REB: "a piece of fish they had cooked"
CEV-UK: "a piece of baked fish"

Actually I think it should be "a piece of grilled fish". "Grill" is the best British equivalent to US "broil", both meaning "cook by direct radiant heat".

I have also discovered that there are quite a number of other differences between the different editions of CEV, which is the only version for which I have electronic copies which I can compare. (Added note, 17th April: some of these are differences between the presumably US 1995 edition of CEV found at Bible Gateway and the "Global Standard" edition which I have received as part of a software package; comments below edited accordingly.) For example:

Matthew 1:20:

CEV-Global: "the Lord appeared to him in a dream"
CEV-US and CEV-UK: "the Lord came to him in a dream"

So this is not in fact a US-UK difference.

Matthew 3:5:

CEV-Global and CEV-US: "the Jordan River Valley"
CEV-UK: "the River Jordan Valley"

Matthew 4:5:

CEV-Global: "the devil took Jesus into the holy city to the highest part of the temple"
CEV-US: "the devil took Jesus to the holy city and had him stand on the highest part of the temple"
CEV-UK: "the devil took Jesus to the holy city and made him stand on the highest part of the temple"

The only US-UK difference is "had him stand" / "made him stand". Both are good British English but the latter is probably better style, and suggests compulsion rather than request.

Matthew 4:23:

CEV-Global: "teaching in their synagogues"
CEV-US and CEV-UK: "teaching in the Jewish meeting places"

Again not a US-UK difference, but it beats me why "synagogues" is acceptable in a "Global Standard" version but not in the US or UK versions.

Acts 17:5 (example added 17th April, contributed by Lingamish)

CEV-Global: "some troublemakers who hung around the marketplace"
CEV-US: "some worthless bums who hung around the marketplace"
CEV-UK: "some worthless louts who hung around the market place"

I understand why US "bums" became UK "louts", but not why "marketplace" has been divided in two, nor why the "Global Standard" version has gone for the higher register "troublemakers" with a subtly different meaning.

Does anyone know of any more examples? If so, please post them in comments here.


At Sat Apr 14, 11:04:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

This post is less than an hour old, and I have already found another example, while commenting on Suzanne's posting on "In your midst".

In 1 Corinthians 3:16 the American TNIV has "in your midst" but the British edition has "among you". This is a good change because "midst" is clearly archaic in British English, but perhaps less so in American. But in Luke 17:21 both editions have "in your midst". Indeed 1 Corinthians 3:16 is the only one of the 26 occurrences of "midst" in the American TNIV which has been removed in the British edition. So the revisers seem to have a consistency problem.

But see my comments on Suzanne's posting about whether "in your midst" is really intended to mean the same as "among you".

At Sat Apr 14, 11:39:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

These are interesting stylistic points, Peter. Obviously someone, in editing the TNIV, felt that "midst" didn't sound quite right.

At Sun Apr 15, 06:53:00 AM, Blogger DavidR said...

Peter wrote, regarding "empathize": 'Note that REB uses an "American" spelling which is also considered a valid alternative here in Britain.'

I doubt this is the case,* although many would share this perception. The "-ize" spelling is Oxonian, not "American"! Take a look here , for example.

[* I mean, I doubt that the OUP-influenced editors of the REB would regard -ize spellings as American!]

(A picayune comment, I realize! :) Interesting observations overall.

At Sun Apr 15, 04:37:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, DavidR. Actually what I was trying to say is exactly what you say. But it is interesting that the people who Anglicised RSV and NIV considered it necessary to change "-ize" to "-ise", although the British editors of REB (with a possible eye to an additional US market without adaptation) went for "-ize".

At Tue Apr 17, 07:19:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I have added to this post two examples, the one mentioned in my first comment and one pointed out to me by Lingamish. I have also added some comments about different editions of CEV, which were confusing me.


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