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not ANOTHER Bible translation

I was recently sent a complimentary copy of the New Testament in the Common English Bible translation.

A quick check on my personal library shelf: I think I have 30 or so contemporary English translations of the Bible or significant parts of the Bible. If you want to make money, it seems, produce a new translation. If you want to press a particular quirky doctrine or teaching, produce a new translation. Produce a translation and it appears there is always a market, a niche in our ever-fragmenting English-speaking Christian market, for the next, new thing. Other English translations, apparently, are too old-fashioned, too street-language-like, too Catholic, too Calvinist, too inclusive, too sexist, etc.

So here’s the next one. I really struggle to work out what its niche is – do let me know in the comments.

Jesus no longer calls himself the Son of Man, he has become “the Human One” (I don’t know if the authors noticed, but capitals aren’t “heard” in reading aloud). Distances and lengths are given in feet and inches etc. (yes – there are still people on the planet that use these! LOL! Cost: one Mars probe, not cheap). But, other measures are just (inconsistently) transliterated.

The Beatitudes (Matt 5) have people being “Happy”, bishops are “supervisors”, deacons are “servants”.

When you want to move a little deeper than “be nice” in the Bible:

1 John 2:2 καὶ αὐτὸς ἱλασμός ἐστιν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν, οὐ περὶ τῶν ἡμετέρων δὲ μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου.

becomes “He is God’s way of dealing with our sins, not only ours but the sins of the whole world.” ie. ἱλασμός is “God’s way of dealing with”.

The Old Testament I think isn’t out yet. But some of it is online. I liked that, in Gen 2:7 “the Lord God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land” having the Hebrew “earth-creature” as “human” rather than “man”, but when the Hebrew changes to “man” (verse 23) this translation just continues with “human”.

We’ve all met people (maybe you are such a person) who want the Bible translation to “sound nice”, to read easily, to be the way they expect the Bible to be – but I think a Bible translation is more and different to that: I want a translation to be as accurate as possible – whether I like it or not. I want a translation to be reliable – not just good in parts. Not just mostly reliable (so that you are never sure if this bit is what the original actually says or not).

If, like me, you have a shelf full of translations, by all means buy this one to add to your collection. If not: a) learn some Greek and/or Hebrew b) use the tools I provide c) get yourself one formal equivalent translation (NRSV) and if you want, a dynamic equivalent (CEV) and a paraphrase (the Message).

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34 Responses to not ANOTHER Bible translation

  1. Like you, I have a shelf or shelves full of translations, and have been a new-version junkie for a very long time. Like you, I want to know as well as I can what the text actually says, rather than what (a) particular translator(s) thinks it should have meant. So no doubt I’ll get this one shortly. Interestingly, I also bounce among several versions, NRSV for basic reading, The Message when I want a paraphrase I’m most likely to agree with, and any number of others for a range of nuances.
    I always tell new Bible students to get one without footnotes or study helps, and not a paraphrase to start either. I want them reading the Bible, and thinking, not receiving as Holy Writ some commentator’s opinions; not even mine.

    • Thanks Bob – the Bible I always give away is NRSV. The footnotes in NRSV are very important IMO, so we differ there; but the rest of your comment we are on the same page. I enjoyed poking around your website – let me know if you put a link to this site so that I’m sure to link back.

  2. I’ve recently taken to using the ESV as my primary Bible, but I do wish that there was a better edition that included the Apocrypha (the paper is too thin, the Apoc. books are put in the BACK of the Bible instead of the traditional (yes, I said traditional) Protestant location of between the Testaments. So, I use a higher paper quality ESV Bible and carry a thin-line copy of the NRSV apocrypha with it. (I don’t really care for the syntax and cadence and, to be frank, the translation of the NRSV. It’s clumsy in my view.)

    One version I had high hopes for was the Orthodox Study Bible, since the OT is a translation of the Septuagint rather than the Masoretic text. However, instead of commissioning a new translation of the Orthodox New Testament, they used the NKJV. Again the paper quality is poor. A plus that led to my wanting to get it was that the study notes made copious reference to the Creeds and Church Fathers! Something most modern study Bibles ignore.

    Jim <

    • Thanks for your contribution, Jim. I have particular problems with ESV, sorry Jim (see my ESV review). Like you, I appreciate the Orthodox Study Bible – we in the West often have no connection with the rich treasures of our Eastern brothers and sisters. As for the clumsiness of NRSV, I guess that is part of the sacrifice of having a formal equivalent translation – but (and I use it individually, in small groups, in large services, with old and with young) I have not found it to be an issue in the slightest.

  3. Why The Common English Bible?

    To keep scripture relevant, and integrated into worship. Cultural and religious settings have changed dramatically. Changes in worship impact the words we use in our churches. And language is changing even faster because of the digital revolution. Combined with huge cultural shifts underway, these changes are so enormous that a completely new translation of the Bible is required.

    This sounds like goobly gook to me! What do modern cultural shifts have to do with what the text does or does not say?

  4. Bosco, I know and have worked with the ESV translators/revisers, and they include some of the finest and most learned Biblical scholars at work in UK universities. They are evangelicals, and not ashamed about it or intimidated by others who hold different views. Liberal views led to the NEB and the REV – that’s fine, if anyone still uses them. Every translation is also an interpretation; and you should read Prof. Gordon Wenham on ‘almah, bethulah and parthenos (not to mention the Orthodox Church on the subject).
    I imagine the ESV’s influence will grow because of the ESV Study Bible (also loathed by liberals) has now sold c. 250,000 copies and is available online.
    As for me, I say to Christians, let a hundred flowers bloom, but yes, do learn some Hebrew and Greek if you can. The ESV principles are a good guide to the underlying Hebrew and Greek (the OT translation does read fairly literally), and seeks to use the same English word to represent the same Hebrew or Greek (instead of NIV-style periphrasis). The question of ‘inclusive language translation’ is rather more complex than you make it out to be; have a look at the judicious discussion by Don Carson in ‘The Inclusive Language Debate’. The ESV translation of the Psalms is much closer to the Hebrew original than the NRSV, which consistently avoids using masculine singular referents, and in the NT frequently uses ‘friends’ for ‘adelphoi’ or resorts to ‘they’ or ‘you’ when the Greek says ‘he’. So the NRSV is just as much an interpretation as the more conservative models in the line from the KJV (which includes the ESV).

    • Thanks for your comment, Kevin. I’m well aware of the Eastern Orthodox position – they are quite clear and do not pretend to be translating the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible as found in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia which, having worked with the ESV authors you will be well aware is the claim made by them in their preface. In the heavily footnoted ESV text, nothing you have written justifies their un-nuanced translation of ‘almah. The growth of the ESV in no way corroborates its accuracy – it may merely show dissatisfaction with the way God has given us God’s Word and seeking to improve it. I have already agreed with you that the original is better than the NRSV. In the places you are citing is the NRSV being fair in its footnotes?

  5. I have recently acquired a copy of the Bible in Corsican (in order to learn Corsican, the Bible being the best book from which to learn another language), with the modern French translation given alongside. The Corsican has been sourced from the original languages and is incomparably better than the modern French (and I can tell this even though I am just starting out with learning Corsican)!

    The NRSV is what we have in church, although I still have a soft spot for the KJV. The NIV isn’t too terrible either in my experience (first Bible I got on returning to Christianity).

