King James Version

Perennial issue whenever journalists write about religion: Which Bible to quote?

Perennial issue whenever journalists write about religion: Which Bible to quote?

A recent item by GetReligion colleague Bobby Ross posed this perennial issue facing journalists and others writing about religion: “Which Bible to quote?

News articles had quoted Eugene Peterson’s The Message -- one man’s popular paraphrase and not quite a Bible -- and the New King James Version, a conservative fave that was an odd choice for a piece about liberal Protestants.

Once upon a time the (original) King James Version from 1611 sufficed. Its wordings were  familiar to a broad swath of English readers, indeed often memorized. Though the King was Protestant, generally similar verbiage appeared in Catholicism’s old Douay-Rheims translation (1609), and even moreso in the Jewish Publication Society’s The Holy Scriptures (1917).  

Today, however, a dozen or more modern options are in regular use, thus creating our tricky problem. Ross, who like The Guy is an Associated Press alum, noted that the wire’s influential Stylebook offers ample guidance about the Bible but doesn’t address how to decide which version to quote. “Please help me out here, friends,” Ross asked, so the ever-friendly Religion Guy responds herewith. 

When The Guy was teaching an adult Bible class recently, one participant brought along The Message. Its differences with standard Bibles sparked some pointed discussions. Such personal paraphrases -- also including Kenneth Taylor’s The Living Bible and J.B. Phillips’s elegantly British New Testament in Modern English -- are useful for private study and devotions. But they’re not really Bible translations, so a more literal version should also be consulted for comparisons.

Likewise, in most situations writers should cite a Bible closer to the original text that expresses the consensus from a panel of experts.  

Obviously, if a person is quoting a Bible passage verbatim you’ll go with that wording, even if it’s a paraphrase.

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Those familiar Lord’s Prayer phrases at issue: Does God lead us into temptation?

Those familiar Lord’s Prayer phrases at issue: Does God lead us into temptation?

The memorized “Lord’s Prayer” is so frequently recited by countless Christians that it can be easy to slide past what the familiar words are saying.

For instance, how do we understand its most puzzling phrase: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13 per the King James Version and many other English translations. A condensed wording for the prayer also appears in Luke 11:2-4).

So, does God lead us into temptation? Why would He? After all, the New Testament tells us elsewhere, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13, also King James wording).

Pope Francis delved into this in December during a series about the Lord’s Prayer on the Italian bishops’ TV channel. “It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation,” he said. Rather, “I am the one who falls; it’s not Him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen. ... It’s Satan who leads us into temptation; that’s his department.”

The pontiff suggested this colloquial paraphrase: “When Satan leads us into temptation, You, please, give me a hand.” More formally, he embraced the wording recently adopted by the church in France: “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

U.S. Catholics’ New American Bible formerly read “subject us not to the trial,” while the 2011 revised edition says “do not subject us to the final test.” An official footnote explains, “Jewish apocalyptic writings speak of a period of severe trial before the end of the age, sometimes called the ‘messianic woes.’ This petition asks that the disciples be spared that final test.”

Some scholars adopt that end-times interpretation, but there are other choices. Experts also disagree on whether believers ask delivery from abstract “evil” or from a personal “evil one,” namely the Devil. Here The Religion Guy will bypass that one.

Other modern translations:

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Hey media: In delving into child prostitution scandal involving senator, don't forget the church

Hey media: In delving into child prostitution scandal involving senator, don't forget the church

I'm on a reporting trip to Canada and writing this post from my hotel room in Hamilton, Ontario, southwest of Toronto.

Ordinarily when I travel, I don't pay much attention to the news back home in Oklahoma City. But this week — even though I'm 1,200 miles away — I haven't been able to escape the scandal making banner headlines in my local newspaper, The Oklahoman.

The headlines concern a state senator caught up in a child prostitution scandal.

Until this week, I had never heard of Shortey. Since I cover national religion news, I don't follow the key players in Oklahoma politics as closely as I did years ago when I worked for The Oklahoman.

But my 17-year-old daughter met Shortey through the YMCA’s Youth and Government organization, which lets teens participate in a program that simulates state government. My daughter, a high school senior, served as a judge in the YAG program and had meetings with Shortey and other students just recently. So she has been — for obvious reasons — distressed and sickened by this week's news (as has her father).

The Oklahoman has been all over the story — five front-page reports in three days (here, here, here, here and here) — and rightly so. Voters deserve to know what happened, and the newspaper has an important role to play in ensuring that justice is served.

And yes, there is — sadly — a religion angle, one that so far has not been pursued as much as it could be and should be.

