Comments: An Issue of Biblical Proportions

This has been the direction of texts ('The [Western] Canon') for some years, there are no authoritative screeds, and the centre holds not at all, regardless of subject matter. It's a bit of a chestnut but after all it's only the letter that's dying, not the spirit!

Posted by Orfanum at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 10:30am GMT

'after all it's only the letter that's dying, not the spirit!' - I wonder whether you can separate them quite as easily as that. The letter - in the case of the Bible - is the ultimate source of the spirit. If we no longer share that, what are we sharing other than some general and vague sense of goodwill? Apart from those with a more fundamentalist disposition, the general body of churchpeople are becoming increasingly unfamiliar with the basis of their supposed faith. Is that really sustainable?

Posted by Ferdinand von Prondzynski at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 12:20pm GMT

Bible passages are like gun shots, fired by evangelicals (especially) who want to make a kill. Being a peaceful sort of person, I don't do it. It's the same as saying God is on my side, and I've never done that either. But then few are chosen, as they say, to handle the guns.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 12:53pm GMT

After reading several books on the origins of Scripture (apparently it didn't fall out the clouds with a halo around the still-smoking quill after all), it occurs to me to point out that actually since before the Common Era, Jews have been actively experimenting with *varying the interpretation* in order to make the most charitable reading out of a passage, in their studies of the Torah etc.

The variety and diversity of modern translations[0] hints at the degree of attention one should not pay to detail. Even more optimistically, maybe it even hints at the ongoing evolution of Biblical ideology surrounding and involving the text. That would be no bad thing; it is high time we got away from this fundamentalist approach as a reaction to Darwinism, after all.

[0] in my case, I always check Luke 15, parable of the forgiving father, where the prodigal son variously "began to be in want" or "began to feel the pinch"(!). If translations don't feel the need to say exactly the same thing on the scale of 5 words, then that is, if not exactly a lower-bound, then at least a hint of the scale at which one should seek meaning in such detail.

Posted by Tim at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 12:59pm GMT

Your observation is well made and I sympathise with your regret. I have similar feelings about liturgy which varies, disconcertingly, not only from parish to parish but from week to week in the same parish, so that my children don't pick up any fixed point of reference - not the creed, not the Lord's prayer, even; there is a bewildering lack of stability which massively reduces the cumulative impact of churchgoing on those who are not yet really paying attention.

One good thing, however, is that the lack of consensus on translation does perhaps reflect a lack of certainty about what exactly is meant; and helps us to reflect on meaning, instead of merely on the words.

Posted by badman at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 2:00pm GMT

Bart T. Ehrman points out that, of the surviving NT texts, the number of variants exceeds the number of words -- a commonly agreed translation might be a great consolation, but it is a tremendous lie (as great consolations all too frequently are)

Posted by Prior Aelred at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 2:31pm GMT

Well, any group of scholars will have some bias; for objectivity is a myth.

That said, there is something important to be said about translations based on good scholarship. That won't lead us to one recognized translation, but it will narrow down the field. The Authorized King James, the RSV, NEB, Jerusalem, NIV, and NRSV translations have some bias; but at least they were done by scholars qualified to argue their positions. Looking at them together can give some guidance.

The same cannot be said for the plethora of editions intended to make Scripture more "accessible" - at least when "accessible" really means "entertaining." I do fear sometimes that we are so enthused when someone expresses interest in Scripture that we don't stop to ask what Scripture, and what about it, interests the person. Limiting our use to translations with good scholarship behind them can help with that, and perhaps a lot.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 3:45pm GMT

I can see that this may turn into a bit of a ding-dong again, Ferdinand but that does not mean I should not reply:

"The letter - in the case of the Bible - is the ultimate source of the spirit."

Isn't God though supposed to be the ultimate source of the spirit? I am not being facile here - hopefully perhaps others who are theologically better trained can comment.

Isn't what we share a faith, rather than a creed or a particular instance, edition, translation or interpretation of the Bible?

