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A Gender Neutral Example – Hebrews 2:6-8

A Gender Neutral Example – Hebrews 2:6-8

A couple of days ago I discussed gender-neutral language in a post dealing with both inerrancy and Bible translation issues. Today, as I was doing some reading about Hebrews, I encountered a vigorous comment against such language in a passage in Hebrews. The passage in question is Hebrews 2:6-8, and it quotes from Psalm 8:4-6. The NIV translates the first anthrwpos as “mankind” and then huios anthrwpou as “a son of man.” They then continue with a series of plural pronouns in the explanation.

In his The New American Commentary: Hebrews, David L. Allen responds to this translation with some vigor. (Note that he is responding to the TNIV, and relying on the text of the 1984 NIV, but the text of the 2011 NIV has in it every difficulty he references in his discussion. I really can’t get the flavor of his arguments without quoting more than I’m going to quote in a blog, but he starts with two major issues. The first is that by obscuring the anthrwpos/’adam reference with a plural (TNIV uses “mortals” while NIV2011 uses “mankind”) one loses the sense of the unity of the human race through descent from Adam. Secondly, by using plural references in succeeding texts, one makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to connect this to “son of man” as a Messianic title for Jesus. Whether this was the intent of Psalm 8 in its original context, it appears to be an intent of the author of Hebrews.

Of these he says:

Third, to change the word or phrase to a more “gender neutral” expression, especially in light of the other two problems above, is simply an exercise in linguistic political correctness. (p. 240, Nook edition)

The issues here are somewhat more complex than any case I was referencing in my earlier post. When you have someone address a congregation that includes both men and women using adelphoi, the issue is more one of referent. In this case, we need to ask a couple of questions:

1) In what way was the author reading the passage? In other words, how would he have understood it in then making his argument? It seems courteous, in a sense, to render a quotation in the same way as the person quoting it intended. This is by no means uncontroversial. If an author quotes the LXX, as is done here, but the Bible translation in question translates its Old Testament from the Hebrew, what should be done? There are cases in which a translation will accommodate their own rendering of the OT verse to the translation as they have it in their OT, whether or not that fits the author. On the other hand, to have the author of Hebrews quote Psalm 8:4-6, and then have the rendering there differ from what a reader will find when he or she turns to the Old Testament in that very same Bible edition can (and will) raise questions. So it is a case of decisions, decisions, and no matter what you do, there will be disagreement.

2) What will your readers miss when they read your rendering? In this case we have two choices. We might leave out some understanding of the unity of humanity and the connection between a singular son of man and Jesus. On the other hand, for some readers, we might be leaving out the sense that this is humanity and not just some particular man. I know of nothing that would cover all options except for an explanatory note, and most of us are likely aware of how many people read explanatory notes.

I don’t consider this a clear case of a change of language requiring a change of translation. The word anthrwpos, as used here, is covering a different semantic range, and the translator needs to take that into account. The danger into which the NIV2011 and the TNIV have both slipped here is that they undercut the author’s presentation by using a different translation of the passage he’s building on. He chose the LXX of his time. Perhaps we should honor the idea of his choosing a translation by translating that translation in a way that matches his use.

What do you think?

NLT for Academic Study

NLT for Academic Study

Chris Heard asked via Twitter whether the NLT was suitable for academic study.  T. C. Robinson has given an answer:

Concluding thoughts: The NLT, New Living Translation, is simply too loose to be considered a serious academic Bible.

While I have some sympathy with this point, I have to ask just what the definition of “serious” and “academic” are in relation to a particular Bible translation.  Most of my teaching has been of lay people, and thus I’m probably not looking for a serious academic Bible however those labels are defined.  Nonetheless it seems to me that this is too broad an answer to a question that needs a bit of definition.

For example, what are these serious academic students doing with the particular Bible?  If they are doing exegesis suitable for scholarly publication, or perhaps for training in order to do scholarly publishing, then I would argue that no translation is sufficient to the task.

On the other hand if they are doing a survey type of study, the NLT might be a quite workable option.  I would especially recommend it for reading whole books.  I should note here that even when teaching lay people I’m in the habit of asking for such shocking things as reading of an entire book, and not the book of Philemon.  Try Ezekiel or Isaiah.

In reading a whole book I find such translations as the NLT, CEV, TNIV, and a few others quite helpful.  Personally, I like to read a book through in several versions as I follow the 12x reading recommendation I learned from my mother.  I find it difficult to maintain concentration when reading something 12 times from the same version, so I’ll use a variety.  For that purpose, the NLT is certainly helpful.

