Sunday, February 12, 2006

New Bible Translation

Jimmy Akin has a good discussion on a new Bible translation from Ignatius Press. See the article Revised Ignatius Bible.
"It is the *only* English language translation of the Bible updated specifically to correspond to Liturgiam Authenticam."


Here are some of the numerous problems of recent Bible translations, particularly those since the 1960s:

"Dumbing down". Biblical language is often complex, and there is a tendency to want to simplify passages. This is often a problem with youth Bibles. An extreme version of this tendency is to resort to general paraphrasing. Alternatively, people ought to be educated in difficult passages. It's the Bible: we should raise ourselves to it instead of dragging it down to us.

Popular idiom. Again, this is often seen in youth Bibles. This idiom changes so quickly that these Bibles seem comical within a few years. A bigger problem is that readers can get the wrong idea altogether, by assuming that Biblical personages have contemporary cultural attitudes. "Jesus was hanging with his homeboys back in the hood".

"Inclusive" language. This can be relatively benign, for example saying "brothers and sisters" instead of just "brothers". It can get heretical when "God the Father" is referred to as "god our mother and father", or even "goddess our mother". Actually only the traditional wording is "inclusive": "man" includes both males and females. "Inclusive" language is actually logically "exclusive".

Extraneous materials. The official "New American Bible" is notorious for its introductions and footnotes, many of which are controversial, possibly heretical, or even just plain wrong. A recent youth Bible includes pagan prayers and other such non-Christian materials.

Translation of YHWH. Observant Jews do not pronounce the name of God, and instead traditionally translate this name as THE LORD. While this may be a kind of scrupulosity, in order to avoid using the Lord's name in vain, it may actually be a good practice, and it is as traditional as you can get. Some recent translations use the name, and it sounds rather strange.

Messianic interpretation. After World War II, many Jews lost their faith and thought that God had broken His covenant with them. The prophetic books of the Old Testament were then translated to imply that they were talking about the restoration of the secular State of Israel, instead of the coming of the Messiah, which is the traditional interpretation. This has found its way into some Christian Bibles.

Missing books. Luther is responsible for this. It's amazing how many Catholics use Protestant Bibles, and even many Catholic Bibles are Protestant translations. The Orthodox actually have some additional books in their Bibles, but these don't add any new theology (for Catholics, that is).

Secular political translations. These can be any type of bias from progressive to "health and wealth" interpretations, based on current political movements. This is typical of Enlightenment-era translations.

Bad scholarship. Many translations are based on interpretations suggested by modern scholarship. In particular, the founders of the Historical-Critical method hoped to produced a scientific interpretation of the Bible. However, if we define "science" in the traditional way of "conforming the intellect to reality", then these modern interpretations are not scientific, since the results of the scholarship depend on the biases of the scholars. So we end up with Marxist, Feminist, or Post-Structuralist Bibles that don't agree with each other.


  1. Hmm, no mention of the Revised Standard. I have a couple of theology prof friends, educated in Rome, who read nothing else.

  2. The RSV is the version that several of the regulars on EWTN recommend.