Some Notes on the New Spanish LDS Bible

September 18, 2009 | 24 comments
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My copy of the new LDS edition of the Bible in Spanish arrived yesterday, one of the 750,000 copies printed recently (according to a contact I have in the Church department that prints these materials). So I thought I would pass on my impressions.

I’m not going to dive into any details about the quality of the translation, since I don’t feel qualified to do that (I’d hesitate to do it even in my mission language, Portuguese, despite the fact that I regularly translate in that language and speak it on a daily basis). But I do have some thoughts about the design and footnotes of this edition.

The first thing I noticed when I opened this bible for the first time was the size of the type. It seems huge. It looks like it is perhaps 14 point, where my english edition is more like 10 point type. I’m sure that the designers had good reason for this, but for me it was a little annoying. I prefer more compact type, all else being equal. In the end this is probably the largest factor that makes this edition about 25% longer than the English edition (I do know that Spanish tends to be somewhat longe than English — but its not 25% longer), despite the fact that the page size of my English edition is substantially smaller. All in all, this makes this edition much larger and heavier than the non-LDS Spanish edition that it replaced. [For what its worth, the previous Spanish edition I purchased from the Church is 1157 pages in a slightly smaller page size. The new LDS edition is 1997 pages.]

I did like some parts of the design. The overall feel is lighter and more airy than either the English or the previous Spanish edition, and I love the fact that poetry is rendered as poetry (seen in Pslams, Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and scattered other places). In other respects, the design is essentially the same as the LDS English edition.

In terms of content, I expected that the notes would be basically the same, and that the Bible Dictionary/Topical Guide we are used to in English would have some equivalent in Spanish (The Church has provided a combination of these two, called the Guía para el Estudio de las Escrituras), but I was surprised to find that it was not included in this edition of the Bible! The chapter headings do seem to be straight translations of the headings in the English edition, as expected.

I was also surprised when I saw noticeably fewer footnotes than in the English edition. Pulling a couple of chapters at random, 2 Chronicles 12 has 7 footnotes in English, but just 5 in Spanish. And Isaiah 19 has 29 footnotes in English and just 16 in Spanish. Thinking that perhaps this was because in Spanish the explanations of terms weren’t as necessary, I worked through Isaiah 19 note by note, and found that 13 references to other scriptures were omitted in Spanish that were there in English and three references to articles in the Topical Guide were left out that were there in English. In terms of expanations of the terms used in the scriptures, English had 7 more than Spanish, but two Spanish explanations were present that weren’t there in English, and the Spanish edition included a reference to a scripture that wasn’t in the English edition. I do realize that some of the references we see in English are connected to language, but I never expected that to account for so many references not being included, and when I think about it, wouldn’t there be references in Spanish that are connected to language that would be included when they are not in English?

Despite these surprises and differences, I am glad to see this ediion, and I am sure that it will be a boon to members of the Church that speak Spanish, even if they know English also.

I’m interested to hear what the rest of you think, especially anyone who feels like they can comment inteligently on the choices made in this translation. If you don’t have a copy of the Spanish edition, the text and footnotes are now available on the Church’s website.

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24 Responses to Some Notes on the New Spanish LDS Bible

  1. Julie M. Smith on September 18, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Thanks for this review.

    FWIW, I think publishing the poetry as poetry and dropping the BD/TG would be great moves in English, too!

  2. Bridget Jack Meyers on September 18, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    I notice that the church is using the Casiodoro de Reina, which is about the Spanish equivalent of the King James Version. Does the church usually try to utilize King-James-era translations of the Bible in foreign languages?

  3. Rob Perkins on September 18, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    As far as I’ve been able to tell, they try to find an “authorized” edition of the Bible in each language, which is also inexpensive for the Church to print or resell. In English, that’s the 1700′s-era KJV.

    In German, the “Einheitsübersetzung” is in use in the Church, which I think is a translation approved by all the Landeskirchen together, or as many as would federate for that purpose. It’s interesting, because it contains the Apocrypha and if I recall correctly, its books are ordered the way the Catholics do it, apocrypha and all.

    The Koine Greek and Hebrew scriptures the Church published on its Scriptures CD software are 19th-century public domain documents. The Koine is the Westcott-Hort edition from that time. (It’s interesting to me that the Jehovah’s Witnesses use the same Koine edition, but the interlinear translations are different in the LDS publication in certain crucial places.)

    Generally speaking, I think most 20th Century Bible translations are under a prohibitive copyright, and the traditional enmity of Bible-based Christianity towards Mormons probably makes collaboration awkward and difficult.

  4. Julie M. Smith on September 18, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    “Generally speaking, I think most 20th Century Bible translations are under a prohibitive copyright, and the traditional enmity of Bible-based Christianity towards Mormons probably makes collaboration awkward and difficult.”

    Generally true; the NET Bible being an exception.

  5. Bob on September 18, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Is a Bible such as this considered an LDS Canon?

  6. Hiram Knickerbocker on September 18, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks for the review, just a couple of observations:

    I spoke Spanish on my Mission and the Guia (Guide) is already included in the Spanish Books of Mormon.

    The font is the larger size in the BOM as well to provide people who perhaps are unable to afford glasses, the opportunity to read the scriptures. I have not seen the new Bible yet, but If you look at a newer Triple Combination, the font is likely the same size in both books.

    Many times the scriptures do not translate to exactly the same meaning, Jehovah is often used in place of the LORD that we would expect in the English version so some items appear differently.

  7. Kent Larsen on September 18, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Bridget, I think there is a preference for Protestant versions over Catholic versions, which might explain part of their choices. The Reina-Valera is the traditional version used by Protestants.

  8. Cameron on September 18, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Do they only have one size available in the new Spanish edition? If so, I would think they tried to accommodate those with bad vision by having font size in-between ultra-compact English quad and super-sized high priest edition. I know in Tahiti they just have a Protestant Bible with horrendously small type (about 8pt) and I’m sure 2/3 of the older members can’t read it at all.

  9. Kevin Barney on September 18, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Jack, they started with the old version because of a copyright issue. There was a previous thread here at T&S that went over that in some detail.

    And Julie, I’m with you on the BD and TG tags. What a waste of valuable space!

  10. Kent Larsen on September 18, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Julie (4):
    I’m not sure what you mean by “prohibitive copyright.” As far as I’ve seen, the copyright on these translations of the Bible is no different than any other copyright. But you are right.

    The copyright question occurs here because the last version of the Reina Valera in the public domain dates from the early 1900s. The Church was using the 1960 version, which is covered by copyright, because the older versions used old language that most members don’t understand.

    I’m sure that this copyright situation was a major factor in deciding to do this translation. Since an almost identical situation exists in Protuguese, and since it is the next largest language in the Church, I expect a Portuguese translation will be done next.

  11. manaen on September 19, 2009 at 5:17 am

    8.
    Distribution now offers the Spanish Bible in regular and extra-large prints. The regular-print Bible is available in bonded leather, hardcover, and paperback in black or burgundy. The extra-large-print Bible is available in black paperback only.
    .
    I just received Distribution’s notice that my copy shipped.
    .
    I’m a big fan of the TG/BD. I was looking forward to having them in Spanish.

  12. Julie M. Smith on September 19, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Kent,

    For example, the NIV will allow 500 verses without written permission. I think there is a sense that they wouldn’t let those darn Mormons have permission for more.

    Whereas something like the NET Bible has complete permission to reproduce as one of its guiding principles.

  13. Website Design Kent on September 19, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    I like the design of the new LDS bible.

  14. Alan on September 19, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Kent, your comment number 10 seems to suggest that this is a Church-produced translation. It is not. It is the same Reina-Valera (RV) version that the Church has always preferred in missionary work and for use in the churches. Because the Spanish vocabulary and usage has been updated more frequently (and more recently) in the Reina-Valera, it is more accessible to modern Spanish speakers that is the KJV for modern English speakers. My mission experience was that most people with fairly low literacy understood it well, though it is written in a refined literary style and is not a “simplified” translation.

    The printing of poetry as such is not an innovation by the Church. Rather, if I am not mistaken it has generally been printed this way in the RV version.

    The main value added by the Church with this eddition is through the cross-referencing with other standard works, just as it was with the LDS edition of the English Bible (KJV). That the referencing is not as extensive as with the English edition is disappointing, but not surprising. The production of the Church’s fully cross-referenced English-language scriptures was a monumental effort that really spanned decades, if you go back to the early work on the topical guide in the 1970′s.

    As to whether the CR version of the Spanish bible is “canon”, it is no more or less so than the King James Bible – “as far as it is translated correctly.”

  15. Kent Larsen on September 19, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Alan, I think you may misunderstand copyright law or its application in this case. It is true that the Church’s edition is NOT a completely new translation. It is, however, a new revision of the 1909 Reina Valera. By doing this, the Church escapes the problem with the previous edition the Church used (the 1960 revision) — that it was copyright by the local affiliate of the American Bible Society in Spain. [Anyone interested in the various revisions to the Reina-Valera can review the Wikipedia article on the Reina-Valera version.]

    I do know that the “usage has been updated more frequently” than in the King James Version, and this meant that the more recent editions, those intelligible to Spanish-speakers today, are covered by copyright. The 1909 is in the public domain, but no one wants to use it as is, because its language is archaic in places.

    So, no, it is NOT the same Reina-Valera version the Church has used in the past.

    I didn’t mean to suggest that printing poetry was an innovation in the Bible, just that it was different for me, as a primarily English-speaking member. I do think it would help if they did this in English also.

  16. m&m on September 19, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    and dropping the BD/TG would be great moves in English, too

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide do this the next time around, if there is a next time. (Don’t know if this matters, but the Guide to the Scriptures is already online in English, at the top of the list of Study Helps.)

