Friday, June 20, 2008

Unity and the NAS

If Blogger works properly, this will post while I am in the air on my way back to the States. Last Friday DH and I gave talks on unity in Church. If you were there, you would have found them quite interesting, for, as he said in his remarks, we are not exactly poster children for unity.

I won't reproduce my talk here, for I plan to use several points from it in my presentation at Sunstone in August. But I had an experience with it that was interesting. In one of the scriptural citations I used in my talk, I quoted from the New American Standard Version of the Bible. I almost always use the King James Version in both my study and my teaching. I feel quite comfortable with the Old English, having studied the Bible in this version from my youth. But occasionally I will compare versions, especially when there is a doctrinal sticking point. Friday I used Phillippians 21-5: in the NAS just because I liked the turn of phrase a little better (I don't like the word bowels), and it seemed to make my point about unity a little clearer:

1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus

(Click here to compare the KJV.) Interestingly, several people came up to me afterward and asked for this particular scripture reference, saying they were very touched by it. I gave them the reference without mentioning that I had used the NAS. I didn't mention it in my talk, either.

It's odd that I've felt pricked by my dishonesty. I'm trying to figure out what's been bothering me. Is it because I used an "unauthorized" version? Or that I wasn't straightforward about its provenance? Perhaps it's more that I didn't do justice to my source. If I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Christ in the NAS, should I necessarily have to proselyte for it?

Do you use other versions of the scriptures? Do you do it secretly, like I do?


bwebster said...

When teaching both the Old Testament and the New Testament in Gospel Doctrine the past few years, I often used other translations (and often recommended them). For example, I heavily relied upon Robert Alter's translations of the books of Moses and 1 and 2 Samuel, as well as Avraham Gileadi's translation of Isaiah. Likewise, I used a Greek/English (NSRV) interlinear New Testament while teaching the New Testament. I always had the KJV there and open, since that's what everyone in the class was reading, but I also made it clear that the KJV wasn't necessarily the best or clearest translation around.

I don't really thin, it's a 'unity' problem. ..bruce..

SilverRain said...

Perhaps it is because, in Germany, many people use the Lutheran translation as opposed to the more officially-recognized Catholic translation, but I see no problem in using other translations in scripture study.

In talks or when speaking to others, I would preface it (unless it seriously disrupts the flow of the talk) with "I liked the way the ____ translation flowed, so this may read a little differently than your King James scripture, but if you turn to . . ." simply for clarification purposes.

I really see no problem with that, and I'm rumored to be awfully Pharisaical in my approach to religion, always ready to pin even the least liberal of practices with the appellation "evil", so there can't be a problem, right?

NonArab-Arab said...

I was always very anti non-KJV scriptures growing up, but when I started reading scriptures in another language I began to see the point of other translations. I do my scripture study in Arabic now and get a huge amount out of both being forced to consider the language more carefully since it's not my native tongue, and from seeing the different translations. My far from fluent Arabic means I usually read a very contemporary translation, though I can generally get by in the older Arabic that is sort of analogous to a KJV. That said, in English I do still prefer the KJV. Not because I think it is by any means a perfect translation, but I do find most of the modern translations a bit too colloquial for me. A complaint some Arabs have about the more modern translation I read. All a matter of perspective I suppose, and ultimately I don't think there's one right or wrong so long as one can pull maximum meaning from the scriptures. But the church having a unified translation does make sense, if only for the reasons that having the same hymnbooks everywhere and other cultural choices does - it may not be "the" best, but there probably is no "the" best on many of these things and settling on one to maintain group cohesion is a sensible thing. So long as we don't get Pharisaic about it and can keep an open mind.

J G-W said...

I own a whole shelf full of bibles, in several different languages, including Latin, Hebrew and Greek.

I love the King James Version, and always will, if only because its poetic cadences were the version of scripture that I grew up with and that I instinctively remember. But I recognize that we today have access more ancient manuscripts (which we can compare for variations that lend insight into the most ancient and now lost versions of the texts) and more understanding of the ancient languages and texts from which the KJV was translated than we did 400 years ago. There are translations available now that are simply objectively better. And nothing compares to grappling with the original texts in the original languages.

J G-W said...

I love that text, BTW.

bwebster said...

Uh, my last sentence (first comment above) should have read "I really don't think it's a unity problem." I'm not senile (at least, I don't think I am); my laptop's keyboard has been a bit screwy lately. ..bruce..

The Faithful Dissident said...

In Norwegian, there are at least 3 versions of the Bible:

1. The oldest one which is closer to Danish, which is the one that most LDS members use

2. A version in one of the major dialects called "New Norwegian"

3. A more modern Norwegian version, which is used in the state Lutheran Church and probably most Christian denominations

Personally, I find #3 the easiest to understand, but when you compare it to #1, there are definitely some differences due to the newer translations. I only own a copy of #3 and one brother commented to me once that it wasn't very good and that I should get #1 (which is very expensive because you have to buy it at a book store and it costs about $150 USD). But interestingly enough, I noticed that the Elders use #3. And the branch president uses #2 himself, and quotes from it during Sacrament. So while the majority of the members use #1, I've used #3in Sunday School and Sacrament, as do the Elders, without ever being told that we should stop.

Norwegians don't have the quad. They only have the triple combination and there is no set rule, that I know of, that says only one version of the Bible can be used in church. So if a few differences in translation aren't enough to affect Norwegian-speaking Mormons, why should it be so critical for English-speaking Mormons?

Tim said...

In a talk given by President Monson--I'm almost sure it was him--he used a scripture from other than the KJV.
I heard the talk and thought the scripture was beautiful. I found it soothing--I don't really like the word "bowels" either (it makes me think of something else).
I'm glad you used that particular scripture.
When we lived in FL my Dad sold a car to a local preacher. They started talking about religion. Dad asked if the preacher had ever heard of Mormons. The preacher smiled and said yes and that he had a Book of Mormon. The preacher told my Dad that sometimes he used the BoM for his sermons. Dad thought that was funny and they both had a good laugh. But the preacher was serious--he did use the BoM for his sermons.
I've enjoyed reading the Koran. And when I was here 13 years ago I remember someone using the Koran as their reference for a talk given in Sacrament (a 30 minute Sacrament meeting and 30 Reliefhood--I loved it).
We're told to seek after those things that are lovely and of good report.
Your talk was awesome!

Mormon Heretic said...

I live in Utah County, and got released because I used a NIV version of the Bible as I taught about Isaiah.

I definitely study the bible secretly, and I blog with a psuedonym now as well.

Bored in Vernal said...

Thanks for these comments--I do love the KJV, and I, too, am uncomfortable with the more colloquial versions. But as John mentioned, we do have an overwhelming amount of Biblical scholarship which has gone into some of the new translations. So I think it's perfectly acceptable for English speaking LDS to use them in their study (and now we have SilverRain's endorsement!)

I think my hesitation and my guilt is tied up with fear, for as Heretic mentions, there are still places in the Church which frown upon and sanction these more progressive actions. As I mentioned previously, the Church handbook specifically instructs that the KJV is the only authorized version.

S.Faux said...


Although the KJV is my favorite and I consider it THE standard, I routinely examine other translations, and I study the Greek and the Hebrew by means of Strong's Concordance. I guess it is the "teacher" in me, but I happen to think that clarity is important, and the KJV is NOT always clear.

If I am supposed to feel guilty for using non-KJV Bibles, then I have failed. In fact, I never gave it a second thought until reading your blog. My blog makes routine use of non-KJV Bibles.

In Church talks I tend to stick with KJV, but not always. If I use a non-KJV verse, I usually indicate it.

Anyway, I say, keep studying the Bible, and keep using whatever resources you can in order to gain understanding.