Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thoughts on a Bible hunt.

Tuesday, I went on a hunt to find a particular edition of the RSV which I saw at a thrift store for $2 about a month or so ago. I did this for reasons involving highlighters and pen markings, which I won't use in my finer bound bibles. I got to the store and it was gone. So, figuring I'd have to pay full price for a new one, and the Catholic bookstore being already closed, I made my way to the large omni-denominational Christian bookstore in the area.

They had 3 Catholic bibles (NAB, GNT), about 40 crucifxes, and a few pope books. I should have figured this is first communion season and they'd be picked over. I took a few minutes to check out some of the stuff in the store anyway.

Looking at the vast sea of Bible translations available, one thing was obvious: Catholic Bible publishers are a few steps behind our Protestant brethren in terms of quality and selection. We have a few shining exceptions, one being the leatherbound RSV Second Catholic Edition by Ignatius Press, which is actually published by Nelson for Ignatius. I have two Baronius DR editions, the regular leatherbound one which over 2 years on now is in great shape, and their pocket sized one which is less than a year old and already the back pages have torn along the spine where the maps meet the pages. The larger one has a great feel to it and the type is very easy on the eyes. It is a great Bible, which I reviewed here.

Nevertheless, nothing we have rivals the Cadillac of Bibles I saw Tuesday. I only had a few brief moments with it (very brief). The ESV Study Bible is one stunning book. Its more like a tank than a Caddy, actually. Perhaps when Ignatius finishes its RSV Catholic Study Bible we will have a published rival, but not now.

Just below the ESV Tank-Bible they had a rack full of ESV New Testaments for $2 a piece. So I figured why the heck not, right? I'm working my way through it now, making some markings and taking some notes. One thing I've noticed is that in some key passages the sacramental and hierarchical language present in the RSV has been wiped out. Bishop has become "overseer", Presbyter is "elder" (in the RSV too), Baptisms become washings (as we discussed in Heb 6 a while back) and thats just a few examples.

Its not horrible, but its definitely not Catholic, nor is it really anti-Catholic. It does make the King James Version look like Papist propaganda by comparison. I can clearly see why Evangelicals will appreciate it. It is a serious translation, unlike the Good News Bible, the Message, or the NLT, but very readable. It avoids inclusive language.

I wouldn't keep it as my main Bible as a Catholic but it'll be around if I want a different take on a passage here or there.

5 comments:

Paul Merrill said...

Hi Matt.

Just a reminder for your readers that we English-speakers have such a luxury of so many translations to choose from. More than 2,000 language groups around the world don't have a single verse translated into their own language!

Blessings today.

-Paul Merrill for Wycliffe's The Seed Company
http://www.theseedcompany.org/

Matt said...

That's a lot of languages! Thank God for the Church to spread the Gospel.

I think that really shows how important it is for the Church to retain her Latin in the Mass so that we can all be united in our worship, especially as the Church continues to grow in third world countries.

Moonshadow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moonshadow said...

It does make the King James Version look like Papist propaganda by comparison.Quite.

A friend of mine from high school works for Wycliffe as a linguist. Looking back, my high school had a decent English department and foreign language programs. Many of us enjoy now dabbling in language.

But we are blessed as English-speakers by a range of translations. It must just be that resources are available.

I'm not in a study now that uses the ESV so I haven't read from it in about a year or so. But, prior to that, I used it for about five years at the Presbyterian church. I liked it better than the NIV but that might not be saying much.

I actually bought, believe it or not, a Catholic NLT not too long ago. Apart from having the Deuterocanonical books, I'm not sure what qualifies it as Catholic. And I've noticed more and more people shunning the ESV (that's what I said, "shunning") in favor of "more readable" translations like the NLT. A victim of its own literalness.

Can anybody figure these evangelicals?! Always a fickle bunch, imo. Maybe that's the real reason there are so many English translations ... a group that's hard to please! :-)

Matt said...

"I actually bought, believe it or not, a Catholic NLT not too long ago. Apart from having the Deuterocanonical books, I'm not sure what qualifies it as Catholic. And I've noticed more and more people shunning the ESV (that's what I said, "shunning") in favor of "more readable" translations like the NLT. A victim of its own literalness."

Many overtly dynamic translations I think lend themselves to doctrinal mushiness. Thats probably why.

I think, eventually, though one or two people in any congregation finally wake up and begin taking things seriously. Thats when the problems begin.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton