Friday, August 04, 2006

A Bible, A Bible, I Want a New Bible

Recently I finished reading Misquoting Jesus by one of my favorite agnostic religious subject authors. Compared to his The Lost Christianities I found several religious and philosophical differences to my own. for instance, I don't believe that we can come to any real conclusions about the "original autographs" of the Biblical writers. At best we can come to an approximation, even using the earliest and "best" sources. On the more conservative side of the arguments, I don't believe that the KJV is not to be trusted over any other translation. At worst it is no better than the majority. Too often the author and textualists, if we are to believe he represents them, break their own rules. I especially don’t believe that the Bible needs to be perfect (as Bart D. Ehrman believes) in order to be divinely inspired. Where he sees human hands everywhere and God nowhere, I see God everywhere using imperfect human hands.

At any rate, the book has helped me become more interested in Biblical scholarship and interpretation. I must agree that the KJV is not the best source for accuracy in interpretation of the Bible. I still will argue that it is the best literary Bible ever produced. Another argument I also agree with is that the LDS Scriptural tradition is tied so intimately with the KJV that replacing it would do more harm than good. Theological teachings, revelations, and official sermons would lose too many coherencies.

Still, I do think that a reliable translation with more nuanced understanding of Biblical textual history should be encouraged. It is this reason that I have searched for a better Bible to read for study. I am not troubled by the many differences between many translations. This goes deeper than just a belief that the original autographs are unrecoverable, but today's text still inspired. From my own studies of the development of the Scriptures by Joseph Smith (especially the Doctrine and Covenants) Revelation is very flexible. Once they are on paper, it doesn't mean they are untouchable. Rather, they are open to changes, revisions and re-visions, clarifications, and etc. Revelations from 1830 could be, and sometimes are, different from readings of the same text in 1845. One of the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon left the Church over this flexibility. The Bible, having many hands in the writing and preservation over centuries, is equally open to the same. Obviously, those who aren’t “Mormon” will not see it this way or trust the source of LDS inspiration.

Personally, I find “Mormons” ambivalent about the "inerrancy" idea, especially when talking with Christian evangilicals. Yet, in practice they are very literalist themselves - to a point. In other words, Mormons are very literalist with the stories and miracles. When questioned farther, they are usually very open about the non-binding nature of the text itself. It is a very careful viewpoint. That is why so many seem interested in learning Greek, Hebrew, and Latin yet disregard “Higher Criticism” that often sounds irreligious. They accept problems with its text and transmission and not its core history and theology.

And so I started a search for the most recent, "scientifically" produced (i.e. using all manuscripts available), English, and doctrinally sufficient Scriptural Translation. I am looking for, if one exists, a more accurate Scripture than the KJV. At the least, one that is closer to the Greek and Hebrew – with a little Latin – manuscripts, without a lot of theological tampering. So far I have gotten the most positive responses about the NEB, NRSV, and the Jerusalem Bible.

I have come to the conclusion that NET Bible is the closest to what I am searching for. I know others have suggested "Blue Letter Bible," but I refuse to support them. They are so openly anti-Mormon that it sickens me even to consider them. I am sure the sponsors of Bible.org are equally bad with that, but at least I don't have to go to the front door with an unwelcome reminder. You can download it for free as well.

8 comments:

Dave said...

Yes, I find the NET Bible quite a nice reference. As for Ehrman (at least in Misquoting Jesus), I don't recall him taking any positions about the God or inerrancy of the original autographs (which no one has access to). He confined his comments to the existing text and the problems with its transmission, showing that what we have now is obviously errant to some degree.

Ben said...

The NIV Study bible is quite useful. At least, the footnotes. I haven't found any translation I can endorse whole-heartedly. That's why I've made my NT students learn enough Greek to use the standard lexicons and concordances, so they're not tied to English

Anonymous said...

When reading difficult Bible passages, especially in places where there are no LDS footnotes, or the LDS footnotes are insufficient, I've chosen to refer to the New International Version (NIV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the New Living Translation (NLT).

Most alternative translation footnotes (those marked IE, HEB, OR, GR) in the LDS edition KJV actually match pretty closely with the NIV.

The KJV - NIV - NLT - NASB come in a nice parallel bible from Zondervan, at Amazon, Which is what I have.

Or basically the same thing, with KJV, NIV, and NASB, but using the AMP instead of NLT, at Amazon here.

(I hope you don't mind, but I coded those links so that a local veterans charity gets the small Amazon commission as an affiliate.)

Even where the KJV translation is accurate, the archaic vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure sometimes throws me for a loop, and I need an alternate translation.

Even the paraphrased NLT sometimes helps out when the NIV and NASB just don't paint a mental picture for me.

Jettboy said...

"I don't recall him taking any positions about the God or inerrancy of the original autographs"

Oh, he doesn't say it in one blaring declaration, but it isn't mistakeable. The comment I remember was very clearcut. He became an agnostic because of his research.

To Paraphrase, the more he learned of the mistakes and differences of the Biblical manuscripts, the more he questioned his religious beliefs. Rhetorically speaking, if the manuscripts showed such obvious signs of imperfections than why wouldn't God be more careful with the preservation? If God didn't have a hand in the transmission than what proof is there God had a hand in its production? He basically said it was all human artifice from the start.

Stephen said...

I bought a NET Bible and have enjoyed it, especially the footnotes.

I see God everywhere using imperfect human hands.

Yes.

The KJV has such popularity because of license issues and permission issues in quoting it. You always can, without permission or legal paperwork.

The NET Bible crowd is trying to do something very similar with quotes and such. Will be ineresting to see if that works.

Ryan said...

If I remember correctly JS said that the German version of the KJV was the most accurate he could find.

/so go learn german you slackers
//doesn't know german
///except for volkswagen

Jettboy said...

My guess is that the German as the best is no longer true. It has been over 100 yrs since Joseph said what he did about the Bible translation. Then again, as you said, I don't know German - or Hebrew, or Greek, or Latin.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, love it!
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