Thus Saith The Lord?

My latest article for the Orange County Record

"If It Ain't King James It Ain't Bible"
Source (C) All Rights Reserved

Before moving to Orange I worked at a church in Lexington, Kentucky.  One Sunday between our two services, a parent approached me.  She had a son who was going into High School in the fall and she wanted to get him a Bible to mark this transition in his life.  She had already been to a Christian bookstore and was overwhelmed and lost.  She was about to give up when she came to me.  She said, “I want to get a Bible for my son but I didn’t know what translation to get for him.  What do you suggest, the King James Version?”  I told her, “It is my belief that if we want Bible literate churches, I would stay away from the King James Version.”

The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is one of the most used and purchased translations in the world.  It made its entrance in the year 1611, seven years after King James VI proposed a new English translation of the Christian Bible.  Ever since then, this particular translation has been used in thousands of churches worldwide.

For me, there are some issues with the King James Version.  First it is over 400 years old.  The world of Biblical scholarship has grown tremendously since the first printing of the KJV.  Scholars have learned more about the ancient Hebrew/Greek language and older copies of the Bible have helped translators to try to find the most original and therefore most accurate source to translate from.  One of the biggest discoveries in the modern era was the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Before these scrolls were discovered the oldest known copy of the Old Testament was from around the 10th Century CE.  In one single discovery, Biblical scholarship advanced from the 10th CE to the before the time of Jesus Christ.  More modern translations of the Bible use these works to more accurately translate the holy texts.

Another hiccup of the King James Version is its language and use of translation style.  The scriptures themselves are hard to read because of all the “thees,” “begats,” “spakes” and “thous” found heavily throughout the text.  No one speaks Shakespearean English anymore (and neither did Jesus Christ); it is quite foreign for most Christians.  Why do we expect followers of Christ especially new followers of Christ to learn an outdated language?

Some have claimed that the KJV is the only perfect translation; sadly there is no such thing.  Never will the world ever have a perfect translation of the Bible.  Ancient Hebrew/Greek is difficult to translate and has some words that mean different things in different contexts. In some translations of the Bible which contain translation footnotes there are many places that have the footnote, “Hebrew Uncertain.”  After centuries of Hebrew and Bible scholars pouring over these holy texts, no suitable answer for some words are ever found.  We are still working to try to sum up the story of God’s movement from the pages of scripture.

There are churches today that are exclusively King James Version only.  I believe this severely limits the story of God.  This tells me that God is not able to speak in any other way but through the words of a KJV Bible.  It would be like traveling down a dark road using only a candle to see the world around you.  But imagine the journey and what all you can see when we exchange our candle for a LED light bulb.  Because we updated how we looked at the world, we saw so much more.

There are wonderful translations today that try to encapsulate the movement of God and make it more palatable for the modern ear (i.e.- 2011 NIV, 2011 Common English, NRSV).  Not every person who hears a passage from the KJV will understand it or glean anything from it.  Am I saying that if you grew up reading (or currently read) the King James Version that you are a heretic?  Absolutely not.  The goal here is try to find more modern translations to widen our understanding and expression of who God is and how God acts.

Most people will continue to read the King James Version because that is what they grew up with or are familiar with.   However, if we want the church to seem relevant and current, then using a 400 year old translation is not going to help.  The story of God must be told in a way that connects to people on different levels and from different walks of life.  People want some connection between the printed page and the world around them.

If people don’t understand the Bible they are reading, then why read it in the first place?


May 2012 Top Posts

I have been completely overwhelmed by the out pouring of support and readership this past month.  Thank you so much!

Here are the TOP FIVE most viewed posts in the Month of May.

  1. Misconceptions About Christians: The Conclusion
    • The final installment of my series
  2. Misconceptions About Christians: Part I
    • The one that started it all…
  3. And You Wonder Why People Aren’t Christians: Part II
    • My reaction to Pastor Sean Harris’s comments regarding homosexuality and children
  4. Misconceptions About Christians: Part IV
    • Dispelling the myth that Christian = Republican
  5. If You Want To See The Gospel, Put Your House On The Market
    • The greatest faith booster I have had in a long time.
Also, people are reading this from around the world here is a snap shot of the number of countries that visited in the month of May.

Thank you again for supporting me!  Please continue to share, comment and read!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Misconceptions About Christians: Part Four

Here is my fourth installment of my “Misconceptions About Christians” series for the Orange County Record.

If you missed the first three misconceptions read them now!

This is the fourth installment in the series “Misconceptions About Christians.”  So far I have discussed three misconceptions: that being a Christian one must read the Bible literally, that being a Christian means you have to go to “church” and that TV minister/evangelist are representative of all Christianity.  Today we tackle another misconception.

I was walking through a parking lot the other day and I saw a bumper sticker that made me stop to examine it more closely.  It was a blue sticker with white words and a yellow Christian cross; it read “Christian Democrat.”

Misconception #4- Being a Christian means that you have to vote for Republican candidates and conservative ideals.

Generally I shy away from mixing politics and religion.  It is of course the two things we are warned do not mix.  We are taught this adage for good reasons, people are passionate about their faith just as they are passionate about their ideals about how the country should be run and organized.  But somewhere along the way the two were interlinked and interconnected.

When did it become the norm that stating that you were a Christian meant in the same breath you were saying that you supported conservative ideals?

Christians for years have been reading the same Bible and yet due to their life experiences and personal understanding of God glean a completely different interpretation.  Christians for the most part have never been unified on much of anything.  Debates, often heated ones, are still raging today over women in ministry, homosexuality and contemporary music.  Debates and differences are nothing new to the church and the Bible has been at the center of most of them.  For the most part, the Bible has been used for and against war, used for and against slavery, used for and against accepting homosexuality and the list goes on and on– the same book at the center of all it.

Christians are free to express their understanding of God and Jesus Christ in the world in a variety of ways.  Some take to the streets and feed the homeless and needy, some fix up homes for those who are unable to do so, some go door to door inviting neighbors and strangers to church.  It is the same when it comes to government as well.  Some Christians believe that government should be as giving and caring as Christ was, some believe that charity should be the work of the church; herein lies the problem.

Most Christians would not object to some people living out the gospel by feeding homeless people, but once you start making statements about politics, then all bets are off.

Why do Christians who agree with the philosophies of other political parties than the GOP have to resort to bumper stickers to show that they are different?  Does the fact that some punched their ballot for a person with an “R” or a “D” by their name really matter?  How is this any different than having a different interpretation of the Bible?  For some people being a Republican or Democrat and Christian is fine, but there are some who believe that the Bible commands all of Christianity to come under the banner of the conservative movement.  This is not what Christ came to this earth to do. Christ did not come to start a political party or even support one; yes, Jesus was political in his time, but he did not ever want to be President of the United States of America.

With all of this said, this does not mean that our faith does not inform our political assertions.

If Christians are supposed to be about sharing the love of Christ in the world today, why bring politics into the matter?  Should politics be in the church house?  Maybe… but then again maybe not.  Does it matter if someone votes for a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Green Party member and still calls themselves a Christian? No, it does not.  The church has bigger problems to worry about than whether or not a particular party’s candidate is in office come November.