Saturday, 21 September 2013

Dumb Bible Translations

The news from the nice people at Christian Today (not a typo for the better-known Christianity Today) is that the Bible readers market continues to be dominated by the worst translations on offer.
According to the CBA, whose rankings are based on sales at member Christian retail stores in the U.S. through Aug. 3, 2013, the top Bible translations are: (1) New International Version; (2) King James Version; (3) New King James Version; (4) English Standard Version; (5) New Living Translation; (6) Holman Christian Standard Bible; (7) New American Standard; (8) Common English Bible; (9) New International Readers Version; (10) Reina Valera 1960.

The ECPA's list, compiled using adult book sales data from Christian retail stores across the U.S., includes: (1) New International Version; (2) King James Version; (3) New King James Version; (4) New Living Translation; (5) English Standard Version; (6) Reina Valera; (7) New American Standard Bible; (8) New International Reader's Version; (9) The Message; (10) Christian Standard Bible.

Sales charts from the ECPA going back all the way to January show that the NIV, NLV, KJV and NKJV have consistently wrestled for the top spot among buyers.
No sign at all of the NRSV or any of the excellent Catholic alternatives. Perhaps not surprisingly, the people who buy Bibles tend to choose comfortable (and deeply flawed) options. The only half-decent offering appearing on the lists - at CBA's no.8 - is the Common English Bible.

Daniel Wallace of (teeth gritted) Dallas Theological Seminary is quoted as saying that the venerable KJV remains his top pick, citing its "elegance and its cadence and the beauty of its language."

"But it's not the most accurate anymore," he added. "So it's elegant, it's easy to memorize out of even though the language is archaic, but it's not always real clear and it's not always real accurate."

Ya think?!

Then there's this telling comment:
Despite the number of translations available and the Bible being the world's most printed and widely distributed book, surveys have consistently showed that many Christians rarely read the Bibles they own.
Nope. Best to stick to those handy dandy proof texts, and not to wander too far off the beaten path. After all, that could lead to dangerous pitfalls like having to think for oneself!

Presumably all this says something about the demographic of the Bible-shoppers who patronise these two sources. Sadly it also says a great deal about the state of the general Christian demographic in the US, and to be frank, other English speaking countries won't be a lot different.


  1. As long as it has a black leather cover, gold leaf edges and says "Holy Bible" on the front, it looks good on the car's dashboard. Everybody should bend it a little and stick some memos, shopping lists or other piece of paper in it and leave it hanging out so as to make it look used. Maybe put a ball point pen somewhere in the Psalms, that always looks attractive.

    Oh, translations...each denomination of Christendom should have their own. That way, all Christian denominations can better communicate with each other that their translation is better than the other denomination's translation.

    Just how we would ever have a correct translation of edited, redacted, interpolated copies of copies of non-existent original MSS is certainly a mystery to me.

  2. Very depressing, however the sources seem to be very Evangelical-based, so perhaps not that surprising; I would hope that those outside this grouping would make better choices overall, although I realise there's no guarantee.

    I remember many years ago I was looking at the selection of bibles in a general bookstore (WH Smiths in the UK) when a couple of women came up to select a bible as a gift for a child undergoing their confirmation. As they were talking without any particular knowledge about the various options on display, I offered to help. I suggested that as it was a child they were buying for, it might be a good idea to choose a translation which was easily understandable. One of the women replied that she felt that it was not so much for "something to read" that they were buying a bible, rather it was "something to have". Hmm, great! I think they went away with a black, leather-bound, gilt-edged copy of the KJV!

  3. There is an Armstrongite perspective embedded in this observation. I recently heard on NPR that the average Christian prays less than one minute a day. The average Christian minister prays less than five minutes a day. Apparently, neither the Christian ministers nor lay people read the Bible much.

    Armstrongites read statistics like this and feel very superior to these "pagans." Armstrongites, if they are good Armstrongites, spend the prescribed daily 30 minutes each on prayer, meditation and Bible study. Yet the Christians support all kinds of charitable works including many of our major medical centers. They are involved in such charitable programs as Habitat for Humanity and other efforts.

    The Armstrongites support no charities. (A few Armstronigites, as individuals, are involved in humanitarian efforts and no doubt are viewed as oddballs, if not in a state of rebellion, by mainstream Armstrongites. Even atheists have charities although I have never heard an atheist mention involvement in charitable activities.) All Armstrongite funds go to selling their heretical message, intended to increase organizational income, and supporting the inordinate incomes of their leadership and ministers.

