Monday, April 28, 2014

Guest Post: Bible Hunting

Thanks to reader Eric for this fun essay.

The perfect Bible translation.  Like the famed jackalope, it is a truly elusive thing.  Some people say that it exists, but when you look at it for yourself, you leave with a different impression.

Doing a Bible safari can be a very expensive thing.  Even if you order through Amazon or, there is no guarantee you're going to like the next translation.  It's either consigned to the dark corners of your bookshelf and pulled out to be read once in awhile, donated to Goodwill or the church library, or you could try to sell it and recoup some of your costs.  No matter which route you go, it's a drain on the wallet, and if it's sitting in a dark corner rarely read, it's a waste of a copy of God's word (which is meant to be read, not hold up the sides of the bookshelf).

Now, this may not be a problem if you are either a well-paid medical professional, Hollywood movie star, or lottery winner.  And, it is not a consideration if you are a Pokemon-esque Bible reader (gotta catch 'em all!).  But, for the rest of us who have spouses who would rather spend that money to get something nice for the kids or for themselves, rather than another copy of the Bible, this can be what I like to call, "a problem."

So, how to do a successful safari in search of the elusive best translation (which will always be subjective depending on the tastes of the reader) is the key to keeping the Bibles on your shelf well-read, as well as money in your spouse's wallet or purse (which makes for happier spouses).  I'd like to offer an overlooked place to go:  your local public library.

Your local library may have a wide variety of Bibles that you can check out and spend several weeks with.  If they don't have it, they can frequently get it through an inter-library loan.  Have you heard people on Tim's blog recommending the Catholic Study Bible?  A little bit of time with your local librarian or online catalog can get you several weeks with the CSB (and maybe more, depending on if there's no wait list or your library's renewal policy).

Or, have you heard of something called the Douay-Westminster, and wondered what it's all about?  Good luck finding that one in your local Catholic or secular bookstore, or likely even in any used book source (hint:  it was last printed in the 1960's, so the odds of it still being on the shelf are pretty much nil).  I was able to spend a very nice 4 weeks with a beautiful red-bound copy, that was apparently one of the first run, which was limited.  I spent more time reading the articles included than the translation itself.  Oh well, I can get it again this summer.
You may even be curious about the art of Salvatore Dali and want to see what happens when it's combined with the Jerusalem Bible.  $100+ off E-Bay?  I sense an unhappy spouse (you spent HOW MUCH on ANOTHER Bible?).  A two-week wait after reserving this copy was all it took to learn a few important things:  1) This thing is HUGE.  2)  The art wasn't the type of Dali art I was used to.  3)It's a reader's edition, so the famed intros and notes of the Jerusalem Bible are severely lacking.  Yeah, my wife's happy I didn't sent a Ben Franklin through Paypal.

I went on such a safari last summer.  At the time all I had was my Douay-Rheims and my 1991 NAB.  I started ordering in early June, and by the time I was done, I had tried all of the following translations:

Jerusalem Bible 1966
Jerusalem Bible with Salvatore Dali illustrationsqqq
New Jerusalem Bible regular edition
New Jerusalem Bible reader's edition
New Jerusalem Bible standard edition (1999)
New Jerusalem Bible Saints Devotional Edition
Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
Revised Standard Version 2nd Catholic Edition
1952 CBPC Confraternity Bible
1950 PJ Kennedy Confraternity Bible
Catholic Study Bible
Ignatius Catholic Study Bible
New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV
Spencer New Testament
Kleist-Lilly New Testament
Christian Community Bible
Knox Bible
English Standard Version
Orthodox Study Bible

All for the whopping price of $0.  No shipping charges.  Just a few trips to the library.

I made some discoveries on this safari.  Even though I had zero interest in the Knox Bible initially (other than curiosity), it's become one of my favorite translations.  I also learned that no matter what version of the New Jerusalem Bible I check out, I still prefer the original 1966 Jerusalem Bible.

Is the safari over? Heck no!  I still have my wife asking just how many different copies of scripture I need.  To which, I reply, "probably just one more."  I'll probably be saying that until I've reached the Pokemon level of Bible collecting.

Happy hunting!


Verum Laicus said...

It is surprising to find a RSV-2CE on a local library given that the edition is quite recent (2006).

Nice one!

Anonymous said...

In addition to public libraries, local church libraries are an excellent resource for bibles and other reading as well. I've found some outstanding reading, including rare and out of print works, in local church libraries and they've all been very generous in allowing me access.


Jonny said...

My local library will actually purchase a book if it is not available as an inter-library loan, and sometimes order it anyway if it is a new release. The library is also a great place to compare multiple study Bibles and reference books.

Jonny said...

I haven't seen a copy of the Douay-Westminster Bible in person, but I found some samples online.

I was a little surprised to see "Jehovah" instead of "LORD" in the Old Testament. I have seen this before in 1950's and older Catholic books, along with "Jahveh", but not when quoting Scripture. For further reading: the 1918 Catholic Encyclopedia on New Advent under "Jehovah-The proper name of God in the Old Testament."

Jason Engel said...

Libraries are good, but so are trusted friends. I've developed relationships with various people around the USA and we will occasionally loan Bibles to each other for a couple weeks at a time. Media-rate shipping fees are a small price to pay to satisfy curiosity about a particular Bible in a beautiful format that happens to be in a translation I would not normally be willing to explore. Plus, as is often the case, collectors and other enthusiasts will occasionally sell off a large portion of their collection (not read often enough, or money needed for a significant find), and if you have a good relationship with people like that you can often claim dibs on items for sale and purchase them for much less than retail.

owen swain said...

Try that here, in Canada and you might find a KJV, maybe. Such happy finds you made. Well done.

TS said...

Never thought of the library - wish I'd seen this post about four or more Bibles ago!

TS said...

Sadly, our library (Columbus) has message "does not circulate) for these (i.e. '66 Jerusalem or the Dali Bible). Considered reference.

Eric Barczak said...

TS-Well, the Dali art was.. um... interesting. I was expecting the likes of his 'Christ of St. John of the Cross' and none of the art was like it. Personally, I don't think you're missing anything by not taking home the Dali version.