Meanderings of a Minister


What English Bible Should I Read, Part 2
February 27, 2017, 1:33 pm
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bible

Last week, I started an article that ended up being long, but was also incomplete.  Already this week, I have been asked why I am so against the Authorized Version or the King James Version as it is more commonly known.  While I am not sure how people got that out of my previous article, in the article, we continue to look at the translations from 1881 forward in helping us to answer the title question, which English bible should we read today?

In 1870, Dr. Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Winchester, made a motion to revise the Authorized Version yet again.  This time, the committee was formed of two teams in the United States and two in England with the hope of getting them to work together.  This did not happen as the Americans did not want to use the strict guidelines of the English.  The Americans wanted to update the language to be more in line with life in America.  The result was a version that was translated from the Masoretic text as was the Authorized Version with very little changes other than clarifying words based upon advances in studies in Greek and Hebrew.  The final version was released and titled the Revised Version in 1881.  Meanwhile, the American committees released their version in 1901 and it was titled the American Standard Version.

While the Revised Version had a somewhat cool reception in England, the American Standard Version had a much warmer reception in America.  While the ASV certainly had vociferous critics, it was almost immediately adopted by the Presbyterian Church and then others.

In 1928, the copyright of the American Standard Version was acquired by the International Council of Religious Education of which were some 45 major denominations.  Due to the Great Depression, the group was unable to fund its revision until 1937 and would produce the Revised Standard Version in stages.  First, the New Testament was published in 1946.  Next came the Old Testament in 1952 and then the Apocrypha was added in 1957.  This was a version that first began to address archaic language like “thee” and “thou” and replace it with you.  They adopted the use of you when referring to the words of Jesus prior to His resurrection and then “thee” after it when Jesus spoke.  This version became one of the most popular in Canada, America, and England and was continually revised until 1971.

The Lockman Foundation of LaHabra, California, a non-profit Christian incorporation formed to promote Christian education, proposed to take advantages of advancements in English development in America and Biblical Studies as well as textual criticism to produce a more readable, but word-for-word translation.  The translation committee was formed of 58 scholars from various denominations including:  Methodist, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, Church of Christ, Nazarene, American Baptist, Fundamentalist, Conservative Baptist, Free Methodist, Congregationalist, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical Free, Independent Baptist, Independent Mennonite, Assembly of God, North American Baptist, and others.  The Bible was finished and published in 1971.  This version also used updated language.  Overall, this version follows most closely to the original languages when compared to previous translations.

Also in 1971, Jay Green, of the Associated Publishers and Authors, produced a new version of the Bible entitled King James II Version.  Green stated, “No one ways a new Bible!  They just want the old one in a form they can read and understand and trust.”  Unlike other translations to this point, this was a translation of a translation.  This was a translation of the Authorized Version and was one of the first translations to break the text into paragraphs.  Problems have been noted with this version as the translators also attempted to change the Old Testament to more closely match its New Testament quotations, which were not always verbatim.

In 1973, The New International Version was published as a thought for thought translation instead of the traditional word for word translation.  Originally theorized in 1955, Howard Long, a layman went about looking for a version of the Bible that would apply to the average, working man, woman and child.  After ten years of searching for something devoid of the archaic language of the 1700’s, but still wanting to be faithful to the text, the National Association of Evangelicals listened and translated the New International Version.  Each book was assigned to a team of 8 to 12 scholars that were experts in the field.  Those teams brought back their versions of the book assigned and their version was scrutinized by the other scholars before being accepted and included in the final product, which was published officially in 1978.

The New King James was the next major translation released with the New Testament coming out in 1979 and the completed Bible available in 1982.  Sam Moore, then president of Thomas Nelson Corporation, one of the leading publishers in Bible sales, decided that many people preferred the translation of the King James, but wanted it to be updated, so once again, the translation of a translation was underway and produced a more readable version that carried the same translation techniques as the King James as it was translated from the KJV.  The primary difference between the two, on a grand scale, is the deletion of the Apocrypha which was originally contained in the King James 1611 and its subsequent updates.

In 1989, the New Revised Standard Version was released.  Based on the work of 30 scholars from the National Council of Churches, the goal of this version was to be “as literal as possible while being as free as necessary”.  Based upon the Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia and the United Bible Societies’ Greek Text (3rd edition of 1966 corrected in 1983).  While the translation committee continued some of the more unfortunate renderings of the RSV, and took some of them further, this Bible is still popular today.

From this time forward, Bible translation has exploded from the advantages of modern scholarship, archaeological discoveries, further advances in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages of the periods, and continued evolution of the English language in America and elsewhere.  This does even include very popular paraphrases  Some the lesser known and lesser used versions include:

New English Bible (170, Revised 1989)

Holman Christian Standard Bible (2000, currently being revised as the Christian Standard Bible)

New English Translation (NET) Bible (1998, Revised 2001) – First Online Bible as the primary format

English Standard Version (ESV)(2001) – Rapidly becoming more and more popular with those of a Reformed Theological bent and with those more conservative scholars.

While I am sure that I have missed some translations, and have completely avoided listing paraphrases like the Living Bible, the Message, Phillips’ New Testament, the Cotton Patch Gospel, and others.  This has been a very brief overview of the development of the English Bible.  The question still may remain, “Which is the best?”  The answer may depend upon the preference of your church or denomination.  It may also depend upon how you want to use that particular Bible.  Some versions are more suited for in depth study, while others are better suited for devotional usage and still others are more helpful for simply reading the Bible through.   That being said, a study of the languages from which the English Bible has been translated (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) is still the best way to evaluate and understand the issues around Bible translation.  But the absolute best translation is to read it, believe it, and translate it into action in your life, heart, mind and body.

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