  6. Bosco, I can’t find any discussion of ‘almah in the ESV itself at Isa 7.14, but there is a discussion in the ESV Study Bible, p. 1254, with cross-references to Genesis and Exodus. Matthew evidently thought the LXX had correctly interpreted the meaning of ‘almah (and saw it as a messianic prophecy), and as an evangelical Anglican, I must follow Matthew here. I can’t speak for others who follow different theological principles of evaluating Scripture. The ESV has followed a translation tradition in the NIV and most other English versions all the way back to the Bishop’s Bible. You can find Gordon Wenham’s piece on ‘almah and bethulah in ZAW (c. 1983?).
    Your reference to supposed “dissatisfaction with the way God has given us God’s Word and seeking to improve it” is stilted and reads rather oddly. Are you allergic to using the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘his’ with reference to God? Have you fallen victim to late 20th century feminist Sprachskepsis, or worse? Jesus wasn’t embarassed and neither were the biblical writers (hu’, -o in OT; autos; auton, autou in NT etc). I hope you are not dissatisfied and seeking to improve them. 🙂

    • Thank you all for your helpful contributions.

      Jim, the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not use NRSV, it uses RSV which uses uninclusive language just as the Vatican ordered the Catechism to be retranslated to do after rejecting the first English translation which was gender inclusive. Liking or “just not liking” a version is not the issue, IMO, it is about accuracy, consistency, and integrity of translating. I stand by the NRSV principle of translating into contemporary gender-inclusive English where the original authors intended to be gender inclusive. That is not paraphrasing, it is accurately translating into contemporary English.

      Andy, the RSV is a very good translation. I used it prior to the publication of NRSV.

      Kevin, if as an evangelical Anglican you “must” follow Matthew’s LXX renderings then, clearly, the ESV is totally inadequate and inaccurate (not to mention dishonest) for your subgroup’s purposes. Matthew reads Isaiah 42:4 as referring to Gentiles (Matt 12:21) whilst ESV has this as “coastlands”. Is 40:3 has “In the wilderness prepare…” but as an evangelical Anglican you must follow Matthew’s rendering that the voice itself is in the wilderness (3:3). According to you and the subgroup you must follow, ESV’s rendering of Isa 6:9-10 is incorrect and should be as in Matt 13: 14-15, and so on and on. It seems to me that, clearly, it is not the ESV you should be using, following your theology, but an Eastern Orthodox Bible based on the LXX.

      As to my language being stilted in your ears. This may have several reasons. English is not my first language. I am multilingual – hence my first-hand interest and experience in translation issues. I have a very full-time ministry, this website is a gift – I sometimes have to rush to write stuff in what free time I can manage. I am not aware of having “fallen victim to late 20th century feminist Sprachskepsis, or worse”. I am convinced by Jesus and the biblical writers of the equality of men and women, and that men and women are made equally in God’s image, and by them and the great tradition of the church (including the apophatic) that God does not have a gender. I have no aversion to using pronouns when necessary, and certainly not in translating accurately Jesus and the biblical writers.

      Thank you again for this discussion.

  7. I am new to bible reading and study. I am using RSV 2nd edition because my friend told me that the translation is quite literal. I personaly prefer a literal translation because I need to read and listen to the Word as accurate as possible.

  8. well, the original is better than ANY translation. But I can read the ESV and understand it clearly (and even got J. I. Packer to sign my copy of the Reformation Study Bible — to which he responded “But I didn’t write the Bible!” But he agreed to sign by his name on the editor’s page). Prior I had used the NIV, before that the Jerusalem Bible and the Catholic versions. I tried the “Good News” but their paraphrase of John 1:1 was unacceptable to me

    But, yes, the inclusive language issue was HUGE here in the States, and really was the catalyst that prompted the Evangelical Anglicans/Episcopalians in Canada and the US to call for the ESV, thus the NRSV became more of a paraphrase where personal pronouns were concerned. Even the Catholic church, which had originally welcomed the NRSV, pulled their support of the version, although they had already used it for the revised Catechism (too late to recall/re-edit). Frankly, I just don’t like the NRSV.

    Billy Graham was once asked which version of the Bible was the best, and he responded “Whichever one you use!” Nice response!

    Peace!

  9. I prefer the NKJV and the New Jerusalem translations – the latter, among other things, for the Apocrypha. Not sure about Biblical measures being in feet and inches – isn’t the point of using the original measures that we’re invited into the world of the people we’re reading or reading about?

