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Chapter 33

The New English Bible

 

The New Testament portion of the New English Bible was issued in 1961 and the complete Bible in 1970.

This translation was conceived in 1946 when the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland produced a memorandum asserting that both the King James Version and the Revised Version contain archaic words and phrases and urged that a new translation using contemporary English idiom more faithfully expressing the underlying Greek be undertaken.

The translators consisted of representatives from the British and Foreign Bible Society, the National Bible Society of Scotland, and all major British Protestant denominations.

As we are fully accustomed to expect, the translators of the New Testament chose the corrupted manuscripts rather than the Textus Receptus as the basic Greek text for their translation. The translators also chose to include the Apocrypha in their translation, thus adding noncanonical writings to Godís Holy Word. The overall director of the project, appointed in 1947, was Dr. C.H. Dodd, succeeded in 1965 by Professor Sir Godfrey Driver.

While this new translation received wide acclaim, its popularity among Christians has been less than that of the Revised Standard Version and the New International Version. Perhaps this represents more the marketing techniques in the United States and the greater interest in scriptural study here as compared with Great Britain, rather than an inferiority of translation.

Some have felt that the translators have utilized unseemly words in their translation. Thus words such as intercourse (Matthew 1:25, Romans 1:26), breast (Matthew 21:16), prostitutes (Matthew 21:31, 32; James 2:25), pregnant (Luke 2:6, Revelation 12:2), perversion (Romans 1:27, 1 Corinthians 6:9); homosexual (1 Corinthians 6:10) are thought to be too explicit. These terms, which formerly were entirely unacceptable, are used in what today sometimes passes for polite conversation. However, in its review of the New English Bible, the Trinitarian Bible Society does suggest that the use of such terms will make it unsuitable for use in Sunday Schools, Bible classes, and young peopleís associations.

We do not share this view. The terms are bound to be far more delicate than those used among unconverted associates of these young people. Furthermore, they do represent clarity in relation to the original Greek words. In an age when the "secrets" of conception and the knowledge of sexual perversion are veiled only from infants, the use of such words should not weigh against this Bible version.

However, in addition to the inherent defect of selection of faulted Greek manuscripts, there are a number of other matters warranting our attention.

This version includes a number of unfortunate colloquialisms which tend to lower the readerís regard for the sacredness of Scripture. Some examples, with their counterpart in the King James Version are cited below:

Have sweated the whole day long in the blazing sun! Matthew 20:12, NEB

Have borne the burden and heat of the day. Matthew 20:12, KJV

Tell her to come and lend a hand. Luke 10:40, NEB

Bid her therefore that she help me. Luke 10:40, KJV

He began to feel the pinch. Luke 15:14, NEB

He began to be in want. Luke 15:14, KJV

This is more than we can stomach! John 6:60, NEB

This is an hard saying. John 6:60, KJV

Let us toss for it. John 19:24, NEB

Let us . . . cast lots for it. John 19:24, KJV

This touched them on the raw. Acts 7:54, NEB

They were cut to the heart. Acts 7:54, KJV

You are crazy. Acts 12:15, NEB

Thou art mad. Acts 12:15, KJV

They got wind of it. Acts 14:6, NEB

They were ware of it. Acts 14:6, KJV

I sponged on no one. 2 Corinthians 11:9, NEB

I was chargeable to no man. 2 Corinthians 11:9, KJV

. . . money-grubbing . . . 1 Timothy 3:8, NEB

. . . greedy of filthy lucre . . . 1 Timothy 3:8, KJV

They all left me in the lurch. 2 Timothy 4:16, NEB

All men forsook me. 2 Timothy 4:16, KJV

. . . smashing them to bits . . . Revelation 2:27, NEB

. . . broken to shivers . . . Revelation 2:27, KJV

In addition to lowering the tone of the Scriptures, not a single one of these colloquialisms is clearer than the King James Version rendition.