I am not left feeling just 'some general and vague sense of goodwill' by not being able to state conclusively that this or that version of the Bible is correct. Are we really feeling that we must have uniformity in order to be sure of our faith?

I am not sure I like the sound of 'dominant Bible' - how can there be when we have in any case so many languages, let alone so many iterations in many of them. Are we all to learn Hebrew, or Greek or Aramaic, in order to receive the spirit? This smacks rather of treating the Bible as the Koran is apparently treated, with the concomitant view of how differently God is revealed in that religion, compared to Christian belief, precisely in regard to the Spirit.

I am sorry Ferdinand but you just seem to hit a nerve with how you express these things - I find it, well, full of a certain cast of kultureller Pessimismus, as though the real subject matter is not the Bible, but located elsewhere.

Posted by orfanum at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 4:01pm GMT

As someone is reported to have said to the rector when modern English translations were first being used in worship, "If King James English was good enough for Jesus, its good enough for me."

We are here at a fracture point in Christian tradition over the matter of authority, between those who believe the Church created the Bible and those who believe the Bible created the Church.

In the former perspective, the Bible is one vehicle through which God speaks, but not the only one. There is, for example, tradition, or reason reflecting on experience.

In the latter perspective, the perspective of sola scriptura, etc, the Bible is the way God speaks to us. End of conversation.

In point of fact, the Church did create the Bible, that is, recognized from among many candidates the specific texts through which it believed God speaks to us.

But that inconvenient reality does not seem to get in the way of the earnestness of the sola scriptura crowd.

Posted by jnwall at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 4:52pm GMT

I don't think the NRSV has an "agenda". They had a translation philosophy which is set out in their foreword which explains why they made some of the choices they made. English has changed and it makes sense to translate in a way that people can understand. The RSV's position on archaic language is completely nonsensical.

Personally, I think a literal interpretation of the Bible is self-contradictory. The Bible literally says the second coming should have happened in the 1st Century. I don't know how you uphold the literal truth of the entire Bible and that uncomfortable fact.

Posted by ruidh at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 5:59pm GMT

Tim @ 12:59, I swear I've met good-hearted Christians who think God handed the complete King James Version to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
I'm a lector at the TEC church I attend. Not knowing much about TEC canons, I one time asked the priest who was to be celebrant at the Eucharist I would be reading at whether I could change "kings" in the text to "rulers". By doing so, it made the entire text inclusive, and did not go against any formal Christian teaching. He looked at me, in total astonishment, and asked if I felt I had been given authority to edit God's Words. I wanted to argue I was "editing" a human translation, not God's Words, but I simply said "no" and all was peaceful.
When we argue points of doctrine, when fundamentalists fire Scripture verses like bullets, aren't we indeed arguing over English translations? Possibly imperfect translations? Virtually none of us are fluent in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine. So we are arguing, not over God's Words (or, more accurately in my opinion, God's revelation as understood by mortal men and women), but over the translation of those words.
Yes, it probably helped greatly when the CofE, the Anglican world, and much of English-speaking Protestant Christendom used the KJV, but that version, also, has an agenda. How many disputes with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters have been fueled by dueling translations?

Posted by peterpi at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 6:33pm GMT

I think Prior has hit the nail on the head (so to speak). We're never going to know what originally was written> There are so many variants, as Ehrman points out in "Misquoting Jesus," that coming up with a true text to translate is impossible.
What I find even more interesting is the fact that the Roman Catholics have books included in their Bible that some Protestants took out and the same with the Eastern Orthodox churches (Check out the canon used in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church).

Posted by BobinSWPA at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 6:36pm GMT

Ruidh said: 'I don't think the NRSV has an "agenda". They had a translation philosophy which is set out in their foreword which explains why they made some of the choices they made'

OK, but that's exactly what an agenda is. I didn't say it was necessarily a bad one. But once you have one, you are likely to be driven into putting the accuracy of translation into second place, against the delivery of your agenda.

But that's not really my main point of concern. If we want to maintain a sustainable Christian community, scripture (whatever ultimate significance any of us may believe it has) is going to be one of the shared properties that will keep us together (along with liturgy). If it becomes unfamiliar, it cannot play that role.

