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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Bible translations (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Bible translations
Speed
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I've been reading and hearing stories lately about different Bible translations. Some of them have to do with the 400th anniversary of the KJV last year. Anyway, I don't have much personal experience with different translations, and I was thinking of checking out a couple different ones.

Of course, there are legion available. So I was just wondering what all of you think. Which translations do you primarily use? What do you like about them? Do any of you have experience with more than one, and what have you learned from comparing them? Do any of you use scholarly study Bibles or standalone commentaries, and which ones do you like?

This is all just motivated by idle curiosity, but thanks in advance for your input.

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SteveRogers
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I imagine any Biblical literalists would feel more strongly about this than a lot of other people.
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Szymon
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I don't know about English, but I was always taught that the best ones were translations from septuaginta and also/via vulgata. So according to wikipedia the best one in modern English is Knox's Translation of the Vulgate published in 1955 or New English Bible, 1970.

I am no Bible expert, though.

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Itsame
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quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
I imagine any Biblical literalists would feel more strongly about this than a lot of other people.

Not so. I have many friends who are not literalists but have learned Koine for the purposes of Bible study. Greek (and Latin for that matter) is a very weird language by our standards; particularly compared to, say, French or Spanish.

Reading books in translation from French, you won't lose too much. Greek, on the other hand, is so different from English that lots of information is lost--and added--in translation.

I guess what I'm saying is that all translations are going to have issues, so anyone who takes Bible study very seriously should at least supplement their reading with some Koine at tricky passages, if not just learn Koine well enough to read the whole thing.

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SteveRogers
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I just meant I think a Biblical literalist would probably be more likely to prefer one specific translation over another since differences could potentially change the interpretation or meaning of a passage.
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Itsame
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And what I'm saying is that while it may seem to matter more for literalists, it ought to matter just as much for *anyone* who takes the Bible seriously.
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SteveRogers
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I guess I'm comparing a more casual believer who likely hasn't read the whole Bible to a Biblical literalist who would have very strong opinions about the phrasing in a particular translation or edition.

Edit:

Also, I take the Bible seriously, and I don't speak Greek. For what it's worth.

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Speed
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I don't want to perpetuate any potentially offensive stereotypes. But just from a bit of anecdotal evidence, it seems like many Biblical literalists may not have examined the issue rigorously enough to have developed a strong opinion on a subject so esoteric as translations.

(Of course, based on the fact that I started this thread, I can obviously say the same thing about myself, so who am I to judge?)

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SteveRogers
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I didn't say they'd have a more educated opinion. Just that they might feel more strongly about it than the average person or even the average academic. [Smile]
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Speed
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You seem to have some experience with literalists. Have you known many? What sect do they tend to belong to? Have you noticed which Bible translation they commonly use?
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Hobbes
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Most of the literalist I've run into (I'd say I've spoken with a few hundred, maybe ~500) belong to an evangelist denomination of some kind and use the NIV.

Hobbes [Smile]

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Hobbes
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I should add, being LDS I use the KJV, but when I want to reference the original Greek I use this interlinear Bible: "The Hebrew is based on the Masoretic Text and the Greek is from the Textus Receptus. [Basically the same source as used for the KJV]". If I want to go word by word I reference Strong's.

Hobbes [Smile]

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
Also, I take the Bible seriously, and I don't speak Greek. For what it's worth.

Hey, same here!
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Speed
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quote:
Originally posted by Hobbes:
Most of the literalist I've run into (I'd say I've spoken with a few hundred, maybe ~500) belong to an evangelist denomination of some kind and use the NIV.

Hobbes [Smile]

That's always been my impression too, but I didn't know if I was just projecting.
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SteveRogers
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Most of the literalists with which I've interacted have been part of some "non-denomination" group.
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Stone_Wolf_
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Are there any literalists here? At the risk of being rude, the few literalists I have run into have been quite militant and ill informed. I wonder if that a common trait or I simply had bad luck?
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Hobbes
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quote:
Most of the literalists with which I've interacted have been part of some "non-denomination" group.
Someone like Dana could give actually accurate information on this, but as far as I understand it, a lot of those non-denominal denominations would be classed as an evangelical movement.

Hobbes [Smile]

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SteveRogers
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I admit the intricacies of non-denominational churches escape me. I know some of them are structured in a way which makes the term non-denominational less than accurate.
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Itsame
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
Also, I take the Bible seriously, and I don't speak Greek. For what it's worth.

Hey, same here!
But you ought to. [Wink]
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SteveRogers
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I don't think I really have the time on top of my job and current studies to add learning Greek on my own to that schedule.
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Itsame
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I agree. Given your situation, you ought not to learn it, but you ought to know it.

