Review: The Way – New Living Translation

I like Bibles. I have an entire shelf of them. And I use every single one of them. Maybe not every day, and but each Bible serves a purpose. For academic study, I turn to my trusty, wide-margin NASB. When I’m feeling poetic I turn to my NKJV. I still have my Student NIV from when I first became a Christian at the age of 16, and it’s full of highlights, underlines and scribbles by the angsty teenaged me. For family devotions we use an NLT because it reads well. And of course I also have NRSV, KJV and the Message.

I have been given an advance copy of the NLT’s new “The Way” Bible. And I thought I would share a few of my first impressions.

Inspired by “The Way” from the 70’s, the NLT’s newest Bible is a relevant, hip, and “non-dreary” Bible aimed at 16-30 year olds.

Besides the Bible text, this Bible has brief introductions to each book, and then three types of reflections scattered throughout the pages. These reflections fall into three categories: “Laments”, “What I Wish I’d Known” and “This is My Story”. Contributions to these articles include Soong-Chan Rah, Andrew Marin, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Phillis Tickle, John Franke, Mike Hogan (from the Dave Crowder Band) and Scot McKnight. The reflections come from a variety of Christian traditions including, evangelical, mainline, and Orthodox.

Now some of the reflections are fantastic; others not so much.

Introductions:
I really liked the introductions to the books, in particular the introduction to Genesis, in which the author compares skipping over Genesis 1-2 to missing the first ten minutes of a movie. Each of the introductions help set the context of said individual book into the larger narrative of Scripture. And particularly in the Old Testament introductions, the introductions explain why it is important to read these books and not skip past them because we think that they no longer apply or are relevant in light of the Gospel of the New Testament. Because let’s be honest, we’ve all at one point or another thought that reading Leviticus or Numbers is pretty boring and useless.

What I Wish I’d Known:
An example of a fantastic “What I Wish I’d Known” is Charlie Peacock’s reflection and wish that he had been taught that the Gospel was more than just his salvation from individual sins. It is powerful and reflects the shift in evangelicalism to a larger Gospel message, a King Jesus Gospel, instead of a Soterian Gospel (to use the terms of Scot McKnight).

Laments:
When done well, the laments demonstrate how it is not only okay, but also important to wrestle with difficult passages of Scripture. That being said, the lament at Acts 8:1-3 is an example of a poorly placed lament. The Scripture passage describes the persecution that the early Church experienced under Saul (Paul before his conversion), and yet here is a lament by Emily Geyer that talks about how it is wrong to judge people. How does this fit with Acts 8:1-3? Acts 8 is not about a Christian judging wrongly or meanly: it’s about a non-Christian persecuting the Church.

This is My Story:
Testimony is important. Hearing other people’s stories of how they came to faith, of what God has done in their lives not only encourages us, but reminds us that God is working amazing miracles all around the world. The testimonies included in this Bible come from a breadth of experiences and cultures. There are testimonies from people who grew up in the Church, from people who came from unchurched backgrounds, people who came from other faiths and from people who have struggled with sin and addiction.

And perhaps that’s the best thing about the contemporary stories and testimonies in The Way: They are not candy-coated. They do not try to gloss over the difficult passages of Scripture, or try to gloss over the dark parts of life. Instead, these stories say that God works against the darkness, He brings healing and peace and victory. Which is ultimately the grand story of the Gospel, isn’t it? Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God is the reconciler and has reconciled the world to himself. Jesus brings healing and peace and victory over sin and death.

As for the physical book itself: It is a soft-cover book, with a predominantly white cover. So if you have a tendency to throw your Bible into the bottom of your backpack, chances are it will end up with scuff marks on it. But, according to the Tyndale website, they also have it available in hardcover or leather-like cover, which might be more practical options. At nearly 1600 pages, you would think that this would be a big book, but it’s not. The pages are thin, so be careful what pens or highlighters you use on the text as it could bleed through to the reverse side of the page.

I may not be in the age-bracket that this Bible is being marketed for, but I like it. I could see myself using it for small group bible studies, and I would have no problem giving this Bible to a young person as a gift, particularly a young Christian who is new to the faith or who is struggling with what it means to be a Christian.

Just a quick note on one aspect that I could not review: In each of the introductions to the individual books of the Bible (and on several of the laments and other reflections) there is a QR code that is supposed to link to related online content. At the moment, each of the QR codes that I tried goes only to the “about” page of The Way’s webpage. As such, I am not able to provide a review of the corresponding online content. (Update: If I type in the email address above the QR code I am able to get to the corresponding online content, but the scanning the QR code itself just links to the generic “About The Way” page.)

Advanced Reader’s Copy of the Bible has been provided courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Sunday Meditation

The decline of biblical literacy is not to be confused with the growth of unbelief or of a secularized culture. The leaders of the Enlightenment were not believers, discount but they were biblically literate and biblically cultured. Conversely, ambulance Bible-believing fundamentalists sometimes know remarkably little of the content of Scripture.

George Lindbeck, “The Church’s Mission to a Postmodern Culture” in Postmodern Theology: Christian Faith in a Pluralist World, pg. 44.

More Hoopla over the C.S. Lewis Bible

Way back in September I wrote about the newest novelty Bible: The C.S. Lewis Bible. I commented on the publisher’s marketing ploy that this new Bible would provide fresh insights into the writings of Lewis, viagra sale and I talked about how it is just another example of marketing the Bible to make it about “what we want.”