And orfanum wrote: 'Isn't what we share a faith, rather than a creed or a particular instance, edition, translation or interpretation of the Bible?'

But what does that mean? What is the faith, and how is it significant, if it has no shared theological underpinning? Without scripture and creed, isn't it just whatever occurs to me and whatever you're having yourself? That might make me sound a little like the former Cardinal Ratzinger, so I should add that I believe strongly in a liberal ethos and a flexibility of dogma; but it still needs the shared scripture and the shared theology; otherwise the faith has no real substance.

Posted by Ferdinand von Prondzynski at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 6:40pm GMT

I want to thank you, Ferdinand, for bringing up this important subject.

So often, in discussing "The Unpleasantness", I find that my opponents aren't even willing to listen to me. For them, "homosexuality is condemned in the Bible", and that's that.

What's incomprehensible to me, is that these same persons can't seem to grasp the ANACHRONISM, of their Bible translation, wherein believers of the 1st century CE (and earlier) explicitly condemn a concept not ***invented*** until the 19th century!

And round and round and round we go... Lord have mercy!

Posted by JCF at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 6:48pm GMT

"Bart T. Ehrman points out that, of the surviving NT texts, the number of variants exceeds the number of words -- a commonly agreed translation might be a great consolation, but it is a tremendous lie (as great consolations all too frequently are)"

Problems with translation and with establishing the underlying text are of course two different things.

I never read Professor Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus," but, from a quick perusal, it doesn't appear that he ever actually identified any "Jesus-misquotes." The issues raised in establishing a text are of course quite interesting, but most decent bible translations are footnoted with textual variants, and, once you get past the Johannine Comma, the endings of Mark, and the Woman taken in Adultery, the variations quickly become quite trivial, and, when noted, as is common, they hardly rise to the level of making the text a "lie."

Translation is a different matter, because even a fixed text can be translated differently, the connotations of the original's words being different from the connotations of the words in the translation language. Meanings can be ambiguous even without translation, and particular translations may require decisions that the original leaves open.

There is also the problem of the aging of the language of a translation, though I despair at the inability of so many to handle even seventeenth century English. I see that some college editions of Shakespeare and Milton now come with a "translation" of their work into "contemporary English." This does not bode well.

For myself I've tried to learn the original languages for study, and stick with the 1611 Authorized Version for coasting in English, just because it has a certain "patina" and resonance with modern English literature and rhetoric (and also, admittedly, because I grew up with it and its phrasings are buried deep in my memory).

We American Catholics are pretty much stuck with the New American Bible for the liturgy. I hate to moan and groan about it because so many make such a big deal about it. The NAB is accurate, and I agree there's a need for a common text. But its phrasing often strikes me as awkward. Still, I'd agree that common liturgical use should not embrace the plethora of translations that undoubtedly assist study when one isn't familiar with the original language.

Posted by rick allen at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 7:25pm GMT

As a progressive believer, I must agree with three points. The variants of even the most ancient extant scriptural texts - along with those reasonably inferred as further existing, according to contemporary cites of those eras - suggests that: the whole world could not contain the books that have already been written about Jesus of Nazareth as the Anointed One of God. (Touch of awed hyperbole, there, methinks. Oh, for the Great Library at Alexandria, and all the variant gospels.)

Crossing language domains adds further variety. Rare indeed is the simple, literal, facile translation of one clear thing in language A into nothing but a full equivalent in language B. Thus does space, blur and lots else come into play as we translate scriptures from one tongue into a second.

Finally, history is not all that ambiguous: the worshipping, witnessing, following, serving communities of faith - extremely varied before the canon was finalized-consolidated at the great Constantinian councils - pre-existed the written scriptures. Thus, on history alone, one could fairly assert that such communities of faith - worshipping, witnessing, serving, and following - trump what we know these days as sola scriptura. Indeed a fair historical account of sola scriptura seems to demonstrate that it arose as a protest against just the variety and open-endedness of the living communities which trump it.

