I grew up with the King James and still think of the Christmas story from Luke in those words. But for clarity and accuracy with English as it is now I feel the New Revised Standard is best. I also like to read the Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh. It’s intriguing to see the translation differences.
Why would we start agreeing on anything now?
As an “us Christian” myself, we have three or four Bibles. A King James (we call it the “The Bible that was good enough for Jesus”), an RSV (plain English, but kind of… plain). An NIV, and a couple of other more accurate translations.
So get a couple. An Oxford Annotated for when you really want to “read for content” and find out what the original authors meant, and a King James for the beautiful language, to “read for relaxation”.
eta: Went and looked; we also have some smaller Bibles (travel size) and one with plenty of room in the margins for notes (the “take to a Bible Study” one). Yikes, we’re Bible Hoarders! (apparently, it’s a pattern: I just counted three versions of “On The Road” in the same bookcase).
So why would you restrict yourself to one Bible? Become a hoarder like us!
It’s all online now and easy to switch among whatever your preferences are. For example, Sermon on the Mount (NET). Switch to any of the many English (and non-) versions available. I’m sure there’s other sites; this is the one I use.
My preferred version is the New English Translation (NET). Extensive footnotes provide insight into translation choices made. I find the language to be very accessible with an emphasis on conveying the meaning of the non-English texts. The translators do not seem to push any particular Christian dogma. See notes about “virgin” and “young woman” as an example.
Just to note: this thread is 15 years old, and was awakened from the dead yesterday by a now-banished troll.
Sometimes bad people accidentally do good things.
D’oh, ambushed by zombies again.
For all we know, the OP bought a Necronomicon instead, kicked Jesus to the curb, left his poor devout wife with the kids and hopped a tramp steamer to Tierra Del Fuego.
@Clu-Me-In, how’s your ‘Penguin Pelt Wallets’ stall in the marketplace doing?
Hmm. I like the translation notes in that, but it also seems to mix that with interpretive commentary, like explaining their opinion of the significance of certain things.
I’m fine with Bibles that include that stuff, but I prefer it be kept separately. And I don’t really think that’s the translator’s job to tell us.
I love the notes on why things are translated like they are, though. They’re more explanatory than many other translations.
Their footnotes are in three type. Textual Critiques (TC), about variations in the original texts. Translation Notes (TN), about the choices of the English translators. Subject Notes (SN), about the context of the original text.
I expect the SN are the what’s concerning you. There is a fuzzy edge, but these seem to be very textual and not interpretive. That is, not saying what the text should mean to you, but giving context to the original writer. For example,
Matthew 1:23 sn A quotation from Isa 7:14. It is unclear whether the author is citing the MT or the LXX. The use of the word παρθένος (parthenos, “virgin”) may be due to its occurrence in the LXX, but it is also possible that it is the author’s translation of the Hebrew term עַלְמָה (’almah, “young woman”). The second phrase of the quotation is modified slightly from its original context; both the MT and LXX have a second person singular verb, but here the quotation has a third person plural verb form. The spelling of the name here (Emmanuel) differs from the spelling of the name in the OT (Immanuel) because of a different leading vowel in the respective Greek and Hebrew words. In the original context, this passage pointed to a child who would be born during the time of Ahaz as proof that the military alliance of Syria and Israel against Judah would fail. Within Isaiah’s subsequent prophecies this promise was ultimately applied to the future Davidic king who would one day rule over the nation.
Which is a fairly balanced explanation and not pushy, in mine opinion.
Do you have a specific example of a problematic note?
Yeah, that one is fine. The ones that bothered me were the ones I saw when clicking on the Blesseds.
On the word Blessed, they say this:
The term Blessed introduces the first of several beatitudes promising blessing to those whom God cares for. They serve as an invitation to come into the grace God offers.
I approve of the first sentence, but not the second. That’s an interpretation. The next one about the poor in spirit seems to also be an interpretation, as there is no reference to the original language to explain why “poor in spirit” must mean “the pious poor.” To be a translation note, it should explain why the Greek phrase most likely means people who are spiritual and poor in money, and not other possible interpretations such as those who are depressed (e.g. low spirits) or those who struggle to believe.
The next note tells us why the present tense of “belongs” is important. I’m fine with pointing out that it is explicitly present tense in the original, and even pointing out that this is the only such case. That’s translation. But saying that this is significant or that “Jesus makes the kingdom and its blessings currently available.” is adding interpretive commentary.
This is followed by this one:
The promise they will be comforted is the first of several “reversals” noted in these promises. The beatitudes and the reversals that accompany them serve in the sermon as an invitation to enter into God’s care, because one can know God cares for those who turn to him.
The first part is arguably okay, as it’s just describing the text. But the second sentence is interpretation.
You can also jump down to the one about salt, which also mixes information and interpretation:
Salt was used as seasoning or fertilizer (BDAG 41 s.v. ἅλας a), or as a preservative. If salt ceased to be useful, it was thrown away. With this illustration Jesus warned about a disciple who ceased to follow him.
The first two sentences make sense, giving factual information to aid the reader in interpreting the text. But the last sentence tells the reader how to interpret it.
Again, I’m not saying any of that is wrong to do. But I prefer that stuff to be kept separate from the actual translation.
Translation does include information about the text, why they chose to translate things a certain way, and even sometimes context to make sense of things.
But it doesn’t include telling us how the text should be read. I may agree with that they write, but it’s still commentary, not translation. That’s not the translator’s job. They should be devoted to the text itself and making sure people understand it as it was intended to be understood by the original authors.
Compare, say, my NIV study bible. It has the NIV, with its (not as good) translation footnotes. And then, separate from that, it has its commentary, which is not from the translators. It’s not the official NIV commentary.
I hope that makes sense. And I also hope it makes clearer what I mean by “separate.” Sure, labeling the types of notes is nice, but it’s not really separate when it’s still all part of the translation itself.
Is there a Catholic version with language in a style similar to the King James?
The King James itself has the Apocrypha, so it can function as a Catholic Bible. The modern versions just started leaving it out to save printing costs. But you can find versions with it in it, or even get the Apocrypha as a separate volume.
While Catholics see it as the Deuterocanon, and thus part of Scripture, Anglicans see it as good spiritual reading, but do not derive doctrine from it.
Thanks, @BigT. I’d guess the NET translators would say they are describing the original writers’ intent, rather than their own interpretation. That is a fuzzy line and I think you make a good case. Not sure which way I’d decide and outside the scope of this thread anyway.
You could look into the Douay-Rheimes, which was translated into English in the 16th century, and was the standard Catholic Bible until the 1940’s.
The answer is very dependent upon what you mean by “best”. Do you mean the most accurate meaning? Do you mean the easiest to understand? In terms of the former, the original language is the best because translation is affected by a modern interpretation of ancient text. In terms of the latter, “easy to understand” may beget over simplification and loss of meaning.