August 12, 1995 in Features

Simpflified Scripture Newest Translations Of The Bible Intended To Make Ancient Texts Easier To Read

David Briggs Associated Press

There were one-minute Bibles and Bibles divided into 365 sections so a person reading it for a short time each day could finish the Scriptures in a year.

There were Bibles providing special help to parents, to kids, to athletes and to recovering alcoholics.

If there was a trend amid the biblical wares filling the cavernous confines of the recent annual Christian Booksellers Association convention, it was in the plethora of materials designed to make the Bible more accessible to contemporary readers.

And nowhere is that more evident than in the variety of simplified Bible translations being offered to Christians who own a lot of Bibles but do not necessarily pick them up and read them.

Ever since the New International Version of the Bible overtook the King James Version in 1989 for the first time in four centuries as the best-selling translation, modern translations have not looked back.

A new wave of Bibles is dropping words such as “thou,” “thine” and “thy” in favor of the simpler words “you” and “your” and words such as “concupiscence” and “covenant” are translated as “wrong desires” and “agreement.”

Among the major new translations recently published or due out soon are The New Living Translation, The Message, the Contemporary English Version, the New International Reader’s Version, the New Century Version, and God’s Word.

Their mission is simple: to provide translations that can be understood by persons at an elementary reading level.

For example, the passage in Matthew in which Jesus says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” is translated as, “Don’t judge other people, or you will be judged,” in the New Century Version.

The King James Version of Romans 7:8 is “But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manners of concupiscence.” In the Contemporary English Version of the Bible, the passage becomes, “It was sin that used this command as a way of making me have all kinds of desires.”

In The Message, the line in Psalm 50 translated in the King James Version as “Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother’s son” becomes “You stab your your own brother in the back, rip off your little sister.”

Some scholars worry too much of the meaning may be lost when words rich in theological content such as covenant, grace and redemption are simply dismissed as theological jargon and translated into simpler language.

But publishers say they are reaching new markets, including the estimated 40 million adults who are at a fourth-grade reading level or lower and the more than 30 million people for whom English is a second language.

And public opinion surveys indicate there is a demand for simpler translations, they say.

For example, an American Bible society poll found that 60 percent of respondents said an easier-to-understand version of the Bible would be very or somewhat desirable.

Publishers also make the case that the original Bible spoke in images such as fish and sheep and sons who run away from home that the average person 2,000 years ago could understand.

“We try to remember the simplicity of the stories and the accounts, as it first developed and was heard by the first hearers,” said David Moberg of Word Publishing, publisher of the New Century Version.

Doris Rikkers, publisher of World Publishing, said the God’s Word version is in the common language of people today.

“If the Bible was translated for the very first time in English today,” she said, “this is how it would read.”

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