Thursday, April 27, 2006

translation vacillation

I must be open with you about the fact that I have been officially diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. So, vacillation is a part of my lifestyle.

After all of the thoughtful consideration of Bible translations, it looks as though I may in fact be switching back to the NRSV from the ESV. This doesn't mean that I deny the liberal bias of many of its translators. It doesn't mean that I think its the best translation on the market (however, Eugene Peterson, Walter Brueggeman, Dallas Willard, and Richard Foster, actually do, in the introductory section to their Spiritual Formation Bible, make the remark that they believe the NRSV is the best translation available).

Here are my reasons:
1) When I began seminary at Austin Seminary, I had a very defensive posture toward my professors. I was always looking for liberalism and heresy in everything they said. At one point, I felt the Holy Spirit convict me of the poverty of my judgmentalism and negative, critical spirit. As a part of my feeling that God was calling me to be more charitable in my attitude to others who profess Christ, I felt that he was calling me to use the NRSV. Every time I switch translations I eventually feel God calling me back to the translation as a pledge of my acceptance of my call to work in a complex theologically diverse denomination, even though I myself am a conservative evangelical.

2) I have spent the past 5-6 years memorizing hundreds of verses in the NRSV translation. It is difficult more me to shift to a new translation because the words are in a different order than what is "emblazoned on my brain" (My friend Bandlady once spoke about Scripture being emblazed in her brain. I thought that was the coolest phrasing.)

3) Sometimes I get frustrated with my denomination and wonder whether I'll be able to stick it out. When I do, I think I better get used to a more conservative translation of the Bible that is accepted in churches outside of mainline denominations. Then God challenges me and says, "Do you not trust me enough to live out my call on your life, believing that I'll take care of you?"

You may think I'm crazy. I often think I really may be.


BigDoo said...

I don't think your crazy brother!
Crazy is going your whole life ignoring the fact that there is a God and he loved us so much that he sent his only son to die that we might live.
II Corinthians 5:17 NIV
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come"!

Jason Woolever said...

Doo, i like your definition of what crazy means.

Thanks for affirming my sanity. I hope you are aware by publicly testifying to my sanity, you are also publicly bringing your own into question.

Jason Woolever said...

My friend, Shane Raynor, has publically declared my Schizophrenia. Go to and see for yourself

Keith McIlwain said...

I completely understand your dilemma and struggle in the same way. I used the NRSV throughout seminary, switched to the ESV, and have sometimes toyed with other translations. I keep returning to the NRSV because it seems to be the "default" UM translation. At least for now. Hang in there!

Jason Woolever said...

Wow, Keith. That is a great relief to know that someone else is wrestling with the same strange mind struggle that I am. Thanks so much for replying to this.

I covet the day when the KJV was the one universal translation. Anyone who quoted the Scripture was quoting the same version that others would be familiar with.

Now, you have the NIV which functions as the KJV of seeker-sensitive evangelicalism.
You have the NRSV which functions as the KJV within the walls of many mainline institutions.
And you also have the ESV, which J.I. Packer (one of the chief creators of the new translation) who says that it is the translators hope that it will be the new KJV.

Thanks again Keith, sincerely.

Gary said...

Jason, I can relate. I'm an NASB man, not just because I think it may be the best English translation, but because the Lord keeps speaking to me more clearly when I study the NASB than when I try to use any other version.

I appreciate seeing a UM pastor who cares enough about Bible study to use a good version like the ESV, or the NRSV (though I won't use it). There's more to the Bible than using an easy-reading one. Obviously you understand that.

Personally, while I like the ESV, I doubt that it will ever be considered the KJV of our time. I think the closest we have to that right now is the NIV, but people are saying that the NIV's time has now come and gone, and I don't think any version on the market right now has enough support from enough people to be considered "our" KJV.

Anonymous said...


Be "crazy for the Lord". Use whatever Bible you wish. Stay with the NRSV if it is you memorized that text and have those words close to your heart.

As for me and my house we will use the KJV, NKJV, NIV, and ESV. I did not like the Holman Christian Standard Bible or NASB. (Remember I am a Southern Baptist).

Occasionally, I do read from the NRSV, when I am a my UMC church. Most of my friends there are carrying some sort of NIV Bible, the NIV Study Bible seems to have a following at my UMC church.

I might pick up a copy of the Message. More and more people I know use it for devotional reading.

May the Peace of Jesus Christ Be with you!

John Flores

John Flores said...

I was real disappointed with the
Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible. I used to be Roman Catholic so I still have my St. Joseph's (Roman) Catholic Study Bible, the New American Bible translation. Even as a Baptist I think the NAB is a better translation that the NRSV. The Catholic NRSV verison is political football. For all that version is worth, I'd use the New World translation done by the Watchtower Association. (That's the Jehovah Witness 'trans- literation of a paraphrase').

Jason Woolever said...

hey john, thanks for your words of grace.
I'm glad to get some feedback about the Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible. I have a friend who loves it and you're not impressed with it. It'll be interesting to hear what more people think about it. Thanks for the feedback.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is the best selling Bible is currently the NKJV, not because it's the NKJV per se, but it the translation used in the best study Bibles, which is the hot seller nowadays.


Barbara said...

I'm not a Methodist, but I sure understand about the Bible situation. I grew up learning the KJV, and it is still my main Bible. But, my pastor sometimes quotes from the Amplified, if it is true to scripture and others use others such as The Message, during Bible study. But, our main Bible is the KJV. No matter what I read, my mind still quotes KJV scriptures. I guess it's what we have ingrained into our mind that usually wins out.

Jason Woolever said...

Barbara, I would agree. Getting it engrained in your mind is after all the point! New mind leads to new life (Romans 12:2).

Great to have a Pentecostal in the conversation. Thanks Barbara!