New generation gets a new Bible

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It’s been 33 years since the last Norwegian editions of the Bible were published so church officials thought it was about time for a new version, to reflect more modern use of the language. Its release this week after 11 years of translation work was mostly greeted with jubilation, and some criticism.

Patriotic colours for the new Norwegian version of The Bible. PHOTO: Bibelselskapet

Teams of theologists, translators and authors have worked and discussed their way forward to the new edition, which was released in the Oslo Cathedral to songs from the Oslo Soul Children’s choir and enthusiastic comments from Norway’s new archbishop Helga Byfuglien.

“Every generation deserves a Bible in a language they can relate to,” Byfuglien said, adding that work on the new edition was carried out “with respect and competence from a united group of professionals.”

The goal was to appeal to children and youth growing up in Norway, with passages written in a more modern form of Norwegian that they can understand. Adjectives like liflig have been changed to deilig (lovely, blissful), while the word used for “body” in the old version, legeme, is now the more common kropp.

The changes mean there’s a new version of The Lord’s Prayer. Instead of “Fader vår, du som er i himmelen,” the well-known introduction is now simply “Vår far i himmelen…” (Our father in heaven…)

Project leader Dag K Smemo of Bibelselskapet (The Norwegian Bible Society) called the work “extremely comprehensive,” with 1,400 pages of the Bible translated to both the bokmål and nynorsk forms of Norwegian. The publisher will also soon release an audio version plus versions in the Sami language and braille. Digital versions are also available.

Some traditional words were retained, even though they’re not often used in everyday Norwegian like salig (blessed) and frelse (saved). “We discussed whether we should change frelse to redde (the more common verb for “save”) but we ended up keeping the spiritual terms,” Anders Aschim, theologist and translator for Bibelselskapet, told newspaper Aftenposten.

Other words like herberge (lodging) were changed to husrom, though. When the translators were finished, literary experts took over. “We think this both preserved but enhanced the poetic language we find in the Bible,” said Turid Barth Pettersen, publishing chief at Bibelselskapet.

Not everyone was thrilled. One of Norway’s most acclaimed language experts and commentators, Finn-Erik Vinje, objected to some of the changes on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s national news program Wednesday, claiming that many of the original words should have been retained, anachronistic or not.

Many Norwegians nonetheless lined up outside Christian bookstores and some even came dressed in biblical costumes to be among the first to buy the new edition, the cover of which features the Norwegian colours of red, white and blue.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund