I was listening to one of my son Jonathan’s “God Talks” * this morning, and in response to Jon’s question: “What unifies the Christian church?” Dr. Yeh’s first answer was, “The Bible.” Various branches of the Christian faith may have slightly different versions of the Bible, and even believers who use the same text still engage in lively debates over how to interpret the Bible, but all believers do believe that God has spoken to us through his Word, and that his Word is true.Shortly after my conversion (50 years ago), I got myself a Bible and began the daily practice of reading, studying, memorizing, revering, and trying to put into practice the lessons I learned from this great book, which is still the world’s #1 best seller of all times. If you haven’t read a copy cover-to-cover…please do!I’ve worn out many Bibles, but my all-time favorite is the King James Version (KJV). The prose is beautiful, the authors attempted a careful, literal translation rather than a “dynamic equivalent” (which tries to give the idea in modern English without using the exact wording of the original texts), and I don’t mind the “thee’s” and the “thou’s” one bit.However, many people are unfamiliar with the language forms of King James English (which is now 400 years old) and find the antiquated vocabulary confusing, so there is a new version that retains the literal translation but in modern English. I often use this version for quotations, but not always.Some years after Alan and I got married, we started reading the scriptures together every morning, but Alan found re-reading the same version over and over rather tedious, so we began reading new translations as they came out. One of our favorites was the New American Standard Bible. Very accurate and clear.Because I’d studied the original languages in which most of the Bible was written (Greek and Hebrew), Alan and I sometimes used “interlinear” Bibles (which have the English words written above the ancient text). In the 1980′s, the New International Version became extremely popular and is probably the most common Bible to be found in the pews of evangelical churches today, quoted in Bible studies and messages, and used for oral recitations. I wasn’t a total fan, because the translators used slightly different texts, but they do have excellent study notes, and Alan and I spent 2 years instead of 1 that time, poring over all their information on archeological research, historical background and scientific evidences that support the validity of biblical claims.In 2008, the English Standard Version came out, the first completely new re-translation of the Bible based on the same original manuscripts as the KJV. It’s a massive work that (combined with study notes) is almost 3,000 pages long. Alan and I spent nearly 3 years working our way through this landmark version.Last year, Alan wanted to try a Catholic Bible to see if it was much different. We couldn’t buy two (or even one) at any of the local bookstores (even the Catholic ones!) but we could order them through Amazon. Aside from a number of books that are not included by either Jews or Protestants, I found the text so similar in meaning to the KJV that it banished any doubt I might have had about variant translations being the basis for the differences between Catholics and Protestants. The text was clear, sometimes colloquial (more use of dynamic equivalents), but often charming in a way that conveyed the meaning as I remembered it but with fresh wording that would make me smile and stop to think. This is exactly what Alan has always liked about trying new translations!Alan and I don’t always make it through the Bible in exactly one year, but last weekend we finished our New Jerusalem Bibles and began working on our choice for this year: a new update of the NIV that just came out about a year ago.It’s the first time our Bibles haven’t matched (on the outside): mine has pink flowers, and Alan’s has golden wheat. It’s fun to see the changes over the years, and it’s fun to read the Bible in different translations that make us stop and ponder the various nuances and shades of possibly different meanings, but I’ve noticed that in all our years of studying (although we haven’t read them all by any means), not one of the Bible translations has a single significant difference that would cast doubt on any of the basic doctrines affirmed in the KJV or the Nicene Creed or the Apostles’ Creed. As we study the Bible, we find Christ. More, we fall in love with Christ and learn to trust him as our Savior, Lord, and guide!Next year I think we’re going to try the Holman Bible, and then maybe go back to the King James again, just for straight comfort and goodness. But, it was in the New Jerusalem Bible that I found the perfect verses to be my mantra for 2013, verses that in the KJV had never really struck me so profoundly before:
“Be vigilant, stay firm in the faith, be brave and strong. Let everything you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).
*If any of you are interested in global Christianity, my son is producing a series of telephone interviews with theologians from around the world, which can be accessed at: http://www.aqueductproject.org/godtalks)