We received a catalogue in the mail today of things to buy for gifts. One of the items caught my eye – it was a key ring, with a USB stick attached, which had the bible loaded on it. I thought, what a good idea! People can take it anywhere, plug it in to the computer, and the bible is there for them to read. Great!
Then the next line caught my eye – King James Version. At first, I thought it was screamingly funny – a modern, up-to-date thing like a USB stick, with a 3 or 4 hundred-year-old version of the English language. Then it struck me as a tragic picture of Christian life in many places – we try and be with-it, up-to-date, using new technology. But the content of that technology is ancient and in language that has changed its meaning, so that the original meaning is obscure! It that how many Christians see the Bible? “I love the old language…” (I don’t understand it but I love it) I have heard many people say that they love the way the words roll off the tongue in the KJV. But for everyday use, it really is vital to use a translation that not only uses the best of modern scholarship, but also the most immediate and fresh of today’s language.
When I studied Greek last year, the only translations the tutor really liked were those in contemporary, clear English. and that’s because the Greek wasn’t a high-falutin language – koine Greek was the same version you would use to write a shopping list – really everyday language.
Let’s have another look at how we use scripture – those who would preserve the old language for its own sake are treating it like a museum piece, instead of a book you can discuss with the author as you read it!