Some 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
Not too long ago, a report titled “The Bible in American Life” was released by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. Based on a nation-wide survey on Bible use and knowledge, this report found a number of things, some of the most interesting being:
— About 50% of Americans read “scripture” at any point during the last year; 48% of Americans read the Bible at some point last year
— 9% of American read their Bibles daily
— The King James Bible is the most popular English Bible translation by far
— The favorite passage among Bible readers is Psalm 23 followed by John 3:16
— Less than half of those reading the Bible sought help in understanding it
— 31% of those reading the Bible did so on the internet; 22% used devices of some sort
— Generally, Protestants read their Bibles more than Catholics, and (theologically) conservative Protestants more than liberal Protestants Continue reading
Having examined the translation histories and philosophies of the major KJV family translations, as well as noting their effectiveness, we now turn to a comparison of these versions in their translation of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 (comments about each translations are included in brackets).
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition
19 πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος, 20 διδάσκοντες αὐτοὺς τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν· καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ μεθ’ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος.
19 “Therefore having gone, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit, 20 teaching them to guard all which I commanded to you; and behold I am with you all the days until the completion of the age.”
1611 King James Version
19 “Goe ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Sonne, and of the holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to obserue all things, whatsoeuer I haue commanded you: and loe, I am with you alway, euen vnto the end of the world. Amen.” [Comments] Aorist participle translated in simple present tense. Teaching aspects clearly emphasized as μαθητεύσατε is translated as teaching, as is διδάσκοντες. Rendering πάντα as “whatsoever” seems fairly archaic, as is the translating ἰδοὺ as “lo”. “Amen” and “even” have been added to last verse. Continue reading
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)
Completed 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)
The 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.