    Otherwise in life, I’m pretty happy with Imperial measures, we wouldn’t have had SI units imposed on us if it wasn’t for that idiot Napoleon bah humbug blah blah blah…

  10. Ideally, when we read the Bible, we are looking for words that can enlighten our hearts, perhaps even give us the experience of “hearts burning” – but what you quote gives me the image of “dead fish” – something lacking in LIFE, let alone the LIFE of the Spirit.

    Very sad actually… Very sad. It’s as if the translators have forgotten the sacredness of the experience of reading or hearing the Word of God.

  11. OK, now you have pricked my curiosity, which is your mother tongue?

    PS – I received my Mahzor Lev Shalem last week while I was on a quick trip to Dallas. My friend almost sent it back because he forgot I emailed that it was coming. It is more than for which I was hoping. It has some very beautiful secondary resources.

    • David, my first language is Dutch, but I have access to a number of languages in varying levels of stiltedness. What is your first language? I look forward to receiving the Mahzor.

  12. I know this is somewhat off topic, but Bosco, in the years I’ve known you (always via the Internet), I’d never have guessed that English wasn’t your first language.
    As for the ever-expanding number of translations, when I managed OC Books, it began to drive me mad that the publishers were forever bringing out another ‘version’ or another ‘edition’. There was no end to them, catering to every kind of fad (mostly in the US, of course!) Some of the translations were excellent, some pretty awful. I used to loathe Eugene Peterson’s paraphrases of the Psalms but have come to like them more as the years have gone on. In general, his NT stuff is superb, even if occasionally he strays from a strictly theological approach. He always manages to sharpen our interest by the freshness of his approach.
    We think that this endless translating is a new thing, begun in the middle of the 20th century, but of course there had been a pile of translations stretching way back before that – and even the much-honoured King James had a pile of revisions as it aged…

    • I am wondering now, as this discussion continues, whether there is something particularly English-language about our inability to be satisfied with a handful of different translations (formal equivalent, dynamic equivalent, paraphrase), or is this dissatisfaction the same in every large language? Secondly is there (maybe not the right phrase) a “capitalist” philosophy underpinning this – a philosophy of “choice” – “I will choose the translation of the Bible I like” much like a car model, or supermarket chain I shop at?

  13. My mother tongue is Mexican Spanish. Contrary to popular myth it is not Castilian Spanish. The Spanish in Latin America is derived from the language of the Andalusian region of Spain, home to the majority of the foot soldiers and sailors of the Spanish Conquerors.

  14. I also have the CEB. I actually ended up buying mine from Barnes and Noble for $5. I missed the give-away, still it was affordable and I appreciated that with a new translation, aka trail run if you will. I like it overall. I am excited that it’s fresh and new. I understand that it’s not a revision or a remake or update of another modern English translation. The CEB is suppose to be a fresh new translation and I appreciate that.

    I don’t understand the point of updating 2% of the text and then calling it a new translation. I think that’s kinda misleading. There’s not much that’s changed, why call it a new translation. The ESV and NRSV are both revisions. Not much is new to me with either of those translations.

    I started reading through the entire New Testament of the CEB. I was excited about the newness, could have chosen a better name (of course, with as many out there I see why they choose that one). However, I read a comment that mentioned the culture shift and the times changing, I think they missed the mark there. Especially, when they decided to go along with the other popular translations with the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:9. That disappointed me, but I still like it over the NRSV and ESV, which are both decent revisions.

  15. Hi, Bosco. A little “footnote” on the NRSV’s use of paraphrase to obtain inclusive language. As you have observed, the NRSV will often use an inclusive word in the body of the text and give a more literal, gendered rendering in a footnote (and as you rightly stress, the body and the footnotes are both integral to the version — though alas liturgical reading is no more capable of footnoting than of recognizing capital letters!). So, for example, in Luke 17:3 we read in the body text “If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender”. A footnote warns us that the Greek rendered as “another disciple” really says “your brother”. So, as long as we read both, we not only get a sense of the original but also how we might better interpret it in our contemporary socio-linguistic setting.

