Thursday, 17 September 2015

Choosing a Bible

Hi everyone,
I started typing this post before SES last night.  I've left it to today to finish as it was starting to go in an interesting direction.
A particularly good part of yesterday was getting out of the office for lunch.  I walked up to Cussen Park with an avocado, and orange, and the Surfer's Bible.  The fruit was simply because it's what I like to have for lunch.  The Bible was because I saw it at the opp shop the other day and it piqued my curiosity.  I've been kind of suprised by how much I've enjoyed browsing it.  Certainly it's quite user-friendly. The text is the highly accessible Contemporary English Version.  It's also in a standard size font (rather than the 8-point Times New Roman apparently beloved of Bible publishers everywhere).
This got me to thinking: if you're a believer, is there a particular translation of the Bible that you prefer?  My feeling is that the best translation for most purposes is the New King James Version (this is the one used in Gideon bibles).  It preserves the muscular directness of the KJV, but is somewhat more easily read.  I also think that the King James Version itself is particularly good for reading and thinking about: its archaic style means that modern readers need to work to get into it, and that little bit of extra effort seems an appropriate way to be approaching the Scriptures (a little bit like the extra work of a long uphill walk to get to Church is an appropriate small penance, I suppose).  The historian in me also likes the thought that a lengthy piece of seventeenth-century English is still being read and considered.  The version that was recommended to me when I swam the Tiber was the New Revised Standard Version, which seems to me solid and workmanlike, but (forgive me) not especially distinctive.
1612 First Quarto of King James Bible" by Jeremylinvip - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia -
The only thing that I think is concerning is when the idea of the Canon breaks down.  There's no doubt some merit in the reasons the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox families of churches give for preferring slightly different collections of Books.  At a pinch, one could also accept that Books like the Gospel of Mary (used by the Uniting Church) or The Shepherd have merit, despite being apocryphal.  One runs into difficulties, though, when the idea of a Magisterium goes out the window and the Scriptures become edited to suit contemporary concerns.  This might be slightly humourous, like Temperance-minded edition which replaced references to wine with references to grape juice.  Or they might be near-blasphemous, like the Conservative Bible Project.  These bouts of nuttiness aside, my honest feeling is that a range of translations and versions is a good thing: as long as they're done seriously, it makes sense to have one which will speak to the theological scholar and one which will speak to the factory hand.  As long as an edition is prepared with good-will, the good news can't help but come through.
What about you?  Do you prefer one translation or edition over another?  Is there a favourite edition that you use?  What would you give to someone who had only just started to think about religion?


  1. I'm excited that you're exploring the bible more and it's differences between versions! The one key point I always look for in every bible I pick up is this: Is the Gospel being spelled out clear as day (Jesus came and died for our sins, rose on the 3rd day, by his grace alone we are saved). If the text is vague and doesn't spit it out clearly, I immediately shelve it and don't look back at it. Best of luck!

    1. True enough! If a bible doesn't make that clear, it's almost completely missing the point!