As we have seen in the previous two posts, it would seem as if the best bible translation is the best bible translation for you.
But aren’t all bibles the same? Technically, yes, they are — the Bible is a term used to describe the Hebrew scriptures. In that sense you could even capitalize the T in the, calling it “The Bible” — as really, there is only one bible. What about Hebrew speakers? They didn’t have different versions of the Bible. So what gives?
The bible is written in Hebrew. When people are informed that most translations are full of errors, or that a proper understanding of the bible (even in Christian translations) is based on an acceptance of Jewish Oral Law, their eyes glaze over. They cannot understand why the plain meaning of the text is not sufficient. They treat the bible as if it was a novel written in their native language.
There is only one bible. You do not get to decide what it says. The “best” bible translation is not one which agrees with what you already believe. It’s the one which is true.
How was the bible translated in the first place?
All bible translations depend on the Oral Law because the Oral law is the passing down of the Torah orally — i.e. with vowels. All the vowels in the Masoretic text are passed down as oral law. If one does not accept the oral law as valid, one places himself in the position of accepting the oral law in order to read the bible, and to understand it, but then claiming not to hold the Jewish law in all places one does not understand the Oral Law may apply. In essence, a denunciation of the oral law is a statement that one does not know what the oral law means in the first place.
For example, consider this famous passage from Exodus 12:2: “This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months.” To which month is this referring? It would impossible to as much as keep the sabbath if one was unaware of which day is the first day (of the week; or the month) in the Jewish calendar.
But the real problem is much deeper. Even if you say the plain meaning of these passages is sufficient, the plain meaning itself is Oral Law. The meaning for the word “months” above is dependent upon the vowels passed down inside Jewish Oral Law. How do we know it says “months” and not “moons” or “moths” or “marriage”? The vowels and the meaning for each word in the sentence has been passed down in the oral law. Thus, refusing to admit the oral law leads to strange contradictions in the bible, and can be seen as an admission that one has not studied the scriptures very well. An example?
When the Torah [Ex. 16:29] says “Let no man leave his place on the seventh day” to what place is this referring? Does it mean his home, his property if he has more than one home, his neighborhood, his city, or something else [Kuzari, ibid; Rashbatz, ibid.]? In fact, Isaiah [66:23] says “It shall be that at every New Moon and on every sabbath all mankind will come to bow down before Me – said the L-rd” which implies that people will leave their homes on the sabbath and go to worship the L-rd [Rashbatz, ibid., 31a]. Evidently, Isaiah did not understand this verse in Exodus as the simple reading would have it.http://www.aishdas.org/student/oral.htm
Therefore we must accept the Oral Law at least in all places where it is an explanation of the words and meaning in the Torah. It is not as if Hebrew is a world language. If one wishes to learn Hebrew one must learn it from a Jew — therefore it must not be too difficult to accept the Jewish meaning of the words. We even find this implicitly stated in the Christian scriptures. The Christian bible describes various people (such as Joseph) as righteous — and given that as a requirement of being the messiah Jesus would have had to keep the entire Torah — therefore Joseph and Jesus must have known the answer to various passages as stated above, or they would not have been able to keep the whole law and be righteous.
In conclusion, the best bible translation is not a word-for-word translation, but one which properly conveys the Hebrew meaning of the words. Unfortunately, and as we have seen throughout history, an attempt to translate the bible apart from the Oral Law will always produce an invalid translation.
Do we have such a translation as described above? No such translations exists that I could find.
Therefore, I will make one.
I will probably fail, but I will try.
Introducing the Noachide Bible
I am actually unsure what the name of this project should be. “The Noachide Bible”, “Noachide Study Version” etc. presupposes use by a certain group of people. Therefore I might call it something else.
An Accurate and Truthful Theology
Whatever name I come up with in the end it is plain as day that the translation must follow the commentary given by giants such as Rashi and Rambam. If one understands the bible differently than the great Jewish sages (and prophets, see Isaiah above!) by too great a distance, one is certainly in error.
This is not to say that people like Rashi are perfect. But on the other hand, pretending it is okay to doctor the words of the bible or to pick a translation because it agrees with your existing beliefs is a great folly. Would one ignore all other modern translations go with the KJV to believe in unicorns, in order to spite oneself? An accurate theology begins with an accurate translation.
A Familiar and Readable Text
The bible must be easy to read and have a familiar feeling. Starting with the KJV, ASV, and similar public domain translations, word choice is determined based upon familiarity and modern grammar. This leads to a bible that reads like the KJV but is modern and accessible like the NIV or ESV.
Accessible to All
A modern bible will primarily be distributed electronically, although of course print versions will be available for the pew and the bookshelf! Accessibility is a great concern. Electronic distribution will allow us to distribute copy at lower prices than any other bible in history.
The comments made in the previous post regarding cross references, concordances, study notes and so forth are all true. People need resources to aid their study and make them feel like they are doing thins in the right way. Having colored letters in the bible for certain people is perhaps not very helpful; a proper cross-reference, or having various types of cross reference, would be much more useful for serious bible study.
I am currently working on this project and you can start reading Genesis 1 right now. Over the next few weeks I will be making posts discussing the project; they will mainly be condensed from the wiki pages where I discuss what I am doing as I do it; at that point those comments will be removed (from the wiki) or reorganized.
An Amazing Adventure
The Noachide Bible is going to be an amazing adventure
If you wish to support this project in any way, I would be grateful for your support.
Please understand, that while I am more than happy if you link to this post or to the wiki, you may not copy or distribute any part of the Noachide Bible, at least for now (see: License). This may change in the future once I am closer to finishing the project.
In any case stay tuned for some very exiting news about the project you have been waiting for your entire life; the all-new Noachide Bible!