Fred Coulter's effort at Bible translation is at the very least different from most other offerings. Fred picked up his knowledge of Greek at Ambassador College (under the "private tutelage" of Charles Dorothy), and his views on the canon - in large part - from an AC professor, the larger-than-life figure of Ernest L. Martin. In putting together his New Testament "in its original order" he follows the views of Martin in his book Restoring the Original Bible. Strangely enough, in his bibliography to the New Testament edition (2003), Fred forgets to even mention Restoring the Original Bible, though he refers to it within his lengthy introductory chapters.
Where did Fred learn Hebrew? Well, apparently he didn't. Fred can correct me if I'm wrong, but I understand he bought somebody else's revision of the KJV Old Testament, fiddled around with the text a bit, then bunged it together with his 2003 New Testament to produce a complete 66 book edition.
Around the time Fred left WCG he tried out his translation skills by producing a paraphrased Harmony of the Gospels in modern English. To be honest, it was probably a good deal better than the stilted KJV-like third edition which has replaced it.
So what do the reviewers think? The BAR ad addresses this issue:
Reviewer Dan Becker of Bible Editions and Versions (June 2005) writes of this Faithful Version of the New Testament: "It [is] an excellent translation for those desiring a literal one."
And so he did, but if memory serves me, he also compared it to a telephone directory. In fact, the review as a whole could be said to have damned with faint praise. Has anybody else - a recognized journal in the field of Biblical studies for example (or even the BAR) - positively reviewed Fred's magum opus? Apparently not.
Fred translated the NT from what he regards as the most accurate Greek text, the Stephens of - wait for it - 1550! Fred is entitled to his opinion of course, but he'd be hard pressed to find a genuine scholar to agree with him. Stephens is probably the worst choice imaginable. More on this in part 3.
Then there's the issue of original order. The Old Testament isn't an issue: Fred apparently follows the order of the Hebrew Bible as set out in Jewish translations. That's not only legitimate, but perhaps even commendable, though it's stretching credulity to make the kind of grandiose claims about it that he does. There are two ancient traditions, one of which the church adopted (following the precedent of the Septuagint), the other of which the synagogue adopted, both of which have a respectable pedigree.
But what about the claim regarding the New Testament? Here's Fred's shuffled index:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts (no change, though there probably should be!)
James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude (Fred is kidding, right?)
Romans, 1 Cor., 2 Cor., Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thes., 2 Thes., Hebrews, 1 Tim., 2 Tim., Titus, Philemon (Fred is one of the last translators to imagine that Paul wrote Hebrews)
With all due respect to the labors of Doc Martin, this is completely out of kilter with reality. More on this later.
A copy of the Fred Bible could set you back $150, but Fred will sell you a copy direct - a special low price for BAR readers - for $89.95 plus postage and packing.
Funnily enough, you can get the same "low" price from Amazon.
To be continued.