The Bible … but which one? (Part 1)

By Dr. Gregory B. Boyd, Pastor

First Baptist Church, Hartsville

The book of “Acts” is the fifth book in the New Testament. It reveals the history of the Christian church in Jerusalem and around the Roman Empire during the first century after Christ died. In the King James Version, Acts 2:42 says, “And they continued stedfastly (sic) in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (“They” refers to the first believers in the first church.) The New International Version puts it, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The New Living Translation: All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. The Message: They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal and the prayers. Which version is right? Are any of them wrong? When I started my journey of following Christ, I knew that Christians and churches used the Bible as their guide and source for knowing God. Most churches used what was, to me, an overly complicated, Shakespearian, Old English-sounding Bible. I was not a big fan of Shakespeare, mainly because in order to understand it, I needed a dictionary and a chart of how words and phrases had evolved over 400 years! Language became a barrier for me to read the Bible. Later, I was given a Good News Translation (now called Today’s English Version), which translated the Bible into words I could understand. That helped. As the years passed, I learned quite a bit about the Bible and why we now have so many translations or versions of it. When the Lord inspired the writers of The Old Testament, they used an ancient Hebrew form. The writers of the New Testament used a little bit of Aramaic and a whole lot of Greek. Back then, there were two styles of Greek language: Classic (from the times of Plato, Aristotle, etc.), and Common (the common language for Greek-speaking people in Bible times and what the NT writers used). As you know if you have studied another language and had to translate words and concepts, much can get lost or confused. For example, consider the phrase, “He tickled me pink.” If you were a translator, would you translate the exact words or try to capture the meaning behind the words? Because the exact words would be totally lost in most non-English-speaking cultures. In the same way, Bible translators must interpret original Hebrew and Greek phrases and concepts in ways that a current day reader can understand. In 1611, King James ordered translators to come up with one authorized version, which used the educated English language of its day. But nobody speaks that way anymore. Thus, newer translations. Here’s the most important point in this article. Like the believers in the first church, we must devote ourselves to the Apostles’ teaching, which for us means to diligently read the complete Bible. Find a version that you can read and understand. Many people who grew up in church heard and love the old King James. Wonderful! Read it daily. Others may use one of dozens of other English translations. Pick one that has the original languages as its source, that you can understand and be devoted to, and that you will read and put into practice. (This article will conclude next week with Part 2.)

Author: Rachel Howell

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