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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Denominations and Bible versions

I think that most English Bible translators hope that their translation of the Bible will serve the needs of more than one church denomination. It is interesting, however, to note the denominational background (or funding) for some English Bible versions. In this post I'll note denominational connections. But before doing so, I want to emphasize that many, if not most, of those who have translated and published these versions do not wish for them to be thought of as denominational versions. In my own years of study of English Bible versions I have found very little evidence of denominational bias in translations. (There is greater ideological or theological bias, but that bias is not limited to beliefs of single denominations, except in the case of the NWT.) So, please do not take away from this post that the versions mentioned here are denominational versions. They are not denominational versions, except for the NWT and the Catholic versions (which are also used by some Protestants, as "Protestant" versions are used by some Catholics). These versions just originated with a denomination or had funding from a denomination or an organization association with a denomination.

Here are denominational connections for some English Bible versions:
  • KJV - Church of English England (Anglican)
  • NAB - Catholic
  • JB/NJB - Catholic
  • NIV - Christian Reformed impetus, but began with an inter-denominational translation committee
  • NWT - Jehovah's Witnesses
  • God's Word - Lutheran (Missouri Synod)
  • HCSB - Southern Baptist (see Kevin Sam's recent blog post; I disagree with Sam if he is saying that there is Baptist influence in the HCSB text itself)
  • NCV - Churches of Christ
  • Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures - Jewish
  • "Our New Bible" (version name not chosen yet) - United Methodist (but ecumenical)
Please feel free to correct me if I have erred anywhere. And please comment on other denominational connections with specific Bible versions, if you are aware of any.

26 Comments:

At Thu Jul 17, 01:11:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

I know that the NAB has an ecumenical translation committee (some Protestant translators).

I think it is called the Church of England (not English, although a great Freudian slip there).

The NJPS can't really be called a denominational translation because there is no "Jewish denomination." Judaism is not a hierarchical religion the way many Christian denominations are. Obviously, the translation was published by the Jewish Publication Society but that has no official connection (that I am aware of) to any actual synagogue or collection of synagogues (although both Reformed and Conservative publications have used the NJPS -- almost always with Hebrew, though). Also, no Jewish group I am aware of recognizes any translation, regarding the Hebrew version as the absolute standard, and translations as mere commentary.

So, calling the Tanakh "Jewish" is like calling the ESV "Reformed".

 
At Thu Jul 17, 02:22:00 PM, Blogger mgvh said...

One way to check denominational preferences is to check the version(s) used by denominational publishing houses in their curricular materials or their weekly bulletin lectionary inserts. E.g., the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is embarking on a major Bible reading initiative that uses the NRSV. (They do also offer resources based on the NIV, CEV, KJV, Message, NIrV...)

 
At Thu Jul 17, 02:32:00 PM, Blogger Dru said...

I had never heard of the "Our New Bible" before. I'm inclined to dub it the "Not another Version" or NOV. And I live far away in a country where some of the versions people mention are as good as unknown anyway.

You are right Wayne. The KJV was definitely originally Church of England. James I set in motion the translation because he thought the notes in the Geneva version were too Presbyterian and subversive. The Catholics also produced their own Douai version.

Here the NIV is sometimes a sort of evangelical badge, whereas the NRSV is more 'established'. Still insisting on using the AV goes with also insisting on having ones services in seventeenth century language.

 
At Thu Jul 17, 04:09:00 PM, Blogger Kevin Sam said...

Wayne, after re-reading my post, and in hindsight, now I can see that there are two possible ways a person could interpret what I said in my post. If one thinks I meant to imply that there is Baptist theology entrenched in the translation of the HCSB, then I might disagree along with you too. A person who is Baptist may not necessarily provide a translation with Baptist theology imbedded into the translation.

However, if one understands my post to imply that many translators who come from Baptist circles, or have been involved with Baptist institutions, like seminary or church, then my answer will still be “Yes.” If we take a look at where the HCSB translators have taught or graduated from, you will see numerous baptist seminaries.

 
At Thu Jul 17, 08:38:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Iyov, you're right about my use of the label "denomination" for the Tanakh (NJPS). I was aware of that issue when I posted, but was hoping I could be a little imprecise in order to have a superordinate category label. I think that Catholic or Roman Catholic is probably not a "denomination" either and I don't know if the JWs would be considered a denomination. Whatever the rose is called in this case, it's still a rose!