I really thought the hoopla about this Bible was over in September. And then I read an article over at Christianity Today this morning, physician where the hoopla continues because the publishing company is supposedly not being faithful to Lewis because of the Bible translation they chose to pair with his writings. That’s right, C.S. Lewis is supposedly spinning in his grave because the publishers chose the NRSV translation instead of the KJV.

Quoting Leland Ryken, the article states:
“The choice of the NRSV, of which HarperCollins is the U.S. publisher, seems to have been a marketing decision rather than a logical choice,” Ryken said.

Um, the whole project is a marketing decision, and not a logical choice.

Has Crossway Crossed a Line?

This new video from Crossway, order promoting the ESV Bible has been making the rounds in the blogsphere. (I originally saw it over at Justin Taylor’s Blog over at TGC). You can check out the conversations over at T.C.R’s blog, and over at Mark Steven’s blog.

When the new CEB translation was announced in October, I wrote a post about Bible Translations/Bible Publishers and how they are like George Lucas:

It feels like Bible publishers are like George Lucas. George Lucas has figured out how to milk the sci-fi geeks for all they’re worth and in the process turned Star Wars from a great cinematic feat into a cash cow machine of marketing brilliance. Bible publishers have done the same with the Bible.
Who are all these translations for? Not for non-Christians. Just like the new 3D Blu-ray, re-edited Stars Wars films are unlikely to win over new fans to Star Wars, it is unlikely that these Bible translations are aimed at winning new people to read the Bible. They are marketed for the Christians. And how many Bible translations do we need sitting on our shelf? Does it really make us read the Bible more? Given the current rate of biblical illiteracy in the Church, it doesn’t seem to be working.

This new advertisement from Crossway for the ESV really feels like the epitome of the George Lucas phenomenon. And it makes me uncomfortable that the advert implies that reading the ESV is the most accurate way to understand God’s word. Every translation (even the paraphrases like the Message) is beneficial for communicating the ideas and images of the Scriptures. No one English translation is the best or the closest to God’s desired way of communication. Any preacher worth their salt will spend time in the original languages (Hebrew and Greek), AND a variety of English translations, so as to best communicate the Gospel.

It feels like this promotion of the ESV is going down the path of KJV-worship: only one translation is God’s inspired Word in English.

So I propose a counter-balance. I propose that someone make a parody video of this Crossway advert, extolling the virtues of the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. We could get our favourite Greek and Hebrew teachers/scholars to lend their voices to the campaign, and we could see a resurgence of pastors and lay people taking Greek and Hebrew at their local Bible colleges and Seminaries. What do you think? Are you in?

****Updated: Thanks to Mark for pointing this out to me:

Today begins the start of a new marketing strategy. I want to bring back the Septuagint, with the motto, “Trusted by the Savior.” Wouldn’t you want to read the Bible that Jesus read, rather than any of these phony books posing as sacred scripture?

Bible Translations and George Lucas

It was announced this week that George Lucas is once again re-releasing the Stars Wars movies, sales this time to cash in on the 3D craze. This is not exciting. This is not news. It would be news if Lucas didn’t “re-release” the Star Wars movies every couple of years. Each time, he promises that the movies will be better, but his changes usually amount to nothing more than tinkering, although in some cases it results in fan-boy rage, (repeat after me: Han shot first!) Even the most ardent sci-fi fans are wearying of the glut of Star Wars re-dos on the market. I mean really, how many copies can should one fanboy own?

In other news this week, it was announced that yet another English Translation of the Bible is about to hit the market. The Common English Bible is being released, which means that there are 32 english Bible translations in the market. It has of course raised the question, have we reached the saturation point for English translations?

It feels like Bible publishers are like George Lucas. George Lucas has figured out how to milk the sci-fi geeks for all they’re worth and in the process turned Star Wars from a great cinematic feat into a cash cow machine of marketing brilliance. Bible publishers have done the same with the Bible.

Who are all these translations for? Not for non-Christians. Just like the new 3D Blu-ray, re-edited Stars Wars films are unlikely to win over new fans to Star Wars, it is unlikely that these Bible translations are aimed at winning new people to read the Bible. They are marketed for the Christians. And how many Bible translations do we need sitting on our shelf? Does it really make us read the Bible more? Given the current rate of biblical illiteracy in the Church, it doesn’t seem to be working.

Not to mention that each of these translations then come with their own Novelty Bible marketing schemes, and most of you know that Novelty Bibles are a pet peeve of mine.

Paul Wegner, quoted in the CT article says, “We’ve probably reached the saturation point… It may be doing more damage than good. It’s gotten to the point that people are making money.”

The CT article continues: “In other words, profit may be prompting more translations than readability concerns demand.”

Now I’m not arguing that we should be KJV-only folks. Just as we shouldn’t all have Star Wars on Beta-Max. Both are pretty outdated in 2010. I just wonder if the Bible publishers’ time would be better spent working on translating the Bible into those languages that still don’t have access to the written Scriptures. Likewise, I wonder is George Lucas would be better off spending time working on a different project, even expanding the Stars Wars universe (that is so long as he writes the cheques and lets someone else do the writing).

Or, in the category of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” they could combine forces and Bible translators could work on producing a Bible translated into Shyriiwook (That’s “Wookieespeak” for you non-nerds)!

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Addendum: For the record, I own two copies of the Stars Wars Trilogy, one on DVD and one on VHS (though the VHS is in a box in the basement somewhere).
Addendum 2: I have 6 Bible translations on my shelf.
Addendum 3: The Stars Wars universe consists only of the original three movies (A New Hope; Empire Strikes Back; and Return of the Jedi), the new movies do not exist.