Why I Use Other Bible Translations in Gospel Doctrine

I routinely give some version of this spiel both when I teach Gospel Doctrine and in the hallway conversations that follow. Several friends have suggested that I blog it, so here goes. I’m aiming for brevity rather than thoroughness, since the point of the spiel is to give people in class who might be wondering why I tend not to use the KJV a short and accessible argument explaining my reasons. Even though we’re currently doing the New Testament, I’ll also include my bit on the Old.

Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures

First of all, a word on the name. The phrase “Old Testament” implies a New Testament, suggesting the replacement of one covenant by another. This possible replacement has two effects. First, it raises the question of why we should bother with the Old Testament at all, instead of just tuning out for a year until we get to the New. Second, it sets us up to read the Old Testament through the New, which is fine, but such typological reading is and should be secondary to the literal reading (which Jews call peshat). If we only read typologically, we can end up missing other kinds of spiritual richness latent in the text–which emphatically include the non-Jesus-centered readings that Jews have been doing for millennia. So, instead of “Old Testament,” I prefer the term “Hebrew Scriptures.” These were, after all, the first Christian scriptures, too. Jesus never quoted from the New Testament, obviously.

Second, a word on translation. The King James translators used the best linguistic resources available to them, but in the last 400 years (and especially the last century) scholarship has produced three major advantages. The first is linguistic: in the past 80 or so years, scholars have greatly expanded their knowledge of ancient Near Eastern languages, which has enabled a clearer understanding of the Hebrew (and occasionally Aramaic) words in the Hebrew Scriptures. Thus, modern translations can simply be more accurate than the KJV. Beyond this, the Dead Sea Scrolls include earlier versions of biblical texts than were hitherto available. Finally, scholars now understand how Hebrew poetry works. Whereas the KJV renders the whole text (including the Psalms) in its lovely  prose, modern translations can distinguish between poetry and prose. Thus, readers of modern translations can tell when, say, the Book of Job switches from prose to poetry and then back to prose.

For the Hebrew Scriptures, I like the NRSV (which can be found in standalone form [including as a free Android app] and also in study Bibles published by HarperCollins and Oxford), as well as the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh, which can also be found in the Jewish Study Bible. The translations of Robert Alter are unparalleled in their literary quality, though, and come with very insightful notes on matters of translation and cultural context.

New Testament

The KJV translators used a descendant of the Greek New Testament first published by Erasmus in 1516. Erasmus’s edition was a major landmark: he was the first to try to assemble a printed New Testament in its original language, instead of the 1000-year-old Latin Vulgate translation. Modern scholarship has improved on Erasmus in two major ways. First, his collection of manuscripts didn’t cover the entire NT text, and to fill the gaps in the Greek he simply translated from the Vulgate, which means that some few passages in the KJV don’t rest directly on manuscript evidence. Second, his manuscripts are late, coming from the 11th-12th century Byzantine family, which aren’t always that textually reliable. Scholars have uncovered many additional manuscripts since Erasmus’s time, including some nearly a millennium older than the ones he used.

For the New Testament I generally use the NRSV, as printed in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, whose notes help to situate the text in 1st-century Judaism. Again, the translation itself can also be found in a free Android app and in other study Bibles.

***

An important caveat: I’m not a trained biblical scholar. My rusty Greek is usually enough to puzzle through bits of the New Testament, but I don’t know Hebrew. I actually think that this is an important point, and not because I want to tout my own modesty or inoculate myself against correction by those of our commenters (and permas *Ronan* *Kevin*) who know this stuff better than I do. See, Gospel Doctrine isn’t supposed to be a graduate seminar, accessible only to an elite few. Rather, it needs to be engaged in building Zion, whose gates are open to all. Good study Bibles, which can be had for a fraction of what many of us expend on our monthly cell phone or cable/satellite TV bills, make basically everything I know about biblical scholarship available to anyone who wants it. The major goal of Gospel Doctrine as I see it is to show, by precept and example, that the scriptures can be powerful resources for wrestling with the complexities of human life. The slight unfamiliarity of new translations can help class members see the text in new ways, and my hope is always that the unsettling of familiar readings will be recompensed with new riches. Fortunately, I’m reposing this trust in a book that has been delivering riches for thousands of years.

Granted, we should still keep the KJV in our repertoire, because, as Ronan reminds us, knowing its language puts us in better stead to understand our modern scriptures that mimic its style. Even so, I’ve found that my own personal study and my ward Gospel Doctrine classes have benefited from using new translations and study Bible notes. Questioning the translation forces us to think about what the text really says, to consider closely the words on the page. Admittedly, the unfamiliarity does put some people off, but that’s why I routinely explain my reasons for using new translations. As a practical matter, I also do all of the reading out loud in class, so that I at least make the translation available in one form for those who don’t have it.

What experiences have you had using alternative translations in church settings?

Comments

  1. I suspect I’m out of the norm*, but I’ve had very good experiences. I’ve influenced two Stake Presidents to start reading modern Bibles, and positively referring to or quoting them in Gospel Doctrine and over the pulpit. If I’m teaching, I tend to use the KJV until I know we’re somewhere problematic, and I’ll either say “the KJV is a little misleading here, what does this sound like in a modern translation?” and read/call on someone for another one. See here for one example.

    *I’ve gained a surprising amount of social capital in my last two wards on subjects like these, probably because, like Ronan and Kevin, I have some training and relevant publications. This one explains why Bible translations differ, and has some lengthy suggestions on personal Bible study.

  2. Terry H says:

    Good post.

    I’ve taught in many wards over three decades. I have always tried to refer to alternate translations when they help (which they don’t always). When I’m not teaching, I do the reading as often as possible and often will read something else. I like the NRSV, but also find that the Revised English Bible is excellent for the Old Testament (not so much for the New). Last year, I was reading Isaiah from my Jewish Study Bible (2d Edition) and was called on to read a verse in class. People were looking at me strangely (well, more strangely than usual) and I realized I had just read from my JSB. I then had to explain what it was. A lot of heads nodded, but I’m not sure that many people picked it up.

    When dealing with the NT, I will use Kevin Barney’s annotations (which I download onto every device I own (currently four). If that makes me sound like a fanboy of Kevin Barney so be it. I really am. Him and Michael Austen (another perma).

  3. Terry H says:

    Ben S. too. ;)

  4. Great post, Jason. I have read almost all of the “Old Testament” in the five Alter translations so far, an I am praying that he lives long enough to do the Major Prophets. I have also used the Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh version frequently and (for the books that Alter has not translated) exclusively in my personal study. For the New Testament, I prefer the Revised English Bible (REB), which is probably the closest thing to a modern translation following the original design of the KJV: inviting scholars from across the British religious spectrum to produce a translation more or less acceptable to everybody.

    I do love the KJV for its language and poetry, though. It still colors the way that I imagine God talking. But I have not found it a good source to use for difficult passages that I really want to understand. Latter-day Saints would do well to remember that almost all of the arguments that we use in favor of the KJV translation were made by J. Reuben Clark in the 1956 book, _Why the King James Version_, which compared the KJV to the only other widely available translation at the time, the Revised Standard Version (RSV). It does not deal at all with the dozens of other translations, some of them excellent, that have been published in the last 60 years.

  5. I teach Gospel Principles and I use the NIV Bible in class (frankly, in my own study as well) for the very reasons you noted. In addition I find that visitors from other faith backgrounds can more easily relate to the style, thus can focus on content and not get lost in archaic language.

    I do get a fair amount of pushback, especially from the more dogmatic members. I’ve actually had an elderly couple (ward missionaries) stop attending because of this. But overall, once the class member gets used to the more accessible language, and they realize it’s not littered with subliminal messages to follow the Roman Pope, they actually want to use it. I’ve seen more and more show up to class with their crisp new NIV Bibles (carefully purchased to not have a cross on it, like mine has).

    One unintended benefit is that sometimes the non KJV version presents a well worn passage we (incorrectly?) use for proof text and presents it in a different tone. Some immediately see the problem with our institutional interpretations, which result in fantastic discussions, while some are offended and see in the discrepancies proof that other translations are inferior.

    Overall, using different translations side by side with KJV is something I recommend.

