I haven't played in awhile...but here goes!
Does everyone remember the old Sunday School song?
Oh, that's the book for me.
I take my stand on the Word of God,
Ahh, yes...fond memories...
1. What is your earliest memory of encountering a biblical text?
I remember in jr. church we had to memorize the KJV of Psalm 23. I think I was in 1st or 2nd grade. Earlier than that, I remember having a little book called "My First Bible" and it told snippets of Bible stories for kids with pictures. I still remember the picture of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the flames, and the picture of Daniel in the Lion's Den with the angel holding the lion's mouth shut. I remember the illustrations more than how the stories were told. Strictly speaking it wasn't dealing with the actual *text* of the Bible, but with the stories...hence, Psalm 23 wins.
2. What is your favorite biblical translation, and why? (You might have a few for different purposes).
Despite my initial skepticism, I'm becoming more fond of Eugene Peterson's paraphrase, The Message. The imagery and the language of the text is powerful and evocative in places. Of course, I don't read it isolated from my trusty NRSV if I'm doing more intensive study or if I'm preaching, although my last sermon borrowed heavily from Peterson's language. Oddly enough, now and again I turn back to the NIV, the first translation I really started reading. I've moved from the NIV to the RSV to the NRSV and then to The Message.
For the Old Testament, however, you just can't beat the Tanakh. We used the Jewish Study Bible for my Old Testament class in seminary, and I'm more prone to read it before the NRSV.
All in all, I like many translations, even some of the more obscure ones. And I also love turning back to the original language (for the New Testament...don't know Hebrew yet) and breaking out my lexicon to attempt my own translation/reading of the text.
3. What is your favorite book of the Bible? Your favorite verse/passage?
Something about Philippians grabs me. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of the Epistles, preferring to read the Gospels...and preferring the Old Testament over the New entirely. But Philippians was one of the first books I did a more in-depth and intentional devotional study on during an Intervarsity retreat during college. Afterwards, a group of us went back to campus and read it aloud at once in the dark with candles and flashlights under a starry sky. Pretty cool.
Instead of listing all of my favorite passages from throughout the Bible (of which there are many), I'll give you my favorite passage from Philippians:
"Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain." (Philippians 2:14-16)
I also love the book of Psalms.
4. Which book of the Bible do you consider, in Luther's famous words about James, to be "an epistle of straw?" Which verse(s) make you want to scream?
Aside from the obvious passages about women that Paul may (or may not) have written in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, I have issues with a lot of the Old Testament passages that proclaim material blessing for being faithful to God. I know this is a view that gets challenged over and over again in the OT, but what mostly bothers me about such passages is the way that people use them today. In a similar vein, the "Prayer of Jabez" absolutely drives me up a wall.
5. Inclusive language in biblical translation and liturgical proclamation: for, against, or neutral?
Um, neutral-ish. I recognize the need for it, especially "brothers" to "sisters and brothers", from "mankind" to "humankind", and from "sons of God" to "children of God." However, when it comes to names for God, I'm a bit more picky (though if there were a gender-neutral pronoun for God, I'd be all for it). I really do like Madeleine L'Engle's use of "El" to refer to God. But ultimately, the Bible is a product of a patriarchal society, and to treat it in its context means being faithful to that. Not that I like it very much, of course, but that's the way it is.
Bonus: Back to the Psalms--which one best speaks the prayer of your heart?
There are too many. Psalm 139 fits, along with Psalm 42.