Monday, May 11, 2009

The Best Version of the Bible is the One You Read

So what's the best version of the Bible?

I have been thinking about this more lately. My first response is that there is no best version. Ancient Greek and Hebrew do not translate perfectly into English- you either give up readability for accuracy (NASB) or accuracy for readability (The Message), or find some mid-point that is all-around unsatisfying (NIV).
This conclusion would suggest that you need two versions: one for reading, and one for study. If you have the opportunity to own two versions, this is the way to go!
However, this is an unsatisfactory answer. Once I was listening to message preached out of the NKJV by a man who expected us to follow in our KJVs. What's the point of turning to the references with him if we don't have the same translation?
I am not condemning his use of the NKJV. As a matter of fact, it may be said that the NKJV and KJV are so much alike, where is the issue? Nonetheless, it makes more sense in such a case to put down your Bible and just listen.
Many in the fundy-turned-reformed camp have flocked to the ESV. I liked the ESV at first too. However, once I bought a copy and started reading it regularly, I felt like it wasn't as readable as it ought to be. It is smooth overall but certain places it just- jars. Certainly, the ESV is much more readable than the NASB, and definitely more accurate than an NIV. Still, it isn't the holy grail.
So my gaze turned towards the NRSV. Oh noes! The liberal version! Some have said that the NRSV contains as much liberal bias as the ESV contains conservative bias. I personally feel it is a hybrid between the RSV and NASB. But- it reads very smoothly, very consistently. I have yet to run across a passage in the NRSV that I feel is wooden or jarring. It is amazing. It just reads really, really well.
Now here's the kicker. Would I trust it for study? I mean those times when interpretation comes down to the words. Maybe. Mostly I would look up a bunch of versions online and compare, maybe even check out a Greek lexicon on a particular word or tense, so it doesn't really matter.
What if I were trapped on a desert island with only one version? What would it be? You see here I am pressing the question.
I just want to open the Book and read. I mostly want to take in what the Scriptures say. I want them to be readable, accessible, and clear. I do not want language getting in the way.
I would pick the version that reads well for me without being too dynamic like some versions are (NLT, CEV, NCV, The Message). For me right now, that would be the NRSV. For you, it might be another version.

Whither the old King James? I am convinced, that the outdated language serves not to enlighten the reader, but to perpetuate whatever the teachers and preachers say it means. This is unfortunate. The King James can be very valuable, IF you have a solid understanding of the archaic terms and idioms used, AND if you allow the original languages and/or modern versions to help clarify some passages. However, the KJV is used in this way less and less anymore; those who don't vilify new versions are moving to them. KJV usage is becoming more and more restricted to the KJVO crowd, where the text will and has already begun to take on a life of its own. Ignorance of archaic forms and a severe dearth of exegetical preaching among KJVOs is causing this. The intellectual inbreeding of this crowd will ensure their eventual destruction.
Basically, there is no reason not to move from the KJV anymore, except for tradition's sake and/or to avoid offending a KJVO. If you have a problem with "deleted verses," get a NKJV. If your problem is that the new versions are too dynamic and free, get a NASB or an ESV. You and the rest of us deserve to understand the Scriptures and to enjoy them. All I know is that since I picked up a new version I WANT to read the Scriptures. Wouldn't you like to WANT to read the Bible? Try a few versions online (NKJV, NIV, ESV, NRSV) and see what works for you.

Reading is key! Study is secondary, but if you haven't been reading your Bible, maybe your version isn't working out for you?
Secondly, the following ideas might be killing your Bible reading:
1. I must read every day,
2. I must read it through in a year.
3. I must read a certain amount every day.

No you don't! Find a version that is clear and readable to you, then read some now and read some later. Let the Holy Spirit draw you to His Word.
Do you think other versions are no good? Don't bury your KJV in a napkin just because it isn't working for you, or flog yourself with endless chapters day after day because you feel you must. Go for the "usury" of a modern version, if that's how you see it. Get a little something, instead of a lot of nothing. What DO you think Jesus will say? "You never could stick with your KJV, but boy am I glad you didn't read any other version. You really stood up for the truth!" I don't think so!

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