Monday, May 14, 2012

A Friend Asked Me: "Is reading anything but the KJV a sin?" and "Which version is best?"

A social media friend of mine recently sent me a good question about the issue of different Bible translations. She wrote:

"Ken I would be interested in knowing what you think of this... (she provided a link to a site of the supporters of the King James Bible and ultimately a critique of the New King James Version).  I personally get very confused with all this.  What really is the translation we should be using?  Every where I go hardly any one anymore uses the same translation -- in Church, in our small groups..  Is it a SIN to be using any translation other than the original King James Version?  My husband and I personally have several translations, from the King James, to the NIV, to the NAS, which I use in my Kay Arthur Bible studies, to the New King James.  It is to the point where I wonder whether I should even take my Bible to Church any more because any scripture they are using that morning is posted up on the overheads and even than each scripture I notice is a different translation from the one before.  When did buying/reading our Bibles become so difficult?  How does one help new Christians decide which translation they should purchase and study God's Word in?  I am interested on your thoughts on the subject as well as your readers...thanks Linda."

Well, here's the answer I provided Linda.  I'm hoping it will be of assistance to you as well.

Hi Linda:  Once again thank you for posting such a wonderful question on my profile.  As you can see a number of people have responded to date and I wanted to add my own thoughts for your consideration.  Here goes:

Your personal confusion is not uncommon.  I see two sides to its existence.  First, the ‘enemy’ is at work confusing and dividing Christians.  For some reason, he knows we have avoidance to ‘unity’ in the Body – perhaps because of our old sinful nature that still lingers around.  But second, it is possible that God uses or allows this confusion in the case of some of us to spurn us on to more and deeper study of Scripture with particular attention to the original manuscripts and what we know of them.  I am convinced that God in no way is limited by, or made less magnificent and all-powerful because of a diverse rendering of His Holy Word.  Think of it as a song that has been written by one of the greats and then consider some of the great singers of our time performing it – the powerful meaning of the song stays the same, but some of us like to hear it from the Beatles, others from Elvis, and others (and I’m picking wildly here) from Anne Murray.  As I was sharing with my wife when we were driving yesterday, “Ave Maria is Ave Maria” no matter how it is served up.

Yesterday I took my NASB (because I believe it is good for studying the writing as it seems to stick closer to the original texts) to a Baptist church I was visiting that uses the NIV.  No problem.  I also found that in small groups, it is interesting when we are studying a segment of scripture to have the various versions in the room being read by members present so we can see the verse from various angles and perspectives.  That exercise just makes the words that are already “living words” more easily identified with by different people with different experiences.

While some KJV die-hards would have you believe it is a sin to read anything else, I do not read that anywhere in Scripture, even in the KJV.  What the Bible does say is that no one should add or subtract from the Word of God.  As a leader of one Canadian Mission and a director in an African mission, I hear from people who say they will stop donating to our work if I don’t return to using the KJV immediately.  I reply very politely as follows:  “Dear friend, let us assume that your prodigal son calls you up and says, “Dad/mom – I’m trying to find my way; I’m seeking Jesus and I have started reading this Bible a friend gave me.  You know, I understand it – it’s written in clear language that makes sense not like the one you would read us at the family devotions each day that drove me bananas.”  Friend, do you say to them – “stop reading that right this instant” and kill any chance your son has of coming to the Lord and possibly dying without Him or do you say, “I’ll keep praying for you son, keep on reading and praise the Lord”?  If you can honestly answer that question friend and say you would rather them die Christless than read anything but the KJV, then I’ll reconsider my ways.”  Well, as you can imagine Linda I’ve never heard back from a single complainer and God has arranged for our missions to grow and grow in spite of losing them as donors.

By the way, may I suggest that you never stop taking your favorite version of the Bible to church and here’s ‘why’.  Yes, they often have the passage or the reference up on the screen, but you know what – you can’t highlight or write on the screen or in their pew Bibles, whereas you can in your own study Bible.  I often like to put the keys thoughts of the sermon in the margins and refer to them again and again when studying that passage in the future, alone or with others.

Reading our Bibles should not be that difficult even today once we get a good Bible that serves our purposes (and by that I mean the reason for our use – e.g. to study, to meditate, to read, etc. – I do not mean one that serves our own Christian thinking).  But I do agree with you that buying a Bible can be difficult for a young Christian and even some of us older owns.  I have found that there are good Bible comparisons available both in book form and I am sure on the Internet, from unbiased authors who point out the strength and weaknesses of various translations.  If you want to go further, one needs to read some good material on the various original texts – the Alexandrian text vs. the Byzantine text (just about every version relies more on one of those than the other).  It is fascinating reading and helps you come to your conclusion once you better understand the sources.  As for young Christians, I suggest that they get some help from a pastor or a knowledgeable Christian Bookstore Manager – and don’t just ask for their ‘favorite’ version.  Ask them to tell you why, the differences, and the pros and cons.

Now before I stop I do want to warn you about one new thing that going on now that mayt make your life even more difficult.  And that is the whole issue of some new translations or versions that actually try to water down some concepts in the Bible in a believed effort to make them more acceptable to others that we are trying to reach.  I won’t say much about this accept give you two examples – these versions may be changing or completely eliminated the idea of God as a Father, or referring to Jesus as the Son of God, etc.  Just look up the controversy of the latest Wycliffe Bible Translations – but only if you have the stomach for it and you want to be aware of it.

In the meantime, get, read, and use a Bible that helps you love your God more each day.  I think you and your husband are well on track.  God bless you and thanks for the opportunity to address this very important issue.

Please feel free to share this with your friends.  Blessings.   Ken.

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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