Many evangelicals live in a very strange world, a sort of dark Dr. Seuss landscape in which peaceful places can shift hazardously at a moment's notice. At times, the landscape is fairly flat and stable. Lots of different people and communities and ideas and concerns can exist together, with good-natured exchanges all 'round, including even the occasional sincere and civil disagreement—a sort of Serengeti water hole. But sometimes the ground transforms abruptly, and evangelicals find themselves perched on top of a steep mountain of truth. From here, any step away is a step down. Worse, any step risks a calamitous slide all the way down a slippery slope to wreckage on the opposite deadly danger below.
Such an earthquake shook the green pastures of Bible translation a couple of years ago. In recent decades, Christians have produced a wide range of versions of the Scriptures they love. Some evangelicals have grumbled ("This one is too wooden"; "That one is too idiosyncratic"), but most of us tolerate, and many even rejoice in, the diversity. At times, resistance to a translation has been more intense. Most significant and widespread among evangelicals was the criticism of the Revised Standard Version (RSV), issued in the 1950s. Many evangelicals thought this translation manifested an ominous theological agenda: a liberal agenda that challenged such key doctrines as the Virgin Birth (so Isa. 7:14 and "a young woman") and the Atonement (so 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 and the milder expiation for the KJV's propitiation). Other evangelicals, however, were not convinced that the RSV was unfaithful to the Greek and Hebrew texts and so used it as a helpful alternative to the archaic—and therefore often more misleading—expression ...1