A Translational Journey
Wayne asked me to give BBB readers a more formal introduction than I gave in my first post, and while I'm hesitant to devote an entire post to my personal biography, I do think knowing where people are coming from helps us to better understand their perspectives. I'll therefore give a brief summary of my personal and professional life, and then talk a bit about my journey through various English Bible translations. The discussion of which English Bibles I prefer will also help lay the foundation for an upcoming post.
In terms of my personal life, I grew up in a nominally Christian home, but rarely went to church. I came to faith in Christ as a teenager and began attending church on my own. I would describe my denominational background as "American mutt," having attended various kinds of churches over the years; but for purposes of knowing where I come from on this blog you can classify me as generally "conservative evangelical."
In college, I majored in Religion at Florida State University, which meant I typically only agreed with my professors about football! I began studying Classical Greek and Biblical Hebrew so that I could better debate with my profs, and quickly fell in love with both languages. While I never came to share my professors' views, I did come out of college with a much more nuanced understanding of the Bible. Ultimately, I guess that means that "liberals" tend to view me as a "fundamentalist," while "fundamentalists" suspect me of being somewhat "liberal." :-)
I attended seminary after college, taking Koine Greek and Biblical Hebrew. At that time, I married an incredible young lady named Lisa, began working as a writer for a local church (ghost-writing books based on the Senior Pastor's yearly sermon series), and began having babies right away. (Okay, my wife had the babies!) With a job I loved and a growing family to support, I eventually dropped out of seminary.
Around the same time, I began moonlighting part-time for a small company that developed Accordance Bible Software for Macintosh computers. I knew virtually nothing about computers (still don't really, that's why I use a Mac!), but soon learned how to develop modules for Accordance and contribute to the design of the program's interface. I now work for Accordance full-time, and the various projects I've worked on have kept me from completely forgetting my Greek and Hebrew, as well as teaching me more than seminary ever could about the historical and geographical context of the Bible.
Now, having told you more than you ever wanted to know about my personal history, let me talk a bit about the various English Bibles I've used along the way.
When I first began reading the Bible as a teenager, the only Bibles in the house were a Living Bible and a King James Bible. I tried both, but quickly settled on the KJV. Somehow, the Living Bible seemed too colloquial; it just didn't sound "Biblical" enough to my ears. The KJV sounded majestic and familiar—it was the same language I had heard watching movies like Ben Hur and King of Kings as a kid.
While I did okay reading from the KJV, it was always an exercise in translation rather than mere reading. As good as I might become with Elizabethan English, its vocabulary and modes of expression would never be the same as the ones I use every day, so I had to translate from that language into my own. That meant reading the Bible was work.
After a while, I had a Sunday School teacher who read from the New International Version. I'll never forget the first time I heard it. Written in good, clear, easy to understand English, it just seemed so transparent. The Bible was speaking to me in the language I used every day. I promptly went out and bought a ten-dollar hard-bound copy of the NIV, and began reading the Bible more regularly and consistently than I had before. Reading the Bible was no longer work, and it led to an exciting period of growth.
When I eventually went to seminary, most of my professors were teaching from the NASB, because it was supposedly "closer to the Greek and Hebrew." I did find that the NASB served well when I wanted a fairly wooden translation of the Greek or Hebrew, but I found its English to be so clumsy and awkward that it could never supplant the NIV for ease of reading and beauty of expression. At the same time, I was becoming proficient enough in Greek and Hebrew to realize that the NIV had its shortcomings as well.
In my work for Accordance, I've had the opportunity to get reasonably familiar with virtually every new translation available today. And as a homeschooling father, I've longed for a Bible I could standardize on for family Bible reading and Scripture memorization. For me, that has meant searching for a Bible which has reasonable fidelity to the original Greek and Hebrew, but which also has good, readable English. This, of course, is the balance which every new translation promises, but which none seems to achieve completely. I tried the ESV, which my church has standardized on, but personally found its English to be too awkward and archaic at points. Today, I've settled on the Holman Christian Standard Bible as my primary English translation. The HCSB has its quirks, and there are certainly places where I think it could be improved, but I find it to be very readable and generally very accurate.
In my own translational journey, I've always gravitated toward translations with good readable English more than those which try not to depart too much from the original Greek and Hebrew wording. I do, however, think there is a place for those kinds of translations. That will be the subject of my next post.