Quaker Universalist Voice

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Scripture Translation 2

A Book Review of John Goldingay, First Testament: A New Translation (2018)

Translation is not an easy task.  Translation of documents that have been sacralized as scriptures with a long tradition and necessary for liturgical use is a much harder task.

Here are two new translations of Genesis:

These  two new translations are different, arising out of the best efforts of translators embedded in their cultures regarding identity, economics, politics, and gender.  Such is our universal challenge in translation and in understanding translations.

S. Bray and J. Hobbins, Genesis 1-11: A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators (2018) focuses on the creation story in Genesis.  J. Goldingay, The First Testament:  A New Translation (2018) covers that Genesis section as part of the translation of the larger scripture selection of the first 39 books of the Bible.

Some Bible translators explain their purposes.  Others let the translations speak for themselves.  Goldingay is substantially silent about the translation process.  Bray and Hobbins argue for retaining the repetitions of the text, listening for distant vocabulary echoes throughout the Bible, respect for earlier translations, suitability of the text for worship reading, and embrace of the comfortable phrasings and vocabulary of religious traditions. 

Bray and Hobbins are dismissive of gender as an issue of accuracy in older translations.  They defer to traditional gendered translations. Goldingay is ambivalent about gender in the translation process.  By contrast, the translation of Genesis by J.M. Spears available from Quaker Universalist Fellowship for free downloading here takes the issue of gender accuracy seriously, with more significant results for women in reading and as hearers of the text of scripture.  

Quakers: It is hard to deal with the Bible scripture.  Quakers often treat it with silence.  It is particularly hard to deal with the creation stories of the Bible and with science. There is some concern that science diminishes a role for a creator God.  There is some concern about the consequences of the use of our experience and reason in addition to tradition as determinative authority for describing reality.  Science can disturb understanding of the existence and activity of God in our world.


  • How do Quakers deal with gender in the Bible in First Day School and adult Bible study?
  • How do Quakers deal with the creation stories in the scriptures and current science?
  • What are the effective ways that Quaker meetings have beneficially engaged science and scripture?


  • Samuel Bray and John Hobbins, Genesis 1-11: A New Old Translation for Readers, Scholars, and Translators (2018) 
  • John Goldingay, The First Testament: A New Translation (2018)
  • Joanne Spears, The Creation Story 
  • A. Alumkal, Paranoid Science: The Christian Right’s War on Reality (2018)
  • E Ecklund and C. Scheitle, Religion vs. Science: What Religious people Really Think (2018)
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