Have you heard the Good News?

Friday September 23, 2016 Written by Published in Church Talk

IN THE US, websites from The New York Times to The Washington Post to Forbes have been reacting to a new emoji-studded Bible translation, the latest effort to make the Holy Book appeal to young readers.


“Bible Emoji: Scripture 4 Millenials, now available on Apple’s iBooks, comes from the Twitter account @BibleEmoji, which replaces select words in Bible verses with corresponding smiley faces or other small icons used in text messages and on social media.

This version follows other lighthearted 21st-century translations such as the LOLCat Bible and the Lego Brick Bible.

But for all the hype over this particular digital-era adaptation, the emoji Bible actually doesn’t contain that many emojis. It’s a King James Version (KJV) with 10 to 15 per cent of the text swapped for emojis; about one or two symbols appear in each verse.

The KJV is the most-read version of the Bible by far, and despite the popularity of the NIV for new purchases of the Bible, remains the most-searched version online. It’s also in the public domain in the United States, so changes can be made without seeking permission or paying a fee.

This distinctly 21st-century twist on the Bible brings up the age-old issue with Bible translation: Should translators stick to an “essentially literal,” word-for-word translation, or should they aim for “dynamic equivalence”, or thought-for-thought?

The emoji Bible goes with the former. A translator programme substituted 80 icons that directly represent 200 different words in the text: a tree for a tree, water droplets for rain, and a smiley face emoji with a halo for God. It is also written in all lowercase and makes some “text-friendly substitutions,” like changing “and” to “&.” The replacement isn’t always smooth. For example, “strangers” ends up with an anger emoji in the middle of the word.

And, any emojis in the Bible, even direct and literal substitution, take away from God’s Word and words, according to some critics.

Especially in the past year, emojis have become a huge cultural force, with billions of the tiny icons texted and tweeted across the globe. The “face with tears of joy” emoji was declared 2015’s word of the year.

-          Christianity Today

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