One of my friends/Timothys, Daniel Karestai sent me a request for a blog post:
Hey Cal…can I submit a blog topic request? I’m having a difficult time finding a preaching Bible. I’d like a translation that’s pretty close to the Greek (not necessarily literally, but a text that captures the meaning), easy to read in public (unlike NASB and NRSV) and doesn’t weigh five pounds. any suggestions?
The above chart is one that I used in the Principles of Biblical Interpretation class that I taught at the Genesis Training Center a couple of months ago. Most of the information comes from Gordon Fee’s How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, which is an excellent resource.
While one might quibble with a few of the placements, here is my take on it:
I have used the NIV for twenty years or so. (RSV before that). I am increasingly dissatisfied with it, but it is the pew Bible that most of the churches in whose circles I move use. I can reference others, but have hesitated until the past couple of years to use others except for cross-referencing, and then when I do, I put the translation abbreviation on the screen with the text.
In the past couple of years at TCC, I began to use the TNIV, partly because I liked the changes they had made, including making the gender references more accurate than the NIV. Partly it was also, I will admit, a reaction to James Dobson & his Luddite thugs who blackmailed Zondervan into making an academically untenable promise: that they would NEVER change the text of the NIV, no matter what textual evidence arose or literary changes occurred.
If I were starting at a church today, I would probably go with the NRSV. I used the old RSV for 12-13 years (1974-87) and always felt a fondness for it. I think that the NRSV is stronger, however. I would be interested to know what you find unreadable about the NRSV.
I will admit a basic ignorance of the ESV. It came out about the same time as the Revised English Bible and the Holman Christian Standard Version. The REB was basically just an update of the British NEB, which, while I like it has too many Britishism to make it practical for public use in an American church. The Holman version is basically (as I understand it) the RSV adjusted to be in line with Southern Baptist doctrine. Not my idea of good translation philosophy.
But I lumped the ESV in with the other two, perhaps unfairly. I know that Morris Proctor in his Libronix workshops has switched to totally using the ESV, and it appeared at his workshop I attended last summer that most of the participants use it as well.
I stopped in Monergism bookstore here in Tigard a few weeks back. (It is an ultra-reformed bookstore that is the distribution arm of the reformationtheology.com blog of John Hendryx, also from here in Portland. While there I talked with one of the sales guys there because I noted that the ESV was the only translation they carried. They carried lots and lots of versions of it, but only the ESV. He directed me to the ESV website (www.esv.com) and its translation philosophy (http://www.esv.org/translation/philosophy). I really need to just get a copy of the text and spend some time reading it. It may be a nice compromise between my personal affinity for the NRSV and what could actually get used in the more conservative churches in which I have served (and presumably will serve again). My main problem with it (probably) will be that I don’t believe that it is gender neutral. I don’t want the garbage about “Jesus, the Child of God” and “God, our Father/Mother who art in heaven,” but the English language has long sense stopped using “man” and “men” to refer to both genders, as it did in the past. Unless we are going to remain totally irrelevant (and offensive for the wrong reasons) to our world, we need to recognize that gender neutrality MUST be taken seriously in any translation that gets consideration for public use.
Dan, that may be more than what you wanted, but hopefully it gives you an idea. I probably would go the NRSV, but would check out the ESV before making a final decision. If the NRSV is unreadable by you, it could be that the TNIV would best serve you.
Do others of my readers have input? (I suspect [and hope] that you do). Share it with the rest of us. If possible, please comment here on the blog rather than e-mailing me personally. It encourages others to comment when they see that you are commenting. cph.