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Sunday, September 30, 2007

a word on Bible versions

I can be verbose, as some of you know from reading my posts. But today I tried an exercise in conciseness which was good for me. I tried to come up with a single word which would capture, for me, an important essence of each of the main English Bible versions I am familiar with. Here are the results:
CEV: clarity
ESV: protector
GNB/TEV: common
GW: careful
HCSB: independent
JB/NJB: literary
KJV: lasting
NAB: Catholic
NASB: wooden
NET: footnotes
NKJV: updated
NIV: moderation
NLT: readable
NRSV: scholarly
REB: sophisticated
The Message: impact
TNIV: maligned
I found it difficult to characterize the ESV in a single word, but finally the word "protector" came to mind. Its translators are protecting a way of presenting the Bible in English that they believe is very important. Some of its translators have decried how other Bible versions are not translated as they believe a proper English Bible should be.

For the GNB/TEV, the word "common" refers to the fact that it was the first English Bible to be translated as a "common language" version. This is a technical term for language which is used in "common" by the majority of speakers and writers of a language. It is different from colloquial language.

I labeled the HCSB as "independent" because it was created outside the Tyndale-KJV tradition. It is a new translation.

When I label the NRSV as "scholarly" I am referring to the fact that many Bible scholars respect and use the NRSV. It lacks interpretive biases affecting translations made by a denomination or subgroup of Christians such as evangelicals.

Feel free to interact with my one-word categorizations, as well as adding your own.

21 Comments:

At Sun Sep 30, 06:37:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

One of the big deals about the NAB was involving Protestant scholars; so calling the NAB "Catholic" is akin to calling the HCSB "Baptist".

Here are some words that come to my mind:

ESV: derivative
HCSB: conservative
KJV: sublime
Message: paraphrase
NASB: sawdust
NEB: uninhibited
NJB: unconstrained
NJPS: Hebrew
NKJV: neotraditional
NLT: simplified
NRSV: nonpartisan
(T)NIV: plastic

The reason that I use "sawdust" for the NASB is that when I read it, I can almost smell the sawdust under the old-time camp meeting tent.

 
At Sun Sep 30, 08:24:00 PM, Blogger ElShaddai Edwards said...

The reason that I use "sawdust" for the NASB is that when I read it, I can almost smell the sawdust under the old-time camp meeting tent.

Very fine image there - nicely done. I was going to suggest "reactionary" for the NASB, given its conservative origins vis-a-vis the RSV.

If the NAB is "Catholic", perhaps the NRSV should be "catholic".

 
At Sun Sep 30, 09:08:00 PM, Blogger seeker said...

These are just my impressions, and could probably be easily dismissed with some more knowledge ;)

ESV: renewing (has reinvigorated Bible scholarship and translation, though it is far from perfect)

HCSB: redundant (who needs another translation, esp. since it's sort of third party that we don't exactly trust?)

KJV: outdated (this venerable translation has done much for English Christians, but it needs to be retired - better scholarship and the archaic language make this translation ready for retirement)

Message: mangled (so far from the original, and so inexact that calling it a paraphrase is an insult to paraphrases).

NASB: exacting (wooden, yes, but accurate with respect to the originals, surely)

NKJV: neotraditional (this is a nice adjective iyov, and captures the essence of my favorite translation)

TLB: reliable (consistently close to the original, a truly underrated and worthy paraphrase - my 2nd favorite)

NLT: worsened (I dunno, the liberties taken in this translation seem to make it less trustworthy than it's supposed parent, the wonderful TLB. But then again, maybe I don't understand this translation).

NRSV: generic (good translation, wide acceptance, not as readable as others - uninspiring)

NIV: popular (popular doesn't mean good, but sometimes God uses the foolish things to confound the wise ;)

TNIV: remarkable (unfortunately, this excellent translation bears the reputation of it's parent, and has been smeared by the anti-inclusive language folks - but it seems to me to have fixed many of the inaccuracies of the NIV, and seems well translated)

 
At Sun Sep 30, 10:30:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

The reason that I use "sawdust" for the NASB is that when I read it, I can almost smell the sawdust under the old-time camp meeting tent.

Perhaps you can smell the sawdust, but the version they use at camp meetings is the KJV.

 
At Mon Oct 01, 12:01:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

Looks like they use the NASB at the Conneautville camp meetings. Same at Oaks Village and Romeo.

