I think it’s great that there are accessible, readable translations of the Bible available to us today. I certainly don’t know enough Greek or Hebrew to read the original, so I’m glad when many fine scholars put in years of work to produce English translations for our age and culture.
One of the problems related to this is that I now have at least a dozen translations of the Bible at home, and when I move from one to the other it becomes harder to memorise scripture (because the same verse will look different in each) and I no longer have the ‘one’ Bible that gets underlined and known. Add to that the struggle (for me anyway) of approaching God’s Word as God’s Word to Me, rather than a future congregation – the classic preacher’s problem of reading a passage and immediately thinking how I would communicate it to a group of people, before allowing the Spirit to speak to me on a personal level and apply it to my life. That’s where hypocrisy begins.
My solution? I begin preparation using the NRSV – to me, it seems to be the most literal rendering of the original ancient languages, with few value-judgments placed upon it: it’s the text, fair and simple. Quite often I will preach from the NIV – it’s the pew Bible of most churches and a little easier on the ears. But now for personal use I’ve come to love the NLT… My understanding is that the translators of this version have put a lot of effort into communicating (what they believe to be) the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew phrases, rather than individual words. I think they’ve done an outstanding job.
Yesterday I came upon Galatians 5:25, being normally used to the NIV: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Which makes sense, but perhaps has become blunted through familiarity. Instead I read (NLT):
“Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”
This brought a fresh understanding. If I am a Christian – and I am (see Romans 10:9), I am now living by the Spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit). I am no longer ruled by the selfishness that destroys the world. I no longer need to struggle to make myself good enough for God. Being in Christ brings freedom! Essentially, the only thing left to do is hone my listening skills… I need to hear the Spirit’s guiding and then follow. In every part of my life.