A scholar’s top ten Bibles

Posted: 23rd February 2008 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

In the spirit of Rick Mansfield and others, Iyov has posted his “Top Ten” English Bible translations. His list is heavily weighted toward ecumenical translations with the Deuterocanonical books, as well as translations of alternate textual sources:

  1. Authorized Version (KJV)
  2. New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
  3. New Jewish Publication Society Tanakh (NJPS)
  4. Revised English Bible (REB)
  5. New American Bible (NAB)
  6. New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)
  7. New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS)
  8. 1610 Douay-Rheims
  9. Wanted: an English translation of the Targums
  10. Wanted: an English translation of Rashi to the Tanach

He includes this note:

You will notice I omit mention of Evangelical translations such as the NIV, HCSB, etc. In part, this is because I think those translations are inferior to the translations listed here, but also because those translations have not influenced secular and mainstream academics. Also, they generally omit the Deuterocanonical books necessary for scholarly study. They appear to be aimed toward denominational needs — rather than reflecting the best understanding of Scripture.

I suspect that Iyov’s interest may be peaked by the recent discussion of the future update to the Jerusalem Bible, which promises to “translate the Massoretic Text, but [..] systematically show in the text significant variants of the Septuagint, the Vulgate, the Peshitta and also, where appropriate, the Samaritan Pentateuch.” This could potentially consolidate items 6-8 on Iyov’s list.

Update: In the face of various criticisms for his Top Ten list, Iyov has posted this defense. His seven point response includes discussion of the following topics:

  1. Transparent representation of the original
  2. A translation independent of belief
  3. Ecumenical community
  4. Universal inclusion of Judeo-Christian texts
  5. Critical annotations of obscure passages
  6. Inspiring English for literate adult readers
  7. Diverse translators from Christan and Jewish traditions

It is clear that Iyov’s aim to strip away any hint of theological, religious, historical or social bias in the search for a suitable (Hebrew) Bible translation.

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    If Iyov wants to be consistent in rejecting translations which omit books which large numbers of believers consider canonical and are “necessary for scholarly study”, he should drop from his list NJPS and NETS which omit the New Testament.

  2. wordalone says:

    I commented on Iyov’s post but maybe I was a bit harsh in my comment. Due to donominational and theological bias, I said that: “I would not use the “influence upon secular and mainstream academics” as a measuring stick to evaluate whether the quality of a translation.” Maybe I’m narrow minded.

  3. Jim Swindle says:

    I don’t think influence upon secular and mainstream academics” is a particularly useful measuring stick, since the great majority of secular and mainstream academics are spiritually blind and dead. Would we down-rate the works of Bach because they don’t have much influence on deaf scholars?

    Jesus himself said, “Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23). We can love and respect and pray for the scholars who reject Jesus, but it’s foolish to value their opinions on spiritual things. Is my position narrow? Yes, but is it narrower than Jesus?

  4. I’ll give Iyov the benefit of the doubt and simply assume that he meant that he selected translations that are widely used in ivory towers, whether for textual or spiritual reasons. Certainly there is a benefit to using the same texts as your peers, if Iyov is that and not a sycophant.

  5. Iyov says:

    E-S — my apologies for not replying sooner. I’m a bit jealous though — you get almost as many comments on this post as I had on my original post! Indeed, I’m amazed that some people posted here and not on my original post. Oh well, I hope I have not offended anyone.

    Well, my answer to your question about the New New Jerusalem Bible, I posted here.

  6. If we go around hoping not to offend, then we shall never get anything done. I appreciate your posts and enjoy learning about Hebrew Bible traditions – thank you!

    I will be sure to read your thoughts on the Jerusalem Bible.