Thursday, August 01, 2013
Book Review of One Bible, Many Versions by David Brunn
One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal?
by Dave Brunn
Reviewed by Clint Walker
I grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist church. In this congregation, it was taught that the King James Version of the Bible was the only acceptable version of Scripture to read, study or accept as true. As a matter of fact, a member of a different church that I attended for part of my high school years wrote a book with this thesis entitled Valiant for Truth.
I have since come to a more reasonable, and a more intellectually grounded understanding of this issue, and have copies of most English versions in my personal library. There are some versions which I prefer, and others which I do not think do as good of a job in translating the original text, and there are other versions that I think read very poorly. Some translations I consider "devotional" and others I prefer for more in-depth study. My preferences on how the issue of gendered language also influence which text I prefer.
So, I brought some baggage with me as I began to read One Bible, Many Versions by Dave Brunn. As I ordered this book I began to wonder how the author was going to come down on the translation issue. Would the book be an apologetic for a particular type of translation? Would it rank the translations based on the author's preferences and standards? Thankfully Dave Brunn does none of these things.
Instead, what Mr. Brunn does is show that different translations, with their different goals and purposes in translation, are interdependent on one another. Some translations serve better in one context than another. And, despite the way that certain versions market themselves, nobody anywhere does a literal word for word translation. It would be to difficult to understand. One Bible, Many Versions goes deep into the translation process to show exactly how difficult the translation task is, sometimes pulling out specific passages, identifying the differences between translations, explaining the rationale for some of the differences, which are sometimes equally reasonable and biblical between sides of the debate.
What I thought was most fascinating was when Brunn identified that when Biblical writers were quoting Old Testament passages, they were not always interested in a word for word translation from Greek or Hebrew. Nor did they always stick to the Hebrew translation or the Greek translation. Perhaps, it is implied, we are a little more legalistic about matters of translation than the authors of Scripture were.
All in all, for a student of Scripture, particularly one who has had some academic training and interest, this is a really interesting and fascinating read. It is detailed, smart, understandable, and well-reasoned. While the author has his particular perspectives, he does not keep that from offering grace to other translators and other versions even when he disagrees with them on a particular manner.This book is a breathe of fresh air, and I hope it finds its way into the hands of many.