That seems to be the gist of a recent article in Christianity Today entitled Good News Glut. The article is about how the release of the Common English Bible brings more clutter to an already crowded translation market.
In the article Ken Walker points out that no one seems to know exactly how many English versions of the Bible exist. The American Bible Society says 32, Christian Book Distributors offers 50 and Paul Wenger at Phoenix Seminary says there were nearly 100 in 1950 and that the number has probably doubled by now.
I am not sure if these are all translations or versions. I doubt there are 100 different English translations. But when you throw in the various designer study Bibles that are on the market I guess it is possible there are that many versions. (Update: Jeremy tells me that Rick Mansfield lists a number of available English Bibles up to 2005)
With so many Bibles you would think people would be happy. But Wegner is not. In the article he is quoted as saying "It may be doing more damage than good. It's gotten to the point that people are making money". And Leland Ryken of Wheaton College ( a member of the ESV translation team) says "With the proliferation of Bibles, the public has become confused."
Now I want to be careful with the above quotes since I know too many people (including myself) who have been misquoted. But they do raise some interesting points.
Bibles are big business. It is difficult to determine exact numbers, but a quick scan of a Christian bookstore (those that still exist), Amazon or your local Walmart will reveal that there is almost as much choice in Bibles as there is Baskin Robbins ice cream. The question is, do we really need all these flavors?
Now, by way of disclosure I need to reveal that I am one of the Common English Bible translators. I translated the book of Judith in the Apocrypha. But I also was a bit unsure about the whole project. And my biggest question before I agreed to participate was "do we need another translation." In the end, I agreed to do it because I thought it was important that there be another Protestant Bible available that included the Apocrypha. The NRSV also includes those books, but they are not found in the NAS, NIV, ESV, NLT, or the Message (although I admit it would be interesting to read them in the Message). So, since most of the commonly used translations do not include the Apocrypha, I signed on. And yes, I was paid. Satisfactorily, but by no means handsomely.
But I am still nagged by the question, do we need so many translations, let alone so many versions. In the article Ryken makes the statement that the CEB's title is ironic since the "numerous versions have created a lack of common understanding of scripture." Perhaps he is right. In some cases you can open five different translations of a verse and read it five different ways. I wonder if it is really helping people to get the sense of what the Bible is saying.
The availability of multiple Bibles is not a new one. There have been numerous English versions before and after the 1611 KJV. But the number of Bibles produced in the 20th and 21st centuries has certainly overshadowed anything previously. The question is, though, do we need them? Are we producing and collecting Bibles the same way we do other collectible items? Have market forces come to dictate which version/translation the faithful read?
What do you think? Do we have too many translations? Is money a factor?