The most widely read book in the world, the Bible, is getting a facelift.
As Christians celebrate the beginning of Lent this week, Bible publishers are releasing updated versions of two of the most popular biblical translations, the New American Bible and the New International Version.
"It's like reading the bible in high definition. It’s the same stories you know, the same text you know, but you're seeing them in greater precision and clarity," said Mary Elizabeth Sperry, associate director of Bible utilization for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Scholars readily admit that translating the Bible, a book written thousands of years ago, from its original Greek and Hebrew into more modern languages, such as English, is tricky business.
The goal is to make this ancient book readable to modern audiences. And as languages evolve and new manuscripts are discovered, it becomes necessary, scholars say, to update old translations.
In the New American Bible, which is popular with Catholics, the Old Testament doesn't sound quite so – old.
- In Leviticus, for example, instead of the faithful being instructed to "bring a cereal offering" it's now "a grain offering"
- Isaiah doesn't speak of "booty" anymore, it's "spoils"
"It's not rewriting, it’s re-translating,” Sperry said.
Many Evangelicals prefer the New International Version. For the latest edition of that translation, scholars worked to make the Bible less gender specific (although the changes are less radical than in a 2005 translation called Today’s New International Version, which faced fierce criticism).
"We don't want to change the word of God easily or quickly, that's why we on the committee take our job so seriously," said Doug Moo, chairman of the NIV translation committee.
- "Man" is now often "Mankind" (in the TNIV it was “human beings”)
- "Forefathers” are now called "Ancestors"
- And in John, the "cravings of a sinful man" have been changed to simply, "the lust of the flesh"
"I think the reason there is controversy is we have people who care so deeply about the Bible as God's word, and I think that's a good thing,” Moo said.
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