There are dozens of Bible translations available today. Some are designed for new readers (for example, The New International Readers Bible or NIrV), and some are useful for Bible geeks (for example, the New English Translation, or NET Bible, which has fifteen notes on verses one and two of Genesis). Most are in the middle. For some perspective, consider consulting The Holy Bible: A Buyer's Guide from the Biblical Archeology Society.
Here are Bible Reviews included in recent editions of our blog, What’s Ahead in our Bible Readings:
Bible Review: The NET Bible
The most important thing you need to know about the NET Bible is that you can read it free, online, at any time. The online version provides very extensive notes, which will help you get closer to the text. As they say, interpretation is your responsibility, and you should not let a commentator decide for you what a passage means. Here is a link to The Twenty-third Psalm to give you a sense of what the notes look like. They also have extensive study materials. In fact, the translation was undertaken for the specific purpose of having a Bible text that could be freely used in Bible studies. (It is expensive to license other translations; our use of the NRSV falls under one of the limited exemptions they provide.) Here is a list of pages on their site which relate to Psalm 23: Psalm 23 pages. Not all of them are for study, but a number of them are. The translators all come from the Evangelical wing of the church, but this has not affected the translation in any way. As they say in the introduction,
The NET Bible was not funded by any particular denomination or church. The translators and editors were free to follow the text and translate as faithfully and accurately as possible without any pressure to make the text read a certain way or conform to a particular doctrinal sgatement.
There are also printed versions of the NET Bible, including ones with all the notes. I personally use the NET Bible Compact Version. It has fewer and shorter notes that still illuminate passages and provide alternative translations. It has a lot of features that I like, including a system of bold italics for Hebrew Scripture passages quoted in the Christian Scriptures, and italics for allusions to Hebrew Scriptures.
The Wikipedia article on the NET Bible says this about the translation approach: Mid-range functional or dynamic equivalence prevalent in the text, with formal equivalent renderings very often given in the footnotes. For an explanation of functional and dynamic equivalce, see the Wikipedia artice Dynamic and formal equivalence. Functional equivalance is a thought for thought rather than a word for word approach. Here is an article with arguments for the functional approach arguments for functional equivalnce.
Here is Psalm 8 from the NET Bible:
O Lord, our Lord,
how magnificent is your reputation throughout the earth!
You reveal your majesty in the heavens above!
From the mouths of children and nursing babies
you have ordained praise on account of your adversaries,¹
so that you might put an end to the vindictive enemy.
When I look up at the heavens, which your fingers made,
and see the moon and the stars, which you set in place.
Of what importance are human beings that you should notice them?
Of what importance is mankind that you should pay attention to them,
And make them a little less than the heavenly beings?
You grant mankind honor and majesty;
you have appointed them to rule over your creation;²
you have placed everything under their authority,³
including all sheep and cattle,
as well as the wild animals,
the birds jin the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everthing that moves through the currents of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
how magnificent is your reputation throughout the earth! (NET)
¹Jesus uses this phrase in the cleaning of the temple Matthew 21:12-17
²This phrase is used in Hebrews 2:6-9, in a discussion about Jesus as a human. Hebrews 2:5-18
³Paul uses this phrase in 1 Corinthians 15:27, where he discusses the resurrection as conquering death 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, and in Ephesians 1:15-23, a prayer for wisdom and revelation.
If you decide to buy the NET Bible Compact Version, please consider doing so through this link, which will benefit our work: NET Bible Compact Edition (New English Translation)
(Published 3 October 2018)
Bible Review: The Message
The most important thing you need to know about The Message is that it is in contemporary American English. You won't find any stilted language in this translation! The Message translation is by Eugene Peterson, a pastor, Bible scholar, and translator. Peterson's aim is to get the Bible into our heads and hearts, and get the message lived. (That is exactly what we are trying to do by providing you with these Bible lessons every day.) The transaltion grew out of his work as a pastor, from conversations in living rooms and hospital rooms and coffee shops. He has solid grounding for making this translation from his years as a teacher of Hebrew and Greek in a seminary.
In his introduction he says
I lived in two language worlds, the world of the Bible and the world of Today.…So out of necessity I became a “translator” (although I wouldn't have called it that then), daily standing on the border between two worlds, getting the language of the Bible that God uses to create and save us, heal and bless us, judge and rule over us, into the language of Today that we use to gossip and tell stories, give directions and do business, sing songs and talk to our children.
And all the time those old biblical languages, kept working their way underground in my speech, giving energy and sharpness to words and phrases, expanding the imaginations of the people with whom I was working to hear the language of the Bible in the language of Today and the language of Today in the language of the Bible.
Here is Luke 16:19-31 from The Message:
“There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption. A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, had been dumped on his doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from the scraps off the rich man's table. His friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.
