I used to have aspirations of heading up a Bible translation project, though my aims were doctrinally motivated. This project died along with my fundamentalism. However, I have recently been frustrated by some interactions I have had with major translations. In preparing my manuscript for my contribution to the Texts@Contexts volume on Exodus being published by Fortress Press, I ran into the problem of finding a translation that was suited to my discussion. Fortress Press prefers translations like the JPS or the NRSV. While I admire these translations, both were horribly suited for my article. I was dealing with a biblical phrase from Exodus echoed in Jonah and Joel, and while the Hebrew is consistent, the translations were not (and I have been unable to identify a reason that would warrant this). Fortunately, the ESV had done an excellent job in translating these consistently and I think they will accept my use of the ESV (I would have provided my own translation, but I really couldn’t see improving on what the ESV did).
In my previous post, I pointed out that a particular phrase in Genesis 4 is consistently translated by all major translations in the KJV legacy as the KJV translated it. Given the highly interpretive nature of the translation, it just seemed odd that an alternative was not offered (though a footnote in the ESV did suggest an alternate, literal reading).
Also, the NIV butchered Ecclesiastes by translating hebel “meaningless,” and the KJV legacy of “vanity” isn’t much better. Moreover, when is a major translation (other than the JPS) going to recognize that Qohelet is a name, not a title?
I’m sure all of us familiar with the biblical languages could create lists much longer than this of frustrations we have with modern translations. I am sure many of us think, “If I was involved in a Bible translation project, I would be sure to render this verse . . . ” While I was thinking about this today, the Conservative Bible Project popped into my mind. And then it struck me, Why don’t we start a wiki Bible to which scholars and professional Bible students can contribute?
Three advantages immediately come to mind regarding such a project.
- The translation would always be improving. A wiki Bible would be unlike print translations which can only be updated every-so-often.
- The wiki discussion pages would allow people using the translation to read the rationales of the translators or the discussions/debates taking place among the translators about the passages. So often, people want to know why a translation reads the way it does. This project would make it possible for this information to be available in a way never before possible.
- Such a project would have the capability of being more eclectic than any translation project of which I am aware.
So I want to know, what do you think? What are the merits of such a project. What will be its challenges? Would you want to be involved? If you aren’t capable or qualified to translate the Bible, would you be interested for those who are to produce such a project?