What’s good in a Bible Translation?

July 21, 2009
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In the church, it seems to be a written rule (or perhaps it’s just one of those pesky unwritten orders of things) to use the King James Version or if we are part of those communities, the Joseph Smith Translation (or Inspired Version) of the Bible. Or maybe it’s not a rule at all, but since the KJV is the one with all the neat footnotes, Bible Dictionary and topical guide references, then if you want to make researching easier when you have to write a talk, that’s the one you use.

And translation accuracy is very important to us. After all, we have an article of faith devoted to it.

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

But even with this 8th article of faith, it doesn’t necessarily preclude the use of other translations. And it certainly doesn’t preclude any other official translations from the church.

I guess it would make sense if we pointed out that the reason we use the King James Version (or, again, a version based heavily off of it) is simply because of tradition and heritage. After all, Joseph Smith was inevitably most familiar with it. Most of the popular translations nowadays (NIV, NRSV, etc.,) weren’t even dreamed of back then.

And as the First Presidency Statement on the King James Version notes (sorry, you have to scroll down this page):

While other Bible versions may be easier to read than the King James Version, in doctrinal matters latter-day revelation supports the King James Version in preference to other English translations. All of the Presidents of the Church, beginning with the Prophet Joseph Smith, have supported the King James Version by encouraging its continued use in the Church.

(Emphasis added.)

Still, it seems like tradition and heritage are insufficient to keep us tied so closely to the KJV. After all, while the King James Version may have an almost lyrical quality that reminds us of Shakespeare, is it the most understandable? To the 21st century reader, no. English has changed so much since King James’s time that even though the KJV’s Jacobean English is called “modern” and is technically readable (the same as Shakespeare — none of these are “Middle” or “Old” English, which are unintelligible languages to us without having a class in them) it still takes time and energy to understand some idioms and to decipher words whose meanings have changed on us since then! Certainly, we learn that charity=love and suffer=permit or allow, but isn’t it strange that we have to learn the language to read our own scriptures in (and those aren’t the only archaisms within)?

Do we forget (or sometimes never learn) of the very humane connotation of the holy “breath,” because “spirit” and “ghost” (which are indeed faithful translations of the concept) don’t quite have those connotations in English? And what confusion must translation cause, since in some instances, words have changed to mean the opposite of what they once did?

I find it very curious what the First Presidency had said before the part I quoted:

Many versions of the Bible are available today. Unfortunately, no original manuscripts of any portion of the Bible are available for comparison to determine the most accurate version. However, the Lord has revealed clearly the doctrines of the gospel in these latter-days. The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical passage is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations.

…Because personally, I would like to see different texts of the Book of Mormon as well, but I recognize we don’t have a whole lot of options here either.

It just seems strange to me…why couldn’t we take the autographs or manuscripts that we have (even if they are copies of copies) and then work on a translation from whole cloth with them? After all, the Evangelicals basically did that with the New International Version (although, that makes it problematic for any non-Evangelicals who don’t want spin). Couldn’t the church authorize a more understandable modern translation of the Bible in accordance to the 8th article of faith so that we could say this one is translated correctly? (or, if translations aren’t the problems but sources are, couldn’t we note that instead, as the First Presidency Statement notes?)

What’s good in a Bible translation? Have any of you ventured outside of the King James microcosm (so the New KJV doesn’t count!)? If you have, was it only for personal study, or did you read along with your family or use in classes? What did others think or say? What do you think when someone relates to you a verse from another translation?

See Also: Nitsav’s post on other translations at Faith-Promoting Rumor. or Jack’s post with LDS-Evangelical interfaith viewpoint.

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76 Responses to What’s good in a Bible Translation?

  1. Seanette
    July 21, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    My personal preference is the JST, because it’s had at least some prophetic restoration of the plain and precious things that were removed.

    In a book I have on the JST, a 1956 Conference address by J. Reuben Clark is reprinted, in which President Clark discusses the RSV and related translations and their penchant for removing all references to Christ’s divinity or the supernatural. There are also current translations that even want to deny God His gender. No, thank you.

    The Church considers the KJV reliable (and I firmly believe they’re checking this with the true Head of the Church, namely Christ, not just running on habit or their personal biases), so I’ll trust inspired leaders unless I run across a reason not to, especially since the Church does have some great footnote helps in the official publication of the Bible. I do tend to give preference to the JST of a passage if it disagrees with the KJV, but that’s my personal taste, based on my faith in Joseph Smith’s calling as Prophet.

  2. Dan
    July 21, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    I prefer the NRSV. I find it far more readable, and also, in particular sections closer in meaning and intonation to what Joseph Smith himself changed in the bible when he began retranslating it. For example, the KJV has the following as Hebrews 11:1

    1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    Joseph Smith doesn’t like the word “substance” and neither do I. He translated this same verse as follows:

    1. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen

    I like that verse better. Now, the NRSV has translated it as follows:

    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen

    They use the word “conviction” instead of “evidence” which changes the meaning a bit. But back to “assurance” over “substance” our LDS version of the KJV has, in its footnotes a small GR “assurance, basis, foundation”. Isn’t that interesting. For “Conviction” the LDS KJV has in the footnotes “GR proof.” Now, of the two words “conviction” and “evidence” which one is closer to “proof?” Personally I think it is conviction.

