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God prefers perfection over deep pockets

I remember in the first few years of the new millennium, working at a Christian radio station, listening to the commercials and talk shows. One of the popular topics of discussion was a book called “The Prayer of Jabez.”

I’ve never read the book, partly because I have a Jovian backlog of books that I want to read. This includes books I own, along with books that I sometimes check out at the library but can’t get around to reading. However, the synopsis seems like this: In 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, Jabez asks God to bless him, and God chooses to do so. Just like that, God will bless us if we only ask. Today, it’s a message similar to what Joel Osteen preaches.

One of the most wonderful Christians I know is a man who prays regularly, attends church regularly, reads the Bible and knows a great deal of Hebrew and Greek. This friend a few years ago also filed for bankruptcy and lost his house to foreclosure.

My friend says: “God’s not as interested in giving us stuff as He is in perfecting us.”

The idea, I suspect, is that we’ll enter into heaven with less spiritual growing to do. And as for being wealthy, how easy is it for even a wealthy Christian to place their faith in their bank account?

Post comments here or email them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com. 

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Revisiting the debate about Bible versions

July 16, 2010 6 comments

In my youth, I was a staunch King-James-Only believer. I read from the King James and called it King James Bible instead of King James Version. A college classmate who listed the late Dr. Jack Hyles as one of his heroes used to say that “version” implies that there are other acceptable translations.

And bless God, there were not.

Even today, I still use the King James Bible primarily. I have a Gideon New Testament of the New King James. Somewhere in storage, I have a copy of the New American Standard Bible (which I originally bought a few years ago as a reference point). My wife has a New King James Bible. Lately we’ve been talking about getting all three of our sons Bibles that are more readable since all complain the KJB is far too complicated.

Heck, I went to Pensacola Christian College, took Bible classes, have read the Bible through a few times and there are still passages of the KJB that I need a good Bible commentary and a concordance to get through.

At PCC, there were even teachers who endorsed the New King James, and I knew of students who read the NKJB. Some students even read heretical versions like the New International Version (or, as evangelist Dr. Al Lacy deliciously likes to call it, the New International Perversion or, “N-I-V-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E”).

Likewise, there was a condescending twit a few years ago who, quite smugly, told me that the New American Standard Bible was superior to the King James Bible. (Note to the arrogant who might read this: a little humility can greatly enhance your argument).

A few years ago, a solid brother in Christ said something about Bible versions that really surprised me: it’s far better for a newer version to get read than for a King James to collect dust on the shelf, unread. Another guy named Peter, a roommate at PCC, pointed out that one of my favorite Bible teachers, Dr. Chuck Swindoll, did not use a King James in his sermons. “Besides, I believe it’s possible a person can go out and serve the Lord and do so with a version that’s not the King James,” Peter told me.

The King-James-Only debate was something I continued to ponder in the Army as I studied Mandarin Chinese for eight months and then Russian for a year and started to learn more and more about languages and translating and how it’s not a very cut-and-dry process.

Let’s face it: English is a littered, mercurial language, a witch’s brew of strange grammar rules (not to mention endless exceptions to the rule) and borrowed words from countless languages. Those who believe we are speaking the same language now that was spoken in England in 1611 are living in a dream world. Some linguistic scholars say English reached its zenith during Elizabethan times, and we have to wonder if the English we speak today is a indeed a step down from that used by William Shakespeare.

In English, there are also many dialects and sub-dialects: British English, Scottish English, Irish English, Canadian English, American English (with further variations depending on the region where you live), Australian English, New Zealand English and the English spoken in Africa, along with the English spoken by the hearing impaired.

When I look back on my time in Baptist churches and think of the many sermons I’ve heard preached, there have been a few ministers whom I’ve wondered if they really understood what a passage said. Is it impossible that a preacher today using a nearly-400-year-old Bible will misinterpret and misapply? One friend, Darrell, told a story once of trying to find a church and encountering one where the pastor talked about God turning His back on Jesus when He was on the cross. “Just as God turned His back on His Son, so must we also turn our backs on wayward children,” the pastor said.

Really? I thought. Does this man grasp the passage and that God turned His back on Jesus because Jesus became the sin for mankind?

When Darrell posted this on a website I once frequented, I read it and felt like asking him to tell me the church so that if I were ever in his area, I’d know which church to avoid. And wherever the pastor went to Bible college, I’d rather avoid that also. It also made me wonder if this man really understood what the Bible taught and if he was a victim of reading what he really didn’t understand and making wild misinterpretations.

For those who are King James Only, my question is this: with the evolution of the English language, is it possible that sometime within the next 50 to 500 years (assuming the Lord tarries and the rapture hasn’t occurred yet) that the language will evolve to where the 1611 King James Bible will become unreadable and incomprehensible?

If your answer is no, please consider this: Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was written in Middle English in the 14th century, around 250 years or so earlier than the King James Bible. If you read TCT in Middle English, it won’t make much sense. How about reading the Lord’s Prayer in Old English? Forget it. It’s practically another language.

One thing about the King James I find tickling is how it contains words that would practically get kids spanked for using them today. In 2 Kings 9:8 God commands the execution of King Ahab’s sons, specifically he who “…pisseth against the wall.” [Emphasis mine]

Pisseth?

Back in those days, “to piss” apparently was an acceptable verb to use for “to urinate”. These days, it is considered vulgar, especially used in slang to mean becoming angry. What the King James (possible translating a Hebrew euphemism) was saying is that God wanted all males executed. And since men “piss” while standing up and women have a difficult time doing so…

Over the years, I’ve encountered godly Christians who use the King James, New King James, NIV, NASB, New Living Translation, and so on. There is also a 21st Century King James Bible out there and an updated version of the NKJB. Believe it not, there apparently is even an American King James Version.

This is not to say we should be careless with translations. I prefer Bibles that come from the Masoretic Hebrew and from the Greek Textus Receptus. If a Bible is translated from something else, it’s not for me. We should take great care in selecting the Bible we want to use: while I still prefer the KJB but am no longer a King James-Only person, I do believe that excessive carelessness in translations is exactly what Satan desires now that he knows he cannot destroy God’s Word.

Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe in five years I’ll be a King-James-Only advocate again, or maybe in five years I’ll go nuts in my Christian liberties (I already wear a cross necklace).

Tell me what you think, Christian Reader.

Richard Zowie, a 1995 graduate of Pensacola Christian College and a Christian since 1981, remains a humble student of God. Post comments here or e-mail Richard at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.