Is God and revelation, deity's self-discloure, pat, neat, done, finished, inerrant? Or, messy, varied, open-ended, capable of believers painfully yet gratefully and graciously correcting their errors in understanding?

Those believers who pledge that they have locked the Spirit up, fast, sure, in their sola scriptura allegiances are already suffering a sort of torment. Face to face, such believers vary and fudge about as widely as anybody else we know, including ourselves and one another. Still, the sola scriptura believer too often sounds and looks and acts as if he or she were suffering from something like agoraphobia, terrified. First constructing a closed iron box as a presuppositional requisite - not only for safety (that would be sad enough), but also, alas, for even the possibility of love and compassion. Very, very sad. Then ever needing to exit, feel, think, perceive, and act - from inside the locked iron box that is sola scriptura.

Spirit=swimming about, to follow Jesus? Or. Spirit=being, say, two fathoms tall, standing on the bottom of the oceans?

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 7:42pm GMT

..the New Revised Standard Version might become the dominant Bible, but I suspect this is not happening, and if I am honest, I have to admit that I am going off it somewhat; it, too, has too much of an agenda.'

I should be very interested and grateful to hear what its agenda is. Forgive my ignorance in this regard.

I was brought up on the AV too, and feel that the like of a shared text, to which you refer,is a terrible loss. The para-phrase of Matthew or whatever, was totally unrecognisable to me, and seems barely to be literate English -let alone literature.

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 8:44pm GMT

I remember seeing a pamphlet a few years ago about the inerrancy of the Authorised Version, published by an Amercan evangelical body which stated that because a known lesbian had been on the translation committee of a particular version that version could not be a reliable translation of God's word.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 8:58pm GMT

I am rector of a 4-point parish. One of my congregations has a NRSV lectern Bible, 2 use the RSV, and one uses the NEB. In addition, some of the lectors prefer to use their own Bible rather than the lectern Bible, and could read from the KJV, Good News or NIV. As a result, my preaching style has evolved to not be dependent on a particular rendering of a text, or if I do focus on specific words, to make note of how different translators have rendered them differently. For the congregations, I think this pushes them to focus not on the words but on the ideas, themes and spirit.

The first time I led a Bible study in the parish, I did not provide copies of the passages, as my predecessors did, but encouraged participants to bring their own Bibles. Initially, it caused much consternation when someone read aloud words that were different from what others saw on the page before them. But after I started encouraging members to note the differences and discuss them, it led to deeper engagement of the text and its message.

Posted by Jim Pratt at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 10:31pm GMT

"One good thing, however, is that the lack of consensus on translation does perhaps reflect a lack of certainty about what exactly is meant; and helps us to reflect on meaning, instead of merely on the words." - Badman -

I couldn't agree more with badman's statement here. So-called Biblical Scholars are just as prone to bias as any other sort of proponents of a particular shcool of theology. This is why I welcomed the Jerusalem Bible when it first appeared. Supposedly from a mainly Roman Catholic majority perspective, it also engaged the services of scholars from other traditions, giving us an overall, one might say ecumenical, view of the Bible. It's easier to read, and humane, interpretation of the Scriptures helped me, for one, to understand more than was accessible to me as a theolog with the R.S.V.

The King James is still used here at the early 1662 Mass on Sundays - mainly because of the people who value it's resonances - understood or not. It's theological thrust is in line with the Prayer Book compilers.

It strikes me though, that as Jesus taught in parabolic form, it doesn't do us any harm to have the Bible read in different forms from time to time. This might give students of the Scriptures a more open view of which translations reveal to them, personally, the most satisfying and clear understanding of what was actually being said by the authors, in the context in which they were actually writing. Comparisons may also give students a better understanding of the particular slant being employed by individual publishers.

The Parables of Jesus were surely meant to be 'heard/read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested', which suggests the need to search for a contextual understanding of the situation being addressed. What needs to be understood is that the words in the Bible are meant to reveal a greater reality - the Word-made-flesh in Christ.