    So, for the NRSV, in one verse alone, two very key words are closer to the original Greek, which the LDS KJV acknowledges in the footnotes the KJV does not provide within the text. This is most likely because back in King James’ days, “substance” and “evidence” were probably closer in definition to “assurance” and “proof” than they are today. Meaning of words changes over the centuries. It’s just a fact of life.

    It would be nice for our church to switch over to the NRSV, but I highly doubt that would ever happen, at least until Jesus comes back.

  3. Benjamin Orchard
    July 21, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Bah. I grew up in a house where it was pretty much a given that NO translation was accurate. My dad, a Middle-East scholar (his dissertation was titled ‘The Significance of political Parties in Political Modernization: A Historical-sociological Analysis of Egyptian Modernization’–THERE’S a mouthful for you!) spoke both Hebrew and Arabic, and was familiar with Aramaic. The result was that we had a pretty good handle on the concept that the Bible wasn’t really a good representation of the source documents, even though there is a lot of truth to it. The KJV may not be the best translation, but it’s a sight better than a lot of others.

    Personally, I enjoy reading the bible in both of my Portuguese translations. I think I learned more from that than I ever did from reading it in English. The mental effort of having to pay enough attention to what I was reading made me really ponder the meaning of things more. I think there is some VALUE in actually having scripture that is LESS accessible as well as scripture that is more accessible. At least for me that is, but maybe that’s because I read at a lightning pace. If you read more slowly or find reading difficult it may be a major hindrance to have it in a less accessible form. Hmm….

    This calls for a study…

  4. Dan
    July 21, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    One other thing, we’re talking about only the English translation here. I’ve heard that the German Bible is the best bible to read, because its translation is closest to the original. But then we would have to learn German. We could also spend some time to learn ancient Greek, or Hebrew. That will help too. Not everyone has the time to be learning foreign languages however. Not everyone also has the time to learn what a 1611 word means today either.

  5. July 21, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    I addressed this in a post, “How to Help LDS Read non-KJV Bible Versions.”

    One of the things I find interesting about the 1st Presidency statement is that it makes a very strong assumption of doctrinal harmony. Perhaps by “accurate” they mean “doctrinally correct” and not “best preserved from antiquity” (which is not what most other translations mean when they talk about “accuracy” or “best texts.”) This assumes that anything written in the scriptures regardless to time, culture, gospel knowledge, etc. should perfectly match our current understanding of doctrine, which violates that whole “line upon line” principle.

    I also have faith in Joseph Smith as an inspired prophet, but though that’s shared with Seanette, we clearly approach the question very very differently ;)

    If we were to apply this methodology to our other scriptures, we’d have to conclude that parts of the Book of Mormon were “incorrect” or “poorly preserved”, since they talk about “heaven and hell” instead of multiple degrees of glory.

  6. geb
    July 21, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    The King James translation is beautiful, but it is not in the English we speak today and thus most people can’t really understand a lot of what is being said. Almost any of the more modern translations is better if you want to get the sense of what the original meant. I like the NRSV, the Jerusalem Bible and the New English Bible.

    I recall that many years ago at the Hyde Park Branch (University of Chicago), we had a great Sunday School class taught by someone who actually could read the original languages and used those texts along with several modern versions. One day, we had visitors from Roy, Utah. A few months later, our branch president got a letter from Salt Lake. Apparently, those visitors had complained that we were using “unauthorized” versions of the scriptures in Sunday School. This was during the Spencer W. Kimball administration. The letter said that they looked at the Sacrament Meeting attendance and tithing faithfulness of our branch compared with the ward in Roy, Utah, and decided that what we were doing was OK.

    I thought that was quite funny, although I don’t think that statistics necessarily should be the judge of righteousness.

  7. Heber13
    July 21, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Seems to me that one more “version” from a newer translation just adds to the probability of translation error.

    The words are symbolic in nature, seems best to spend time understanding the symbolic meaning of the KJV rather than spend time making or finding other translations that will only still have symbolic meaning.

    Besides, the church needs a standard for all to use so we can discuss the meaning in class, not spend time comparing your version vs mine and get caught up in word-smithing.

  8. July 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    re 3:

    Other than the idea that sometimes making something more difficult to read can cause someone to read more closely and carefully, I’m wondering why your father (or anyone else) would simply take such a fatalistic view of it. If, for example, the KJV Bible isn’t “really a good representation of the source documents,” then why not get a version (or translate a version) that is? I mean, we aren’t even confined to the idea that “well, the KJV is better than the rest that are available,” because there is another option — a new translation, if necessary.

    It baffles me at how some of us can say (re 4) “Well, the German translation is closer,” or “I learned more from the Portuguese.” Why can’t English, the largest (by vocabulary) language in the world, not have a representative translation?! I find it highly unlikely that this is an issue with the limitations or virtues of one language over another.

    re 5:

    good post at FPR, Nitsav. I understand where the First Presidency would be concerned about doctrinal harmony, but this is why I point out as well that we also don’t need to limit ourselves to only the translations that are out there. After all, we *can* embark upon our own translation if need be. The quote from Brigham Young in your post is therefore curious — perhaps in BY’s day there wasn’t a good enough tradition of Biblical scholarship available, but I think that if we asked the same question today, we could find many who could answer that call and would be willing to bind themselves by the “law of justice” to a better translation.

    re 6:

    geb, that’s a funny story there. Heaven forbid the original languages be “unauthorized”. Also, at the comparison of sacrament attendance/tithing faithfulness as the deciding factor.