    The problem is that the occasions when the NRSV actually acknowledges these inclusive paraphrases are relatively rare, especially in the Old Testament, where I have yet to notice a single example. This is most irritating in the psalms, and it is almost never the case that these paraphrases are introduced to reflect more accurately an inclusiveness in the Hebrew original (as was achieved, for example, in Genesis 1:26-27, where ‘adam is translated correctly and precisely as “humankind” instead of the traditional and ambiguous “man”; or Ezekiel 2:1, where “O mortal” perhaps more honestly renders ben ‘adam, i.e. “son of humankind”, than the traditional “son of man”, even if the latter has deep significance for Christians).

    Take Psalm 1:1, which in the NRSV is rendered:

    Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked…

    Here, the Hebrew underlying the NRSV’s “those” is the singular ish, which refers to a male person, not generically to a person of either sex (‘adam). Likewise, among the ancient versions, we note that the Septuagint uses the male-specific anēr instead of the inclusive anthrōpos, and the Vulgate uses the male-specific vir instead of the inclusive homo.

    Compare, then, Robert Alter’s recent literal translation of the psalms:

    Happy the man who has not walked in the wicked’s counsel…

    Now, I have no complaint in principle against the NRSV’s translation of the singular ish as a plural “those”. We might profitably read Psalm 1:1 as an ideal to which all persons should aspire. But the paraphrase is not flagged in the footnotes, nor is such flagging to be observed anywhere in the psalms (or anywhere else in the Old Testament that I’ve noticed so far). And in this case, the paraphrase goes beyond the specific mandate of the NRSV Preface, which says that the translators have tried to address “a deficiency in the English language — the lack of a common gender third person singular pronoun” and to correct those instances where this deficiency “has often restricted or obscured the meaning of the original text”. In Psalm 1:1 it is in fact the NRSV that obscures the meaning of the original text!

    I don’t mind the inclusive paraphrase, but I would have appreciated a footnote. Why? Because it can affect how we understand the text in its original context and in its devotional application. As C. A. Briggs says of the poet of Psalm 1 in his commentary on the psalms (International Critical Commentary, 1906, vol. 1, p. 5):

    “He is not thinking of mankind, men, women, and children; but of men only. He has not in mind all men, or all Jews, or all pious men; but specifically that kind of man he is about to describe, one devoting his whole time, night and day, to the study of the Law; that is, the ideal scribe such as Ezra.”

    Or (and I’ll betray my own Christological psalmic piety here), how about St. Augustine’s gloss on this verse?

    Blessed is the man that hath not gone away in the counsel of the ungodly. This is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    My point is that these arguably legitimate and useful interpretations of Psalm 1:1 depend on knowing that the verse describes a singular masculine person. And I’ll close by noting that the New Interpreter’s Study Bible supplies precisely this information in its notes to Psalm 1, and in many other places where unacknowledged paraphrasing has caused similar problems. So if you want to use the NRSV for close study without constant reference to a Hebrew interlinear, that’s a useful volume to have (as well as for its other outstanding qualities).

  16. Bosco, I’m multi-lingual too and I know many Dutch and Dutch Kiwis, all of whom easily and naturally use ‘he’ and ‘him’ with reference to God. In fact, most Dutch I know speak better English than native speakers! (OK, I’m including Americans there ….. 🙂 ) Your English is fine. The stiltedness was a reference to your avoidance of these words in talking about God. This is a recent fashion in western liberal circles and has no historical basis in Christian theology, whether talking about God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. The language a Christian should use about God is the language revealed by our Lord Jesus Christ. It is hubris to think otherwise. Even apophatic theology has to reckon with positive biblical revealtion if it is to remain recognizably Christian (rather than Neo-Platonic or whatever).
    How Matthew uses Isaiah is a complex question which would take us far from the question of English versions and deeper into LXX – a somewhat different issue but one worth pursuing sometime. You are mistaken in what you say about Matt 12.21 ESV – it is identical with NRSV, and the same goes for Matt 3.3. I am interested in the whole intertextual question – one that makes the NT use of the Psalms very interesting, for one thing. The NRSV translation of Hebrews 2.6-8 garbles the sense of the passage.
    My original point, which I hold to, is that the meaning of ‘almah (and bethulah) is not as simple as some think; e.g., Gen 24.43 LXX renders ‘almah as ‘parthenos’ – which Rebecca clearly was.