    None of the disciplines that the Armstrongites devoutly engage in produce any kind of observable, positive humanitarian output. Only the strengthening of the heretical center of Armstrongism.

    Who cares if Christians don't read the politically correct translation if they do something to help people? Armstrongites and recovering Armstrongites gloat over this issue because they value only activities that are self-aggrandizing and self-investing.

    Christ asked which son really did the will of his father.

    -- Neo

    1. You know, when atheist/secular people give to charitable causes they don't advertise it in the local paper like churches do either. Maybe that's why you never hear about it. The American Cancer Society recently turned down a $500k donation because it was from an atheist organization - that's another reason why atheists don't let charities know that they are atheists.

  4. "All Armstrongite funds go to selling their heretical message, intended to increase organizational income, and supporting the inordinate incomes of their leadership and ministers."

    unknown, you're killin' me!

    Most of the "Armstrongite" ministers I know would qualify for food stamps if they chose to take them, but they don't. And, most have other jobs to support themselves and their families. Meanwhile, where I live, the average "non-Armstrongite" minister makes six figures easily, plus benefits.

    Your prejudice just bleeds off the page...

    1. I've got to agree with Larry on this one. "Armstrongite" ministers are poorly paid, if at all. Even back in the heyday of WCG, in the 60's, 70's and 80's, ministers were NOT well compensated. HWA lived like a multi-millionaire, sure, and his inner circle of top dogs were also very well compensated indeed. But an ordinary minister ... no. An ordinary minister enjoyed the status and perks of the job, but they received a below-average salary.

      Now, frankly, most were paid more than they were worth IMO. Most of them couldn't have worked a real 40+ hour a week job where you have to do real work and produce real results. But that's a different topic.

    2. Most of the "Armstrongite" ministers I know would qualify for food stamps if they chose to take them

      No...just no.

  5. Tried this before, and think it disappeared into cyberspace. Dr. Gene Scott had at least one good quality back in his heyday of the 1980s in that he would compare various translations for shades of meaning when providing scripture references. And, I don't mean quoting KJV, and then reading Moffat's translation or the RSV (popular in that era). No, Dr Gene would dissect the Syriac and Ethiopic, used by early Christians from those regions. Talk about adding color!

    Defenders of the KJV often do not consider the advances of the last 50 years which have gone into some of the newer and more accurate translations of the Bible. More manuscripts have been discovered. There is better and more complete understanding not only of the ancient Hebrew and Greek languages, but also better understanding of the other ancient languages prevalent in the nations which neighbored on and/or preceded Israel. And, textual criticism has become an advanced science.

    I don't know that most lay people would be able to discern a good translation from a mediocre or bad one, or even whether the relative goodness or badness would be readily perceived in their Christian walks. I have a KJV, which when I read it gives me bad flashbacks of Armstrongism. So, I generally use my TNIV study Bible with its awesome footnotes, and compare it when there are questions with my New American Bible, St. Joseph's Edition. If you need a particular version to support the elements of your beliefs, probably in most cases, that means you are in a cult.


    1. BB, I agree wholeheartedly. "More manuscripts have been discovered" is a huge understatement. The KJV was based on the ancient manuscripts that were available at the time it was translated. Those manuscripts represent 10% or less of the manuscripts currently available, and in many cases they were part of what are now considered "minority" views. Many bible readers do not realize that the ancient manuscripts are not all the same - both intentional and unintentional changes crept in over the years, to the point that no two are exactly alike. Many of these changes are minor, but a good number are NOT minor. So, for example, a set of manuscripts from the churches in Alexandria might vary significantly from a set from the churches in Constantinople, and both might vary significantly from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Part of the task of translators is to try to agree on the original intent of a scripture, based on the varied manuscripts.

      KJV was an excellent translation based on the evidence and knowledge available at that time. However, in the year 2013 we have much more evidence and, as you said, much more knowledge.

  6. The last time I calibrated the incomes of Armstrongite ministers was back in the Seventies. At that time, the pastor of the Wichita, Kansas Church made three times the average income of a typical American family. He also received a second tithe allowance and a fleet car. He may have also received a clothing allowance. I know the clothing allowance existed at one time but I not sure it existed in the Seventies. I visited the house of the minister at that time and his house was quit impressive.

    I know ministers would sometimes request local adjustments. The Amarillo minister back then requested an increase in income so he could buy a larger house because there were lay members who had houses larger than his and he felt like they could not respect him.

