Everyone likes cartoons and what could be better for this blog than a cartoon about different Bible translations? Make sure that you do have a quick look at the link or the rest of this post won’t make much sense (even then it may not).
Bible translation isn’t the funniest subject in the world and this cartoon takes a stab at making a difficult subject approachable. However, sadly, the comments alongside each cartoon don’t quite match up to the standard of the drawings. I’ll just take three examples:
New Living Translation: A nice guy, but a little immature. Frequently gets in trouble with the older crowd. Still digs veggie tales.
This gives the impression that the NLT is not a serious translation and is just useful for children or youth. The reality is that the NLT is an excellent translation. Most Bible translators I know rate it highly and many (myself included) use it as their first choice translation. It is unfortunate that the publishers gave it the name they did, which automatically links it to the original ‘Living Translation’ a completely different and much inferior publication. With a different name, this translation would be much more highly regarded – as it definitely should be.
New International Version: Was super cool in high school. Unfortunately got caught up in the wrong crowd and was never quite the same after that.
I assume that the reference to the ‘wrong crowd’ refers to the issue of gender-neutral translations. I’ve gone into this issue previously, and won’t unpack it here. However, I do think it’s a shame that the cartoonist refers to people he obviously disagrees with as ‘the wrong sort’. I know it’s only a cartoon, but given the amount of vitriol that has been poured out over this issue, I think the term is unfortunate, even if only in jest. I quoted Don Carson in my earlier post on this issue:
…Would it not be good to recognize that there are people of good will on both sides of this debate? Both sides are trying to be true to Scripture, and to make their understandings known; and both make money in the process. (read more)
English Standard Version: One cool cat. All the popular folks like him. Recent success may be going to his head a little. Was reformed before it was cool.
I’m not sure how you can refer to a translation which in language and philosophy is distinctly old fashioned as ‘cool’. But I’m not a popular cartoonist and I’ve never been cool, so what do I know? The ESV is a good translation (as are the other two above) but the cartoonist is right that “success may be going to its (little in-joke there) head”. I’ve blogged elsewhere about how the marketing department responsible for the ESV should be ashamed of some of their actions.
So what are we to make of this?
- If you want to be amused in a religious fashion, Christian cartoonists are a good place to start (I’d suggest reading Dave Walker). However, if you want good information on English Bible Versions, you’d be better off reading a book: like this one. In fact, if you haven’t read Dave Brunn’s book then you really shouldn’t be talking about the question at all.
- Most people haven’t grasped the fundamentals of Bible translation terms and need to study my authoritative guide in depth.
- We don’t need to worry about all of the millions who don’t have any Scripture in their own language. It is probably more important to sort out which is the best available version in English (slight sarcasm for those who don’t spot it).