Sunday, April 17, 2011

Biblical prose and poetry

Christopher Hitchens has a terrific piece in Vanity Fair about the King James Bible as literature. Contrast the language in these Bible versions as it relates to an injunction from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians:

American Bible Society’s “Contemporary English Version” (which Hitch picked up at an evangelical “Promise Keepers” rally on the Mall in Washington in 1997):
“Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.”
Here's the same passage from my own "Concordance" edition (Revised Standard Version) of the Bible from World Publishing:
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Lastly, the King James version:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
It's the difference between prose and poetry.

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