Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Bible translations, an update

Three years ago I learnt to my big surprise that different bible translations exist and that people have strong arguments for or against them depending on the source text and on the translation method used. A good starting point is the wikipedia.

The author of the Sundry Times blog has updated his opinions and it’s worth reading:

I also recommend to check out Nathan Stitt’s post in his blog.


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Last year one of my goals was to read the Bible starting with the New Testament – for whatever reason I didn’t make it and stopped with Romans. I felt it’s time to finish what I have started and this brought up two questions.

Which program to use for bible reading on the Pocket PC

A quick survey revealed three candidates.

  • Pocket e-Sword (homepage)
    This program is available for free together with many bible versions (commercial and free). The layout is great and it’s easy to use, however, I don’t like that the presentation is verse-by-verse. If you use a real bible, verses are joined together to form paragraphs, which improves the understanding of passages. Another thing I don’t like is that commentaries are only shown for one verse and not as continuous text covering multiple verses. This makes it difficult to scroll up and down to review things that have been said somewhere else.
    What I really like is the way how bible versions can be compared or read in parallel. Another advantage is that MANY versions are available, including the brand new International Standard Version.
  • OliveTree (homepage)
    To be honest, the GUI didn’t convince me. The idea with the buttons in the scrollbar is nice, but they haven’t been placed perfectly. Especially when one is used to Pocket e-Sword, the program feels awkward. Apart from that, the feature list is long and I am sure that many users will like it.
  • PocketBible (from Laridian)
    This program was the last I have tested and quickly jumped to the top of my list. The interface is fully customizable, especially the toolbars. Navigating through the bible texts is easy, although I sometimes got lost while switching from one window to another. Footnotes can be turned off to make reading easier. I really enjoyed the feature that allows to find a verse in all commentaries. This will show the first part of each commentary on the selected verse. I would love to see something like “prefered commentary” that allows to change quickly between the bible and the study notes. Maybe in the next version.
    The Gold package – if you can afford it – has everything you need to get started with serious study: different bible versions, the incredible Bible Knowledge Commentary and the Complete Word Study Dictionary (2 Volumes). If this is too expensive for you, choose the Bronze package (you WANT different bible versions, believe me) + the Bible Knowledge Commentary. Later, when you wish to understand the meaning of the original words, come back and order the Complete Word Study Dictionary (2 Volumes).

All three programs are available for free or as demo.

Which bible version to choose

After I have found the best program for the Pocket PC, the old question about the best bible version came up again. In my old blog entries I have finally choosen the ESV but after further studies I decided to reconsider. I was surprised how odd the English is and I have found the advise that the NASB would be the prefered edition for a literal translation although it is harder to read. betterbibles.com gives many examples and shows why literal translations can mislead the reader. As a starter it makes more sense to use a translation that reads fluently so it finally came down to:

The ISV is quite new and would probably be my first choice IF it would have been available for the PocketBible program. The TNIV and the HSBC seem to be on par but after browsing the internet I was surprised that the HSBC seems to enjoy a growing popularity and is respected for the un-biased translation. I glanced at some passages and I think I can’t go wrong with it. It’s good to have the other in the background though together with the bible commentaries to put everything into the right context.

Now starts the important task: to read the bible.

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Bible reading – John

I hope I can make it through the “Book of Books” this year. Recently I made less progress then planned but anyway, I have completed John yesterday. As mentioned before, I have started with the New Testament and will later switch to the Old Testament.

What I find slightly annyoing is the repetition. Jesus reminds his disciples a couple of times that he will leave them soon, he talks about faith etc. As a reader I think the point has been made and John can go on to tell the rest of the story. Maybe it’s time to pray for inspiration to be able to ignore such flaws…

The good thing is that once I am through  I can focus on passages that are interesting and have left their traces in my mind. Or whenever someone cites a verse from the bible I know the context and can deal better with it. My current reply would be “Well, just another piece from the bible.” but now I can argue if I don’t agree. It’s not so rare that a verse is picked out of context (historical or textual) and stretched so that it fits the personal opinion. Without proper background knowledge it’s impossible to see through such attempts.

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Lost in translation – finally an end.

Following up on my previous post I have finally made a decision.

