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The New Yorker on the Bible Market

We’re not sure why a rash of articles analyzing the U.S. Bible market has appeared recently in secular publications. Now it’s The New Yorker’s turn. As you’d expect from The New Yorker, the article is long, thorough, and well-written.

Some highlights:

The distinction points to one way in which publishers sell multiple copies of the Bible to the same customers. “They each have a different purpose,” Hatfield told me. “It’s kind of like a tool chest. All the tools are tools, but they’re designed for doing different things.” And there are distinctions within each category. There are study Bibles that focus on theology, on historical context, or on practical applications of Biblical teachings. There are devotional Bibles for new believers, couples, brides, and cowboys….

The Good News Translation, as it’s usually known, followed the precepts of “functional equivalence”—translating not word for word but thought for thought, with the goal of capturing the meaning of the original text, even if that required massaging the words or reordering sentences. Walter Harrelson, a Bible scholar who served on the committee that produced the relatively formal New Revised Standard Version, in 1989, likes to say that formal equivalence carries the reader back to the world of the Bible, while functional equivalence transports the Bible into the world of the reader. Harrelson is a proponent of formal equivalence, and argues that preserving the linguistic qualities of the ancient text reminds readers that the Bible is “a document from another world that is luminous and transforming of our world.” Proponents of functional equivalence counter that, to the original audience, the Bible would have sounded contemporary and vernacular, and that translators should preserve these qualities….

The effect of the functional-equivalence approach on the message of the Scriptures is most striking when it comes to rendering metaphors. A literal translation of God’s words to straying Israelites in Amos 4:6 reads, “I gave you cleanness of teeth.” The New International Version eliminates the potential misreading that God was punishing the wicked with dental hygiene, and translates the phrase as “I gave you empty stomachs.” Functionally equivalent translations, at their most radical, often bypass the exotic metaphors of the Bible entirely. Matthew 3:8, in the N.R.S.V., reads, “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” The Contemporary English Version (1991) reads, “Do something to show that you have really given up your sins….”

The problem [with the consumerist culture of the Bible market], as [Phyllis Tickle] sees it, is that “instead of demanding that the believer, the reader, the seeker step out from the culture and become more Christian, more enclosed within ecclesial definition, we’re saying, ‘You stay in the culture and we’ll come to you.’ And, therefore, how are we going to separate out the culturally transient and trashy from the eternal?” The consumerist culture in which BibleZines and the like participate is, to Tickle, “entirely antithetical to the traditional Christian understanding of meekness and self-denial and love and compassion.” In Tickle’s view, reimagining the Bible according to the latest trends is not merely a question of surmounting a language barrier. It involves violating “something close to moral or spiritual barriers.”

(Emphasis added to a comparison of formal and dynamic translation methods.) Also see the accompanying slideshow of recent Bibles.

Via J. Mark Bertrand, who chimes in with his usual lucid thoughts. Also see the Wall Street Journal’s take and a Publishers Weekly article.

Update: Clarified that Phyllis Tickle’s quote refers to the Bible market, as is indicated later in the quote, and not to dynamic translation methods. The original juxtaposition was unintended and could be interpreted as a weird argument for formal equivalence.

December 12, 2006 | Posted in: ESV,General | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:20 am | (3) Comments »

Wayne Grudem Serving as General Editor for the ESV Study Bible

Wayne Grudem mentions a few previously undisclosed tidbits about the forthcoming ESV Study Bible in an interview with Adrian Warnock:

Currently I am working as general editor for the ESV Study Bible (Crossway), which we hope will be published in late 2008. We have 84 different specialists writing on various parts of the Bible and also contributing additional essays to put in the matter in the back. All of that material goes through some other editors, then comes to me. It is taking all of my time and it’s a huge, but I think very worthwhile, project.

He and Adrian also discuss the translation of the Greek word doulos later in the interview.

