The New Spanish LDS Bible

Some of you may have heard that the LDS Church has undertaken a massive project of providing a Spanish edition of the Bible that is similar in scope to the English LDS Bible, including cross-references to Restoration scriptures, a Bible Dictionary, and explanatory footnotes. They have received copyright permission for one of the influential Spanish translations of the Bible and are using this as the basis for the new edition. I do not have all the details to the endeavor (I would love more information if any of our readers have some), but from one source who is close to the project, the Church has employed Hebrew and Greek scholars to “retranslate” the Spanish edition when relevant to a particularly LDS view, or for the sake of clarity (I do not have any information on the quality of these people’s Greek, Hebrew, or Spanish, let alone their skills with textual criticism, so don’t ask me!). Such changes do not appear in the footnotes from what I understand, but in the text itself. From this source, I was told that such modifications have been made on practically every page!

The fact that there are so many changes to the base text could reflect the poor quality of the base Spanish edition from which they are working. Presumably the copyright was released to the church for a low-cost edition.

However, the LDS edition of the Spanish Bible could prove to be problematic if the changes are too numerous or controversial. Could the Spanish LDS edition of the Bible become tainted as another kind of New World Translation, which is unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses? Will such a unique LDS Bible create barriers and suspicion with other Christian denominations?

  • http://www.splendidsun.com J. Stapley

    Creating a Mormon translation would be disastrous. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t put the changes in the footnotes.

  • http://mormoninquiry.typepad.com Dave

    Sounds like they want a Correlated Bible — now even the scriptures must submit to review and approval.

  • http://abev.wordpress.com john f.

    Honestly, I really hope they aren’t really putting it in the text.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com Nitsav

    Such a hypothetical got posted a while ago at M*.

    The general consensus was, bad idea. Better perhaps to stick with whatever Spanish translation they have with explanatory Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic footnotes.

    What’s next? The LDS Spanish-Greek Interlinear?

  • Jahn

    Whatever happens, let’s hope it turns out better than the disastrous re-working of the German scriptures done by Imo Luschien back in the ’80s.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com TT

    Jahn,
    I am not familiar with the German story. Can you elaborate?

  • Manuel

    Hmmm. That is really sad, and a little bit disturbing. My native language is Spanish, and I love my version of the Bible, which is Reina-Valera 1960. After having compared many editions in Spanish, I believe this is the best one by far. A newer Reina-Valera 1995 was very disheartening to me as the vocabulary was reduced and more limited (kind of like making it more English-like with a smaller vocab). More specific words were used and meanings of passages were significantly reduced.

    I also think this version (R-V 1960) is far superior to the King James Version currently used for the LDS Cannon in English. There is an old Reina-Valera edition (Edición Antigua) that is very similar to KJV, nevertheless, 1960 is still my ultimate favorite since the Spanish used for the Antigua Edition has not prevailed among the Spanish Speaking population, resulting in words can be easily confusing since their connotations have significantly changed (sometimes to imply the opposite of what they meant back in the day).

    What I would like to see happen is that they take the Reina-Valera 1960 version, they add the cross-references to LDS scriptures, Bible Dictionary, explanatory footnotes and any changes or modifications included in footnotes, not the actual text.

  • http://www.timesandseasons.org Kaimi

    The church typically uses Reina-Valera in Spanish speaking countries. This is the most popular Protestant bible. It does raise interesting issues of which words are correct, that I discussed in a post at http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=1684 .

    It would be nice to get a version with the full footnotes and such.

    And, there were elders and ward members who loved to bash with the Testigos (JWs), and knew all sorts of places where there were missing verses in the JW translation. It’s a really easy target.

  • NoCoolName

    The projected date for the Spanish quad is 2009.

    Of course, as with any date in the church not given over the pulpit, that’s probably not going to happen (the renewed button-snap quads were first projected for fourth-quarter 2006 and ended up being shipped in fourth quarter 2007). Thus, I would start expecting it around the end 2010.

    That’s the only firm info I can give right now.

  • a random John

    This has the potential to be a disaster if it isn’t the exact text of a widely used Spanish edition with footnotes used to provide additional material rather than making changes directly to the text.

