A Philosophy Of Translation And “The New English Bible” -- By: Robert L. Thomas

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 05:3 (Summer 1962)
Article: A Philosophy Of Translation And “The New English Bible”
Author: Robert L. Thomas


A Philosophy Of Translation
And “The New English Bible”

Robert L. Thomas

I. Background

In the past year there has been much talk in the Christian world about the publication of The New English Bible. The question upon the lips of one and all seems to be “Is it a good translation?” The question is not so easily answered as some might suppose, because there is not unanimous agreement as to just what comprises a “good translation.” For this reason, in answering this question concerning The New English Bible it is necessary to examine a number of matters which pertain to the background of this translation.

Prior to World War II there was a movement afoot in Great Britain to revise the English Revised Version of the Bible which was published originally in 1881 and 1885. The work of revision had already begun when the War interrupted proceedings, and the effort had to be discontinued. It is to be noted that a similar movement was underway in the United States and Canada, having begun in 1937, to revise the American Standard Version of the Bible which had the publication date of 1901 in the United States. This Version, of course, closely resembles the Revised Version of 1881 and 1885. The latter endeavor in contrast to the former was not discontinued during the period of the world conflict, and the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament was published in 1946. The same Version of the Old Testament had as its initial publication date 1952.

In May, 1946, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland resumed the revision project in Great Britain by making a recommendation that a translation of the Bible be made in the language of the present day. This decision represents a radical departure from the dominant tradition which has produced the major English translations since the time of Tyndale. The Authorized Version, the Revised Version, and the Revised Standard Version are merely the products of the revision of earlier translations. The reason for such a decision on the part of the Church of Scotland was the motive of “providing English readers, whether familiar with the Bible or not, with a faithful rendering of the best available Greek text into the current speech of our own time” (The New English Bible, p. vii). It was felt that the changes which would be required to accomplish such a purpose would make the revision of an earlier version impractical. Another reason may be suggested, though it has not been stated; that is the realization that if a revision were undertaken, there would be an overlapping with the work of the committee in America which had almost completed its revision of the American Standard Version.

Invitations were extended by the Church of Scotland for others to join in this un...

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