Friday, January 2, 2009

CBA Study Bible Rankings

Well, this is the ranking of the top ten selling study Bibles, according to the January 2009 CBA Best Sellers list. The CBA is a trade association that represents many independent and chain Christian book stores. The list helps to give a small indication as to what study Bibles are the most popular, particularly in Protestant communities. It must be pointed out that these rankings do not include Catholic Bookstores or larger secular retail chains like Borders or Barnes and Noble. Therefore, you will not see any edition of the NAB study Bible or NJB or anything Ignatius Press might produce for Bible study.

Of all the study Bibles listed on this ranking, the only one that might be of interest to Catholics would be the New Interpreters Study Bible, which is an ecumenical study Bible that includes the full NRSV translation, with Deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha. As for the rest, it is not surprising to see the new ESV and NLT Study Bibles doing quite well, since they were both heavily promoted prior to publication in late 2008. And of course, the NIV remains the most popular overall.

6 comments:

Michael said...

Hmmm..... three of them based on the KJV and one based on the New KJV...

When oh when will people finally allow these antiquated and inaccurate, borderline incomprehensible, translations to finally die a natural and well deserved death?

There are dozens of better translations out there, and yet the King James is always at or near the top...why?

Timothy said...

Well, it is kind of like those within the Catholic Church who are Douay-Rheims-only people.

I heard, jokingly once, that someone who supported the KJV-only position said: "If it was good enough for St. Paul, then it is good enough for me."

L. Wells said...

The KJV, and I surmise the Rheims as well, remain popular due partly to misconceptions about their accuracy yes, but also because they are of a stately English that speaks with a certain authoritative sound, and the KJV is probably the finest work of English literature ever published.

While they may not be quite as accurate due to manuscript isues, I tend to find the differences to be far fewer than many make them out to be. I also find the KJV for the most part very comprehensible, though it does make you think a little bit, which I feel can be a good thing because you don't just breeze through the scriptures without pause for thought. But before you take me for a KJV onlyist, let me say that my main translations are the RSV, NRSV, and ESV. I typically read the KJV for its devotional quality due to its superior English and poetry.

Michael said...

While the manuscripts issue is indeed important, there is a lot more issues involved.

There are in fact many, many, many mistranslations in the KJV. Some of the mistranslations are due simply to the fact that in the 17th century people didn't know as much as we do now about the Biblical languages and it was an honest mistake. Other times however the mistranslations are deliberate and intentional.

Every translation is a compromise between accuracy and readability. When faced with a choice between a rendering that looked 'pretty' and one which accurately conveyed the meaning of the text, the KJV translators always, or almost always, chose to go with the one that was 'pretty'. Their philosophy was basically 'accuracy be damned, we need this thing to look good'.

Because of this, the KJV is filled with highly questionable renderings that, it must be admitted 'sound good' in English.

And, it must be said, the inaccuracy of the translation was known at the time, it wasn't a later discovery, it was known at the time that the translation was wrong, and previous translations are actually more accurate.

An excellent example of this is Matthew 6:7, which in the KJV reads "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathens do, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."

Yet, the Greek simply does not say this it says (transliterated into English characters), "me battologesete". The verb battologeo means to babble, to prattle, to chatter, to stutter, or to ramble on and on. In fact, the original Greek says absolutely NOTHING about 'repetition' vain or otherwise.

And you know what? This was known in 1611, just look at William Tyndale's translation nearly a century earlier:

"And when ye pray, babble not much, as the heathen do: for they think they shall be heard, for their much babbling sake"

Tyndale was accurate, the KJV was not.

And I haven't even talked about how much the English language has changed since 1611, it has changed so much that there are now 'King James Version Word Studies' available so that readers will be able to translate the KJV into contemporary English.

Clearly, there are far better options out there.
In addition, the KJV is filled with renderings that frankly make no sense, this is especially true in the prophets.

L. Wells said...

Michael I do agree with you there are many errors in the KJV, but I think there are in the modern translations as well, since translation naturally involves a certain degree of interpretation. I agree with your assessment of Matthew 6.7, although I do see how one could interpret babble into vain repetition. Still it is interpretation and extension of the basic meaning, which again I feel every translation team does, by necessity sometimes, by bias others.

All I am really saying here is that translations shouldn't be canned simply because they aren't the best available, even if it is for the sake of devotional quality or literary legacy. The KJV and the Rheims have served many a great Christian for hundreds of years and shouldn't be demonized. This being said, I will also readily admit that probably most who read these translations do so for the sake of pure tradition, and have no idea how to understand the problem areas such as the one you brought up concerning Matthew 6.7. So I do agree there are many better options out there for the modern reader, if for no other reason than the differences between the archaic and modern English can be very tricky for the person who does not understand them. As for the renderings that make no sense, I think often this results from the fact that the Masoretic text was used, which often makes absolutely no sense whatsoever despite who translates it. This is an area of greatest strength of modern versions, that is, heavy usage of the Septuagint and other sources which often speak very clearly. The NRSV also makes a great deal of usage of the Qumran manuscripts, which sometimes seems very helpful. Too bad it blobbers things up with its excessive usage of inclusive language.

At any rate, I was not totally contesting your post, I just felt it was a little too strong of an indictment of solid, yet admittedly outdated translations. What annoys me personally is that the modern translations seem to be constantly "dumbing down" their use of English and literary style, becoming more and more colloquial in nature. The closest I have seen to being acccurate and retaining the nature of a more formal type translation, while using a nice literary style is the ESV, and it too has its problems and biases. You have to understand that I am motivated by literary style more than many are because one of my functions in the church is lector, and a translation with elegant English and a powerful literary style can have a very gripping effect upon the listeners, keeping them focused on what is being read, though this can also be effected by the reading style of the lector.

Anonymous said...

The KJV has a solid reputation. It had been "the Bible" for 400 years, and I expect will continue to be so...