    If it is basically the same thing they’ve done with the KJV in English then that will be fine, though I don’t see much of a need. In fact I remember reading something in either the Ensign of the Liahona at some point where the Church specifically said that it had no interest in producing LDS versions of the bible in various languages and that the expanded reference section at the end of the new editions of the Book of Mormon that were being released in several languages beginning in the mid 1990s was there in place of an LDS version of the Bible.

  • http://www.coldandcalculating.blogspot.com brianj

    It’s already problematic that many English-speaking LDS see the KJV as the only true Bible translations. This would effectively do the same to Spanish-speakers, limiting them to only one translations. Putting changes in the footnotes would leave them open to consulting other translations. Also, I wonder if this edition will have all those useless Topical Guide footnotes that make my KJV so thick!

    On the plus side, it’s nice to see the Church trying to make a very good reference for Spanish-speaking members. The cross-references and BD will be very helpful. By the way, I wonder if the BD will be a translation of the English or will follow the Guide to the Scriptures on lds.org?

  • John Mansfield

    In 1979, when the LDS Church first published an English edition of the Bible, total church membership for the end of the year was reported as 4,439,000. Current membership for Spanish-speaking countries as reported at the Church’s website newsroom adds up to 3,909,000. To that could probably be added half a million Spanish-speaking members in the United States.

  • mondo cool

    “Will such a unique LDS Bible create barriers and suspicion with other Christian denominations?”

    Yes. There was some sniping and griping by “other Christian denominations” when the Church first published the English edition we use now. I’m unconvinced that is a question we should even consider.

    However, the correlation to the JW NWT, I believe, is valid in a sense. It will be easier for some to flippantly discount the LDS Spanish Edition by drawing the comparison without researching the issue. Yet, unfair in another sense. The NWT is pooh-poohed because it is so obvious that the “translation” is forced by the JW doctrine and not supportable, nor authenticatable by other linguists. If the Spanish LDS was “forced” by LDS doctrine, it’s usefulness would be greatly diminished.

    Personally, I would vote for footnotes to document the whys for the changes.

    Another item that I find curious is the whole idea about which translation to use. There are so many translations, editions, referenced, commentarried, etc. versions of the English Bible that I find any criticism of the LDS on what we do to our Bible to border on hypocrisy. When that YouTube guy asked if Mitt Romney believed “every single word” of the Bible he was holding up, I thought, “Which Bible are you talking about?” What’s even more curious is so many in the Christian world can swallow the multitudinous Bible diversity with narry a gag – the same as the multiplicity of denominations.

  • http://indybooks.blogspot.com/ Bookslinger

    There are four Reina Valera editions in print: 1909, 1960, 1977, and 1995. Of those, the only public domain one is 1909. You can find Spanish RVR-1909 Bibles (OT+NT) for sale for $1.00 at many dollar stores.

    The one that the church sells at http://www.ldscatalog.com is RVR-1960, and is printed by the American Bible Society. American Bible Society sells them at http://store.bibles.com/. You can also see various Spanish translations at http://www.ibsdirect.com, the International Bible Society.

    A local faithful bilingual brother from Mexico tells me that many local mexican immigrants are having problems with the church’s 1960 edition because of the vosotros form (“you-familiar-plural”, or 2nd person familiar/plural) of verbs.

    Apparently, the vosotros form is not taught in Mexican schools any more. Even when I learned Spanish back in the 1970′s in High School here in the US, our text-books basically ignored that form of the verb.

    Does anyone know of the RVR 1977 and 1995 maintain the “vosotros” form, or did they switch it all to “ustedes” ?

  • capt jack

    The latest version of the RV bible still uses the vosotros tense; you can see various version of the Bible in Spanish at the following website:

    http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/

  • Jahn

    TT,

    Sometime in the early ’80s, the Church came out with a revised German translation of the BofM, PGP, and D&C. Unfortunately, this was done by Imo Luschien, who is a Swiss. By their own admission, the Swiss do not speak German. They speak the Swiss dialect.

    Basically, the translation sucks swamp water. The previous translation was admittedly imperfect, but it was written in true German, not some hoity-toity dialect.

  • Manuel

    Bookslinger,

    I am a Mexican (who was raised in Mexico and lived in Mexico for the most part of my life) and I think it is very unlikely that any Mexican would have any trouble with the “vosotros” form. This form of the language is not used currently for daily conversations; nevertheless, it is still taught in schools and is basic for understanding classic literature in Spanish. In the Spanish language, the differences created by this style are not that significant, and people of most levels of education would adapt to the language style rather easily.