    • Kevin, I am not in the slightest mistaken about in what I say about Matt 12.21 and Matt 3:3. NRSV translates Matthew 12:21as accurately as possible from the Greek, and Isaiah 42:4 as accurately as possible from the Hebrew.

      It was you who are determined that Matthew be the arbiter of how to translate Isaiah. You said, “Matthew evidently thought the LXX had correctly interpreted the meaning of ‘almah (and saw it as a messianic prophecy), and as an evangelical Anglican, I must follow Matthew here.” But suddenly and inconsistently you are happy to abandon this principle in your list of “musts” and “shoulds” when it comes to the other texts I noted, and you now enthuse that ESV follows NRSV’s principles in those verses.

  17. Thank you so much, Jesse, for your thoughtful comment. I discovered it in the spam filter – this site as it grows in significance is receiving a distressing amount of spam. I think your comment had a number of links, which the filter determines are spam. I am sorry if other such good comments are being filtered out – I just do not have the time to go through the hundreds in the filter individually. It is certainly unacceptable IMO that ish is not footnoted in Psalm 1:1 and I hope they have the integrity to do this in any future editions. I also have been reinforcing your point to have the primary focus on the original and provide good tools to help with that.

  18. I wonder how much difference it makes what translation one reads on first coming to faith?

    I prefer NIV, I suspect because that it’s the translation I first read seriously, and memorised a large number of passages from when I was in my teens. When I read those passages in other translations, they just don’t “sound” quite the same.

    • Alducia, I think you may have hit on something very important. I am saddened how little scripture Christians have memorised. I lay a significant part of the blame for that squarely at the feet of those who have piled version upon version upon version into our Christian communities. We cannot pray the psalms “by heart” – we cannot access much scripture “by heart”.

  19. Bosco writes: “Matthew reads Isaiah 42:4 as referring to Gentiles (Matt 12:21) whilst ESV has this as “coastlands”.”

    This is nonsense. The ESV of Matt 12.21 on my lap reads ‘and in his name the Gentiles will hope’, which is what the Greek says (ethne elpiousin). The MT of Isa 42.4 is an entirely different question, but the ESV translates this from BHS correctly as well.

    “Is 40:3 has “In the wilderness prepare…” but as an evangelical Anglican you must follow Matthew’s rendering that the voice itself is in the wilderness (3:3).”

    ALL English versions translate Matt 3.3 thus. What is your point? – that Matthew misunderstood or misread Isa 40.3? The translation of that verse in MT is again an entirely different question. Matthew likely isn’t using the MT here.

    “According to you and the subgroup you must follow, ESV’s rendering of Isa 6:9-10 is incorrect and should be as in Matt 13: 14-15, and so on and on.”

    Again, I can’t follow your reasoning. The ESV rendering of Isa 6.9-10 MT is perfectly accurate, and the ESV rendering of Matt 13.14-15 UBS Gk is also perfectly accurate.

    The discussion was about whether ESV was justified in translating ‘almah in Isa 7.14 MT as “virgin”, not the source and use made of Matthew’s OT quotations. The ESV translation of Isa 7.14 seems to be your gravamen against that version, or are there other mis-translations of MT of the Gk that you can cite?
    Jesse has made an important point about Psalm 1 in NRSV, which I could multiply many times over with reference to the Psalter (and none of these examples are acknowledged in the NRSV footnotes). You can’t pluralize or “de-genderize” the Hebrew without bringing in some subtle and significant changes of meaning or emphasis from the original OT context (e.g. in Ps 34.6 it is evidently a man who is speaking; similarly in Ps 119.9; contrast NRSV ‘young people’).

