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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Unspiritual Bible versions

I have been studying and evaluating English Bible versions for many years. I have had the privilege of personally communicating with members of translation committees for several of these versions. Based on all of my interactions and research, I conclude that the following English Bible versions are unspiritual and were translated by people who had motives to lead people away from God and an accurate understanding of what he wants us to learn from the Bible:


At Tue Sep 05, 02:17:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

"Blog posts and comments should focus on Bible translation issues, not personalities. Try to support claims with evidence. Please do not question the spirituality, beliefs, or motives of anyone, including Bible translation teams or those who post or comment on this blog." [empahsis added]

You're right, Ishmael. But since I was unable to find any teams for whom I would question their motives, I wonder if I could be granted a special dispensation this one time, for the sake of the point I was trying to make?!


Otherwise, I'm willing to pull the post. But sometimes the argument from silence speaks so loudly and I sometimes do like to speak loudly about things that matter a lot to me.

At Tue Sep 05, 02:55:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

I believe the point is well made. When you read an extremist author like Gail Riplinger (New Age Bible Versions), her contention is that modern (i.e. post-KJV) translations are attempting to subvert God's word and lead people away from faith. Unfortunately, I've heard similar things in the last two or three years from a crowd which I would not have suspected such rhetoric to come from. Butl I'll leave them nameless for the sake of propriety.

At Tue Sep 05, 03:32:00 PM, Blogger Eddie said...

Well said Wayne.

Though this might not be the most technical or intellectually stimulating post on BBB, I actually thinkg it is one of the most important.

At Tue Sep 05, 04:08:00 PM, Blogger Henry Neufeld said...


Please don't pull that post. It makes a fine point, and it doesn't question anyone's spirituality.

I say Amen!! Well said!

At Tue Sep 05, 06:19:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Dakes is not a Bible version, but a particular set of study notes set around the KJV.

I had thought of the Jefferson Bible, too. But I think Wayne was tyring to make a point in regard to contemporary translations in use today.

Let's all breathe deep and relax.

At Tue Sep 05, 10:44:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Do you feel comfortable saying that the bibles of Dake, Smith, the Jesus Seminar, and Jefferson are all spiritual?

No, I would not. In my post I was assuming translation of complete texts of the Bible, whether of a complete Hebrew Bible, such as JPS, NJPS, etc., or a complete Christian canon. I was not thinking of translations which remove some of the passages from the biblical texts or change the original meanings, which, I suppose might open me up to some kind of circular reasoning, but I was thinking in more traditional terms.

Thank you, as always, for your care in helping us not forget things which some of us have not have much experience with.

The Bibles I am most familiar with and have spent the most time evaluating are: KJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, TNIV, JPS, NJPS, NWT, HCSB, TEV, CEV, NCV, Phillips, LB, NLT, NAB, NJB, NEB, REB, ESV, ISV, GW, NET.

I am a little familiar with the work of the Jesus Seminar. I do not own but have read excerpts from the Inclusive translation of the N.T. and Psalms. I would consider that there is a quality (and in terms of the J.S., quantity) of translation with both of these that is significantly different from that of most of the translations I have spent most time with.

At Wed Sep 06, 12:35:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Still, I was a bit sad not to see certain older translations (Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, Bishops', Geneva, Douay-Rheims), or modern translatoins (Fox, Alter) or scholarly translations (Brenton English Septuagint, volumes of the Anchor Bible) on your list.

I believe I have each of the older translations you mentioned in my collection. I have several volumes of the Anchor Bible.

I would like to get copies of the newer Jewish translations by Fox and Alter. I keep hearing about them. I have looked at them in bookstores, but I'm also limited on funds. I wish their translations were online as some others are.

I believe you would find them all of these to be serious translations by devoted and sincere translators -- and even the older translations have valuable insights for us today. I hope you consider reading them.

I do too. My limitation is time. My vocation is Bible translating for Bibleless peoples. *One* of my avocations is study of English Bible versions.

I am also surprised that the NKJV and Amplified Bible are not on your list. I do not hold these translations in high esteem, yet I know they are popular. May I ask why they did not make your list?

Memory loss! I included the NKJV in my studies:

I used to read the Amplified Bible as a teenager as the different sections of the Bible were produced in it.

At Fri Sep 08, 12:27:00 AM, Blogger danielg said...

While most bible translators may be well meaning, that doesn't mean they are accurate or correct. While I have no problem with dynamic equivalence or paraphrases (I love TLB), I wonder if the current trends in bible translation, including the "gender neutral" work in TNIV and TNLB lead people to misunderstandings about God. They may also be poor scholarship.

At Fri Sep 08, 02:47:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Papa wonders "if the current trends in bible translation, including the "gender neutral" work in TNIV and TNLB lead people to misunderstandings about God". I wonder if in fact the more serious misunderstandings arise from translations which are not "gender neutral" being read by those who are used to "gender neutral" language. For example, I have found on another blog people who seem to believe that maleness is an attribute of God. This has never been orthodox theology, after all male and female humans are both explicitly made in the image of God. This is a novel and false doctrine which seems to have arisen among recent readers of older translations, who have given to words like "he" and "man" gender-related significance which was never intended by the original authors or translators. It is to avoid such misunderstandings that it is necessary to move to "gender neutral", or better "gender accurate", translations.

At Fri Sep 08, 07:32:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I wonder if the current trends in bible translation, including the "gender neutral" work in TNIV and TNLB lead people to misunderstandings about God. They may also be poor scholarship.

Certain words in Greek simply were more gender neutral than older English translations indicated. So the trend toward gener neutrality is usually a trend towards greater accuracy. So far I have yet to see the opposite. Replacing 'brothers' with 'people' or 'friends' simply reflects the way the Greek word was used to refer to a collective of people, whereas in English 'brothers' does mean the men. And, of course, αδελφοι in Greek is easily understood as refering to both the αδελφοι the brothers and the αδελφαι the sisters. There is no easy way to represent this in English.

It is very important to start with the Greek first, each and every time. Once must not assume that earlier translations were more literal.

A simple example is the replacement of 'workman' with 'worker'. Of course, 'worker' is a word that much better reflects the morphology of the Greek word εργατης. This kind of thing is found throughout the Bible. The move towards gender neutrality reflects a more literal translation. So no discussion about gender should start from an older English translation.

I am always disturbed to see discussion about gender starting from English. It is not a model of universal thought - English is a human language, one among many.

At Fri Sep 08, 09:07:00 AM, Blogger Matt Gumm said...

I think the New World Translation would be the exception to your rule.

And though I would mostly agree that there are no overtly sinister motives, there are clearly always "agendas" in Biblical translations. It has been that way from the first.

Those agendas can come out in subtle ways (I'm thinking of the KJV use of charity instead of love, for example, or Tyndale's choice of "congregation" instead of "church").
For that matter, isn't the whole point in making a new translation is the notion that all old ones are somehow inadequate? If any translation were fully adequate, or if all translations were "equally valid," then there wouldn't really be any point to this blog, right?

I'm perfectly fine with your rule about not speculating about motives, and I'm further OK with the implication that what translators do they do to the glory of God, but I think you would agree with me that that doesn't necessarily mean that motives aren't important, or that all translators are equally successful in their efforts.

I know Peter agrees with me, anyway, because he thinks the ESV is a "second-rate translation" with a "sordid history," from recent comments he's made here & elsewhere.

Peter: do you really think it isn't important to think of God as a father, with all the implications that go with it? Shall we eliminate Jesus position as the "Son of God" in favor of a "child of God?"

Suzanne: how would you answer a person who says that much of your approach is informed by classical Greek that is being read into Koine?

At Fri Sep 08, 09:59:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

gummby responded:

I think the New World Translation would be the exception to your rule.

I wrestled with that as I tried to find wordings for my post which I could live with as a conservative trinitarian with a high view of scripture. My solution was to use the word "unspiritual". From my interactions with JWs, they are very sincere about being spiritual. The NWT translation team, as far as I can tell, desired to produce a translation which would lead people to a closer spiritual walk with Christ. While I personally disagree with the NWT as it translates verses which *I* believe support the deity of Christ, it has been my observation, so far, that each of the wordings in that regard in the NWT can be supported by Greek exegesis. I'm not saying it is support by a concensus of Greek scholarhip, but the NWT translators can point to reasonable understandings of the Greek forms in the N.T. to support each of their translation decisions.

Yes, those of us who are trinitarians see an overall doctrinal position reflected in their translation. But their individual translation decisions can be justified in each case. I am *not* saying that I agree with the choices they made in each case.

I think that each of us, no matter how much we might want otherwise, are influenced to some degree by our theology as we translate.

And that, of course, gets us to the question of motives in translation. Yes, motives are important, as you point out. One important reason for asking that motives not be addressed on this blog is that we have seen so many destructive things said about various Bible versions under the guise od divining motives of translation teams. Much of it is so very speculative. I would rather evaluate individual translation decisions and not try to divine motives.

Thanks for keeping us on our toes and making sure that we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.


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