Ask A Pastor
By Pastor Scott Osenbaugh,
The Healing Place (Nashville Assembly of God)
In 1990, my wife and I moved our family to Missouri from California to serve as pastors of a small, struggling fellowship. One of the men in the church took me around the town to show me where the grocery store, the department store, and so on, were located. In one store, this man introduced me to a friend of his who attended another church across the city. This man asked me what version of the Bible I used in the pulpit, and I told him, “I preach from the NIV.” His face soured into a sober seriousness, and as he waggled his index finger near my face, he solemnly intoned, “Paul and Silas had a King James Bible to comfort them in the prison in Philippi, and if it was good enough for the apostles, it is good enough for me.” At first, I thought he was kidding, but I found out he was completely serious.
From a technical and scholarly viewpoint, no English translation of the Bible is without its issues. English struggles sometimes to adequately express the richness and the subtleties of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek source documents. The KJV, for example, had over 80,000 corrections between its 1611 and 1612 editions, and still has some translation situations based on later discoveries of better, earlier manuscripts than the ones used in its translation. The NASB tries to be literal to the text, and as a result, comes across as wooden, stiff. The NIV, which is a translation using dynamic equivalence or “best way to render it in English” has been criticized as being too liberal. The list could go on, but space doesn’t allow for it.
Despite the issues in translation practices, the English versions which are translations (NIV, NASB, ESV, and so on) are reliable transmitters of Biblical truth. As far as preaching is concerned, I use the NIV for its readability and its coherence. Studies show the average American congregation’s level of comprehension is somewhere around the 4th to 7th grade level, and the word use in the NIV fits that parameter. Some of my colleagues have gone to the ESV (English Standard Version), which has bridged the gap between being readable and being technically closer to the original texts.
When people ask me about which version of the Bible they should read, my answer is a simple one: “Read one you can understand, and one you will actually read.” If the ancient forms of the King James are difficult, find a version where the word choices are closer to present day use. It does not matter what version a person has if that Bible is never read! I will continue to preach from the NIV, being careful to do my research into the Biblical languages so what is presented from the pulpit will be as accurate to the Word as I can make it.