  6. I’d be very careful with the NIV. There’s a newer revision I haven’t looked at closely, but I’ve moved away from it because it “cheats” in certain inerrant, Protestant ways. Kevin Barney’s looked at some of its issues here at BCC , but see also the comments of NT Wright below.

    I must register one strong protest against one particular translation. When the New International Version was published in 1980, I was one of those who hailed it with delight. I believed its own claim about itself, that it was determined to translate exactly what was there, and inject no extra paraphrasing or interpretative glosses. This contrasted so strongly with the then popular New English Bible, and promised such an advance over the then rather dated Revised Standard Version, that I recommended it to students and members of the congregation I was then serving. Disillusionment set in over the next two years, as I lectured verse by verse through several of Paul’s letters, not least Galatians and Romans. Again and again, with the Greek text in front of me and the NIV beside it, I discovered that the translators had had another principle, considerably higher than the stated one: to make sure that Paul should say what the broadly Protestant and evangelical tradition said he said. I do not know what version of Scripture they use at Dr. Piper’s church. But I do know that if a church only, or mainly, relies on the NIV it will, quite simply, never understand what Paul was talking about.

    This is a large claim, and I have made it good, line by line, in relation to Romans in my big commentary, which prints the NIV and the NRSV and then comments on the Greek in relation to both of them. Yes, the NRSV sometimes lets you down, too, but nowhere near as frequently or as badly as the NIV. And, yes, the NIV has now been replaced with newer adaptations in which some at least of the worst features have, I think, been at least modified…. And those blown along by [its doctrinal] wind may well come to forget that they are reading a visibly and demonstrably flawed translation, and imagine that this is what Paul really said.

    N.T. Wright; Justification pp. 51-53

  7. Jason K. says:

    I admit I’m always a little surprised when people say they love the REB. As an Anglophile I should love it, but I just don’t, probably for aesthetic reasons.

    I’m with Mike in hoping that Alter can finish the whole Hebrew Scriptures.

    Re: the NIV, I have the same reservations that Ben mentions. Obviously not everyone finds the NRSV nonpartisan (Clark and many others certainly objected to the RSV as partisan), but it does strive to be broadly acceptable.

    I should add that, even though I never asked permission, in time both the Sunday School President and the bishop expressed direct support of my using other translations. Some (mostly older) members of the ward had complained, but the bishop’s view was that they could always attend the other GD class if they wanted to. (Admittedly, that’s not a solution that works in wards with only one class.)

  8. Miss Quoted says:

    As a lifetime member, I am pleasantly surprised at this. I always thought that the KJV was translated most correctly, and that new versions were translated out of context based on church sponsored translations. This is most likely due to my small-town Utah upbringing. You have motivated me to take a look at the other versions. I think I’ll start with the NRSV. Thanks!

  9. Jason K. says:

    Yeah, give the NRSV a shot. Comparing multiple translations is the next best thing to reading in the original languages (which, to be clear, often involves engaging with significant discussions about the meanings of words).

  10. Miss Quoted says:

    Words are my forte. My graduate degree is in writing, rhetoric, and discourse. I think I’ll be gobbling this up!

  11. Jason K. says:

    Word nerds are always especially welcome at BCC.

  12. maustin66 says:

    Jason, it was the Psalms that really converted me to the REB. I love how they did the English poetry. And Deuteronomy. I love their Deuteronomy. I have the Oxford REB Study Bibles and the Harper Collins NSRV Study Bible, and I pretty consistently find myself preferring the REB–not sure if that is the translation or the Oxford apparatus, though.

  13. Jason K. says:

    Thanks, Mike. I’ll give it another try when I teach my Bible class again in the Fall.

  14. Thanks. This is excellent and better stated than I’ve managed, although the fact is that I’ve had very little push-back overall. The one or two incidents stand out as exceptions.

  15. Any thoughts on the New English Translation (NET)? It admits to a slight conservative bent, but even so it seems to be fairly even handed.

  16. I really like the Lumina app version of the NET for the translation comments. I can’t speak to the overall translation but being able to read their comments on what they thought were tricky parts is really useful.

  17. Some of you might be interested in taking a look at the Church’s official Spanish Bible which came out six years ago. The Church took an old translation and then modernized the language and, in the New Testament, incorporated many changes based on modern textual criticism. This means that we have an official Church translation that features many of the advantages of other modern non-LDS Bible translations. See here:

    https://byustudies.byu.edu/showTitle.aspx?title=9516

  18. Jason K. says:

    Translation notes are where it’s at. I like translations that try to enable readers to disagree with them.

    I’ve heard good things about the Spanish translation, but I don’t read Spanish and do can’t evaluate for myself.

  19. Terry H says:

    Jason, I appreciated the REB for its language in the OT. Jeremiah is one that comes to mind. As for those who love Alter (Mike), Ben S. got me to revisit him, but Everett Fox is someone I go to first (although he’s done far less than Alter). See: http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2014/12/guest-book-review-the-early-prophets-by-everett-fox/

  20. Terry, I will have to check out Fox–I am not familiar with that translation. Basically, I love Alter for his commentary and for his close familiarity with Hebrew rhetorical and poetic devices that he (I have been lead to believe) preserves in English as well as possible. I love the REB for the quality of its English poetry (especially in the OT, I agree), which, while not as great as the poetry in the KJV is, in my opinion, the most poetic of the modern translations while still being understandable and accurate.

  21. Terry H says:

    Michael, Fox is certainly not in Alter’s class with regard to poetry, but there’s something about his versions (Five Books of Moses and Early Prophets–Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) that resonates with me. The Sampson example I referred to in Times and Seasons is only one of them. Ben S. is a fan of Fox as well. Its the Schoken Bible, v. 1 and 2. Unfortunately, they came out 19 years apart, so there’s not much hope of more substantial volumes (like the Greater Prophets). As I said, it was reading Ben S.’s comments in other venues about Alter that got me to appreciate him more. Although I liked his poetry, I felt there was more of “humanistic” attitude which I don’t sense from Fox.

  22. Fox goes a bit more of the literal than Alter’s literary. Here’s his Genesis 1:1-5.

    At the beginning of God’s creating of the heavens and the earth,

    when the earth was wild and waste,
    darkness over the face of Ocean,
    rushing-spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters—

    God said: Let there be light! And there was light.
    God saw the light: that it was good.
    God separated the light from the darkness.
    God called the light: Day! and the darkness he called: Night!
    There was setting, there was dawning: one day.

  23. Jason K. says:

    Well, all y’all have convinced me. I’ll bring my REB home and fold it into my GD reading.

  24. I really, really love this conversation. The post and comments fill me with a sense of elation. I feel like I’m in heaven reading this, or at least Zion. How wonderful to benefit from all this knowledge and the faithful perspective of BCC permabloggers and commenters on this topic! I would really love to be in Jason’s, or Ben’s, or Kevin’s, or Terry’s Gospel Doctrine classes!

  25. J. Stapley says:

    Copy that, john f.

  26. An option I enjoy is to use the Olive Tree Bible Study app (available on Android and iOS) where I can have multiple editions in a small form factor. One of the texts available is the KJV with Strong’s Numbers. This text helps those who love the KJV but still want some additional insight into the source text because you can tap on various words and have the (ostensibly) Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic text be defined, including grammatical use of the word you’re specifically viewing. If you get real crazy you can buy the HALOT or the Greek equivalent and even link directly from the displayed definition straight into the HALOT.

    With that said, I really enjoy the NRSV and the Tanakh. I’d also recommend the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) to help bring some LXX goodness into the study without learning Greek. NETS uses the NRSV as the base text, which I like.

  27. Well, my main love of the KJV is the poetry, but a couple of people said they like the psalms in the REB translation, so I’ll give it a try. If the universe shuts down, you all know why.

    (My love for Alter knows no bounds, so we might be okay).

  28. Preparing my primary lesson for last Sunday, I was lying in bed with a Harper-Collins Study Bible, Kevin’s Footnotes to the New Testament, and the Jewish Annotated New Testament around me, and the NET Bible up on the computer and my phone. And, frankly, that’s the nirvana of lesson prep.

  29. Jason K. says:

    Those are some lucky Primary kids, Sam.

  30. (Jason, if the universe does in fact continue, may we have a follow up post in a week or two, to hear people’s experiences using an alternate translation in GD, or surprises and insights in personal study, and such?)

  31. Jason K. says:

    Sure, oleablossom.

  32. Great post Jason. There’s a humility present in earnestly seeking out a good Bible translation as it accepts that there are people out there who understand the languages and forms better than we do.

  33. Claire S says:

    I have used the Contemporary English Version for some time for personal study but will look out for a copy of the NRSV. I teach primary and often find I need to ‘translate’ what the children read from the KJV before we can discuss it which seems a shame when there are other translations that make scripture reading more accessible and meaningful.

  34. Jason K. says:

    Yes, Claire, although there’s something to be said for teaching Primary kids to read KJV English, making the scriptures accessible to our youngest members is vital. It’s possible to teach them at an early age that the scriptures are too hard to understand, which can encourage scriptural illiteracy in later life. Using modern translations might help them see early on that the scriptures are rich resources.

  35. Terry H says:

    John f. or J. Stapley, sign me up for the others. Of course, every week, I feel I’m in Kevin’s class with his New Testament footnotes. I do agree with those who feel this post was nirvana.

  36. T. Larson says:

    Love this thread! I’m a huge fan of Bible translations and have benefited from this and previous posts on the topic. (I just received my copy of the Jewish Study Bible in the mail this week.) I once asked a BYU-I religion teacher and friend of mine which translations he used in his lesson prep. With a wink he responded, “Depends on what I’m trying to convey.” Which leads me to this question, at what point does our “shopping around” for translations drift into a different sort of proof texting?

  37. Jason K. says:

    T., it’s when you’re looking for the translation that says what you want it to say instead of using multiple translations to work toward a more nuanced understanding of what’s going on in a particular passage. Good question!

  38. Terry H says:

    T. That actually leads into something else. I was struck while reading C.T.R.Hayward’s Interpretations of the Name of Israel in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity at how different the various translations were for the story of Jacob and Esau and Jacob’s visit with the angel. Hayward pointed out that the Hebrew Bible, the LXX and Jubilees ALL contained subtle differences in the way the story was told by the translators in order to present their respective agenda’s. I believe that your BYU-I teacher hit the nail on the head more than one might think. I agree with Jason K. that the different translations can add to a better understanding, but we should always account for the agenda of those who revealed, wrote, copied or translated the scriptures. Now, for how that worked for Joseph Smith. . . .

  39. Jason K. says:

    Right, Terry: there is no interpretation without an agenda. I appreciate study bible notes that provide contextual information that can help readers to work out possible agendas motivating the text, although here, too, there’s great value in getting multiple perspectives.

  40. I read Hebrew and Greek quite well and my own study tends to not include the English. Many times I have had a great Gospel Doctrine class prepared only to find at the last minute that all my great scripture quotes are lost in translation. Generally I find plenty else to fill an exciting class from using only the KJV but sometimes I offer my own translation or explanation to accompany it. When doing this I always make sure the KJV is read first then offer my own rendering or an alternate rendering as explanation. This keeps the KJV in a position of honor and does not elevate other translations to an official status they do not carry. I appreciate your mentioning Robert Alter. He is one of my favorite translators as well. I also appreciate his quote that “King James translators did not know Hebrew and modern translators did not know English”. There is a power and beauty to the KJV that captures a bit of the soul of the Hebrew Scriptures even if it sometimes misses on accuracy. However even as much as I love Prof. Alter’s translations, it must be acknowledged that he rejects any idea of the supernatural or any idea that the Hebrew Scriptures foretold Christ and his personal beliefs do influence his translations. This is not in any way a criticism as all translators are so influenced. It is best to find a translator who is competent and who shares your belief system, someone like say….a prophet of God.

  41. gillsyk says:

    Here’s another sample illustrating the difference between Robert Alter and Everett Fox:

    Numbers 21:8-9 –
    Alter >
    And Moses interceded for the people. And the Lord said to Moses: “Make you a viper and put it on a standard, and so then, whoever is bitten will see it and live.” And Moses made a serpent of bronze and put it on a standard, and so then, if the serpent bit a man, he looked on the serpent of bronze and lived.

