Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Semi-Regular Weekly Poll

Which Protestant Translation Do You Like To Use?

  • NASB
  • NIV
  • NLT
  • ESV
  • HCSB
  • The Message


More polls: Free polls


Colleague said...

I selected the NIV because I keep the NIV Study Bible nearby, but I use the CEB as my main Bible now.

Timothy said...

Interesting. What drew you to the CEB?

Colleague said...

I could give a couple of "academic" reasons, but really, at base, I just like reading it.

Theophrastus said...

This poll needs an "other" box.

Also, the -EB translations (CEB, NEB, REB) fall into a no-man's land -- they are not Catholic, but they had Catholic participation!


I like translations that are both literal and literary. I am going to replace "Protestant" with "non-Catholic" to include translations by Protestants, Jews, and secular scholars. Here are some worthy but less frequently mentioned translations of the Hebrew Bible, the Deuterocanon, and the New Testament:

Hebrew Bible

Robert Alter's ongoing translations of the Hebrew Bible are both literary and literal. (Completed books include the Pentateuch, Early Prophets, Psalms, and Wisdom Books). Alter is Jewish.


When it comes the Deuterocanon (and Septuagint), my favorite translation is the New English Translation of the Septuagint. NETS is only moderately literal and not particularly literary, but it is the only acceptable translation of the Septuagint in English (In particular, the Orthodox Study Bible and Brenton both fall short). NETS is useful since it is keyed to the NRSV, and thus allows comparison to see how the different Septuagint versions (Old Greek and Alpha Text) differ from the Masoretic Text. NETS is a scholarly effort with translators from various religious and secular backgrounds.

New Testament

The translation by Richmond Lattimore is both literal and literary. This is not a religious translation; Lattimore writes as a classicist rather than a theologian.

Another New Testament translation of note is Robert Mounce's translation in Zondervan's Interlinear New Testaments. (These come in editions with parallel translations: NASB & NIV, KJV & NIV, and NLT & TNIV.) While I frown on interlinear editions in general (pedagogically, they are awful), R. Mounce's translation is something special: an English NT translation that largely preserves Greek word order. Mounce is Protestant.

Study Bibles

I like academic Study Bibles. I could mention the NOAB RSV, NOAB NRSV, HarperCollins and New Interpeter's -- but those all had significant Catholic participation. Some outstanding non-Catholic study Bibles:

* The Oxford Jewish Study Bible based on the NJPS translation.

* The Norton Critical Edition of the English Bible [part 1, part 2, boxed set] based on the KJV.

Anonymous said...

NKJV (not KJV)

Biblical Catholic said...

ESV....although occasionally the NASB....because they are literal.....the rest of them are too dynamic for my tastes....and the NIV is hopelessly biased in favor of evangelicalism.

Russ said...

I love Alter's stuff. He provides wonderful footnotes as well. I wasn't aware he had a translation of the Early Prophets. Time to place an order...

David said...

The ESV is the most common one I consult, when I don't have a Catholic Bible handy. Primarily because they have a nice free Android app that has all the books of the Bible (minus the Deuterocanonical books, of course) loaded right on my smartphone, so I don't need a data connection to consult it.

CJA Mayo said...

For the "standards", I use the KJV - as anyone who reads the comments on this blog probably knows - heavily. It has many, many resources keyed to it - probably outstripping even the NRSV, as they've had 400 years to accumulate. The KJV is my default English "text [and cross-references only]" edition (as Scrivener's reconstructed TR is my default Greek "text" edition), for which I have several nice volumes.

I also occasionally use the NKJV (in the Orthodox Study Bible) and NASB (in MacArthur's Study Bible), and reluctantly use the ESV, mainly because of the Lutheran Study Bible, and isn't overtly...secular? have we? (trying not to use the "h"-word) like the NRSV, which has by a landslide the most stuff attached to it.

For interactions in academia, I am sometimes forced to use the NRSV - this was especially the case in earlier years of education. Now I can "bodily loot" (to quote Knox) verses from the AV and put "[Author's Translation]" in a footnote. It is the secular scholarly standard, and as such, must be interacted with - it forces itself upon the student, so to speak, and can not be completely ignored.

In a coincidence, I concur with Theophrastus' recommendation and use of the NETS (LXX) for scholarly purposes. I also concur with the recommendation of the Norton Bible, which is King James, and manages to remain inoffensive by largely disregarding theology and treating the Bible as literature, letting the reader bring his own instead.

