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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Why It’s Time to Dethrone King James

king-james-1

No, I’m not talking about LeBron James. I really have no opinion on basketball players and team rosters.

When it comes to Bible issues, though, I tend to be very opinionated. 😉

And, quite simply, it’s time to fire King James.

I know that this issue tends to be very heated among some Christians. Some live and die by their King James Version (KJV). Before you get out your pitchforks and torches, let me give a caveat:

Ultimately, I believe that you should use whatever Bible version you will actually read and apply to your life. God cares more about that than he cares about the translation you use. From my own childhood I have also memorized verses from the KJV and I have difficulty thinking about those verses in any other way than the version I memorized. 🙂

Having said that, let’s talk about the KJV as opposed to other versions in two specific areas.

The Text:

In a nutshell, since there were no copy machines in the ancient world, all Bibles were copied by hand. It was quite laborious, the the human factor involved in copying meant that human goofs eventually worked their way in to the text. Sometimes a copy would accidentally add or omit a word, phrase or sentence. Sometimes a copy accidentally repeated an entire line of text. Sometimes one scribe’s marginal notes were accidentally written into the text by another scribe.

All said and done, there is a process by which men and women familiar with the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek (the languages of the Bible) sift through all of the manuscripts and work their way back to the form closest to the original text of the Bible. Along the way of the thousands of copies that exist we start to see trends and we can group the different manuscripts into textual “families.” The KJV is based on one of these families.

There is a school of thought that says the family upon which the KJV is based is not the oldest and most authentic family – that other manuscripts reflect an older and closer-to-the-original tradition. Those of us who hold to this school of thought prefer to use Bibles based on examining multiple manuscripts rather than a single family. Such Bibles are “eclectic” and are represented by the ESV, NIV, NLT, NASB, and many other fine translations.

The Translation & Language:

There are several areas to consider when looking at the KJV vs. other versions.

– word count: I have heard KVJ advocates blast “corrupt versions” for not having nearly the same word count as the KJV. The idea is that the KJV is closer in word count to the original languages. But this is a false dilemma. There is no translation of any work that has identical word count to the original language. Anyone who has studied a foreign language understands this simple fact. There is ALWAYS something a little different when you translate from one language to another.

Thus we hold that the original manuscripts, those originally penned by the original authors, are the inspired Bible and Word of God. All other translations are faithful attempts at taking those ancient languages and transporting them to other languages, but the KJV is a translation just like any other. The originals are superior to any translation.

– out of date language: The KJV uses vocabulary, grammar, and syntax that are simply out of date. Because language is fluid and ever-changing, the way we spoke 400 years ago is radically different from how we speak today. Some words have fallen out of use. Some words have actually CHANGED meanings in the last 400 years. For a silly example, the KJV regularly uses words like ass and piss. One of my favorite KJV jokes is:

Q: Who is the stretchiest man in the Bible?
A: Abraham, because he tied his ass to a tree and walked up a mountain.

It’s not foul – it’s biblical…if you’re reading the King James Version. While I want my kids reading the Bible, I don’t really want them running around using Bible words that now have different meanings and usage.

One of the founders of the Reformation movement that broke away from the Catholic Church and birthed the Protestant movement (Lutherans, Baptists, Charismatics, etc.) was Martin Luther. In his lifetime, the Bible was only for use by the trained clergy because it was only available in Latin. Only priests could read it! He was a big believer that all people should have the Bible accessible in their own native language. Thus he began work to translate the Bible from Latin into his native German.

17th century English is not the native language of 21st century English speakers. In the spirit of the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther, Christians should be leading the way in making sure contemporary people have a Bible accessible to them in their own language and vernacular. It is possible to retain the meaning of the original text while making the vocabulary and style contemporary. There are several versions that accomplish this well.

I want to end by reiterating this important point:

The best Bible for you to use is the one you will actually read and apply to your life.

If that’s the KJV for you – more power to you! If it’s not, there’s nothing wrong with other translations.

God’s Word has been impacting people’s lives for thousands of years – even before the King James Version was around. It will continue to impact lives long into the future, even when our contemporary versions become the outdated versions. 🙂

As always, I welcome conversation and dialogue about the issues. Please remain civil and polite – even in disagreement!

The Bible Does NOT Mean That! – Episode 2

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Here we are with Episode 2 in my series called “The Bible Does NOT Mean That!” The goal is not to tell you definitively what the Bible does or does not say. The goal is to talk about how we can look at the Bible with intentionality and understanding. Since it is God’s revelation to humanity it’s not supposed to be filled with secrets locked away to all but the elite. It’s designed to guide us ALL!

The problem is that many of us are simply never taught how to read it.

I once joked that there are two kinds of people who take the Bible 100% literally: Fundamentalists and Atheists.

Fundies hold that the Bible is 100% literal or else you can’t trust ANY of it. Atheists hold that the Bible is 100% literal to shoot holes in Christian faith. I doubt either group would ever think they have anything in common with the other.

But here’s the truth: the Bible is NOT meant to be understood literally.

Well, parts of it are. But parts of it aren’t.

The keyword for today’s episode is Genre.

Merriam-Webster defines genre as: a particular type or category of literature or art.

The various books within the Bible represent different literary genres, and each genre is interpreted a bit differently from the next. Genre cues us how to read and what to expect from the literature.

For example, when we read a story that begins: “Once upon a time…” we are automatically cued as to what kind of story is going to follow (fairy tale) and our brain processes the story as such.

The Bible is filled with histories, parables, poetry, letters, and even this funny genre called Apocalyptic Literature.

Sometimes we understand the Bible to be communicating literal truth. Sometimes the Bible uses symbolism and poetic language to make a point.

