Thinking Out Loud

May 23, 2019

The Bible C3P0 Read

Filed under: bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:12 am

Someone mentioned this on Twitter this morning. I’d seen it at the time, but don’t know that we ever ran it here. Source unknown, but I’m willing to re-edit this if you can tell me.

 

Advertisements

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.

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.

May 20, 2013

Bibles Worth Coveting

(Yes, I get the post title contradiction.)

I work a few days a week at a Christian bookstore. Some days it’s about retail, but some days I get into some really amazing conversations with people who have little to no faith background, which truly justifies the existence of the place.

There are a number of Bibles in the store that I always say I would grab if the store ever caught on fire. They are the Bibles I covet, and I do have a birthday coming up soon. (Okay, don’t anyone actually act on that, since I have connections you don’t.) So as much as I love my NIV Study Bible, here are few things I would gladly steal if I thought the boss wouldn’t catch me. (Yes, I know. You’re thinking, “First coveting and now stealing.” It’s just literary license, I actually am the boss.)

So here’s my personal wish list:

Bibles

Note: None of these are weird, esoteric or scholarly editions that only hardcore Bible junkies or geeky academics would want.  This is for the average person reading this.

  • The Voice Bible — I’ve reviewed a book here that describes the making of this translation, and at the sister blog to this one — Christianity 201 — I’ve been using quotations from The Voice now that it’s on BibleGateway.com but I don’t actually own one. Not yet. (Thomas Nelson; various prices)
  • The Contemporary Parallel New Testament — As mentioned above, you can do a lot of passage comparison online, but there are still times when a physical printed page holds some advantages and grants greater impact.  Includes: KJV, NASB Updated Ed., NCV, CEV, NIV, NLT, NKJV, and The Message (Oxford University Press; $49.99 US)
  • NIV Compact Giant Print Bible — While admittedly it clocks in around 2,400 pages, nobody told this 12-point type, NIV Giant Print Bible that it wasn’t supposed to be huge and clunky. The size is surprisingly manageable. Perfect for vain people who don’t want to admit they otherwise use reading glasses; and the only giant print Bible of any translations that I’ve seen that’s worthy of taking with you. (Zondervan; various prices)
  • NLT Full Verse Cross Reference — This one is not pictured as it’s out of print. Tyndale House Publishers is notorious for taking all my favorite Bibles out of print. We’re not good friends. But I loved the idea of spelling out all the cross referenced verses instead of having to flip back and forth, assuming the cross referenced verses are truly relevant.

Currently on our coffee table is the aforementioned NIV Study, the ESV Study, The Message New Testament (we appear not to own a full edition), a copy of the Common English Bible (CEB) and the Quick View NIV which I reviewed here in November. (The part about the upcoming birthday is true, however.)

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.

May 31, 2011

Translation Arguments Really About Preferences

Eddie Arthur at the Bible Translation blog Kouya wrote this with his tongue firmly planted in cheek, but it is oh, so very, very accurate.

The Definitive Guide To Bible Translation Terms

One of the problems with the whole issue of Bible translation is that people use such confusing terms. For someone who just wants to understand the merits of a particular translation or who is perhaps looking to buy a Bible, the geekish terminology that surrounds the subject can be a real stumbling block. So, in order to help those who have not been initiated into the secrets of translation terminology, I would like to present this definitive guide.

  • Meaning Based: “a translation which prioritizes the meaning rather than the form of the original language.”
  • Form Based: “a translation which prioritizes the form of the original language rather than the meaning.”
  • Literal Translation: “a form based translation”
  • Word for Word: “a form-based translation and I don’t know much about languages.”
  • Free Translation: “I don’t like this meaning based translation.”
  • Paraphrase: “I really don’t like this meaning based translation.”
  • Accurate: I like it.
  • The Most Accurate: means either
    • as an opinion (I believe this is the most accurate translation) “I really like it.”
    • as a statement of factt (this is the most accurate translation) “I know nothing about translation theory or languages.”
  • Dynamic Equivalence: “I read a blog post about translation once.”

October 23, 2009

Blogger Starts NASB-Only Movement

Filed under: bible, Humor — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:11 pm

Somewhere in the house, I have a New American Standard Bible (NASB).   It was given to me around 1980 by my parents, and it suffered the terrible injustice of being left on the roof of my car after  church on a hot summer day as I removed a suit jacket (remember those?) before driving home for lunch.

