The Open English Bible: Trendiness, Updated

Along with the previously mentioned CEB, I spent some time last weekend checking out a couple other new Bible translations, one of which was the Open English Bible (New Testament), published electronically in 2011 – I viewed a PDF rendition dated April 4th, 2011.

Primarily an individual effort by Russell Allen, this work is an “open source” revision of the rather obscure 1904 Twentieth Century New Testament. Considered the first “modern English” translation, the TCNT was produced in Britain by a group of mostly laymen seeking to produce an “up-to-date” version. Like the TCNT, the OEB relies on the Westcott-Hort Greek text, which, although considered the “latest & greatest” critical text at the end of the 19th century when the TCNT was translated, is otherwise used today only for the Watchtower Society’s dubious translation, as far as I know.

Rather than being primarily a literary attempt to correct perceived errors or shortcomings in the mainstream (i.e. commercial) versions, the editor’s stated primary purpose in publishing the OEB is to provide a modern version which is not staked to the Tyndale tradition, and which is in the public domain – “completely free”. To its credit, the OEB wisely departs from the 1904 TCNT’s practice of ordering the NT books according to their chronological publishing order, as such chronology had been or might be divined by fashionable scholarship.

Curiously, Allen perceives the need to airbrush out “the Jews” as an adversarial element in the Gospel of John. A similar obfuscation is applied to the references in Paul’s letters to those acts which are, in the Greek and in almost all other translations, precisely identifiable as homosexual. Apparently, he finds the sacred writers themselves left room for discreet improvement by their more enlightened followers! I’ve actually found this version very readable in my limited exposure to it, but I am loathe to get too comfortable with any work that suffers the conceit of improving upon the Word of God for the sake of conforming to modern (or other parochial) sensibilities.

By the same respect, it also fails to correct certain dubious “improvements” or “clarifications” inserted in the original 1904 TCNT, such as in Matt 1:25, where the OEB has: “He made Mary his wife, but they did not sleep together until after the birth of her son“. This appears to blatantly contradict the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, and is therefore clearly a brazen theological assertion, made despite the fact that the Greek text nowhere and in no way asserts that Joseph and Mary “slept together” after the birth of Jesus.

[2015-10-22, Ed. note: As of the 2014.11 version of the EOB, this problematic verse has been corrected to: “He made Mary his wife, but they did not sleep together before the birth of her son“.]

All in all, if a revision fails to correct the worst popular biases of its source translation, further obfuscates the actual original Biblical text to satisfy contemporary biases, and accomplishes its “clarifications” into the target language by flattening phrases like “he will burn with inextinguishable fire” into pedestrian expressions like “he will burn with fire that cannot be put out” (Mt 3:12, TCNT/OEB), it is probably not worth adding to your reference collection, and I will not be adding it to mine.