Thursday, March 6, 2008

Which version is THE word of God...


"Visiting the Christian Book store today I took a look at the Bibles. I found, King James, New King James, New International, New American Standard, New Century, New Livivg, God’s Word, Christian Standard, and English Standard. I also found The Message, and the Amplified Bible. Each of these versions has a slightly different way of saying those wounderful promises, unchanging truths, and uncompromising standards, that God has provided for us. Do you see a danger in having so many options when searching for Gods Word, and direction in our lives?"

This is a terrific question that is masking itself in "which version of the Bible should I read?" The real question here is this: Since there are so many versions of the Bible, How can I know which one to literally believe?

Answer - You should not necessarily read any of them literally, word for word.


OK, let me qualify that a bit. There are plenty of passages in the Bible that are historic, literal, and intended as promises. But there is real danger in taking every word literally:

First - ALL of them are interpretations from other languages. Any time you translate something from one language - say Spanish - into English you lose some of the subtleties of the language. Add to that the fact that we are talking about translating from a language that has changed significantly in 6000 - 2000 years and you begin to see some of the problem. This does not mean that you should throw out scripture as unreliable - just be careful about how you apply certain passages. Approach them with reverence and grace rather than arrogance. I don't believe there are errors in scripture, just in our ability to understand it.

Second, there are several passages that are "literally" contradictory. So we need to dig a littler deeper. We need to understand things like historical and cultural context to really understand meaning. In short, we need to be careful scholars when it comes to scripture.

Third, following the ideas (ideals) presented in scripture may be more important than the specific words used to convey those ideas. This is why I like having several versions available. English is a colorful, but limited as a language. With several versions to choose from we can begin to get the full meaning and texture of specific scripture passages.

Finally, I am not casting doubt on scripture - just on our use of it. We need to be very careful readers and "livers" of the word of God. Carefully reading and understanding the Bible is crucial in the life of a believer. So, read the Bible, read commentaries on the Bible, talk to other believers, try to understand what the Church believes about specific passages in the Bible. There is great wisdom in a cloud of witnesses.

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