    • Kevin, I am not going to keep discussing in circles with you as you continue to pour out shoulds and musts, accusation of hubris, criticism of my writing style, and now that my point is nonsense.

      According to you Matthew follows LXX in interpreting ‘almah (Isaiah 7:14) as parthenos (Matthew 1:23) and you, “as an evangelical Anglican must follow Matthew”. I am so sorry that you cannot follow the reasoning that Matthew follows LXX in interpreting “coastlands” (Isaiah 42:4) as “Gentiles” (Matthew 12:21) and that you, as an evangelical Anglican, hence, must do so too. The Orthodox Study Bible follows your logic consistently with Isaiah 42:4 having “Gentiles”. The ESV does not.

      Unless you produce some new content and also dramatically change the tone of your commenting this has been your last contribution here.

  20. Jesse, it was none other than The Bard himself who I have been told utilized singular they, to which those is related. However, I agree, in this rendition, it is difficult to ascertain this as a singular reference, especially for those of us for whom English is not our mother tongue. Perhaps Happy is one or Happy is the one would have been a more accurate rendering if one is seeking to avoid genderization. But the true aim of the poet is an interesting bit of information which you supply, which, if true, is vital to really understanding the pericope.

    Kevin, I think that you are overly pious in your whole approach to the topic and perhaps to our faith in general. I find this comment judgmental, and so offensive; “The language a Christian should use about God is the language revealed by our Lord Jesus Christ. It is hubris to think otherwise.” Your lack of an attitude of generosity in your relating to other Christians regarding their faith is the hubris. We know very little about God in the grand scheme of things. We have a tiny glimpse into the experience of Jesus with “his Father.” But I am not convinced that my experience with “my Father,” or whatever works best for me to describe my relationship with God, has to be the same as that of Jesus. I feel no requirement to use his words in my relationship.

    “Christians like you” are so close to having fallen into the trap of those about whom Jesus was most critical in what little we actually know of his ministry, the judgmental and self-righteous Scribes and Pharisees, whom he likened to white painted tombs filled with the bones of the dead. If I understand Jewish cleanliness laws correctly, Jesus accused them of much more than we take of his criticism at face value. He is accusing them of tainting the entire nation as they walk among their fellow citizens and contaminate them with the touch of death! A little humility in your approach to your fellow citizens of God’s Realm would go far in rescuing you from the same fate.

    Father Bosco*, I wonder how many millions of dollars are tied up in all these competing translations. Seems more a waste of resources than an abundance of resources. Do not tell Kevin that I even use Gods-self when writing in English. My liturgy professor was Marjorie Proctor-Smith at Perkins.

    *I confess to humorous thoughts whenever I encounter your name because prior to you, this is my only experience with the name Bosco.

  21. Bosco, my comment on Matthew’s use of LXX was only an aside (observing that Matthew saw the virginal conception of Christ as predicted in Scripture) that you have made central in your comment, without answering my real points about the NRSV. I still do not grasp what you are saying, since it is clear that Matthew is not using the MT. You only translate what someone wrote, not what you think he “should” have written. As one who has worked as a profesional translator, I am talking ONLY about the TEXTS – Hebrew and Greek – that have been translated in our English versions, and whether they have properly rendered.For the Orthodox, the LXX (+ Apocrypha) *is* their authoritative version of the OT, but that isn’t how it is for Anglicans, as we follow the MT.
    The discussion was really about whether ‘virgin’ was a justified translation for ‘almah in Isa 7.14 MT. This (I understand) is why you have criticized the ESV, and I asked for further flaws in the ESV, as you perceived them.

  22. David, I have never been accused of being “overly pious” before, but there’s a first time for anything, I guess! You write by way of dissent:

    “We know very little about God in the grand scheme of things. We have a tiny glimpse into the experience of Jesus with “his Father.””