I also find the NLT very useful in comparison with my own translations.  Normally if I’m going to preach or teach a text I will do a written translation of my own.  I then like to compare that translation to a range of versions.  Normally I prefer to teach from an English version which is available to my class, provided there are not too many variations in the way I read the text.

I don’t know whether I agree with T. C. or just how I’d answer Dr. Heard’s question.  I have a hard time conceiving of recommending any single English translation for serious academic study.  But perhaps I’m thinking of something other than what was intended in the question.

Promising Series on TNIV, HCSB, and NAB

Promising Series on TNIV, HCSB, and NAB

I think Kevin Sam over at New Epistles has made an excellent choice in selecting these three translations to study as “intermediate” and he’s off to a good start explaining why he’s doing it.

I note his apology for the term “intermediate,” but that is not such a bad choice of language. I rate translations on a scale of one to ten for formality and similarly for functionality (see examples at MyBibleVersion.com). It is important to realize that these translation types are not narrow pathways to follow, but rather more general principles.

How one combines them in translation, for example choosing formal equivalence except for specific circumstances, can produce some interesting results. In the case of the NAB, for example, I gave a rating of 4 for functionality/idiomaticity and a 9 for formality. The TNIV is 3 and 8 in those two categories, while the HCSB is 2 and 9. This implies that the NAB is using paraphrasing and careful choice of English idioms in specific places, whilst generally following a formal equivalent line.

My practice in producing these ratings is to use a list of verses which contain idiomatic expressions and also to test the translations of sample passages for how many words are strictly justified in a formal sense. In the case of the HCSB, I’m not certain the numbers are valid, because as I read more and more of it, it seems uneven in practice. I may write a bit more on that as I go forward. With a small number of sample passages, it could be possible to get an invalid reading.

In any case, I await the remainder of this series with interest and will be comparing it with my own notes.

Comparing 1 Peter 3:13

Comparing 1 Peter 3:13

Yesterday I commended the HCSB translation of this verse. Today let me give a couple of other options:

  • HCSB: “And who will harm you if you are passionate for what is good?”
  • REB: “Who is going to do your harm if you are devoted to what is good?” [Doesn’t read well, in my view, even though I love the REB]
  • TNIV: “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?” [Excellent, though I like “passionate” for this context]

Not of these are horrible, nor are a number of others I read. I still like the HCSB best on this one.

Revisiting Acts 17:26

Revisiting Acts 17:26

Yesterday I blogged about the HCSB of Acts 17:26, and in particular the portion that reads something like “made of one ______”. The KJV reads “blood” which is one of the textual variants, while the HCSB says “man” which apparently does not occur in any of the ancient manuscripts.

Since I read these lectionary texts daily for two weeks, today I encountered it in a different version, this time the TNIV, surely not one that could be accused of supporting anything like “male representation”, and it also read “man” in this case.

I’m not at home right now, so just looking at the immediately available Bible versions, I see the following:

  • REB reads “from one stock”
  • NRSV reads “from one ancestor”
  • CEV reads “from one person”
  • ESV reads “from one man”
  • TEV reads “from one human being”
  • God’s Word (GW) reads “from one man”
  • ISV reads “from one man”

I think that’s enough to see that most of the versions break where I would expect, with the exception of the TNIV. I wonder what their justification is here. It seems to me that since a number of ancient scribes appear to have provided options, but none thought of “man” here, it is unlikely that ancient readers would have understood this to refer specifically to the one man as human ancestor.

I’d be interested in comments on the reasoning behind the use of “man” in this verse.

Reading from the NIrV

Reading from the NIrV

The New International Reader’s Version never got much traction, especially here in the United States, but I do have a copy, and I chose to do my lectionary reading from it this morning. That kind of reading is helpful in getting a quick feel for a version. I can ask myself how I would teach this passage if I were using this particular version. Because the lectionary includes a variety of types of passages, I get a feel for how it will read.

This version is to some extent aimed at the same readers as the New Life Version, about which I blogged a couple of days ago. Those for whom English is a second language should do well with this version, as should children, and those working on their literacy. Christian programs designed to teach reading could use this as a reader.

It pretty much reverses the comments I made on the NLV. First, it is much more even in its style. This probably results from committee work, and from the fact that it is the revision of an existing version. One person will have a hard time matching a committee in terms of making the style even. Of course, one should note that a committee will never produce the likes of The Message either, while one man did!