Incredibly, although one of the chief aims of the New English Bible was to produce a version devoid of little-known and archaic words, on a number of occasions the translators have selected words less known than did the King James translators. A selection of such instances is set out below:

KJV NEB

Exodus 34:13 Groves Sacred poles

Song of Sol. 2:1 Rose of Sharon Asphodel

Song of Sol. 3:9 Chariot Palanquin

Isaiah 13:21 Wild beast Marmots

Isaiah 28:25 Rie Spelt

Isaiah 30:32 Battles of shaking Shaking sistrums

Daniel 3:2 Princes Satraps

Nahum 2:5 Defense Mantelets

Luke 3:15 In expectation On the tip-toe of expectation

John 8:41 Born of fornication Base-born

1 Corinthians 5:9 Fornicators Loose livers

1 Timothy 1:2 Own Son True-born Son

1 Timothy 1:11 (no equivalent) Eternal felicity

Hebrews 1:14 Ministering Ministrant

Hebrews 3:5 Servant Servitor

Revelation 18:16 Decked Bedizened

The translators appear to have disregarded the fact that expressions in the Authorized Version of Scripture have enriched the English language and have become a part of everyday vocabulary and understanding. Had they appreciated this benefit, they would not have altered "whited sepulchres" to "tombs covered with whitewash," or "pearls before swine" to "pearls to pigs." Neither would Paulís "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7) have become "a sharp pain in my body."

Other expressions of unmatched beauty have lost much in the new translation. Among these are his unspeakable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15), translated his gift beyond words. Further, the royal law (James 2:8) has been perfectly well translated as sovereign law, but loses its impact because of a lack of familiarity and adds no new understanding or clarity to the passage.

While the New English Bible does correct the gross error of the King James Version which uses the term Easter for Passover in Acts 12:4 (a rare example of the King James Version translators deviating from their policy of exact-equivalence in translation), the translators of the New English Bible have incredibly translated Pentecost in 1 Corinthians 16:8 as Whitsuntide to conform to the Anglican and Catholic term for the celebration of Pentecost. This word, as does the term Easter, takes the reader back to the pagan origins of these festivals, which were later Christianized.

Another example of the dangerous policy of dynamic-equivalence in translation is the use of Friday for the preparation [day] in Luke 23:54, and Sunday for the first day of the week in Luke 24:1 and also Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, and John 20:1. Of course no one can dispute that the first day of the week is now designated Sunday by all English-speaking peoples. But removing the exact-equivalence from this translation of the events of the resurrection history could lead a future generation to lose all knowledge of the fact that Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week. This matter is important, since there are still Christians who believe that in worshiping on Sunday, they are worshiping upon the seventh day of the week as specified in the Decalogue. Indeed, our own grandmother was under this illusion prior to being presented with the Sabbath truth. The designation of Sunday as the seventh day of the week, quite contrary to Scripture, is receiving support from airline schedules which list Sunday as the seventh day, and a growing number of calendars and diaries following the practice. Of interest is that in December 1990, in Hanoi, Russell was presented a Vietnamese diary for 1991 while attending a conference of the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor. This diary indicated Sunday as the seventh day of the week.

Another monumental error of translation, no doubt most satisfying to Roman Catholics, states:

You are Peter, the Rock; and on this rock I will build my church. Matthew 16:18, NEB

You shall be called Cephas (that is, Peter, the Rock). John 1:42, NEB

Such translations demean our Lord who alone is the Rock upon which the Christian faith is founded. The King James Version correctly states:

Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone. John 1:42.

Again, the Roman Catholic Church was benefited by another translation. We shall compare the verse with the translation of the King James Version.

As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. Acts 13:2, KJV

While they were keeping a fast and offering worship to the Lord, the Holy Spirit said, "Set Barnabas and Saul apart for me, to do the work to which I have called them." Acts 13:2, NEB

Here again we illustrate one of those subtle Catholicisms. At first reading there would appear to be nothing perverse in the rendition of the New English Bible. However, the Roman Catholic Church has ever substituted the word "offering" for the term "ministered" as in the King James Version. This term, they have declared, verifies that the disciples celebrated the Mass. Indeed, although the evidence for this assertion is pathetically weak, it does no service to truth to assist the assertion with a faulty translation. It is of significance to record that some foreign language versions prepared by Roman Catholics substitute the word sacrifice for offering, thus adding unwarranted strength to the Catholic claim. Examples may be seen in Pereiraís Roman Catholic Portuguese Bible and the Bordeaux New Testament.