To idolise the words of Scripture, at the expense of a liturgical celebration of the Word-made-flesh in the Eucharist, is to have missed the point of what Scripture is meant to reveal about Emmanuel - God-with-us - "That which we have heard, we have seen with our eyes, this is the Word of life...". - Saint John Evangelist.
Sola Scriptura attitudes can never address our need for meaningful liturgical actions which are based on Scripture, Tradition and Reason - the typical Anglican Way.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 30 January 2009 at 11:59pm GMT

My concern is that in a country where forms of Christianity are polarized, it is easy to imagine that different bible versions used give away the religious background of the user.

The NIV is so closely associated with the Evangelical movement, whose anti-Catholicism ranges from soft and squishy to hard and violent, that using it to quote Scripture is a sign of being "Christian," which is a polemical term to denote that others not like them aren't. (Don't even bring up the new version called the TNIV, because Filipino Evangelicals generally and dutifully follow the Focus on the Family school of thought.)

On the other hand, two dominant versions among Roman Catholics include the New American Bible (invariably, the quote is taken from the lectionary version, if it is used) and the modified Jerusalem Bible known as the Christian Community Bible. Using them is a touchstone of Catholic orthodoxy, meaning that others could very well be steeped in heresy.

The NRSV? Outside academic circles in the Philippines, I seldom hear it being used in worship outside of two Episcopal communities I know. On the other hand, it is a more positive sign that the bibles in the vernacular are all shared translations--and perhaps that is why, sadly, I fear Filipino Christians of every stripe are uncomfortable with using the vernacular in worship or anything else for fear that... well, we may all be one.

Posted by Ren Aguila at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 2:25am GMT

There is an interesting problem with respect to what constitutes an accurate translation. Consider one of my favourite French proverbs: "j'ai des autres chats a fouetter." Literally, this would be rendered into English as "I have other cats to whip" but the idiomatic translation is "I have other fish to fry." So, which is "accurate"? The answer is that both are accurate; but which is the more useful? I suggest the latter.

As the Italians would have it: traduttore tradittore (to translate is to commit treason).

Posted by Nom de Plume at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 2:59am GMT

If the NRSV is becoming the standard, it's not so in the American heartland, it would seem.

Just before Christmas, my wife and I happened to be in a Christian bookstore located in an outlet mall in Lancaster, PA. They had, of course, a large section of Bibles. They must have had some two dozen different editions of the King James, about half that many of the RSV, quite a few of the Jerusalem, not to mention a fair sprinkling of many of the newer "modern" translations and paraphrasings. There was even a shelf of Catholic versions of the RSV.

What was obvious in its absence was the NRSV. Curious, we asked the manager. "We can order it," he answered, "but we don't keep it in stock because nobody around here asks for it."

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 3:42am GMT

"The RSV's position on archaic language is completely nonsensical."

Not at all. Sometimes it's important to know if one person is being addressed, or several. Standard English has lost this distinction, and until they come up with a Bible translation that uses "y'all" as the second person plural, words like "thou" have their place.

Posted by BillyD at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 4:08am GMT

Aelred wrote: “Bart T. Ehrman points out that, of the surviving NT texts, the number of variants exceeds the number of words…”

But Venerable Prior, in Academia this is a l w a y s negated, dismissed and claimed to be of no importance! For instance, because the number of churchy texts preserved (and thus the number of variants) widely surpasses that of Plato…

Moreover, Oral Tradition (un-lettered men have long memories), is – especially at Lund – rightly claimed to be reliable (think the Upanishads. After all, capital punishment for Forgery was only introduced by “the State”, pen in hand), but then people forget that changes are never without a “cause” – mostly Ideological, Academic, Dogmatic and Social (in short Political) and some of them can indeed be identified precisely because of that…

But we – as students of the Holy Scripture – are not supposed to see it…

However, different “words” – and different forms of “words” – come out of different contexts, different Times. They m a y be dated ;=)

What if we were allowed (encouraged, even) to look for changes in texts?