    But isn’t that strange. That someone who is interpreting from the original languages would come up with scripture that would appear foreign enough to get complaints? Isn’t that a problem?

  9. July 21, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    re 7:

    Heber13, the nature of translation isn’t to translate off the old translations. Rather, each new translation “family” begins with the source documents that we have. So, perhaps your comments may be true for the NKJV vs. the KJV (because the NKJV isn’t a translation from the source, but a translation from the KJV), but they wouldn’t necessarily apply to the NIV, NEB, etc.,)

    I understand your point about standardization for classes…but then the question is…why must KJV be that standard when the church could have its own translation that church scholars work with the original language sources and create a text that can be determined to be translated correctly, no ifs, ands, or buts.

  10. adam e.
    July 21, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    I’ve taken to revising the Book of Mormon as I read it to omit most of the “and it came to pass”es and other archaic language. I like how it flows without all the extra words.

    So while I haven’t read any other versions of the Bible, I’m pretty sure I’d like one of the more modern translations.

  11. Heber13
    July 21, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Unless it was God’s will to get the “no ifs, ands, or buts” version, it would be an impossible task for church scholars to produce it.

    I think we are more concerned with moving ahead with living scripture rather than go back and fix the translation errors of men.

    I go back to my original point that the words are symbolic in nature, not meant to get exactly correct word for word from the original text, but like a parable, need to be understood on multiple levels and left to personal revelation for meaning.

  12. July 21, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    re 11:

    Unless it was God’s will to get the “no ifs, ands, or buts” version, it would be an impossible task for church scholars to produce it.

    in which case we still should be using the Joseph Smith Translation instead of just having selected footnotes here and there in some instances, at the very least.

    Remember: translation doesn’t have to be about “exactly correct word for word.” We can translate in such a way that maintains the original parable. This is the difference between things like formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence. The problem is…the original parable isn’t the KJV. The KJV isn’t the original, so why would the symbol be exclusively within the KJV?

  13. July 21, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    It seems that quite a bit of what our Church does is to “create” sacred space. I think what we’ve done (for good or bad) is to take the language of the KJV and co-opt it for a sort of “honorific” language. Other languages have “high” or “low” forms and English doesn’t, really. So we’ve created a language for sacred things. It requires a little work to learn how to speak that language, but I, for one, think that this is quite rewarding in the end.

    That having been said, this post has inspired me. I’m going out tonight and I’m going to find a new (non-KJV) Bible. Maybe I’ll try to find a Christian bookstore in town that doesn’t have an anti-Cult section (doubtful) and buy one. I’m curious to see what people would recommend. Maybe I’ll go to the Catholic bookstore and get one of theirs… I don’t have a copy of the Apocrypha in any version.

  14. Heber13
    July 21, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Andrew re:#12 Very good point, KJV isn’t the original parable.

    I think its interesting no other prophet besides Joseph Smith was told to work on it. I don’t think that is because no one else could, but Joseph benefitted from working on it to bring about new revelation.

    Is there value to the church maintaining the KJV version so it is more closely tied to other christian religions? That seems shallow to think we’d put our perception with other religions above the need for correct truth, but I know on my mission it was helpful to use existing scripture to build on current beliefs of investigators and then adding new scripture to clarify the KJV.

  15. July 21, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    re 13:

    What you have said has been supported by several General Authorities, so I do not doubt that this is the creation of sacred space.

    The odd thing is…this is rather unique. For example, when we look at other languages with honorific language, or when we look at English, which *used* to have honorific language, this language was *not* used in discussion of the deity. Rather, more familiar, informal, proximal language was consistently used. So, while we say “Thee, thy, thou…” and the GAs note that this is from reverence, in actuality, this is exactly the opposite of earlier use. Way back when (at least for Modern English), thee, thy, thou was the informal or familiar set of pronouns in contrast with the plural, formal, distant you, etc., And so, in other languages, it is “tu,” not “vous” is used. “Tu” not “usted” is used. “du,” not “Sie” is used.

    So isn’t that strange? The reasoning is that God is not distant, but close, so one refers with ‘closer’ pronouns

  16. July 21, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    It is quite strange, and I’m still wondering what difference it makes. Does it change the way people view God when we use different “language” to refer to Him? Maybe it does.

  17. July 21, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    re 14:

    Heber13, well, let’s consider that the the NIV is actually the most popularly used Bible nowadays (although the KJV + NKJV, when those numbers are combined, probably still “trump” it), so if we were going based on that, then we’d have to pay attention to that. And then going by what are officially sanctioned Bibles per denomination, we’d have to pay attention to the Douay-Rheims (the basis of most current Catholic Bible translations, whether it be the New American Bible for America or New Jerusalem Bible or New Revised Standard Version or what-not), and don’t forget that the NRSV is popular for “mainline” Protestants as well.

    In any case, we don’t necessarily go wrong with any one of them, or if we have a new translation of them. It shouldn’t matter if we say “faith, hope, and charity,” or “faith, hope, and love,” because the meaning should be clear (it’s love…)

  18. July 21, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    re 16:

    Arthur, well, it seems to me that there is a difference, especially in attitude. And this difference gets back to what Benjamin was saying in comment 3. I think there is some VALUE in actually having scripture that is LESS accessible as well as scripture that is more accessible.

