May 13, 2014

Another Interesting Bible Translation

From a guest poster on Catholic Bibles blog:
When I found a hardcover edition of the New English Bible with the "Apocrypha" at a used bookstore some years ago, I picked it up because it was inexpensive (I paid less than ten dollars for it) and of high quality...

I spent a little time in the text and really liked most of the translation, in spite of some very unusual renderings--- some bordering on weird, and a couple even jarringly laughable (take Joshua 15:18, and Judges 1:14, for example). Most of the text flows with a certain cadence that I find exquisite. Take for example this rendering of Paul: "For if we have become incorporate with him in a death like his, we shall also be one with him in a resurrection like his. We know that the man we once were has been crucified with Christ, for the destruction of the sinful self, so that we may no longer be slaves of sin, since a dead man is no longer answerable for his sin" (Ro. 6:5-7). It gets even better, but you can read it for yourself.

Even some of the more unusual renderings I find wonderfully fresh and lively. For instance, Matthew 5:3: "How blest are those who know their need of God," substitutes for the more literal and traditional, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." And Matthew 5:48: "There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father's goodness knows know bounds." (Love it, but better still is the first printing of the New Jerusalem Bible, which rendered this as "you must therefore set no bounds to your love, just as your heavenly Father sets none to his.")

What I do with really "out there" renderings in the NEB, such as the above mentioned Joshua 5:18, that seem to obscure the meaning or even make one blush, is pencil in corrections or alternate translations from the RSV or NABRE to the side of the text (for example: in Psalm 22 I penciled in the NABRE's "pierced" for the NEB's "hacked" the persecuted's hands and feet)...
It has its faults (what translation doesn't?), but on the dust jacket of my hardcover edition I am reminded that no less a literary figure than Walker Percy said, "It is is a beautiful job--- first rate scholarship which does not sacrifice the language." Thomas Howard, quoted there as well, spoke highly of the NEB: "The great thing to be praised, from the layman's point of view, about this translation, is the clarity and simplicity of the prose. It is an epochal achievement." And Sheldon Vanauken wrote, "What I want in a translation of the Bible is, first of all clarity of meaning and, next, easy, graceful English. The New English Bible is the best I've found in both respects." Of course, it has also been said that the Venerable Fulton Sheen enjoyed the NEB quite a lot. If it's good enough for the likes of these greats, it's good enough for me.

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