People are strange, and they do weird things. But, as they said at Watergate, when nothing makes sense, follow the money. See where it goes from, and who it goes to, and that will tell you what’s really going on.
There are people out there who have created, deliberately, and at some expense, faked “translations” of the bible. Truly there are. Obviously you can’t believe that what you are doing is honest, or that the product of your scissors is in any way the word of God. You must, indeed, believe that there is no god – only guns, girls and gold, and that you want them. The history of religion is not lacking in examples of clergymen who thought in precisely those terms.
Marcion was an early exponent of this approach to the bible. Faced with a nascent New Testament that did not say what he wanted, he took out his knife and chopped out all the bits that he didn’t like. Tertullian pointed out, in reply, that, from even the passages that Marcion had not excised , the falsity of Marcion and his claims could be shown.
Nor is this a purely ancient trend. In Nazi Germany, one of Hitler’s slaves demanded that the bible be purged in a similar way, to eliminate the Old Testament and to revise the New Testament “in accordance with the principles of National Socialism”. This was too much, even in Nazi Germany, and the Reich authorities were obliged to disown the over-eager flatterer.
These days we know better. We can simply “adjust” the translation into English, and pretend that the text is “uncertain”, even though nobody ever was uncertain about what it meant.
The best known example of this is the New World Translation, produced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This mistranslates John 1:1 as “and the word was a god”. Of course nobody outside of that harmless cult pays any attention to this. It is entirely possible that the leaders of the cult got themselves sincerely confused; but on the other hand, they profit from it. It helps to shore up their organisation. The cult arose among US Protestants, who revere the bible, so there is an obvious motive to have your own bible version, in order to muddy the waters as to what the bible says. This can hardly be done honestly, unless those leaders were truly ignorant, but of course maybe they were. Let us hope so.
Most cultists, however, do not go this far. Instead they produce supplementary texts, such as the Koran or Book of Mormon. This requires far less effort.
I wonder what other faked translations exist? There must be others! A list would be a useful thing to have.
A few weeks ago I heard of a new one. Again produced in the USA, this calls itself the “New Revised Standard Version – Updated Edition” (NRSVue). It’s based on the respected NRSV, but edited, according to the preface, with the following principles:
The NRSVue extends the New Revised Standard Version’s (NRSV) purpose to deliver an accurate, readable, up-to-date, and inclusive version of the Bible. … The NRSVue continues and improves the effort to eliminate masculine-oriented language when it can be done without altering passages that reflect the historical situation of ancient patriarchal culture. … Only occasionally has the pronoun “he” or “him” or other gendered language been retained in passages where the reference may have been to a woman as well as to a man, for example, in several legal texts in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. …. In the vast majority of cases, however, inclusiveness has been attained by simple rephrasing or by introducing plural forms when this does not distort meaning.
One of the editors states, with a curious lack of self-awareness:
To avoid defining a person by a disability, the NRSVue makes a good faith effort to adopt person-first diction. Thus, Matthew 4:24 in the NRSVue speaks of “people possessed by demons or having epilepsy or afflicted with paralysis.”
Likewise, to make a distinction between a person’s identity and a condition imposed on that person, the NRSVue of Galatians 4:22 uses the expression “an enslaved woman,” as opposed to a “slave woman.”
In the tradition of the NRSV, the NRSV tries to avoid what famed translator Bruce Metzger called “linguistic sexism,” which means “the inherent bias of the English language toward the masculine gender” (see the “To the Reader” preface in the NRSV). So, in Romans 16:1, the NRSVue retains the word “deacon” for Phoebe as opposed to the belittling “deaconess” terminology found in a few other translations. Going beyond the NRSV, however, the NRSVue replaces the belittling “servant-girl” expression in Mark 14:69 by referring to the woman of that text as a “female servant.”
Finally, the NRSV regrettably had used lowercase letters to describe some Jewish calendrical observances. Lest doing so be interpreted as disrespectful, such observances as the Sabbath and Passover are now rendered in capital letters. Accordingly, in John 5:9, the NRSVue reads “Now that day was a Sabbath,” which replaces the NRSV’s reading: “Now that day was a sabbath.” …
The goal all along was to be as gender diverse and ethnically diverse as possible and to welcome teams of translators that were both ecumenical and interfaith in their composition.
Few will be very impressed by any of this. This is no way to produce a translation. The purpose here is the same as with the JWs – to take advantage of those with an inherited respect for the bible, and abuse it in order to advance their own, and quite different, ends. As might be expected, the new “version” makes some improvements on 1 Cor. 6:9. This reads in the NRSV:
9 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.
but in the NRSVue:
9 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, men who engage in illicit sex, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.
With the footnote in both places “Meaning of Gk uncertain”. I’m sure the authors laughed as they wrote that.
It is slightly sinister to find that Bible Gateway has removed the real NRSV in favour of the faked version – I had to use the “Anglicised” version. But we need not spend more time on this mendacious exercise, although doubtless some people will have to. The contempt of posterity, and the hell in which they do not believe, awaits its authors. The production also highlights a deep-seated intellectual corruption affecting the humanities in US universities.
But … can anyone name other, deliberately falsified, versions of the bible?