All of you that have been reading my blog since I started know that I am a big follower of Christ and a believer in regular Bible study. One question many fellow Christians ask me a lot is: What is your favorite translation and why? I hope to answer that question here, but first I want to write a brief history of how I came to study up on translations and what led up to my choice.
In the spring and summer of 2011 I delved deep into church history, Bible translation, and other elements of Christianity. It was a journey I don't recommend anyone taking until they are firm in their faith, because studying these things it can rock faith a bit when you see it as so massively confusing right away. I came to a very basic conclusion in the end, however, and came out an ecumenical Christian. For those of you that know anything about Bible translation, you may know which one became my favorite because of its ecumenical nature, if not (or if so) keep reading because there's more to this story.
After researching denomination after denomination and getting confused, I came to the conclusion that the only thing that really mattered was Christ. We are a sinful people so our interpretations, beliefs, etc. are going to be stained by imperfection. Therefore, a simple revelation came to me and I knew because it was so simple it was of God -- according to 1 Corinthians 14:33, God is not the author of confusion: every Christian denomination has some things right and some wrong. The most important thing as a Christian is to believe that Jesus forgives your sin and because of that you'll go to heaven. People are always searching for truth, but Jesus said "I am the truth" in John 14:6. Truth isn't a teaching, truth is a person, and we are all united in Christ.
Sin -- which literally means "missing the mark" -- applies very well here. Many denominations miss the mark on some elements and the debates about which will rage on until the day of judgment. Who is right and about what is up to choice, free will that is. Of course the truth is there, and I believe the only day we'll all know it is when we are in perfection in heaven. Christ can forgive us of all sin, and that includes a minor misinterpretation, shouldn't it? We don't all believe the same things are sinful and if we had to be aware of every specific sin we'd be in trouble. When we sincerely ask God to forgive us of all our sins, it includes even those we aren't aware of. To remind myself of this, I always specifically ask God to forgive me of all my sins, even those I am not aware of...and that he reveal them to me so that I may turn from them. The big picture is that the mission of the church is evangelism, bringing Christ to everyone...how are we going to accomplish this if we keep dividing against each other? Mark 3:25 always comes to mind when I talk about this: "And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand."
That is a good segway to the discussion of the Bible and which translation all of this research led me to. After realizing that the older, traditional Lutheran teaching of a visible and invisible (some members of every denomination will go to heaven, but not all, only true believers) and I became more of a Christian unity petitioner, I approached the Bible translation issue. I grew up on the New International Version -- which I still use for evangelism as I know it is effective from experience. However, after examining, it is no longer my favorite version. I tried the King James but found it hard to understand and rumors of a bias of writers toward King James 1 who commissioned the KJV after a note in the Geneva Bible went against the divine right of kings.
Translations and confusion abounded again as I searched for the true Word. I tried the Geneva itself as it was the first Bible with verses, the first Bible truly distributed to the people, the first translated fully from the original languages into English, and was also the Bible brought to America on the Mayflower in 1492 -- those coming over wanted nothing to do with the 1611 KJV due to its Anglican leanings, the puritans and pilgrims wanted their 1560 Geneva Bible. This Bible was beautifully translated and is still a favorite of mine.
This brings up an interesting point, though: The KJV is an Anglican translation in many ways. This made me research a little more and I found out that the NIV is a Protestant translation. Others like the ESV, NASB, NLT, etc are also Protestant. The Catholics have the Douay-Rheims and I believe a few others, the Orthodox have their own as well (the name escapes me...I believe it's more of which manuscripts are used than a specific translation for them, though). Another thing I found out is that all three of these major Christian divisions have a different number of books in their Bible. Needless to say confusion set in again, but God was leading me to a light, and that light was the New Revised Standard Version.
This Bible is the only true ecumenical Bible and let me tell you why: Translators of other Bibles are all Protestants, all Catholics, etc. The NRSV translation committee consisted of people from ALL major denominations. Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox worked together -- there was even a Jewish follower for the Old Testament. That to me says reliability in a non-biased translation of God's Word. It's interesting that the NRSV is the most chosen translation in seminaries as well as in standard college religion classes -- I believe it's for this reason.
