The NIrV is supposedly written at a third grade reading level. There are a few other translations that are written to be easy for young children, or for those for whom English is a second language, to understand as well.
So what’s wrong with giving the third graders the NIrV? Well, there’s definitely something bothering me about it.
I’ve already mentioned the idea that this should be a Bible the kids may want to keep and use for many years. Along with this idea is that it may be wise to give them the same version as the pew Bibles, or that the pastor uses in his preaching. This is so the kids won’t have to deal with differences in translations as they are trying to follow along in church.
But there’s another thing I’m thinking about, that’s been rolling around in my head for some time. It seems to me that as we make a translation easier to read and understand, first of all there is a tendency to get the translators’ own theology mixed in there, as can be easily seen in such places as Romans 6:3-4. Important doctrines can be missed, or misunderstood. It can lead to individuals who think they understand the Bible all by themselves without the help of the greater Body of Christ to check and balance the theology. Obviously this is going to lead to misunderstandings at least, and heresy at worst. I mean, we as adults even do this. Why should we make it so easy for the kids to do it as well?
Furthermore, there is the possibility, I believe, that by “dumbing down” the translation so much, we could be short-circuiting the process ordained by God, by which we come to understand the Bible. As the Ethiopian eunuch said to Philip in Acts 8 on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza:
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
Then Philip explained the scriptures to him and led him to faith in Jesus Christ.
We also see it in Luke 24, when the Risen Christ appeared to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus, but they did not recognize Him. When they told Him about how Jesus had been crucified, then Jesus began to tell them all about it as it says:
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
You see, even Jesus had to explain the scriptures to people. It’s not a matter of the scriptures being translated into an easy form, it’s the fact that even when they are, there are still difficult concepts there that need to be explained and taught.
As Paul writes in Romans 10:
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!
You see, that is the process. God has ordained the preaching of the Word as the way by which people will be brought to the Lord in faith.
Let’s not get our children on the road to thinking they don’t need the assembly of believers, and I’m afraid that could be the unintended result of giving them too easy a translation.
Since writing this entry, I have been convinced by the discussion in the comments on this post and on all the posts in this series that my position on children’s Bibles is not right and I need to step back from it. You will find my humble “mea culpa” in the “I ain’t no expert.” post above.