“What Bible Do You Use?”

“What Bible Do You Use?” January 21, 2005

This is a question often asked of Orthodox by those outside the Church. “What Bible do y’all use?” I’m sure there’s a better answer, but I usually start by informing them that in many parts of the Orthodox world they use the Greek version; however in Russia they use the Slavonic translation of the Greek scriptures. “No, I mean, what VERSION do you use?”

See the delimma? For the majority of American Christians, particularly here in the South, what VERSION you use helps to define what you believe. It’s a label folks can understand.

[For Southerners it’s a big deal. Here in Asheville we even have an AM Christian radio station whose call letters are: WKJV (The King’s Radio). And, no, they’re not referring to King James.]

Yet there’s a big contemporary Bible translation squabble now playing out in Prot circles. It seems that Zondervan, the nation’s largest publisher of Bibles, has gone and done what they swore off doing a while back. They’ve produced a new hip inclusive language translation, Today’s New International Version (TNIV), in order, so they say, to reach the youth.

They even wanted to market the new translation in Rolling Stone magazine. Have you SEEN recent issues of Rolling Stone? This is a magazine that praises every vice known to be condemned in older translations of the Bible. I mean, really.

Well, anyway, Rolling Stone has standards, too, you know … and they rejected the advertisement.

In a way, good for them. The NIV — much moreso I guess, the TNIV — is not a TRANSLATION of the Scriptures at all — but a Protestant gloss of the sacred text. All right-believing Christians should avoid it, new version or not. But, of course, that’s not why the magazine rejected it. An exec for the parent company said:

The copy is a little more than an ad for the Bible. It’s a religious message that I personally don’t disagree with,” Brownridge said, citing “a spiritual message in the text.” But, he said, “we are not in the business of publishing advertising for religious messages.

Again, please avoid the translation. But the logic in the above quote is misleading. I guarantee you that you will find Rastafarian messages in Rolling Stone. I promise you that you will, from time to time, find images of Stone Henge. What do you think? Satanist symbols as well? Duh. Please.

But again, AVOID the new translation.

I would guess that the news story of the rejection is a cheaper form of advertising than the one million they’d planned to spend. Believe me, surf the Net, the publicity is in full (free) swing. There’s even a site you can visit to add your name to a petition against the new translation. I wish they had a petition to boycott the old one!

As World’s blog states, we live in curious times. I mean, there’s a teenage girl version of the Bible called “Revolve” — and a teen guy issue entitled “Refuel.” Hats off to Dave Barry, I am not making this up. Oops! I did forget to mention that these are much hipper than your Daddy’s ol’ Good Book … these are Bible ZINES.

Managing editor of Sightings, Jeremy Biles, writes:

What are we to make of an ostensibly religious artifact that so blatantly mixes the sacred with the secular? Focusing on American religious life, Colleen McDannell, author of Material Christianity, points out that while today’s vigorous Christian retailing campaigns have reached new heights in merchandising religious paraphernalia, this kind of thing is really nothing new. “American religious life” has always exhibited a thoroughly “material dimension”; the sacred has never been rigorously ‘set apart’ from the profane. Indeed, refuting Durkheim’s claim that “the religious life and the profane life cannot exist in the same place,” McDannell insists that religious devotional practices are largely characterized by the “scrambling” of the sacred and the profane. Religion and popular culture are not separate realms; they are thoroughly enmeshed in American life.

I hope the nice folks at Touchstone will forgive my stealing this quote from the wonderful Anthony Esolen:

If American culture prizes sports, then it is a worthy enterprise for the Christian missionary to show that the spirit of sport, the willingness to embrace danger, the sacrifice of oneself for one’s team, is but a shadow of the spirit of adventurous brotherhood that breathes in the army of Christ. It is not a worthy enterprise to reduce Christianity to the blaring brainless marketing of narcissistic and overpaid giants, or to whip up the Exodus Bowl, or produce a sitcom called My Twelve Sons, or to draw cartoon versions of Bible stories that are so oozingly saccharine that they would make any redblooded American boy want to smash the screen with a hatchet, or maybe a couple of slingshot pebbles from the Kidron brook.

Second, she does not understand that we have NO popular culture. What she is talking about is mass entertainment, and that is a caustic solvent that eats away the last traces of culture. We have no culture to speak of, because we inculcate nothing; we till no fields; we do not gather in celebratory worship of anyone or anything; we can hardly remember our own dead, let alone heed their wisdom. For Christian publishers, musicians, and artists to hawk their wares as part of that ectoplasm, that all-homogenizing and all-flattening blob, is not only to sell out Christianity but to squander what small chance we have of reviving something like a culture, popular or otherwise.

What’s next, centerfolds of Bathsheba?

(Ain’t that great? Sort of like throwing rocks with commas; sane sentiments, nonetheless.)

So if you’re indeed wondering what translation the Orthodox use … I’d say stick with the KJV or the RSV. Soon, we hear, there’ll be a full version of the Orthodox Study Bible, Old & New Testaments (NKJV). The Oxford Study Bible – RSV with Apocrypha is a good find.

Better still, if able, stick with the Greek.

The Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants do disagree on the number of books in the Old Testament Canon, however. But that’s a topic for a different day.


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