(Touchstone) David Lyle Jeffrey–Our Babel of Bibles

From the perspective of one who values freedom of choice, individualism, and the market, the proliferation of new translations and paraphrases of the Bible must seem, on the whole, a good thing. From a perspective that places a greater value on theological probity, spiritual understanding in the laity, and coherence in the witness of the Church, however, the plethora of English translations and the Babel-like confusion of tongues they create is arguably a calamity. While every new translation is evidently a “market opportunity” and may express in some way the particular slant or voice of individual denominations on certain doctrines, the dissonance and “white noise” of competing Bibles tends to confuse rather than clarify discussion across denominational boundaries. In fact, the “Babel effect” intensifies the confusion.

In addition to new translations, we now have a plethora of “niche” editions, like the “Revolve” magazine-format Bibles, aimed at pre-pubescent girls, whichincludes marginal tips on how to put on makeup and deal with two admiring boys at the same time, or The Veggie Tales Full Text NIV Bible, the NIV Faithgirlz Backpack Bible (in periwinkle blue with a green flower!), the NIV Bible for Busy Dads (or perhaps for dads who aren’t quite busy enough), the Holman CSB Sportsman’s Bible (in camouflage, natch). If you are tired of your mother’s old Bible, which printed the words of Jesus in red, you can choose a more trendy Green Bible, with all the eco-sensitive passages printed in green ink. If you are a feisty woman unfazed by possibly misdirected allusions, then maybe you would like the Woman Thou art Loosed edition of the NKJV. If perchance you should be a high-end of the TV-channel charismatic, there are “prophecy Bibles” coded in several colors to justify your eschatology of choice. If you are a devotee of the U.S. Constitution (the document, not the ship), Tolle Lege Press offers the 1599 Geneva Bible, Patriot’s Edition, complete with a frontispiece portrait of George Washington, a prayer by him, and facsimile reproductions of the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution of the United States of America (with the Amendments), and finally, a tract on Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior by George Washington.

Read it all.


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3 comments on “(Touchstone) David Lyle Jeffrey–Our Babel of Bibles

  1. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    [blockquote]Tolle Lege Press offers the 1599 Geneva Bible, Patriot’s Edition, complete with a frontispiece portrait of George Washington[/blockquote]
    Would George Washington really have used a Geneva Bible?

  2. Ian+ says:

    That one really underscores the profit motive. The Geneva Bible is generally reckoned as every bit as good a translation as the KJV. However, it was the fiercely sectarian and polemical margin notes that repulsed the establishment. The KJV wasn’t all that popular for most of the 17th century, but by the time of Washington, it was the one everybody was using. So what Tolle Lege Press is implying with all the extras seems pretty much bogus.

  3. evan miller says:

    This is an excellent article. I wish it weren’t protected by copywrite! The KJV is certainly my gold standard. I also read the New American Standard Version and the NEV, but for the psalms, only the KJV, and whenever there’s any discrepancy between translations, I always default to the KJV. I loathe the paraphrases and dynamic equivalents.