Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Shepherds Instead of Elders

I came across this explanation of Elders and Shepherds on the website for the Stones River church of Christ. This is a direct copy and paste (the web site is Take a moment and read through this. These Shepherds really seem to understand what their role in the Church is.

Why do you call yourselves shepherds rather than elders?
The group of men who provide spiritual direction for the Stones River Church are referred to as “shepherds.” This breaks with the traditional practice of Churches of Christ, and is done for a specific purpose.

We acknowledge that the term “elder,” which is more traditionally used, is certainly a biblical term. But we also realize that many words in current usage are influenced as much (in some cases more) by current practices as they are by biblical meaning. We are concerned that American business culture shapes the traditional ideas attached to the word “elders.” Too many unknowingly use the term as though it were synonymous with a corporate board of directors. Rather than being a self-perpetuating board, biblical “elders” were called to their roles of leadership by the congregation’s recognition of a lifestyle of mature godly influence. A close reading of the biblical passages using this term presents a leadership born out of respect, a respect earned through seniority, example, ability, knowledge, and service.

Because we desire to avoid the verbal confusion common usage evidences, we’ve chosen to refer to ourselves by the equally biblical term “shepherds.” Because the biblical passages influence the meaning we attach to this word more than corporate America, we think it provides some important safeguards. First, the relation of shepherd and sheep is built on trust (John 10:3). The shepherd’s role of seeking the lost is another powerful image (Matthew 18:12-14). Shepherds care for their flock, binding up wounds, protecting the weak from the over-bearing strong, and feeding the sheep. It is the job of shepherds to guard the sheep against dangers (John 10:1-12). Then there is the shepherd sacrificing himself for the sheep (John 10:11). Biblical shepherds primarily lead through their example. Their godly, mature lifestyle coupled with their verbal teaching of the word guides the church in “paths of righteousness.”

We seek to lead by example rather than edict. We have no desire to legislate what we cannot influence reasonable disciples to discover for themselves from scripture.

In the short-term it might be easier to operate as a board of directors. The organization might function as a well-oiled machine. But will the traditional model realize our goal of nurturing mature disciples? That is the question we’ve grappled with and as a result we’ve chosen an alternate course. We do not presume to judge others who choose differently. But this is why we respond as we do.

Why do you have an Administrative Committee?
This is another place where Stones River Church is different. Because we believe the “board of directors” concept is too easily attached to “elders,” we want to guard against slipping into this function. Since that is what might expect from us, it would be all too easy to morph into such a role while trying to deny it in our terminology.

Any modern group acquires legal responsibilities when it chooses to own property and to function within our current social structure. We desire to operate in ways that honor God and guard against needlessly rejecting reasonable laws. To respond in our corporate world without becoming transformed into a “board of directors”, we need people who will address these issues while not being sucked into it ourselves. We don’t in any way belittle the necessary functions of a board of directors; rather, we refuse to allow such responsibilities to override our primary accountability for spiritual oversight. We’ve chosen to designate a team of people gifted with spiritual wisdom and administrative insight to attend to these necessary responsibilities. They address our financial and legal issues so we are free to attend to the spiritual concerns of this church family.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Name Calling Needs to Stop!

The name calling and rhetoric among differing "camps" in the Church seems to be screaming out at an all-time high. And it's really begun to hurt my ears. Christians calling names and labeling other Christians needs to stop - unless, of course, we're calling each other Brother or Sister. I'm not talking about ugly names that we teach our kids not to use. Nope, I'm referring to the nasty, devisive words that we freely use in front of our children as we condemn those that we ought to be teaching them to unite with. How often do we use and hear these four words (each paired together): progresive and traditional, liberal and conservative?

When it comes to these words, Christians have done more redefining than Webster himself. We've used 'our' definitions of these names to categorize and group ourselves and then to throw rocks at everyone who wasn't invited into our group. It really needs to stop. Every day, I live with the guilt of knowing that I spent years with my head down looking for the next rock to hurl instead of looking up, searching for my brother to serve. I've asked God to forgive me. After God, I owe more people apologies than I could ever name in a lifetime.

