I am often asked which is the best version of the Bible to use for personal reading and study. There are so many different types and styles of Bibles available today. It can truly be overwhelming. But to answer this question, first we must distinguish between a translation and a paraphrase. A translation is a scholarly endeavor where the Bible is translated from the original languages. The Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament are translated from Hebrew, while the Christian Scriptures or New Testament are translated from ancient Greek and some Aramaic. A paraphrase on the other hand, is where a person or persons takes the translated version and puts it in their own words or phrases.
The translations that are highly regarded are The New Interpreters Study Bible and the Wesley Study Bible, both of which are in the New Revised Standard Version. There is also the Common English Study Bible. The study notes are the most accurate scholarship to date.
My two favorite paraphrase Bibles are The Message and The Living Bible. I find it helpful to read a translation and a paraphrase side by side. This helps in grasping the fuller meaning of the text.
It was the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther who said, “I study my Bible like I gather apples. First, I shake the whole tree that the ripest may fall. Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken each limb, I shake each branch and every twig. Then I look under every leaf.”
I really like this analogy because I think it points to the fact that there are two ways you can study the Bible:
- Studying the Bible with your mind made up.
- Studying the Bible to let it make up your mind.
There is a basic difference between an explorer and a tourist. The tourist travels quickly, stopping only to observe the highly noticeable or publicized points of interest. The explorer, on the other hand, takes time to search out all that one might find. Too many of us read the Bible like a tourist and then complain that our devotional times are fruitless. It is necessary that we take time to explore the Bible. Notable nooks and crannies will appear as we travel beneath the surface.
Now why am I sharing this with you? Because this coming Sunday I am introducing a new sermon series for August and September titled“Did You Get My Text? Decoding Some of the Most Misunderstood Stories in the Bible.” Beginning with the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis chapter four, we will engage in some serious bible study as we seek to grasp the deeper and consequential meaning of what the text is saying to us. I hope you will join me in an excursion through some of the richest stories in the Old and New Testaments.
Tonight at 6:30 p.m., I will host the fifth session in the Summer Institute of Religious Studies as we continue our exploration of alternative faith communities as we consider The Unification Church, more commonly called “The Moonies.” Childcare will be available if you should need it. If you made dinner reservations (by noon this past Monday), Chef Bill starts serving at 5:00.
I’ll see you soon!
Rev. Dr. Kip Laxson
P.S. I hope you picked up a copy of the new Adult Ministry brochure last Sunday or have seen the brand-new Adult Ministry website: www.asburyadultministry.org. More than 50 classes will be available to you this fall including brand-new life groups, short-term classes, and my Methodist History & Heritage Class which begins September 26. There are some terrific opportunities there and I hope you’ll find something to help you grow in your faith and relationships with others. You can learn more about Adult Ministry—as well as our RESET and Kids Town ministries—this Saturday at Fall Kickoff which begins at 5:30 p.m.