Which Bible Should I Use?

I was just searching the googles for new articles about the NIV2011 translation and found, sadly, that this blog you’re reading right now is one of the top results as it relates to the niv-nlt-esv “debate” that seems to be interesting to only a select few, including this guy (points to self). At our church, we use the NIV 1984 edition, though there have been at least two occasions where someone from the congregation would get up and read the NIV as part of the Worship service, only to have printed off the 2011 version from biblegateway.com, with some rather confusing results, since we put our NIV84 readings on screen.

Besides a few posts about the NIV2011’s nice binding, larger print and nicer font, I haven’t seen too much new discussion about translation issues as of late. I am fascinated by some of the arguments for and against a more gender-neutral translation. Arguments for include an egalitarian perspective, modern language, and faithful translation (since Jesus didn’t literally make us just fishers of men but fishers of people). Arguments against include being politically correct for the sake of the accuracy of the text, as well as the somewhat logical but still baffling argument that they don’t translate Shakespeare into modern language for serious study, so why the Bible? That’s fine — but ol’ Bill Shakespeare isn’t written in Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic. Right? Someone tell me if it is and I’ll recant.

Anyway, here’s what I see happening, and I think translations are a symptom: the Evangelical church is about to experience a “split” that puts Evangelicalism into at least two distinct categories, which we’ll call, for the sake of argument, “conservative” and “liberal”. Conservatives will run like hell from the idea that there is no hell (see Rob Bell) and will hold tightly to the ESV. Liberals will rejoice in the dialogue that Bell, McLaren, etc. are bringing about and embrace the NIV2011, especially since it reminds them of the lambasted TNIV of a few years back. I’m sure there’s more to it, and I’m just a blogger, not a professional Theologian, so take my perspective for what it’s worth.

But the question remains: what bible should I use? I think more and more Evangelicals will be asking this as the respective camps become more isolated. What will pastors say? Get the NIV 11? Get the ESV? What will we find in our pew racks as Zondervan ditches the NIV84? It would appear that their vote would be for the NIV 11 to be our “main” bible translation. Incidentally, I’m not arguing for a single translation-quasi-KJV-only revolution. We’re beyond that, and I’m glad. However, as more and more translations feed into the consumer sub-market of Christianity, this may become a growing issue. Or, maybe not. Again: not a pro theo.

The biggest, most important part? Hiding God’s word in our hearts, that we might not sin against Him. Father, give us a deep hunger for your Word. That’s what we need, far more than another argument about translations, politics, hell, end-times, red letter, contemporary/traditional, drums/organ, jeans/suit. Lord help us worry about the right stuff. Help me.

Sigh. I think Eugene Peterson was on to something. People seem to like “The Message”. And I think I know why.

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