First of all, the comparison of the different bible versions has distracted me from my original goal – to read the bible – and has started to annoy me. I decided to read the bible not only once but at least twice. This makes it easy now to pick a version that feels comfortable and later go back to a more serious study. My choice is the English Standard Version (ESV) with the MKJV in the backhand. Other versions that I have considered:

  • MKJV – very close to the King James version, modern update, nice Victorian style but sometimes hard to read and to understand. It’s not available in print and it’s almost unknown. In my humble opinion the quality is very good and I refer to it often when I want to compare the ESV with a King James version.
  • LITV – too literal (the MKJV would be the better choice for me), needs more study effort from the reader to interpret the contents. Hard to read.
  • VW – even more literal, uses e.g. Gehenna instead of hell. Forces the reader to use a bible dictionary.
  • Holman (HCSB) – looks like a good translation but the wording is sometimes not what I would expect
  • ISV – reads fluently but sometimes doesn’t feel right, maybe too modern for me.

As mentioned in another post, I have started with the New Testament and I have now almost completed Luke. It’s interesting to find the well-known parables here and to see the context. I am a little bit surprised by the harsh words that are used for non-believers. It makes perfectly sense though. Only when you believe and have absolute faith in God you can gain the fruits of heaven. Jesus knows that this is difficult so he himself gives one example after the other of what can be archieved by having faith. Nevertheless, heaven is not for everyone…

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Voice in the Wilderness (VW)

After doing some more searching with Google regarding the different Bible versions available, I stumbled upon two things.

1) There is a successor to the MKJV I am currently reading which is the LITV by the same author (Jay P. Green).

2) Voice of the Wilderness has published the VW edition combining the best from the NKJV, MKJV and LITV. Read more on their website. I have downloaded the e-Sword module and will compare it. If it indeed turns out to be superior, I will continue using it for future study. Electronic editions can be switched easily but I would have to decide for a hardcopy, it probably will take months to come to a final conclusion.

The good thing about Pocket e-Sword is that it lets you compare different versions very easily. One quickly notices the different words used for the translation. Sometimes whole passages are simply missing which really makes me wonder…  The commentaries (Barnes; Henry; JFB) provide additional help and tell you something about the historical background or the root of Greek and Hebrew words.

In case you are wondering why I care so much about the different bible versions: I like languages and have learnt 3 (beside my native German it’s Russian, English and French – no Greek or Hebrew, sorry!). I understand the difficulties and challenges and I want to make sure that what I read hasn’t been manipulated by using certain words and omitting contents (easily possible if you don’t have access to the original text). Bad craft is another issue but I cannot judge it. I even doubt that the minor (or major) changes have an impact on my personal opinion, they are more of theological interest, aren’t they?!?!

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Reading the bible – but which one?

For the new year 2008 I have one goal: I want to read the Holy Scripture. I don’t consider myself a Christian but I want to understand why so many people believe in God and which values they praise. As usual it’s easy to fall into the trap that one already knows everything. The Christian religion is part of our life and the pope is very popular. My son goes into the kindergarten of the Don Bosco sisters. From time to time the children help preparing the worship and the parents swarm into the church. I always feel misplaced there among the other believers. The least thing I can do is to make the connection by reading the Scripture so here we go.

Before I could start I had to obtain a copy first. Fortunately a remarkable piece of software exists that makes studying the bible on the Pocket PC a pleasure: e-Sword. Many free bibles are available and tried first the ones in my native language, which is German if you haven’t guessed it already. The most known version is the one from Luther, it’s supposed to be close to the original but I found it hard to read. When I announced to my friends that I am going to read the bible, they smiled at me and asked if I was serious about that. Looking at the old fashioned words and grammar that Luther uses (no wonder, it was written 1545 and only slightly revised in the coming centuries) it was clear that I won’t use it. The Elberfelder version is a little bit easier to read and the Schlachter bible looks even more modern but still, I wasn’t convinced. There is the Einheitsübersetzung which is very modern and easy to access – quite a pleasure to read – but it seems to omit words. Not good.

More free versions are available in English, the most famous among them is the King James Version. The story of its creation is very exciting and convincing. I compared it with some others and finally choose the Modern King James Version (MKJV). It looks close to the original and the changes make sense (I have both versions on my Pocket PC and can compare them easily).

I was surprised that a movement like King James Only exists that accurately points out the differences to other, modern bible versions. You can look at this webpage as a starting point. If I would have grown up with a bible and used it throughout my life it would have been much easier. Finally I decided to stick to the MKJV and I think this was a good decision. The main objection was that the so-called modern versions rely on an old manuscript that was found in Alexandria. It belongs to the two oldest versions and researchers believe that it’s more trustworthy than the copies that have been moved through time and might have been changed by the person who has created the copy. I cannot comment on this but I trust the effort and dedication of the translators hired by King James and starting with this version can’t be wrong.

I have started with the New Testament, which is supposed to be more relevant for today’s life. It looks like I can make it this year. Bear with me.

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