MEV: Clear, Reverent, Accurate, or Meh?

The newly announced Modern English Version of the Bible (MEV) is described on its website as “Clear, Reverent, Accurate”. But James McGrath is unimpressed, calling it The Meh Version. Indeed there seems to be little new here, as far as one can tell from the few samples given.

The MEV is also described on the website as “The most modern word-for-word translation produced since the King James tradition within the last 30 years.” If that sentence is typical of the logic and grammar of the MEV, then it is certainly neither clear nor accurate. Well, what exactly are they claiming? If by “most modern” they mean “newest”, well, I guess that is true, but it tells us nothing about the quality.

Looking a little more closely, I found the following:

The MEV is a translation of the Textus Receptus and the Jacob ben Hayyim edition of the Masoretic Text, using the King James Version as the base manuscript.

The MEV is a literal word-for-word translation. It is also often referred to as a formal correspondence translation.

The Committee on Bible Translation began their work on the MEV in 2005 and completed it in 2013.

CLEAR: Literal translation (word-for-word, not thought-for-thought), with capitalized references of God. Historical facts and events are expressed without distortion. At the same time the translation is done in such a way that readers of all backgrounds may understand the message that the original author was communicating to the original audience.

REVERENT: Every effort is made to ensure that no political, ideological, social, cultural, or theological agenda is allowed to distort the translation.

ACCURATE: The Scriptures are accurately translated without loss, change, compromise, embellishments or distortions of the meaning of the original text.


However, one of the testimonials is as follows:

It was with great enthusiasm that I took on the request to update books from the 1611 King James Bible with the modern English vernacular …

Another one:

A new, precise update of the King James Version has been glaringly necessary. …

So which is this, a translation of the named Greek and Hebrew texts, or an update or paraphrase of KJV?

I’m sorry, but I agree with McGrath’s “Meh”. If you want a modern language literal translation of the same base texts, the World English Bible is probably a better bet – and is in the public domain. But no doubt the publishers of MEV will make quite a lot of money with their nicely presented printed editions like their SpiritLed Woman Bibles. Sadly Bible translation, at least in English, now seems to be not so much Christian ministry as business.


“Farewell NIV”?

At BLT krwordgazer posts “Farewell NIV”?, a highly critical review of a claim by another blogger that the NIV has gone away. This includes a careful discussion of the gender related issues which have been the reason for some people rejecting the NIV 2011.

For some of us there is little new in this post. But for readers who have not already had their fill of these discussions, this is a useful introduction to the issues.

Please comment on the post at BLT, not here.

blog guidelines

This is a reminder to follow all our blog guidelines when posting any comment. Our blog guidelines are found near the top of the right margin of our blog. If your comment does not follow the guidelines it will either be deleted by a moderator, or if it is a mixture of permissible comments and some not permitted, the wordings which are not permitted will be deleted, as described after the guidelines. The BBB is a moderated blog, so if you do not see one of your comments posted in a day or two, assume that it did not follow the blog guidelines.

We welcome vigorous debate that deals with Bible translation issues as objectively as possible. But we do not permit any comments which question the motives of any Bible translators. We do permit comments which question, on scholarly grounds, the translation of any specific passage in the original languages of the Bible. So, question translations, yes, question motives for translations, no.

Poetic Acts

The preceding post, by Peter Kirk, was about “poetic” and “accessible” language. This post is another about scripture set to poetry.

I have just received a copy of The Apostles’ Acts — In Verse, by my friend James Vasquez. James has written seven books of poetry based on scripture. James writes in classical poetic metre and rhyme.

Here is James’ rendition of Acts 17:22-34:

Paul in Athens

Within the Areopagus
Paul stood to view each person there.
He raised his hand and then his voice
Rang through the morning’s balmy air.

You men of Athens, hear me now,
For you are a religious lot,
And everywhere I look are seen
False idols that your hands begot.

And viewing each most carefully
As I in passing sauntered by,
An altar most remarkable
With its inscription caught my eye.

For “To An Unknown God,” it said.
Now what you worship as unknown
This day I will proclaim to you,
That you may all his wisdom own.

The God who made all things we see,
The world and every denizen,
Is Lord of heav’n and earth nor does
He live in temples made by men.

Nor do our hands yet serve him well
As though in need he looked to us,
For he gives life to every man,
His breath, and all things prosperous.

And from one man he made across
The earth all nations in their place,
And set the times for each and where
They were to live, each tribe and race.

He did this that all men might seek
And hap’ly find him reaching out,
Though close to every man he’s found,
His faithful promise leaves no doubt.

And thus, “In him we live and move,
And have our being as well,” one said.
“We are his offspring,” we are told,
By your own poets now long dead.

And since, O men of Athens, we
Are very offspring of this God,
Think not that like an idol he
Is made of gold or wood or sod.