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Attention New York Times copy desk: It's time to buy more reference Bibles (and use them)

Attention New York Times copy desk: It's time to buy more reference Bibles (and use them)

Truth be told, the Bible is a very complicated book. It also doesn't help that there are many different versions of it.

Why bring this up? Well, it's time to look at another error about the Bible found in a story published in The New York Times. Another error? Click here for some background.

This one isn't quite as spectacular as the famous case in which the Gray Lady published a piece on tourism in Jerusalem that originally contained this rather infamous sentence:

 "Nearby, the vast Church of the Holy Sepulcher marking the site where many Christians believe that Jesus is buried, usually packed with pilgrims, was echoing and empty."

That one still amazes me, every time that I read it. This error led to a piece at The Federalist by M.Z. "GetReligionista emerita" Hemingway with this memorable headline: "Will Someone Explain Christianity To The New York Times?"

That error was rather low-hanging fruit, as these things go. Surely there are professionals at the copy desk of the world's most powerful newspaper who have heard that millions and millions of traditional Christians believe in the Resurrection of Jesus?

This time around we are dealing with something that is more complicated. To be honest, if I was reading really fast I might have missed this one myself, and my own Christian tradition's version of the Bible is linked to this error.

So what do we have here? Well, it's a nice, friendly piece about some very bright New Yorkers, with this headline: "Testament to Their Marriage: Couple Compete in Worldwide Bible Contest." Try to spot the error as you read this overture, in context:

A question in the lightning round seemed to make Yair Shahak think twice.
The question was, “Who struck the Philistines until his hand grew tired and stuck to the sword?”

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Fires in the mountains: About that haunting Bible passage that was blowing in the wind

Fires in the mountains: About that haunting Bible passage that was blowing in the wind

First, a word of thanks to those who sent messages about the wildfires here in East Tennessee, asking if all was well here in the tmatt.net corner of the hills.

It helps to understand that the Tennessee Valley is about 40 miles wide here near Knoxville (click for map) and the worst fires have been in the East, in the Great Smoky Mountains. I live in Oak Ridge, which is up against the face of the Cumberland Mountains in the West. There is quite a bit of land, and often water, between the two ranges.

Still, everyone here knows people, or lots of people, who have been caught up in this story. I have been wondering -- given the culture in these parts -- when some kind of faith-centered story (other than people of faith jumping into the action at the level of volunteers, aid, etc.) would emerge from the flames.

If you've seen images from the Gatlinburg and Dollywood area fires, you know that hotels, lodges and rental cabins were hit hard. Can you imagine how many Bibles there were stashed in bedside drawers in all of those rooms, not to mention in the possession of the local residents?

That leads me to this interesting, and rather haunting, story that ran in The Knoxville News Sentinel and then was picked up by Religion News Service. To be blunt, the local headline doesn't do much to hint at what's really going on here: "Dollywood employee finds burned Bible page after wildfires."

The main difference between the News Sentinel and RNS versions of this story is that the team that worked on the original made the unconventional, but wise in my opinion, decision to put the Bible passage on that charred page right at the top of the text. Thus, the overture looks like this:

"O Lord to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness." -- Joel 1:19-20, King James Version

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With the Bible, one little word can stir a ruckus and, thus, produce a news story

With the Bible, one little word can stir a ruckus and, thus, produce a news story

Here’s an intriguing story taken from religious Internet sites that has yet to reach any mainstream media, at least that The Guy has seen.

It’s a feminist-hued fuss over the English Standard Version (ESV), which ranks No. 3 in U.S. Bible sales behind the venerable King James Version and the New International Version. And no, we're not talking about that long-running argument over replacing singular pronouns in the biblical texts with “gender inclusive” plural pronouns.

In August the ESV’s publisher, Crossway, announced 52 word changes for a 2016 second edition.

Journalists will want to know that the most important concerns God’s curse upon sinful Eve in Genesis 3:16. The original ESV (duplicating the Revised Standard Version) says “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

The 2016 rewrite has “your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”

This shift involves one little word, the Hebrew pronoun ‘el, which has a primary meaning of “to, unto, or toward.” Instead, the ESV translators (all male, all conservative) used the secondary meaning of “against,” which is archaic though some scholars find it acceptable if the context fits. Here it indicates rebellious women. Shall we say uppity?

One vigorous critic of the change is Scot McKnight of Northern Seminary. He says the change teaches that humanity’s sinful Fall in Eden caused  women’s “desire to rule or dominate” and “usurp men’s authority,” which challenged God’s design in which the male is to rule the woman.

The original ESV leaves room for the interpretation favored by McKnight and others, that God’s statement is not a “prescriptive” command but is “descriptive” of what human sin produces, with the man seeking rule over the woman. Says McKnight, “This is not what God wants; but this is what will happen.” He wants Crossway to immediately restore the previous wording. Here's another useful article on similar lines.

