Christ likened the signs of His coming to birth pains—with the frequency and intensity building as we near the end. Nature certainly testifies to this. When placed on a graph, statistics for natural disasters show a fairly even line until around the 1950s. From that point on, we’ve been on a steep climb with a large spike around the turn of the century.
The love of many certainly has grown cold, as well. One need only turn on a television or open a web browser to see a world in turmoil. Tragedies like the recent Aurora shooting are a constant reminder that this world is not our home. This lack of love isn’t limited to extreme tragedies like the Aurora shooting, either. Not by a long shot. From the important to the mundane, we’re becoming more selfish and polarized by the day—increasingly careless in our interactions with others and more determined to make our opinions known, whatever the cost. (If you’ve been on Facebook lately, you likely know what I’m talking about.) And while conflict can’t always be avoided, it’s evident our quest to be right often trumps our desire to advance the Kingdom. And so we go into battle without the Holy Spirit and create a mess. I’ve certainly been guilty of this. How about you?
So, where do we go from here? In this new series, we’ll be exploring some of the hot button issues of our day—not for the purpose of debate or becoming more polarized but rather to help regain focus on the big picture—the imminent return of Christ.
I’m choosing to begin with a brief look at different versions of the Bible. While this may not be the most controversial topic, at least when compared with issues like women’s ordination or gay marriage (we’ll get to those later), I thought it would be a good starting point since, after all, the Bible ought to be the basis from which we judge all things.
I think it’s fair to say that most of the battle over Bibles specifically deals with comparing the King James Version (KJV) to any modern translation. The battle lines are drawn—one side regarding the KJV as the only true standard (modern versions are products of a grand conspiracy to destroy Christ’s deity), while the other generally favors anything but the KJV (downgrading its status to an out-of-date relic that serves no purpose in a modern world). Now, I realize these aren’t the only two positions on this topic, but this controversy generally falls down to one of these positions.
In case you’re wondering, I’ve spent time in both camps. For most of my life I considered the KJV obsolete. Then a few years ago I became aware of some significant differences between the KJV and modern translations and joined the KJV-only camp. I have to admit, though, that I simply have a difficult time understanding biblical concepts in the KJV, and my spiritual life has been negatively impacted rather than bolstered by this change.
I recently reached a breaking point and decided to start reading modern versions again. A few days after making that decision, a friend emailed me a link to a study on this very topic, conducted by the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) of the General Conference. You may find the document here. I found it refreshing, to say the least. I particularly found its timing significant. I honestly believe this was God’s way of affirming my decision since I hadn’t told anyone about the struggle I was having.
For those who may not have time to read through the BRI document, their findings are basically that the arguments against modern translations tend to fall apart under scrutiny. Ellen White often used modern translations in her writings and made no known statements indicating she did not support use of them. Their one point of caution was not to rely on paraphrases for establishing doctrinal truth as the text reflects the opinions of the author, not necessarily the words or intent of the original manuscripts.
So, whether you want to emphasize a certain point that’s rendered more strongly in a particular version or you find yourself not understanding a particular passage, the best version is ultimately whichever suits your needs at any given moment. Spend time looking at specific passages in various translations to get a fuller understanding. If you find yourself favoring a specific version, that’s okay. As was the case for me, the best way to measure whether or not you’re headed the right direction is to ask yourself if you’re being drawn closer to God or farther away.
“Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:14-15, NIV).
What’s your favorite version of the Bible and why?
Other blogs in this series available here.