The NIrV uses very simple syntax. Let me quote a couple of verses from 1 Samuel 16 to illustrate:

The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you be filled with sorrow because of Saul? I have refused to have him as king over Israel. Fill you animal horn with olive oil and go on your way. I am sending you to Jesse in Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it. Then he’ll kill me.”

The LORD said, “Take a young cow with you. Tell the elders of Bethlehem, ‘I’ve come to offer a sacrifice to the LORD.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice. The I will show you what to do. You must anoint for me the one I point out to you.” — 1 Samuel 16:1-3

Now you’ll also notice that unlike the NLV, the NIrV uses some of the somewhat technical terms, “anoint”, “elders”, and “sacrifice.” The NLV avoids all of these. The NIrV answer to the problem of this sort of vocabulary is a dictionary provided in the back, at least of my edition. Many Christian I encounter cannot understand the problems with these words that seem common to them. But if you grew up in church, you actually speak a “church” dialect. Even many unchurched people in the United States grew up with this church dialect. Versions that aim for readers whose English is at all weak, or who are not part of the church community already, have to take such issues into consideration.

This type of simplified syntax, and partially simplified vocabulary works better in some types of passages than others. I was reading lectionary passages for Lent 4 and 5 of cycle A this morning. Let me list the passages in the order of how effective the NIrV translation was. I’m considering here public reading, preaching or teaching, as well as conveying the intention of the passage as it was written. Any Bible translators reading this will almost certainly be able to predict this list if they know the eight passages.

  1. 1 Samuel 16:1-13
  2. John 9:1-41, John 11:1-45
  3. Ezekiel 37:1-14
  4. Romans 8:6-11; Ephesians 5:8-14
  5. Psalm 23, Psalm 130

Basically, the simplified syntax is quite effective in narrative portions. I wouldn’t mind preaching from those passages at all using this version. It is a little bit less effective in the gospels, and that difference is accentuated because it is the gospel of John which is somewhat subtle in vocabulary and symbolism. Normally, I think a passage from the prophets would be difficult to work with in this simplified of a version, but Ezekiel 37 is narrative in form, and it’s actually quite effective there. The epistles lose something in translation. Paul is writing complex, and the translation is simple. Finally, such simplified syntax does very poorly in poetry, though the NIrV does break out poetic lines unlike the NLV.

All of these differences are not faults of the translators or translation; they are simply facts of life. When you translate poetry, for example, you can translate either the literary quality and nuances, to whatever extent possible, or you can stick with the intellectual content. The NIrV, quite understandably, sticks with the intellectual content. You can’t write great poetry with simplified syntax and vocabulary.

There was one really awkward wording, and I’m not sure exactly how I would explain it in teaching. I’d probably simply give my own translation and explain from that. It’s in 1 Samuel 16:5, where Samuel tells the elders of Bethlehem, “Set yourselves apart to him . . . ” I’m not sure what that would mean. I know what the Hebrew means, but I don’t recall heard “set apart to ___” unless the blank was verbal.

Overall, I maintain my initial impression. This version is a good version for outreach or for use by anyone who is working on reading skills in English. Though there are a number of good alternatives, such as the CEV, NCV, or the TNIV. The last of these is not quite a simplified as is the NIrV, or at least that is my impression.

Misunderstanding Translations

Misunderstanding Translations

A friend drew my attention to this article on the ESV today, and I’m deeply disappointed in what I found there. I’m going to comment on some key difficulties with that article. But the author also links to this article by John Piper, which doesn’t so much surprise me, as put in context some other things that I’ve seen in his writing.

Let’s look at Piper’s article first. A few days ago, in blogging on Piper’s book The Future of Justification, and specifically on his response to N. T. Wright’s understanding of 2 Corinthians 5:21, I commented on how much Piper’s book seemed to be driven by how certain interpretations would preach. There are a set of doctrines which Piper believes, and he seems to look first for an affirmation of this reformed doctrine that he teaches, and then he’s looking for texts that he can use to preach those messages effectively. It would be easy to overstate that case, because Piper can and does use exegetical arguments for his point of view, and undoubtedly defends certain doctrines because he believes they are Biblical, but there is simply a different flavor in what he writes than there is in N. T. Wright.

