Tuesday, November 17, 2015

National Bible Week: Tuesday's Question

For National Bible Week, I will be proposing a question each day for you to consider.  Let's take this week to consider the great gift that is the Holy Scriptures.

Today's Question:
What is your favorite translation of the Bible? Why?


Anonymous said...

My go to Bible is the New Jerusalem Bible. It is the most readable; and the study notes are outstanding. One example is to read the Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels and you will see a far more reasonable and rational explanation of the development of the gospels than the perfectly neat "Q" theory. The Nabre Old Testament by itself is also high in my rankings. For the New Testament, the NRSV has the place of honor. However, never is one translation sufficient for study as each translation itself(even without notes) is always part commentary.


Dennis said...

I have many translations but the one I always seem to pick up to read is the NABRE. I haven't gotten "in tune" enough with the other translations and my pocket NABRE is starting to look a bit used, so I guess it that one.

rolf said...

Tough question, I would say the NABRE OT and the RSV-2CE NT. Did I just dodge that question?

Anonymous said...

Another tough one !
RSV 1971 edition with the King James a very close second . Retains much of the dignity and majesty of the Kjv but is a touch more comprehensible.
So no accounting for taste then!

David Garcia said...

1966 Jerusalem bible with CEB a close second :)

Jeff Burden said...

I love, love, love the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition. It's beautifully translated and in my opinion the best available we have today. I feel likes a RSV:SCE Evangelist, as I'm constantly telling people about it.

Anonymous said...

I really like the RSV2CE. It's definitely the translation I most like to read. Also I feel like it has the right mix of formal and modern language.


wxmarc said...

After reading Rolf's high praise for the REB on this blog, I purchased a couple copies and have completely fallen in love with its New Testament translation. It is such a joy to read. In both the gospels and the epistles, it makes the text come alive with clarity and power.

I've found the REB to be less spectacular in the Pentateuch, but it's still reasonably good. It's probably an unfair comparison because the repetition and detail throughout the Law simply cannot be translated as flowing prose.

The REB shines in the wisdom and poetry books of the Old Testament, though. God's poetic speech to Job (Job 38-41) is a lyrical masterpiece.

rolf said...

Wxmarc, I wish Allan would publish a REB Bible with the deuterocanonical books, that would a nice Bible! Cambridge and Oxford still publish the REB, but it has been on the 'back burner' for many years. :-(

Benjamin Miller said...

Mostly the RSV because I think its translation method hits the sweet spot between literary/sacral and critical language. So it's good for both devotional and academic reading. I also think the RSV has the greatest ecumenical legacy of any English translation.

The NRSV is also a close second because it's what I see the most in church.

I also love the KJV - it's not always the best, but what it does well, it does spectacularly.

Finally, I like the NEB and its revision the REB for its unique literary language.

wxmarc said...


Yes! It's been painful to realize how few editions of the REB are available. Oxford doesn't even print a hardcover edition anymore -- only paperback. And Cambridge has stopped printing volumes with the deuterocanonical books included. They sell the Apocrypha as a separate book.

I picked up an out-of-print used Cambridge hardcover with the deuterocanon. It's nicely done. The text is dense, but quite readable. I also snagged a discounted Cambridge imitation leather edition without the deuterocanon. It's one of the nicest imitation leather bibles I've seen, although the gilding on the page edges seems a little lackluster.

I'd love to see the REB printed in single-column format like the NEB was. Unfortunately, I'm worried that it will go out of print completely, rather than appearing in any new editions.

James S. said...

Probably the New English Bible of 1970, because I'm familiar with it. Or the Revised Version of 1881-85-95. Because it's close to the Authorised Version, more accurate, and my edition has plenty of references on every page - easily 20 times as many as the NAB. I haven't found a Catholic Bible I really like, apart from the Vulgate.

Ed Rio said...

Mine would be the NABRE.

Anonymous said...

This is hard cause I use a few...I love the New Testament, prophets, psalter, poetry books, and Job in the NABRE. Any prose is beautiful in the NABRE. I love it's New Testament because it retains "Amen" in Jesus prophetic formulas (I'm a real stickler with this detail). The revised OT is waaaaay better than the 1970 one, trust me, my bibles that have the unrevised OT are rarely used. But I do open them for reading the New Testament ;P
Though I mostly read the OT in the NRSV and I find myself agreeing in many places with the NRSV over the NABRE, especially whenever sex is mentioned. The NABRE does not do well with sex. It always uses the word intercourse which is too cold for me. I like the NRSV's way of retaining the Hebrew euphemisms, which are also theologically important in Genesis! In places where "uncovering nakedness" or "knew" is not in the Hebrew the NRSV just says "lay with". I like that. A lot.
Also, the NRSV just sounds more formal than the NABRE which makes it sound more elegant.
Buuuuut, both translations are absolutely boring whenever genealogies or complicated accounts of events come up, so for historical accounts like the book of Kings and Samuel I read the Good News Translation. But if I had to pick just one, it would be a toss up between the NRSV and the NABRE, though maybe leaning more towards the NABRE because of thre notes and all it's wonderful qualities that I just stated.

---Emilia V.

Steve Molitor said...