All of this has been fused with a second issue.

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Deaconesses or female deacons? Journalists do you know the history of these terms?

Deaconesses or female deacons? Journalists do you know the history of these terms?

Once again, it is time to play that popular news-media game, "What did Pope Francis say and what might it mean?" The goal is to fit a bite or two of church history into the rapid-fire and breathless responses of journalists in some elite newsrooms, where a papal call for clarification on female deacons is being hailed as a possible door to the ordination of women as priests. 

Let's start with some basics: The word used in Romans 16:1 to describe the woman named Phoebe is diakonos -- which some have translated as "servant," while others use "deacon. In the New International Version, that would be:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.

In the classic King James Version, that reads: 

I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.

Scan through this Bible Hub search and you'll see a variety of translations that go each way. But we can start our discussion with an acknowledgement that the early church did include some kind of role for women known as "deaconesses." 

Now, we also need to recognize that in the modern world, a rapidly rising number of Catholic parishes and ministries are featuring the ministry of men ordained as "permanent deacons," as opposed to deacons who will soon transition into the priesthood. This is a very newsworthy trend.

So, when you clicked on your news source of choice (or perhaps even opened a newspaper) today, did the story you read contain some material resembling the following from the report in Crux?

Currently, canon 1024 of the Code of Canon Law says that only a baptized male can receive the sacrament of ordination, so the law does not presently permit female deacons. The question, however, especially in light of the Biblical evidence for women being referred to as “deaconesses” in early Christianity, is whether that law could be changed.

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Hillary Clinton takes to Flint, Mich., pulpit, and New York Times brings its King James language

Hillary Clinton takes to Flint, Mich., pulpit, and New York Times brings its King James language

I traveled to Flint, Mich., over the weekend to report for The Christian Chronicle on that city's lead-tainted water crisis.

While meeting with a source Sunday afternoon, she mentioned that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had come to Flint that day to speak at a black Baptist church. We decided to swing by the House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church, and I snapped a picture of Clinton leaving that I posted on Instagram.

Since I didn't actually hear Clinton speak, I was curious what she said and checked the news coverage — my GetReligion antenna up and ready to spot any holy ghosts.

Clinton's description of the poisoned water in Flint as "immoral" was the soundbite that caught the media's attention — and rightly so.

This was the lede from NBC News:

FLINT, Michigan — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for "action now" to combat the toxic water crisis here Sunday in a speech to a packed congregation.
"This has to be a national priority," Clinton said at the House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church. "What happened in Flint is immoral. The children of Flint are just as precious as the children of any part of America."

And from the Detroit Free Press:

FLINT — Solving the problems of contaminated water in Flint has to remain a local, state and national priority for the foreseeable future, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told city residents gathered in a Baptist church Sunday afternoon.
"Clean water is not optional, my friends. It’s not a luxury," she said. "This is not merely unacceptable or wrong. What happened in Flint is immoral. Children in Flint are just as precious as children in any part of America."

So was there any spiritual component to Clinton's remarks at the church? We noted last month that Clinton, a United Methodist, doesn't often discuss her faith on the campaign trail.

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What are the ins and outs -- mostly ins -- of the giant, online Bible Gateway?

What are the ins and outs -- mostly ins -- of the giant, online Bible Gateway?

HEATHER’S QUESTION:

I don’t see the New Revised Standard Version in my biblegateway.com app. Do you have any idea why it’s excluded?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

This specific topic is quick and easy, so the Guy will use the space and occasion to provide broader information about the quite remarkable www.biblegateway.com (hereafter BG), billed as “the most-visited Christian Website in the world” with “more than 18 million unique visitors per month” -- and a must reference stop for journalists and Religion Q&A readers. The heart of things is a free and fully searchable online archive of complete Bible texts in 70 languages. The offerings in English are 53 texts and 14 audio versions (three of these read by the euphonious Max McLean of C.S. Lewis On Stage fame) plus many related features.

On Heather’s point, the main Website posts the New Revised Standard Version, known for its gender-inclusive language. But, yes, the NRSV is not among the text and audio versions accessible for free via the Bible Gateway App for mobile iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android and KindleFire. This is not BG’s doing. Older Bible versions in “public domain” can be used free by anyone but BG negotiates with 27 publishers for licenses that allow posting of newer versions under copyright. The National Council of Churches, which controls NRSV rights, granted BG the Web rights in 2012 but decided not to include a license for the app.

Still, the app’s offerings are extensive, and the ins and outs of the parent Website are almost totally “in.”

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