But here, when he turns to Bible translation, there are simply numerous points that sound naive to a student of Biblical languages. Since I’m pretty sure Piper is not naive, I am led to believe that he is being drawn to use these arguments due to his strong views on other doctrinal points. Let’s take a look. Piper says:

. . . My biggest concern has to do with preaching. When a paraphrase becomes the standard preaching, reading, memorizing Bible of the church, preaching is weakened—robust expository exultation in the pulpit is made more difficult. Preaching that gives clear explanations and arguments from the wording of specific Biblical texts tends to be undermined when a Bible paraphrases instead of preserving the original wording on good English. And when that kind of preaching is undermined, the whole level of Christian thinking in the church goes down, and a Bible-saturated worldview is weakened, and the ability of the people—and even the pastors themselves-to root their thoughts and affections in firm Biblical ground diminishes.

You will note that he makes explicit what I have been observing. Preaching is driving him on these issues. That’s not entirely bad. The man is clearly a very gifted preacher, and he should be concerned.

But look at the next sentence. “When a paraphrase becomes the standard, preaching is weakened.” The specific example of paraphrasing that he has in view is the NIV. This is not the loose paraphrasing of The Living Bible; we’re talking about the quite conservative translation principles of the NIV. So why is it that he believes preaching is weaked? “Preaching that gives clear explanations and arguments from the wording of specific Biblical texts tends to be undermined when a Bible paraphrases instead of preserving the original wording on [sic] good English.” Did I read that right? Paraphrasing replaces the original wording, and whatever other variety of translation, presumably that used by the ESV, preserves the original reading.

Well, I have news for you folks here. I can read Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. I study from those original languages regularly. Nowhere in them is there found a single word that matches the ESV or any other literal English translation. Why? Because the English translations are in English rather than in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic. Now somebody is thinking that Piper knows that, so he must mean something else. If you think that, please comment and show me where Piper indicates that he knows that. In fact, in the very sentence I just quoted, he points to the problem of arguments from “the wording of specific Biblical texts.” The only way that you have the “wording of specific Biblical texts” is if you have it in the original languages.

The advocates of literal Bible translation, or formal equivalence which is a more descriptive phrase, play a game of pretend. They try to get English wording that looks as much like Greek (or Hebrew, or Aramaic) wording as it’s possible for English wording to manage, and then they pretend that this is somehow more equivalent to the source language. But that assumes several things, all of which are generally not true.

  1. The meaning is primarily contained independently in the words. This is untrue. Without context, which includes the grammatical form of the words and the syntax in which they are used, one can be dangerously wrong about the meaning of a specific word. Very often the translation unit has to be the phrase or even larger in order to get the original intent.
  2. English words arranged like Greek words will suggest a similar range of meanings to the reader. Again, this is false. In fact, they will almost always suggest a different range of meanings. Context in the target language (English in this case) saves the translator over and over, because an English word that might overlap only slightly with its English counterpart can be clarified through creative use of the context. One word might be translated by a phrase. In other cases a word might be translated by a punctuation mark.
  3. The English reader is best equipped to disambiguate an ambiguous passage, thus the ambiguity should be preserved in the translation. Again, this is horribly naive. It is hard enough conveying a precise meaning for a Greek phrase or sentence in English. It is virtually impossible to convey the same range of possible meanings, with the same weighting in English.

Those are only a few examples.

Piper goes on with several reasons why literal translations should be preserved. He says: “A more literal translation respects the original author’s way of writing.” What? Again, the word “naive” comes to mind, but I have a hard time thinking it of Piper. It seems more logical that his commitment to certain doctrinal positions unduly influences him. But I can tell you that style is again terribly difficult to translate. One can aim for a similar level of formality, but actually reflecting the original style? It is actually much easier to respect the style of the original in paraphrasing. I have often thought that the only way to truly respect the style of the book of Hebrews in a translation, for example, would be to completely rewrite it into a more modern sermon style outline. That would, of course, require massive paraphrasing, and would create numerous other areas in which the translation was less reflective of the original, but it might get the picture of the high quality style of the original. What many critics of dynamic equivalent (or functional equivalence) translations fail to realize is that translation always involves compromise. You will convey some things to your readers, and others you will not.

His point #4 on the ESV, however, is bluntly a howler:

A more literal translation which preserves ambiguities that are really there in the original keeps open the possibility of new insight by future Bible readers.

The only place the ambiguities are fully preserved is in the text in the original language, and it is only preserved for those willing to put in the effort to attain an adequate reading level in the source languages to truly work through those possibilities. No translation, on the other hand, can cut off “the possibility of new insight by future Bible readers” unless those readers are naive enough to assume that a translation should be the source of those new insights.

