Thinking Out Loud

April 29, 2017

C. S. Lewis on Bible Translating

I originally posted this excerpt in 2015, but it’s hard to believe it wasn’t penned yesterday. I don’t know the original date it was written, but it first appeared in the collection titled God in the Dock, and we found this excerpt in another anthology tiled The Joyful Christian. Since Lewis died in 1963, we know the material is, at minimum, around 60 years old. I’ve changed the paragraphing and (horrors!) Americanized some spelling. Revisiting it today, I was struck especially by the second-last paragraph which reminded me of the ESV “permanent translation” discussions of 2016.

It is possible that the reader … may ask himself why we need a new translation of any part of the Bible… “Do we not already possess,” it may be said, “in the Authorized Version the most beautiful rendering which any language can boast?” Some people whom I have met go even further and feel that a modern translation is not only unnecessary but even offensive. They cannot bear to see the time-honored words altered; it seems to them irreverent.

C. S. LewisIn the first place the kind of objection which they feel to a new translation is very like the objection which was once felt to any English translation at all. Dozens of sincerely pious people in the sixteenth century shuddered at the idea of turning the time-honored Latin of the Vulgate into our common and (as they thought) ‘barbarous’ English. A sacred truth seemed to them to have lost its sanctity when it was stripped of the polysyllabic Latin, long heard at Mass and at Hours, and put into ‘language such as men do use’—language steeped in all the commonplace associations of the nursery, the inn, the stable, and the street.

The answer then was the same as the answer now. The only kind of sanctity which Scripture can lose (or, at least, New Testament scripture) by being modernized is an accidental kind which it never had for its writers or its earliest readers. The New Testament in the original Greek is not a work of literary art: it is not written in a solemn, ecclesiastical language, it is written in the sort of Greek which was spoken over the Eastern Mediterranean after Greek had become an international language and therefore lost its real beauty and subtlety.

In it we see Greek used by people who have no real feeling for Greek words because Greek words are not the words they spoke when they were children. It is a sort of “basic” Greek; a language without roots in the soil, a utilitarian, commercial and administrative language. Does this shock us? It ought not to, except as the Incarnation itself ought to shock us. The same divine humility which decreed that God should become a baby at a peasant woman’s breast, and later an arrested field preacher in the hands of the Roman police, decreed also that He should be preached in a vulgar, prosaic and unliterary language. If you can stomach the one, you can stomach the other. The Incarnation is in that sense an irreverent doctrine….

When we expect that [the Bible] should have come before the World in all the beauty that we now feel in the Authorized Version we are as wide of the mark as the Jews were in expecting that the Messiah would come as a great earthly King.

The real sanctity, the real beauty and sublimity of the new Testament (as of Christ’s life) are of a different sort: miles deeper and further in.

In the second place, the Authorized Version has ceased to be a good (that is, a clear) translation. It is no longer modern English: the meanings of words have changed. The same antique glamor which has made it (in the superficial sense) so ‘beautiful’, so ‘sacred’, so ‘comforting’, and so ‘inspiring’, has also made it in many places unintelligible…

[He then gives some examples.]

…The truth is that if we are to have translation at all we must have periodical re-translation. There is no such thing as translating a book into another language once and for all, for a language is a changing thing. If your son is to have clothes it is no good buying him a suit once and for all: he will grow out of it and have to be re-clothed.

And finally – though it may seem a sour paradox – we must sometimes get away from the Authorized Version if for no other reason, simply because it is so beautiful and so solemn. Beauty exalts, but beauty also lulls. Early associations endear but they also confuse. Through that beautiful solemnity the transporting or horrifying realities of which the Book tells may come to us blunted and disarmed and we may only sigh with tranquil veneration when we ought to be burning with shame, or struck dumb with terror, or carried out of ourselves by ravishing hopes and adorations.

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April 25, 2015

C. S. Lewis on Modern Bible Translations

It’s hard to believe this wasn’t penned yesterday. I don’t know the original date it was written, but it first appeared in the collection titled God in the Dock, and we found this excerpt in another anthology tiled The Joyful Christian. Since Lewis died in 1963, we know the material is, at minimum, around 60 years old. I’ve changed the paragraphing and (horrors!) Americanized some spelling.