Reading the Bible honestly means that we ask the questions: What genre of literature is this passage I’m reading? How should that genre influence my understanding of the text?

I had a Bible teacher who was fond of saying: If we took everything literally we’d have a faith that believes God is a great cosmic chicken (see Psalm 91:4).

Is the Bible true?

Yes.

Is the Bible to be understood 100% literally?

No.

Related Posts:

The Bible Does NOT Mean That! – Episode 1

p.s. If you are interested in additional reading, check out “How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth” by Fee and Stuart.

How to Ruin a Children’s Book

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By now you all know that I enjoy the occasional hashtag game on social media. Recently someone brought this one to my attention: #RuinAChildrensBook. The premise is to take a beloved book and, by altering one or two words in the title, significantly change the meaning of the book. As a book lover who is married to a book lover and raising three little book lovers, this was right up my alley.

Here are some of them:

It’s amazing how changing one or two words can radically alter meaning. Words are incredibly potent. It should be a reminder to all of us to be careful about the words we use when we’re talking to others and about others.

With our words we can build people up.

With our words we can tear people down.

Like bullets from a gun, when words leave our mouths there is no taking them back. Even the most sincere apology cannot undo the hurt we might cause with some poorly chosen words.

So think before you speak. Ask yourself if the words you are choosing will bring life or death.

You have more power than you realize.

How Christians Cuss, Dad-Gummit!

Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you have a sensitivity to coarse language you may want to skip this post…

So the other day I played a little game with some friends. I asked a group of people to help me come up with as many Christian swear alternatives as we could (those are words Christians use when we feel a need to swear but don’t feel comfortable using any of the words the world uses).

Keep in mind that Christians have different standards of what is or is not acceptable. But here is the list we came up with.

 

 

  1. **#%%#*#&#*
  2. Fahrvergnügen
  3. mother frito
  4. Shazbot!
  5. CHEEZ IT!
  6.  Jeepers!
  7. Jinkies!
  8. Zoinks!
  9. cheese and crackers.
  10. “crumb” instead of “crap”, for the very conservative 🙂
  11. oh my word, oh my stars
  12. Gadzooks!
  13. crappydoodle
  14. Holy Canoli!
  15. Horse feathers!!
  16. Crapola
  17. oh my Gosh!
  18. Cat Hair
  19. Shut the front door!
  20. Well I’ll be dipped in buttermilk
  21. Ticked Off!
  22. Razz ma-tazz!
  23. Freak
  24. Frickin’
  25. Frickin’ A.
  26. Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!
  27. Good gravy
  28. D’OH!
  29. fudge ripple
  30. GOOD GOSH!
  31. FUZZY MUFFINS!
  32. son of a biscuit
  33. He’s full of shiitake mushrooms!
  34. Goshdarnit
  35. What the frick?
  36. sugar
  37. shoot.
  38. Crap
  39. fudge
  40. snap
  41. darn it
  42. good grief
  43. Goshdarnit
  44. Holy Schnike
  45. oy vey
  46. garbanzo
  47. crud
  48. durn
  49. darn
  50. poodledoo
  51. shut the front door
  52. fiddlesticks
  53. fiddledeedee
  54. Bob Saggett
  55. What in the blue bless?!
  56. Oh. My. Cow
  57. Jeez Louise
  58. Jesus, Mary & Joseph.
  59. Poodle-fruiter!
  60. dad-gummit!
  61. SUGAR MONKEY FUNKY BUTTS!
  62. gee whiz…
  63. ska-douche!
  64. Sugary pops
  65. Peas and Rice!
  66. Dag nab it!
  67. Fudge Buckets!
  68. That sucks!

Goodness! That’s a long list. Every once in a while I’ll get someone who asks me a question about what the Bible says about swearing/cursing/profanity. The truth is that the Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about it.

There are two verses in the Bible that most Christians use to justify a no-profanity position.

Exodus 20:7 – You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain…

Ephesians 4:29 – let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.

While these are great verses, neither one is talking about profanity. In Exodus God is commanding the Israelites not to use his name lightly. There is a little bit of ambiguity here, because the Bible never says exactly what it means to take God’s name lightly. It could mean not to use the name casually. It could mean not to use the name to back up your promises (swear to God…). There is no general prohibition here on profanity.

The Ephesians verse seems compelling at a cursory look, but Paul isn’t talking about profanity. In Ephesians he’s talking about not lying, speaking truth, not sinning in our anger, and building people up. In the context of the passage it would seem that “unwholesome talk” is not profanity but is language that seeks to hurt or damage others. The Greek word can literally be translated as “trash.” It’s like Paul is saying, “Don’t engage in trash talk against each other. Use your words to build each other up.”

On top of the lack of biblical direction against foul language we run into the problem of the fluidity of language. That is to say, language changes. What words mean now could be very different from what they meant 300 years ago. So which culture and era do we use as the standard for acceptable and non-acceptable words?

I grew up in a conservative home, where there were very few acceptable alternatives for swearing. I have a very clear memory of the first time I EVER used the expression, “Man, that’s screwed up!” I felt like such a rebel. In our home “sucks” was not an acceptable word. horrified-faceBut I remember the first time my mother was so upset about something she declared, “Well that…that just SUCKS!” She doesn’t use it regularly, but she needed to express the depth of her emotion and used that phrase to do it.

In the end it is another case of Christian liberty. If God’s Spirit is convicting you and telling you not to use certain words – DON’T! If you have freedom in Christ to use certain words – FEEL FREE! We just need to make sure that we’re not imposing our freedom (or lack of freedom) on others.

In the end, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Even if I’m free to use words it doesn’t mean that I should flaunt my freedom in front of others. Out of respect for people I can choose to change my language to fit the circumstance.

That’s the Christian thing to do.

And it doesn’t suck.

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