The Baptists in Arkansas are forum-ing on this very issue.

And that was just the first google page.

 
At Mon Oct 01, 12:16:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Perhaps you can smell the sawdust, but the version they use at camp meetings is the KJV.

This just brings a huge wave of nostalgia over me as I used to spend so much time at tent meetings. The Bible version we used was the KJV, but that may have changed.

I remember sitting on the bus with the little kids teaching them their verses. One little tyke couldn't remember her verse even though it was the shortest verse you could give out.

It was "Thou God seest me." I remember that she could not understand it and could not repeat it to save her life. Oh well, I hope she enjoyed the music.

 
At Mon Oct 01, 07:53:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Looks like they use the NASB at the Conneautville camp meetings. Same at Oaks Village and Romeo.

The Baptists in Arkansas are forum-ing on this very issue.

And that was just the first google page.


Good job, Iyov! I should have said, "All the camp meetings I have been to have used the KJV."

Thanks for linking a post of your own to this post.

 
At Mon Oct 01, 10:46:00 AM, Blogger InHim said...

ESV: hurried (this word from another blogger out there, maybe from here?)
Message: humorous (sorry)
NASB: truthful
NRSV: diligent

 
At Tue Oct 02, 08:28:00 AM, Blogger exegete77 said...

Wayne, one word descriptions limit the value to unintended negative or pejorative meaning. For instance, TNIV: maligned. This applies to the critique of the translation rather than a comment about the translation. I'm not sure that was your intention. But alternatives are difficult to find for TNIV. Here are a couple, but perhaps the first is my suggestion.

TNIV: neo-evangelical, compromise

So also with Message, "impact" suggests that it might be the best of all of them, but not sure that is intended. To me, the Message is more akin to the Cotton-Patch version than it is to TLB or Phillips

Message: PPP (plastic-personal-paraphrase)

NKJV: familiar
ESV: unfinished
REB: fresh
GW: innovative (but I like your "careful")
NASB: literalistic (not in a negative way)
NRSV: middle of the road

Rich

 
At Wed Oct 03, 08:44:00 AM, Blogger lingamish said...

I have a soft spot for the NASB and did a great deal of memorization in it so I quote it at length to this day although I haven't used it regularly for almost 20 years.

I saw in World magazine reference to an updated NASB. Worth a post if anyone has seen it.

 
At Wed Oct 03, 09:17:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Lingamish, I have been trying to find that mention of the NASB in World Magazine, but haven't yet. Do you know approx. how far back in time you read that news item?

 
At Wed Oct 03, 05:31:00 PM, Blogger seeker said...

They did an update in 1995, as per the Zondervan site. Is that what you were hearing about?

 
At Wed Oct 03, 08:49:00 PM, Blogger lingamish said...

I might have seen it in CT in the recent issue on prosperity gospel in Africa. It was an ad. I'll go looking...

 
At Wed Oct 03, 09:19:00 PM, Blogger eclexia said...

Here are some words I thought of. They aren't so much technical as what I feel when I think about (is that last 5-word phrase possible?) the experience of reading the translations that have impacted me most in my life:

NASB: precise (seems like a WYSIWYG type of translation--whether this is true or not, I feel like I'm getting a better feel for the original when I read it)
NLT: flow (The way it is written feels right to me and less awkward than most translations.)
NIV: bridge (in my denominational background, it was KJV all the way, and then, BOOM, NIV shattered the assumption that King James was the language of Jesus. After NIV, we were free to explore and experiment and not be heretics for reading The Word of God in different (English) words!)
CEV: cryptic (This is the translation my 10-year-old loves. Sometimes the wording seems like a game with the rules being to take out one word at a time and see how far you can go and still have it make sense. That's probably a game I should play in my comments!)

 
At Thu Oct 04, 04:54:00 AM, Blogger Kyle said...

The HCSB isn't just 'independent,' it's sectarian. :0)

 
At Thu Oct 04, 08:51:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

The 1995 NASB update was very minimal. It removed the "thee" and "thou" language for God in the Psalms and in other direct address to God. Otherwise, the changes were very few and far between. I haven't heard about anything since then.

Seeker, the NLT is much more accurate than the old Living Bible. It was done by real scholars who studied the original texts in the original languages. The Living Bible was one person's paraphrase, and my understanding is that it had little to do with accurately translating the original languages and more to do with how one person would try to capture what he saw as the core meaning behind what the text is saying, without as much concern for much of what contemporary scholars would insist on paying much attention to.