(Although you can learn enough Koine for reference purposes in probably three months of putting in 5 hours a week.)

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SteveRogers
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That may have to wait until I'm done "learning" Spanish for school. I can probably only handle one foreign language at a time.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by JonHecht:
But you ought to. [Wink]

Nope.
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Hobbes
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
quote:
Originally posted by JonHecht:
But you ought to. [Wink]

Nope.
Trust me Rivka: you don't really understand the Pentateuch until you've read it in the original Greek.

Hobbes [Smile]

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rivka
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I would ask what you were drinking/smoking, but . . .
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Hobbes
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But you already drank and smoked it?

Hobbes [Smile]

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SteveRogers
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I'm not of the opinion not speaking Greek somehow invalidates or lessens my understanding of the Scripture as it applies to my personal life on a daily basis.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Hobbes:
But you already drank and smoked it?

Still no.
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
I'm not of the opinion not speaking Greek somehow invalidates or lessens my understanding of the Scripture as it applies to my personal life on a daily basis.

I would argue that having at least having access to someone who can illuminate Scripture with a deeper knowledge of what they really are meant to convey has certainly enhanced my understanding of Scripture as it applies to my personal life.
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Itsame
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Yeah, that was silly of me to quote rivka there. Oops.
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SteveRogers
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
I'm not of the opinion not speaking Greek somehow invalidates or lessens my understanding of the Scripture as it applies to my personal life on a daily basis.

I would argue that having at least having access to someone who can illuminate Scripture with a deeper knowledge of what they really are meant to convey has certainly enhanced my understanding of Scripture as it applies to my personal life.
Well, I have always had a relationship to some degree with the preacher at whatever church I happen to be attending, so I've had that access. But I take umbrage at the suggestion I'm somehow less likely to take meaning from Scripture because I don't have the linguistic background to understand older versions of the text prior to translation.
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Speed
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quote:
Originally posted by Hobbes:
quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
quote:
Originally posted by JonHecht:
But you ought to. [Wink]

Nope.
Trust me Rivka: you don't really understand the Pentateuch until you've read it in the original Greek.

Hobbes [Smile]

And you don't really understand the Book of Mormon until you've read it in the original Egyptian. [Razz]
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Speed
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So I've got one vote each for Knox's Translation of the Vulgate and the New English Bible, a sort-of vote for the KJV, a sort-of anti vote for the NIV, and a vote for learning Greek (and maybe Hebrew??) and not reading English translations.

Is that the Hatrack concensus? I guess I've got some reading to do.

By the way, the "translation of the Vulgate" just means that they're translating the previous Catholic Latin translations, right? Or am I getting that wrong? If so, why would that filter make it better than going to the source?

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Hobbes
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What would your metric be for a 'good' translation? What are you looking to get out of it?

Hobbes [Smile]

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Speed
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I'm not sure. I mean, it would be nice if it most accurately put the thoughts of the authors' heads in English words that best captured what they were trying to communicate.

But I guess I just wanted a feel for what everyone else reads, and why they like it. My #1 metric is what some people around here find to be most useful.

Speaking of which, why do you read the KJV, and what do you like about it?

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SteveRogers
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I think it'd be impossible to really accurately understand the writer's thoughts and intentions in a text, even if you were to read an earlier translation or the original text.

Not to just be contrary or anything. [Smile]

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Speed
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I know, that's why I said "most accurately". As in, closest to the unobtainable ideal.

I was mainly being glib, though. [Smile]

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Hobbes
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I like the KJV for a few reasons. First, the language lines up with our (LDS) other scripture so it makes the transition between different scripture much easier to understand, and much easier to line passages up with each other. Second is, again for my faith, its doctrine is more in-line with the teachings of the Church than other translations. Third, I love the language itself. In ways that no other translations Iím familiar with are, it is truly poetry, and I find many parts of it quite beautiful on that foundation alone. And fourth: itís is published by the Church with a lot of aides built in (topical guide and references for thousands of individual versus, a Bible dictionary thatís quite helpful, maps, etcÖ) and just makes my life a lot easier in that regard. If thereís a passage where I really want to nail down the original meaning Iíll go back to the Greek (see above post for description of texts) but most of the time I donít find that necessary.

Hobbes [Smile]

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SteveRogers
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quote:
Originally posted by Speed:
I was mainly being glib, though. [Smile]

So was I. [Wink]
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DKnight
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There is not one true english translation to be found. I have studied the bible, using either the NIV, ESV, HCSB, and of coarse the KJV. Even after going to the Lord in prayer, I have not found one translation to use of the others. The best reply is talk to you pastor, or a minister that you trust, and above all else go to the Lord in pray. Ask for his guidance in finding a version that is best suited for you.
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
I'm not of the opinion not speaking Greek somehow invalidates or lessens my understanding of the Scripture as it applies to my personal life on a daily basis.