It is possible that the reader … may ask himself why we need a new translation of any part of the Bible… “Do we not already possess,” it may be said, “in the Authorized Version the most beautiful rendering which any language can boast?” Some people whom I have met go even further and feel that a modern translation is not only unnecessary but even offensive. They cannot bear to see the time-honored words altered; it seems to them irreverent.

C. S. LewisIn the first place the kind of objection which they feel to a new translation is very like the objection which was once felt to any English translation at all. Dozens of sincerely pious people in the sixteenth century shuddered at the idea of turning the time-honored Latin of the Vulgate into our common and (as they thought) ‘barbarous’ English. A sacred truth seemed to them to have lost its sanctity when it was stripped of the polysyllabic Latin, long heard at Mass and at Hours, and put into ‘language such as men do use’—language steeped in all the commonplace associations of the nursery, the inn, the stable, and the street.

The answer then was the same as the answer now. The only kind of sanctity which Scripture can lose (or, at least, New Testament scripture) by being modernized is an accidental kind which it never had for its writers or its earliest readers. The New Testament in the original Greek is not a work of literary art: it is not written in a solemn, ecclesiastical language, it is written in the sort of Greek which was spoken over the Eastern Mediterranean after Greek had become an international language and therefore lost its real beauty and subtlety.

In it we see Greek used by people who have no real feeling for Greek words because Greek words are not the words they spoke when they were children. It is a sort of “basic” Greek; a language without roots in the soil, a utilitarian, commercial and administrative language. Does this shock us? It ought not to, except as the Incarnation itself ought to shock us. The same divine humility which decreed that God should become a baby at a peasant woman’s breast, and later an arrested field preacher in the hands of the Roman police, decreed also that He should be preached in a vulgar, prosaic and unliterary language. If you can stomach the one, you can stomach the other. The Incarnation is in that sense an irreverent doctrine….

When we expect that [the Bible] should have come before the World in all the beauty that we now feel in the Authorized Version we are as wide of the mark as the Jews were in expecting that the Messiah would come as a great earthly King.

The real sanctity, the real beauty and sublimity of the new Testament (as of Christ’s life) are of a different sort: miles deeper and further in.

In the second place, the Authorized Version has ceased to be a good (that is, a clear) translation. It is no longer modern English: the meanings of words have changed. The same antique glamor which has made it (in the superficial sense) so ‘beautiful’, so ‘sacred’, so ‘comforting’, and so ‘inspiring’, has also made it in many places unintelligible…

[He then gives some examples.]

…The truth is that if we are to have translation at all we must have periodical re-translation. There is no such thing as translating a book into another language once and for all, for a language is a changing thing. If your son is to have clothes it is no good buying him a suit once and for all: he will grow out of it and have to be re-clothed.

And finally – though it may seem a sour paradox – we must sometimes get away from the Authorized Version if for no other reason, simply because it is so beautiful and so solemn. Beauty exalts, but beauty also lulls. Early associations endear but they also confuse. Through that beautiful solemnity the transporting or horrifying realities of which the Book tells may come to us blunted and disarmed and we may only sigh with tranquil veneration when we ought to be burning with shame, or struck dumb with terror, or carried out of ourselves by ravishing hopes and adorations.

December 26, 2011

KJV 400th — The Party’s Over

Last one out, turn off the lights, okay?

Well that was fun.  But now it’s over.  We politely saluted the survival of a 400-year-old or 222-year-old (if you prefer the present 1789 edition to the 1611) translation of the Bible.  The KJV version is more than a mere blip in thousands of years of Bible translation in hundreds of languages, but not much more than that in the larger scheme of languages and centuries.

It served us well.  It propelled the idea advanced by William Tyndale that the Bible should be available in the common language; that whoever your society counts as the least — the classic ‘garbage collector’ comes to mind, though they often make good money — should be able to access the Bible and understand it.