    Most Mexicans come from a Catholic background, and Catholic Mass in Mexico still uses the “vosotros” style. It would be very strange if there was a Mexican who didn’t understand this form of the language.

    In any case, “vosotros” is the style that was decided to be used in the translations of LDS scripture such as the Book of Mormon, etc. I have attended Mexican wards of every class level for many years, and in my lifetime I have no recollection of any Mexican suggesting that the scriptures were difficult to understand because of the “vosotros” style.

  • http://indybooks.blogspot.com/ Bookslinger

    Manuel,
    Thanks for the information. The brother I was talking to may have been referring to some specific people who were not fully literate, or didn’t make it through grade school. Perhaps they were “un-churched” their whole life, in addition to not finishing school, and so never had opportunity to learn the vosotros form.

    Many people of most languages, are just not well-read. Well, at least many people born in the Western Hemisphere, I shouldn’t generalize to all the world.

    I’ve always been a “bookish” kind of person, and have been surprised at the number of people, both English speakers and Spanish speakers, whose vocabulary is limited to the commonly spoken language.

    Words that only are used in books, not common spoken words, are often just not known to those who aren’t well-read.

    Remember the flap a while back over a government employee’s use of the word”niggardly” ?

    There’s also a difference between conversational comprehension/level and reading comprehension/level. In my mission in South America, we’d occasionally find adults who couldn’t read, or who could read only at a very basic grade school level.

    As to the question at hand, I’d prefer all LDS-related changes or alternate translations to be rendered in footnotes. Or perhaps inline in the official text, offset by square brackets, like the English Amplified Version.

    The past two years, while reading the English KJV Bible for LDS Sunday School classes, I’ve used colored pencil to highlight the superscripted footnote letter in the text, and the footnotes for all “HEB,” “GR,” “OR,” and “IE,” labeled footnotes.

    HEB = alternate translation from Hebrew.
    GR = alternate translation from Greek.
    OR = alternate translation.
    IE = explanation.

    For confusing passages, I often went to the New International Version, or other translations, for clarification. I’ve noticed that much of the alternate translation footnotes in the LDS KJV Bible correspond either exactly or in equivalent meaning with the NIV.

    It took the NIV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, NLT, AMP, and the Jerusalem Bible to help me get through the KJV Old Testament with comprehension.

  • http://spanish.about.com gfe

    As to the vosotros issue, that’s still standard Spanish, although definitely not used much in everyday conversation in most of Latin America. And I think it would sound stranger to Spaniards to deal with ustedes than it would be for Latin Americans to deal with vosotros. Unless you’re going to have separate Latin American and European editions, use of vosotros makes the most sense.

    I will, of course, reserve judgment on the final product until I see it. But I agree that there’s cause for concern if they develop a proprietary translation, unless they set about to do one that is truly a translation rather than something written to bolster LDS doctrine.

    That said, the 1960 Reina-Valera would be somewhat difficult to read for someone without a lot of education, although not nearly as much so as the KJV. So I don’t think that updating is a bad idea; I just think it would be best to not try rewriting the Bible so it says what TPTB want it to say rather than what it really says.

    If they’re truly using Greek and Hebrew experts, that sounds promising. It makes more sense than trying to translate from the KJV.

  • Adam Greenwood

    Spaniards use the vosotros frequently. Excluding it would make it awkeard for Spanish readers. Not that Spanish readers should be the focus, but there’s something to be said for having a uniform Spanish version.

  • Manuel

    For people worried about Spaniards: Spain is not unfamiliar with the Tu/Ustedes form. Those styles also came from Spain; they weren’t originated in Latin America.

    “…the 1960 Reina-Valera would be somewhat difficult to read for someone without a lot of education…”

    Not really. I have taught people with almost no education from this version of the Bible and from LDS scriptures (that share the same style of Spanish) and I have found that is not difficult to understand for them,

  • a random John

    BrianJ,

    The material in the English LDS/KJV bible dictionary is already in the back of the 1994 Spanish Book of Mormon. Actually it is a melding of the topical guide and bible dictionary. So providing that resource isn’t a function a spanish translation of the bible need to fill.