For me, the irony is overwhelming. Not only in terms of my own guilt, but because I have been called both a liberal and an ultra-conservative. How is that possible? Only because of the inherent fallacy of the name calling. The truth is, I have spent most of my life being taught to be a conservative and doing my best to live out my training. So, I'm really not shocked that I have been described as an ultra-conservative. But when a friend told me that I was thought of as liberal and the congregation where my wife and I had just placed membership would not allow me to teach Bible classes, I was devastated; and I gave Satan the foothold I knew to avoid. The fact is, I was called an ultra-conservative because of my narrow-minded views and judgemental attitude. I was 'marked' as a liberal only because I went to Harding University. I suppose I should have gone to Freed-Hardeman. Although, I suppose that for those Christians, the Memphis School of Preaching would have been even better.

Enough of the rambling monologue. No more bloviating. Here's why I have changed my thoughts, and why I hope that you will consider doing the same.

Here's how I define those terms. Perhaps, this will help you to arrive at your own defintion or increase your personal understand of how you have been thinking. The idea of being 'traditional' cannotes the idea of sticking to traditions. For example, the congregation where I worship and serve has a tradition of assembling twice on Sunday. We're traditional in that sense. Whereas, another congregation chooses to meet only in the morning for worship and Bible study then chooses to meet in smaller groups that evening. That congregation would be thought of as progressive because of they have progressed forward away from the tradition of meeting twice on Sunday. Coincidentally, that congregation would also probably be attacked with large rocks and called liberal for that decision. But that's another discussion.

Conservative and liberal is considerably more abstract and relative, which makes them harder to define with consistency and accuracy. This is also one of the primary agruments I have against using these terms in any capacity as it relates to characterizing Christians or specific congregations. To you, I might be liberal. But to another person I am a rigid and conservative idealogue. For example, the fact that I have absolutely no problem with a praise team being used to amplify worship would make me a liberal to some of my brothers and sisters in the area where I live. However, because I am not comfortable with a praise team (including women) being in front of the assembly, many other folks whom I love dearly would think of me as a conservative. So where is the baseline? How do I know if I am right to label myself or someone else one way or another. You don't and you can't. There will always be someone more or less liberal than you. As well, there will always be someone more or less conservative than you.

This leads to the biggest issue I have with these names; and why I am so tired of hearing them. THEY ARE NOT BIBLICAL NAMES. I am proud to be affliated with the Restoration Movement (though I could hardly classify it as a movement these days). One self-defining term of the restoration plea is calling Bible things by Bible names. I'm not sure if that holds any authority with you or not. But I find it terribly ironic that many who hold to that creed also hold dearly to the idea that conservative is right and liberal is wrong. None of these four words (progressive, traditional, conservative, liberal) were ever uttered from the mouth of our Lord, nor those that He commisioned to begin and grow His Church. Why on earth would I then do it?!

Instead of approaching conflict and differences of opinion by hurling rocks across the arbitrary line that we have drawn, let's step across the line and take our brothers by the hand and love each other. We're not always going to agree. And on some issues, someone is going to end wrong. But instead of taking on the role of judge and executioner with each, let's reserve those roles for the one person who earned them. Instead, why don't you and I focus on loving as best we can, and teaching as best we know how.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

An Illegal Trial

When we preach and teach the crucifixion of Jesus, it seems that we often skim through our study of the trials so that we can get straight to the theological aspect of actual death and resurrection. When we do this, we miss one of the huge pieces of the entire puzzle. We can't forget that the trial(s) was a complete sham. That was a huge part of the entire theological process. Just consider this, had the trial not been fixed, then Jesus would have been found "not guilty"! Where would we be then?

Here's a few examples of just how bad the trials were rigged.

