Demystifying the Bible

For me, as a former fundamental Baptist or Bible Baptist (as they are called here in the Philippines), if we want to talk about what Bible version to read, obviously the KJV or KJB (King James Bible) is our go to Bible. With it’s great reputation as the best selling and most loved version, we can trust this version. However, the truth is that the KJV is difficult to read and to absorbed. but since it’s “THE only Bible we should read and all other Bible version are corrupt” we stick to it. Ironically (hypocritically), preachers in this group uses a diglot Bible which includes a Tagalog translation which is not KJV to make sense of the KJV English.

With it’s archaic words that feels like it’s so holy and an reverend history taught by Bible Baptist preachers, it creates a mysterious or mystified look at this old version. The mere fact you have it and it’s the version preached at your church feels like a blanket of security that you belong to the “good guys” rather than to read, understand and learn from it. It feels like it’s not meant to be understood but to make a statement that we stand for “truth”. I rather feel that it’s too out there, up above a pedestal. Added to that are preachers acting like gatekeepers so that no one will rock the boat. Sure we are told that you can actually use a modern version for your quite time or devotional but the damage is already done. Instilled in our minds that the modern translations are unreliable.

Many of us might have read or heard Psalms 23:1 . Some of us know it’s KJV version (and some modern versions also retain this rendition):

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

For me I know what it means. It means if I have God, I don’t need anything other than Him. He is enough for me. Then again I feel that the “I shall not want” need some unpacking for me to truly understand this verse. I feel it creates some sort of barrier provided by the church culture I was once belong to. So it goes back to me, do I really know this verse?

You’ll get this line if you check the other translation like this one from the CSB:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need.”

Pretty straightforward and it doesn’t need further explanation. I get it instantly. You get it instantly for sure too. If you put down the Bible, will it be clear enough for you to live out what you have just read? So why do I have to deprive myself in fully accepting that Bible verse on one read over a version that won’t penetrate my heart because of some “barriers”?

Modern translations, in a way “demystify” the Bible. It bombs the over spiritualization of God’s Word in that version but upholds it’s spirituality. In a way it lets you chew on the meat without the bitter after taste of fundamentalist traditionalism. It promotes being biblical and not bibliolatry. It shots down being overwhelm and leads you to being at awe on God’s Word. It satisfies our craving for clarity blows away sentimentality over a version.

It’s one thing that you know the meaning of the passage after decoding it. However, it’s another thing to read it in plain understandable English on the Bible itself and without having doubt that you get it. It creates this assurance that God want to be understood by common folks who just want to read the Bible and to live a life holding on what they have read. They could walk away knowing fully what God’s want them to do in their life. As simple as that. Why doesn’t it have to be complicated?

This goes back to the purpose of having a Bible translation. The purpose is for people to understand the Scriptures. The KJV and other translation before it has that aim. Many generations of Christians, churches, ministry and missionaries benefited with this version. But the question is: if the Bible version can’t be understood, is it really fulfilling it’s main purpose? If our favorite Bible is not making itself accessible to an ordinary guy, has it failed it’s purpose?

There are some good reasons why we should read old translations and there is also a place for newer translations. Let’s forget for a while all those things that comes up when we discuss the old and new Bible versions including the controversial ones. There is a place for that.

We can say all we want to say with modern translations but I think having other versions is just us explaining what passages mean from other old translation like the KJV. In delivering a sermon or Bible study we try to breakdown a Bible verse to make it plain and easily understood by our listener. In that brief moment we become “Pastor The Message”, “Preacher NLT” or “Revered NIV”. However, the Bible versions already done that. The different translations is like having different “teachers” by your side that have different angles but in harmony to what the verses mean. And you have just started picking up another Bible and not going for commentaries, lexicons or buying the latest study Bible.

So why be afraid of the big bad modern translations? The KJV can be use today and we at church use it. I agree it’s a good translation but not the ultimate translation. I use it to memorize it on Fighter Verse app. But I want more from the Bible. I want to understand it, be blessed by what I read and apply it to my Christian walk. That’s the basic level of having a Bible. And to be honest I can’t find that sometimes from the KJV. Modern versions sometimes deliver what the KJV cannot. This is coming not from a liberal nor a modernist but from an average Joe who, like what I have said, want to know the Bible and be sold out for what it tells me about Jesus.

(Did you enjoy what you read? Did this article helped you? If yes, you can say “Thank you” by sharing 10 Pesos or more at my G-Cash or Paymaya account: Marianito Gonzales – 09163315535. For international friends, head over this link to buy me a coffee.)

8 thoughts on “Demystifying the Bible

  1. Well said! Thank you, Nitoy. C.S. Lewis would agree with you. He wrote, “Though it may seem a sour paradox—we must sometimes get away from the [KJV] … simply because it is so beautiful…. Beauty exalts, but beauty also lulls…. Through that beautiful solemnity, the transporting or horrifying realities of which the Book tells may come to us blunted and disarmed, and we may only sigh with tranquil veneration when we ought to be burning with shame or struck dumb with terror or carried out of ourselves by ravishing hopes and adorations…. We ought therefore to welcome all new translations (when they are made by sound scholars).”

  2. Bro, you are blessed to have a free mind in panoramic viewing of the Holy Word of God. But always be on guard of your faith and what you’ve previously learned. We are advised to read the KJV for doctrinal issues but the other translations can be read for any good purposes or reasons to enjoy individual democratic freedom on expressing your thoughts and feelings. You have my support in your journey to this kind of creative works to reach out the loss. May God be glorified in your life. Let’s set another time for a cup of coffee.

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