Yet Another Bible Translation

I see that yet another Bible translation is coming down the pike. After watching the people on the video moan and groan because they can’t read any of the older translations (maybe it’s because they can’t read much at all), we are treated to a translation that gets things wrong right off the bat in Genesis 1:1. Their translation: “When God began to create the heavens and the earth—the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters—.” They treat verse 2 as a parenthesis, followed by verse 3 being the climax. This translation says something vastly different about physical matter than the more traditional interpretation does. The CEB assumes that matter was already existing when God began to do His creating work. Since time did not exist before creation, this translation assumes (or at the very least strongly suggests!) the eternality of matter. One wonders why in the world they opted for this translation when the vast majority of scholars and translations have examined it and rejected it. It smacks of trying to be edgy, and I despise that in Bible translation.

In terms of style and readibility, what does this translation offer that the New Living Translation doesn’t offer? Is the NLT now too archaic? Or let’s even talk about, say, the NIV. Why is the NIV now so incredibly unreadable? And these are only those which are on the dynamic equivalent side of things. Is the ESV, NKJV, or even RSV so very difficult? I would even argue that the KJV is not nearly as difficult as people think. Those poor people must not have searched very long if they couldn’t find a Bible they could understand. One has to make a little effort, or does the translating world now think that we have to dumb everything down to the lowest possible level? I admit to being harsh here. That is because I do not believe that the proliferation of translations out there is doing us any favors. Now we have a niche translation for every possible sector of society, and a resulting Babel of confusion when it comes to biblical literacy (I wonder whether that even exists anymore).

In terms of modern translations, my two favorites are the HCSB and the ESV. I especially like the translation philosophy of the HCSB, which the dynamic equivalent folks need to pay far more attention to. But as I am reading my KJV through this year, in honor of its 400th anniversary, I am finding that with a little perseverance, the KJV is not difficult.

Don’t we have enough English translations now? We have them on every possible spot on the translation philosophy spectrum, and we have them on every possible spot on the conservative/liberal spectrum. We have them on every possible spot on the spectrum of this supposed criterion of “readibility.” Scholars really need to find something else to do with their time.


  1. Fred Greco said,

    May 6, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    That video makes me want to vomit.

  2. Chris E said,

    May 6, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    The two biggest reasons for new translations/versions of the bible marketing and finance.

    Incidentally, wasn’t the HCSB heavily driven by Lifeway’s desire for a translation to which they owned the copyright – coupled with Zondervan’s onerous royalties on the NIV?

    Even the ESV could be said to be a minor revision of the RSV with marketing muscle behind it.

  3. May 6, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I dunno, I’d like to see a new NKJV-style translation based on the Majority Text.

  4. May 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    What a ridiculous video! Those people aren’t able to take the focus off of themselves long enough to notice that they are the problem, not some modern translation. They also seemed to be really well rehearsed (the cynic in me thinks they’re professional actors). In any case, the attitudes expressed sure reflect our culture, don’t they?

  5. May 6, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    […] Yet Another Bible Translation […]

  6. May 7, 2011 at 12:53 am

    […] Yet Another Bible Translation « Green Baggins […]

  7. Jim Cassidy said,

    May 7, 2011 at 5:06 am

    Did you see the list of translators? Yeesh. What a mixed bag. Dan McCartney was listed as PCUSA?

  8. paigebritton said,

    May 7, 2011 at 6:04 am

    I thought that what the video people most needed were good teachers, who would introduce them to the “peculiar speech” of the Bible! (Though yes, they were doubtless professionals, being so remarkably well-coiffed, especially the spiky guy.)

    But here is a small plea for realism, from down here at the grass roots: even when working with adults anymore, the need is not just to teach them biblical literacy, but literacy itself! Which does not mean that a new translation is necessary for the task, but a sensitivity on the part of pastors and teachers to how baffling complex sentences are for many people. The bright looking individuals in the video we might put in a “they should know better” category, but the very real salt-of-the-earth saints that I work with in one of our SS classes need a lot of hand-holding as they come to the Bible for the first time as adults. (We say, “Reading one of Paul’s sentences is like eating an elephant: you have to take it one bite at time.” :)

    Though it’s a big job, the joyful part is that when the Spirit is working in the heart, there is great motivation to learn, and the gift of literacy is one of the treasures bestowed on those who persevere with God’s interesting and complex Word.

