Long, long ago, back through the dark mists of time, when the dinosaurs roamed the earth…
…to be more exact, it was 1961, and I was in third grade. My parents were members of the Methodist Church (which in seven years would become the United Methodist Church) and we went every Sunday to the little country Methodist Church that was about two miles from the farmhouse we were renting at the time.
As most churches do, our church gave a new Bible to each third-grader in Sunday School, and one Sunday I was the proud recipient of a brand new Revised Standard Version with black artificial leather cover and red page edging.
Now today I don’t think most churches would expect a kid that age to be able to read such a Bible as the RSV, but back then that’s what the liberal-moving Methodist Church used and gave. There was no such thing as the NIV or the NLT. Even the Living Bible wouldn’t be on the market for a few years. We were Methodists, and we were on the cutting edge! No KJV for us!
And you know, I loved that Bible. It was hard to read; I didn’t understand a whole lot of it. And the artificial leather cover deteriorated rather quickly. Being a kid and not understanding about artificial vs. real leather, it soured me on leather Bibles for years to come. I thought the leather cover would be “cardboardy” and wouldn’t last. Imagine my delight as I discovered the luxurious pleasure of holding and using a Bible with real leather! Anyway, I kept that Bible for a long time…all the way through high school!
When the time came to leave the nest and head off to college, I had already turned my life over to Christ, and so I was so enthused about my exciting new faith, and I had to get myself an exciting new Bible! So I found something different from my dusty old RSV; I bought myself a paperback New English Bible with the Apocrypha. Of course, Methodists didn’t read the Apocrypha, but I had a rebellious streak in me. I wanted to see what those Catholics were reading, and wanted to determine for myself whether or not I wanted that, too.
But I digress…
Let’s move now to our present time…2007! As you should know by now, I have lost much of that rebellious streak and have become a very conservative, evangelical Christian. I discovered that I liked the more literal translations of the Bible a few years ago, and particularly enjoyed using such translations as the ESV and the NASB. I refused to use the liberal NRSV, and anything that was considered Dynamic Equivalence or “gender-neutral” was very suspect. (But I had one toe in the water: I thought the NIV was a very good translation.)
I ran into the problem of determining which translation was the best one for our third-graders at church some years back when our youngest daughter was in third grade. I wasn’t happy about the Bibles our church was giving, and so I took our Sunday School superintendent aside one Sunday and told her I thought we should give the NIV to our kids. I knew it wasn’t as “good’ as the NASB or the ESV, but it should be easier for the kids to understand anyway.
Imagine my disappointment when a few Sundays later the kids were given brand new Good News Bibles! I never liked that one. Even back when I was a new Christian, it just didn’t seem right. Yeah, I knew my younger brother and his friends were reading the “Good News for Modern Man” New Testaments back in the late 60s when he first turned to the Lord, and maybe that was part of it. I saw that translation as a “teeny-bopper” translation, not worthy of serious Bible students like myself.
Well, if you have read my blog for any length of time, you know my views on Bible translation have recently changed. I now believe the most important thing for a translation to do is to communicate the message of the Gospel as accurately and understandably as possible to the reader. That change in my thinking, and my research which has followed, has brought me into a whole new realm of Bibles…Bibles I would have never considered before!
And so I am once again considering the problem of what would be the best Bible for our church to give to our third-graders. I am going to do… probably a series of posts…not just one post…about this subject. Admittedly much of my research has already been done by others, but I will still have a lot of reading, and thinking, to do; and a lot of comparing to do between different versions.
So stay tuned!