December 11, 2006 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News,ESV,ESV Study Bible,News & Announcements,Study Bibles | Author: Crossway Staff @ 10:19 am | (5) Comments »

The Wall Street Journal on the Bible Market

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had an article about the U.S. Bible market. Some highlights:

“For a long time the Bible was just the Bible,” noted Kevin O’Brien, director of Bibles at Tyndale House. “You put it out there and people bought it. They didn’t ask about the options, because there weren’t any options. But now, especially in evangelical circles, people are seeing their lives not just in color but high-definition color, and they want the Bible to fit in with that. This is not your mother’s Bible.”

Thus, following the gospel of Seventh Avenue, publishers are displaying their wares in the season’s hot colors. “This year alone I’ve seen four shades of purple,” said Ms. Love, whose stores have also done well with two-tone Bibles. The pink and brown model has been particularly popular. Bibles are also available in the colors of your college, with a fur cover, a flower-patterned cover, and to appeal to young adherents, with a camouflage cover, a metal cover and a duct-tape cover. Next spring Tyndale House will be bringing out a paperback Bible in a plastic case that looks like a flattened Nalgene bottle….

Fortunately for Bible publishers, consumers seem to think that if one copy of the Good Book is good, two or more are even better. “Forty percent of my customers own three to 10 Bibles,” said Mr. Hastings. “It’s sort of like me and golf. I have Tiger Woods’s book and Ernie Els’s book. I want all those different approaches to how to play golf. It’s the same with Bibles….”

In some instances, spiritual leaders are embracing myriad translations and their flocks are following suit. “You go back 20 years and the pastor would stand in the pulpit and say ‘you need to have this Bible, this translation. Go to the store and buy it,’” said Thomas Nelson’s Mr. Hatfield. “But now pastors are reaching out and grabbing the translation that best suits their point for a particular sermon….”

“The question is always how do we create Bibles that people will pick up and use but that will not be too gimmicky,” said Tyndale House’s Mr. O’Brien. “If you get too trendy you’ve turned the Bible into a widget.”

We don’t necessarily endorse all the viewpoints expressed in the article. Also see a Publishers Weekly summary of the Bible market.

December 7, 2006 | Posted in: ESV,General | Author: Crossway Staff @ 9:58 am | 1 Comment »

Windows Live Writer ESV Plugin

The indefatigable Glenn at Development on a Shoestring has created a plugin for Windows Live Writer that fetches verses from the ESV web service and inserts them into your blog post.

Choose an item from the Insert menu to bring up a dialog box that lets you insert Bible passages in several styles.

Windows Live Writer is a Windows program that lets you blog using a WYSIWYG interface (like Microsoft Word)—in other words, you don’t need any technical knowledge to use it to post to your blog.

Previously, Glenn wrote a WordPress plugin that displays the verse of the day on your WordPress blog. This plugin is a little more complex to use but still valuable.

Both plugins are great uses of our web service and make bloggers’ lives easier. Thanks, Glenn!

December 5, 2006 | Posted in: Digital,ESV | Author: Crossway Staff @ 10:32 am | Comments Off »

Reverse Interlinear New Testament Blank Bible

Tony at The Shepherd’s Scrapbook has created a blank ESV Reverse Interlinear New Testament—in other words, every other page is blank and ready for writing on:

Page 45 from the ESV Reverse Interlinear New Testament is rebound with a blank page on the left-hand side.

Tony explains in great detail how he produced the Bible starting from a bound Reverse Interlinear, with instructions on how you can make your own:

  1. Intro
  2. Cut, Rip, Clamp, Saw
  3. Slicing and Stuffing
  4. Punching and Binding

Even better, he’s giving away one blank Reverse Interlinear New Testament. The contest runs through next Tuesday, December 5, 2006.

You may remember Tony from the last time he made a blank Bible using the ESV Classic Reference Bible.

December 1, 2006 | Posted in: ESV,General | Author: Crossway Staff @ 2:55 pm | Comments Off »