A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Note to Publishers: Cease and Desist on The New English Bible Translations and Study Bibles

Harper One has just published The C.S. Lewis Bible (an article on the Bible is here). Bibles are big business for publishers and with the publishing industry changing faster than you can power up your Kindle, it is understandable that publishers would want to capitalize on a money-maker.

But to Christian publishers and denominations (my own UMC was behind the Common English Bible) I say enough is enough. We do not need another English version, translation, or paraphrase. Moreover, as much as I love C.S. Lewis (I am teaching a seminar on Lewis starting this next week) we do not need a study Bible with certain portions of his writing lined up with passages of Scripture. Lewis' writings are already available. Those who desire are able to access his work quite easily.

In a western culture of excess, the plethora of English translations and study Bibles present just one more example of such excess... and all in the name of Jesus! Anyone who speaks English not only can read the Bible, they now have to wade through exactly which Bible they want to read. If indeed one is confused over which English Bible to read, perhaps that already reveals the problem.

I have an idea. Instead of publishers and denominations getting behind yet another English translation, why don't they put their energy and money and marketing plans into publishing Bibles in other languages. They can then have a program where those of us who have more Bibles on our shelves and tables than we can count can actually purchase Bibles for poor Christians in other countries. The publishers can still make a profit (which is certainly OK with me) and those of us who are blessed with an abundance of Bibles and enough money, can bring the written Word to those who have limited access to God's Word or do not have access to it at all.

A little over fifteen years ago, I took a mission trip to Puerto Rico. Before we left on the trip we purchased a Study Bible for the pastor who was going to host us. As our trip neared its end, we presented him with the gift one night at dinner. He thanked us with tears in his eyes, as all he and his family had was one Bible that was falling apart from use.

When it comes to the Bible and Study Bible publishing industry, we can do better. Publishing Bibles as a mission... that's something I would support, not only with my voice, but with my dollars as well.
Update: Dave Black, my friend and co-editor of the Areopagus Critical Christian Issues Series disagrees with me on this. You can read his perspective on his blog, which has no feed. You will have to scroll down until you find his reference to my post.
Read what he says and ponder the issue.


larry said...

I have not yet read the post by Dave Black, but I have to say that this has been bothering me for years, and I agree wholly with your post. I like your solution as well, allowing publishers to still make a profit.

Anonymous said...

One thing to remember is that many publishing houses do print various versions and study guides etc; so that they can print bibles in other languages and distribute them cheaply...

Take the Bible Society as an example. http://www.biblesociety.com.au

For them to publish a new version would most likely equate to a furthering of their mission to place a Bible in someone else's hands.

Rev. Daniel McLain Hixon said...

I completely agree. There was a time when virtually all English-speakers in the world used The King James Bible.

Then there was a time when virtually all used the KJV or one of its 'revised' children. These new translations were created basically to account for changes in the use of English and for better manuscripts to work from (and these revised versions were still quite conservative, putting forth a form of English that was somewhat older and more formal than what people spoke on the streets).

Now there seems no end of Bible translations and special editions. It may be that the English language changes faster than it used to, however, has it really changed so much since the TNIV or the NLT came out that we really need to create a CEB? It all seems to me more motivated by the desire for money than the desire to spread Scriptural holiness.

One other issue might be the break-down of a common "doctrinal language" if you will. When everyone used the KJV the way doctrinal discussions or assertions were phrased was, quite naturally, based in language of the common Bible. Now doctrinal ideas must be 'translated' from one Bible reader to the next. This isn't all bad, since it will require ideas to be thought through carefully, and may send people back to the original languages more often, however (I'm no historian, but) I wonder if we've lost one of the commonalities that once facilitated a deeper doctrinal discussion.

I typically use the NRSV, the ESV, the NIV, and occasionally I'll look back at the KJV.

John Vest said...

I agree that there are too many specialty Bibles out there. I'm also all in favor of funding translations in languages beyond English. But I disagree that new English translations are not warranted. For a faith tradition so centered on an ancient sacred text written in languages that most followers don't read, it is imperative for us to have reliable and usable translations. Just today I posted on the CEB, which I think is a great new translation that will serve the church well. http://johnvest.com/?p=1033

Pumice said...

One of the overlooked potential strengths of denominations is the resources they bring to the table. Perhaps there could be a more aggressive attempt to make sure that pastors, at least, have the resources they need to preach the word. That would start with a Bible.

I would hope there are programs in use already.

Grace and peace.