Also, changes often do not add up, exposing the difference of the Layers…

Not least; although changes often stand out (and end up being carried forwards…), they were m a d e precisely because someone thought a certain point was n o t in the text, originally…

But to us, they often seem to say what our late Neo Platonic pre-conceptioned pre judgement makes us believe s h o u l d (and must) be there, anyway…

We – as students of the Holy Scripture – are taught n o t to see...

But let’s not forget the most outrageous: the elder translations (following the 12th century Versio Vulgata – an exquisite forgery itself) tend to be infinitely more reliable (the VV being based on a concordance word to word its distortions are relatively easy to identify), whereas the Modern to late modern Dynamic Equivalence ones (post 1950) pile up their anti Modern Social-Political Agendas.

And let’s not forget either, that today’s so called “Canonical” Bibles are mid 16th century only; expressing the ecclesiastic rivalries of Rome (long; keeping the Deutero Canonicals of the LXX Old Testament) and Marburg (short; rejecting the same ;=)

Talk of cutting and pasting!

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 8:37am GMT

"...until they come up with a Bible translation that uses "y'all" as the second person plural, words like "thou" have their place."

And, as a former New Yorker, what's wrong with "youse"?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 11:25am GMT

Wait - I just realized that the RSV doesn't use "thou" for people. Never mind. Bring back the AV. :-)

Posted by BillyD at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 12:53pm GMT

Father John Smith wrote: "... the Jerusalem Bible when it first appeared. Supposedly from a mainly Roman Catholic majority perspective, it also engaged the services of scholars from other traditions, giving us an overall, one might say ecumenical, view of the Bible."

"Ecumenical" only aggregates the Errors!

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 1:22pm GMT

"One of my congregations has a NRSV lectern Bible, 2 use the RSV, and one uses the NEB. In addition, some of the lectors prefer to use their own Bible rather than the lectern Bible, and could read from the KJV, Good News or NIV"

Why? I hadn't realized that the C of E had gone congregational!

TEC only authorizes a very few translations for public worship. NRSV is one of these. The choice of translation is, I think, the rector's, by canon. [I could look that up but am lazy]. Why don't you choose the translation you want and require that it be used in all four churches?

A lay reader who substituted her or his favorite translation should be gently reminded that church is not the place for 'my favorite translation.'

In a Bible study, having a variety of translations can make for useful discussions about the art of translation, how the biblcal texts have been established, etc etc.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 1:38pm GMT

The Church of England's official position on versions to be used for public worship can be found here:
http://www.cofe.anglican.org/worship/liturgy/commonworship/introduction/bible.html

and also here:

http://www.cofe.anglican.org/worship/liturgy/commonworship/texts/lect/scriptver.html

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 1:53pm GMT

Thanks for the links. The only title that raises a question for me is the Good News Bible - isn't that a paraphrase rather than a translation, and isn't the intended audience for it readers with minimal reading skills? Or am I thinking of another version?

A popular printing of the Bible in the US is called the Red Letter edition, in which Jesus' words are printed in red. A friend who worked in a local book store had a customer ask if they had Bible with "The red words of Jesus." Yes, they did, she said, and found one for him.

He came back a week later, wielding the Bible and wanting a refund or the REAL Bible with "The red words of Jesus." Ny friend said that it DID have Jesus' words in red.

"But not all of them," he said," There's only red words in this bitty part at the back of the Bible!"

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 3:42pm GMT

Now, given all the good points made here about the challenges of translation and the problematic nature of the idea of a definitive version, lets get back to the basic point of the original post.

I think this was about the value of stability, of the predictable and familiar, of having expectations and having them fulfilled in religious matters, and especially in worship.

I would affirm that. In fact I would say that it is very important in a parish to have a set order of worship that is familiar and predictable, and to change it only when there is pressing reason -- such as the change of seasons in the church year, for example.

I am not a parish priest but if I were I would settle -- at least for long periods of time -- on one translation of the Bible, on one musical setting for the ordinary, on one eucharistic prayer, on one set of choices from among the various options for prayers, etc.

We do live in a world of choices and there is a valid work for the church in being in some ways a still point of predictability among the flux.

