An Idea Borrowed

Years ago on a radio program someone shared that they read a chapter in Proverbs every day. Since there are 31 chapters and the longest month has 31 days it allows you to read through Proverbs on a regular basis. I use it as the launch pad for my personal worship time and branch out from there. On this blog I will try to share some of the insights I have in the Word. I will try to organize them in the archive by reference.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The End of the CEV

This past month I have been reading Proverbs from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).  I am glad the month is over.  Sometimes a paraphrase gives a very shallow and limited understanding.  That was the case here.  Rarely did I feel like I was reading something that was meant for the ages. 

I think this is a reworking of the Good News for Modern Man that came out 40 years ago.  I did not see any reference in this edition to that and I can’t find my old copy, but they seem the same type of approach.  The old attempt made a point of using a very limited vocabulary.  The stated idea was for young readers, if my memory is correct.  In reality it was for a generation that is coming out of our schools functionally illiterate and ignorant of any words that are not made up by their favorite rap recorder.

The CEV states that it is designed to be read aloud because the Bible was originally written to be read aloud to people who could not read.  The editors try to link their effort to the KJV and Martin Luther.  It falls far short.

From their point of view this “translation” is simply an attempt to get the truth across.  They work at making the poetry sections have measured line breaks and actually read like poetry.  I like that.  They also do some borderline maneuvers. 
“Whenever the contents of two or more verses have been joined together and rearranged in poetic sections of the Contemporary English Version, this is signaled by an asterisk (*)...” p. 3
At what point does “rearranged” cross the line?

Then they fall off the cliff of political correctness. 

“In everyday speech, ‘gender generic’ or ‘inclusive’ language is used, because it sounds most natural to people today.  This means that where the biblical languages require masculine nouns or pronouns when both men and women are intended, this intention must be reflected in translation, though the English form may be very different from that of the original.” p. 3, Emphasis in original
Following this type of reasoning we would also include frequent F-bombs and sexual innuendo because that is “natural to people today.”  It is sad when translators openly admit that they are making the translation “different” from the original.  At what point do we stop making this kind of changes and how do I know when it is done and when not?

I have three pages of notes nit-picking as I read.  I will mention just a few in this post.  I may get around to entering all of them in a separate post so you don’t need to read my frustration.

As mentioned in the “gender generic” comments there is a total disconnect from accurate translation of reference to the masculine.  Most of the time when you read “children” it should have been “son.”  This is done even when it is clear that Solomon is addressing his son.  “Father” is changed to parents. 

Compare this typical offering.

(Proverbs 13:12 CEV)  Not getting what you want can make you feel sick, but a wish that comes true is a life-giving tree.

(Proverbs 13:12 NAS77)  Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

(Proverbs 13:12 KJV)  Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
First of all, “not getting what you want” only touches on the tip of the depth of meaning that is contained in the idea of “hope deferred.”  Hope is one of the major words of the Bible and any understanding of that is removed.  Also we see the reference to the “tree of life” removed and turned into life being a magic pill that gives us what we want.  The tree of life involves eternity, not shiny trinkets.

There are times when they CEV gives the exact opposite of the actual text.  What does this verse say to you?
(Proverbs 6:30 CEV)  We don't put up with thieves, not even with one who steals for something to eat.
Now look at how these two translations put it:
(Proverbs 6:30 KJV)  Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;

(Proverbs 6:30 NASB)  Men do not despise a thief if he steals To satisfy himself when he is hungry;
This is an obvious and clear difference.  I am supposed to trust this offering?  I think not, but you are entitled to your own opinion.

The Learning Bible, Contemporary English Version.  New York:  American Bible Society, 2000.


Gorges Smythe said...

For all of its flaws, I still like the King James.

Pumice said...

The older I get the more I find the KJV of value. I have always considered it solid but hard to understand. The longer I study and worship through this blog, the more I find it valuable.

One of the values of the new "translations" is that they point out how good the KJV is by comparison.

Grace and peace.