 
At Thu Jul 17, 08:42:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

However, if one understands my post to imply that many translators who come from Baptist circles, or have been involved with Baptist institutions, like seminary or church, then my answer will still be “Yes.” If we take a look at where the HCSB translators have taught or graduated from, you will see numerous baptist seminaries.

You're right, Kevin. And in that sense, and since the HCSB was produced to be used in SBC curricula, and was produced by a publishing arm (or affiliate) of the SBC, in that sense it is a Southern Baptist Bible version. But the intention of the HCSB producers is that it not be a denominational version.

Some labeling gets slippery, doesn't it?!

 
At Thu Jul 17, 11:01:00 PM, Blogger tc robinson said...

Hey Wayne, no mention of either the TNIV or the ESV. Why? Just curious.

 
At Thu Jul 17, 11:43:00 PM, Blogger Yueh said...

ESV - Presbyterian and Baptist?

 
At Fri Jul 18, 03:23:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

I was just wondering how the JW's managed to be included in a discussion of Christian Bibles.
They are not, and have never been, Christian.

 
At Fri Jul 18, 06:53:00 AM, Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Since you asked for corrections, I will at least ask for a clarification. When you associate the NCV with Churches of Christ, what group do you mean specifically? I've been intimately involved with the a cappella Churches of Christ for several years in several U.S. states, and I've seen maybe one NCV in that whole time. By Churches of Christ do you mean United Church of Christ?

 
At Fri Jul 18, 07:25:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Hey Wayne, no mention of either the TNIV or the ESV. Why? Just curious.

There is no denominational connection for the TNIV or ESV. In my post I tried to include only Bible versions which have a connection to some particular faith community.

 
At Fri Jul 18, 07:28:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Glenn wondered:

I was just wondering how the JW's managed to be included in a discussion of Christian Bibles.
They are not, and have never been, Christian.


Glenn, the problem is with my label "denomination", as noted by Iyov and my response to him, above.

The Tanakh is published by a Jewish, not Christian, publisher.

I should have used a broader label, such as "faith community", to include all Bible versions connected with any religious group.

 
At Fri Jul 18, 07:35:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Milton asked:

When you associate the NCV with Churches of Christ, what group do you mean specifically?

I wondered that myself, Milton. Here is the website for the World Bible Translation Center which publishes the NCV. Perhaps you can figure out from the website which denomination it is associated with. I can tell you that Chris Heard, a sometime visitor to this blog, helps consult on the NCV. He is, I believe, of the denomination in question.

 
At Fri Jul 18, 07:58:00 AM, Blogger Christopher Heard said...

Milton, the NCV grew out of the English Version for the Deaf, a project of the World Bible Translation Center in Ft. Worth, Texas. The majority of WBTC's funding and personnel are members of the a capella Churches of Christ. WBTC's motivation is to get easy-to-read (as judged by reading level and those sorts of measures) Bibles into the hands of as many people as possible. However, very, very few Churches of Christ in the USA actually use the NCV or its direct ancestor, the Easy-to-Read Version (ERV). On the other hand, the ERV is pretty popular among Churches of Christ in mission contexts where English is a second language for most of the congregants but a first language for the missionaries (rural Africa, for example).

 
At Fri Jul 18, 07:59:00 AM, Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks for the links; I think I'm beginning to understand now. The World Bible Translation Center is indeed associated in some way with Churches of Christ (I don't know the precise details). As I understand it, the ERV was created as an English Bible for deaf readers and for those whose primary language is not English.

While it is used for evangelism work, the ERV is not widely used in Churches of Christ by hearing Christians or native English speakers. In fact, in some quarters of the CofC the ERV is considered an unsatisfactory translation.

Also, until reading the links you provided, I was not aware that the NCV was a revision of the ERV. It's interesting, really, that a translation with origins in Churches of Christ has relatively little popularity within those churches.

Peace.

 
At Fri Jul 18, 07:59:00 AM, Blogger Christopher Heard said...

Oh, and Wayne, just one slight correction. I have consulted for WBTC on many of their non-English projects, but not directly on the NCV as such.

 
At Fri Jul 18, 08:01:00 AM, Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Looks like we were posting at the same time. Thanks for the info, Chris.

 
At Fri Jul 18, 10:13:00 AM, Blogger Jim Swindle said...

The HCSB project was originally non-denominational; probably became more Southern Baptist when that group bought Holman Bible Publishers, which was making the translation. I've only seen one verse where I think the translation is overly Baptistic--Acts 22:16. The HCSB says, "And now, why delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name." The HCSB's addition of "by" doesn't leave the original ambiguity concerning the connection between the washing and the calling. It thus solves a theological dispute without even a footnote.

However, as I've said, it's a truly excellent translation over-all. I find myself using it more than any other.

 
At Fri Jul 18, 11:38:00 AM, Blogger tc robinson said...

There is no denominational connection for the TNIV or ESV. In my post I tried to include only Bible versions which have a connection to some particular faith community.

Are you saying that the label attached to the ESV as Reformed/Calvinist/Lutheran is not legitimate?

 
At Fri Jul 18, 12:28:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

TC, your question is really whether one can consider "Reformed" or "Calvinist" to be a label for a faith community. There does seem to be a real and quite closely knit community of such believers even while many of them remain members of denominations which are not generally in this camp. So the issue is whether among Protestant Christians "faith community" has the same meaning as "denomination". As a Christian who feels much more affinity with like-minded (not "Reformed") Christians of other denominations than with the majority of my own denomination, my answer would be that a "faith community" is not the same as a "denomination".

 
At Fri Jul 18, 01:13:00 PM, Blogger tc robinson said...

TC, your question is really whether one can consider "Reformed" or "Calvinist" to be a label for a faith community. There does seem to be a real and quite closely knit community of such believers even while many of them remain members of denominations which are not generally in this camp. So the issue is whether among Protestant Christians "faith community" has the same meaning as "denomination". As a Christian who feels much more affinity with like-minded (not "Reformed") Christians of other denominations than with the majority of my own denomination, my answer would be that a "faith community" is not the same as a "denomination".

Makes sense, I say. Thanks, Peter.

 
At Fri Jul 18, 07:13:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

TC asked:

Are you saying that the label attached to the ESV as Reformed/Calvinist/Lutheran is not legitimate

Peter answered your question well. I would add that I don't even consider that the ESV is slanted toward Reformed/Calvinist/Lutheran theology, regardless of denomination. The ESV is more theologically conservative than the RSV, but other than that, there is, from my study, no other theological tradition that is stronger in it than in other English Bible versions. The ESV deliberately promotes New Testament understandings of O.T. passages to determine translation of those passages. That is a certain kind of theological conservatism, different however from another kind of theological conservatism which is reflected in the NET Bible.

Now, it may be that what you are referring to is the fact that many of the most vocal proponents of the ESV are Reformed in theology. Note the number of Reformed bloggers who promote the ESV. But promotion of a Bible version does not mean that that version itself reflects the theology of those who promote it. In other words, the ESV is no more Calvinistic than any other English version. The ESV is only a slight modification of the RSV whose translation committee was inter-denominational.

 
At Sat Jul 19, 03:09:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne, you may be right about ESV. Certain translational choices e.g. "propitiation" are not really "Reformed" but would be better described as reflecting a wider conservative evangelical position. The clear translational slant towards complementarianism, well documented by Suzanne, also reflects a broader position than the "Reformed" one.

 
At Mon Jul 21, 09:20:00 PM, Blogger CD-Host said...

iyov --

I agree with what you wrote factually but in terms of interpretation. I consider the JPS, NJPS to be Reformed/Conservative Jewish translations. And you certainly can consider Reformed and Conservative to be "denominations" in an ecumenical sense. A translation team that is indifferent to the NT and highly aware of Rashi is not exactly unbiased :-)

But yeah I also consider the ESV reformed.

 
At Mon Jul 21, 09:24:00 PM, Blogger CD-Host said...

Just to add 2 to your list (lesser known):

Complete Jewish Bible, Stern
Orthodox Jewish Brit Chadasha, Goble

Both are Messianic (AOG) IMHO

 
At Mon Jul 21, 09:36:00 PM, Blogger CD-Host said...

Wayne --

Can you think of a single example of a verse which can be slanted Arminian vs. Reformed where they choose the Arminian slant? Bryan and I were discussing the situation of Mark 1:41 where they removed a footnote, I presume so as to not have to indicate a verse was disputed.

I don't see much difference between what they do and what the NWT does. And in the KIT they at least indicate clearly where the NWT has engaged in a theological override (example Romans 8:23). I have yet to see the ESV be that up front about their "shadings". I don't mean to be bashing here, but I think we should hold everyone to the same standards.

 

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