    – agreed (‘eye hath not seen’ etc)- but what we do know IS true!That’s the meaning – and beauty – of divine revelation. A much better guide to the truth about God than even the best of natural theology (which I believe in, too – I have a lot of respect for Thomas Aquinas).

    “But I am not convinced that my experience with “my Father,” or whatever works best for me to describe my relationship with God, has to be the same as that of Jesus.”

    – it couldn’t be. He’s the eternal and perfect Divine Son.

    “I feel no requirement to use his words in my relationship.”

    – I do. ‘This then is how you should pray. “Our Father …..”

  23. Kevin, I am patiently stretching my last comment to you, as your assertion “that Matthew is not using the MT” is a very significant shift from your earlier position in this thread that “Matthew evidently thought the LXX had correctly interpreted the meaning of ‘almah”.

    Please indicate where it says Anglicans are required to follow the MT.

    I have indicated places I find the NRSV translation unacceptable. You seem incapable of acknowledging a single flaw in ESV. I find such an attitude astonishing and in fact hazardous as it gives a false sense of reliability to the majority of English speakers who, unlike you and me, are totally monolingual and have no grasp of translation issues. I clearly indicated significant other issues in my link in my second comment on this thread.

    I find your response to David unnecessarily dogmatic and patronising. One might argue that we are by grace what Christ is by nature. And I am sure that David regularly prays the Lord’s Prayer, but I have never seen any Christian tradition that would make this the sole or even majority prayer in our life.

    Finally, this thread is primarily about the value or not of the Common English Bible.

  24. Bosco writes: “Please indicate where it says Anglicans are required to follow the MT.” We always have followed it, at least since the 16th century when English translations (and Anglicanism) began, and for English speakers arguably before, when Wyclif translated from the Vulgate, which Jerome based on the MT. Which is, incidentally, why Jerome rejected the Apocrypha, and his judgment was accepted in 1562 by the Church of England in the 42 Articles (#6 in the 39 Articles). Thanks to Jerome, Western Catholicism has been ‘MT-based’ in its OT usage from the 4th century, while the Eastern Church continues to accept the LXX as authoritative. This is not really an issue for inter-church relations, since no trinitarian or christological doctrines are at stake here. But as an Orthodox friend once pointed out to me, reading the Psalms in LXX is fascinating, because you keep hearing references to ‘kurios kai ho christos autou’ etc, so the Greek speaker, at least, hears the Psalms very christologically. (My Hebrew NT recreates the same effect for Hebrew-speaking Christians.)
    OT translation for ‘Western’ Christians continues to be MT-based, as the gradual appearance of BH Quinta indicates, but I imagine LXX, Symmachus etc will continue as important witnesses for emendation in the critical apparatus.
    The ESV (and the 1952 RSV on which it is 95% based – making the ESV a not too distant cousin of the NRSV!)is entirely contemporary in its language but it isn’t the easiest version for those who have only English – which reflects cultural and educational changes that you may regret as much as I do. Versions come and go. The NEB was popular in some Anglican circles 30-40 years ago, and it later spawned the REB. The TEV started as a version for those for whom English was their second language, and it’s still useful as a starter. I suppose longevity will be the decider; it took a long time for the KJV to supplant the Geneva Bible.

  25. Bosco writes: “You seem incapable of acknowledging a single flaw in ESV.” That’s because I haven’t read it all, though no doubt infelicities exist. My chief interest has been in OT narrative, where the ESV can read rather woodenly, but that is because it seeks to follow the Hebrew idiom closely (‘word for word’ rather than ‘dynamic equivalence’/ ‘thought for thought’ a la NEB/REB or TEV; the NIV seems to be a compromise of these two translation philosophies), and I haven’t really found places where I dissent from the translation offered. Where ancient literature is concerned (Latin or Greek), I’ve always encouraged students to give rather literal translations, even when this doesn’t produce great English style, simply to demonstrate they’ve picked up the actual details of the source language.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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