    Fox >
    And YHWH said to Moshe:
    Make yourself a burning-snake and put it on a banner-pole;
    it shall be:
    whoever has been bitten and then sees it, will live.
    So Moshe made a viper of copper, and he put it on a banner-pole, and it was:
    if a viper bit a man
    and he looked upon the viper of copper, he would live.

    See how Alter is graceful and lyrical; Fox more wild, and attempting to reproduce the rhythms of Hebrew. His notes for v. 6 explain what he’s doing with “viper of copper”:

    6 vipers: Heb. nehashim, “snakes,” altered here in English because of the rhyming “viper of copper” (nehash nehoshet) in v.9.

    But now look at Alter’s footnote for v.9:

    9. a serpent of bronze. The Hebrew is nehash nehoshet. [the text has appropriate markings, which i have no idea how to reproduce]. Rashi vividly catches the point of the wordplay: “It was not said to him ‘of bronze,’ but Moses said, ‘The Holy One calls it nahash and I’ll make it out of nehoset’–a pun.” The word magic of replicating serpent/nahash in bronze/nehoshet reinforces the device of sympatheitc magic whereby the sight of the bronze image of the serpent becomes an antidote for the serpents’ poisonous bite. Interestingly, a small bronze serpent, evidently used in the local cult, has been found a Timnah (where Solomon mined copper) near Eilat, the region in which this incident is reported to have taken place.

    So then: you need both!

  42. Mary Ann says:

    Oleablossom, I can report back that I had a pretty successful time using alternate translations in my GD classes. For Old Testament I relied heavily on the Jewish Study Bible and for New Testament I loved the Jewish Annotated New Testament (chosen after reviewing a lot of these blogs, especially Ben S.). Ben S. also helped in a big way by recommending some books by Peter Enns, a protestant who tackles the issue of NT writers reinterpreting OT writers in pretty funky ways. This gave me a good framework for helping students understand that even though modern leaders give one interpretation of scripture, what the original audience understood may have been another thing entirely and both interpretations could be inspirational and worthy of study.

    I’m a mid-thirties SAHM with only a bachelor’s degree, so it takes a bit longer for me to establish credibility than, say, a PhD in Ancient Scripture. When I’d start getting uncomfortable looks from older gentlemen in the class, it was helpful to pull out an official church publication (like the newest NT institute manual) or something from a well-known BYU scholar to back up where I was taking things. I never ran into issues with anyone under the age of 50. It also helped that the Stake Sunday School President lived in our ward and was a big fan of using different Bible translations.

  43. the other Marie says:

    All right, all right. I’ve been clinging to my NIV Study Bible since it was recommended by two or three of my BYU professors in the 1990s, but I’ve seen the criticisms of the NIV on BCC and elsewhere in recent years and you’ve convinced me to switch to the NRSV, just in time to avoid the problematic Pauline epistles in our Sunday School study. I’m even gonna spring for the Apocrypha. I’m just miffed that I can’t seem to find a well annotated/footnoted NRSV as lightweight/sturdy as the NIV Study Bible. I like being able to balance both my quad and my alternate Bible translation on my knee simultaneously during Sunday School.

    If there were some way to get the LDS version of the KJV in a digital parallel format with the Oxford Annotated NRSV (or some other well-respected modern translation with good study notes), that would almost certainly nudge this Luddite into smartphone ownership. I can dream.

  44. Jason K. says:

    When I’m not teaching, I’m usually balancing my iPad (where I can switch between LDS Gospel Library and Blue Letter Bible) and the Jewish Annotated New Testament on my lap. Yeah, it gets tricky.

  45. BHodges says:

    I’m loving what you laid out here, Jason. I make good use of NRSV and KJV in my lessons, too, including the Jewish Annotated, which people can hear about on the Maxwell Institute Podcast:

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/mip-25-levine-brettler/

  46. Being an adult convert from Protestantism, I have yet to get used to the KJV even though I’m approaching two decades in the Church, and I honestly don’t understand why anyone would use it for study or devotional use when there are so many better translations out there.

