Simply A-Pauline

WorldNetDaily, and many other sources, shriek that “New Bible Translation Promotes Fornication“. I think I already have a copy; yes, here we are:

Genesis 38.15: Judah, seeing her [Tamar], took her for a prostitute, since her face was veiled. Going up to her on the road, he said, “Here, let me sleep with you.”

…Judges 16.1: Samson then went to Gaza and, seeing a prostitute there, went in to her.

However, WND is not upset by this (found in all translations) but by John Henson’s Good as New translation, that allegedly reworks St Paul’s commands. WND contrasts the new translation with how several passages are translated in the KJV, including 1 Corinthians 7.1-2:

KJV: “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: [It is] good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, [to avoid] fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.”

New: “Some of you think the best way to cope with sex is for men and women to keep right away from each other. That is more likely to lead to sexual offences. My advice is for everyone to have a regular partner.”

Alas, my Greek is very bad, but the orginal does say “man” and “woman”. However, an overview of Paul’s thought makes it very clear that wedded heterosexual monogamy (and a bit grudging at that) is the only kind of sexual expression allowed (despite Gore Vidal’s Live from Golgotha). But why is WND getting upset over an unofficial translation put out by a small British publisher? The answer is that Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams has provided a foreword

Patiently and boldly, he [Henson] has teased out implications, gone back to roots, linguistic and theological, and re-imagined the process in which a genuinely new language was brought to birth by those who had listened to Jesus because they knew they were in a genuinely new world.

Some of John [Henson]‘s versions will startle; but only because we have forgotten what the impact might have been in the ancient world of a small library of books written in the dialect of the streets and shops, with many of the leading characters identified by slightly outlandish nicknames. And also, because we have not much living language left for authority figures, we fail to sense the impact of the images of royalty and so on in the pages of scripture; we need other terms to make them come alive.

That actually seems quite sensible. No one translation can do justice to any text, and different perspectives can shed light on different areas. In the case of the Bible, when so many translations are burdened with having to be answerable to a denomination, an independent translation, produced by an individual rather than a committee, is all the more valuable (although I do recall a Gospel of John purged of anti-Semitism from a few years back that quickly vanished). It would be a shame if the book only receives sensationalist coverage for one or two passages. The translation also includes the (vastly overrated, in my opinion) Gospel of Thomas, and drops Revelation.

It should be noted that Henson is a retired Baptist minister, and that the translation has also been praised by the President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. Get Religion also provides a link to the ONE Community that sponsored the translation.