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New Spanish Bible Unveiled

TIMES RELIGION WRITER

After 10 painstaking years of translating from ancient Hebrew and Greek Scripture, Latin American scholars and Los Angeles pastors gathered Thursday in Baldwin Park for the nationwide launch of a long-awaited contemporary Spanish-language version of the Bible.

The new translation, billed as the Nueva Version Internacional or NVI, drew on the expertise of 20 renowned Bible scholars from Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Ecuador and other nations across the Americas.

“This is the Spanish Bible of the 3rd millennium,” said Luciano Jaramillo, executive secretary of the translation committee. “Here, we have the first Bible ever translated by evangelical Latin Americans.”

The translation, a $1.5-million project undertaken by the International Bible Society, comes at a time when Spanish-language Bible sales are booming in this country, reflecting the increased size of the American Latino market. Broadman and Holman Bible Publishing in Tennessee has seen its Spanish Bible sales explode over the last five years to more than 4 million copies per year, said sales representative Margo Bradley.

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The NVI edition seeks to dethrone the venerable Reina Valera, a Spanish translation of the Bible that is comparable to its influential English counterpart, the King James Version. Theologians have long complained that like the King James Version, the language of Reina Valera is archaic.

There are about 20 other Spanish-language translations of the Bible. Many of those have been criticized for paraphrasing so heavily into today’s Spanish that the accuracy of the ancient text has been lost. Jaramillo said the NVI strikes a balance by capturing the poetry of books such as Psalms and Proverbs while retaining the readability of conversational Spanish.

At a breakfast held to introduce more than 120 Los Angeles evangelical pastors and church leaders from all denominations to the new Bible, participants such as Pastor Obed Simite praised the NVI as a more effective educational tool for today’s Latino congregation.

“This is exactly what we needed,” said Simite of Iglesia Bethel, a Pentecostal church in Pasadena. “It’s the first Bible translated by Latin Americans who understand our language and our customs. They’re like us. This is God speaking to us on a level we can comprehend.”

Nellie Lopez, also of Iglesia Bethel added: “I always felt something was missing from the Reina Valera. I searched for more clarity and never grasped it. Now, I found it here.”

Still, publishers say that cracking the respected Reina Valera’s market has so far proved almost impossible. The 1909 Reina Valera version has been updated twice by the United Bible Societies, once in 1960 and again in 1995. The 1960 version remains the most popular among older Latino Christians and is used by more than 85% of all Spanish Protestant churches. Publishers predict that it will continue to be the top seller past the turn of the century.

“It takes about seven years for a new [Bible] to gain acceptance,” said Bradley of Broadman and Holman Publishing. “If a big leader like Billy Graham backs it, that’s the only time you’re sure it’s going to be a big hit,”

The new Bible was dedicated the night before in a ceremony at Templo Calavario in Santa Ana. After the launching in Los Angeles, backers of the new translation plan stops in New York, Chicago, Miami, Mexico City, Guatemala, Argentina and Colombia. The International Bible Society is hoping that the Spanish NVI will sell as well as their English New International Version. Since its debut 20 years ago, the English NIV has sold more than 100 million copies.

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Jaramillo said that the NVI does not aim to eliminate the Reina Valera. He urged pastors to use it to complement their other biblical texts.

“There is no one perfect translation of the Bible,” said Jaramillo. “This shouldn’t be about competition. One should never spend their lives on one Bible alone.”


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