    Over the years, this whole picture may have changed. If it did, the information did not reach me. It is not my intent to be prejudicial so let me recast that sentence:

    " All Armstrongite funds go to selling their heretical message, intended to increase organizational income, and supporting the SMALL incomes of their leadership and ministers."

    If that makes any difference to the point.

    -- Neo

  7. Although this a very much a minority view (I am the only person that holds it that I know of), I feel that the Bible is not intended to be a trove of clarifying information about life and God's activities on earth. When man elected to generate his own knowledge and walk his own path, he lost direct contact with God. The Bible is not an exception to this principle of separation but a part of its implementation, as is prayer. The Bible is an obscure and divisive document and not at all how God originally intended to communicate with man. We may be able to glean just enough, as through a glass darkly, to understand the rudiments of salvation. We do not even know what some of the original Hebrew words in the Bible mean. The meanings are squeezed out by scholars through context studies. But if we were able to translate every word precisely, I believe it would still be a controversial document. While it is informative, it is also punitive. And intended to be.

    -- Neo

    1. Neo, I partially agree with you. I agree "the Bible is not intended to be a trove of clarifying information about life and God's activities on earth" and "The Bible is an obscure and divisive document".

    2. Why did our 'holy book' just happen to arise during the golden age of religion, ~500BCE to 100? Where was Yahweh 500,000 years ago when early man needed enlightenment as to "salvation" and "predestination"? Does anyone even understand the stupid, vague, contradictory formula for Christian salvation anyway?

      Supporters of this particular holy book can not tell us exactly when, where or by whom it was written. In this respect, more modern holy books like the Koran and Book of Mormon are superior.

  8. Interesting, Neo. I've often said that the Bible can be distilled down to the Golden Rule. If you combine that with John 3:16, you've got a pretty sound basis.

    There are those who feel that Jesus somewhat minimized the physical curses incurred by Adam and Eve, so that mankind of the modern era is not as severely cursed as were those who lived in Old Testament times. In a way, I see their point, because that would need to be so as a general condition for one even being able to practice Christianity. The legalism of the Torah clearly dealt with the cursed condition of man, which makes it all the more ridiculous for some to attempt to bring it forward into the New Covenant, which was a totally different and much more effective way of treating and resolving the cursed condition.


  9. This post is a diversion from the topic at hand.
    It's serendipity, as Byker Bob mentioned Dr. Gene Scott, and I was just reading about Scott and watching Werner Herzog's documentary about him, "God's Angry Man"

    I can certainly relate to driving late at night and finding Gene Scott on the car radio- a seemingly intelligent man to listen to. I'll bet a lot of people found HWA the same way, driving late at night and glad to pull in a radio station to listen to.

    Gene Scott is known for stating he wouldn't talk til people started pledging large sums of money. He'd just sit there silent if no one was pledging money. But sometimes he'd scream about money, and scream, "It has nothing to do with money!"
    At his church, after he'd built up emotions and say it was “Offering time”, the audience would jump to their feet and started waving sealed tithing envelopes around like they were on The Price is Right TV show.
    Then he might rant about UFO's, then sing his famous song, "Kill Some Pissants for Jesus", and then built up emotions again, and there would be a SECOND “Offering time”, and the audience would respond like they did during the first “Offering time”!

    Earlier today, before I read Byker Bob's comment I was watching Werner Herzog's documentary about Dr. Gene Scott online.
    For those who may be interested, here are links to Werner Herzog's documentary about Gene Scott-
    (BTW, his "Monkey Band" sermon is priceless!)

    God's Angry Man - Werner Herzog's documentary on Dr. Gene Scott [1/6]

    God's Angry Man - Werner Herzog's documentary on Dr. Gene Scott [2/6]

    God's Angry Man - Werner Herzog's documentary on Dr. Gene Scott [3/6]

    God's Angry Man - Werner Herzog's documentary on Dr. Gene Scott [4/6]

    God's Angry Man - Werner Herzog's documentary on Dr. Gene Scott [5/6]

    God's Angry Man - Werner Herzog's documentary on Dr. Gene Scott [6/6]

  10. Interesting is the concept that the Bible can be distilled down to the Golden Rule, given the fact that the Golden Rule is of pagan origin and predates the era of Christianity.

    I do wonder about "curses", though.
    The idea of "curses" seems ingrained in Christianity- at least in Midwest America, where I live.