Today however, the understandability of a Bible translated in 1611 but not significantly updated since the late 1700’s is a questionable premise.  For several reasons:

  1. English is a fluid, changing language.  In the words of the Cliff Richard song, “It’s so funny how we don’t talk like that anymore.”  (I may have added a couple of words.)  Furthermore, some words actually mean the opposite today of what they did then.
  2. We now have better manuscripts.  And verification from a greater number of fragments found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  And a whole lot of other documents that are contemporary to the time the Bible documents were written.  So we know, for example that some KJV place names are really people names and vice versa.  (John White’s The King James Only Controversy is must-reading on this subject.)
  3. We have higher standards of translation and a better understanding of when to include something in the text and when to add it as a footnote or save it for a commentary.  We also know — for sure — that Paul did not invoke the name of God in Romans 6:1.  No other translation adopts the KJV “God forbid!”  It is — to use a word that offends Bible translation purists — a paraphrase.  A British colloquialism.
  4. Perpetuating language written in a Shakespearean form somehow robs the Bible of its relevance to real people living real lives in the 21st century.  Yes, it may be  easier to memorize, and it sounds churchy, but it clearly has what linguist Eugene Nida calls “a high fog index.”  Really, to cling to it in 2012 is no different than the attitude of Roman Catholics who perpetuated the Latin Mass.  And it defies the spirit of William Tyndale, who the KJV translation team greatly revered.
  5. There’s a guilty-by-association thing going on with the KJV-only crowd:  The people who stand for the exclusivity of this particular text often tend to stand for other causes.  I wouldn’t necessarily associate them people who picket soldier’s funerals, or the people who burn the Koran, or the people who wildly predict dates for the world to end.  No, I’d leave that for you to connect the dots.  Heck, even the King James Bible translators weren’t KJV-only.

So enough, already.  Let’s put the KJVs on a shelf and display them only when the occasion arises.   Let’s haul them out when we’re trying to find that verse we learned in our childhood.  Let’s refer to them when we want to see what verses Grandma and Grandpa underlined or highlighted.

But otherwise, in terms of everyday use, let us determine that anyone under forty (at the very least) will finally lay the KJV to rest, because, truth be told, most of us attended the KJV-400 party only because we love the Bible and we love a good celebration.

July 27, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday List Lynx

And now here’s a Wednesday Link List that needs no introduction…

  • The other members of the band America (“A Horse With No Name”) pay tribute to Dan Peek who later had a career in Christian music, who passed away on the weekend.
  • Jay Grelen joins the cast at GetReligion.org, a blog that looks at how the media handles religious stories.  His own story was interesting.
  • Josh McDowell believes that the internet is the greatest threat to Christian belief: “The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not,” said McDowell.  Read more at Faith and The Law.
  • Pressured by his elders’ board to apologize, Mark Driscoll makes a half-hearted effort following his remarks on Facebook about “effeminate worship leaders.”  Rachel Held Evans calls him a bully.
  • Just in case you’re wondering, here’s the website for Hope Unlimited Church in Australia, the church Mark and Darlene Zschech call home since leaving the Hillsong mother-ship; though they’ll still be part of music events.
  • Tim Challies looks at the ‘Christian’ label being applied to the man who brought about the carnage in Oslo, Norway.
  • Paul Clark reads Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God and notes that the greatest books — starting with the Bible — have already been written.
  • Paul also has a great article on creating a “culture of generosity” within your church in this article about stewardship.
  • C. Michael Patton knows how to kick off a discussion and he’s got enough readers that he gets a response.  Be sure to read all the comments on this discussion about praying over and over and over and over again.
  • Michelle VanLoon at Her.meneutics tells about growing up in the 1960s and ’70s with her father’s porn magazines openly displayed on the coffee table and how it affected her.
  • While it wasn’t a Christian story per se, Eugune Cho posted this story about the latest “Susan Boyle” type of story on Korea’s Got Talent.   Read about Sung-Bong Choi.  (No relation to Song Sung Blue.)
  • While this one isn’t a link at all, I wanted to post something rather unique: My church is doing a VBS during the last week before school starts and they’re doing it as an evening program from 6:30 – 8:30 PM.  Different, huh?
  • For our Canadian readers: Yes, it’s true, McMaster Divinity School is giving Christian broadcaster David Mainse an honorary doctorate degree.  (My favorite Mainse quote: “My wife and I were virgins on our wedding night and we’ve been virgins ever since.”  …They have four children.)
  • Nick Costello’s book, Kiss What? is another book to examine the music scene and might be a resource for the teen in your home who is OD-ing on popular music culture.  Here’s a video preview.
  • Here’s a Vimeo vid on the release of the full (OT & NT) edition of the Common English Bible.  (Note: This HD clip takes awhile to load.)
  • New Blog of the Week: Housewife Theologian by Amiee Byrd — Articles of interest to women and a penchant for reviewing books in the Reformed tradition.
  • He calls his blog The Ugley Vicar and recently posted this hymn verse that was sung while attending a “Junior Clergy” conference; a verse that should be the prayer of all of us:

Facing a task unfinished,
That drives us to our knees,
A need that, undiminished,
Rebukes our slothful ease:
We, who rejoice to know Thee,
Renew before Thy throne
The solemn pledge we owe Thee
To go and make Thee known.

October 6, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Here are some highlights from my blog travels in the past week:

  • While you’re link hopping  here, you can stream audio from CCM Gold Radio – Christian music from the ’60s thru the ’80s; though it’s a bit like tightrope walking without a net, because they don’t tell you what you’re hearing, and there are many obscure songs.   Great for Christian music trivia, however; I’m just not sure how many songs actually support the claim to include the ’60s.   I have a 3,000-plus library of Christian music on vinyl, and only a small handful are pre 1970.
  • Then again, you’re going to have to switch media for this one:   Many of you know Pete Wilson from his blog and his new book, Plan B.   But how many of you have been to Cross Point to check out a Pete Wilson sermon?   I thoroughly enjoyed this experience on the weekend.  Go to the page for Pete’s new Empty Promises series, and click on week one, the introductory message.   I promise you 30 solid minutes of distraction-free preaching.
  • Tullian Tchividjian has been busy on Twitter compiling short statements expressing various aspects of the gospel.  Blogger Barry Simmons assembles a couple of lists at his blog The Journeyman’s Files both here and here.   Sample sentence: “When we transfer trust from ourselves to Christ, we experience the abundant freedoms that come from not having to measure up.”
  • Trevin Wax plays transcription stenographer to a recent address by Al Mohler as to how he came to his present position on women in pastoral ministry.   Check out some highlights.
  • What life goals are you working on?  Things you’re trying to cultivate in your life?   Ever feel lost or orphaned?   Kathy Escobar has three words for you.
  • Here’s another take on the new CEB (Common English Bible) translation, which the writer calls a “Good News Glut.”   We learn now that five publishers are involved, and many are motivated by providing an alternative for the NRSV crowd.
  • Just When You Thought You’d Heard Everything Department:  Don’t know if this conversion would actually ‘stick,’ but Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell says she became a Christian because of her love of Italian food, primarily meatballs.
  • This one’s been in my files for awhile… Author Max Lucado considers things spiritual and things sci-fi and everything in between in a consideration of what the next life might be like.
  • Bene Diction posted this link a few days back to an article by Regent College professor John Stackhouse on the appropriateness of criticizing other Christians in a public forum.   Should we shoot our own?
  • Related?   Here’s a comment from a reader at CT’s article on Rick Warren’s video appearance at the Desiring God conference, and John Piper’s negative attitude toward Warren in particular:  “All of us, including the most intellectual, will be taking a Theology 101 course in heaven…”
  • Author Wayne Jacobsen got an insider’s look at the making of the now-released movie adaptation of Karen Kingsbury’s book Like Dandelion Dust.
  • New music artist of the week is two-time ASCAP award winner John DeGrazio.  Check out his 2010 album Stronghold at his webpage.
  • Michael Belote at Reboot Christianity has a great word picture of a typical gathering in the first century church, but to get there, link here first for a quick eight-question quiz.
  • No actual link on this one, but I’m currently reading Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis … out loud! Working away one chapter a night, and with my youngest (who’s now 16) listening, I figure many of the chapters started out as radio broadcasts anyway, so why not cover the book in its original form.   It also slows me down to catch all the nuances of Lewis’ masterful apologetics.
  • At least one Target store would rather slash women’s clothing to pieces than donate it to an orphanage in southeast Asia.   Why?   They’re afraid someone else might get the product and try to return it for refund.
  • It remains one of my all time favorite cartoons; so I’m thankful to a reader who sent a much better rendering of it than the one I posted… I think you already know the cartoonist’s name, right?

