Thursday, 28 June 2012

Bible translation and the KJV bias.

Unconciously, we as humans love association. That scent that reminds you of that long lost love, the sight of a sunrise reminding you of childhood spent abroad, that faithful translation that reminds you of how wonderful the KJV is.

Regardless of what translation we read, we see the KJV as the pinnacle, and all translations are trying to be as majestic as that ONE translation that wows us. I am a bible collector, and despite my disdain for that "liturgical" bible, I have more KJVs than any other translation (seconded by the ESV). I have masonic editions, family bibles, Collin's reference bibles etc.

Yet I hardly read them, My family bible is a fancy display piece. But how could I seriously read it, it isnt written to me, its written to 17th century folk. I'm someone who struggles to understand "contumely" in my NEB yet alone some of the nonsense of the KJV. It is nonsense by the way, if you dont understand it; its nonsense.

This is what brings me to my point of this afternoon's rant.

Today arrived my REB (Revised English Bible), this is a revision of the NEB, published in 1989, it was meant to keep the elegance of the NEB but update "theological bias" basically in line with the KJV crowd - granted they wouldnt admit that but its basically the case. I've discovered in my time that the KJV has been kept as a guide for what a bible should be like. Thats why the ESV is so popular in the reformed churches, because it sounds like the KJV just without the thees and thous.

The NEB was a rogue translation, popular in the methodist churches and the more liberal denominations. It gained more popularity than even the translators expected, Thus in churches such theologically controversial passages were being read in churches:

*In Matthew 5:3, the New English Bible interprets the first Beatitude, traditionally (and literally) rendered  "Blessed are the poor in spirit", as "how blessed are those who know their need of God." [wikipedia]

*In 2 Tim 3:16, the New English Bible renders the verse traditionally translated as "All scripture is given by the inspiration of God" as "all inspired scripture is given...".

* In Psalm 22:16, the New English Bible renders the familiar passage traditionally translated "... have pierced my hands and feet..." as "... hacked off my hands and my feet..."

Not exactly damnable heresy, but by the time of the REB it was returned to KJV territory [psalm 22 has "bound" instead of "hacked", still not the pierced of KJV but less explosive.] Basically the revisers were scared that the revolutionaries of the NEB era would do more damage than good - at least in my opinion. Whilst the NEB has some dodgy theology in [Saturday resurrection] Its no worse than the Catholic tradition of Good friday - Easter Sunday. So whilst its not ideal, its nothing that a discerning man can't figure out. Also remember that the NEB wasn't meant to be read in churches! It was meant to be read by those who can't understand the KJV, the KJV was still meant to be read in the church. It was "The Message" for the 60s. So the whole conception that the NEB was interpretative is making the assumption that that wasnt the point, it was meant to be a little cooky because hey: we have ALOT of formal translations around, RV, ASV, KJV, Weymouth, EBR just to name a few. So lets be interpretative. Thats why theres so many footnotes in the NEB, so that people are aware of the formal equivalent of verses.

You know, I've been reading a nice little PDF: here from Andrews University, which actually says of the NEB: "It tended to be too colloquial [p1]", "It was a bit too bold in its textual critical selections [p1,2]".

What cowardess! What if these bold selections are correct? So, they don't fit into current mainstream theology therefore they are "too bold"? and colloquialism! Thats the point, a less lofty bible means you can understand it better, anyone who reads the NEB will see that it isn't exactly "common", it has the grace of 40 years to give it a similar air to the KJV [it was also intended to be poetic] but its far easier to understand even now. These assertions that the NEB needed updating, fail to understand the bar the NEB raised, suddenly we had a single column, easy to read, literary feast, that we knew wouldnt be anything like the KJV, it opened our eyes to the possibility [Just read Genesis 6] that the Bible didnt need to be some dry far removed historical tome, but could in fact be engaging, to hear Jesus as an English Gentleman of OUR era, instead of some 17th century yokel, or as some bland Americanised fellow, really has shocked me, it makes me want to read more because NOW he is speaking in a way I get. Real English!

If anything, the NEB shows that dynamic equivalence doesnt have to be boring, using English properly, the Bible can become alive. Now please don't think that I hate the REB, it has alot of the NEB in it, but I feel that the revisers missed the point, and it shows. The NEB should have been left alone, perhaps updated. the REB should be a new translation altogether.

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