This Sunday we begin a new sermon series. This one explores the bible, and over the next few weeks we will have the opportunity to look at this Good Book and try to understand how and why it came to be. We will also be touching in on a number of foundational stories within it.
We have bibles in the pews, so if you don't have a bible, don't worry about it. Come anyway! Also, key readings are printed in the Sunday bulletin, so that what we are reading is right there for us. But if you have a bible, bring it! Or if you want to get one, or update the one you have, I have a couple of recommendations.
The Common English Bible is a new translation fresh from the United Methodist Publishing house. Only the New Testament is available right now, but it is very affordable at $5 and a great translation for Bible studies and devotional readings.
Another good bible to get would be the NRSV, the New Revised Standard Version. These come in large print if needed and include the Old Testament and New Testament. Get one that includes the Apocrypha as well if you can afford it. The basic bible will cost about $10-$15. If you want to go further, for a little more $$ get the New Interpreters Study Bible. It's at Amazon or Cokesburyand it costs about $35, but it comes with a lot more information. The New Interpreters Study Bible is a really great bible for study.
Besides those two, popular Bibles include the NIV (New International Version), NASB, and The Message. These are all good Bibles. NIV and NASB can be a little stilted because they are trying for a word-for-word translation. The Message is the reverse. It is a paraphrase type of translation. Eugene Peterson, who translated the Bible to write The Message, wanted to offer us a translation that speaks with a true flow of language to convey the meaning of the words. The trouble with all translations of the Bible is that things are missed, changed, or altered. With a paraphrase like The Message, you sacrifice word-for-word accuracy for an attempt to communicate meaning more naturally. But with a word-for-word translation, it sometimes doesn't make a lot of sense. So, here I recommend getting two bibles. Get either the NIV together with The Message, or get the NASB together with The Message.
Many people want a word-for-word translation because they think it is more literally accurate. The trouble is that words in English do not equal exactly words in Greek or Hebrew. Think of two words today, "Aloha" and "Hello." They are similar, but not the same in meaning. Because English is such a very different kind of language than Hebrew or even Greek, literal accuracy might be something that is impossible to literally achieve.
Think about it, bibles are translated not just from one language to another, but from one culture to another, and one time in history to another. Beware of assuming that the word "honor" in English means the same thing as "honor" to the people in Jesus's day. It does not.
Still, the effort to be as accurate as possible--both in words and meaning--is a good one. I don't know about you, but as the Bible is a central part of my Christian faith, I want one that gets me as close to what Jesus actually said and meant as I can! With a few good translations to choose from, you know people are working hard to do the best they can for people of faith.
Here's one more thing. It can be interesting to check the words of your bible with other translations. Websites like Bible Gateway let you compare right on the web.
Confused? It can be confusing. That's okay. Any time you delve deeply into something you learn a lot and discover new things. This is good. In living our faith and exploring 'The God Question,' we want to know more about the bible so we can better understand the Word of God for the people of God! Amen!