Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Batter...er, Bible Up!
After a week of super-duper serious posts (!) about orthodoxy, statements of faith, and the Fortnight for Freedom, it’s probably time to lighten the mood here just a little bit…
Hence, combining the Bible and baseball. Sure, Marx might say that religion is the opiate of the people, but I think sports fill that role more so now than ever. So, feel free to indulge in a little feel-good humor as I take you around the baseball diamond of the nine translations of Scripture that I currently own. After noting that I had eight hard copy translations, I realized I only needed one more to suit up a (admittedly fictitious, and probably slightly demented) baseball team…enter the electronic version of the King James Version that I keep on my iPad!
So here we go…I give you Eric’s starting lineup for his team of Bible translations…
(And yes, this will be almost as geeky as you are expecting it to be.)
Catcher: New Revised Standard Version
The catcher often acts as a sort of field captain for a baseball team—they’re not only calling the pitches, they also make adjustments, decide when to visit the mound, and do all of that from a unique vantage point—they are the only ones who can see the entire field of play from their position. The NRSV is, then, the field captain of my own Bible baseball team. For many years, it was my default translation, and still is when it comes to study Bibles. It does a lot of the heavy lifting that other translations aren’t always up for, and it has a prominent place on my shelf for that.
First Base: Common English Bible
Whether it is because of a single, walk, balk, hit-by-pitch, or a dropped third strike, first base is the base that hitters most frequently end up at from the plate. And the CEB is the translation I now most frequently end up at in my own study. It has become my default general-purpose translation, and I don’t think more than a couple days ever go by without me consulting it.
Second Base: Today’s New International Version
The second base was (still is? Heck if I know…) known as the pivot spot because of the second baseman’s role in double plays hit to the shortstop. The TNIV pivots better than any other translation I’ve seen (except possibly The Voice, which I am not yet terribly familiar with). Its roots are in the conservative, evangelically-leaning New International Version, but the TNIV brought with it a fresh interpretation that includes gender-inclusive language and sensitivity to the ways the church has used Scripture to justify anti-Semitism. Sadly, the 2011 refresh of the NIV rendered the TNIV obsolete, but I still keep a copy of the TNIV around.
Third Base: New King James Version
Third base, aka the hot corner, typically fields some of the hardest-hit grounders and liners in the game. I have to think that in the same way, the NKJV, as the go-to translation for The Gideons, fields some hard-hitting questions and situations from people who encounter it as a sort of first contact with Scripture in a long time. It isn’t my favored translation by any means, but it has its place in this lineup.
Shortstop: Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh
The shortstop is the defensive player you expect to make the dazzling, highlight-reel plays—think Derek Jeter, Ozzie Smith, or (closer to home) Alcides Escobar. They are dynamic players capable of changing the gamestate on a whim. Similarly, the JPS’s Tanakh translation (which is Old Testament only) has the same ability to, whether by its translation or its excellent academic commentary, cause me to completely rethink my earlier conceptions of a particular Bible verse or passage. A dynamic translation indeed!
Left Field: Revised Standard Version
The old (the full Protestant canon was published in 1952) RSV earns its spot in left field more for some of the crazier reactions it garnered than for its own characteristics, which have long since been eclipsed by the NRSV and, to an extent, the CEB. A number of hardline Christians accused the RSV of denying doctrinal issues such as the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, and in one particular case, an American pastor actually burned a copy of the RSV from the pulpit, saying that it was from the devil. For taking one for the team against the more fringe elements of my religion, the RSV is my starting left fielder.
Center Field: New International Version (2011 edition)
Before 2011, there was no way I would put the NIV in center field, where so much ground has to be covered. Before 2011, the NIV seemed like simply a niche translation for someone like me—a translation that definitely lets its very evangelical roots shine through in some questionable translation decision—but it was (and is) still an extremely popular translation nonetheless. But in 2011, the NIV was updated to include a number of changes that addressed some of my biggest concerns with it (see the TNIV’s entry at 2B as well), and as a result, the amount of ground that the NIV has covered in its nearly 40 years of existence makes it well-suited for its task today, and for the task of playing center field in this lineup of the bizarre.
Right Field (har har har): New American Standard Bible
By trotting out the RSV to start in left field, poetic justice and irony demands that I start the NASB in right field, since it was (is) in many ways a conservative response to the RSV. It is more literal than just about any interpretation I’ve come across, and takes the word-for-word translation philosophy to the extreme, where only a hard throw across the diamond will do to make the play…such is the life in right field.
Designated Hitter: King James Version
The granddaddy of them all. Like venerable players nearing the end of their careers, the KJV is a perfect candidate for the DH slot because of its niche via its high-flowing prose and poetry…it isn’t always the best for everyday use anymore, especially given its many translation inaccuracies, but sometimes, if you wanna hit one out of the park with a beautiful swing, the KJV is exactly the translation for that one moment.
You'll notice that there is no pitcher on this team. That is because I do not want to run the risk of losing any of my translations for a year of rehab after having Tommy John surgery.
And that's my lineup!
How do your perceptions of different Bible translations stack up? Do sports and spirituality mix well for you? (And if not, can I help change that? =) )
Yours in Christ,