I particularly like the examples used. One is Romans 1:5, “the obedience of faith” in which presumably the ESV is doing the better job of conveying the “ambiguity” to English readers. Now quickly, all you English readers who don’t know Greek, tell me the range of meanings that are possible for the Greek genitive. How will you know what that “of” means in Greek? Well, most of you will not. Many of you will get it from a fallible preacher like John Piper (or me, in a much smaller number of cases), instead of getting it from a fallible translation committee. The problem I have here is that the fallible translation committee is probably much less likely to be in error on the matter than is any one preacher. (I use the word “fallible” so frequently because of Piper’s reference to the fallibility of translators. I think we should be aware that teachers, preachers, and of course bloggers are also fallible, and thus if the end user of our theology gets the meaning of the text from us, he is working through more layers of fallibility than if he simply used a dynamic equivalence translation in the first place.)

Now to return to the first article I mentioned, I see there most of the arguments for literal translations rehashed. But in this case there are a couple more things that need to be flagged for serious concern.

He recommends this:

A good thing to do is to purchase an Interlinear and examine a dynamic equivalent with the Greek text (or Hebrew if possible). The ESV has a reverse interlinear that is quite helpful for this. This allows you to see not just how the ESV translators did on the translation but allows you to see what the literal translation is from the Greek text. There is also an NIV edition of this of which I own myself and I believe you will be surprised to see how much of the NIV goes off from the Greek text.

This is a very dangerous paragraph. First, an interlinear will not let you know how far someone has departed from the Greek text, but rather it will tell you how far your translation departs from the interlinear representation (itself a translation) of the Greek text. All you are doing in this case is comparing one translation to another unless you actually know the language. An interlinear is just a translation–only less. It is a very bad translation. But it goes a step further than the literal translation in deception. It makes people feel that they truly are looking at the text in the source language, when they are not. (I’ve discussed interlinears before here.)

I’m going to largely skip over the material on “politically correct” translations. Suffice it to say that none of the translators of the major Bible versions are trying to be politically correct. What they are trying to do, and in the case of the TNIV doing quite successfully, is translating the intent of the Bibles language on gender into similar meanings in English. The whole debate about gender accuracy throws the entire “literal Bible” error into sharp relief.

Like both of the others I’ve quote here, however, I do not want to tell you not to use one English version or another, if it works for you. But I think both authors fail in their effort to do so, because they strongly suggest that you favor a literal version. My suggestion would be that you instead choose a Bible that you can read easily, and then also have one or two other major versions to which to compare it. Most people today are not going to learn the original languages. Piper suggests that ambiguity in the text is cut off by dynamic equivalence translation (which he inaccurately calls “paraphrasing”). A better approach would be to look at more than one clear, natural translation where you can see each rendering in context. Many English readers would never imagine all the possibilities; that’s what translators are for.

Why I Hate the KJV

Why I Hate the KJV

It’s about time for one of my periodic posts on the King James Version, signaled by comments from a KJV-Only advocate to some earlier posts.

As is usual, the commenter does not interact with anything I say about this issue, but merely affirms the need for a solid foundation, provided in the KJV. In this case, the commenter tells me that the KJV has never been proven wrong. I can hear his question: How can you be so perverse as to fail to give homage to the Bible. To the KJV-Only advocate, Psalm 19:7 does not read “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” but instead reads “The King James Version is perfect, converting the soul.” This particular commenter didn’t ask me why I hate the KJV, but that usually comes somewhere in the discussion.

Well, the answer is that I do not, in fact, hate the KJV. The title is tongue in cheek, though I wouldn’t be surprised to have it used as evidence of my hate. I also do not hate the Douai-Rheims version, the Geneva Bible, Wycliffe’s translation, or the Latin Vulgate. I just don’t recommend that you use any of those as your primary study Bible nor do I recommend you use them for scripture readings. Some exceptions can be allowed for those who are experts in the appropriate language. I consult all of those except Wycliffe on a fairly regular basis.

The KJV is simply one translation of the Bible. It is special because of the time, place, and circumstances of its translation. It is, perhaps, the single most important accomplishment of English Bible translation, though that would be debatable. Its translators worked out some quite good translation principles, and they worked with substantial literary skill. To one who has any feel for the language of that period it is truly a work of beauty. (I must, however, give a nod to the considerable subjective element in beauty. I find it beautiful.)

Having said that, it is also an historical artifact. It is no longer easily understood by modern audiences. Our knowledge of the Biblical languages has advanced. We have many new manuscripts available, and we also have more advanced tools with which to study them. As a choice to use as a study Bible today, or for Bible readings in church, or as a reading Bible, it is not good for the majority of readers. I would make an exception for that small group of people who have actually mastered that language.