For these are images and made
By man’s design and errant skill.
They hear not your petitions and
Your prayers remain unanswered still.

Now in times past God overlooked
Such ignorance and soul’s decay,
But now repentance he commands
For he has firmly set a day,

When he will judge the world at last
With justice foretold long ago,
By one whom he appointed and
Has given proof that all may know,

By raising Jesus from the dead,
The One whom I proclaim to you,
Though words I speak will never serve
To praise his name for honor due.

At once the air was filled with sneers.
Philosophers take pride in naught
But what their forebears have declared,
And oft their teachings have forgot.

But some asked Paul to speak again
And bring his message without shame,
While others who believed his word,
True followers of the Lord became.

“Poetic” and “Accessible” Language

I am not usually much interested in liturgy, as I don’t see much place for formal liturgy in church (but that is not an issue for discussion here). But I did read Doug Chaplin’s post Accessible and poetic: crafting words for worship, and the principles discussed there seem to me very relevant for Bible translation. Here is a quote:

Some people hear the word “poetic” and think “obscure”, when they should be thinking “vivid”. Others hear the word “accessible” and think “bland”, when they should be thinking “inviting”.

I am all in favor of Bible translations which are poetic, if that means vivid, not obscure. And for me it is important that Bible translations are accessible, in the sense of inviting, but that should not mean that they are bland. Would anyone disagree?

ISV nears publication

The International Standard Version (ISV) is now on its last revision before publication. Note its features on its website:

The ISV is the first modern Bible translation in any language to provide an exclusive textual apparatus comparing the text of the famed Dead Sea Scrolls with the traditional Masoretic text of the Hebrew Tanakh (i.e., the “Old Testament”).

  • Over 5,000,000 electronic copies of the ISV New Testament have been distributed worldwide.
  • The first press run sold out in less than a month.
  • The second press run sold out before it was printed.
  • The ISV has been universally praised for its readability and accuracy.
  • The ISV is respected by professional Bible translators.
  • The ISV renders the book of Isaiah from the reliable Dead Sea Scrolls, using the Massoretic Text as a comparative.
  • Other Dead Sea Scrolls translations are coming soon.

Report on divine familial terms

Last year we raised the issue some translators in Isalmic contexts have faced in deciding how to translate the divine familial terms.

The World Evangelical Alliance convened an independent panel to consider the issue. The panel has just completed their report, which you can download from their webpage.

If you’re interested, it’s worth checking out the whole report. I’ll quote here its first three recommendations (in depth rationales for these are given in the report):

  1. The WEA Panel (hereafter referred to as “Panel”) recommends that when the words for “father” and “son” refer to God the Father and to the Son of God, these words always be translated with the most directly equivalent familial words within the given linguistic and cultural context of the recipients. In the case of languages that have multiple words for “father” and “son,” translators should choose the most suitable words in light of the semantics of the target language. (This recommendation pertains to the SIL Best Practices statement 0.6, 1.5.1, 1.5.2, 3.2.)
  2. The Panel recognizes that there is significant potential for misunderstanding of the words for “father” and “son” when applied to God, and that in languages shaped by Islamic cultures, the potential is especially acute and the misunderstandings likely to prove especially harmful to the reader’s comprehension of the gospel. Therefore, in case of difficulties, the Panel recommends that translators consider the addition of qualifying words and/or phrases (explanatory adjectives, relative clauses, prepositional phrases, or similar modifiers) to the directly-translated words for “father” and “son,” in order to avoid misunderstanding. For example, as the biblical context allows, the word for “father” might be rendered with the equivalent of “heavenly Father” when referring to God, and the word for “son” might be rendered with the equivalent of “divine Son,” “eternal Son,” or “heavenly Son” when referring to Jesus. The Panel also encouragestranslators to use paratextual material to clarify and avoid misunderstanding in these cases. (This recommendation pertains to the SIL Best Practices statement 1.5.4, 3.2.)
  3. The Panel recognizes that the phrase for “Son of God” has varied nuances in its different New Testament contexts, especially in light of the Old Testament background to those contexts. In the case of most languages, the biblical context should enable the reader to discern the nuances of the phrase for “Son of God,” and translators need not make adjustments to the translated text, although they may want to indicate nuances of meaning in paratextual material. But, when and if necessary, the Panel recommends that translators convey nuances of meaning from the biblical context in the translation through the addition of qualifying words and/or phrases (explanatory adjectives, relative clauses, or prepositional phrases). For example, the phrase for “Son of God” in a context of Messianic kingship might be rendered with the equivalent of “anointed Son of God” or “royal Son of God.” (This recommendation pertains to the SIL Best Practices statement 0.4, 0.7, 1.1, 1.5.4, 3.2.)

SIL Executive Director Freddy Boswell also explained how this will impact SIL translations.