I would argue that having at least having access to someone who can illuminate Scripture with a deeper knowledge of what they really are meant to convey has certainly enhanced my understanding of Scripture as it applies to my personal life.
Well, I have always had a relationship to some degree with the preacher at whatever church I happen to be attending, so I've had that access. But I take umbrage at the suggestion I'm somehow less likely to take meaning from Scripture because I don't have the linguistic background to understand older versions of the text prior to translation.
.
I am sure you can find meaning without understanding context, history, literary conventions, or how a translantion differs from the original. All thse things are helpful, though, to find more helpful meaning.

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SteveRogers
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I never said otherwise. I also didn't say I lack an "understanding [of] context, history,[and] literary conventions."

Just that I don't speak Greek, and I don't personally think it's absolutely necessary for me to get something out of the text.

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Speed
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quote:
Originally posted by DKnight:
There is not one true english translation to be found. I have studied the bible, using either the NIV, ESV, HCSB, and of coarse the KJV. Even after going to the Lord in prayer, I have not found one translation to use of the others. The best reply is talk to you pastor, or a minister that you trust, and above all else go to the Lord in pray. Ask for his guidance in finding a version that is best suited for you.

Thank you for the input. Just for the sake of full disclosure, though, I'm... not the praying type. I find the Bible a fascinating book, and would like to know more about it. But I'm not looking for spiritual guidance as much as a good scholarly/historical reference.

I do appreciate the input, though. [Smile]

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Speed
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One trustworthy source just recommended this version:

NRSV: Harper Collins Study Bible

Anyone ever use this one?

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dkw
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I was just about to recommend it. For scholarly study, I would suggest an NRSV study bible. The HarperCollins that you linked, the New Oxford, and the Access Study Bible, also published by Oxford Press, are all good choices.

For accessible commentaries, Tom Wright's "For Everyone" series is great.

Edit: If what you're most interested in is differences between translations look for a parallel Bible. You can get them with up to 8 translations on the same page in parallel columns for easy comparison.

[ July 04, 2012, 02:19 PM: Message edited by: dkw ]

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happymann
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I remember my sister once telling me (therefore I will not be able to cite any other sources) that the German Luther Bible was the best translation into a Germanic language (of course, she knows German so it could be some kind of bias).

And two off-the-topic notes:
English speakers are the only ones unable to read Shakespeare in their native language.
and
"You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon."

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kmbboots
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I continue to be perplexed by people who believe the KJV to be clear without explanation but find Shakespeare incomprehensible.
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Hobbes
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I don't find Shakespeare incomprehensible, I just don't care that much for him. Well compared to other people, I like him fine but that puts be about 8 standard deviations beneath how much I'm apparently supposed to like him.

More to the point though I think it's just about context and topic. There's plenty of missionaries from the LDS Church that learn another language to preach the Gospel who do just fine as long as they're talking about gospel subjects but struggle on more mundane topics. I think it's the same with Shakespeare: if you really think of it as another language, the diction and structure of the Bible is pretty far removed from that of a play. It's quite possible to be fluent in the one while struggling through the other.

Hobbes [Smile]

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Speed
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That, and Shakespeare put a lot of effort into slang, puns and wordplay that presupposes intimate familiarity with some of the most fluid aspects of language.

Although there were plenty of poetic devices in many original Biblical texts, most of those weren't going to translate into English anyway. It seems to me that the KJV translators put their effort into a more stable, academic form of the language than Shakespeare, which can make it a little easier to understand.

That said, the language has changed enough that the KJV does benefit from some footnotes and supplemental explanations. And people are likely to overestimate how much of it they can understand at first glance. But it's not as obviously cryptic as some of Shakespeare's more florid passages, in my experience.

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Darth_Mauve
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In order to translate the original you do need more than a learning of Greek.

You need to learn Ancient Greek, which is about as close to Modern Greek as Olde Engish is to American Slang. You also need Hebrew, or course, and again Ancient Hebrew is better than modern Hebrew. But there are also a few other languages, versions of Aramaic, that were the basis of some of the writings--that were used in the Middle-East at the times of the writings. There are fields of study on mastering these languages.

So unless you have a few years to spend studying, the option is to find experts you can trust and see why each book chose the words they did. Some argue the King James version was heavily influenced by the politics of the time while others argue that its longevity proves its validity--that not only is the Bible The Sacred Text--but that the KJV is the English Sacred Text.

I have a Bible heavily notated--even bringing into question the virginity of Mary as being a misreading of one Greek word Maiden for Virgin.

The question is, do you pick your version so that it more greatly corresponds to your set beliefs, or do you set your beliefs on the version that most honestly represents the truth?

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