At times one wonders if unnecessary alterations are made in new translations, not so much to provide clearer and more modern renditions, but rather to impress Christians with the validity of the need for yet another translation. Let us compare a few Old Testament passages which suggest such a trivial motive.

Those who curse you, I will execrate. Genesis 12:3, NEB

And curse him that curseth thee. Genesis 12:3, KJV

Inaugurate a hereditary priesthood. Exodus 40:15, NEB

Anointing . . . an everlasting priesthood. Exodus 40:15, NEB

Psalm 108:10. Impregnable (NEB). Strong (KJV)

Psalm 139:12. Luminous (NEB). Shineth (KJV)

Summon discernment to your aid and invoke understanding. Proverbs 2:3, NEB

If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding. Proverbs 2:3, KJV

Do not emulate a lawless man. Proverbs 3:31, NEB

Envy thou not the oppressor. Proverbs 3:31, KJV

Proverbs 10:18. Fluent with calumny (NEB). Uttereth a slander (KJV)

He may cloak his enmity in dissimulation. Proverbs 26:26, NEB

Whose hatred is covered by deceit. Proverbs 26:26, KJV

The kisses of an enemy are perfidious. Proverbs 27:6, NEB

The kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Proverbs 27:6, KJV

Isaiah 32:2. Runnels (NEB). Rivers (KJV)

Joel 2:3. Vanguard . . . rearguard (NEB). Before . . . after (KJV)

Obadiah 5. Vintagers (NEB). Grapegatherers (KJV)

Most readers will conclude that in the examples cited above the passages are neither as clear in the New English Bible rendition nor are the alterations necessary. Too much is often made of the supposed ease of understanding of modern translations, although it is true that in some passages they do provide clearer renderings.

In the chapter entitled The Revised English Bible, the deviations of the translation of the Old Testament in the New English Bible from the Hebrew Masoretic Text are discussed. The translators admitted that at times they could not accept the Masoretic Text. Thus they stated that they sometimes used

the most probable correction of the text where the Hebrew and the ancient versions cannot be convincingly translated as they stand. New English Bible, Introduction, 16

This procedure is surely most dangerous, and seems akin to the efforts in Alexandria in the early period of the Christian era to "improve" on the Greek text of the New Testament. It is especially dangerous when it is recognized that not fewer than 1,100 of these conjectures were introduced into the Old Testament translation. Furthermore, within these conjectures 136 verses were rearranged and placed in different positions. Some instances of this procedure are listed below:

Job 4:21 is moved to Job 5:4.

Job 41:1-6 is placed to follow Job 39:30.

Psalm 113:9 (portion) has been moved to Psalm 114:1.

Isaiah 5:24-25 has been placed to follow Isaiah 10:4.

Isaiah 41:6-7 has been placed to follow Isaiah 40:20.

Isaiah 52:14 has been placed to follow Isaiah 53:2.

Zechariah 3 and 4 are arranged as follows: 4:1, 2, 3, 11; 3:1-10; 4:4-10.

Zechariah 13:7-9 has been placed to follow Zechariah 11:17.

As the Trinitarian Bible Society points out:

This conjectural rearrangement of the text will be rather confusing to any who try to follow a public reading with some other version in their hands. The New English Bible, 1961-1970, 14

It also highlights the difficulties encountered by users of varying translations in attempting to memorize Scripture. These transferences would surely confuse such persons. They would also render public or responsive readings from these passages impossible if alternative translations were in use.

Not surprisingly a recent trend in biblical translation has been to place more credence in the veracity of the Masoretic Text, a text which has remarkable agreement with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Thus in the Revised New English Bible many of the conjectures placed in the original New English Bible have been removed.

Perhaps a concluding word from the Trinitarian Bible Societyís assessment of the New English Bible is pertinent.

Our conviction is that if any have been hindered in their approach to truth by the alleged "barriers of language," more are likely to be hindered in their apprehension of truth by the numerous and serious deficiencies of the new translation. Ibid., 8

 


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