Sunday, November 12, 2006

"Inspired by... The Bible Experience"

This week my copy of "Inspired by... the Bible Experience" arrived in my mailbox sent directly from Chapters-Indigo online bookstore. For those of you who have never heard of it, "The Bible Experience" is a new, fully dramatized reading of the TNIV New Testament done by an array of over 200 "all-star actors, musicians, and personalities." I have not had a chance to listen to all of it yet, but what I have heard is really, really good and definitely worth listening to over and over again. This series of high quality audio recordings brings the New Testament to life and has the potential of making the Bible accessible to a whole new group of people who may never have read it or heard it before. In my opinion, the TNIV is the most readable of the current crop of English translations, and the multi-media format of this presentation makes it easy to use in car audio systems, computers, and personal electronic devices such as IPods and the latest generation of cellphones.

One concern that will no doubt be raised in some of the more "precise" quarters of the evangelical church is the use of some performers whose Christian status and testimony is questionable to say the least. My response is two-fold. First, it would be wonderful if everyone who participated in this project and other ones like it was true and genuine in their profession of faith. But that is unlikely to ever happen until such recordings are made in glory itself! In the meantime it is great to have music like Handel's Messiah and recordings like "The Bible Experience" available for us to enjoy. Secondly, I would rather have a recording like this well done by the most talented people available (within reason of course), then have them poorly done by well-meaning but less talented believers who know how to dot all the "i's" and cross all the "t's". I know, of course, that not everyone will agree with me, but I would rather have the best possible presentation of the Bible available for people to listen to and then pray that God would use it in the lives of the performers themselves and their audience.

Whatever you think... check it out... and think about adding this top-notch bit of work to your list this Christmas!


Michael A G Haykin said...


My concerns are not with the readers but with what they are reading, namely, the TNIV!

Kirk M. Wellum said...

Alas... maybe the "Inspired by" group might consider an ESV or NASB version of the "Bible Experience"... whichever, it's great to have the Bible available in so many versions!

Anonymous said...

Concern about the TNIV? and WHY?
It is readable, friendly, accurate, up-to-date - perfect for this type of audio production...

Anonymous said...

my concern is not so much who reads the Bible or what version of the Bible it is, but that what they read isn't the Bible. from what i can gather by watching the promo videos, this is not word-for-word reading of Scripture, but rather a manuscript based on Scripture.

please fill me in if i am wrong... i am assuming 'TNIV' means "The New International Version"...

anyway, unless i'm missing something, these people are taking liberties they should not. adding to, subtracting from, or altering God's word is dangerous ground. i would think this would be an awesome product if it were a word-for-word reading of the Bible that is God-inspired.

Kevin Van Hartingsveldt

John Meade said...

Kevin -

Good comments, and I understand your concern. However, I think your concern may be a bit unfounded. Should we read Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek to the audience, since these languages were the original languages in which God's spoken/written Word was first revealed? Now I enjoy my study of those languages, but I would never expect every Christian to learn them; therefore, translations are necessary for the Christian life.

Now which translations are "the right ones?" Well, because we do not tie inspiration to the translation of the text, nor even to the copies of the original, the issue ceases to be about the inspired Word of God. It is rather an issue about which translation renders most effectively the original. In some people's minds, a word for word formal translation technique is more consistent with a doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration (the very words of God are inspired). I agree with this doctrine as long as it is tied to the autograph. In other people's minds, the translation should capture the sense of the text, and not be concerned with a word for word translation (dynamic or functional). These people recognize that a word for word translation between two languages is impossible. Therefore they are concerned with the meaning of the text.

A more condensed way of summarizing is to say that the formal equivalence technique is more concerned with rendering the text of the source language, while the dynamic equivalence technique is concerned with meeting the needs of the target language. At heart, both techniques desire to communicate the Word of God to their audiences.

Does this summary sound relativistic? Dr. Wellum and Dr. Haykin, have I characatured the formal equivalence position by emphasizing "word for word?" This conversation is a good one to have in our postmodern day, but we are forced to stay within the boundaries of language. The Tower of Babel incident has already been corrected (Acts 2), but we are not yet speaking the same language with one another.

Kirk M. Wellum said...

Kevin... TNIV stands for "Today's New International Version" and is a revision of the NIV. See for more details.

Especially note this review by D.A.Carson "The TNIV is more accurate than its remarkable predecessor, the much-loved NIV, while retaining all the readability of the latter. It is a version I can use with confidence, whether I am speaking at a university mission, or in a Bible conference anywhere in the English-speaking world. I am deeply impressed by the godliness, linguistic competence, cultural awareness, and sheer fidelity to Scripture displayed by the translators. Thirty or forty years from now, I suspect, most evangelicals will have accepted the TNIV as a 'standard' translation, and will wonder what all the fuss was about in their parents' generation — in the same way that those of us with long memories marvel at all the fuss over the abandonment of 'thees' and 'thous' several decades ago.
- D.A. Carson, Ph.D, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

With regard to "The Bible Experience" you have misunderstood the promos. It is a word-for-word reading of the TNIV New Testament not a manuscript based on Scripture.

Kirk M. Wellum said...

John... thanks for your comments. Personally I agree with what you have written in your post. As you know Bible translation is both a science and an art. There will always be squabbles over the best way to proceed and no one translation is perfect. In my own study I like to use translations that stress a more formal word to word correspondence as well as those which try to capture the meaning of the words and convey them in a way that the reader can understand. I think both are necessary and I am thankful that excellent examples of both are readily available today.

I have heard people say that the job of the translator is to follow the words of the original text as closely as possible and it is the job of the preacher/teacher to explain the meaning of the text. But I think a good argument can be made for the reverse. The job of the translator could also be defined as conveying as accurately as possible the meaning of the original words, phrases, sentences, etc., in the language into which the translation is being made and the job of the preacher/teacher is to expound that meaning (assuming the translators have done a good job) and show how it is derived from the original Hebrew and Greek.

Oh for that day when translations will no longer be necessary because what was begun at Pentecost has come to its glorious and ultimate consummation.