Thursday, February 21, 2008

Daily Journal: February 21st

Today's Reading: Psalm 95
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed. (vs. 1-5)

Other readings:
Exodus 16:1-8 (Israel complains of hunger in the wilderness) and Colossians 1:15-23 (Christ, the reconciliation of all things)

Hymn: "Let All Things Now Living"
Prayer: Creating God, give us eyes this day to see the wonder of what you have made. Help us to appreciate this awesome beauty in everything that lives and breathes and moves around us.


Giving thanks to God for creation is perhaps a little bit difficult this time of year in the upper Midwest, as we are in that point of the winter when we are all very sick of cold and ice and snow, and yet we know that spring is still a bit too far off. This winter here in Rockford, when we're not suffering through single-digit or even sub-zero temperatures, we're getting overly-generous amounts of snow (or occasionally ice, even) dumped upon us.

But alas, it is still a creation that supports and sustains all life, include our own, and for that we are thankful to God. Perhaps in our complaining about this year's winter weather, we are inching ever too close to the whining Israelites in the wilderness that we find in the Exodus reading given for today.

Daily lectionary readings from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, ©2005 Consultation on Common Texts. Hymn suggestions and prayer for the day from Bread for the Day 2008: Daily Bible Readings and Prayers, ©2007 Augsburg Fortress.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On Bible Versions/Translations

So I have been a die-hard fan of the NRSV for as long as I can remember. (For those who might read this that don't know what NRSV stands for, it is the "New Revised Standard Version" translation of the Bible.) I think this is probably reflective of the fact that I have been a "mainliner" my whole life--the NRSV is by far the preferred translation among clergy, publications, scholars, and other resources in most mainline Protestant denominations. It's one of the few recent English translations whose translation committee was not dominated by evangelicals. (Other notable exceptions would be the New Jerusalem Bible, which is Roman Catholic, and the Revised English Bible, which is British--and these are both translations I appreciate as well, especially the REB.)

In the last year or so, though, as I've been doing a lot more work with high school youth and 8th-grade confirmation students, I've been finding that the reading level of the NRSV is simply too complicated for many of my youth. Now, it is the case that some of my high schoolers struggle some with reading, but I think the NRSV may be a bit challenging for most high schoolers, particularly the 8th, 9th, and 10th grade levels.

So, I've been exploring the idea of finding an easier-to-read translation and getting a new set of Bibles for our youth room and confirmation classroom. This has been perplexing, as there aren't great options. Do I forsake much of biblical language and poetry and go with an overly-simplistic translation like the CEV? Do I go with one of the evangelical translations that clearly has theological biases--some even come right out and state their theological biases in their forwards, like the "Holman Christian Standard Bible"? I definitely don't want to go with a complete paraphrase like The Message, or even the almost-complete paraphrased New Living Translation. What to do, what to do...

Well, in the midst of all this, I came across this brand new audio Bible called "Inspired by... The Bible Experience". Check out the website: This audio Bible is a really high quality production, and its reading is really engaging. I thought, 'hey, maybe this is an answer, to utilize something like this so as to not challenge their reading abilities so much, but also to add the really engaging presentation it offers.

So, this new audio Bible uses the text of the TNIV, the Today's New International Version. For those who don't know, this is a recent revision of the practically-ubiquitous NIV translation that was released in 1979. In part because of the marketing power of Zondervan, the NIV has become the most widely-available and most-purchased English translation out there. I've kinda had a bias against the NIV for a long time. Part of this is because I preferred the language of the NRSV, and I resented how dominant the NIV has become while the NRSV has to practically fight its way to get one or two copies onto a bookseller's shelf. The NRSV is probably a more 'accurate' translation than the NIV. And, the NRSV was a more inclusive-language translation.

This new revision, though, the TNIV has addressed much of the inclusive language issue that you find with the NIV. There are some places where they've fixed some things to be more 'accurate'. And, given that this TNIV seems to be quite a bit easier of a reading level than the NRSV in many places, it's actually fairly amazing how much of a 'traditional' biblical-language sound it still manages to maintain. Now, I am still conscious of the fact that this is primarily an evangelical translation, although the committee at least is truly interdenominational, spanning all of the different denominational/theological traditions. I will still probably find myself 'watching' things in comparison to the NRSV, but I think I'm actually coming to like this TNIV.

So, Monday I went ahead and purchased this audio bible I'm talking about, along with a print TNIV that goes along with it (it has references at the top of each page to which CD and Track numbers to go to). Having surveyed everything for the past couple of days, I'm pretty sure I'm going to go ahead and get some of these TNIVs for our youth room and confirmation classroom. It was time for new Bibles there anyway, as we had some paper-back NRSVs that are practically falling apart, and the rest were old RSVs!

Daily Journal: February 20th

Ok, so sorry again for the long delay. I have been partaking of the daily Lent devotional emails from which have been pretty good, and also based on the RCL Daily Lectionary.

Today's Reading: John 7:53-8:11

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ (8:3-7)

Other readings:
Ezekiel 36:22-32 (God will renew the people) and Psalm 128 (God promises life)

Hymn: "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling"
Prayer: Forgiving God, how is it that we are so ready to condemn others even when we are obviously convicted of wrongful behavior ourselves? Help us to refrain from questioning your mercy and imposing our own moral judgments on the lives of others.

First, and this isn't a reflection so much, but I think it is interesting to note simply that this story, the famous "let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone" story, is considered by most scholars to not have been an original part of the Gospel of John. The footnotes in many Bibles indicate that many ancient sources lack the passage, some have the passage at this location, and some have this passage at other locations, such as following John 7:36, John 21:25 (which is simply after the end of the gospel), or even after Luke 21:38. It's clearly a well-known and, for the most part, well-liked story; I'm not sure what to make of this detail of textual criticism, or whether it is even important to 'make' anything of it.
I think the lesson/teaching we get from this story is an important one. Even for me, as one who is not often caught up in trying to make judgments of personal morality against other people, certainly this story may have something to say to me when I find myself too easily criticizing the efforts or work of another.
In the UCC's email Lent devotional today, David Powers offers a very poignant question, I think: "But Jesus simply bent down and wrote with his finger in the dust. Was he stalling for time as he considered what to do? Or was he offering a moment of grace by doing and saying nothing?" This is an important word to hear for those of us, myself often included, who can get caught in the addiction to the need to "do something".

Daily lectionary readings from Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, ©2005 Consultation on Common Texts. Hymn suggestions and prayer for the day from Bread for the Day 2008: Daily Bible Readings and Prayers, ©2007 Augsburg Fortress.