I find the main single-volume secular-liberal-academic study Bibles to be close to worthless even for their stated purpose: not enough information can be fit in a single-volume commentary to make one well-rounded, let alone one that includes the Holy Text itself. The contributors' bias tends to shine through rather strongly, with "classical" JEDP (discredited) still being taught in the latest edition of the NRSV NOAB, insofar as I know (mine is from 2011, 4th rev. expanded ed.)

I've used, though not frequently or repeatedly, many other dozens of translations or editions present in various commentaries (author's translations), study Bibles, one-off projects (Kingdom NT, Alter's Psalter), etc.

In the end, 50% of my Bible reading is done in Greek; 90% of the remaining 50% is done in the KJV; the NRSV and assorted "commentarial" translations make up the vast majority of what's left, used out of necessity (for all of my vehemence, I use the NRSV more often than the NKJV, or even the DRC, because for personal use, having choice, I will read the KJV: for public use, having no choice, I will read the NRSV), with "artisanal" or niche translations being read only rarely.

If I could spend eight hours a day reading the Bible, I might find room for some others, or compare more. I might not. As is, I read through new translations that seem interesting once (such as the Jewish Annotated NT), or until I can stomach them no longer (such as the Inclusive Bible, the "Five Gospels").

CJA Mayo said...

I should say "I will read the NRSV and modify it heavily, almost always in the direction of the King James ("thought it not robbery to be equal to God", "the Lord possessed me from the foundation of his ways", "virgin", are good examples) with a footnote, sometimes containing a magical incantation about manuscript evidence", although I rarely go so far as to de-neuter it except in passages where the exegesis hinges on such (Psalms 1, Dan 7:13).

CJA Mayo said...

As I reflect: the seminary really failed in hitching the party line to me so it could be towed a little further.

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to thank Theophrastus for recommending the Norton Critical Edition of the English Bible. And also CJA Mayo for seconding his opinion.

After reading more about it, it seemed too good to pass up. So I just preordered the Boxed Set.

And thank you also to Timothy for supplying the venue.


Theophrastus said...

CJA, great thoughts. Just a few quick reactions here.


The reason those academic study Bibles cover the Documentary Hypothesis is that the academic study Bibles are used as textbooks. While many of us do not find JEPD theory useful in understanding the Pentateuch, students need to at least know the theory -- if only so that they can disagree with it! (An analogy: when studying quantum mechanics, it is important to know the Copenhagen interpretation, many worlds interpretation, consistent histories, ensemble interpretation, de Broglie-Bohm theory, etc., even though we may not find these useful.) If mention of the Documentary Hypothesis is lacking, then students cannot engage with a broad swath of contemporary biblical scholarship.

One hopes that college students know how to read critically, and that they further can distinguish between commentary and text translation! And, at least those study Bibles also include discussions of critiques of the Documentary Hypothesis.

To you, it may be damnation by faint praise: but the notes in those academic study Bibles are much more effective in communicating with the reader than the notes in the NAB(RE).

Among the ecumenical study Bibles I mentioned, my favorite is the RSV NOAB (or the Metzinger-Murphy edited NRSV NOAB, 2nd edition), because their notes are relatively short and focus on explaining interesting features of the text or what is happening in the text, rather than engaging in more theological speculation. On this score, the HarperCollins is also worth mentioning -- while it is certainly steeped in standard academic theories, it avoids some of the excesses of the Coogan-edited (e.g., 3rd and 4th edition) of the NOAB.


You are certainly right that merely reading a study Bible is not sufficient. As George Herbert wrote: "Woe to him that reads but one book." The problem is partly physical -- several study Bibles push the limits of what can be included in a usable single volume book. If we are willing to focus on smaller subsections (like the Jewish Study Bible) or multiple volumes (like the Norton Critical Edition of the English Bible), we can certainly do more.

For sophisticated readers (especially those who can deal with material presented alphabetically rather than thematically), I especially recommend the Anchor Bible Dictionary -- to those who can afford the cost and space (6 fat volumes). There is a tremendous amount of useful information in those volumes.

Theophrastus said...

John, delighted that the comments were useful to you, and I hope that you find, as I have, that the Norton is an outstanding edition in terms of content.

Biblical Catholic said...

I actually find it somewhat amazing that the Documentary Hypothesis is still taught. Recent scholarship has been noticing the problems with the theory and turning against it since at least the mid 1960's. But it's just easier for professors who have been teaching the same class for 30 or more years to just keep using the same lecture notes year after year rather than familiarize themselves with the new research. At the very least, if they are going to teach the theory, they should make it clear that it is becoming increasingly controversial.

The same thing with Markan is now recognized that there are huge holes in it.....and yet it is still taught as if it was just universally believed and there is absolutely no reason to doubt it, even though the scholarly consensus in its favor has been getting weaker for years.

