Update (12/28/06): There’s a good review of the Clear Word Bible on Thinking Christian titled Book Review: “The Clear Word”. This review goes into much greater breadth and depth on this book that is not even truly a paraphrase of the Bible.
Since I regularly come to the defense of various Bible translations some folks may be wondering what would annoy me about a Bible translation. Amongst the generally available translations, I really do think that the vast majority are generally accurate. Readability varies widely. A number of passages in The Living Bible concern me, and generally I don’t recommend the acknowledge paraphrases for serious study, though I do recommend dynamic equivalance translations for such study, though some people still call them paraphrases.
But the Clear Word Bible, paraphrased by Jack Blanco, and published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association seems to cross the line in some instances. My problems with this translation are not due to Seventh-day Adventist doctrine, but rather to Blanco’s apparent softening of the text.
Many of the notes are explanatory. For example, Matthew 20:16, which reads literally, “Thus the last shall be first, and the first, last” becomes:
That’s the way it’ll be when God’s harvest ends. The last will be first, and the first will be last. Many are called to work for God, but not all of them can be saved. Some of God’s workers gladly do what they can with no thought of pay. Others work very hard for God but think only of what’s in it for them.
This is clearly beyond even paraphrase or a cultural transposition, such as the Cotton Patch Bible. It’s substantial commentary added to the text. To be fair, Blanco does indicate in the preface that this is a paraphrase and that it should not be used “for in-depth study or for public reading in churches.” It is difficult to limit what people do with paraphrases, however, as many tend to view them just as another Bible unless they have some knowledge of translation. Few people think about the specific use of a Bible–they just like them or they don’t.
I’m going to take some quick examples from Numbers 31. This is a very difficult chapter and one that we might well like softened, though it seems to me that this is impossible. Nonetheless, Blanco makes a try at it.
|2||“The Moabites and the Midianites need to be punished for what they did to Israel. Buit for now you need to punish the Midianites because they were the most aggressive in tempting the men of Israel to sin byu leadning them into adultery and idolatry. After that you need to come up the mountain and prepare to die.”||Take vengeance on the Midianites for Israel, then you will be gathered to your people.|
|There are a couple of things that are softened here. First, to modern eyes, if Moab and Midian did something to Israel, we ask about the fairness of punishing just Midian. Blanco fixes that for us. Second, he turns vengeance into punishment. But surely wiping out the entire tribe qualifies as vengeance!|
|15||He said to them, “Why have you spared the women? Are you so attracted by them that you have to bring them home with you? Don’t you know that Midianite women dedicate their bodies to their gods?”||Moses said to them, “Have you left the women alive?”|
|In this verse we’re provided with a reason not mentioned in the text for keeping the women of Midian alive, and a much more detailed justification for why Moses was angry. All of this tends to soften the harshness of the actual text.|
|17-18||So execute every adult male that’s left, even though he did not serve in the Midianite army, and every adult woman who has had sexual relations, because they have dedicated their bodies to Baal, but save the children and the young girls because they’re still virgins and have not yet given their bodies to Baal.||And now kill every male among the children, and every woman who has known a man by having sex with him, but all the young girls who have not known a man by having sex with him, keep alive for yourselves.|
|The phrase “every adult male” simply reverses the meaning of the text, and produces a contradiction in the story. The adult males had been killed (v. 7). This was the command to kill the male children. We might well prefer–indeed much prefer–Blanco’s reading, but it’s not what the passage says. Apparently he is replacing “male children” with “men who didn’t serve in the army.” Then the entire phrase “save the children” does not occur in the source text, nor is it implied. Rather, it is directly contradicted.
He continues to provide a reason to save the children–because they have not dedicated themselves to Baal. But again the text actual says they are to keep them alive “for themselves.”
It is clear that the Clear Word Bible has taken several steps past paraphrase, and in my view even past commentary, and instead is reversing the meaning of the text in some cases, while softening it substantially in others.