The KJV-Only movement is thankfully getting smaller. It has the effect of turning people away from the Bible rather than toward it. It is largely a means of maintaining personal authority for pastors and teachers who have placed their dependence on a particular English version rather than either going to the original languages, or using multiple translations to help get perspective.

Again, I must make clear that I do not refer in the previous paragraph to people who prefer the KJV while respecting other translations, or to pastors who use the KJV in teaching a congregation where that was the preference. I question the wisdom of such a thing, but I do not call it dangerous. What I call dangerous is the teaching that the KJV is the one, true word of God.

I used to write about this frequently, but I don’t any more, fundamentally because I’ve run out of things to say, and I haven’t seen a new or interesting KJV-Only argument to which I can respond in some years. They just repeat the same thing over and over. I’m more interested now in getting people to move to newer versions that are suitable for outreach, such as the CEV, TNIV, or NCV amongst others.

But having gotten some comments I just had to blow off a bit of steam on the topic. I now return you to your regular programming.

Personality and Bible Translation Preference

Personality and Bible Translation Preference

My post yesterday, titled must personality, is in response to a two part series by Wayne Leman over at Better Bibles. You can check out part 1 and part 2 there, along with a quite substantial number of comments.

Wayne says that his initial thesis, which he presents even though he feels it was disconfirmed, was this:

Those with whom I disagreed with about Bible translation were so set (whoops, sorry, deeply principled!) in their ways. And those with whom I have had some of the most difficult interactions in the past often have scored with a “T” (Thinking) on the Myers-Briggs profile. So I assumed that those who believed so strongly in the value of literal Bible translations and lack of value of idiomatic Bible versions must also be a Myers-Briggs “T”.

I’m wondering, however, if there isn’t still some point to his hypothesis. I’m one of those Ts, though I generally agree with Wayne on Bible translations. But I have an almost compulsive need to read things in their original languages. Even in such languages as Akkadian which I read only with the most tedious effort, I still like to at least check key points of any translation I’m using. Now my limited ability indicates I should probably give more credence to the translation, but I still go look.

Now perhaps many T personalities don’t have the same experience I have had with discovering translations that are literal but misleading. If they don’t have the time, energy, talent, or whatever else it takes to study the original languages, perhaps they would be driven, unlike me, to go to the translation that feels closest from their point of view. I rarely use the NASB, for example, because I can produce that for a passage in a few minutes, and do so regularly as my “working translation.”

On the other hand, even having produced an essentially literal translation, I am often at a loss for English words that express well the thought that I’m sensing in the text. I can go to the [tag]NRSV[/tag] to check my work, so to speak, but to get effective wordings in English I’m more likely to check the [tag]CEV[/tag], [tag]REB[/tag], [tag]NJB[/tag], or [tag]TNIV[/tag], along with a number of others.

It’s just a thought.

PS: For those in the comment thread over at Better Bibles, I haven’t commented because one is required to have a blogger account, and I can’t even remember my ID. Hopefully I’ll find it at some point. I’ve never had a “blogger” blog, but I did at one point have an account.

New Bible Format

New Bible Format

The IBS is producing a new Bible, available in August, 2007, which will reorganize the books of the Bible, removing verse and chapter numbers. This is intended to provide a new and more original feel in reading the Bible.

I suspect that such a format will annoy some people, but I’ll say bluntly they should chill. We live with the constant tension between the Bible as a unity (a book) and the Bible as diversity (a collection). While verses facilitate conversations about the Bible and references to specific passages in other documents, they tend to first treat the Bible as a unity, and then chop it up into potentially unrelated pieces. They certainly distract from simply hearing the message.

At the same time the book order, which is in many cases arbitrary, keeps modern readers from getting their bearings in the historical context. While there are bound to be disputes over where various elements fit, the structure of this new Bible is a good start to starting to balance Bible study in the other direction–more toward hearing the message in its literary, cultural, and historical context.

I strongly commend the IBS on this effort, and look forward to having a physical copy in my hands as soon as it is released. In the meantime, check out their web site for this project, complete with sample books of the Bible, and a blog. Currently the staff there is blogging about why they would carry out such a project.

For those who use my participatory study method, this Bible will be particularly valuable in the overview reading portion of your study. It removes distractions and some of the elements of Bible reading that tend to make one feel that one has read more than one has. The TNIV is also simple enough in language to make it easy to read large amounts of text.

HT: radical renovation via TNIV Truth.