Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reader's Diary #860- The New King James Version Bible: Lamentations

When I started reading on my very slow progress of reading the Bible book by book, I began with the King James version. It often shows up in most influential books, not just for its impact on society but for its literary merits as well. For beauty of language, it's supposedly the most superb version of the Bible.

While I was able to understand it, somewhat, the progress was quite slow. If I was ever going to make it through, I had to decide: did I want to read the Bible for the poetry or for the content? I decided I was was more interested in the stories themselves and so I switched to the Good News version. This one was much easier to understand, but lately I've been thinking about what I've been missing out on. That's when I discovered the New King James Version. Completed in 1982 (so there's no reason I shouldn't have heard of it before), it aimed to update the vocabulary and grammar of the King James version, but keeping the style and beauty of it in tact. So, I'm hoping to have the best of both worlds.

Lamentations does have a lot going on from a literary point of view: it's told as five poems (apparently the first four are even acrostic poems, using each letter of the Hebrew alphabet to begin each verse— but as my knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet is lacking, I can't say this held up in the translation), and there's a lot of rich figurative language (in the first poem, Jerusalem is compared to a widow). Mourning, or lamenting, the fall of Jerusalem, Lamentations is full of humanity as the author (Jeremiah?) goes through the stages of grief (mostly bargaining, anger, and depression). Does this all mean that the new version I'm trying is better for maintaining the lyrical beauty? I'm not sure. From that angle, not all of the books of the Bible are created equal. Even in my Good News version, the psalms stand out more than the other;  perhaps Lamentations would have stood out as well. However, as I'm not about to spend time going back to compare versions, I'm just going to believe the NKJV is the better version and stick with it.

Not a new idea, but Lamentations once again got me depressed about that part of the world. There was a scene in Joe Sacco's Palestine in which characters are debating the solution to the Israel/Palestine problem. Two completely separate entities? Two halves of one whole? Borders and government, one person finally argues, will not work in any version as long as the two sides continue to hate each other. When fighting in this area goes back to Biblical days, it has to be engrained in the culture(s). That's a lot of history to overcome. My own lament.


Kate said...

I have an iPad and I love my bible app (You Version), mostly because it gives me access to many different translations and you can compare translations with a touch of the screen. Great for when I'm preaching and I want to get a better understanding of a verse / passage.

Lamentations - not one of my favourite books. A bit too depressing for me...

John Mutford said...

Sounds like a fantastic app!