  • And here’s an edgy one appearing September 14th from Tom Pappalardo at The Optimist written in response to the migration of Roman Catholics out of New England, which leaves the northeast with a reputation once exclusively belonging to the northwest:

September 15, 2010

Wednesday Link List

This week's links lynx is actually an Iberian Lynx

A special blessing will come your way if you click all these links and then send the list to ten friends.   Seriously.   Would I lie to you?

Actually, it’s just a list of things I found worth reading this week.   This weekly list is now consider the #1 list of links published on a Wednesday by a blog called Thinking Out Loud.   BTW, the Iberian Lynx is making what is only his second appearance here.  The first was in January this year.

  • If 56 million Bibles are printed annual in China, why would you bother to smuggle any?   Maybe because the number of Bibles produced are often English Bibles and Bible story books for kids which are exported for sale here in the west.   So the need is still there.
  • She was the champion of the use of the arts in church worship.   And still is.   But right now, former Willow Creek creative arts guru Nancy Beach is sitting in a director’s chair in Toronto on the set of a movie.
  • Sometimes you hear about charity fund raising projects and you wonder if anything is actually being accomplished.   18 months ago, I wrote about one involving worship musicians, Compassionart.   (I still enjoy the CD/DVD combo, especially the DVD.)   This past week, Rick Apperson dug up the stats on the projects accomplished by the project so far.
  • You can vote in the comments section whether or not you love this week’s YouTube clip or hate it.   But how can you not like little Mary Margaret’s flawless dramatic narration of the story of Jonah?
  • Back to the heavy stuff.  Here’s a great piece at Think Christian that helps you identify American “civil religion” when you see it. Simple marker: “Any statement that identifies the USA as God’s unique instrument for the salvation of the world is by definition blasphemous and idolatrous for a Christian to make.”
  • Mandy Thompson’s husband discovers that he didn’t actually marry that Mandy Thompson.
  • Thirty seconds of thinking:  Seth Godin on why it matters that there’s a difference to jazz versus bowling.
  • David Fitch wants you think twice about church planting in an auditorium as opposed to church planting in a living room.   Your choice could have repercussions for decades.
  • Here’s a great 5-minute animation of the Casting Crowns song, Praise You In The Storm.
  • Actually, I’ll give you a bonus video this week.   This is by Aaron Niequist, former Mars Hill (Grand Rapids) now doing the same job at Willow Creek.   The song is simply titled Changed.
  • Then again, why not go three-for-three.   This one may not fit your definition of a worship song, but it earn the adjective as much as anything else.   Check out Owl City’s Meteor Shower.
  • It’s one thing to have a more gender-inclusive translation of the Bible, but T.C. Robinson wonders aloud what do you do when “elders” in Titus 1 is gender-neutral as it is in the Common English Bible?
  • Are you a book-review blogger?  Here’s some advice to put what you do in perspective.
  • Skye Jethani is concerned because there are people attending church each week who are just plain bored.   Certainly that shouldn’t be.
  • Personal link:  This is what my oldest son gets up to when we’re not looking.   The musical instrument he’s playing here is called a Sonome.   Elsewhere on his channel you can do a quick tutorial he posted and find out how they work.   (If you’re reading this months later, it’s the Super Mario clip that was upfront when I wrote this.)
  • Our comic this week should be familiar to you.  Here we have Dolly partially deep in prayer at The Family Circus by Bil Keane.   Do you ever pray like that?   I’ll bet Mary Margaret does.