I would have to say the RSV, because that's what I read every morning. It's outdated, klunky at times, and the archaic language is annoying, but it's like a favorite tattered old sweater to me. I've grown accustomed to and even love its idiosyncrasies.

I feel that it's literalness brings me a bit closer to the original language. For example, all the sentences that begin with 'And...' in Mark, and the repeated use of 'immediately' brings out the breathless, "I've got some great news to share and I can't be bothered with perfect Greek.." quality of the original - I think, but I don't know Greek!

When it's not being klunky, it's KJV influenced phrasing can be beautiful.

Finally, I feel I can trust this translation. The scholarship isn't totally to date, but other hand it's not driven by an agenda. The NRSV is more accurate most of the time, except when it takes its inclusive language agenda too far. The ESV is an excellent update to the RSV most of the time, except when it takes things in a conservative or evangelical / anti-church direction - "virgin" instead of young woman, "overseers" instead of "bishops". The NASB is similar to the ESV in this regard, and doesn't have all the books. The RSV-CE2 is nice but I still feel some of it's choices were similarly driven by ideological considerations rather than accuracy - "homesexuals" instead of "sexual perverts", etc.

Now if the question is what translation would I recommend my answer would be different. I'd probably say NABRE or NRSV. The NABRE has probably the best translation of the OT, and, despite its inclusive language, the NRSV is probably the best combination of accuracy, beauty and understandability. If I were starting today I'd probably pick one of those two. But I've gotten too used to my beloved RSV!

Bob Short said...

Oof. Tough question. I like a translation with some literary character, so the REB and the Jerusalem Bible get a lot of usage with me, but the one that gives me the most joy as I read is probably the Knox bible, despite its imperfections.

Jason Engel said...


NRSV: It is coincidence that my faith was renewed and I returned to Christianity at about the same time the Saint John's Bible was completed. During the 6 months or so that followed, I spent a lot of that time researching Bible translations in order to determine the one that seemed best to me (the church I was attending at the time quoted from many, sold 4 or 5 different options in it's store, and made it a point not to emphasize one over another, so it's not like anyone was telling me which one was "right"). When it came to the NRSV, I was moved by the Benedictines at Saint John's; this community of doctorate-level scholars and life-long monastics had spent 2 years in prayer and discernment and research to select a translation, and reached the conclusion that the NRSV was the best English translation to represent 21st century Christianity to future generations by using it in the Saint John's Bible. When you have that many people with their amazing credentials commit to using the NRSV in a multi-million dollar project, that's quite a testimony. In addition, I appreciate that it's translation committee was multi-denominational with an aversion to sectarian translation, thus it is doctrinally and theologically neutral. Despite what it's detractors claim, it is one of the most literal translations available and yet is not wooden or full of painful "biblish". It utilized a wider range of source material to assist in the translation process (to wit, the Dead Sea Scrolls and a few other sources beyond merely the Masoretic text and the NA27).

While I think it's fine to commit to a single translation as a primary source, I believe it is critical for the serious student of the Bible to continuously compare/contrast multiple translations, and not only those favored within a particular denomination or under a common translation family. With that in mind, I always rely on the REB as my secondary source. It is dynamic versus formal, it is not part of the KJV family. I don't know what it is about the Brits, but they know their English, and they know how to turn a phrase with depth and beauty, and the REB is by far the best example of a Bible rendered in poetic modern English. Indeed, I find myself using the NEB more than the REB lately because it retained arctic pronouns and was a bit more willing to be different yet accurate, whereas the REB is more reserved.

However, the REB is too philosophically similar to the NRSV in that it is almost equally ecumenical and gender neutral. So, I tend to include in weekly usage the NLT (for reading), NIV, and NASB (for study).

Yes, the REB is basically an abandoned translation at this point with minimal market penetration and darn near no support from publishers. But I simply took matters into my own hands and had my favorite REB text block rebound using a beautiful forest green Sokoto goatskin cover.

Ronny Tadena said...

What hardly any Knox love here? Guess it's just me and Bob?

I'm work as a lay catholic hospital chaplain, and I'm currently working on a Theology Master's degree. So I understand the value of multiple translations. I try to keep three in my rotation at any given time. I use an old 1963 Confraternity Bible for work because it's got a good mix of footnotes and headings that aren't overly space consuming, so it keeps the bible small enough to carry around in my hands all day.

For serious study I'll grab my Didache RSV:2CE. I like the updated language while still maintaining a fairly literal translation. Also love the commentary based on the Catechism. This is also the Bible I grab when in dialog with non-Catholics because of it's aforementioned great notes and extensive apologetical inserts. It's naming and chapter numbering are also more in line with most modern bibles today instead of being based on the Vulgate like the Confraternity or the Knox, so it helps smooth over any UNIMPORTANT differences.

But really, gun to my head on a desert island, its the Knox. The Knox is my daily devotional Bible. Thanks to its fresh translation, single column format, and complete lack of headings and only the barest of notes, it really helps me set all my cares and concerns aside and really just let the word speak to me. It's the first Bible translation that I've ever truly fell in love with. My book shelf is full of bibles, but when I sent my good ol' Knox away to get recovered, I felt like I was going through some kind of traumatic withdrawals!

Knox all the way!

Timothy said...


Desert island situation, I might take the Knox as well.