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Tag Archive: Bible in English

The Open English Bible: Trendiness, Updated

Posted: Sunday, June 5, 2011 (5:32 pm), by John W Gillis


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.

The Common English Bible: Yet another failed attempt at “The Bible for Dummies”

Posted: Monday, May 30, 2011 (8:48 pm), by John W Gillis


A group calling itself the Church Resources Development Corp is preparing to release yet another new English translation of Sacred Scripture, this one being marketed as the  the  Common English Bible (CEB) (not to be confused with the 1999 Common Edition New Testament, or with the American Bible Society’s Contemporary English Version from 1995, which goes by CEV). This “fresh” translation was an interdenominational effort (predominantly by members of old-line, liberal Protestant denominations, it would seem). It was translated from NA27, using various sources for the OT, by 120 translators from 22 different “faith traditions”. The translation philosophy leans (tilts? dives? collapses?) toward the dynamic on the dynamic/formal scale. Perhaps the best news is that it will include a translation of the Apocrypha. The editors call it a “bold new translation”, and I would say, after spending some time with it online this weekend, that they are half right.

The translation aims for a 7th-grade reading level in a “common language”, which it generally accomplishes by producing vague, mechanical, and imprecise substitutions for characteristically Biblical-sounding terms (what associate editor Paul Franklyn calls “Biblish”), such as substituting “human” for “son of man”, “harass” for “persecute”, “contaminates” for “defiles”, “temple equipment” for “temple vessels”, and “rules handed down” for “tradition”. Temple equipment? How industrially banal!

Such a vulgarizing tendency can produce some rather bizarre and stylistically embarrassing results, however, especially when they are motivated by something other than a desire to be as faithful as possible to the revelation. Take for example, Genesis 2:22-23 in the CEB:

With the rib taken from the human, the Lord God fashioned a woman and brought her to the human being. The human said, “This one finally is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She will be called a woman because from a man she was taken.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate either the challenge of trying to represent in translation the distinction between adam and ish, or the complexity of mapping linguistic concepts across broadly diverse cultures in a comprehensible manner, but what we’re given here is a comically clumsy and silly example of the ironically designated “inclusive language” produced by a well-worn, widespread academic condescension to paranoid and anthropologically divisive feminist narcissism, which here ends up asserting that the very Word of God in Sacred Scripture informs us that men are human beings, while women are… well, something else, apparently. Groan.

The editors express the conviction that this approach makes their translation more “relevant” than the more “challenging” translations – there being nothing more irrelevant, after all, than Biblish. Fortunately, it is a fairly safe bet that nobody will ever read the CEB once the academics who produced it are finished passing copies around to their friends. However, there are several stylishly relevant gift editions being planned…

Grading:

In my book, the Common English Bible gets an “A” for “Awkward”, a “B” for “Biblishlessness”, a “C” for “Common”, a “D” for “Dynamic equivalence”, but an “F” for fidelity to the Word of God in Sacred Scripture.

Was that grading scheme inclusive enough?

Bible Study Software English Bibles Comparison Published

Posted: Thursday, March 25, 2010 (9:36 am), by John W Gillis


Last night, I was finally able to publish on the site a comparison table I put together in January, showing which English language Bibles are available in which Bible Study program, and what the cost is for each. I had struggled with this for technical reasons, because the table doesn’t come close to fitting within the standard content column of the site, and I didn’t want to orphan it.

This is more interesting than one might suspect. Yes, the bigger name translations are generally available in most programs (only KJV, ASV, YLT, and Darby’s are available in all the ones I reviewed, however), but it’s good to know where to find some of the more obscure versions, and some curious traits did emerge from the data. See for yourself.

The chart is intended as a companion to a page I’m working on that will provide an overview of the history of English language translations of the Bible which, given my school schedule in April, will probably not be ready until May. At five or six months per page, I should have this site built out to where I envision it in about another 20-25 years.