Whatever you bind on earth …

If you are not conversant in first century Greek, then in order to read the Bible, you generally need a translation.  I am told that the ESV is an excellent translation.  My loving wife went out and bought one.  It looks like this:

According to the ESV

The epistle of John to the Ephesians

This particular printing (printed in Canada) appears to have suffered a quire selection problem.  There are two copies of Matthew 22:4 to John 12:30.  From the second copy of John 12:30 we continue suddenly at Galatians 5:4.   Reading over the page boundary it says (bizarrely):

Others said, “An angel has spoken to him”.  Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Now this is a simple misprint.  Some machine that was supposed to grab one pile of pages slipped, and grabbed two, and when the book was big enough to fit in the cover it was bound and put in the “finished” pile.  The thickness was correct, so it passed QA, and arrived in .ZA ready to be sold as a marked down reject.

This brings to mind two problems with modern Bible translations:

Firstly, there is a rather unquestioned reliance on Wescott & Hort’s notion of a superior “earliest text”, at the expense of the received text.  The trouble is that the text that is true is the one that is actually used.  The true text is not in good physical condition, since it is worn down by continual use.  The text which was not a good and true copy, which was made by people who had no living interest in its content is the text which can later be recovered in pristine condition.  Thankfully this overt reliance on “early manuscripts” appears to be waning.

Secondly, the problem of copyright.  Printing and distributing a Bible translation is not a task to be lightly attempted.  It requires specialist skills which, for a long time, have been the exclusive preserve of publishers.  As a result, the copyright for Bible translations is held by publishers.  These publishers, for all their finer qualities have, as a primary goal, profit.  Given the choice between serving God and Mammon, they pay lip service to God, and get as much from Mammon as they reasonably can.  To enable this, the average Bible translation includes all sorts of legal claims to ownership by the publisher:

  • Quotes over 1000 verses are prohibited
  • Recordings over 250 verses are prohibited
  • You must make up more than 50% of what you say when you quote the version.
  • You must credit the publisher in various intrusive ways, and advertise their trademark when you quote the content.
  • No commentaries may be made except by permission

Those are from the ESV.   The NIV has similar terms, but less generous.  Interestingly, there is no requirement that quotations be accurate.  Quite amazing.

These terms were placed there for the publisher, and not for the kingdom of God.  They are there to ensure a profit for the publisher – or a surplus for the non-profit publisher.  Surely they are entitled to payment for their work, but this kind of restriction forgets that a translation of a work owes a lot to the original author.  The original author takes a lively interest in his work.  He should not be trifled with.

My printing of this good book includes only one copy of this verse:

Freely you have received, freely give

And it has no copies of this verse:

Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.

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