Wayne, is there a reason you focused on features of the translation for all of them except the TNIV, which has a word that derives from people's response to the translation? That struck me as strange.

 
At Thu Oct 04, 08:54:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Kyle, the HCSB isn't sectarian. It's endorsed by a denomination, but the translation team was not composed just of members of that denomination, and many people who disagree with much in that general tradition do actually like it.

Its independence is its independence from the Tyndale tradition, what's become the NIV tradition, and so on. It doesn't stem from any tradition of Bible translating but offers a new course. There are some ideological decisions involved in how to translate, but those aren't denominationally tied, and every translation has some such decisions based on ideology, even if they insist on being eclectic in taking something from both sides of a translation issue.

 
At Thu Oct 04, 09:16:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Jeremy asked:

Wayne, is there a reason you focused on features of the translation for all of them except the TNIV, which has a word that derives from people's response to the translation?

No, there isn't, Jeremy. It's simply the word that struck me as characterizing the TNIV.

That struck me as strange.

It is. I would rather have had a word that focused better on something unique about the features of the TNIV, that sets it apart from the other versions.

Suggestions are welcome :-)

 
At Thu Oct 04, 04:11:00 PM, Blogger Josh said...

Omitting the ones I've never heard of,

CEV: effeminate
ESV: pseudoliteral
GW: paraphrase
HCSB: agnostical
KJV: reverent/faithful
NAB: Catholic
NASB: punctuation changes
NET: heretical
NKJV: wannabe
NIV: omission
NLT: fiction
NRSV: could have been good
The Message: hogwash
TNIV: $$$

 
At Thu Oct 04, 04:32:00 PM, Blogger Dave said...

Jeremy Pierce said:

Kyle, the HCSB isn't sectarian. It's endorsed by a denomination, but the translation team was not composed just of members of that denomination, and many people who disagree with much in that general tradition do actually like it.

It seems to me that the HCSB is close to sectarian. Ture, its endorsed by a denomination, but isn't it also commissioned by the publishing house they own? I know not all of the translators were Baptists, but approx. 50% of them were. That seems like a very high percentage. Even Mohler said, "at least we will have a translation we cn control" (see: http://www.sbts.edu/news/archives/summer2002/NR106.php). Also, (I know this doesn't have to do with the actual translation) if you look at the HCSB study Bibles such as the Illustrated, Student and Apologetics; almost all of the contributors are Baptist. So even if the translation isn't, the editions that a lot of HCSB users will own ARE.

Jeremy also said:


Its independence is its independence from the Tyndale tradition, what's become the NIV tradition, and so on. It doesn't stem from any tradition of Bible translating but offers a new course. There are some ideological decisions involved in how to translate, but those aren't denominationally tied, and every translation has some such decisions based on ideology, even if they insist on being eclectic in taking something from both sides of a translation issue.

Jeremy, the ideological decisions this translation takes may not be entirely denomintionally tied, but they are certainly tied to the group that supports the Colorado Springs Guidelines, whether good or bad, which could very well stem from the denomination's ideology. This is especially true considering the "baptist" Lifeway stores won't even carry the TNIV, which makes me think that the CSG following HCSB is definitely influenced by the SBC to a large degree. So, even if it is a great translation, it worries me that one particular group has so much control over it. I think that is always a bad thing, even if I agree with the group.

Just my $0.02

 
At Fri Oct 05, 09:49:00 AM, Blogger seeker said...

Josh,

Hilarious! I love your words for ESV (pseudoliteral, so close to the truth ;), and obviously, we agree on the message (I said "mangled").

I gather from your adjectives that the KJV is the only one you approve of ;).

But I don't understand some of your adjectives, wonder if you would expand on them.

NASB - punctuation changes???

NKJV - wannabe? This is my favorite, and not only does it pay homage to the KJV by maintaining the poetic and readable nature of many passages, it improves on some minor mistakes in the KJV.

HCSB: agnostical? I'm not familiar with the criticisms of the HCSB, do you know or can you reference articles that discuss the possible gnostic or agnostic problems with this? Or are you saying that you don't have an opinion on this one?

NET: Heretical. What is heretical about it, besides the fact that it is sometimes hard to read - it has fantastic translation notes.

NRSV: could have been good - except what? What did it do wrong?

Thanks.

 

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