Another great thing about it is that it's the only translation that the same committee translated ALL the books -- including the Apocrypha -- that is readily available in many editions. You can get a Protestant 66 book NRSV, you can get one with the Catholic books in their order, you can get a Protestant order Bible but with all the Apocrypha (including additions to books like Esther) in between the Old and New Testaments...the options are many, but the Bible is the same: Your Genesis 1:1 is my Genesis 1:1, no matter the denomination.
It's written in the tradition of the KJV so the beautiful wording is retained and the sentences just flow so naturally. I never felt closer to God than when I read his Word in the NRSV. Now there have been some debates about a few translation choices/wording choices, and I can end that debate with one phrase: check the footnotes. Footnotes are there for a reason people.
Many bash the NRSV for what they call "inclusive language." This means that in cases where the traditional translation was "brothers" and it refers to a multitude of people of unknown gender, or instructions to Christians/people in general, the NRSV says "brothers and sisters." It would be false to assume, and even the most conservative Christians concede (as its in the Bible -- for example Priscilla, Aquila, Phoebe, Lois, Eunice, etc.) that the early church was not only made up of men. Also, read Acts 8:12: "But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." Both men and women were baptized which then added to the church.
I took Spanish for 4 years and what shocked me most was that the words have gender and different ending forms can mean "I," "he," "they," etc. English doesn't have this and that has been something that was a problem for translators for years. Classically they just used the masculine to refer to a group, but I feel this encompasses this better. However, regarding the footnotes, just check them. They will always say it's traditionally translated as "brothers." Problem solved and another strive toward unity even when opinion differs slightly about the small stuff.
For an example regarding gender-inclusive language compared to another version without it, lets use one of my favorite passages: 1 Corinthians 1:10. In the NIV84 it reads: "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought." Now it is universally assumed the "brothers" are everyone, right? Paul was not talking to just men but to all Christians. The NRSV reads as follows: "Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose." Notice the switch to "brothers and sisters?" If anything it makes the text clearer.
To get technical with a few NRSV translation examples: the word "anthro¯pos" which can mean either a man or a woman, is translated as "person." "Adelphoi" was traditionally just translated "brothers," is now "brothers and sisters." "Pateres" is accurately translated "parents" instead of just "fathers," etc.
That last example brings me to one other thing I must address that many have accused the NRSV of that is UNTRUE (and I feel quite strange), is whether or not it: uses gender-inclusive language for God, removes all of the he/she usage, or if it says "Adam and Steve" for the creation story? FACTS: God is still always masculine, identified people are still he and she, and it's still Adam and Eve. Gender-inclusive language is ONLY used when the writer is referring to a group of mixed gender as discussed, and that's it! These are rumors, these are fake and EASILY provable if you just READ THE NRSV. People are afraid because they think it's a bit more liberal of a translation because of its ecumenical nature and more usage of the Dead Sea Scrolls (which are used in most translations, just more-so in the NRSV) and other older sources -- but their usage is all academically backed up. Don't let fear stop you from researching yourself because all this fear I can 100% say is unwarranted.
Others don't like the inclusion of the Apocrypha. My response (sorry if it's too direct): get an edition without it. However, I recommend reading the Apocrypha, it's a good and compelling read that fills in the time between the Old and New Testaments...but this is a different issue for a different blog.
Overall though this Bible is a Bible ALL Christians can use and that speaks volumes to me. I have never felt closer to God than when I started reading this version. I feel more connected to my Christian brothers and sisters (see what I did there?) when I read from this, knowing how many others do. I pray that you all give the NRSV a chance and don't just dismiss it due to rumor and false facts. God bless you all!
The video below is a good presentation of the NRSV as well as some good editions to get of it. If you didn't want to read my whole post, or if you did are are still interested, check it out: