I have decided that I would like to read the Christian Bible, starting with the Old Testament and then New. I admit I know very little about different versions of the bible...the very helpful lady at Coles bookstore recommended the King James version, so this is the one I purchased.
Does anyone know if this is the best choice? Any recommendations?
I prefer New American Standard. I think the clearest and most accurate. Although most translations have had a theological component.
All OT Bible tranlsations are ultimately based on the Masoretic translations, which are very old. To get a good grasp of the OT you should use the Jewish Publication Society's Tanach translation available in most big bookstores. The translation is better and the notes are as important as the text. The OT is a dual history document - the history presented and the true history behind the documents, well represented in the Tanach notes, which I find fascinating. The Bible is a twisted, confusing, confused document, because of multiple authorship at different stages of history and because of frank forgery. Most Christian commentators are bullshit attempts to paste over the confusion and nonsense. I would not give them the time of day.
The New Revised Standard Version Bible is the most accurate, and the easiest to understand. I'd recommend it, or the New Jerusalem Bible.
Wow, thanks to all for the responses! I am glad to see this is a very active site! With all the great info and advice, I have decided to read the NRSV and then KJV. I am expecting this to be a long and difficult process, but hopefully I stick to it! Wish me luck!
Well it depends on which brand of Xianity you want to understand. The Fundies are either 'KJV' only, or they like the New International Version. Mainline Methodists like Revised Standard, but some make a point of reading as many translations that they can.
Personally I like the 'Skeptic's Annotated Bible' myself :)
Good News For Modern Man is an easy read where they spare you the details. You'll get the basic gist of the story but that's about it.
I use two Angela - the King James version for the flavor, and because it's usually what most people quote, and if I were never familiar with the olde English phrases, I'd likely not recognize the quotation. The second version I find useful is The New American Bible - the phraseology is far more modern, it's written more as a narrative, without being chopped into little verses, and most surprisingly, it is refreshingly candid and honest in most instances.
For example, in Chapter 12 of Genesis, Abraham goes to Egypt and comes back rich in cattle and camels. The New American Bible, a Catholic publication, inserts a footnote explaining that in Abraham's time, (c.2000 BCE) camels hadn't yet been domesticated and wouldn't be for another thousand years. Now that's relative honesty, when you consider how much it would be to the Church's advantage to have you believe the Bible is inerrant.
Further, in its Preface, this book makes it clear that there is no historical evidence whatever that Abraham, Isaac or Jacob/Israel ever lived as actual people, and that's refreshingly honest, coming from a church that hides priests who molest little boys.
You can oftentimes date approximately when one of the books was written, using details like this. For example the book of Job references donkeys, not camels, so it is probably quite old. Maybe not written down that long ago, but it might well be very old oral tradition eventually written down and then added to the scriptures.
The Catholic church tends not to be all that literalist, they rely on the traditions embodied in their organization and catechism at least as much as the bible. The Catholic Church doesn't seem to have too much of a beef with the theory of evolution, for example. We in our frustrations with biblical literalists often tend to forget that there are other effective ways to be awful in the name of religion.
(By the way I think if anything, the protestant reformation's long term effect has been to require Catholicism to take the bible more and more seriously, so we may indeed see a transition to more and more literalism in the Catholic church. For instance I wouldn't be too surprised if the present day Pope starts dissing evolution someday.)
@Steve - the Big P came out not too long ago acknowledging the Big Bang (I have the URL, but it would take too long to find it), but I can't see him backpedaling to discount evolution.
Oh, the Catholic Church just LOVED the big bang theory... because the competing theory at the time was the steady state theory, which holds that the universe no beginning! Kind of hard for god to create it, under those circumstances. Big bang is far preferrable because "god did it" can fit in with it. As long as you don't take Genesis too literally! (But we know the Catholic church isn't that literalist. At least not today it isn't; like I said before I wouldn't be surprised to see that start to change.)
In any case, we are definitely going off topic (which translation is best?).
The Big Bang theory was first proposed by a Catholic priest, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lemaître
If you are just reading it for entertainment, read a teen version. Those are easier to follow. There is no point in dealing with the ol' "thees" and "thous" if you don't have to. In the end, they are all the same.
Look for the "txt speak" version.. You might be able to read the whole thing in 7 pages.