Ahoy, friends — we’ve been bouncing back and forth from place to place, with dear ones from among our friends and family, catching up with lives from which time has kept us apart. Some joys, some deep frustrations, on the verge of resuming Abingdon days.
I’ve reached that point in travel and time zones, intensified by last week’s illness and subsequent exhaustion followed by a Sunday IV Advent/Christmas Eve, where I no longer really know when I am. On the positive side, seeing Laura, Si, Thomas, and Lydia (in Indy) and Nate (in New Haven) has refreshed my soul and reminded me what splendid adults our next generation have grown into being; and I’ve been sleeping like nobody’s business, often for eight hours or more, which [imaginary] constant readers will recall is highly atypical of me. And violent digestive illness does cut down on the holiday weight gain, though in a very unpleasant way.
Today we leave New Haven and strike out for Mount Desert Island, where we’ll catch up with the Greatest School Teacher in the USA Pippa and her partner and their dog Goose. It’s a long stretch, but Maine must be honoured, and we will see Margaret’s sister Jeanne and their mum, and stay with old-time undergraduate pals Helen and Marc. I’m not sure of the day of the week, and can only guess at the time of day, but that time of life thou mayst in me behold when so many ventures begun early on — family, friends, teaching, ministry — bear fruit and remind me that I could not possibly ask for a more fulfilling, more abundant, more expansive life. With Lou Gehrig and George Bailey, I’m the luckiest, and richest, man in the world. Deo gratias!
And all this, before I even begin my ministry in Abingdon (30 January, 7 PM, plenty of room at St Helen’s)!
Last night/yesterday afternoon, a pernicious bug or a source of food poisoning afflicted some in the Adam and Harris-Adam families. First Si, then Margaret, then I succumbed and purged violently. We slept poorly and arrived at the airport at 4:45 or so exhausted, nauseous, achey, decaffeinated, with no appetite.
The two plane flights and various rides between points went smoothly, even when Margaret and I weren’t exactly smooth ourselves. In the end, we made our way to our comfortable hotel and have been zoning out. We cancelled our visit to my sister, whose own delicate health might be imperilled by a vomiting bug — really hard to do, but it seems necessary.
Unwinding in our htoel room. I napped on our flights, and will probably go to sleep early tonight. But I do feel a little better.
After running, breakfast, reading, and various other grandchild-oriented activities, we went to pre-school to watch the Christmas Program (not a pageant). Grandson and granddaughter excelled in their respective roles: Grandson performed the Reindeer Pokey (Hokey Pokey, but dressed as a reindeer), and Granddaughter sat still, with angel wings and halo. Prime entertainment, headed for Broadway in… twenty years or so.
Two miles (1.8 miles) in the morning, fruit and bagel breakfast, my introduction to my granddaughter Lydia, reading and talking and doing French homework with Thomas, and relaxing start of day with Si and Laura and Margaret.
A long time ago, I was invited to write a review of the NRSVue of the Bible, in exchange for a copy (all this through Mike Morrell at Speakeasy). I reasoned that as I own many copies of the NRSV in varying bindings with varying annotations and varying bonus features, I was unlikely to buy a copy of the ue (the Updated Edition, styled in lowercase so as to foreground the extent to which it’s still a bearer of the NRSV brand) — so I might as well write a review and earn a copy. That’s how and why I’m writing this hot… lukewarm… cool to the touch… all right, downright cold take on this new edition. (To be fair to myself, I only received the copy at the end of October, and although I had promised to write a review within a month, one or two things have happened since then, as you may have noticed.)
This edition is from Zondervan, the brown Leathersoft edition. I’m not sure whether it’s their ordinary or personal size.
First things first: I deplore the proliferation of biblical translations. The profound value of having recognisable, memorable points of reference far outweighs the benefit of having boutique translations for very contingency. Now, that’s technically not the case of the NRSVue, which is not a new alternative, but a step in the evolution of the KJV > RV/ASV > RSV > NRSV trajectory. Apparently, the NRSV (non-updated edition) will not be reprinted in the future, or so we are told. But the printing of updated editions of Bibles has almost the same effect; more sales opportunities, more near-duplicate buying, and less recollection of just what one verse or another says. Yes, by all means, it’s important to address ableist language, person-first characterisation, and continuing refinement of gender inclusivity. But, woe, alas, I rue the effect that frequent ‘updates’ and near-infinite alternative editions has on general biblical literacy.*
Finally, very few reviewers comment on one of the greatest hindrances to fine, vigorous major Bible translation: to wit, the necessity of producing Bibles that can justify the cost of production by selling in vast numbers. You need to produce a translation that can be read aloud in church, but there are some biblical locutions that would cause a scandal if one read them from the legilium. So no matter the good intentions or laudable (or damnable) ideology informing the translation, it must be church-able, and that militates against a translator’s freedom to propose the translation that best expresses what the translator perceives in the text. Indeed, even the relatively anodyne question of whether ekklêsia should be translated ‘church’ — there’s very little semantic basis for reading the word that way — would be off the table for a translation that expects to sell to the ecclesiastical market.**
All of that being said: I will continue to use the NRSVue as I have used the NRSV since it was first promulgated. I haven’t seen a translation whose rationale involves no special pleading, but I find the special pleading of which one may plausibly accuse the NRSVue noticeably less egregious than those of other translations. I have particular annoyances about some decisions that have made their way from NRSV to -ue. For instance, the NRSV opts, in the name of gender inclusion, to translate adelphoi sometimes as ‘brothers and sisters’ (fine with me), but other times as ‘beloved’, which has the double drawback of (a) being the most prominent translation for agapêtoi (‘beloved’, a different word Paul knows and uses in other contexts); and (b) suggesting to the English reader that Paul is here varying his rhetoric when in fact he’s repeating a term that he uses very often. I just don’t understand the rationale for that decision. The NRSVue commendably corrects these, resorting usually to ‘brothers and sisters.’ I wonder whether modern readers perceive ‘brethren’ more as male-coloured than as a collective term for a group of sympathetic people, but so long as the NRSVue isn’t trying pushing ‘beloved’ (or other misleading alternatives) I’m not going to kick up a fuss.
