The bible in the marketplace

In the competitive marketplace of bibles, our variety of translations have given us a wide range of choices. Compared to other countries around the world today, governments and rulers control the printing, distribution, and sales of bibles. But in our free world of the free market, our freedoms and liberties have enabled us to further advance the English translations of our bibles, which have produced bountiful benefits. Just look at all the bible translations we have today. From an Old World perspective, some people may look at the wide array of bible translations out there on the market and say: “The Church has no unity, they can’t agree on anything,” “Why can’t everyone agree on just one bible?” However, I would say that this appearance of disarray is great thing because this means that there is no monopoly on the bible. Why would we even want one translation? Others might also say: “Why spend the energy on translating so many versions? Why don’t they spend their energy doing something else?” Our numerous translations have given us some tangible advantages: 1) more accurate, clear, and easier-to-understand translations; 2) textual, linguistic and stylistic improvements; 3) increasingly greater knowledge of the original languages; 4) greater choices of bible translations. When a translation team produces a bible that is of higher quality, it will draw public attention from the people. This is why we bloggers offer either negative or constructive/positive critique. Criticism given and received in a positive and constructive manner can lead to vast improvements in future editions. The newest translations like the TNIV, ESV, NLT, or HCSB have seen their share of criticism but they will likely become improved in their future editions. But bible translations like the Living Bible and the New English Bible have been almost been forgotten and never mentioned again. The Message Bible may also become a forgotten-about version in the near-distant future. It’s a poor translation or paraphrase, and a prime example of how not to translate the bible.

6 thoughts on “The bible in the marketplace

  1. Regarding the TNIV, you said:
    …and there are quite a few serious problems with its treatment of the Hebrew Scriptures. (The informal style of translations such as the NIV and TNIV is much better suited to Koine Greek than to the rather formal Hebrew writing.)

    Anon, could you elaborate on this a little more? Could you give me an example?


  2. I should clarify. The NEB seems to still be quoted frequently in a number of biblical journals, if only because of its frequently unusual interpretations and unique literary style. My search was restricted to post 2000, and I was still able to find several dozen references. Of course, its use in liturgical or other church settings is almost nil. Still, it is not quite dead yet — and it seems more popular with scholars (particularly on the left) than with the general public. Thus, I was surprised by your remark that it particularly shunned by bible scholars.

    As to whether the TNIV will ever be widely accepted outside Evangelical circles — I think that question is very much open. The TNIV translation committee is hardly diverse and there are quite a few serious problems with its treatment of the Hebrew Scriptures. (The informal style of translations such as the NIV and TNIV is much better suited to Koine Greek than to the rather formal Hebrew writing.)


  3. Anon, I think the academic journals you mentioned quote heavily from the NRSV these days. Previous to 1990s, they quoted a lot from the RSV and even from REB. The NEB may be quoted once in a while but not nearly as much as the NRSV today because, as you know, the NRSV is used by mainline academics, and by increasingly more evangelical academics. I predict the TNIV will be also quoted in the future when it becomes more widely known.


  4. Actually I think the NEB is fairly often quoted by Biblical scholars. Thus, I see from a quick search that it is still fairly heavily quoted in Vetus Testamentum, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Journal of Biblical Literature, etc.


  5. Anon, maybe I sounded a little strong in saying the NEB and LB were “forgotten” but the reason why I say that is because they’re never used when scripture is quoted, by pastors and esp. by biblical scholars. They’re sort of like a fun-type of read that no one expects to take seriously in an academic sense, like the GNT and NIrV. I never even hear ministers talk or quote from them. I know there are still lots out there available for sale, esp. the LB. Many people probably still have a few laying around their home ( including myself) that were given to them from their parents as young children. I do see lots of it around in used book sales (in fact, mostly NEBs, LBs, and KJVs).

    My seminary profs recommended that we avoid reading these sort of translations because they were translated as a paraphrases. The REB was a much-improved revision of it that rescued it and made it academically respectable.

    I do like to read dynamic translations like the NLTse during my personal devotions because it just seem to open up the meaning of the text for me before I go into more formal translations like the NRSV and NASB, which are one of my favorites.


  6. I think it is too strong to say that the New English Bible has been forgotten. Indeed, it continues to be widely discussed in certain circles. For example, in the preface of Robert Alter’s translation of the Pentateuch, The Five Books of Moses, which appeared in 2004, he discusses it extensively.

    Google returns 124,000 hits on the (quoted) phrase “new english bible”, the majority of which appear to be about that translation, so it hardly seems obscure.

    I further do not understand your point about the “New English Bible” or “Living Bible” being forgot about. First, both are still in print (the Living Bible both in its Protestant edition and its Catholic The Way edition). Moreover, they are direct predecessors of current versions (that have names reflecting their heritage): the NLT and the REB.


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