    It seems that the goals of formal/honorific language match well with the goals of having less accessible scriptures. Honorific language, distance, inaccessibility highlights the sacred aspects of things…and if that’s where our theology wants to go, that’s where we go.

    On the other hand, some may want a different measure. With familiar/informal language, closeness, accessibility, then we highlight the “relationship” aspect of things. And if you’ve ever dealt with someone of that persuasion who wants to emphasize that they don’t follow a “religion” but are cultivating a “relationship,” then you can see the difference in how they look at the scriptures or with Heavenly Father.

  19. July 21, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I think both attitudes can be accessed in our Church. After all, most members, maybe to a varying degree, view General Conference talks as “scripture.” And yet it sounds quite different to our ears and hearts in very basic, fundamental ways. Nobody really parses GC talks, tries to dissect the meaning of one word, etc. Well, maybe in the Bloggernacle. But for the most part we approach GC talks differently… they have a more familiar and personal ring. Some members of the Church focus more on talks than they EVER do on the Scriptures, probably for that reason.

  20. July 21, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    I think that not only can both attitudes be accessed, but that both are “taught”.

    Because even though you have on one hand the idea of using sacred language (and then the juxtaposition of Conference having more familiar/personal language), but I mean, you have a very personal system of doctrine. We are Heavenly Father’s children. How much more familiar can you get than Father-child relationship? Christ is our eldest brother. And so on.

  21. MH
    July 21, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    “All of the Presidents of the Church, beginning with the Prophet Joseph Smith, have supported the King James Version by encouraging its continued use in the Church.

    I know that Joseph used other Bibles (such as the German Bible mentioned above.) I don’t think Joseph was nearly as anal about the KJV as current members are.

    I mentioned this on my blog, but I want to restate it here as well. I agree with Andrew that I would like an authorized version. However, it is my understanding that the RLDS church had the copyright to print the entire JST, so in order for the LDS to be able to use the same edition, some sort of copyright arrangement would need to be made. I will say that it seems there was some openness between the RLDS and LDS in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and the LDS was allowed to view some of the original JST documents, and in 1981, the LDS church published an authorized Bible that not only contained many parts of the JST in the footnotes, but that particular Bible was also cross-referenced with the D&C, PoGP, and BoM. So, I would say that the LDS Church does have an authorized edition, and it was first published in 1981. No, it’s not the same as the RLDS version, but it has some significant JST passages, and is a marvelous study aid to LDS church members. To add cross references to the BoM and other scriptures was heralded as quite a technological achievement back then. Certainly this must be part of the reason the LDS church discourages other versions like NIV in church meetings, as the LDS version of the KJV is really the authorized version.

    I have a Bible with 4 versions side by side (NASB, NIV, KJV, and NKJV). I personally like the NLT version, as I find it easiest to understand. I also own a Catholic bible, which has several books (we call them Apocrypha), though I haven’t read it yet. I know it has a much longer version of Esther than the KJV, so I can’t want to see some of the new details from that story. I personally love it when people quote from other versions of the Bible, and have noted that both Dallin Oaks and Russell M Nelson have quoted from other versions in General Conference when it suited their purposes. (I hate KJV.)

  22. Heber13
    July 21, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Going back to Andrew’s original questions:

    “If you have, was it only for personal study, or did you read along with your family or use in classes? What did others think or say? What do you think when someone relates to you a verse from another translation?”

    I see no problem with any of those 4 versions MH referred to, and it doesn’t seem Oaks and Nelson would either.

    What would I do if someone used another version in class? Nothing. Especially if they bring new meaning and knowledge to the discussion.

    Unless there was an Andrew’s Translation which said, “Fornicate and do whatever you want to replenish the earth…its all good”. Then I’d have a problem.

    These other sanctioned versions seem right as rain to me.

  23. July 21, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    I now feel tasked to create my own translation of the bible and write in it, “Fornicate and do whatever you want to replenish the earth…its all good.”

    COMMANDMENTS. WITH EDGE.

    the thing is, and what I hope I’ve expressed…is that those aren’t really translations. You don’t get that from the text in any way, shape, or fashion.

  24. Jen
    July 21, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    MH-

    “I personally love it when people quote from other versions of the Bible, and have noted that both Dallin Oaks and Russell M Nelson have quoted from other versions in General Conference when it suited their purposes”

    Do you have references for these talks? I am interested in seeing them.

  25. Heber13
    July 21, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Joseph Smith Translation didn’t all come from the original text in any fashion, did it? His mind was opened to receive additional scripture lost in translation (to reference the worst Bill Murray movie ever).

    Andrew, I think “translation” is a broadly used term. Check out the title page on the Book of Mormon.

  26. July 21, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Jen:

    as Nitsav posted on Faith-Promoting Rumor, there are a few talks you can look at in various editions of the Ensign where certain GAs quoted from other versions…Her’s what Nitsav had:

    Neal A. Maxwell, (Ensign, May 1991, p. 90); RSV (Revised Standard Version), (Ensign, Dec. 1986, p. 23); NKJV (New King James Version)
    Jeffrey R. Holland, (Ensign, Nov. 1994, p. 34); NEB (New English Bible)
    Robert D. Hales, (Ensign, Nov. 1997, p. 26). NIV (New International Version)

  27. MH
    July 21, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Andrew, thanks for bailing me out (though with different apostles.) LDS.org’s search feature is TERRIBLE!!!!

