Tuesday, January 28, 2020

New Bibles Galore, Part One: Many English Bibles

How many English Bibles are there? Got Questions gives a low number of about 50 English Bibles, though they also recognize the way to count them varies: “Depending on how one distinguishes a different Bible version from a revision of an existing Bible version, there are as many as 50 different English versions of the Bible.” Do we really need 50 English versions of the Bible? Seriously? Though the proprietors of believe “there is nothing wrong with there being multiple versions of the Bible in a language,” they also admit “there is no need for 50 different English versions of the Bible. This is especially true considering that there are hundreds of languages into which the entire Bible has not yet been translated.”[i]

Wikipedia’s List of English Bible translations lists 95 complete English Bibles (OT & NT).[ii] The Jesus is Precious website lists 114 English Bibles and New Testaments on this page.[iii] Though “no one can give you an exact number for the English translations and paraphrases of the Bible,” the American Bible Society says, “With all these caveats in mind, the number of printed English translations and paraphrases of the Bible, whether complete or not, is about 900.”[iv]

Even if we were to admit the need for an update of the Bible, why do we need one every five or ten years? Our language becomes incomprehensible that soon? Seriously? The majority of the English Bibles on the market have arrived since 1950. Got Questions gives two reasons for this proliferation. I will give two more. “There are two primary reasons for the different English Bible versions. (1) Over time, the English language changes/develops, making updates to an English version necessary... (2) There are different translation methodologies for how to best render the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into English. Some Bible versions translate as literally (word-for-word) as possible, commonly known as formal equivalence. Some Bible versions translate less literally, in more of a thought-for-thought method, commonly known as dynamic equivalence.”

Got Questions does not mention the third primary reason – that there is a market. Bible translation has become commercialized, a sales-driven form of madness. Were there no money and no market, there would not be a proliferation of Bibles at the rate of one per year.[v] You can buy a KJV Bible and use it as long and the paper and cover holds up. The New International Version was first copyrighted in 1973 (New Testament), then 1978, 1984, and 2011. Derivatives include the NIrV, an “easy readers” version (1996, 1998, 2014), the NIVI (1996),[vi] and the TNIV, “incorporating contemporary gender language” (2002). The Holman Christian Standard Version copyrighted their Bible in 2004, updated it in 2010, replaced it in 2017 with the Christian Standard Bible, and then “improved” the CSB in 2020. Something seems wrong there! A fourth reason for new Bibles is that some are agenda driven. This means developing niche Bibles for a niche groups. Examples are the Cotton Patch Bible, Sacred Name Bibles, New World Translation, and so on.

How many English Bibles are there? Too many. How many do we need? One.[vii]

[i] Accessed 9 January 2020 10:10 am.
[ii] There are some duplications. On the other hand, some Bibles are not included – such as the Holy Name Bible by A. B. Traina. Accessed 25 December 2019 9:45 am.
[iii] Accessed 9 January 2020 8:30 am.
[iv] The caveats include “what should be defined as a new translation as opposed to a correction or a revision,” and “of how we should count translations” that are not a complete Bible or Testament. “Numbers of English Translations of the Bible,” American Bible Society, December 02, 2009; accessed 9 January 2020 9:10 am.
[v] For example, if we were to assume that 68 new Bibles have come out since the Revised Standard Version in 1952, that would be an average of one new English Bible per year. I have not proved that number, but it does not seem unreasonable – if the American Bible Society is anywhere near correct that there are some 900 printed English translations and paraphrases of the Bible.
[vi] Biblica says “The lower reading level translations have shorter sentences, draw from a smaller English word pool, and avoid all uncommon words.”
[vii] Having one English Bible is intergenerational and international – sharing a common faith and a common Bible with those behind us, around us, before us, and beyond us.

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