  9. Sean Gerety said,

    May 7, 2011 at 8:21 am

    I don’t think scholars will stop coming up with new translations until all those silly Christians start believing the bible is nothing more than a man made and infinitely malleable creation. After all, they’ve succeeded in convincing most Christians that Mark’s gospel ends with the disciples being afraid; others that the Father is really a Mother, or at least is gender neutral; that older discarded, forgotten, and unused manuscripts are somehow “closer to the original autographs” by virtue of age and are therefore superior. I don’t know, I think scholars have a lot more work to do.

    Let’s not forget the work that still needs to be done on that horrible nearly dead doctrine of predestination. God doesn’t really predestine anyone to hell after all, even if there is a hell (see Rob Bell). One of my favorite translations for new or young Christians is the New Living Translation. You should pick one up. Here’s a little from Ephesians 1:

    God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.

  10. James S said,

    May 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    They can make new translations till the cows come home. I’m stil sticking with my old tattered and torn New American Standard Version. Their use of putting OT texts that are in the NT into italics and great use of the margin for important notes is the thing that makes it better than any new one coming down the pike. Why these new translations don’t do these things is beyond me. Thats where the ESV blew it as far as I’m concerned.

  11. Matt Beatty said,

    May 7, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Aw, c’mon. That can’t be for real?

  12. Cris Dickason said,

    May 7, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Jim (#7) –

    That list is very mainline! Also, it must be fairly dated already. Lists Dan McCartney as WTS-PA as well as PCUSA. Back when Dan was in Phila he was PCA (but worshiped at at same OPC as me). Dan has been in Dallas for 3years now.

    BTW: Camden did a great theology exam and sermon at Presbytery today and is now licensed to preach the Word!


  13. Cris Dickason said,

    May 7, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    CEB Video: “The Bible just doesn’t hold my attention like the stack of novels by my bed.” Well, surprise, surprise!

    So, on a serious note, what do y’all feel about the pew Bible/pulpit Bible? Does the minister need to use in the sermon the same version that is in the pew racks and is read for the OT/NT readings or the text reading part of the worship service?

    How many folks in your church sue the pew Bible vs. bring their own? How many of you or your local fellow members feel the need to personally adopt the same version in the pew racks?

    Curios as we’re evaluating change of pew version.


  14. May 7, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Amen #3 and #9!!!

  15. Eddie said,

    May 8, 2011 at 2:54 am

    … and meanwhile, there are still 340,000,000 people, speaking 2,000 different languages who don’t have a single word of Scripture available to them.

  16. bsuden said,

    May 9, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Just what we need. More Babble translations. First the Zondervan, then the Nelson, now the Crossway. The Holman I had not heard of.
    But not only did the NIV dynamite the doctrine of verbal inspiration by means of dynamic equivalency, how much did the Extremely Similar Version pay the NCC for rights to the RSV text?

    Much more as stated above, it is the church’s job to translate the Scripture, not the bible societies or the for-profit publishing houses. That, as well as spoon feeding the slow of understanding in the preaching, instead of dumbing down the translations of justification, sanctification, the atonement etc.

    The sixteenth century Reformation in Europe led to confessional unity in the church and to the adoption of a single generally accepted translation in each language area. However, modern theology, which seeks to “liberate” the church from her old confessions, has led to a diversity of theological opinions and a multiplicity of translations. The professing church is no longer united in doctrine, and this disunity is reflected in the use of many translations of Scripture. . .

    The future of the Bible is therefore tied to the future of the church. Those who wish to see a restoration of the doctrinal purity of the church must also strive for the restoration by the church of a church Bible. Those who wish to gather all believers into the visible church must not leave Bible translation to others.

    Jacob Van Bruggen, The Future of the Bible 1978, p.144

  17. K H Acton said,

    May 9, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Like the HCSB, this version was done to get around high use fees. Abingdon, and Cokesbury chafe at the royalty fees of the NRSV as much as LifeWay chafed at the NIV. LifeWay gave us the HCSB for Southern Baptist Sunday School curriculum and Cokesbury is giving us the CEB for the United Methodist/PC(USA)/Disciples Sunday School curriculum.

  18. Kevin White said,

    May 10, 2011 at 2:37 am

    That excerpt from Genesis 1:1 sounds like a dumbed-down version of the NRSV translation. Which fits well with what K H Acton said.

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