Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bible Translations

I am fascinated by translations of the Bible.

To some degree, I believe in the idea of reading the text as close to the original translation as possible.

However, I love learning about the culture of the time when the Bible was written.  I love learning about the nuances of language and how the meaning of some words has changed since the texts were put to paper.  I find the history of how certain books were selected and certain books were rejected to be very interesting - and am intrigued that even today there are Christian faiths with a different Bible.

I am also intrigued by the long list of translations available for the standard Bible.  NIV, King James, The Message, The Voice, ASV.  I generally read my Bible on my phone or on my computer so I have translations available at my fingertips.

Yesterday, I started listening to a really cool music project called Enter the Worship Circle.  I'm still learning about it but the basic idea is to encourage songwriters and musicians to create simple and singable music based on Scripture.  It's got a folksy feel and I understand there are groups that meet up and will have Worship Circles once a month - just get together and sing and play.

Well, that led me to wanting to read the Book of Psalm.  It's one of my favorite books of the Bible but I don't know that I have read it completely.  So I decided to start with Chapter 1.

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,

That's the NIV translation.  Very poetic.  I decided I wanted to read some other translations.

Psalm 1:1

King James Version (KJV)
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

King James generally turns me off - the language is so flowery that I feel like I have to translate the English into English.

Psalm 1:1

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

The Way to Happiness

God blesses those people
    who refuse evil advice
    and won’t follow sinners
    or join in sneering at God.

Contemporary English.  Nice. Simple.

Then I read the translation from The Voice.  The Voice was just published last year and the purpose is to make reading the Bible more like reading a novel, a long story.  To make it more relatable.  It wasn't aken lightly - there are many scholars in many areas of study who were part of this work.  I like that the translation includes information about history and understanding the culture.

Psalm 1:1

The Voice (VOICE)

Book One

Book One (Psalms 1–41) is attributed almost entirely to David; all but four of the psalms (1–2;1033) are ascribed to him. In Hebrew Psalm 10 is a continuation of Psalm 9 because it was composed as an acrostic poem. Likewise, many Hebrew manuscripts combine Psalm 33 with 32. Only later are these divided into separate psalms. Psalm 1 sets the stage for the entire collection by explaining that the study of the Word of God is the foundation of a meaningful, prosperous life.

Psalm 1

God’s blessings follow you and await you at every turn:
    when you don’t follow the advice of those who delight in wicked schemes,
When you avoid sin’s highway,
    when judgment and sarcasm beckon you, but you refuse.
That really spoke to me!  Especially the last line... about refusing to give in to judgment and sarcasm.  I tend to give in to sarcasm at home when I hit frustration and my sarcasm does not ever help a situation.  "God's blessings follow you and await you at every turn when judgment and sarcasm beckon you, but you refuse."  I even paraphrased that paraphrased to use in my current prayer project.

I wanted to share this with Jeff when I got home.  However, my Bible app doesn't have The Voice translation so I thought I'd check The Message to see what it had to say...

Psalm 1:1

The Message (MSG)
How well God must like you—
    you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon,
    you don’t slink along Dead-End Road,
    you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.
Well.  Now.  Huh.

That makes me realize why people might not like translations.  "Smart-Mouth College?"  Taking a book of songs and reducing it to "Sin Saloon" and "Dead-End Road" and "Smart-Mouth College."

Don't get me wrong - there are times when The Message really speaks to me.  But in Psalms?  Not so much.

But it struck me... that language might really speak to someone else.

Just like the thee's and thou's of the King James version might speak to someone else.

And I think that is the cool thing about translations and about the Living Word.  Just as God reaches people were they are, as they are... so can His word.

Just like music.  Worship music comes in different styles in order to reach different audiences.  There are the beautiful old hymns, Gregorian chants, contemporary pop style music, folksy music, gospel, metal, hip hop...

The Bible, liturgy, music... all tools for worship, all tools for relationship with God.




Karen M. Peterson said...

I use the King James version and I love it. It definitely feels confusing at times (especially Isaiah!), but I like the flow of the language.

I've heard there's a "street" version of the Bible, but I've never actually seen it.

Unknown said...

I personally prefer NIV, but The Message is also growing on me. The Message is good for cross referencing, I think.