How and why I’m translating my own version of the Bible
As I mentioned on Twitter and Facebook yesterday, I started creating my own version of the Bible last week. I know! I’ve no idea how far I’ll go with it, but it’s been a really interesting journey already.
It all started when I sat down last week with my four year old daughter, Eloise, to read through a bit of the Bible with her before bed. Whilst I’ve read her specially written childrens Bible stories before, I’d never read any of the actual Bible with her. I wanted to start with the Bible’s account of God making the world, in Genesis 1. Finding a suitable translation proved much trickier than I’d imagined though. And despite looking through numerous of the many available translations, I couldn’t find any that I really liked.
Well, it wasn’t that I didn’t like them per se, it was that I didn’t like any of them from the perspective of reading them out loud to my young daughter. While some of the translations read really nicely when it came to reading them out loud, the language was overly complex. But then other translations, though using fairly simple language, lacked a smooth sense of flow when reading them out loud. It left me frustrated.
So I started to wonder. What if I translated some of the passages I wanted to read out loud to Eloise so that they had a great read-out-loud flow and were as easy as possible to understand?
And that’s what I’ve started to do! Using the combination of multiple English translations - with additional Hebrew and Greek word studies - I’ve started to write my own version, focussed on those two criteria: easy to understand, great to read out loud.
It won’t be a literal version. There are numerous great, word-for-word translations already out there. I have nothing to add to that type of version. Mine will be a thought-for-thought, or meaning-for-meaning version. I want to grasp the essense of what each passage is saying originally and then capture that using easy to understand languge that is structured to flow easily when spoken out loud. I want to communicate the meaning in everyday, 21st century language — not just translate words.
If taking the time to do this means that my two daughters, as they grow up, both find it easier to enage with - and enjoy! - the Bible, then I’ll consider it more than worth it. It is the two of them who are my motivation for this crazily ambitious project.
But whilst my girls are my source of motivation, I’m not really thinking of this as children’s version. I’m thinking of it simply as a version that will be really helpful for anyone who wants an easy to read, great for reading out loud version of the Bible. So, as I finish different sections of the Bible, I do plan to make them available for others too.
As to whether I end up creating my own version of the whole Bible, I have no idea. For now, I’m focussing on particular books, starting with Genesis and the gospel of John. Doing the whole Bible would probably take me up to ten years. So, we’ll see about that!
Even though I’m only very early into this project, I’ve already found it to be a fascinating process that has been richly rewarding. Having to delve so much into each section, grappling with what was really going on like never before, wrestling with the limitations of the English language — it’s actually pretty exhilarating! There’s definitely no end of gems I’m finding in the process of translating my own version.
I forget to mention that, as well as all the above, I also want this version to have personality. It’s great when ‘proper’ versions have hundreds of scholars all work on them, but it can result in very dry version devoid of any personality. And that’s exactly right for that sort of version. I just also think there’s space for Bible versions that ooze personality as well.