    But I’m not much of a boat-rocker and wouldn’t care for the pushback I’d get if I substituted something more modern when teaching Gospel Doctrine. But I have frequently pointed out where the KJV falls short or is outright wrong, most recently referring to its use of “offended” in John 16:1 (a verse that the LDS Spanish version translates correctly, by the way). In that class, we also had a good discussion on the Paraclete (a word, fortunately, that’s in the Bible Dictionary), and I explained why modern translators have often used words other than Comforter.

    I really would like to see an official statement of the Church that it’ OK to use modern translations, even if only for personal use. As it is, too many people are suspicious of them.

  47. Eric, the best you can find is Apostles quoting other Bible translations in the Ensign and General Conference. I’ve got a few examples here. More recently, I’ve seen the NIV Study Bible cited.

  48. Terry H says:

    Eric. Your comment, “too many people are suspicious of them” is correct. I think its an unintended consequence of a prior generation’s reliance on J. Reuben Clark’s book on the KJV and perceived views of biblical scholarship at his time and until the 1980s. Biblical scholars (at least from the LDS viewpoint while I was growing up [60s & 70s] were not “faithful” or “believing”. Bruce McConkie refused to use a commentary less than 100 years old in his writing of the Mortal Messiah series precisely for that reason (Private conversation with one of the sons). Now, of course, there are a lot of “believing” scholars, in fact, I’d say they are the majority of the scholarship that I see and McConkie would likely have used them (Same conversation). The same goes for translations. Some translations clearly have a more revisionist agenda (like the misbegotten attempt a few years ago to remove any reference to the gender of God or Christ) while now most simply try to put the Bible into language for the masses and the most scholarly (like the NRSV) try to get back to the earliest manuscript sources, I think the Church’s willingness to consider more modern translations more often (as Ben S. describes in the talks of some Apostles) is evident in the BYU New Testament Commentary’s “New Rendition”.

    Speaking of that, pick up the Testimony of Luke. I wish it engaged more with other commentators, but its an excellent LDS effort, and at $29.99 for a 1200+ page hardback, its only about a third of the cost of an equivalent commentary from a more established series.

  49. Jason K. says:

    Thanks, Terry, for highlighting that history. The statements by McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith that show suspicion of biblical scholarship tout court are of a different era. As you say, they may well have spoken differently in the current environment.

  50. Kevin Barney says:

    When I had my very first gig teaching GD at the University of Illinois student ward, we had one student who had an RSV and would always read from it when called on in class. I’ve always remembered the deer-in-the-headlights look others in the class would get, with a tinge of panic and fear at the unfamiliar wording. But I loved it, as those readings provided fantastic organic teaching opportunities, and I think over time the fear people felt largely dissipated and they began to appreciate the opportunity to compare and contrast wording, which often made the KJV considerably easier to understand.

    Being able to read Hebrew and Greek is a bit of an advantage, because people don’t freak out quite so much over a comment grounded directly in the original text the way they do over an alternate published translation.

  51. Thanks Jason. For IOS I found a pdf version of the Jewish Annotated NT. Mormons get a mention in 1Cor15:29.

  52. I think the NIV gets a bad rap. Clearly it has problems, as does every translation. The question I wrestle with is this: how much benefit can I get out of a given translation on a day to day basis? For me, the NIV (the 2011 version) is the best way to let me understand the gist of what is going on. It’s the one that brings to life the stories the best, and within the context I can start building more in depth understanding. When I have a good sense of what’s going on, I pull out the new version of the Reina Valera (Spanish is my first language), which provides a richness and texture to the simple story. I top off with the NSRV to bring things back to English. I often go back to the NIV and I can read into the gentle language the complexities, which works well.

    I would use none of these versions alone in study. Each has, for me, fundamental flaws. Also, reading in different order just means I’ll be back to reading RV and NSRV after the NIV.

    This is why the NIV is my go-to bible for the first pass at something. It’s the one I use in church during lessons and for quick readings. I accept its limitations because the overall benefit I derive is greater than if I used a (more accurate?) version I did not understand as easily for that purpose.

    One thing is for sure: the KJV is there only as an artifact of respect for the restoration. I find it impenetrable, akin to reading Shakespeare without a guidebook.