Uneasy Lies the Word (A Layman's Look at Revision)
A.J. Pell is editor of the Canadian Evangelical Review and an instructor
of Liturgy, Anglican Studies Program, Regent College, Vancouver.
Dudley St. John Magnus is a life-long newspaper reporter, now retired. For over 16 years he was church page editor for a major Winnipeg daily. The roots of this book go back to his newspaper career, to a time when he began to make notes of the differences he discovered between major translations of the Bible. Those notes have been expanded into this book, his personal exploration of the differences he perceives between the King James Version, the Revised Standard Version, and the New English Bible and how those differences trouble him.
Uneasy Lies the Word is not an easy book to read. Part of the difficulty arises from the nature of Magnus’s quest to note and comment on the differences in the three major translations. Catalogues, even when arranged by topic, are not conducive to continuous reading. But most of the difficulty in reading this book lies in the fact that it is written in a newspaper style. A single chapter does not necessarily follow a logical line of thought and argument. The book as a whole is a shapeless collection of articles on the general topic of the Bible.
A strong feeling of nostalgia pervades this book. Behind his facade of supposed objectivity, Magnus is mourning the disappearance of the old, one-Bible-translation, English-language Christendom. He points to his villains, those theologians who work in strictly academic circles and are not particularly familiar with current grassroots thinking among the laity. These academics certainly could profit from heeding the feelings Magnus puts on paper. Better explanatory footnotes in modern translations of the Bible would help thoughtful laypersons understand the differences between translations. But on his side, the author should recognize that diversity within Christianity, even within specific denominations, is here to stay. In such a church, Dudley Magnus will have to learn to follow not “the experts” but his conscience.