Friday, January 25, 2013

Lost in Translation

Today I was studying Shakespeare with my 8th graders when it occurred to me- if I had this kind of explicit instruction on the Bible, maybe I would enjoy reading it more.  Face it, most of us Gen Xers grew up with the King James Version.  If you went to a conservative Christian school like me, you were taught that the KJV was practically breathed by God.  My Bible teacher used to call the NIV - the New International Perversion.  I've since learned to distinguish between translations and paraphrased versions of the Bible and I believe each can be used while talking and listening to God.
Twenty years later, I'm teaching my kids the stories from the Bible and they are beginning to read it by themselves.  They have access to many versions, some of which I want to share with you, and others I'd like to warn you about.

1.  For toddlers and preschoolers, any book with Jesus' picture is fine, right?  We are just introducing them to the idea of God's word.  In our baby sabbath school, we used to just look into little felt books and find a sticker of Jesus inside.  The Bible is what we use to read God's word.  That's the basic concept.  Wilo (my 4 year old) loves taking a Bible to church. I like that she feels that's a necessity, but sometimes it's just one more thing I have to carry.  :(  Small price to pay for a Bible-loving child.

2.  The Action Bible - pretty cool, right?  Eli (my 7 year year old son)started with the Manga Messiah, which is also a good read, but it only contained the New Testament.  After it reading it through 5 times, we bought him the action Bible.  It can be a little graphic, but the Bible is pretty graphic.  We try to talk about what he reads, but since he is zooming through it, and he's only 8 - I do wonder if the violence gets to him.  But compared to the scary Revelation seminars, I used to go to as a child, it's probably nothing.  Kids these days are such wimps.

3.  When Jaelin started getting into reading the Bible (around 7-8) we bought her a life application Bible.  It's purple and cute and is a translated version, good right?  It also has character studies and how to apply the Bible to your life - more good - NOT!  She enjoyed reading those "Dear Abby" type question and answers in there and ended up asking me what "weed" was - yup.  WEED, POT, MARIJUANA!  I had to explain drugs to my 8 year old because she learned about it from her Bible.  Not happy with this version.  I would have preferred to get her a Bible (with nothing else in it) and an age appropriate devotional book.  I'm not sure that preteens are able to distinguish whether what they are reading is God's word and what's commentary.

4.  But here's an  even worse option. ..The Bible as a teeny bopper girls magazine!  Are you kidding me?   The reviews on this one are pretty harsh, "Girls please don't short change your self ever by thinking you are too stupid to understand something as complex as a book. There is more to you than make-up and boy angst. You were born with a brain because God wanted you to use it, not so that it could be used by those around you." - I love that quote.  I actually love fashion magazines, but let's not pretend that they are God's word.

5.  The Street Bible - kind of intriguing, isn't it?  I don't own this one, but I'm thinking of buying it.  I, like most educated young people in the US, can use and interpret a few different dialects.  I read Jane Austen and understand it. I listen to rap and understand the messages.  I've gone to Indian church and totally followed the sermon.  I may be monolingual but I have some language skills.  So this may be a good addition, just to see what Jesus would really say to the homeless man on the subway.

5.  This one is my favourite.  It's always with me, cause it's on my phone.  I can read the verse of the day if I have just a minute.  I can follow the pastor's sermon at church. I can even read a passage and compare many different versions to see what "speaks" to me at the moment.  The New Living Translation is the best one for me right now- but language is a living, ever changing thing.

What it comes down to, is that you can't read the Bible, just like you can't read the newspaper or a medical journal or any piece of Nonfiction writing without considering the author/translator/publisher and his/her views.  Our biases are present in all that we produce (our writings, videos, photography and our kids).  Acknowledging those biases and get on with your life.  

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