  28. July 21, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    re 25:

    That the JST didn’t all come from the original text in any fashion is why I have some issues there (you simply cannot reach common ground with any Biblical scholar on some of JST’s changes because of this…so much for that). The JST represents “inspiration” not “translation” (see: the Book of Abraham. It isn’t translation in any sense of the term. But it could be inspiration. And that’s the workable solution for members to take), so I especially like the name “Inspired Version” rather than “Joseph Smith Translation”

  29. Jen
    July 21, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    AndrewS-

    Thank you!

    And MH, sorry, I thought you may have used those talks in a prior post or something and they were easily accessible.

  30. July 21, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Once upon a time, I would have sworn by the NIV. Now my preference for readability + literal translation is the ESV, though it’s loaded with complementarian bias on the gender passages.

    In the past few months, the TNIV has come to replace the NIV for me as a colloquial translation. It actually covers most views on the gender debate passages, but favors the egalitarian readings in the main text. I have to admit, I’ve begun to drink the Kool-Aid of wanting to teach my daughter a translation which does its best to not make it sound like the only people who matter are men. See this article by Craig Blomberg, “The TNIV: The Untold Story of a Good Translation.”

    And Andrew, I’m so with you on the church authorizing its own translation of the Bible. People say it shouldn’t happen because it could turn into a situation like with the New World Translation, where no one trusts it because it’s “the Mormon Bible,” but I say screw it. People will always find reasons to complain about Mormons. It’s hard to do worse than KJ-onlyism in my book.

  31. July 21, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    re 30:

    when I was doing some research, I had actually heard lots of good things about the ESV (well, from people who were looking for a conservative translation)…but one thing that kinda got me was I heard that the translation “favored” calvinistic approaches to certain scriptures…whether that is through the actual text or just in interpretative essays, I don’t know.

    At the very least, if the church will not authorize its own translation of the Bible, it should sanction an authorized version of the Book of Mormon with 90% less “and it came to pass…” I’d be happy with that much, at least, lol. And since people already complain about the BoM, nothing new there

  32. July 21, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    I was interested in the ESV Study Bible until I checked out my reference passages. ESV Study Bible doesn’t discuss any possibility of alternate understandings of Genesis 1:1, but IIRC talks about creation ex nihilo! I found it highly theologically biased.

  33. Chris
    July 21, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    I use the NIV along with the KJV to study the Bible. Some of the archaic language doesn’t make sense to me, and the NIV helps me to better understand the Bible a lot, especially the Old Testament.

  34. hawkgrrrl
    July 21, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    At BYU, I took a class called Bible as Literature, and one of our requirements was to use two non-KJV Bibles. I chose NRSV because of the apocrypha and the Good News Bible because it was cheap (hey, I was in college) and written in everyday language. What a difference! NRSV is still useful to compare the meaning of different verses. Good News Bible is interesting to contrast to my own interpretations of things! It’s clearly got a slant, and it’s not very scholarly. But it is highly interesting.

    The NIV is currently considered to be the most accurate translation. KJV is also used by LDS for another important reason: because it’s what JS used in the BOM, so it’s consistent with our other scripture. I personally think it’s mostly for those practical reasons that it is favored.

    I also like something about the church’s argument that we don’t need an accurate translation because we believe in ongoing revelation. No matter how good the translation, we are at best dealing with documents that post-date Christ pretty considerably. Many of the stories are probably fictionalized through oral tradition and personal interpretation. Still, I do enjoy seeing the various interpretations that have different sources. I find it illuminating.

    I find it maddening though when we are told to use “thee” and “thou” to denote respect for deity rather than familiarity. It’s just frustrating to all English majors, I tell ya (as well as most Spanish speakers)!

  35. July 21, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    After sitting around the Bible section of the bookstore tonight, I finally settled on a small, simple New Revised Standard Edition. Partly because of the price, because I’m in college too! It seemed like a scholarly and conservative translation, but different enough to have a meaningful comparison.

    Then right next door was the pseudo-scripture, and I saw a big compilation of the Gnostic Gospels, Apocrypha, and Kabbalah (and other stuff), and I bought that too. Then on my way out there was a (clearance!) translation of Livy’s “Hannibal’s War” and I had to buy that, too. What the heck is wrong with me? I walk into a bookstore and suddenly money just starts falling out of my pockets!

  36. July 21, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    “The NIV is currently considered to be the most accurate translation.”

    By whom, and by what definition of accuracy?

    Most scholarly publications (Journal of Biblical Literature, etc.) use the NRSV, as it lacks the conservative Evangelical bias of the NIV, which “cheats” in multiple places. See Kevin’s post http://bycommonconsent.com/2008/10/25/niv/ for example. As one who reads Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, I fully agree with Kevin.

  37. July 21, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    The ESV was created by evangelicals, and as I said earlier it has an obvious complementarian bias, so I wouldn’t put it past it to be biased in a few other places—which is a shame. I think it’s okay to put your preferred reading in the main text, but you should at least footnote the alternatives, and in some places the ESV doesn’t do that. However, I haven’t examined it for a Calvinistic bias.

