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The Bible – New Testament

Title: The Bible
Part: New Testamet
Author: Various
Translator: Bibelkommissionen (1973-2000)
Year: 45-140 AD

Having read the Koran, I moved on to reading the Bible. Admittedly, I had begun with the Old Testament earlier than that, but after losing my copy of the text, I had to borrow another from a friend before continuing. It took me roughly two months (not including breaks) to read the Old Testament and about one month to listen to an audio version of the New Testament. My impressions are mixed, but in general, it has been fairly tiresome, but not without glimpses of light. Large parts of the Old Testament are extremely boring, but on the whole, the text can at least be said to be rewarding in some ways. Occasionally, it is beautiful and inspiring.

I have decided to review the Bible in two posts, because the two parts are very different indeed. This review covers the New Testament.

Compared with the Old Testament, I expected more from the New Testament, simply because it is written much later and that theology evolved much between the two books. In this regard, I was not disappointed, because in almost every way, the New Testament is more acceptable to the modern reader. Still, it is not as nicely written as the best parts of the Old Testament. On the whole, the New Testament suffers from the same ill as the Old Testament in that it makes use of much repetition and rumination. Yes, Jesus was great, but he does not become greater the more times it is written. Also, having four gospels telling more or less the same story is a bit boring. Of course there are differences, but not salient enough to make it interesting to a layman such as myself. I am a bit surprised to find many passages explicitly defining the subordinate state of women, but apart from that, the New Testament was much as I expected it to be.

My main purpose for reading the Bible in the first place was to better understand Christianity and Christians, and the New Testament serves this purpose fairly well (again compared to the Old Testament). This is true not only because the text reveals much about the religion itself, but also because reading it kept my mind focusing on the subject for many hours. I still cannot say that I am satisfied, so I really ought to speak to someone with more understanding. Still, reading the Bible is one step on the road, a step I have now completed.

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  1. Xhakhal’s avatar

    A part of reading the bible is the translation – and I think you made an unfortunate choice. There are parts of the Bible that actually are quite pretty in the right translation, but the newer, the worse – with the all-time low being Bibel 2000, which you have pictured here.

    My favourite is the 1917 translation, which is actually downright beautiful on many parts, and the 1981 translation of the new testament (and the Jehovas Witnesses translation) feels like… like reading Simplified Shakespeare, with the “Romeo, Romeo, wherefor art thou Romeo?” changed to “Romeo, where are you Romeo?” for simplicity’s sake. (and yes, that is an authentic example from a simplified version of Romeo and Juliet I found in the school library.

    I must confess that I haven’t read all of these translations cover to cover – only the 1917 one – but I’ve read my favourite parts in them and the difference was significant. I don’t, however, believe that this would have made much of a difference in the final score of the book, or your general opinions of it, but I think it would have been worth some consideration ;)

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  2. Olle Linge’s avatar

    It deserves consideration and I did consider it before choosing. It might have made a very, very slight difference, but probably so slight that it wouldn’t have affected the grade very much. I have read parts of the Bible before and it seems like you are more impressed by the language than I am, so reading it in another translation would only have meant that it took longer.

    Also, the newest version is without doubt the best translation, since it’s a new translation directly from the original and not from a second language, which was the case before (with all Swedish translations?). My choosing the newest translation was not in order to read a simplified text, but read one that was as close to the original as possible.

    If it were 100 pages long, I could have reread it and compared, but that’s not very likely now. :)

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  3. Xhakhal’s avatar

    It is true that even the JW-translation (in Swedish at least) came from the English translation from the original text, which is a drawback indeed, but from what I’ve read, the difference in the actual content of the different translations is so small that one can argue that it doesn’t make much of a difference either – so neither would make that much of an impact.
    Of course, I too think it’s more important to be true to the source than reading something pretty… but in this case, both differences are so small it in practice becomes a bit difficult to decide.

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  4. Xhakhal’s avatar

    (one could also argue that the new translation, lacking a lot of the poetry of both the older translations -and- the original text is a bad translation in that way too, but that’s just something I forgot to add in the comment above, not something really merited enough to have its own comment)

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