Anonymous said...

I actually think the ESV is very good... have to coness though, that i have the ESV large print, then decided to buy the ESV Study Bible. The ESV Study Bible (by Crossway) does not say very favorable things about the Catholic Church, which I find bothersome. I do have to admit that many of the Protestant bibles are available in very high quality bindings and paper (like the ones available on Evangelical Bible.

CJA Mayo said...

The Metzger edition of the RSV NOAB is probably my favorite academic Bible.

"To you, it may be damnation by faint praise: but the notes in those academic study Bibles are much more effective in communicating [what?] with the reader than the notes in the NAB(RE)."


What I find odd is that seven years after "Farewell to the Yahwist", J(Y)EPD is still being taught. It was the final nail in the coffin, or, a summary of the process of nailing, whichever you prefer.

I can see Markan priority being taught: it requires many rescuing devices and arbitrary conjectures (much like evolution), but is not actively disproved by the text itself, like classical-JEPD is.

Theophrastus: where in the NOAB (4th rev., under Coogan) is the Friedmannian view of the documentary hypothesis argued against? In one of the articles in the back? If so, I've likely not read it, as there are probably 400 pages of articles in the back (disregarding the bias in them, they're probably the most useful aspect of the NOAB).

Theophrastus said...

Folks: while the Documentary Hypothesis is under attack from all sides, it is not dead yet. Rather, I think a more accurate description of the current state of affairs is that we now have a plethora of competing (and mutually incompatible) redaction theories, much like the situation in the 19th century. Approaches of reading the Bible as an integral whole have gained in respect, but there is no clear scholarly consensus.

Farewell reflects the view primarily of a school of European scholars; while it is cogently argued, Farewell is definitely a minority view.

Regardless of one's view of the Documentary Hypothesis (and I am not a fan of it), it is certainly valid to discuss the problems it attempts to address: the many double stories in the Pentateuch, and the apparently shifting point of view (e.g., in Deuteronomy 7:6, Israel is characterized as being intrinsically holy and that this is a fundamental characterization of Israel; while in Leviticus 19:2, Israel is instructed to aspire to holiness.)

(Similarly, the Synoptic Problem remains an interesting point for examination, regardless of one's views about possible dependencies [or independence] among the synoptic gospels.)

CJA: for a brief discussion of some of the problems with the Documentary Hypothesis in NOAB 4th edition, see for example the last paragraph on p. 5 (continuing on to p. 6); for more pointed criticism, see the series on "The Interpretation of the Bible" (pp. 2201-2234.): p. 2222 informs us that Wellhausen's work was anti-Semitic and mentions longstanding Roman Catholic opposition to the Documentary Hypothesis (although it also claims that there is "a large consensus that is still dominant"); p. 2227 calls out the work of Northrop Frye, Robert Alter, Frank Kermode, and Meir Steinberg ("Whereas historical study tended to be concerned the prehistory of the text [...] and its development through successive redactions, literary study focused on the final form of the text.")

Biblical Catholic said...

My problem with the way that the Documentary Hypothesis and the Synoptic Problem are taught in university is not the fact that they are covered at all, certainly, even though I think neither theory is valid, the vast majority of Biblical research in the last century has been directed by these two theories, so you need to understand them to have any understanding of contemporary Biblical scholarship.

My problem is the way that these theories tend to be taught in a dogmatic way, giving the impression that the theories are universally accepted, have no difficulties of their own, that they explain everything, and that they are proved beyond all possible doubt so that anyone who questions them is simply an irrational obscurantist.

In the same way, there are things in other fields, such as history, psychology and Physics, in which you are first given a theory that has been disproved, and then they explain why the theory is wrong and use it as a tool to explain the more modern theory. Sometimes to understand the correct theory you first have to understand the incorrect theory. That's fine, I don't have a problem with that pedagogy.

But the Documentary Hypothesis and Markan priority should be presented AS A THEORY which have problems of their own, and which are not universally accepted.

CJA Mayo said...

For one thing I've robbed from the Evangelicals, the expanded and all-encompassing view of worldview, may be helpful here.

See, for this, we are believers. Even further, we both are believers in plenary inspiration. Our entire view of the Bible is based on this axiom, if it is to be consistent - which necessarily* entails a rejection of inconsistent stories (say, the two creation narratives) in favour of harmonization, and seems to entail a rejection of literary dependence theories of composition (especially those ones which conflict with Church Tradition).

