I browsed Yahoo! today and found this article: “New Bible translation has screenplay format.” Curious, I clicked and read.
Basically, the article reports on a new translation of the Bible that has recently been published. The interesting thing about this version is that it does away with the prose format that is so well-known and instead opts for a screenplay format. The translators added in emotional cues and action cues, such as who points a finger at whom and who is excited or distraught or angry.
Even people who have never read the Bible could probably guess that other translations don’t say Adam pointed his finger at Eve when he blamed her for his disobedience. Neither do other Bibles describe Eve as “excited” about her newborn son.
That’s pure Hollywood, but the team behind “The Voice” says it isn’t a gimmick. They hope this new version will help readers understand the meaning behind the sometimes archaic language of the Bible and enjoy the story enough to stick with it.
I admire the translators for attempting to make a difficult text more accessible, but I also think they do people a disservice. Part of the spiritual experience, in my opinion, is reading through the text and gleaning the spiritual implications for yourself. In my mind, a new translation like this that adds in emotions and decides the meaning of passages for the reader detracts from the text and does the reader a disservice in that the reader is handed a particular meaning. The text loses some of the ambiguity–and, yes, difficulty–that allow for multiple meanings. While that very ambiguity has been a source of grief and suffering for many cultures and people over the thousands of years since the Bible was first compiled, I can’t help but think that the multiple meanings are a positive. I think the trouble comes in when people take a particular meaning to be the one and only meaning, the law, the end-all, be-all. That seems to be where the trouble arises, not the ambiguity itself. I may be taking that stance because of a Pagan perspective, which in and of itself is a perspective of many paths and many truths.
I would be interested in reading the new translation and comparing it to the old translations, just to see what the new translation has to offer. I am glad that people seem to find meaning from the new translation, but I am concerned about the action of the translators to assign particular meanings to the text that were not necessarily there originally–and may thus be adding meanings that were not intended. However, we don’t necessarily know what the original authors intended, and the habit of successive Bible translations seems to assign a particular meaning to passages depending on the version and translator.
[Why would I post a story about Bible translations on a Pagan blog? I post things like this from time to time not only because I believe it’s important to know what’s taking place in religious “news,” but also because I believe in interfaith dialogue. I encourage myself and others to learn about and understand other religions and belief systems, and I feel that if I don’t know what’s relevant to other religions and cultures, then I am less able to understand and relate. So although this is a Pagan-centered blog, from time to time there are stories about other religions as well. Enjoy!]