  17. m&m on September 19, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    I’m a big fan of the TG/BD.

    I am, too, btw…I’d be sad if they dropped them. Maybe someday they’ll be the kind of thing people ooooo and aahhhh over — “OH! You have an edition with the old Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide! COOOOOL!”
    :)

  18. Bridget Jack Meyers on September 20, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Thanks everyone who answered my question on the Spanish version.

  19. Raymond Takashi Swenson on September 21, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Maybe a lot of those who visit T&S are too cool to use the Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide, but for the general membership of the Church, it’s probably the only thing they have that provides context for much of the Bible. It is cited extensively in Sunday School teacher manuals as an approved source of basic background information and the standard lesson plans frequently suggest having class members read from it.

    Certainly, there are so many words used in the scriptures that are near synonyms that just doing a word search on the text is insufficient for finding all of the scriptures referring to a single topic, unless you have already know that those words are synonyms.

    I know that when a guide on basic Church doctrines was added to the Triple Combination in Japanese, my Mom really appreciated it.

    Those who don’t like the BD and TG just because of the weight and thickness it adds to the Bible can always get an electronic version of the scriptures for their PDA/iphone/BlackBerry. Is there one for the Kindle?

    I don’t read Spanish, but as another victim of presbyopia, I think it’s great to print the scriptures in a larger typeface. A lot of the terms in the Bible are so unusual that people need to be able to discern every letter to read it properly, and in my experience a lot of people in my Gospel Doctrine classes have enough difficulty reading and pronouncing Bible terms without making the letters hard to see.

  20. madchemist on September 21, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    I don’t mind the TG/BD being in the appendix.

    I mind all of those blasted footnotes telling me if I see a scripture talking about marriage, that I need to look in the TG under family, father, mother, son, daughter, and pet. If I’m not smart enough to figure those things out, maybe I should be reading an illustrated BoM or Bible instead of an adult version. That footnote space is valuable. Leave blank space for us to write our own footnotes/impressions, please leave out the useless TG references.

  21. Wilfried on September 21, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Kent, could you tell a little more about the choice of the language in relation to comprehensibility? Is there, in this version, a tendency to protect more archaic language as conducive to religiosity? Or is the tendency toward clarity and modern language use? I’m interested in this topic as it relates to my post on thee-thou-thy.

  22. Alan on September 21, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Wow, Kent, I stand corrected. This is actually a Church-sponsored revision of the Bible, a bold move that, as far as I know, the Church has not undertaken before.

    I wonder if this opens the door to the Church putting out its own revisions of long-standing translations in other languages such as German, French, and especially Portuguese, if similar copyright issues exist?

  23. Kent Larsen on September 22, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Wilfried (21), I’m afraid I can’t be much help. Before I could even attempt to answer your question, I’d have to have a lot more time to read this edition. In addition, I don’t think my Spanish is good enough to really judge. I can read and understand just fine (and I manage to speak it on occasion), but I don’t have the experience to judge whether words that I understand are understood by the average LDS Church member.

    I was rather hoping others would jump in and indicate what they thought on this issue.

    Alan (22), I agree that it is an important move. IMO, the move was required because of the copyright status of the Reina-Valera translation, which is owned by a protestant group (an affiliate of the American Bible Society). Before this edition, the Church was purchasing copies of the bible from them, and was, I believe, unable to get the rights to do its own edition with the footnotes we have in English, or even publish a quad.

    I do think that this is likely to happen with other languages. IMO, Portuguese is probably next, simply because of the number of Church members who speak Portuguese, and because the copyright situation is identical.

    I do not know what other languages have similar copyright isssues.

  24. FoxyJ on September 27, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    I haven’t had a lot of time to look at the new version in depth (I am not a native speaker, but my undergrad degree was in Spanish Translation and I have an MA in Spanish), but what I mostly see from looking at Genesis is a ‘standardization’ of language to sound more like the word choice in the other translated works of the Church. For example, the LDS version uses ‘semilla’ to translate seed, which is the same word used for ‘seed’ in the Pearl of Great Price and in instances in the Book of Mormon. The other Reina Valera version used ‘simienta’, which can also mean ‘seed’, but doesn’t really fit other scriptural language as used in the LDS church.

    Like I said, I haven’t had a chance to really look at the Bible in depth yet. On the surface, that seems to me to be the main change–adapting the Bible to feel more like the other LDS scriptures. I don’t mean this in some sort of Orwellian attempt to control language, but just in the sense of context and connotation. All groups have certain language usage, and we certainly have plenty of them in the Church in English. For example, we usually say Holy Ghost or the Spirit, but less often Holy Spirit. Stuff like that. I definitely want to look more closely at the Bible, but so far it “feels” much more like reading the standard works than the older version did.

    As far as the typeface, I imagine that was an effort to accomodate readers who are either less literate or who have physical difficulty with reading due to age or other reasons. The Spanish triple combination I have also has larger typeface than my English one.