Re: translation vs. interpr

From: Karen Pitts (
Date: Fri Jun 06 1997 - 10:11:18 EDT

Re> translation vs. interpretation 6/6/97 9:47 AM

I've been lurking for months due to too many work and personal crises (none
serious, just lots of minor ones), but I can't resist adding my lay
perspective to the discussion of original language and Bible translations.

My husband came to faith about 10 years ago after an upbringing which was part
Unitarian (his parents) and Episcopal (his town). When he started reading the
Bible seriously, he found his favorite KJV too difficult, due to the archaic
English. He didn't like my RSV, which I had received and used since I got it
in fourth grade. He tried several (using side-by-side translations) and
decided on NIV. I like the NIV for devotional reading because they have
strived to write good (not wooden) English.

For Bible study, however, we took Gordon Fee's recommendations to heart, and
use multiple translations. We usually had NRSV, Jerusalem, KJV, New English,
NIV, Eugene Peterson's The Message, and me trying to follow along with the
Greek. Whenever the translations differed, we would discuss it and the
implications. I feel very comfortable with this method. Unfortunately, that
group has fallen apart due to people moving away and my constant barrage of
minor crises.

My current Bible study group relies strongly on The Message, with usually only
one reading from a traditional translation. Many of the members say after
hearing The Message, "Now I understand what that means". I have a lot of
respect for Eugene Peterson, but I feel he reduces the ambiguity and picks an
interpretation, so I find myself coming down hard on wanting to stick to a
more literal translation.

I don't think there is any right answer here. We have several lay people
struggling to learn the Greek. Our official church Bible is NRSV (too closely
tied to Princeton Seminary to pick anything else!). Many members use NIV with
the Message being widely used as well (we've had Eugene Peterson's son and a
niece and a nephew in our congregation while they attended seminary). What I
like to opt for is many rather than picking a favorite.

As an aside, for introductory texts, I've used three different ones, Efird, NT
Greek, Voelz, Fundamental Greek Grammer and Story, Greek to Me. My favorite
is Story's "Greek to Me", primarily because of the emphasis on learning
vocabulary and the early introduction to reading. I don't get into the goofy
pictures, but they do help for some things.


Karen Pitts
Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Hopewell, NJ, teacher of NT Greek
Sarnoff Corporation, Princeton, NJ, statistician

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