    I did a post on Bible translations talking about some of these things here, though that post pre-dates my new love for the TNIV.

    Nitsav ~ I haven’t noticed a bias on Gen. 1:1. It simply says “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” which is how most translations have it. Did you mean the study Bible notes?

    There was a passage I came across in mid-Romans a day or two ago which seemed to strongly state that God made the world out of nothing. I made a mental note to myself to compare translations on it, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    Anyways, versions like the NASB and the NRSV are fine translations in their own right. If anyone loves those, don’t let me stop you. :)

  38. July 21, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    I somewhat like the .NET Bible myself …

    However I think there is some VALUE in actually having scripture that is LESS accessible as well as scripture that is more accessible. is really true to the extent it causes people to think and ponder about the meaning of scripture.

    In addition, there are the copyright and license issues. Those are major.

  39. Ray
    July 21, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Jack, that is a great way for an evil villian to answer nicely, but we know your secret evil villian plot – to push an evangelical Bible on unsuspecting Mormons and convert them one verse at a time. ;)

  40. July 21, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Yes, I meant the notes. A responsible study Bible should indicate that there’s a serious grammatical and theological challenge to the traditional translation and associated ex nihilo theology, but the ESV simply doesn’t.

  41. July 21, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Ray ~ Stop it, you’re blowing my cover!

    Nitsav ~ On that I completely agree. There are several places where the ESV Study Bible does a shoddy job covering other viewpoints and interpretations on a passage. I was really disappointed with the commentary on some of the proof-texts commonly used by Latter-day Saints; the notes did not cover the variety of viewpoints or responses available. Plus the article on Mormonism sucked dirt—GG, Ron Rhodes.

    I still think the Study Bible is a good resource for the wealth of articles and explanatory notes it has on other topics. I’ve given, like, six other people my password for my online copy so that they can check it out.

  42. July 21, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Is that stealing the Bible?

  43. July 21, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    pirating the Bible for others to read and partake of Christ is possibly the nicest act of evil villainy.

  44. July 22, 2009 at 12:40 am

    They were all filthy Mormons and agnostics and liberal Christians. The ESV committee ought to be paying me to share my online account with such heathen.

  45. Heber13
    July 22, 2009 at 12:52 am

    Can I ask…Why not the KJV? Is there something wrong with it?

    If it is just the wording and we’d prefer something better…so what?

    What we have is sufficient. Maybe when I’ve studied what we have good enough, I’d be ready for more…but as it is I’m not a scholar on OT or NT, so it don’t much matter to me. (Besides, I’ve already got notes in my margins of my fav KJV book…I think I’ll keep that).

  46. July 22, 2009 at 1:01 am

    I just bought the NIV Study Bible, which along with the ESV was one Jack suggested to me a while back. Enjoying it so far. It’s WAAAAAAY easier to understand.

    Does it change the way people view God when we use different “language” to refer to Him? Maybe it does.

    This was a little upthread, but I have some input here. When I went to Bulgaria on my mission, I was really surprised to discover that they spoke to God in the familiar. It indeed had an impact on me and the way I view God. The “honorific” language had always seemed to put distance between God and me. The familiar drew Him closer.

    I suppose there are pros and cons to both.

  47. Jon A
    July 22, 2009 at 1:18 am

    I’m surprised that Philip Barlow’s book, “Mormons and the Bible” has not yet been cited in this thread! His book is an absolute must-read. His chapter, “Why the King James Version?” is especially relevant here. You can preview this chapter at length at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=eu2fh6znE3cC&pg=PA148&lpg=PA148&dq=philip+barlow+why+the+king+james&source=bl&ots=pg83XConCa&sig=nW-i0spRLg3MyHuPoQ6xPn1UrnM&hl=en&ei=ybxmSvimNY-YsgOx–nuDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1

  48. July 22, 2009 at 1:39 am

    re 45:

    Heber13, well, firstly, it does have incredibly outdated language, but as you say, that’s not anything to cry home about.

    BUUUUUTTTTTT….Probably more problematic is that the KJV is based on inferior sources…the brunt is based off of the “Received Text” or “Textus Receptus” of the New Testament, which was Erasmus of Rotterdam’s project to collate the many Greek fragments of scriptures he could find into one version. The Textus Receptus had a few noteworthy flaws, though…Erasmus didn’t have the entire scriptures in Greek, so he had to mix and max by trying to “translate back” from Latin scriptures. He did this with the last 6 verses of Revelations, so we see that in the KJV or other translations that used the Textus Receptus, there are funky translations that are not supported by any older Greek manuscripts for Revelations that we have. But of course — because Erasmus was “guessing” the Greek from the Latin.

    Next, the copies Erasmus used were later (or “newer”) copies…the significance of which isn’t too much if there isn’t corruption from copy to copy, but if you’ve ever played a game of “Telephone,” you should realize that things somehow *always* get corrupted eventually. So, earlier copies are better.

    One of the most famous interplays of the Latin Vulgate being used as well as later (e.g., newer) Greek sources being used to create a big “oops” is known as the Comma Johanneum. This relates to a rather explicit reference to the trinity in 1 John 5:7-8

    5:7 “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
    5:8 And there are three that bear witness in earth
    , the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”

    The fun part…this does not exist at all in older Greek sources (and the early church Fathers don’t mention it)! It is just something some copyist wrote in later on. (Regardless, most Christians accept the Trinity despite the Comma Johanneum…they simply use other justifications if they believe it)

    So, at best, one could say that the KJV was just the “best effort” that could be done at that time, since many better (read: older) sources for the NT especially weren’t even discovered until hundreds of years later. I’d just like to say that this isn’t ONLY about “wording preference.”

