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Ask A Pastor – January 25, 2017

Ask A Pastor

By Rev. John Campbell

United Presbyterian, Oakdale

Have you ever been in Barnes & Noble and looked at the variety of Bibles for sale? Perhaps you have searched for a Bible.

There are many options to choose from.

For some picking the right Bible is easy. They just pick what someone told them to buy, or they get the same one as their family or friends. But for some the great variety of choices is overwhelming.

As a pastor, I am asked “Which translation of Scripture do you prefer?”

My first answer might be the Bible that is favored in the particular church where I am preaching. But if I am being asked to give a recommendation, the answer will be different.

There is part of the church in the U.S.A. that value the poetry, style, and the long history of the King James Version. It has been around since 1604. And I must say that my first Bible was King James. It is the translation that I used in memorizing Bible verses; so I am familiar with the language.

I must confess that I am somewhat puzzled at the lack of knowledge concerning the history of the Bible. By this, I mean the realization that the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, not in English.

I have seen reproduction of the early English versions that I can hardly read. To understand what the Bible says we have to have translations since most of us will never be scholars of the ancient languages. Also as knowledge and learning expands, our language changes, so we need the old language to be translated into modern usages.

Back when I was in high school I received a copy of a modern translation by J. B. Phillips. It was my Bible of choice in that it was easy to read and the content was expressed in a fashion that I could understand.

Since that time there have been many different Bibles published. One of the more recent one is The Message by Eugene Peterson. Mr. Peterson attempts to give the meaning of entire phrases, sentences, or even passages rather than individual words, using language which could be readily understood by the typical reader without a theological or linguistic background.

Today in my office I have a dozen or more translations, including ones in Hebrew and Greek.

At the present time, the differences between the major translations is not enough to demand one over the other. It all depends on which version of the Bible speaks to the reader. The most important thing is that one actually reads the scripture.

When I read the scripture text for my sermon, I will generally use the New International Version. And I will preach from that text, yet I will use various versions to try to give an understanding of what is being said. At times shades of meaning can be detected by reading a passage from several different versions.