Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Book review--How to Choose a Bible Version (Revised Edition) by Robert L. Thomas

Thought I would jot down some thoughts about this book by Robert Thomas that I finished awhile back. Dr. Thomas is a professor of New Testament at The Master's Seminary, and worked as a translator on both NASB editions (original and the update).

I picked up the book originally primarily to see if there was any opinion (read: endorsement) of the ESV, which is the version I currently use. Dr. Thomas has reportedly said that the ESV should be good, because it is about 80% NASB, but I don't have a direct quote, so you'll have to take that as a grain of salt.

In any case, given my original desire in acquiring the book, imagine my disappointment when I read this in the opening paragraph of the book: "It is not the purpose of this treatment to lead readers to a final decision as to which version is 'best' in each category of discussion." Then, in the first paragraph of the conclusion, he hammers this home: "Among other things [the survey of the five areas] has demonstrated that no perfect version of the English translation of the Bible is in existence. This is probably disappointing to many who are seeking to find one version that will serve all purposes." You can say that again!

Despite his lack of explicit endorsement of my version (my tongue planted firmly in my cheek here), there is much that is helpful. He outlines five areas that he asserts encompass much if not all that has been written or said about Bible translations. He goes through a brief explanation of each area, and then, using this as a framework, he evaluates versions based on it.

My biggest disappointment with the book, however, stems not from the content, but from the presentation. This book was printed in Scotland by Christian Focus Publications, out of their Mentor imprint, which "focuses on books written at a level suitable for Bible College and seminary students, pastors, and others. . .". Given that pedigree, these issues were unexpected. I was suprised to find these errors:

1) It appears that the Greek font used was not rendered properly. Thus, a sentence like the one on page 113 occurs,"An unfortunate aspect of the KJV is its method of translating daimovnion (daimonion), the Greek word for 'demon.' "

Those familiar with Greek will realize that the second word is the transliteration, so the first must be the actual word in Greek, but not shown with a Greek font (which would look like this: δαιμονίου). All instances of Greek words have this problem.

2) The chart on Page 34 of Bible versions in the Tyndale tradition omits the ESV; presumably, this was a chart from the previous edition that was not updated for this one, but since it was advertised as including the ESV, it is disappointing that it didn't make the chart.

3) On the top of page 100, the first letter in the paragraph is in italics, apparently a carryover from the heading above it. Though a minor thing, since the imprint is billed as suitable for college and seminary level, these types of errors should have been caught in the proofreading process.

With those negatives addressed, let me say that I do endorse this book. The subject of Bible translations is one that is near and dear to my heart (I hope to complete some additional posts about the subject in the near future), and this book, if used as directed, will help the reader think through the issues of Bible translation, and make a more informed decision about the translation he or she chooses.

I hope that if the book is revised (or reprinted), that the editorial/proofing issues might be addressed, as they mar what is otherwise a very helpful resource.

(Here is a link through Amazon.com. I'm not compensated by this--it is provided merely as a starting point for your own research.)


DJP said...

All instances of Greek words have this problem

That would really, really bug Dr. Thomas!

Kim said...

It's been about ten years since I took NT Greek, but when I see the words transliterated, I can't understand them. I can only read them with the Greek font.

This sounds like a book Buggy would like.

Gummby said...

Dan: though I don't know him personally, from what I've heard, I would agree.

Kim: yes, he would.

Something Bugman said on his blog also figures prominently in one of my planned future posts on translation.

Kim said...

Something Bugman said on his blog also figures prominently in one of my planned future posts on translation.

Oh dear, now his ego will get really big.

BugBlaster said...

Don't worry, Kim. It's not possible for my ego to get any bigger. It already fills the room.

Yeah that book does look interesting. The messed up greek font would be really irritating though.

DJP said...

The worst Greek I ever remember was in an otherwise-useful book surveying positions on Biblical prophecy, printed by Zondervan. Props to them for using Greek fonts, but... guys, dudes, get a proof-reader who reads Greek! Hell-ewwww?

Gummby said...

DJP: So true.

What you're saying is exactly why I'm a big fan of Unicode fonts. It won't solve every problem, but at least you wouldn't have wide-spread issues like this.

Don't know if they use Unicode much for book printing, but it is perfect for the internet.

Bible Discernment said...

BIBLE VERSIONS WHICH IS THE REAL WORD OF GOD? Find out at www.biblediscernment.com

Paul M. Kingery said...

Dear Matt:
I invite you to write a short review of a new e-book Land of Canaan: Ancient Hope for Future Peace. You can see the full text free at www.landofcanaan.info online. Let me know what you think.