I keep reading promos for Bibles that claim they are an “ecumenical” Bible. Some claim they are “truly” an ecumenical Bible. So what the heck is an ecumenical Bible, and why would such a thing be desirable?
First off, we need to look at who is touting these ecumenical Bibles. It’s organizations like the National Council of Churches, an organization which encompasses mostly liberal mainline churches. Also those who like the idea of ecumenical Bibles are the liberal mainline seminaries, and the liberal mainline scholars who attend them. (But like most liberals, they get very offended if we suggest there is any bias on their part!)
The most recent instance of “ecumenical Bible” discussion is on our friend Iyov’s blog. Among the Bibles on his “top ten” list is the NRSV, and the REB; along with three Catholic Bibles: the NAB, the NJB, and the 1610 Douay-Rheims. In commenting on his list, Iyov offers us this note:
You will notice I omit mention of Evangelical translations such as the NIV, HCSB, etc. In part, this is because I think those translations are inferior to the translations listed here, but also because those translations have not influenced secular and mainstream academics. Also, they generally omit the Deuterocanonical books necessary for scholarly study. They appear to be aimed toward denominational needs — rather than reflecting the best understanding of Scripture.
(By the way, in no way is this an attack on our friend Iyov. I don’t know the fellow that well, and I don’t want to throw stones where it’s not deserved.)
Now I know that the NRSV and the REB are both touted as “ecumenical” Bibles. Both have editions containing the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonicals, as do the Catholic Bibles. Is that what makes them ecumenical? Well, apparently partially.
The NRSV and REB also contain the “gender neutral” language that makes them preferred by liberal scholars. And more than that, they have the words “young maiden” in Isaiah 7:14 where English translations have traditionally had the word “virgin”. That one item in itself seems to go a long way towards making a translation acceptable in the eyes of liberal scholars (even though I think the stronger case is made for “virgin”).
So what makes other translations “evangelical”? Is it because they are accepted by the “evangelical community”? Is it because they don’t contain the Deuterocanonicals? Is it because they use the term “virgin”? Why is it that to be ecumenical we must use the versions that are accepted by liberal academia? Why should anybody think that the translations accepted by liberal academia are superior to the translations that are accepted by the evangelical community? The NRSV is clearly not superior to the NASB95. I don’t think it’s clearly superior to the NIV/TNIV either; and in my humble opinion the HCSB is clearly superior to the NRSV.
If I were a Roman Catholic, I would want a Bible that contains the Deuterocanonicals. That’s only natural. But why on earth should I, a United Methodist, want a Bible that has the Apocrypha? Just because the liberal scholars tell me I need one in order to be “ecumenical”?
No. To be truly ecumenical, a Bible must only be an accurate translation of the scriptures from the original languages. I reject out of hand the idea that the NASB, NIV, TNIV, HCSB, NLT, et al, are not acceptable to those in the hallowed halls of liberal academia and are therefore not “ecumenical” Bibles. And while I accept the NRSV as a fairly good translation, I reject the idea that it is in any way superior to at least a couple of those translations.
The liberal scholars are way off base in claiming that. Their preferences are not superior; they are merely biased. Those who preach tolerance are the most intolerant, as usual.
I will continue to use my superior “evangelical” translations. They are just as “ecumenical” as the NRSV, the REB, and the new “Methodist” Bible that has been so much in our discussions lately. And whatever the liberal/progressive “scholars” tell you, take it with a giant grain of salt.