Which Bible?

A few years ago I stood in front of a room full of young first year students who were signed up for my Introduction to Old Testament course. I had anticipated talking about the art of interpretation, making the case that understanding what a text means requires a fair amount of diligence and a degree of humility, too.

Instead, I was taken completely off-guard by several students who were resisting my use of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible for our class. They had, apparently, only read the New International Version in their homes and churches and they were very much against reading a different translation.

I responded to their concerns about the NRSV by noting that at this current time, it was deemed by most, if not all, biblical scholars as the most accurate English translation. And, I gave them a couple of examples of how translators must make judgment calls about meaning and because they are humans with points of view and biases, their translations by nature bear the stamp of those particular leanings.

Additionally, I noted, this is the case for all translations. And, since this is the case, we should read a wide variety of translations, giving us the opportunity to see the various ways any text can be translated.

Finally, I shared with them my experiences of reading and studying the Bible before the NRSV (a gender inclusive translation as gender applies to humans) became the standard text used. I told them how I do not hear myself in masculine language. When, for example, someone says, “rise up o’ men of God,” I do not feel included. Or, when someone claims, “all men are made in the image of God,” I do not automatically think: “men, yes, of course, I am one of those.”

Fortunately, many churches use the NRSV. Unfortunately, many churches continue to use the NIV or other similar translations where women’s presence is silenced. I firmly believe as long as women routinely fail to hear themselves in our sacred text, they will be more likely to embrace silence as their God-ordained reality.

Check out the link below if you think gender doesn’t affect translation!