Now, for the "objective" scholar (that is, a scholar with a secular or methodologically atheistic worldview, or, more simply, any that is not consistently Christian**), imagine looking at the evidence of, for example, the Synoptic gospels: believing that the Bible is a book like any other book, compiled by men like any other men, how could one fail to be convinced by the Double Tradition that something approaching Markan priority was in fact the reality of the situation?

Evidence can not interpret itself. Now, to what prompted me to write (although I have lost my train of thought): everything in human knowledge is a theory (or, more accurately, a conjecture): highly provisional. How provisional? To determine such, we must ask, what is your epistemology? What is your metaphysic? What is your worldview?

If the inspiration of the Bible is axiomatic, JEDP is not only redundant, it's ridiculous. If the natural origin of the Bible is axiomatic, redaction and dependence theories are not only obvious: they are necessary.

*Unless we are to recover the extremely allegorical exegesis of Origen and the Alexandrian School.

**This is far too long to write of here, how seemingly slight and harmless departures can, when taken to their ultimate conclusions, invalidate the entire system of Christianity.

Theo said...


In what way does the OSB Septuagint fall short? I share your enthusiasm for NETS, but I also really like the OSB.

CJA Mayo said...

I think I can answer for Theophrastus here:

Because it's not really an LXX. It's a New King James (which contains an excellent OT, for the Masoretic text) warmed over to "conform to the LXX", except the revisers miss the mark by a wide margin (and either translate poorly, or don't even translate the LXX). It contains no textual notes to determine if such artefacts are intentional, or result from a lack of editorial oversight, or from laziness. One can't tell where the LXX leaves off and the MT picks up.

Brenton, at least, is an LXX - one knows the Greek text is virtually identical to Vaticanus Gr 1209.

Theo said...


Thanks for that. So, what's the problem with Brenton then? Is it the fact that the text is based upon Vaticanus Gr 1209?

CJA Mayo said...

No actual problem, beyond it being based on a "pre-critical" text - that is, the problem is not that it is based on Vaticanus Gr 1209 ("B" - includes most of both the OT and NT in Greek, and some apocrypha), it is that it is based on that manuscript alone (although there are a few text footnotes here and there, but nothing like an apparatus).

B is one of the foundational four or five manuscripts used to reconstruct the modern Greek New Testament, but, alone, can be idiosyncratic and unreliable (to the point that it is just as unreliable when amalgamated with Aleph is beyond the scope of the discussion). It is ancient and highly respected by the vast majority of Biblical scholars.

I don't think it's unworkable as Theophrastus makes it out to be, especially for someone with no or minimal knowledge of Greek (say, enough to use an interlinear). Full, modern, critical editions start with Rahlf's, which contains a relatively full apparatus but no English. The NETS contains no Greek, little apparatus, and some questionable and incorrect translation choices (as there are in Brenton, as well).

Brenton is translated in faux-Elizebethan English, as well, which hearkens back to the King James.

If you're interested in the LXX, and have any facility whatsoever with Greek, I'd give Brenton a try. I find less error in his translation than in the NETS, and far less than in the OSB, but I find greater error in the material he's translating from (a unitary manuscript which is somewhat corrupt).

If you have no facility with Greek and don't mind mild gender-neutering (not quite as much as the NRSV) and a few weird translational choices (almost exclusively in the places where Christian prophecies are typically identified, although not to the degree of the NRSV, as the LXX is generally more "Christological" in the OT, if such makes any sense), go for the NETS. If you wish to use the LXX as a "Bible", none are ideal - the English in Brenton is tiny; the English in NETS has some of the problems of the NRSV; the English in Rahlf's is non-existent; the Greek behind the English in the OSB is often Hebrew.

Go for the NETS also if you use the NRSV regularly, or wish an English text for critical study of the LXX of some sort, or intend to use it in an academic setting, or like modern language. If you want to do comparative study of different textual traditions, get the NETS (which translates several different versions of some books, such as Daniel, which is included in the LXX version and in the version of Theodotion, which the Vulgate was translated from).

If you have a strong facility with Greek, get Rahlf's Manual Edition (no English). If you have a strong facility for Greek and an even stronger pocketbook, get Gottingen.

Theo said...


Thank you so much for being so comprehensive - it's very much appreciated. Have you taken a look at Fr Nicholas King's LXX translation? It's been published in several volumes and is not quite complete yet (I don't think?) Also, although I've yet to take a look at Cleenerwerk's Eastern Orthodox Bible NT - based on the Patriarchal text - I believe the OT is quite advanced now and will be published within the next year. I think many English speaking Orthodox are pinning their hopes on this being 'THE' LXX.

Thanks again.