I am enjoying a few days in the mountains at the same family home I stayed last year. There is a Christian bookstore nearby, and last year I stopped in and received a free copy of the book of Luke. It was promoting a new translation of the Bible. I took the copy and read it the rest of my trip. It was moving to me, and I have thought long and hard about why.
First, I won’t tell you what new translation it was or what denominational bookstore from which I bought it. The debates on Bible translations are ones I used to vigorously follow, especially as a fundamentalist Christian who thought the King James Version was the only Biblically faithful version. I bought into that argument big time, and remember well arguing with a polite youth leader in a friend’s church I only visited one time. Poor guy. I knew my arguments well, and he had little experience on the topic. Now looking back, I realize how irresponsible, illogical, and inaccurate my arguments were Biblically. I eventually discovered the New American Standard Bible and realized with my Strong’s Concordance in hand that the arguments I had grown up with about other translations were weak and often sinfully wrong. In my experience, the Word of God was maligned, not preserved, by such debates. I’m not naïve about the issues in current translation debates, and I am not against robust discussion on the topic, but I have grown to have a strong conviction from Scripture about one very important thing – I am much more confident in God’s promises and ability to preserve His Word than I am in man’s ability to pervert it.
Matthew 5:18 ESV
For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Isaiah 40:8 ESV
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
This year, I returned to the same Christian bookstore and noticed that the entire Bible in that new version is now on sale. For $9.99, I got a decent looking New Testament with Psalms. I decided this will be my next devotional plan – read through the entire NT and Psalms in this new version with highlighter (and magnifying bookmark) in hand. I’ll mark it up as I read and then put it up with my other journals and Bible studies when I’m done. I’ve already noted that reading the Bible for a while in another translation sharpens my understanding of the Scripture. I knew that it was often hard for a single English word or phrase to perfectly embody a Greek concept, and I regularly read a verse in this new version that adds clarity to the Scripture versions with which I am more familiar. Things pop out, and it gets my attention.
Just today, I read of John’s baptism of Christ. The dove descends and the Father says from heaven that Jesus is His Son with whom He is well pleased. The slightly different wording in this new version made me stop and think exactly what God meant when He said that. He was well pleased with Jesus. I have always thought that indicated simply God’s approval of Jesus. Jesus always obeyed God the Father and was the model of what God approves. But I also realized today it indicates God’s joy and happiness in His Son. And that second aspect of this phrase was a blessing on which to meditate today. God found joy in His Son, and because of the great exchange of the gospel, He finds great joy in me. He was well pleased with His Son, and now, joy of joy, He is well pleased with me. And it’s not by my own works of righteousness but because of Christ’s righteousness credited to my account. (2 Cor. 5:21).
My personal favorite version of the Bible is the New American Standard. I mostly use the English Standard Version right now. But I’m not afraid of other versions and have found them helpful in my study of the Word. Most of all, I have great confidence in God’s ability to preserve His Word. With His promises, He has taken the responsibility to protect the integrity of His revelation of Himself to us, and it is not naïve of us to trust Him to do just that.