August 4, 2010

Wednesday Link List

There you go.   We’re number one.   Because e-mail is now mostly a mobile thing; social networks and blogs currently dominate online computer time.   Click the image to read the full report.

…I’m not exactly sure about this, but I think I am:  I got an e-mail this week from someone I’ve been e-mailing  for many years, who perhaps didn’t realize that when I send her something and it appears on her screen in blue with a line underneath, that’s a LINK and she’s supposed to click on it.   So just in case anybody here is missing the point, these little bullet points are not an end in themselves.   They are LINKS and it’s expected that you’re clicking on the ones that interest you.

  • The producers of the movies Fireproof and Facing The Giants have a 5-minute documentary on the website for their new movie, Courageous.
  • Can you handle another Bible translation?   Coming soon to a bookstore near you:  The Common English Bible.
  • John Ortberg asks the musical question, “Who speaks for Evangelicals?”  Or to make it more personal, “These days, who speaks for you?”  [Related on this blog, see trend # 10 for 2009]
  • Self-styled “pastor of the nerds,” Tony Kim provides a rundown of his visit to Comic Con.
  • Here’s the video for the book trailer of Peter Hitchens’ book (the brother of atheist Christopher Hitchens) The Rage Against God:  How Atheism Led Me To Faith (Zondervan).
  • The church that markets coffee mugs proclaiming “Islam is of the Devil” has a Quran burning ceremony scheduled for September 11th, though not every Christian group agrees with their tactics.
  • Time for some time-travel with David Fisher:  If you could spend a summer afternoon with any of the saints who are no longer with us, who would make your short list?   Check out his sixteen saints.
  • Another video link, this is a beautiful worship song; check out Keith & Kristyn Getty’s  Creation Sings the Father’s Song.
  • Talbot Davis suggests a different reason for introducing change in our local churches:  Because it creates muscle confusion.
  • Should an Anglican priest have slipped a communion wafer to a dog who went forward?   An interim priest in Toronto did just that, and now the Bishop isn’t very happy.
  • Megan Hyatt Miller — daughter of Thomas Nelson’s Michael Hyatt — comes face to face with her inability to embrace the current social justice movement because she just doesn’t like the poor.
  • Many of you know this story, but for those who don’t here’s an interview Mark Driscoll did with Randy Alcorn explaining why Randy doesn’t keep his book royalties, and why he works for minimum wage.
  • Matt at The Church of No People blog suggests, “…when Christians can’t find the words to share Jesus, a much easier method of evangelism is available.  All you have to do is become a walking billboard.”  Check out Christian socks.
  • This has been up for over a year, but I found it interesting that the people from xtranormal.com (the text-to-movie site) took a script from Lifeline Productions (those little comedy moments you hear on Christian radio) about trying to earn salvation, and turned it into a video.   Watch 1,000 Points.
  • Is she in or she is out?   Vampire author Anne Rice is either out or simply challenging some definitions of  ‘Christian.’  Another author, John Shore, tries to sort it all out.  (No, she writes about vampires, she isn’t one herself…)  As does the Christian Q&A guy, Russell D. Moore who sees this as a definite leave of absence from the faith.
  • Piper gets asked if it’s okay for a guy to listen to Beth Moore, or female speakers in general.   His answer is somewhat conditional.
  • Speaking of women in ministry, Pam Hogeweide has an interesting perspective in Happy Christian Women, which Kathy Escobar then picked up as a natural lead-in to three(1) more(2) posts(3) which deal with “Spiritual Refugees;” people who have been displaced from the church.  Each post includes a 12-minute video.
  • On the topic of links, if you have a blog, consider adding Thinking Out Loud to your blogroll.
  • Hoping to save marine life after the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a 67-year old man has modeled his rescue project on Noah’s Ark.
  • Our cartoon this week is from Rev. Fun.  You see these on various websites and blogs rather frequently, but there’s also a print version that went on sale this summer.   For that person who isn’t internet connected, check out Rev. Fun … Offline from Zondervan.

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