“Then he died, this poor man, and was taken by the angels to the lap of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell and in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham in the distance with Lazarus in his lap. He called out, “Father Abraham, mercy! Have mercy! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue. I'm in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that in your lifetime you got the good things and Lazarus got the bad things. It's not like that here. Here he's consoled and you're tormented. Besides, in all these matters there is a huge chasm set between us so that no one can go from us to you even if he wanted to, nor can anyone cross over from you to us.’
“The rich man said, ‘Then let me ask you, Father: Send him to the house of my father where I have five brothers, so that he can tell them the score and warn them so that won't end up here in this place to torment.’
“Abraham answered, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets to tell them the score. Let them listen to them.’
“‘I know, Father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but they're not listening. If someone came back to them from the dead, they would change their ways.’
“Abraham replied, ‘If they won't listen to Moses and the Prophets, they're not going to be convinced by someone who rises from the dead.’” (The Message)
If you decide to buy this translation, please consider using one of these links, where your purchase will benefit our work:
The Message Ministry Edition: The Bible in Contemporary Language Cost: $7.99
The Message Deluxe Gift Bible: The Bible in Contemporary Language Cost: $10.87
The Message Devotional Bible: with notes & reflections by Eugene H. Peterson Cost: $13.38
(The prices above are as of Saturday, October 6, 2018).
(Published 10 October 2018)
Bible Review: The Inclusive Bible
There are two important things for you to know about The Inclusive Bible. First, it is a serious, and mostly successful, attempt to render the scriptures in ways that are more gender-balanced without losing the meaning of the text. Second, it is designed to be read aloud.
The authors didn't simply replace male pronouns, but created a new translation into modern English. Most importantly, they crafted it to let the power and poetry of the language shine forth (from the introduction to the first edition of The Inclusive New Testament).
Both male and female sexist language was examined. An example given in the introduction is the way in which the render the Whore of Babylon in Revelation 17:1-18 (which is our Friday New Testament lesson). The Greek word in the original text was more closely related to idolatrous defilement (for example worship of the emperor) than with sex for money, as the words whore and prostitute in our culture imply. Instead of whore or prostitute, the Inclusive Bible uses "Great Idolater."
The authors obviously gave careful consideration to the words used. For example, when Lord is a form of address, they use Adonai in the Hebrew Scriptures and Rabbi or Teacher in the Christian Scriptures. Abba and Loving God are substitutes for Father. Substitutes for Son of God include Only Begotten, God's Own and Eternally Begotten. These, to me, maintain the sense without the sexism.
One of the things I appreciate is that the Hebrew Scriptures are divided into The Torah, The Prophets, and The Writings. In the typical Christian Bible, the early prophets—which we refer to as the former prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings) are separated from the latter prophets by Ezra, Nehemiah, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and five other books, all of which the Hebrew Bible considers part of The Writings. The Inclusive Bible keeps all the writings together, which is very sensible.
The Inclusive Bible also explicitly refers to The Twelve, the so-called minor prophets whose writings were less extensive than Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Of course, they are called The Twelve because there are twelve of them. (If you can't find a book in your Bible, it's probably one of the twelve.) This way of referring to them (as is also done in some Hebrew Bibles) seems more respectful.
It also does not include section headings. An example of a section heading in the NRSV is "The Request of James and John" for Mark 10:35-45. Although some people find the section headings helpful in getting a sense of what's ahead, others find them intrusive. We often use them in the summary that appears in What's Ahead each week, but we don't include them in the daily readings.
Here is the Sunday Gospel lesson, as rendered in The Inclusive Bible:
New Testament Gospel Lesson: Mark 10:35-45
Zebedee's children James and John approached Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, ”we want you to grant our request.”
“What is it?” Jesus asked.
They replied, “See to it that we are next to you, one at your right hand and one at your left, when you come into your glory.”
Jesus told them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised in the same baptism as I?”
“We can,” they replied. Jesus said in response, “From the cup I drink of, you will drink; the baptism I am immersed in you will share. But as for sitting at my right or my left, that is not mine to give; it is for those to whom it has been reserved.”
The other ten, on hearing this, became indignant at James and John.
Jesus called them together and said, “You know how among the Gentiles those who exercise authority are domineering and arrogant; those ‘great ones’ know how to make their own importance felt. But it can't be like that with you. Anyone among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest; whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all. The Promised One has not come to be serve, but to serve—to give one life in ransom for the many.”(The Inclusive Bible)
If you decide to buy this Bible, please use this link, so that your purchase will help us in our work of spreading God's word to all God's people: The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation The prices on Thursday, October 11 were $20.99 for the Kindle Edition and $24.61 for paperback.
(Published on October 17, 2018)
Bible Review: The Modern English Version
The most important thing you need to know about the Modern English Version (MEV) is that it is a revision of the Authorized Version, usually called the King James Version (KJV). It incorporates modern English vernacular. This translation started as an effort by military chaplains to provide an update to the KJV, so that troops could better understand it. Military chaplains got others who were not chaplains involved in the work; eventually, the target audience changed to the entire English-speaking world. It follows the principle of formal equivalence, which means being as literal as possible using proper grammar and syntax.
One feature that I find helpful is naming the parallel passage just below the title of a section. A slight disadvantage of this approach is that it requires a title whenever there is a parallel passage, even if one isn't necessary for us to understand what follows. As always, remember that the title is not part of the text, and was added by editors to help us. This translation is usually the source of the parallel passages included in our daily readings. A relatively unusual feature is that pronouns referring to God or Jesus are always capitalized. This can be helpful at times when it isn't clear to whom the pronoun refers. References to books of the Bible in footnotes and when parallel passages are named use abbreviations for book names. For example, Mt for Matthew and Lk for Luke.
The books are in the usual order. It does not include the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books.
There is an interesting but incomplete history of English language Bibles included in the introduction, starting with William Tyndale's translation. It is incomplete because it does not mention the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), or any of the many translations by Catholic scholars. It does have a very complete description of the development of the KJV.
Here is our Sunday Gospel Lesson from the MEV:
The Great Commandment
Mt 22:34-40; Lk 10:25-28
One of the scribes came near and heard them reasoning together. Perceiving that Jesus had answered them well, he asked Him, “Which of the is the first commandment of all?”
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, is one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’¹ This is the first commandment. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’² There is no commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, that there is God, and there is no other but Him. To love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength and to love one's neighbor as oneself is much more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask Him any question.
¹30 Dt 6:4-5 ²31 Lev 19:18 (MEV)
Previous Bible reviews covering the NET Bible, the Message, and The Inclusive Bible, and the Amplified Bible are here.
If you decide to purchase the Modern English Version, please consider using one of these links, so your purchase will benefit The Lectionary Company:
Modern English Version Bible Thinline Reference $17.07
Modern English Version Economy Bible $2.99
Modern English Version Bible Personal Size Large Print $24.97
The prices above are as of October 27. You can search for other editions of the MEV at this link: Modern English Version
(Published on October 31, 2018)
Bible Review: New International Version
The most important thing to know about the New International Version (NIV) is that it is written in contemporary English. The second most important thing to know is that it attempts to find a middle way between literal word-for-word translation and thought-for-thought translation. Here is what they say on their website:
Some Bible translations focus on the way Scripture was written—the form, grammar, even the word order of the original. The difficulty is that no two languages follow the same set of rules. That’s why translating Scripture is more than a matter of replacing Greek or Hebrew words with English equivalents.
Other Bible translations focus on the meaning of Scripture, helping you grasp the message of the Bible in your own words. The challenge with this approach is that if you stray too far from the form of the text, you might miss some of the subtle nuances—literary devices, wordplays, etc.—found in the original.
Even the best literal translation can’t follow the original form all the time. And even the best meaning-based translation can’t capture every detail of meaning found in the original.
In 1978, the NIV pioneered a different approach: balancing transparency to the original with clarity of meaning. Our view is that if the first people to receive the Bible could understand God’s Word the way it was written, you should be able to as well.
There are hundreds of editions designed for everything from journaling to confirmation classes.
The translation was developed by Evangelicals. I have not found any biases in the text related to this.
The feature that I find most useful is the footnotes.
Hebrew Scripture used in the Christian Scriptures is always footnoted.
As the preface says, sometimes the Christian Scripture writers were using the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. When the Septuagint was used and the text does not match the Hebrew Scripture translation, the footnote says “(see Septuagint)”
Alternative translations begin with “Or”
Selah is not included since its meaning is unknown and it interrupts the text. However, there is a footnote where it appears in the original text.
The text is very readable and is certainly a credible alternative if one is looking for a second Bible (or a first!). It includes section headings, which are not part of the actual text.
Here is the Wednesday Gospel lesson from the NIV. (The Saturday and Sunday lessons are very short, which is why I chose Wednesday.)
New Testament Gospel Lesson: Luke 4:16-30
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went to the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled it and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor
He has sent me to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”¹
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn"t this Joseph's son?”they asked.
Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me, ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will say to me, ‘Do here also in your hometown what we have heard you did in Capernaum.’”
“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in the his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in the Elijah's time, when the heaven was shut up three and a half years, and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy² in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked through the crowd and went on his way.
¹Isaiah 61:1-2 (see Septuagint) and Isaiah 58:6 ²The Greek word traditionally translated as ‘leprosy’ was used for various diseases affecting the skin. (NIV)
If you decide to buy the New International Version, please consider using this link, so that your purchase will enable us to reach more people with God's Word: New International Version
(Published on November 7, 2018)