  49. July 22, 2009 at 1:43 am

    re 46:

    Katie L, I might have thought something like that would happen. So, is what you’re saying that you personally have found a shift in the way you can relate to Heavenly Father?

    re 47:

    Jon A, thanks for the link to read; I hadn’t heard of that before!

  50. July 22, 2009 at 5:45 am

    I would add again that using most versions of the Bible involves obtaining licenses or approvals from the copyright holders. It is the reason that in spite of the version used, there is a dramatic bias towards the KJV in public addresses — there are no rights one has to obtain to use it.

    We are at a cross-roads in the way the public relates to the text of the Bible, a changeover that has occurred in the past 30 years, so that it might be time for our own translation, though just looking at the lack of success the “Green Dragon” translation had for another sect kind of tells you the image that home brewed translations often have.

    Just my two bits.

  51. July 22, 2009 at 5:54 am

    The KJV is an excellent translation… by the standards of 1611.

    Problems with the KJV for us today

    1) Archaic language. Some of it was already archaic in 1611, due to the translators’ instructions. This is ok for easy texts, like the Gospels, but Paul in the KJV? Uh uh.

    2) KJV translators misunderstood both Greek and Hebrew.

    3) KJV based on few and poor manuscripts, limited linguistic context (i.e. today we have many more manuscripts of the biblical texts, plus many more contemporary examples of the language in Greek papyri, Dead Sea Scrolls, inscriptions, etc.)

    If you want to learn about the KJV, I recommend In the Beginning- The Story of the King James Bible, and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture.

    Barlow also has an article tracing how the KJV became the official LDS Bible. PDF

  52. July 22, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Katie ~ I am tickled that you picked up the NIV Study Bible. It was my best friend for many years.

    (Well, maybe not my best friend, but you get the idea.)

    BTW, *cough self promotion cough* I did a paper on the Johannine Comma and its relationship to Mormonism back when I was an undergraduate at BYU.

  53. July 22, 2009 at 7:48 am

    #44. You’re like the Robin Hood of Christianity.

  54. Jeff Spector
    July 22, 2009 at 8:52 am

    What I have found is that any translation support the doctrine or practice of the religious organization using it.

  55. July 22, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Re: 49, So, is what you’re saying that you personally have found a shift in the way you can relate to Heavenly Father?

    Yep. Realizing I could talk to Him in the familiar opened up the way I view and interact with Him. I personally prefer it, and have adopted the practice in my private prayers in English. I tend to either try to avoid “you” pronouns in public prayers, or conform with standard Mormon expectations.

    Jack, I’m tickled too. Thanks for the help. :)

  56. hawkgrrrl
    July 22, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Jeff, you are right. And Nitsav, the proponents of NIV are doubtless no exception in presenting a biased copy (just like the original translators all did as well), but there are a lot of them, and they are fairly unanimous in stating that it’s a version with review from 100 scholars of differing faiths who agree on the translation. Of course, the “100 differing faiths” could vary as widely as SBC and left-handed SBC and SBC of the Valley for all I know.

  57. July 22, 2009 at 11:15 am

    I heard the guys at the Maxwell Institute are working on a Bible commentary that will also provide a new translation of each verse.

    Maybe one day the Church will take the extra step and sanction a new translation.

  58. July 22, 2009 at 11:26 am

    re 57:

    Joseph, I’d be quite interested in seeing that when it’s done.

  59. Larrin
    July 22, 2009 at 11:42 am

    I have in the past used a variety of translations, mostly NIV and ESV, though I have ventured out into others. I occasionally even prefer using a paraphrase translation to see a quick interpretation of certain verses, of course that doesn’t mean I always prefer that viewpoint. In order of most literal to least literal (at least in general) I have used the following: YLT, NASB, ESV, NIV, NLT.

    I may prefer the ESV to the others if I had to pick just one. Why the church can’t at least update their own KJV version doesn’t make sense to me. The new Spanish LDS Bible is “a very conservative revision, focusing on modernizing some of the outdated grammar and vocabulary that had shifted in meaning and acceptability” of the Reina-Valera Bible, why not do the same for ours?

    Another thing I wish they would do is copy the paragraph and poetry format of the modern translations. Each verse being a paragraph is a much more difficult way to read if you’ve ever branched out into the modern translations of the Bible. You can also see the superiority by reading the Reader’s Edition of the Book of Mormon.

  60. hawkgrrrl
    July 22, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Now that I’ve heard so much positive about my NRSV, I’m considering going back and re-reading it again. It might be fun to do some posts on some of the main apocryphal books as well (hint to my fellow bloggers).

  61. SteveS
    July 22, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    hawkgrrrl: good ideas. Also, why not do a poll on which bible translations they are currently using, and one for their favorite, and one for their least favorite?

    My vote is for NRSV as well. I love the HarperCollins Study Bible. I have the 1997 edition. I’m waiting to buy the 2006 revised and updated edition to see if HarperCollins will improve the quality of the paper they printed it on: you can see the words on the other side of the page very easily on the new HarperCollins bibles, so much so that there have been tons of reviews by people complaining of eye strain. Too bad.

