Joe – Though I have seen some great examples of committees producing the worst possible results through an over-zealous emphasis on reaching consensus, I think it’s important to realize, too, that a lot of truly inspired works come out of teams: improvised jazz, for example, or Japanese renga poetry. Or any theatre production. So maybe it’s less surprising that the KJV turned out reasonably well than that the collaborative model hasn’t been followed more often in Western literature.
Karen – Yeah, actually I thought about “Jesus wept” during the funeral the other day. Weeping isn’t just the simplest and most honest response to death, but it’s healing, as well.
I’m pretty sure I remember reading that that line, “In my father’s house are many mansions,” is a good example of a mistake in the KJV translation leading to a felicitous and indelible image. I’m too lazy to look it up at the moment, though.
Black_Pete – Yeah, but as I think Ehrman makes clear, many of those problems aren’t in the translations we use but in the translations into Greek from the lost originals in Aramaic. And even worse, the deliberate fudging of later scribes, including the false attributions of the pseudo-Pauline letters. It’s a shame that word about these kinds of findings, routine now among Biblical scholars, haven’t made it to the mass of believers. I think Christianity in general would be the better for it.
Maybe I will check out the New KJV – sounds good! I would encourage you, in turn, to check out the authoritative Anchor Bible series, if you like that kind of scholarly criticism. Your local library should have at least some of the volumes.
I like your wife’s attitude. And I’m interested by your suggestion that we plan our own funerals for real. Personally, I think the classical New Orleans funeral had it right: a slow dirge on the way to the graveyard and a rolicking dance tune on the way back.
Peter – Ah, good to hear you refused to sanction Santolatry!
I must tell you that my distaste for most standard Protestant religious music is the single biggest thing keeping me unchurched (I love that term). Then again, I’d probably attend a Quaker meeting if I went anywhere. Their kind of music just can’t be improved upon, if you ask me. :)
A guilty secret: I too used to prefer the New English Bible, before I read Reynolds Price’s scathing assessment. It’s damn readable, isn’t it? But Price says John is somewhat awkward and stilted in the original Greek, and who am I to argue? (Similar criticisms have been levelled at Burton Watson’s graceful and engaging translation of my other favorite sacred text, the Chuang Tzu.)
I think you have a good point about the circularity of arguments. It’s hard for those of us who don’t know the original languages to assess how much of that perceived beauty might also be due to qualities in the orignal, but I know that what I typically look for in poetry is striking metaphor and concrete imagery, and the Bible has that in spades.