Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bibles as Tools and Spiritual Sustenance

Bible translations are always a touchy subject. When I was very young, my parents gave me an NIV, later, my home church gave me a Good News Bible, and in High school, my parents gave me a NKJV which I read several times. I used the NIV and NKJV extensively, and for me, those Bibles shaped my early Christian faith.

In college, and then later in seminary, I have had to use the NRSV, and while I appreciate the gender-neutral translation when the clear meaning of the Hebrew and Greek is gender neutral, the language is not modern English as anyone (aside from some academics) speaks it, and the poetry isn't as good as in most older translations. The church where I work now uses NIV's in the pews, and I've been glad for that, it's an improvement over the churches that use NRSV's in the pews -- but there are an odd mix of Bibles in the youth room.

Over my time doing youth work, I've found myself resorting to The Message: Remix as a suplement to the NIV to get the teens to think about biblical passages in a more "contemporary" way, but it's far from perfect (and as a rule, I'd never use a paraphrase in worship, and some of Peterson's choices, such as the use of "death valley" in the 23 psalm are more misleading than enlightening). I have found that The Message: Remix can speak to teens if used sparingly, so I'll probably continue to do so, but I've been looking for an everyday Bible that will work for my devotional use, be effective as a tool for communicating the Gospel, and will do so in contemporary English while faithfully translating the Hebrew and Greek text.

Both my wife and I have ordered TNIV's and I've begun using a desk-copy we purchased to read through the whole Bible this year. Check it out -- while it's not perfect (no translation is), it's smooth, and basically contemporary English, as well as an accurate translation. Shane was right -- the TNIV is good stuff. (And even more exciting than a great new translation, for youth workers anyway, there's a parallel TNIV/The Message:Remix edition that could be great as a discussion leader for teen Sunday School classes.)

1 comment:

nathan said...

Hey, just ran across your blog and read this post. I have always been a NASB man myself. That's what I have preached from. It has a great track record for being literal, but it lacks readability. Recently, I have been hearing great things about the Holman Christian Standard Bible. I have been rebelling against it because I thought it was the "Baptist" version. It turns out, over 100 translators worked on the translation and less than half are baptist. Dozens of Christian backgrounds collaborated to bring us maybe the best blend of readability and literal translation. I have been using it for about two months now and I love it.

Feel free to come by my site at if you have any other thoughts on translations. HCSB rocks.