So. My time has come to finally sit down and read the freaking bible. If I'm gonna argue against it, I should know what I'm talking about. It is also a part of western culture whether I like it or not.

There seem to be so many books that make up 'the bible' that I honestly don't know where to start. I've also read that there are several versions of these different books. So where do I start?

I have a Nook, and would really prefer to get digital versions of this thing. I figure Barnes and Noble has to have plenty of digital copies.

Does anyone have a 'favorite' version, book, section? I do realize I could Google this all myself, but that's no fun. I want real feedback before I dive into this. If one sucks less than another, I want to know.

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King James no doubt. Highly recommended by Christopher Hitchens' as well.
Though I am sometimes reluctant to admit it, there really is something “timeless” in the Tyndale/King James synthesis. For generations, it provided a common stock of references and allusions, rivaled only by Shakespeare in this respect. It resounded in the minds and memories of literate people, as well as of those who acquired it only by listening. From the stricken beach of Dunkirk in 1940, faced with a devil’s choice between annihilation and surrender, a British officer sent a cable back home. It contained the three words “but if not … ” All of those who received it were at once aware of what it signified. In the Book of Daniel, the Babylonian tyrant Nebuchadnezzar tells the three Jewish heretics Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that if they refuse to bow to his sacred idol they will be flung into a “burning fiery furnace.” They made him an answer: “If it be so, our god whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thy hand, o King. / But if not, be it known unto thee, o king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
Of course, Hitchens recommends the KJV because of its literary merits, not because of clarity or any special arguments within.
yes, so?
She stated that she's looking to argue with it, and for that clarity might be the way to go, so meaning doesn't get lost in poetry.

Jared is spot on with his advice.  Follow what he said, but I do recommend reading the entire book, so you can see some of the other craziness in there.  The book of Song of Songs gets really intimate and romantic, it's more of a collection of poems, if you ask me.  Proverbs will almost inevitably be used at some point in an argument.  Leviticus is the basis for every homophobe, 18:22 says, "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." (NIV)  It also talks about beastiality and other sexual no-no's.  Well, haha, I hope you come to a decision and get to reading.  It will certainly affirm your atheism.

 

Ciao!

If you want to learn how the average American Christian reads and understands the bible I would use the NIV or KJV, if you want a very accurate to the original language (studied Greek for 3 years) you want either the NASB or the ARSV if my memory serves me best. Also, there are a number of great resources for understanding what was *ACTUALLY* written here I especially like this but it requires some vocabulary.

I'd also if in English would read the King James Version. Not because it is more intelligible or for it's literary value, because it possesses neither in discernible quantities (or I consistently accidentally picked out the wrong paragraphs.) But because the effort to interpret old bullshit in newer terms just adds fresh bullshit on top of it, usually unsupported by anything but current fashion in theology land.

Currently I'm letting it read to me on my ipod (while at work usually) with enlightening commentary by http://www.thomasandthebible.com/

I have the English Standard Version on my Kindle as a quick reference, the translation is OK (though it is arguably evangelically leaning and fails the Isaiah 7:14 test) and it is easy to read (also it was a free Kindle download). In general though, I don't encourage anyone who wants to actually study the bible to go solely with a digital e-book version as you lose a lot that way in the way of annotations and ease of reading when it comes to doing parallel readings.

 

For the Bible in general I suggest the Oxford Annotated Revised Standard Version, College Edition. Get a print version not a digital one. The print version has annotations that deal with translation issues, omissions, commentary, etc. For the Hebrew Bible/OT I suggest the Jewish Publication Society translation.

 

If you want a good digital version and are serious, shell out the money and buy an actual bible software. I use Bibleworks 8, Logos is arguably better (albeit it only works on Macs and is much more expensive). It will allow you to search through multiple translations, read commentaries, search through a thorough critical apparatus, and check translations against grammars and lexicons. If you are not willing to shell out the money, E-Sword is free but is nowhere near as good and some of the add-on downloads cost a few bucks.

NSRV - this is the most meticulous translation to modern English. The maniacal academic focus on preserving the words 'in context" while still retaining the poetry. I can almost always talk rationally from the text and about the text. NSRV concordance version would be a win. Most foolish mistakes 'Jesus was born of a virgin' v 'Jesus was born of a young woman' are fixed. [citation needed, this is a type of category error addressed even if this one example is wrong].

 

This is probably the least popular version because it nullifies much fundamentalist dogma. If your goal is holding your own against a chrisianist - forget it

1. They won't listen anyway

2. you are not using the 'real' KJV or NIV which is what evangelicals/fundies acknowledge as the version blessed by Jehovah. Yahweh is a white, 16th century European deity after all.

Yeah, being raised a good little Anglican the KJV was the first translation I read. It is good to read simply for the historical merit and because the fundies love it so. Besides, it often contains the apocrypha as well as unicorns and dragons ;)

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