  62. July 22, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    re 61:

    I could create such a poll, but I’m laaaaaaazzzzzzzzy. so if hawkgrrrl wants to do so, I would be gracious. :3

  63. July 22, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    I read the NRSV for studying, and I occassionally read the KJV, but I stick to the Message version.

  64. hawkgrrrl
    July 22, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    Andrew S – would love to, but I’m stranded at the airport right now, and I can’t create polls via blackberry.

  65. July 22, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    i don’t think i even have poll creating abilities, now that I think of it.

  66. hawkgrrrl
    July 22, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Hmmm. All admins can. You could check with the others.

  67. July 22, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    i’m definitely not an admin, btw.

  68. Douglas Hunter
    July 22, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    “What’s good in a Bible translation? Have any of you ventured outside of the King James microcosm (so the New KJV doesn’t count!)? If you have, was it only for personal study, or did you read along with your family or use in classes? What did others think or say? What do you think when someone relates to you a verse from another translation?”

    I use the NRSV all the time, bring it to Church, use it along side the KJV when teaching class etc. The KJV remains my personal fav. because of the emphasis on the figurative richness of the language. I’ve read a number of other translations and they often seem to be created in reaction to the KJV in that they are clearly seeking to reduce the amount of figurative language that they contain. The EVs have produced some terrible translations that ruin great passages in order to make them more “accessible,” a horrid concept.

    “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly;”

    I don’t think we spend enough time unpacking this idea. I think we should begin by throwing out the idea that a correct translation is one that seeks a 1 to 1 relationship between idioms, and then start to address the idea of translation. There should be a good long discussion of how one can even begin to apply an idea like “correctness” to translation. This is a really big issue but one that rarely gets its due as most people prefer greatly reduced notion of what a translation is does and why it is necessary.

    “The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical passage is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations.”

    This is such an important point, we need to keep in mind that one the huge differences between us Mormons and other Christians is that the LDS institutional view is that the Bible is not actually a source in the same sense that others take it to me. JS and subsequent Church leaders have always treated the Bible as a text that needs to be brought into conformity with the prophetic voice that leads the church. No solo scriptura here!

  69. MH
    July 22, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Hawkgrrrl, I have been thinking of doing an Esther post for quite some time. I’ll have to put it on the front burner if I can. (I just got a job offer today, and start next week, so it will probably cut into my blogging time.) Anyway, Catholic Esther contains some apocryphya that Protestant Esther does not. I like the idea of studying apocrypha, and will try to follow your hint.

  70. Heber13
    July 22, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Congrats on the job offer MH! Not an easy thing in this economy, huh?

  71. MH
    July 22, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Thanks Heber. I feel like my personal recession is now over.

  72. July 23, 2009 at 9:21 am

    A couple observations about the Apocrypha… I’ve noticed lots of people are very interested in the Apocrypha who have never read Haggai. For the most part, I’ve found lots of gnostic, Apocryphal, and otherwise non-canonized scripture to be quite boring actually. Maybe the Force isn’t strong enough with me…

  73. July 25, 2009 at 8:53 am

    After reading all of the comments, and other discussions, I have concluded that the LDS Church should stay out of the Bible translation business and stick with the KJV. There are so many different versions that Mormons prefer that a translation might end up as badly received (or worse) as the KJV. What they could do is work on better and expanded translation notes similar to the GR commentary.

    On the other hand I think it would be great if an ambitious member (or members) were to take on the task of a translation. There is, however, something that I don’t like about most translations that I have read. It seems that the poetic structure of the KJV is reduced to shadows. The actual KJV translation might be of poor quality, but there is to me nothing less than a rewarding experience reading the archaic language and structure. Then again, I love reading Shakespeare out loud with a Pseudo-British accent.

    There are three qualities that a Mormon translation of the Bible are paramount to me:

    1) Accuracy of the translation. It would be nice to read an updated text that considers the known source material. Even better would be extensive, although uncomplicated, notes that mention other possible meanings for words.

    2) Poetic and literary flow. I want to read more than a text of scripture put on a page. Scripture should not be merely a textbook manual. That is why I can’t seem to get into non-KJV translations even though I want to for clarity.

    3) Retain a relationship to modern Mormon scriptures. Bad as the KJV grammar Joseph Smith used, it still feels part of the whole. I don’t want it at all to turn into a green “World Translation,” but still not feel foreign to the Book of Mormon or Pearl of Great Price. Clearly the KJV is the template for Joseph Smith’s revelations and informs our interpretations of his words. Losing that in the Bible translation might make us lose some understanding of the other Scriptures.

    Anyone here who is educated in Bible studies brave enough to take on a translation of their own? Maybe it can be something less ambitious like a KJV Bible translation commentary with Mormonism in mind. In fact, I thought someone from the bloggernacle was working on something like that and was going to publish it.

  74. July 26, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    The irony of your #2 Jettboy is that the KJV utterly fails to recognize or set off poetic passages in any way. Some of that was the translators, and some of it was the particular mechanical dictates of their publishing process, but it’s awfully hard, reading the KJV, to tell when something is poetic in the underlying languages.

  75. Jeevankumari98
    April 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    i want any idea to make chart for school