Bible in 90 – Day 89: On Translations

Translation is difficult work. The translator is really and interpreter of both the original language and the receiving language. Because of this interpretation the translator must know both the definition of the word but also how a particular culture uses the word in speech, sentences, and phrases. This is the reason why there is no “perfect” translation and all contain a subjective level where decisions about punctuation, work choice, and structure had to be made.

When I embarked in this Bible in 90 adventure I knew that I wanted to do it in a different translation than the one I was accustomed to using. I wanted to be “surprised” and “stirred” to see the biblical story in a new way. I chose these two translations because I was not very familiar with them, the TANAKH had been assigned in seminary and I could not really remember how it read, and the Common English Bible was a brand new translation.

I can say after 90 days with them that they accomplished what I wanted them to! Reading the bible in through them pushed me, prodded me, and helped me see so many things, little nuances of the text, that I had never paid attention to before. Take, for example Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me to water in places of repose;
He renews my life;
He guides me in right paths
as befits His name.

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkeness,
I fear no harm, for you are with me;
Your rod and Your staff — they comfort me.

You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my drink is abundant.
Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
for many long years.

Psalm 23 (TANAKH)

Now take a familiar reading from the Gospel according to Matthew:

‘When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard. You shouldn’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask. Pray like this:
Our Father who is in heaven,
uphold the holiness of your name.
Bring in your kingdom
so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.
Give us the bread we need for today.
Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,
just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.
And don’t lead us into temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:7-13 (CEB)

These are just a few examples of extremely formative and key parts of scripture that I was able to see “anew” because I chose to read them in a different translation. There are too many to name but I will have to admit that many of the passages that I chose to write on during this Bible in 90 Adventure came from parts of scripture that had a different read because of the translations I chose.

Today none of us need to have all of these translations in our homes. At the touch of a button we can find most translations online. One of my favorite sites is Bible Gateway (for most English translations, including the CEB, and many foreign languages) and Oremus Bible Browser for the NRSV, RSV, and KJV.

Don’t wait another minute . . . find a bible, take up, and read!

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