By Jose Najera
Jose Najera is a Southern Baptist freelance writer from Fresno, California. He has a Navy and Army background as a journalist and public relations specialist. He has a special interest in Bible translations, which gave rise to his interview with Dr. Blake Hearson who is the editor-in-chief of the Old Testament of the Modern English Version and assistant professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Najera: Dr. Hearson, I understand that you are a Southern Baptist scholar and that you teach Old Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. How do you think Southern Baptists will like the Modern English Version (MEV)? What need do you think it will fill for Southern Baptists?
Hearson: Southern Baptists that like the KJV and the NKJV and even the NASB should really enjoy the MEV. It is faithful to the manuscript tradition of the KJV and seeks to retain the beauty of expression found in the KJV while eliminating archaisms. There are many conservative Christians who enjoy the KJV, but it is becoming increasingly hard to use as the English language continues to develop and change. Therefore, the MEV seeks to address that need. There are a large number of Southern Baptist scholars on the translation committees, so this fact will certainly give SBC churches confidence in the translation.
Najera: Who is the translation for?
Hearson: It would really be a shame to limit the audience in any way. The MEV is really meant to make the Bible accessible to anyone who speaks the English language. Those who have appreciated the beauty of the KJV will find the MEV comfortable and familiar and easier to read. However, the MEV is not meant to be limited to just those who are familiar with the KJV. The beauty of this translation is that it is accessible to any English speaker.
Najera: How does the MEV differ from the NKJV? Does the MEV differ much from the KJV? If so, how?
Hearson: The primary difference is in the updating of archaisms. Wherever there was a phrase or word from the KJV that no longer made sense to the modern English speaker, the MEV sought to clarify it with a different term. There are also some points in the texts in which the KJV translators had limited information about how to translate the Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew word. The MEV uses the same manuscripts that the KJV translators did but, thanks to greater archaeological and semantic information, we can translate these terms a bit more accurately. The NKJV was an effort to do similar work, but a number of years have passed since it was put forward. So the MEV continues and improves on the effort to help keep the KJV tradition alive and well.
Najera: Why was the translation done?
Hearson: The project started as a means to help chaplains in English-speaking military forces by providing a base English text for them to work with what would be acceptable to all. Dr. Jim Linzey was instrumental in this process and is a better one to ask.
Najera: What biblical texts are the basis of the MEV? Why?
Hearson: The Textus Receptus and the Ben Hayyim edition of the Masoretic Text were used because these were the texts used by the translators of the KJV.
Najera: What will the MEV do for the world?
Hearson: That is really up to God! Our hope is that the MEV will connect with those who have used and loved the KJV and NKJV. We also hope it will make the Scriptures available and readable for any who may want to read the Scriptures for the first time. It is for those who seek a translation that has both a lyrical beauty and clear style. The KJV has given several expressions and idioms to the English language that people sometimes do not even realize. In several modern translations these connections with our language are lost. The MEV maintains this connection so that people will recognize certain connections when they pick up the Bible either for the first time or the 70th time.
Najera: What will the MEV do for pastors?
Hearson: The beauty of the KJV style will make the MEV a wonderful text to preach and read from at the pulpit. Additionally, the MEV follows the formal equivalence translation philosophy. This means that it is close to a literal rendering of the original languages without being so absolutely wooden that the meaning is obscure in English. Therefore, the pastor can pick up the MEV and trust that he is getting a translation that is faithful to the Hebrew and Greek texts. The pastor can also have confidence that the translators worked hard to be as faithful as possible to the inspired Word of God. Additionally, the fact that there were chaplains and pastors involved in the translation process means that there was an eye toward ministry when the work of the translation was done. I think this is a tremendously balanced approach that will be invaluable to pastors as they study the Bible and relate its message to their congregations.
Najera: How did you enjoy being on the translation committee?
Hearson: It was a privilege. As an editor, I had the opportunity to work with several of the scholars and chaplains whom I respect. Those individuals I came to know through the project certainly earned my respect as well. The amazing thing about the Committee on Bible Translation is that it is multi-denominational. When you look at the make-up of the committee, you would think that there would be no way it could work. Yet, just the opposite was true. The MEV translation was not driven by any denominational agenda. But rather, there was a love for the Word of God that drove our efforts from the get-go. Were there disagreements? Of course! Those disagreements that did arise were always motivated by a concern to translate the Scriptures in the most accurate way possible. The result was a surprising unity and respect for one another that can only be a result of the Spirit of God at work in us. It was an amazing experience. I was humbled to work with so many great scholars and men of God. I think that I can safely say that most, if not all, of us who served on the MEV translation project are richer for the experience.
Editorial note: My experience with Dr. Blake Hearson was incredibly enriching. He is a genuine man of God who emitted confidence in his calling and scholarship. The Modern English Version was released on September 2, 2014 and the publisher is Charisma Media.–Jose Najera