Bible Readers Prefer ‘Sacred Dialect’ Over ‘Contemporary Language’
The WELS Translation Evaluation Committee (TEC) put a lot of emphasis on “readability” in their advocacy of the 2011 New International Version Bible translation (NIV). In Forward in Christ, “Evaluating Translations”1, Professor Wendland made the following statements:
- We expect, with Luther, that a translation will communicate in the language of the people, using idioms and expressions that are understandable and in common, current use.”
“We expect that the translation will be aimed at native English speakers who can handle Standard American English at a late primary school or early high school level, people who are neither professional theologians nor biblical illiterates.”
“We believe that a translation should sound good when read aloud.”
- “The NIV 2011 was frequently mentioned as the most polished of the three translations, the one that communicates in the smoothest and clearest way.”
Consider first “The Bible in American Life.”6 Here it was found that among self-identified Bible readers, 55% used the KJV, while 19% used the NIV. Some conclusions regarding the KJV in this report:
- “Although the bookstores are now crowded with alternative versions, and although several different translations are now widely used in church services and for preaching, the large presence of the KJV testifies to the extraordinary power of this one classic English text,” Professor Noll commented. “It also raises most interesting questions about the role of religious and linguistic tradition in the make-up of contemporary American culture.” Project advisor Sylvester Johnson also remarked on the peculiar cultural power of the King James Bible, noting that its language seems to function for many Americans as “a type of lingua sacra or sacred dialect.”
These findings, relating to a translation 400 years old, belie the claims that a 30-year-old translation is too outdated to be useful.
In Christianity Today, Zylstra8, discussed these findings, and reported yet another interesting piece of information regarding the KJV vs. the NIV:
- “The KJV also received almost 45 percent of the Bible translation-related searches on Google, compared with almost 24 percent for the NIV, according to Bible Gateway's Stephen Smith.
“In fact, searches for the KJV seem to be rising distinctly since 2005, while most other English translations are staying flat or are declining, according to Smith's Google research.”
- Paul O. Wendland, “Evaluating Translations,” Forward in Christ, Volume 98, Number 12, December 2011.
- “Translation Evaluation Committee Present Two Options,” Forward in Christ, Volume 100, Number 3, March 2013.
- “CBA Best Sellers list for Bible translations” at the hyperlink
- Philip Goff, Arthur E. Farnsley II, Peter J. Thuesen, “The Bible in American Life”, The Center for Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University, March 6, 2014.
- The Barna Group, “The State of the Bible, 2013”, American Bible Society, 2013.
- Goff, Farnsley, Thuesen, p. 12-14.
- The Barna Group, p. 17.
- Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, “The Most Popular and Fastest Growing Bible Translation Isn't What You Think It Is”, Christianity Today, posted 3/13/2014 11:17AM