Monday, June 13, 2011

Favorite Bible Version: And The Winner Is...

"...we affirm and avow, that the very meanest [poorest] translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession, containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God. As the King's
speech, which he uttereth in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King's speech, though it be not interpreted by every Translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, everywhere." -From the preface, "The Translators to the Reader," to the King James Version of the Holy Bible, 1611.

This year marks 400 years since the King James Version was first published. The KJV translators never claimed exclusivity for their version of the Bible. They allowed for other translations to be published in English and considered them the Word of God as well. They also understood the importance of, when faced with the uncertainty of which of two possible Greek phrases would have been in the original text, including both by way of marginal notes. The 1611 KJV even has "daystar" as an alternate for "Lucifer" in the margin beside Isaiah 14:21. I mention this because King James Only advocates usually slam modern translations for this very same footnote (See, Matthew 7:1-2)!

Recently I was at risk of viewing a modern Bible version with KJV-like exclusive reverence. Over six months ago my world was shaken to the core with the announcement of a revision of the NIV, the version I've read, meditated upon and memorized for over 25 years. I clung as tightly to my NIV1984 as a KJV-only dude, to his Textus Receptus! As usual, those things that make us the most uncomfortable, often have the potential to grow us up a little bit as well.

Some of the positive affects of this announcement have been renewed desire to handle God's Word accurately, more time spent reading and analysing the different English versions of the Bible, and a new appreciation for variety in translation. I've gotten new insight from this study in the Word, and can't easily go back to claiming one version as favorite.

Another benefit to the updated NIV has been the discounted NIV1984 pew Bibles our church was able to pick up recently for about a third of the regular cost! Statistically, churches sporting pew Bibles have members who are more likely to bring their own Bibles to church (power of suggestion?), as well as study and read their own Bibles during the week! But maybe a pew Bible sales rep told me that...

I would encourage anyone who's serious about listening to the Word of God, to choose one favorite, or one standard version for personal study and application. This makes scripture memorization more affective. But you also need to explore translations other than the one with which you are most comfortable. Something as simple as knowing that the peace of God transcends all understanding (NIV), surpasses all comprehension (NASB) can give a depth of insight to the peace of God.

So what are my current recommended bible versions? I don't actually have a Top Ten list, such as this guy, but I recommend studying versions that complement one another. For example, if you are used to a more "word-for-word" translation (NASB, ESV, KJV), supplement that with a "thought-for-thought" version (NLT, CEV, The Message). The NIV is somewhere in the middle. So far, my favorite Word-for-Word is NASB - one I used to check into in my 20's. Some say this version is so literal, that it doesn't flow in English. "Wooden," is the description I most often hear for the NASB. I'm also checking out the NLT on the other end - I've also often referenced the CEV when needing a very simple, basic English Bible.

The Challenge
As we enter summer I'm actually encouraging the brothers and sisters at Lighthouse Christian Center to pick up a version they've never, or rarely read, and go through the New Testament and/or Psalms this summer - or as much of Scripture as they can while still retaining something from it.

What am I doing about the NIV1984 versus NIV2011 thing? I've found some great changes in the New NIV that seem to be more literal renderings of the text. Another plus for the NIV2011 is research and discoveries over the past 25 years. For example, Philippians 2:6 in NIV1984 describes Jesus: ...Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped...
Scholars have discovered that this "grasping," is related to something you already own, something already in your possession, rather than something you're trying to acquire. In the case of Jesus, he already possesses equality with God, but did not consider it as something to be used to his own advantage - which is how the NIV2011 translates it. Kudos, NIV guys!

On the down side Philippians 4:13 has been translated, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength," as if to say it refers only to the previous verses in context. I believe it refers to much more than learning to be content with your situation. He meant what he said, when he said, "All Things!"

* I'm glad they waited until Tim Tebow graduated from UF to revise this verse!
* I'm glad they waited until Bethany Hamilton got back on her surfboard quoting, "I can do ALL THINGS through Him..."rather than letting her just learn to be content with her situation, and never surf again!
* I'm glad Jesus said in Mark 9:23, "All things are possible for him who believes..."
That is until they revise it to say,
"All this is possible for him who believes..."
"All this," is not accurate. It's not literal. It's just weak.

The excessive gender adjustment and some of its subsequent grammatical consequences drive me the most crazy with the NIV2011. I understand that Paul was writing to "brothers and sisters," but I believe there are instances where the Greek or Hebrew is masculine, and the translators purposefully avoid the masculine even at the expense of some Messianic prophecy. The Only Begotten Son of God became a man, not a "them."

So, here's how I'm dealing with the change: I purchased an NIV1984 with large margins. Found a great deal on - couldn't believe the price! So if I spot a little gem, such as Phil. 2:6, I can write the explanation, or alternate NIV2011 translation in the margin and have the best of both worlds. I'm using a Pigma Micron pen with archival ink and 0.20 line width (finer than extra-fine!) if anyone's interested. This will make a great Bible to pass on to the kids. Personalized, study notes in the version their Daddy used to read.

When the dust settles what will be my Bible of choice? I'll probably continue memorizing in NIV1984, modifying it with stuff I like from the 2011. With all those versions out there might as well add my own - The John Whittington NIV remix! For personal reading and study I'm leaning to a more word-for-word, though the NIV is still beautiful to me. In a perfect world, I'd be able to memorize in 2 versions. Maybe I'll do that someday in my resurrected body.

The important thing now, for all of us, is to read, prayerfully meditate, endeavor to understand, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, apply to our lives, some version, any decent version of the Bible! "The best Bible version is the one you use!"

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