1. Jesus was convicted and executed even though the judge (Pilate) ruled that he was not guilty.

2. There was no legal basis for Him to be arrested. There were never any formal charges when He was arrested. He was just handcuffed and taken away.

3. Jesus was questioned at night. Jewish law was specific that all trials had to be conducted during the day. Jesus' trial was held at night so that no one would be available to testify on His behalf.

4. The indictment was illegal because the Jewish judges (the Sanhedrin) were the people who originated the charges - not a witness. The judge of the trial can't be the one to make the accusation.

5. The trial began and ended in one day. This was illegal because capital offense cases could not be concluded in one day. Ample time was to be given to make sure any possible witnesses would be given a chance to come forward.

6. Jesus was condmned on His own testimony (Luke 22:67-71). This was illegal. The Jews had the 5th Amendment too.

7. The location of the trial was not legal. Jesus' trial was held at a private residence (the High Priests' home).  According to the law, a death sentence could only be pronounced in the court's appointed place.

8. The court illegally switched charges when they got Jesus to Pilate. In the Jewish trial, Jesus was convicted on blasphemy. Yet, in front of Pilate He was charged with treason.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

8 Views of a Controversial Topic

I've never been through a divorce and my parents are still married. So I have never had a front row seat to one of the most awful and damaging events that man has ever invented. But in a recent conversation a dear friend of mine (who has experienced a divorce) described it as going through a death in your family. And that there is an empty void, an empty chair at the kitchen table that can never be filled. Divorce stinks. There is never anything good about it. Ever. And chances are, you have either been through a divorce or personally know of at least a couple of people who have.

I recently heard someone ask this question, "is their divorce scriptural?" I've heard that question (and statement) more than once. It's always gone right over my head. Probably, each time those words are uttered it's in reference to adultery. Meaning, adultery makes divorce scriptural. Here's a question: since when is it okay to get divorced? What scripture is there that says it's scriptural to get divorced for a specific reason? You might be thinking that Matthew 19:9 is the answer. "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."  The "except for" part does not provide scriptural grounds for getting a divorce. Jesus is giving an allowance to get remarried after a divorce. In the preceeding verse, Jesus states that "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way." It was never God's desire for a husband and wife to divorce, but because of our sinful nature he Has decided to allow it. God has made it clear that He hates divorce (Mal. 2:16).

It just doesn't make sense to say that a divorce is scriptural only when your spouse cheats on you. Does that mean that a woman who is being abused and then leaves and divorces her husband is unscripturally divorced? No, of course not! God hates it that our sins have created a desire and in some cases a necessity to get a divorce. That includes all sins and all divorces. In Matthew 19:9, Jesus is creating a precedent for allowing a divorced spouse to remarry.

As with any topic, it would be foolish to take another person's view and ignorantly claim that as your own. Study the scripture for yourself. Think about it for yourself and come to your own conclusion. Here are a couple of things for you to consider. There are only five passages that teach on divorce and remarraige. They are: Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; 1 Corinthians 7:10-16.

James O. Baird wrote a "little" book in 1981, And I Say Unto You . . .: A Study of Eight Positions on Divorce and Remarraige in View of Matthew 19:3-12. In this book he covers eight possible positions on the issue of divorce and remarraige. Here's a reworded list of them.
1. The only scriptural reason for remarriage is if your spouse dies.
2. The only reason a person can remarry is if your spouse "physically" cheated on you. This is the traditional view of within the churches of Christ.
3. A Christian may remarry if their divorce occured before they became a Christian because baptism washes away all sins.
4. Since non-Christians are not in a covenant relationship with God, the laws of Christ do not apply to them, and so a Christian may remarry if his or her divorce occurred before baptism. This is the same ending as #3 but for a different reason. This view was popularized by JD Bales in his book, Not Under Bondage (1979).
5. If a Christian's spouse leaves then they are not bound to the marraige and may remarry. Scriptural justification for this view is found in 1 Corinthians 7:15.
6. Both spouses in a divorce involving sexual sin may remarry. This includes the person who committed the sexual sin, once that person has repented for his sins. This is the view that Gus Nichols held to.
7. Both spouses may remarry if their divorce was for "legal" reasons. In other words, if it was legal in the view of their government.
8. Both parties may remarry no matter what was the cause of their divorce because repentance and forgiveness do not include the restoration of their original marraige to each other.
*I am indebted to Dr. David Warren for his teaching on this matter.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Some Fatherly Advice

