Since this blog is about the Word I might as well broach the topic of Bible translations.
I believe that the Scriptures are the inerrant Word of God as originally penned by the inspired writers. Throughout history few Christians have been able to read copies of the original texts scribed in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. Those fortunate to have studied these tongues and had ancient copies available had the benefit of reading God’s Word as closely to the originals as anyone ever could. As time progressed translations were required for the majority of believers to read the bible. From the spread of the Gospel beginning in Judea, then to Samaria, then to the uttermost parts of the Earth, many languages were used by the Church (note even on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, the birthday of the Church, Peter’s declaration was understood by an audience of many languages).
In other words the vast majority of us are dependent on translations to read the Bible. Fortunately there have appeared in recent decades a multitude of good versions. The night I was Saved I walked home from my neighbor’s house and pulled down my parent’s Bible from the shelf. This was a New Jerusalem Bible. When I opened it up to one of the Gospels I was awestruck that the words were alive to me! And it was irresistible! It was this version I used starting my journey in Christ. I bought my own copy and read through it thoroughly and voraciously.
I attended a local evangelical church where the Word was precious and sat in a young adult Sunday School class, though I was much older than the college age kids attending. But the teacher was a man I grew to love and respect immensely, Leo Dinnan. It was a comment made in class that was a catalyst to my replacing the New Jerusalem Bible with another version. The discussion was the book of Ester, and the comment was made that it was singular that no mention of God was found. I looked at my copy and vocalized my confusion, as my copy mentioned God frequently! Mr. Dinnan in his kind wisdom took me aside after class. He explained that the New Jerusalem Bible was a Roman Catholic based translation, and though a pretty good one it included a lot of texts that were not considered Canonical by the Reformed churches. The Jews since before Christ had accepted certain writings and books which they included in their Hebrew Bible. But the Roman Catholic Church included in their Canon a lot of other historical books. The Reformed Churches of the 16th century onward purified the Canon and returned to the historical Canon of the Hebrew Text.
So I visited the local Christian book store and started reading about translations and the history of Christianity, even though I had been a believer only a few months. I then bought a Schofield King James version of the Bible. I loved the notes explaining the text, as I had a hunger to learn as much as I could. Even the Catholic priest (my parents, worried about my recession from the Catholic Church, asked me to talk to him, in hopes he could call me back to the fold) told me the KJV was a good translation. After a while though I grew weary of reading such antiquated verbiage. My desire was to know Christ and the things of God as He revealed them in His Word. I found it was too much work trying to decipher and re-translate this Elizabethan language which clouded my comprehension of the text. I didn’t talk that way and knew no one who did. Communication is vital in society and everyone uses the current idiom of language, how much more then the communication between God and His child and Church?
I looked at other versions, and there were a lot of them. I bought a number of them including parallel translations, as well as an English/Greek parallel translation. My selection eventually came down to the New International Version and the New American Standard Bible. For the sake of accuracy I chose the NASB as my devotional and daily study bible. My motto for years has been “Accuracy At All Costs.” I felt the NASB was the most accurate version available, and most people seem to think so too. Happily, in 1995 this version saw its most recent update finally removing the remaining antiquated thee’s and thou’s replacing them with the vernacular.
It is my feeling that the primary purpose of reading the Scriptures is to read what God wrote to us. And having as close a version of the writings is of paramount importance to this end. There is no good reason, in my estimation, for anyone today to use the King James Version of the Bible, when one wants to know God as accurately and deeply as possible. I have recently softened my previous declaration that (with tongue somewhat in cheek) the KJV ought to be banned, as being a tad too extreme and intolerant. But with so many outstanding translations available today, and since so very few people are alive who regularly talk in Elizabethan English, there simply is no good reason to use this version. Our Lord spoke the colloquial language of His culture in His walk throughout Palestine, we should feel free to use the present vernacular as well for reading and speaking.
I must add one note concerning the KJV. I’ve recently read the proclamations of those few who believe that ANY other version of God’s Word than the 1611 version of the King James Bible is of the Devil. Trying to keep Christian brotherly love in the forefront, I have to say it is sad that otherwise seemingly reasonable individuals could take such a myopic view of the history of Christianity and the development of translations. Even a cursory reading on these topics should be enough to show that those who strove to translate God’s Word into their current vernacular did so for the edification of God’s people and out of complete devotion to our Lord, and in the Middle Ages, usually at their peril. There is not an intrinsic difference between those who translated the Scriptures in 1611 and those who did so before or after. All strive for the best use of the Scriptures as originally penned.
The bottom line is this: the Christian should strive to be devoted to the daily reading of the Word of God, that he can know the things revealed by our Lord to the glory of God. Whichever version is used, the KJV, the Good News Translation, the NASB, or even the most recent of translations which hopes to be an even fresher and more accurate version, the International Standard Version, or others, read the one you have. Every day. From beginning to end.