The physical characteristics of this Bible — soft leather-like binding, two ribbons, gilt edges, presentation page, floppy enough for a reader who requires (for some reason) floppy Bibles — all seem excellent for the short interval during which I’ve used it. The type for the body copy — you knew I would comment on it — is ‘Zondervan NRSVue’, a bespoke design from 2K/DENMARK. It reminds me somewhat of Huerta Tipográfica’s Alegreya; moderate contrast, serif, sturdy and readable even at small sizes. Granted how thin the pages must be, they are much more easily turned than some thin book papers (students may affirm the sight of me standing in front of a lecture room trying desperately to turn a page that my old, dry fingers can’t gain traction.
Tl;dr — You probably already know whether you want an NRSV or some rival; the NRSVue probably won’t affect that inclination. It doesn’t change that much, and the changes I see are for the better.
* Of course, I would say that, as a cardholder for almost every social privilege operative in the 21st century Euro-American cultural sphere — I know, I confess. I have no brief against these translational imperatives (by no means anti-‘woke’); rather, alert to some of the losses attendant on doing the right thing when one criterion militates against another.
** Yes, I said ‘in the text’. It’s a perfectly viable shorthand for a state of affairs that all my readers will recognise, and as such it does not bind me to metaphysical claims about textuality.
Can’t get much more ordinary than me running my two miles, making hot breakfast, feeding and walking the dogs, going to church, home to feed and walk the dogs… It’s ordinary in Advent.
That’s what I always say when Minke and Flora and I are passing other pedestrians, or dogs — though to be sure, Minke is usually so apocalyptically dramatic when she notices another dog that there’s hardly any point to trying to dissuade her.
I had a busy day yesterday with some last-minute errands, so I was hoping for some relaxation today. We’ve been taking things pretty slowly, Minke and Flora and me. After I ran my miles (actually took the shorter route, so it was more a mile and a half), said Morning Prayer, made and delighted in a hot breakfast, and spent the morning trying to change my address for a handful of locations, the ladies and I took a two-mile walk. They were mostly good, except for the times they encountered any other dog. Oh, well.
Yesterday I spent the late morning and the whole afternoon cleaning the flat in Headington that we recently vacated, and preparing it for incoming guests of our hosts. After a busy start to the morning, I was quite weary and not a little hungry by the time I got back to Abingdon (the excellent bus route between Oxford and Abingdon slows down at ‘commuter’ times, both for the busyness of the bus line and the traffic congestion). I got close to eight hours sleep last night — a rarity for me.
This morning I got up, ran my miles, made coffee, fruit breakfast, fed the pups, went to Morning Prayer (on my own this morning, with Abingdon School emissaries preparing the nave for their holiday activities in the background), and now have done my ‘visibility’ ministry at Costa, and will go fetch some groceries and head home, with no pressing tasks for the rest of the day, thanks be. Maybe I’ll enjoy a cheeky G&T this afternoon. Maybe a nap. Mmmmmmm….
Wednesday night I gave a talk to the Abingdon Rotary Club. I was assigned the title ‘A Christmas Message’, so I was constrained not to bang on about fountain pens or deconstruction or how proud I am of Margaret and our children; instead, I talked about A Christmas Carol and
I pointed out how reticent both works are about Christian faith, scarcely referring to Jesus at all, and acknowledging ‘church’ and ‘faith’ and even ‘God’ mostly just in conventional idioms (one exception, of course, being Tiny Tim’s famous prayer). These stories, both deeply embedded in contemporary holiday culture to the extent that for many they articulate the true spirit of Christmas, have little or nothing to say about… Jesus Christ.
Yet at the same time, both depend for a lot of the tension and energy of their plots on their occurring at Christmas. So we have the peculiar phenomenon of two deeply Christmas works, that are hardly at all Christian.
I went on from there, and indeed had noted some nuances and details that I’ve skipped past in the summary above. It went down very well, I think, even though I fear I surpassed the stipulated fifteen minute maximum duration….
Ran my miles, fruit breakfast, on my way to Morning Prayer, thence to Headington where I’ll give a once-over to the now-vacated flat. If I can get that done promptly, I’ll get back here with a view to (a) relaxing (b) reading (c) further working on the house.
Margaret and I need to work out a plan (with limited connectivity) to replace her phone; we have several alternatives in play, but nothing seems obviously to be best.
Running (2 mi.), less concern about my right foot/ordinary plantar pain in my left, fruit breakfast, Morning Prayer, rain (the rivers are higher than I’ve seen them before here in Abingdon); but this morning I had a planning meeting with my boss, so we’re well on our way forward to my full-on part-time ministry here in Abingdon.