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
This passage is from Deuteronomy 6:4-9; and it's one of my favorite in all the Bible. The Israelites are getting ready to cross over the Jordan River and move into their new homeland - the land that God has been promising them since they left Egypt. A lot has gone on between now and when Moses led them out that night. One of the biggest things to happen was that Moses got himself into trouble with God. And his punishment was that he was not going to be allowed to go into the Promised land with the rest of the Israelites.

For quite some time now, Moses has been their spiritual father. He has led them, cared for them, watched after them and even judged them. Without Moses they certainly wouldn't have made it this far. And now, Moses has one last opportunity to give them some directions, some wisdom, some advice before they go on without him. This is like a parent sending their kid off to college for the first time - only these kids would never return. The book of Deuteronomy records for us what all Moses told his kids.

This passage you just read is one of the most poignant, inspiring and challenging of Moses' messages. The last sentence is verse 9. Referring to the commandments that he had given them, he told them to write them on the doorposts of their homes and on their gates. As much as this was a literal command for them - it's a metaphorical command for us. He told them to do that so that everyone who came to their home would know that without any doubt, that God was worshipped, honored and respected in that home. And also, it was a constant reminded for the family that lived there that the Lord was the God of that home. And that He was the center of their family. And that He, and He alone, would be worshipped, honored and respected in their home.

God hasn't called us to write his commandments on our houses anymore. Instead, we are supposed to write them on our hearts and demonstrate them in our lives. Is your home a place where the Lord is the only God that is worshipped, honored and respected? Do you live that out so forcefully and so aggressively that everyone who knows your family can easily see that?

Take time with your family to look and listen to your home. Is what you see honoring the Lord? Is what you hear honoring the Lord? Maybe it's time to write it on our doorposts again.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

He's Got His Priorities Straight

I was just reading a note from a successful preacher, speaker, writer, etc. who was talking about his schedule and his family and how he makes them fit together. Most of it was normal, expected stuff. But one small note he included really caught my attention.

When he started talking about his hobbies, he said he really didn't have many. He mentioned how a lot of men in his sphere of influence (i.e. job, salary range, family status, etc.), as well as his personal friends, love to play golf. He said that although he enjoys the sport and finds it relaxing - he never plays unless he takes one of his kids or wife with him.

He went on to talk about how busy he was, how much he traveled and how often he was already away from them. He simply said, "why would I want to be away from them anymore than I already am?" Now sometimes it's good for a break and to unwind. But for him, his family was just too important. It is simply more important for him to spend any extra time he has time with his wife and his kids than his pitching wedge. Now he's got his priorities straight.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New Thought on an Old Idea

What are the qualifications to be an Elder? Paul gives us two lists, one in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and the other in Titus 1:5-9. The lists include: desires the responsibilities, being above reproach, respectable (good reputation with people outside the church), prudent, temperate, has only one wife, Christian children, not accused of rebellious behavior, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not an alcoholic, not quarrrelsome, peaceable, gentle, doesn't earn money immorally, doesn't love money, hospitable, loves what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holds to the teaching of God, has his home under control (with dignity), not a new convert.

This is pretty much all God has chosen to tell us about the qualifications to be an Elder/Shepherd. I wonder if we don't do a disservice to our congregations and our Shepherds by treating this as an exhaustive list. You know what I mean? For instance, we take this checklist and match up the candidate to be a Shepherd, and if he can check off each of the qualifications then he's in.

Does meeting these qualifications mean that he's going to be a good Shepherd? Of course not! So that means there must be more to it. More to it? Yes, like leadership skills - the ability to motivate and train, being blessed with a vision and the ability work as a team and develop a cohesive plan to achieve that vision, and the ability to set meaningful and productive goals. We have too many Shepherds who are not good leaders. Now, each Shepherd doesn't need to have the skills of a CEO. But each congregation must have a majority who have some leadership abilities. And all Shepherds ought to understand this idea enough that they recognize the need for it. Sadly though, too many congregations are led by men who think leadership is just making decisions about how to spend money.

Instead of using these two scriptures as a checklist, try to think of it as a baseline the next time you are installing Shepherds (or evaluating the ones you have now).

Monday, March 8, 2010

We NEED More Leaders

I preached a sermon last night on leadership. I thought I would share the main points of the sermon.

The premise is that our Churches have a vacancy or a vacuum that exists because there's an absence of leadership. Not from the Shepherds and not from the preachers - but from the Christians. You see, Jesus set up the Church's organizational chart. It's pretty clear. But what folks often fail to realize is that they are on that org chart. And the roles and responsibilities of the Shepherds, preachers and Deacons do not cover everything. And when Christians are fulfilling their roles, then a vacuum or black hole is formed. And unfortunately, too many congregations have been sucked into that black hole, never to be seen or heard from again.

I tried to point out these three lessons - that Jesus needs Christian leaders:

1. Who are Willing to Serve - John 13:1-17
Jesus was preparing the disciples for new form of leadership. They knew about and were expecting the kind that included leading big armies, having riches and lots of power. But what they didn't realize (vs.7) was that Jesus didn't need leaders like that. He had a plan for them to take the torch and grow the Church that He was about to establish. They were going to do that with a new type of leadership. The type that was willing to serve instead of be served.

2. That Dare to Be Different - John 4:1-45
Jesus didn't need to go through Samaria. Most Jews traveling back and forth from Galilee and Judea would cross over the Jordan rive and completely avoid Samaria altogether. But Jesus had to go through Samaria (vs.4) because He understood that there was an entire town that he would reach if He would. And because He did, he saved an entire town and in the process taught His disciples that in order to lead you had to daring enough to be different.

3. That have the Guts to Go - Matthew 14:22-33
Peter made a lot of rash, emotional decisions in his lifetime. Some of them didn't turn out so well. And some of them were great decisions that would should be imulating today. When the storm was at its fiercest, the waves were the highest, the winds were the strongest and all the other disciples were hiding in the boat, Peter had the courage to get out of the boat, down into the water and walk towards Jesus. The Church could certainly use a lot more Christians who have the guts to go.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What does it mean to worship?

What does it mean to worship? Ever really taken some time with that question? Sometimes I wonder if our traditions involving our assemblies have evolved over time and have slowly turned into our "doctrinal" undertanding of worship. Well, actually, I know it has. That leads to a fundamental misunderstanding of what worship is and worship is not. And equally as unfortunate is that it leads folks to be judgmental of other Christians whose worship assembly does not look like theirs.

Here's a few facts with some personal thougths mixed in for you to consider.

The word worship is translated 181 in most of the common translations. I think it goes as high as 250 in the NIV and 495 in the NLT. That doesn't mean anything other than those two translations hardly use any words other than worship to describe that act. Now when we are digging deeper in our Bible study it's always helpful to gain as much an understanding of the original language. In other words, what Greek or Hebrew word(s) did the inspired authors use that is now translated to our word worship? And just as importantly, what did that word mean to them at that time. That's tremendously important and equally difficult. Because as you know words change their meaning with each generation.

We'll just focus our limited time to the New Testament use of the word. Here's the Greek words that the NT authors used and their meaning.

