Lesser Translations

The other day I was at LifeWay Christian bookstore, looking at the Bibles. I’ll do that from time to time; I’m just a Bible junkie I guess. Anyway, while I was there, a young lady was shopping for a Bible with her grandfather. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but the Granddad was one of those loud-talkers. You know the kind; the guy you can hear from 3 aisles over because he has absolutely no concept of volume control. He had this big booming voice and when I happened upon them, he was pontificating about the importance of finding a Bible that his granddaughter could read. “You’ve got to find a Bible that you’ll be able to read and understand,” he said. They were standing in front of a wall of different translations: NIV, KJV, NKJV, NLT, ESV and maybe a few more. The little girl stood just stood there, an overwhelemed expression on her face.

Sensing that she needed some help, Grandpa said, “You’ll probably want to think about either the NIV or the New KJV.” He pointed her to where these two translations were located. “I think you’ll like one of these two the most.”

This seemed to help the little girl, at least somewhat. Instead of an entire wall of Bibles, she was now looking at one or two bookcases full of NIVs and NKJVs.

“Well,” she said, “which translation do you use?”

Grandpa explained that he preferred the New King James, that the original King James was the best, truest translation of the Bible available to man. But the New King James “cleaned up” some of the old antiquated language, like the “thees and thous” that sometimes trip us up. “These lesser translations are okay, I guess. But for my money, sweetie,” he told her, “the KJV is the most authentic translation we have.”

You have to give Grandpa credit; he only said this in response to his granddaughter’s question. He was asked for his opinion and he gave it. And I agree with him that the KJV is a great translation; it has a certain beauty and eloquence that gives the text a regal, almost majestic feel at times. And, to his credit again, he did direct her toward the NIV as well, so she had some options to choose from. But I couldn’t help but wonder if the seeds of what was being sewn in that conversation would come to haunt that little girl over the course of her life. What if she finds the “scrubbed up” KJV to be a cumbersome read? Will she one day feel guilty if she prefers the “readability” of another translation? Will she feel like she’s betraying Grandpa if she someday owns a “lesser translation” like the NIV or the NLT?Worse, will she feel like she’s betraying God?

I don’t know which Bible she decided to get; I finally made it to a part of the store where Grandpa’s voice couldn’t reach me. But I can’t imagine she walked out of there with anything but a New King James Bible tucked under her arm, grateful she hadn’t chosen one of those “lesser” translations, pitying those poor people who were less fortunate.

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7 Responses to Lesser Translations

  1. TARA says:

    Our Grandpa wouldn't even approve of the NEW King James – the original King James is the ONLY one that will do the trick.But I love my NIV – given to my by Mike George and Tom Wallace back in 9th grade at College Street. Richard got one too – but that version was banned from his home church at that point in time.I'm just an NIV gal.

  2. Jason says:

    For the record, this was my mother's father, Granddaddy Armstrong. He once told me that if the King James Bible was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it was good enough for him. I prefer the ESV these days. But I also like to read (gasp) Eugene Peterson's The Message along with it. It's really enhanced my Bible study.

  3. matt w. says:

    That is hilarious about the Apostle Paul.

  4. Jason says:

    Matt,What's worse is he was an elder in the church.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I've always been a fan of the NAS, but since last year, I've really come to love the ESV. I think it's the easiest reading version as far as literal translations go.Ashleigh

  6. jenna says:

    I love my ESV!

  7. Jason says:

    Yay for the ESV!

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