Monday, January 6, 2014

The Year of Reading Scripture for the First Time

Synchroblog is a little community of Christian blogs that post on a particular subject each month. This month our topic is "New Beginnings." The bloggers who published are listed at the bottom of this post for you to peruse. Visit us all! We're an interesting and eclectic group!

I'm back from a short New Year's break, during which I've been making plans for this blog in 2014. One thing I've become rather fascinated with, and mentioned briefly in an earlier post, is the question, "What would the Scriptures sound like if they had only been discovered last year?"

What if Christianity and Judaism were just obscure sects known only from brief mentions in a few ancient writings -- until now? (I'm doing this from a Christian perspective but, of course, this idea would never work unless the Jews were also forgotten). Now their foundational documents have been discovered hidden away in dry desert caves in a remarkable state of preservation, and translated into English for the very first time.

Two thousand years of theological and scholarly jargon do not exist, nor do the traditional renderings we are comfortable with. For the first time we must puzzle out ways to express complex theological ideas that our regular Bibles represent with words like "righteousness," "justification," "sanctification," "redemption," "godliness," "resurrection." And perhaps most difficult of all, "faith," "hope," and "love."

Easy to Read

So my resolution this year is to try to read the hoary old Book with fresh eyes. To assist me in this I'll be using a remarkable but little-known translation called the Easy-to-Read Version -- or ERV for short -- put out by the Bible League International (home of the World Bible Translation Center). The ERV will be my standard translation on this blog for the next year.  It's available on Bible Gateway if you'd like to try it too.

The ERV is translated for people who speak English at approximately a 4th grade level. (It actually got its start as a Bible specifically translated for the deaf community. That version and the ERV are separate projects now, and The English Version for the Deaf can be found here). Unlike most other Bibles for people with limited English skills, the ERV scholars don't use an artificially limited vocabulary. The Basic Bible is a good example of that, using a list of 850 words plus some "special Bible words." Instead the ERV tries to use the natural vocabulary and grammatical constructions that you'd use to convey the meaning to a 10 year old. That doesn't mean though that certain concepts are hidden because they're too "adult." Adam still "has sexual relations with his wife Eve," and "she still becomes pregnant and gives birth," for instance (Book of Genesis chapter 4 verse 1, ERV), just like us modern day folks.

I'll probably write a full review of the ERV later in the year, after I've used it more. Easy reading though it may be, I'm also finding it to be an accurate, well-done translation.

For my purposes though the main advantage of the Easy-to-Read Version is that it cuts me off from traditional religious language when I read Scripture. Perhaps it will help a few scales fall from my eyes that I didn't know were there.

*       *       *

Her are the posts from this Synchroblog:

Jen Bradbury - Enough
Abbie Watters - New Beginnings
Cara Strickland - Bursting
Done With Religion – A New Year, A New Beginning
Kelly Stanley - A Blank Canvas
Dave Criddle - Get Some New Thinking
David Derbyshire - Changed Priorities Ahead
K W Leslie - Atonement
Michelle Moseley - Ends and Beginnings
Matthew Bryant - A New Creation
Edwin Pastor Fedex Aldrich - Foreclosed: The beginning of a new dream
Jennifer Clark Tinker - Starting a New Year Presently
Loveday Anyim - New Year New Resolutions
Amy Hetland - New Beginnings
Phil Lancaster – New Beginnings
Mallory Pickering – Something Old, Something New
Margaret Boelman – The Other Side of Grief

Kathy Escobar - One Image


Carol Kuniholm said...

I've used the CEV - Contemporary English Version - written at a fourth grade level. It's really helpful working with urban kids who have never read out loud before, and as a bonus sometimes makes the overly familiar a little less familiar. I'd be interested to hear how the ERV compares - and a little inspired to spend a year with a very different version.

JACarter said...

I love the CEV and would have chosen it for this except I've used it off and on since it came out in the 90s. So I picked the ERV which I was unfamiliar with until recently.

My impression is that the ERV simplifies its sentences more, dividing complex concepts up into shorter sentences. The CEV flows better than than the ERV for that reason. But they are both great for comprehension.

Liz said...

What a cool idea! I will be checking in to hear how it's going. Thanks for joining in the synchroblog.