    Here's a few examples.

    I know of two women, Christians who are pregnant, that were told by their clergy that their childbirth would be painful because of the 'Curse of Eve'.

    I watched on Christian TV (about "generational curses", by people like Benny Hinn, Paul Crouch, Creflo Dollar and Perry Stone and others.)
    It's interesting, how their teachings (about "generational curses") could all be distilled down to the same thing- send them money to break the spell.

    Since it's a bit taboo to go against religious beliefs, old TV shows like 'Andy Griffith', 'Car 54 Where Are You?' , 'The Patty Duke Show', 'Make Room For Daddy', 'The Lucy Show', (and many others) all had the "gypsy version" of the scam in their plots, with gypsies claiming to recognize "Curses" on people, and offering to have the curses removed....for a price.

    Popular Christian TV ministries go a little further, though, and I've watched Benny Hinn invoke a curse on those who disagreed with him. Also, Paul Crouch invoked a curse, seemingly against his very own granddaughter (who had made public the fact that millions of dollars in donations to Paul Crouch's TBN were being misappropriated), with Paul Crouch saying how his detractors die and he'd attended funerals of his detractors.

    When it comes down to it, the messages of these popular TV preachers are little different from the "God will kill you if you oppose me" messages of Ron Weinland, Dave Pack, etc, and are filled with hokus pokus curses.

    1. A couple random observations. At the time that I listened to Dr. Gene during the 1980s, I was agnostic. I started listening to him purely as entertainment, because he was outrageous. Still, I managed to learn about such eclectic things as the apocryphal book of Enoch, the Bibles of Christians in gentile countries, Dr. Gene's practice of gestalting, and even ghost stories during the Halloween season. Walter Martin, the Bible Answer Man before Hank Hannegraff, was pretty freaked out about Dr. Scott, stating that he didn't think it was appropriate for Christians to say they had circumcised their cigars after cutting the tip off so they would draw properly.

      As for the Golden Rule, like most people, I'm aware that Confucius had an alternative stating of that same rule 500 years before Christ.
      However, not all of the sayings in the gospels need to be considered as "Jesus originals". I believe there were many ethical, logical, and loving concepts from the ages that Jesus simply restated, or validated as He did His work.

      Sadly, the types of people who introduce stupid theories, fear, and bad behavior into their preaching are not restricted to those who teach Armstrongism. It's kind of like what I had to teach my son about bikers. Just because someone has the good taste to ride our favorite brand of motorcycle, that doesn't automatically make him one of the good guys. Whether stereotyping is positive or negative, it is inherently inaccurate, and one must always do due diligence, and that applies to churches and teachers, and Christian TV.


  11. Norm, you were one step ahead of me with your comment about the "golden rule". That was my first thought as well. Indeed, there is very little that Jesus allegedly said, according to the gospels, that wasn't already said by the more ancient religions. The anonymous authors of the gospels, with other texts open, could have easily picked a little from here and a little from there, changed the wording around a bit, and constructed their stories. Of course we know that didn't happen, because they were inspired by God. Still, it seems obvious that without God's involvement it would have been possible to write the exact same stories using this method.

    "Curses", indeed. Then as now the threat of curses was used to gain power and money. A useful fiction is all they are.

    I'm now superstition-free and glad of it. It's G-L-O-R-Y to be F-R-double-E.

  12. You wrote, "Then as now the threat of curses was used to gain power and money. A useful fiction is all they are."

    I agree, and would add "control" to 'power and money'', although control may be a subset of power.

    I've watched many testimonies of various types of Christians, whose beliefs are obviously having a negative impact on themselves and/or others.
    But the "negative impact" point is moot on those who testify, because of their "faith" and claim to having self-control(although sometimes claiming to have internal Holy Spirit which gives them superpowers of guidance and discernment), so their testimonies are nothing but a testimony to the reality of how easily humans are sometimes manupulated.

    Regarding Byker Bob claiming, "As for the Golden Rule, like most people, I'm aware that Confucius had an alternative stating of that same rule 500 years before Christ.", I disagree, firstly, with his "like most people, I'm aware" statment, in the following ways-
    1) I think that if a poll were taken today among Christians in the USA, they would overwhelmingly think that the Golden Rule came from the Bible's Jesus.
    2) I think that if a poll were taken among Christians in the USA, they would overwhelmingly show belief that the Golden Rule did NOT have pagan, pre-Jesus roots.
    3) I think that if a poll were taken among Christian church pastors in the USA, it would overwhelmingly show that they believe that Jesus alone (or with Jesus's co-Gods YHVH and the Holy Spirit) were the actual authors of the Golden Rule.