Proskuneo - this is by far the most common word that is used. That is, each time you read the root word worship (in the NT), it is usually this word. In the first century, someone speaking Greek who said this word would most likely mean to kiss the hand of someone or physically prostrate yourself in front of another person. There are scriptures that use this word and refer to worshipping God, Christ, Man, Idols and even the Satan. So obviously, just because you are worshipping doesn't mean that you're doing something good.
Sebomai - This is the next most common word. And it's kind of the opposite in meaning as compared to proskuneo. Where proskuneo referred to more of a physical act, sebomai refers to more of an emotion or feeling. It means to revere and it stresses the feeling of awe or devotion.
Latreuo - This is by far the least common word that is translated as worship. However, it is actually a common word in the NT. In fact, to translate this word as worship is really not a good translation. It is usually translated "to serve". In the context of worship, or the reason it is sometimes translated as worship is because it can mean to render religious service or homage.
One of those "traditions" that I was referring to earlier is the idea that we go to "worship service" on Sundays. Given the definitions of the word and the uses in the Bible, that's just not a scriptural statement. That term is never, not once, used in the Bible. There's no example of Christians going to a worship service and no command from Jesus or any NT writer to go to a worship service. I wonder, for those of us who are affliated with the restoration movement, whatever happened to the slogan "Call Bible things by its Bible name"?

By the way, there is file on worship on the Bible Class Resources page. You can find the link at the top of this page. It's a brief study, but there is a little more information to look at.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bible Translations

I know this may come as a bit of a surprise for many, but for all the reasons that the KJV was so far ahead of the other translations in its time, is the same reason that several more modern translations have passed it up now in terms of the overall quality of the translation.

Here's a bit of a run down on what I mean. The KJV comes from an older textual stream. Basically, that means that since the early 1600s we have acquired more manuscripts of the original text that are much better copies. We have manuscripts now that have fewer errors and mistakes made by copyists. And the newer translations use those manuscripts. As a result, those newer translations are going to be a little more accurate. Now, most of the errors are small and insignificant - especially when it comes to doctrine and theology. But there are some that do play a larger role. For example, in the KJV, 1 John 5:7 reads "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." This verse is not in any other modern translation. Simply because we have more manuscripts to look at now and none of them have this verse. In fact, there are only two manuscripts in the entire world that have the verse like this. One of them was copied in the 1400s and the other in the 1500s. We now have manuscripts that are 1000 years older (that is 1000 years closer to when it was actually written) that do not have the verse like that. Now, this isn't a slight against the men who translated the KJV. They just didn't have the information that we have now.

Another issue is that the KJV contains many words that are no longer used in the English language - at least not in the English that is spoken in the United States. We just don't use words like peradventure, longsuffering, sleight, circumspectly, etc. (I got these words from reading chapters four and five in Ephesians). Someone might say, well those are Bible words. Huh? What's a Bible word? Actually, they are old English words that people living 400 years ago used. Just because their old doesn't make them more scriptural.

Here's another way to think about it. What's the most important relationship you have on earth? If you're married - it's your spouse. If you're not married, it's probably your parent(s) or a best friend. Now, how would you feel if every time that person, your husband, wife, mom, dad or best friend spoke to you they used words you couldn't understand? It would make communicating more difficult and would eventually strain your relationship. How much more important is the relationship you have with God? The Bible is the way that He talks to you. Why wouldn't you want to do everything in your power to make sure you undertand what He's saying?

The last point regarding the KJV is that there is simply more errors involving the actual translation. That is, mistakes made from ignorance by the translators. Consider the setting of the early 1600s. They had only come out of the Dark Ages about three, maybe four, generations earlier. The Dark Ages was a time when there was no scholarship, no developments of human life or thinking. And biblical languages had not been studied seriously since about 1000 AD. That means that there would have been limited information and knowledge concerning these languages that had not been spoken or read consistently for some time. It simply takes a while for scholarship to build upon previous scholarship so that a knowledge base can grow and develop. And compared to what is available today - their knowledge base in 1600 was extremely weak.

