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"And what Bible do you use on Sunday morning during worship?" the doctoral committee asked a potential doctoral student. "Why, I use the King James Version," answered the student. "It's the 'authorized' version and is completely without error. After all, God "breathed" the Word of God into the Bible by the power of the Holy Spirit (see 2 Timothy 3:16)." Those on the committee rolled their eyes and continued to question him about which Bible he used while I waited patiently for my time to come before the doctoral committee.

I could hardly wait until the committee asked me which Bible I used during morning worship on Sunday. I proudly replied, "Why, I use the Living Bible by Kenneth Taylor," I proudly announced. Again, the committee members rolled their eyes. "You mean that's the Bible you use for your biblical studies," they asked. "Wait a minute," I replied, "that's not what you asked. When I study the Bible, I usually use the New American Standard Version, because my Greek studies have shown me that it is the closest to the original text." Well, they didn't like the Bible I used in the pulpit, but I did get an "A" for my study Bible.

Let's take a look at the Bible for a moment. Is it really the verbal, inerrant, plenary (complete) Word of God? Consider the following progression: God gives the Word (Perfection) -- Imperfect humanity receives it verbally -- Word is put into a written language (Hebrew and Aramaic in Old Testament, Greek in New Testament) -- Word is translated into various languages in order to communicate -- Word is paraphrased in order the accommodate particular cultures. Obviously, the Word of God is clearly perfect at its beginning, but a lot of things have happened before it arrived at the Bible you normally use.

Some time ago, I authored a book I entitled "Genesis -- A Layman's Guide to Understanding the book of Genesis." My intention was to look at the biblical book of Genesis through the eyes of the people sitting in the church pew on Sunday morning. I firmly believe that the Bible does not contain a complicated message that only scholars can decipher. Everyone should be able to read the Bible and obtain its basic messages. The same is true for the different paraphrases and translations of the Bible.

It really is not that complicated. The Old Testament of the Bible is written in Hebrew with a few sections written in Aramaic. The New Testament is written in Greek. Thus, if you really wanted to do a critical Bible study, you should do it in those languages. Unfortunately, most of us do not have that ability. A translation of the Bible means that it has been translated from a biblical language by a group of scholars with the intent of keeping the true meaning of the text. A paraphrase of the Bible is normally done by a single person with the intention of paraphrasing the biblical languages so that different people and cultures may understand its meaning. For instance, it makes no sense for an Eskimo to talk about "sheep" when they deal with caribou.

Needless to say, there have been numerous paraphrases and translations throughout the years. The King James Version previously referred to was authorized by King James (not God) in 1611. Since not many people today can understand old English, it has been revised over forty times. I well remember when its latest version came out, the New King James Bible, and people refused to accept it. However, today the New King James Bible is one of the most popular bibles that is used. The New American Standard Bible came out in 1970 and has been revised several times. The Revised Standard Version came out in 1952 and was revised in 1990. It was followed in 2011 by the New International Version, which is much more readable from the pulpit.

Today, it is common to hear paraphrases such as The Message by Eugene Peterson (2001) or The Living Bible by Kenneth Taylor (1971); or translations such as The New Living Translation (2007), The Common English Bible (2011), The Good News Bible (1976), the New International Bible (2011), or the New King James Bible (1982). In addition, there are a large number of bibles with good study guides.

The real question is not whether the Word of God is located in any single Bible since we believe that the Word of God is present and understandable by the power of the same Holy Spirit who gave it in the first place. Of course, the Bible you use is the inerrant Word of God no matter which paraphrase or translation you use. It is perfect because you have opened your heart to receive it and to allow God to speak forth His message once again to His creation.

• • •

Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the fire department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Religion on 10/03/2018

Print Headline: Which Bible do you use?

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