  • http://strongreasons.blogspot.com Andrew Miller

    I’m out at BYU working on my MA in Spanish. Turns out one of our old professors is involved in the translation project. I was under the impression it was going to be a brand new translation based on older translations.

    For what it’s worth, I think it’s a bad idea.

  • James Weller

    Actually, as a linguist, (admittedly a Slavist, but with some graduate level training in Romance linguistics), and as a Latter-day Saint of faith, however with both eyes open to the poor track record of LDS translators (none have been good with one exception–Joseph Smith), I nevertheless am thrilled at the notion of the Church producing its own Spanish Bible. Let it be so, let it be unique, let truth ring out.

    The Reina-Valera edition of 1960 is pretty good, comparable to the King James Version. The King James Version in and of itself is poetic, impressive, but as for accuracy it deserves a C+/B-. That having been said, no English translation is any better, save the Inspired Version.

    As far as accuracy goes, the 1909 Reina-Valera edition is far superior to the 1960 version. While it is true that the vocabulary is more archaic, it is also sadly true that the 1960 version has many omissions, and the 1995 even more so. However, the 1865 Reina-Valera edition is superb, it trumps the 1909 edition in completeness and accuracy, poetic beauty, and it is equal to if not better than the King James Version. I so hope our Translation Department has enough linguists to lead them in the right direction. Why it is that the true Church can be so naive when it comes to translation work and the requisite skills I will never know. Our Translation Department is convinced that being a “native speaker” alone always qualifies the would be translator to do the job. The current version of Spanish Book of Mormon is straightforward and as impressive as lukewarm jello. The Russian Book of Mormon is fraught with errors and some omissions. The Russian Doctrine and Covenants is sterile and so obviously misdirected and overwrought by our 1990′s BYU Russian professors that I cannot bear reading even a couple of verses of it before nausea sets in. I know, this blog is for the Spanish version, but I must say that Restoration Bookstore, a branch of “faithful Reorganized Latter Day Saints,” has an absolutely astonishing Russian translation of the Book of Mormon. It is so good I have ordered their Spanish Book of Mormon and I have high hopes. One last Russian point, let’s buy the copyright to the Reorganized Russian Book of Mormon, make minor corrections to the text, and publish it. Then let’s hire those translators to redo the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price from scratch.

    Also, please, I so hope that the Church finally obliterates the last vestiges of our underwhelming Spanish translators and adopts “ancianos” for the term “Elders.” The unskilled translators we used opted to say “los elderes” (accent on the first “e”) never apparently consulting the Bible to find that the term is “ancianos.” The French, Portuguese and Italian Saints use their version of “ancianos,” but in Spanish we’re stuck with “los elderes” because of our unskilled translators. Hopefully this egregious error will be corrected before the Quad comes out.

    BTW, the best translation of all is the Luther Biebel, the German translation by Martin Luther. It is as good as the original in most places, even better in some. Why better? Because Martin Luther understood the extant original texts so well through sincere inspiration that when facing words with a range of meanings in Hebrew he chose the right word in German to render teachings now corroborated via modern revelation–and this was known by and expressed by Joseph Smith towards the end of his ministry.

  • jupiterschild

    James Weller,

    I’d like to know where you’re coming from on your assessment of the English versions. NRSV and JPS are better than the KJV, though not without their significant problems. And the so-called Inspired Version isn’t properly a version, or a translation, at all. In fact, it does significant damage to the underlying Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. And are you also equipped to assess Luther’s accuracy as translator, or is your evaluation based on Joseph Smith’s limited knowledge of Hebrew (and German)?

  • http://strongreasons.blogspot.com Andrew Miller

    The adoption of the term “los elderes” is a serious mistake. But even worse is the use of “presbitero” for priests in the aaronic priesthood since it really means “elder” in New Testament Greek. In Spanish we therefore have “sumosacerdotes” (literarly: high priests) for “high priest”, “elderes” (wich is meaningless in Spanish) for “elders”, “presbiteros” (which is literally “presbyter” or “elder”) for aaronic priests.

    It’s a real mess. If they were afraid that the term “anciano” would be confusing to Spanish speakers since it means “old man” they should have adopted “presbitero” for elder and “sacerdote aronico” for a priest in the aaronic priesthood.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.com Nitsav

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