All this makes it sound like I think the KJV is just awful and needs to be put up on the shelf. That's just not the case. It's a beautifully written masterpiece of literature that has a rich tradition and history. And it's a good translation. But for in-depth Bible study there are other versions that more accurately translate the original languages. Unfortunately, many people who grew up on the KJV (and love it today) do not understand its history and limitations. And it's even more unfortunate that many of these people are so dogmatic about the use of the KJV. Even going so far as to say that it's the only true version and that it's inspired. That's sad and unfortunate.

So I'll close this short little series by saying this: use the translation that you feel most comfortable with and can understand without having to get a dictionary. And understand that all translations are going to have issues. But if your interest is in-depth study there are particular translations that are going to offer a stronger rendering of the Greek and Hebrew.

May God bless you as you seek out His will!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bible Translations

Ever wondered where all the different translations come from? And why there are so many of them? After all, if the Bible is the Bible (which it is), and there's only one (which there is), how can there possibly so many variations of it? On the surface that one just doesn't click for me. Here's another question: how can I know that one is better than another? We're going to limit everything to English translations as we try to answer these questions.

The beginning of the story obviously goes back to the original letter written by the inspired writer. As the letters were spread around, people would copy them for their personal use or for their ekklesia. All the copying then was done by hand. So if you heard that a friend had a copy of Paul's letter to the Romans, you might borrow it to copy it for yourself. Of course, this continued for more than a thousand years. Many of these copies were somehow preserved and have been found. These are called manuscripts. These are what we have to use when creating or revising a translation of the Bible. The older the translation the better. That is, the manuscript that is closest to the original is thought to be the most accurate because it has been touched by the fewest hands and has the fewer opportunities to have been "messed up" by a copyist.

Jump forward to the early 1500s. A man named William Tyndale the first English Bible directly from the original languages. Then another translation called the Great Bible was created by using much of the work that Tyndale had done. This translation became extremely popular for use in churches throughout England. In fact, Henry VIII made sure that a copy was in every church. Not too long after that, the Geneva Bible was created and because it was slanted towards Reformation doctrine it was popular with the people but not so much with the church. And the first controversy over translations was born.

In 1604 King James brought together 48 scholars to revise a translation that was only a couple of years old. He intended for it to be a neutral Bible (free of any doctrinal references or bias) that everyone could use and be happy with. Coincidentally, many people did not like this new translation so the translators included a preface that tried to explain their good intentions. Ironic huh, that the translators of the KJV now have so many supporters that are so dogmatic for the translation that was intended to put an end to that type of thinkng? Even with the initial animosity working against it, the KJV quickly became the translation for english speaking people.

There were a couple things in particular that set the KJV apart from the other translations of that era. Greek and Hebrew scholarship had excelled greatly. And all the other translations were done by one, or a few men at the most. The KJV was translated by a large committee of 48. This kept bias and doctrinal preferences to a minimum. We'll consider the other side of the KJV and the translations that followed on the next post.


Bible Translations

So if there are going to be some errors in each of the translations, which should I use? Which is the best? Well, the best version is the one written in the original languages - Hebrew, some Aramaic, and Greek. But since most of us don't have the time to learn these languages, we must use a version that has been translated into the language that we do understand.

There are a lot of English translations available. Some, of course, are more accurate than others. When I am asked that question, "which translation should I use," my answer is always the same - one that you can understand! I have seen too many Christians become discouraged and not read their Bible at all because the vocabularly or style of writing is not understandable to them. How much sense does that make? The worse part of that is, usually those Christians that give up are kids and teens!

Referring to children, Jesus said "but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matthew 18:6). I wonder if this will apply to people who insist on a particular translation that a teen has trouble understanding? I'm not going to take that chance only to find out on judgment day that  . . . well, you get my point. So the short answer, use a translation that you are comfortable with and can understand. And encourage others to do the same.

There's the other question still floating out there - which is the most accurate translation of the original language? Probably the most accurate is the New American Standard (NAS). The English Standard (ESV) is extremely accurate as well (and probably a little more readable than the NAS). These are the two best that I have found.