There is no end to the writing of books, said the author of Ecclesiastes, and today he could have said it of translations of the Bible. Now there are translations not just for every denomination and generation but for every class, sex and age -- men, women, young people, conservative, liberal or neither . . . .
These days you can get a translation that's custom-made for your denomination or demographic, your politics or personality. So much for
Instead we get the Word in a variety not just of tongues but tastes. Designed to match our needs, preferences or just moods. Like luggage or scarves. Instead of fitting ourselves to the Word, we can fit it to us! Right down to our race, education and socially constructed gender. How enlightened. All the inaccuracies and prejudices in earlier translations can now be eliminated along with the poetry.
Many of the newer, spiffier versions of The Book cross the fatal line from translation into interpretation. Some even cross the line from translation into parody. The New English Bible, for example, washed out Joseph's coat of many colors, which became only "a long, sleeved robe" in its denatured English, a literary style that might best be described as Modern Drab.
Apparently there is no old translation of Scripture that cannot be disimproved by the application of modern semantics. Or is it called semiotics these days? Every translation, they say, is a betrayal. The modern ones may lack sufficient character to betray outright. They just soften the meaning, cushion the impact, blur the old words to make them more congenial.
I'd like to think that, if you placed one of the newer versions side by side with the King James, even someone who'd never heard of either could appreciate the superiority of the older translation. All it takes is an ear for the English language.
Compare the power and the glory, the stark faith of "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil," to the anemic version of the 23rd Psalm in a translation put out by the
Then there is the Anchor Bible's vapid abstraction, "Even though I should walk through the midst of total darkness."
I now have been favored with a copy of the new Women's Study Bible put out by
Is ours so euphemistic an age that we dare not speak even of the shadow of death? This newest version of The Book reflects the New Living Translation that first appeared more than a decade ago. Here's hoping that title didn't mean to infer that older ones, like the King James, are dead.
That the version of the Bible authorized by King James and the vast treasure that is Shakespeare's work should have appeared during the same epoch is surely no coincidence. Languages have their own rise and fall, their fruition and decay, just as nations do. And the Elizabethan/Jacobean era was the high tide of the English tongue.
Nor is it a coincidence that the American president who delivered the Second Inaugural -- The Second Inaugural -- should have grown up reading Shakespeare and the King James. Either of those works would have been sufficient to transform the rudest railsplitter on the American frontier into the most eloquent and visionary of American statesmen. Such is the power of the Elizabethans' language, which even now, centuries later, still replenishes us.
A biblical scholar named
Mystery is rare today; it is assumed that everything can be explained. For is not art but science in the making?
In George Orwell's "1984," poor
The War on the Book
In Ashburnham, Massachusetts, a prep school has just given up on books. The headmaster of Cushing Academy, one James Tracy, doesn't see any need for them. Not any more. Anybody who's anybody or wants to be now has an iPhone with apps, a Kindle or whatever the Next Big Thing turns out to transiently be. Who needs books?
Why Americans Should Not Fear Scientific Progress
Science is advancing at a rate so fast that it is difficult to forecast where it will take us. According to Michael Specter, this uncertainty has developed into a widespread fear or denial of scientific progress across the nation. Specter identifies why Americans have grown to mistrust science. He recently chatted with Jessica Rettig about the dangers of resisting vaccines and the value of preventative healthcare
The 2nd Battalion of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division -- the 2-16, as it's called -- spent 15 months in 2007 and 2008 in one of the toughest areas of Baghdad at the height of the surge. David Finkel chronicles their story in The Good Soldiers
(C) 2009 Paul Greenberg