The purpose of this blog is to read through the entire Bible, chapter by chapter, in both English and Japanese.
Why are you doing this?
There are three main reasons:
- I’ve always wanted to do a complete read-through of the Bible. I’ve read the entire New Testament, but only about half of the Hebrew Bible. I’ve read very little of the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books (more on that later).
- I’m working on learning Japanese. My reading comprehension is very good, but I’m hoping that doing this will help me learn more kanji (Japanese characters).
- I think that reading the Bible in two translations – English and Japanese – will help remind me that, barring learning Hebrew and Greek, I’ll always be reading the Bible in translation. It’ll help reinforce the understanding that translation is the first stage of interpretation. Reading the Bible in another translation will hopefully give me a new interpretive perspective on it.
What translations will you be using?
For the English, I will be using the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), available online at Oremus Bible Browser. The NRSV is an interdenominational translation whose team came from Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish backgrounds. It’s pretty well respected for its translation philosophy (as literal as possible, as free as necessary), though some criticize decisions to use more “inclusive” language. I’ll give my opinion on that when the issue arises.
For the Japanese, I will be using the Shin Kyoudouyaku, or New Collaborative Translation (I’ll abbreviate it NCT). Like the NRSV, it’s an interdenominational translation, and it’s used by many churches in Japan, including my own. The “new” part of it is due to a decision in the original Collaborative Translation to translate all names as closely to the Hebrew and Greek as possible. This was not popular with Japanese Christians who were used to using the traditional, usually Portuguese-derived names for Biblical figures. The NCT restores the older names while leaving much the original translation intact.
How will the project work?
Each day, I’ll try to read one chapter of the Bible in both English and Japanese, and write a short summary of my thoughts. The first part I may bend because of my schedule with work and travel; I may have to skip some days and play catch-up on others. The second part I may bend because I’m a very wordy writer. I’ll try to avoid walls of text, though.
I will start with the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. I intend to read the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books after that. Then I’ll read through the New Testament, where I do plan to “cheat” and read Mark first (I’ll explain why when we get there.)
By my own estimate, this will take almost four years. Just the first two books are going to take three months,and the Psalms will take almost half a year just on their own.
Who are you, and why aren’t you using your real name?
I’m a 28-year old American woman currently teaching English in Japan. I have a bachelors degree in Religion and East Asian Studies (double-major) and a Masters in Religious Studies. I am also rather nerdy – I like science fiction and fantasy, I enjoy comic books and movies. I’m single with no interest in getting married any time soon. I love working with children. I was born in the year of the Rat, I’m a Taurus, and I test INFJ, even though I don’t particularly believe any of those last three are valid.
I’m choosing to remain anonymous because, while I don’t plan to say anything on this blog that I wouldn’t want anyone else to read, I am conscience of myself as a representative of my workplace. If ever I should find myself in a situation where I feel more free to use my real name, I will do so.
What are your biases?
- Christian. I read the Bible through the lens of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. This doesn’t mean I think everything in the Hebrew Bible is just a prelude to his life, though. It holds merits on its own. But Jesus will be a major interpretive lens for me.
- Lutheran. I come from a very Lutheran family and have stayed in the tradition because, in the words of Nadia Bolz-Weber (who is awesome), Lutheranism has provided the language for me to describe what I experience to be true in life. This doesn’t mean that I ascribe to every point of traditional Lutheran theology. I am also well-aware that Luther said some truly dickish things in his writings, so you don’t have to point them out to me.
- Religious Studies major. I accept source-criticism of the Bible. The Bible is a collection of books written by people over the course of centuries. The Bible is multivocal. It is situated in historical circumstances. Much of it existed as an oral tradition before it was written down. Books are sometimes made by editing together several different documents or traditions, long after the events they describe. The Bible is written in different genres, some of which are meant to be taken more “literally” than others.
- Libertarian Left. I believe – in large part because of my reading of the Bible – that it is the responsibility of society to care for the poor, and that we should have broad civil rights. I’m not a big fan of authoritarianism, liaison-faire capitalism, sexism, racism, homophobia, or just plain being cruel to people.
What’re your hopes for accomplishing with this project?
Well, like I said, I want to reinforce the idea in my mind of translation-as-interpretation, and get a new perspective on the Bible by looking at it from two POVs simultaneously. I want to read parts of the Bible I haven’t read before.
Otherwise… I’m hoping that it’ll help grow and mature my faith. There’s always room for that. I may not be religious in sync with George Lucas, but he once made a great comment. To paraphrase slightly, the ancients who were painting pictures on cave walls had a spiritual score of about 3. Nowadays we’re at about 8 – but the scale goes up to infinity. There’s always room for learning more; so long as we’re in this life, we’ll always see “in a mirror, dimly.” (1 Cor. 13:12)
What’re your fears of what might happen with this project?
First of all, that as with many things I won’t be able to finish what I started. In particular, my schedule can be very tight some days, I worry that if I fall behind I will never catch up. At the same time, this will be helpful in giving myself some discipline to write.
Second, as it will take almost four years to complete this project, I will be 32 by the time I finish this. At a different point in my life, I fear that I’ll look back at early thoughts I wrote with embarrassment. Please view this as a journey, and my understanding may change by the time I’m done.
Lastly, I do worry that this might damage my faith somehow. You do hear stories about people who claim they became atheists just because they decided to sit down and read the Bible cover-to-cover. In my experience, though, these are usually people who have come from traditions that would hate points 3 and 4 of my biases. I’ve grown up knowing that there are things in the Bible that make your skin crawl. I want to face them, and I’m hoping I won’t be broken by them.
I screen comments. Spam, hateful speech (esp. slurs), and personal attacks on me (as opposed to my writing) will mean your comment isn’t posted.
Other than that, wish me luck! If you have questions, let me know, I might make an FAQ eventually.