Problems with Some Bible Translations, including the King James: A Blast from the Past

    In my Introduction to the New Testament undergraduate class this semester, I have told the students that they can use most any Bible translation they want, but I prefer the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and I do *not* want them using either a paraphrase or the King James.  Some of them want to know why, and so I explain to them.  Here is a post on the topic from almost exactly five years ago.  (Note: I’m ...

Continue Reading →
70

What Text Are the Translators Translating?

What is it that Bible translators translate when they are translating?  Let me focus on the New Testament, my main area of expertise.   When a translator wants to make an English version of, say, Mark (what I say about Mark will be true of all the books of the NT), what does she actually translate into English?

Obviously she cannot take Mark’s original manuscript and translate it, since we don’t have it.  Or the first copy of the original, or a ...

Continue Reading →
54

What Do Translators Translate?

What do translators of the Bible actually translate?  This has been the question in the back of my mind for the thread that has been going on over the past couple of weeks.  The question has two components.  (1) Which books do they translate and call “the Bible”?  And (2) when they decide on those books, where do they find what they need in order to translate it?  Do they translate certain manuscripts?  Which ones?  How do they decide?  And ...

Continue Reading →
41

Problems with Inclusive Language Bible Translation

From the marvels of the universe (yesterday’s post) to the use of inclusive language in Bible translations (today’s post) – easy!   All in one step.

The Psalm I quoted yesterday presents a problem to Bible translators who want to render the text to include both men and women.   Here is what Psalm 8 says in the (non-inclusive-language) King James, as quoted yesterday:

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

What ...

Continue Reading →
25

Problems with Inclusive Language Translations

The policy of the NRSV translation committee on inclusive language was sensible, in my view.    It involved a three-pronged approach.

  1. Any passage that was referring to both men and women was to be rendered inclusively, even if the original language (Hebrew or Greek) used masculine terms (“men,” “man,” “brothers,” “he” etc.).
  2. Any passage that was explicitly referring only to men, or only to women, was to be left as referring only to men or to women.
  3. All references to the Deity that in ...
Continue Reading →
59

Inclusive Language in Bible Translations

One of the most difficult issues that the New Revised Standard Version translation committee had to address involved the use of inclusive language.  Part of the problem was that this issue was not a generally recognized issue (by the wider reading public) when the translators began their work, but was very much an issue when they were already finished with a large chunk of it.  The translators were mainly senior scholars who had acquired their linguistic skills before virtually anyone ...

Continue Reading →
35

My Translation of the NT?

QUESTION:

Do you have any plans to publish your own “best” version of the NT in English? From reading several of your books, it does seem as though you probably already have a translation sitting in a drawer somewhere. I have not been able to find scholarly reconstruction that was produced in the last three and a half decades. Most of the newer “translations” are theologically motivated and sound more like modern slang. Have any of your colleagues/ students ...

Continue Reading →
16

Problems with the NRSV (Part 3)

Translators of the Bible have a terrifically complicated and difficult (and usually thankless) task. I always knew that, of course, with my head – ever since taking Greek back in college. But I did not relate to the problems emotionally until I started publishing translations of my own. It’s HARD. My first translation project was a two-volume edition of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library (published by Harvard University Press). It was at that point that I ...

Continue Reading →
20

Problems with the NRSV

One of the pleasures and problems that I am finding with this blog is that it is oh so easy to get side tracked from my original plan and intention.  The current series of posts was originally a response to the question of how Bruce Metzger reacted to my loss of faith.  (To anticipate the final answer: I don’t think he had much of a reaction at all!)   But instead of dealing with that question directly, I decided to use ...

Continue Reading →
16

Problems with Other Translations

I have indicated that my preferred translation is the NRSV. Everyone, of course, has their favorite. My judgment is that among main-line, serious biblical scholars, the NRSV is far and away the preferred translation. But it is not so among general readers. I believe the King James Bible (the KJV) (or its slight revision: The New King James) and the New International Version (NIV) are better sellers among the population at large. So let me say a few words ...

Continue Reading →
21
Page 1 of 2 12