I once read a book called The Dynamics of Faith which if taken too literally would mean never changing anything about worship, but its points about the value of continuity and predictability are worth considering before making up worship anew every week.

Posted by jnwall at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 4:24pm GMT

"The only title that raises a question for me is the Good News Bible - isn't that a paraphrase rather than a translation, and isn't the intended audience for it readers with minimal reading skills? Or am I thinking of another version?"

It is a paraphrase, intended for the proselytising by "Sectas" of the good Roman people in South America. Hence its name "Good News Bible"...

Strangely enough it has influenced the last Swedish State translation 1981 and 2000, to the point that there are passages in 1981 which have been translated l i t e r a l l y, not from the Greek, but from the TEV! John 5, for example.

Even more strangely, the two guys who were chiefly responsible for the 1981 were Romans (one officially, one secret - until afterwards ;=)

So beware...

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 5:12pm GMT

Jim Pratt is on to something. Although I do to some degree lament the loss of a common text, if we can avoid the ghetto (and my lot are used to me having a go at NRSV), we are driven back (a) to decent commentaries and (b) for those who can, the 'original' texts.

Someone once said there is no such thing as 'The Bible' only 'bibles', and maybe the loss of a single authoritative translation makes us more aware of that. Mind, the biblical equivalent of monoculture, The Nearly Indispensable Version, is coming threateningly close to becoming the divine ipsissima verba in places!

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 5:41pm GMT

Yes there has never ever been one definitive Bible text in any language.

And different denominations have differing Bibles in the sense that, they contain different collections of books. So the RCC has one 'Bible', the Orthordox Churches differ among themselves, from country to country in some instances; and then , oh then there are us protstants !

The AV Bible dominated in UK; and the William Morgan Bible (of 15oo and something) was the Bible in Welsh until the Beibl Newydd Cymraeg (New Welsh Bible) came out in late twentieth century.

The translation of Bishop William Morgan (Penmachno) was crucial in its effect on Wales , well beyond the religous sphere.

We must never forget that the Bible is also literature, and both these Bibles have had an enorous effect within their respective linguistic communities.


Posted by Rev L Roberts at Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 7:01pm GMT

"The letter - in the case of the Bible - is the ultimate source of the spirit." - Ferdinand -

Well, not quite true, Ferdinand, as you well know.
This is stated aqdequately in the ascription after the lesson readings in the modern liturgies: "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church" e.g. in the case of the N.T. : first; the Spirit, then the Incarnmate Word, then, finally the written word.

And then, of course, there is the dynamic of the Spirt/Word, still alive, still being interpreted in contemporary Church. The only irreplacable, constant, word, is the Word-made-flesh.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 1 February 2009 at 5:42am GMT

The Biblical aspiring province in North America clains the authority of Scripture..yet they have no fault divorce....and a wide range of contradictory interpretations of the sacraments.....now if that is Biblical fundamentalism..how does it differ from liberalism? Except that it is homophobic.

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Sunday, 1 February 2009 at 6:47am GMT

Oh...

It's just sloppy thinking, sloppy theology and sloppy hermeneutics.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Sunday, 1 February 2009 at 4:05pm GMT

As a light-hearted note, may I contribute this true story to the proceedings? In my former parish, one of our Bible-study members - formerly a member of the local Baptist Church - tells of how, on one occasion, when challenged about his theological objections to any sort of liturgical practices; took down a large Bible from his study book-shelf, placed it on the floor and set his feet squarely upon it, proclaiming: "This is where I stand". - I guess he was a literalist!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 2 February 2009 at 3:18am GMT

Its interesting how a lot of those fundamentalists love the King James Version..but few of them read the preface with the strong condemnation of Popish persons and those who beat out their own doctine on their anvils... that is free Churchmen!

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Monday, 2 February 2009 at 12:30pm GMT

Yes, the Preface is terrific ! Beautiful language too.

I love 'certain Popish Persons at home and aboad' and 'hammered on their own anvil' ! But then I have been sustained over the years by a great sense of humour.

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Monday, 2 February 2009 at 2:25pm GMT
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