NASB classic red hardcoverI saw the Bible fly off the back of the car and as I started to pull over, watched in the rear-view mirror as a car hit it dead-on.   All things considered, the Bible stood up rather well, but another new translation, the New International Version (NIV) was already making waves and my Bible’s somewhat injured front cover signaled this might be a good time to make the NIV my principal text.

I haven’t thought much about the red hardcover NASB since, but tonight it occurred to me that if you wanted to make a case for using a particular translation exclusively, there are much better compelling arguments in favor of that translation being the NASB than many of the others out there.   It’s a formal-correspondence version used a lot in evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges for that very reason, though not much these days outside those given to serious study.

And since the Christian community has shown itself capable of fostering all sorts of weird and wonderful causes, I figure starting a NASB-only movement makes as much sense as anything else out there.

So I am herewith forming the NASB-only movement, right here, right now in this very blog post.   It begins now.   And you were there.

Now I need some people with more than just a hint of resident anger who can help me bash and trash all the other translations.    And we’ll need someone to write a book or two as to why all the other translations are totally inaccurate.

And we need some kind of miracle story “proving” beyond the shadow of a doubt why I have received this mantle to spread the efficaciousness* of the NASB.

Maybe something about my copy surviving a direct hit from a ’73 Pontiac Bonneville.

*That word had my spell check humming for several seconds.   But I think for the movement to survive the weekend, making up new words should be part of the bargain.

May 28, 2009

The King James Only Controversy: Still Going, 15 Years Later

Filed under: bible, Christian, issues — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:34 pm

king james only controverseyIt’s a rather pathetic indictment against Christians that the arguing of the ‘secondary anointing’ on or ‘divine inspiration’ of one particular translation — and one only — continues to drag on.   When James White first released The King James Only Controversy (Bethany House) in 1995, he probably expected the debate to die down; the KJV-Only camp to mellow out, move on to weightier spiritual matters, or disappear altogether.    He probably never figured there would be a need for him to be releasing an updated edition in 2009.

My take on this book probably differs from others in that I see the book as having value beyond the stated subject.   It’s a great window in the Bible translation process and it’s also an excellent study on key scriptures, many of which are widely known and taught from as they appear in the KJV.    So you don’t have to have a friend or co-worker who is KJV-Only to appreciate exhaustive study that went into producing the original work and its updated edition.

(I should add here that I’m a huge follower of Bible translation issues.   Counting two complete reads of the original, this marked my third trek through this book.)

But the book also exceeds its mandate by leaving us with the questions,

  • “Why do some people in the church spend such great amounts of energy on topics which always produce dissension and are often preoccupied with peripheral concerns?”
  • “Why do some people bring their presuppositions to the table instead of being open to the exchange of logic and facts?”
  • “Why do people with extreme views have to compound their offensiveness by engaging in extreme rhetoric?”
  • “What damage has been done to Bible-reading by incorporating verse numbers that isolate sentences and phrases, losing the flow of extended passages?”

Although the average layperson may be intimidated by Greek and Hebrew words, most of the book can be appreciated without formal theological study; though there may be times when one needs to simply pause to take in the finer nuances of the various translation comparisons.   White himself is very balanced and fair in this treatment, admitting that sometimes the KJV serves us well, but pointing out where more recent translations have provided us with greater clarity.    He resists the urge to retaliate against the KJV, though later on devotes a shorter chapter to some familiar KJV passages which are cause for concern.

Though I don’t think he says it blatantly, much of the KJV-Only argument resides in the treatment of individual versus as opposed to gaining the meaning from the context of a larger passage.   The verse numbers, in this case, do us a disservice.

The new edition mentions newer translations — particularly the ESV —  and the update also cites many online sources in the expanded footnotes.  It also discusses the challenges to the Bible’s authority that have come from the intellectualism of groups like The Jesus Seminar or the fiction of books and movies like The DaVinci Code.

While the book is clearly not for everyone, those drawn to this topic will be well-rewarded, though many may have already acquired the earlier edition.

~ Part of Baker/Bethany House bloggers book review program.

Footnote:  Another publisher had a small booklet on the King James Only movement which came out in the mid-’90s as well.   It was published as part of a series, all the rest of which deal with various cults.    Seriously.

…If you check out this book, you may also enjoy How To Choose A Bible Translation For All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss.

Blog at WordPress.com.