    In fact, Byker Bob misinterpreted what I wrote or was naive about the origins of the Golden Rule when he named Confucianism, since the Golden Rule actually originated thousands of years before the time of Christ(and not merely a few hundred, as Confucianism did).

    It's not surprising, though, given the average Christian's naivety and/or outright refusing to believe established facts which counter their beliefs, that the Golden Rule is seen as "purely" Christian by an overwhelming Christian majority.

    1. We studied Confucius in seventh grade Social Studies class, and learned about his version of the Golden Rule at that time. Since our school system used nationally standardized text books, I am certain that this was not an anomaly. It had to have been part of the national curriculum.

      Also, Norm, it would be interesting to meet and speak with the Christians whom you know, and upon whom you base your opinions. They sound similar to the ones I've met while visiting friends in rehab and halfway houses, but not like the ones I meet at church or industry leader types whom I know from the business world.

      Finally, if confronted with the pagan origins of the Golden Rule, most Christians would probably pick the alternative that you did not include, which would be that this is a part of God's character, and that various cultures have perceived and stated it throughout the history of man. Pagan is not an all purpose pejorative. It is simply a descriptive for people who did not know or worship YHWH. Josephus found much to admire about the Romans.


  13. Byker Bob, I was not using the word "pagan" as a pejorative, although I understand it's easy to conclude so, based on our religious background. I actually believe that many pagan concepts are very good ones, and rooted in the evolution of the human need to live with others in a productive way. The "Golden Rule" is certainly an example of that.

    You wote, "it would be interesting to meet and speak with the Christians whom you know, and upon whom you base your opinions. They sound similar to the ones I've met while visiting friends in rehab and halfway houses, but not like the ones I meet at church or industry leader types whom I know from the business world."

    Were you speaking of my hypothetical "1)", "2)", and "3)" poll questions?
    I was basing my opinions on general trends I've noticed and a wide variety of sources.

    I wasn't basing my hypothetical poll answers on what people in 'rehab and halfway houses' have concluded about the topic since I don't know any, although that's a very small sliver of American Christians, whichever way it's parsed.
    It's interesting that you have your finger on their pulse, finding what Christian people in rehab/halfway houses opine about Christian and pagan history when it comes to the history of what we refer to nowadays as "The Golden Rule", and perhaps you could expound on that a bit.

    Maybe the USA's Christians who live in your area of the country tend to be more educated about these matters than Christians around here are, but I've seen many polls showing what Christians believe, and have read and seen enough to still feel comfortable with the answers I guessed of the "1)", "2)", and "3)" poll questions. We may respectfully disagree, but if I were a betting man, I'd still bet on American Christians overwhelmingly believing that the 'Golden Rule' came from Jesus.

    1. In a way, I am probably the equivalent of the foreign exchange student here. As such, let me clarify and add perspective.

      Paragraph 1~ What you stated was actually my point. I assumed from previous posts you have made that you in fact admire much about what Armstrongites label as pagan. Much of our greater audience probably does consider the word to be a pejorative.

      Paragraph 2,3~. Neither. That statement addressed the sweeping generalizations contained in your final paragraph regarding Christian naivete and intransigence with regard to science.

      Paragraph 4~. I don't survey Christians from various walks of life, or attempt to determine their pulse. Christians voluntarily share their beliefs if you permit them this freedom. Since having returned to faith myself, I simply stopped ignoring them or shutting them out. This means that I no longer have to rely soley on the media in forming my opinions of them. This lends itself to greater accuracy.

      Paragraph 5~ I wouldn't necessarily agree that people in my region are more intelligent. However, my work puts me in communication with perhaps people of higher than average intelligence, as does my community. The church I have attended draws from these same pools. They are not the types who check their brains at the front door of the church, nor are they expected to. That may be responsible for the growth we witness on a month to month basis.


  14. Hello, 10 cents is what we should get paid. I agree that this does not correspond to the reality of things but as freelancers, we should make an effort to choose our rates ourselves. Also you will notice I am not listing agencies offering between 6 and 9 cents, that would be most of them;) however rates under 6 cents are unacceptable, for European translators that is, in my opinion, especially when you take off taxes. That's almost voluntary work.
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