Bible Translations, Not Inspired (Redux)

Open BibleSome time ago I published a brief reflection titled “Bible Translations, Not Inspired,” in which I argued that we must not assume that our contemporary Bibles—because they are translations—are the same thing as the inspired (inherent) words of God. While I don’t want to disagree with that post, I do want to reflect upon the inspiration of the scriptures, spurned on by Jaroslav Pelikan’s Whose Bible Is It?, which I’ve been reading the past couple of days.

Occasionally I will run into someone who holds an unusually high view of a certain version or translation of the Bible. This is true across denomination lines: Catholics have the Apocrypha and the Vulgate, the Orthodox have the Septuagint, and various Protestants have their Scofield Reference Bibles, the King James Version, or the dearly-beloved ESV. And because we have our version of the best Bible, clearly our theology must be more fully informed (and therefore accurate). Continue reading

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Five Things Everyone Should Know About the Bible

0abfb-bible_kjv_80123523_stdThe Christian Bible remains the most influential written work of Western Civilization, influencing language, government, economics, social groups, institutions, and culture. While many people own a Bible and some even read it on occasion, there are some things that you should know about the Bible that you might not have heard before.

(1) The writings of Christian Bible were originally composed in at least two different languages: Hebrew and Greek. Most of the books of the Jewish scripture making up the Christian Old Testament were composed in Hebrew, although some of the later writings (Daniel and Ezra, for example) may have been composed in Aramaic (a sort of “modernized” form of ancient Hebrew). The writings of the New Testament were originally written in Koine Greek, the common language of the Roman Empire during the time of Christ (also noteworthy are the claims of some scholars who argue that the Gospel According to Matthew was originally composed in Aramaic). Continue reading

ECA: First Clement

Clement of Rome

Clement of Rome

To “kick off” our Early Christian Authority Series, we begin with First Clement, which is the earliest non-canonical, specifically Christian, and still extant writing available to us today. First Clement claims to have been written from the Church at Rome to the Church at Corinth, and seems to have been written around 95-96 CE (though I hasten to note that it could have been composed almost anytime between 64 and 99 CE). Since at least the mid- to late- second century, First Clement was thought to have been written by Clement of Rome, who was the second or third bishop of Rome, holding office from around 92 to 99 CE. Additionally, from at least the mid-second century until sometime in the fifth century, First Clement was used a “scripture” by various Christian communities, being read aloud during corporate worship in Corinth and other Christian communities. This is attested to by Dionysius of Corinth and Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, 4.23), as well as the letter’s inclusion in the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus. This post broadly examines First Clement’s use of existing sources of authority. Continue reading

Book Review: Catholic Bible Dictionary (Ed. Hahn)

Catholic Bible DictionaryIn an age of competing “internet histories” and lists of “ten things you need to know about this”, where the first page of Google and a Wikipedia entry are often marshaled as appropriate evidence for engaging important issues, access to serious resources serves an important role in properly understanding and interpreting our world. This is especially true when it comes to faith, where what you hear in church and what you see on the History Channel are often worlds apart. And, while there are some great online resources for encountering our world, for many topics nothing quite replaces the encompassing usefulness of a well-written book. To serve this purpose among the Catholic faithful comes the Catholic Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 2009) edited by Scott Hahn. Continue reading

Luther and Erasmus: Erasmus on Scripture, Canon, and Authority

This post is part of our ongoing series comparing Martin Luther and Erasmus of Rotterdam’s perspectives on scripture, canon, and authority during the Age of Theological Reformations.
De libero

De libero

Written in 1524 as a response to Martin Luther’s Assertio omnium articulorum, in which Luther wrote that “everything happens by absolute necessity” (Watson, 13), [1] Erasmus’ De Libero Abritrio Diatribe Seu Collatio offers Erasmus’ fullest treatment of his theological anthropology, namely that human freedom must coexist with the divine will in matters of salvation.[2] As much has been written on this topic, our purpose here does not include considerations of Erasmus’ arguments concerning the will. Instead, by our review of Erasmus’ theological construction in this work we hope to demonstrate his perspective on scripture, canon, and authority. He begins this work by noting his limitations, immediately noting the difficulty in examining difficult passages and concepts, arguing that extreme care must be demonstrated in the interpretation of scripture (Diatribe, 35-7). Appealing to the “inviolable authority of the Holy Scriptures” and “decrees of the Church,” Erasmus nonetheless concluded that there are “secret” places in the scriptures that God has not wished men to fully understand, and that attempts to understand such passages lead to confusion of human minds (Diatribe, 37-8). While allowing for a certain degree of probability in the interpretation of scripture, Erasmus made clear his understanding that uncertainty does not necessarily undermine Christian faith, instead functioning as a means of humility and caution (Diatribe, 39). Continue reading

KJV Family: 1985 KJV, NRSV, and ESV

This post is part of our ongoing series examining the King James Family of Bibles.

1985 King James Version

Here we briefly note another KJV update from the 1980s, the 1985 King James Version, which retains the wording and order of the 1611 KJV while modernizing the spelling of that version. A favorite of many in the “KJV Only” camp, this translation is not so much a new version as it is the latest edition of the 1611 KJV.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

NRSVCompleted in 1989, the New Revised Standard Version has become one of the most popular translations for the academic study of the Bible. Intentionally created as both an ecumenical translation and an heir to the legacy and language of the KJV, the NRSV updated the language and grammar of the RSV, while seeking a more accurate and gender-neutral translation (“Introduction”, NRSV). Due in large part to its commitment to gender-neutral language, the NRSV was not well received by more conservative readers of the KJV legacy. Overall, the philosophy of the translation committee was “As literal as possible, as free as necessary,” and this version casts itself as a readable literal translation meant to be read aloud (“Introduction”, NRSV). As an ecumenical work, three major editions of the NRSV have appeared: the Common Edition (OT and NT), the Study Edition with Apocrypha and Dueterocanonical books, and the Catholic Edition with books ordered according to the Vulgate. The effectiveness of the NRSV as a translation builds upon the early successes of the KJV and the RSV, yielding an accessible and accurate translation.

English Standard Version (ESV)

ESVThe newest major member of the KJV family of translations is the English Standard Version, first published in 2001. Like the NRSV, the editors of the ESV sought to create an accurate and ecumenical translation that followed in the legacy of the KJV and RSV (“Preface”, ESV). Unlike the NRSV, however, the ESV took a more literal and traditional approach to the issue of pronoun gender, essentially making the ESV the more conservative alternative to the NRSV. The 1971 edition of the RSV was the starting point for this translation, with updated language and an influx of insights from textual criticism (“Introduction”, ESV). The stated purpose of this new translation was “to retain the depth of meaning and enduring language that have made their indelible mark on the English-speaking world” since the publication of the KJV (“Preface”, ESV). Overall, the overall tone of the ESV provides ready access to the historical patterns of the KJV family, as well as engaging the literal aspects of the Greek more fully than versions such as RSV.