Category Archives: Books

The Voice translation and The Compass Study Bible

CompassBible
Compass: The Study Bible for Navigating Your Life, is a study Bible edition of The Voice translation, a new translation released in 2012.

I received an advance copy of The Compass Bible to review. It will not be released until February 2014, but The Voice translation itself is available in other editions now.

First, let me discuss the translation itself. Second, I will comment on the distinctions in this study edition.

The Voice translation takes a unique approach in Bible translation, which makes it difficult to classify this as a translation or a paraphrase. Perhaps it’s best to say that it is a translation that is amplified with paraphrase. That is, the text has a fairly accurate translation, but then it inserts additional words into the text in italics for clarity and explanation. For example, Romans 10:9 is translated and amplified like this: “So if you believe deep in your heart that God raised Jesus from the pit of death and if you voice your allegiance by confessing the truth that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ then you will be saved!” Here’s another example that includes even more amplification, Psalm 23:5: “You spread out a table before me, provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies; You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil, filling my cup again and again with Your grace.” In both of these verses, the text without italics is an accurate translation, but the text added in italics amplifies and explains the meaning of the verse. The advantage of this over other paraphrases is that the reader knows which part is translation, and which part is commentary.

But there is more. On nearly every page, there is bracketed, bold text, giving background explanation of the history, culture and meaning of words and events in the passage.

As its name implies, The Voice is written to be heard. It appears in screenplay format, whenever there is dialogue, giving the name of the speaker in bold, followed by a colon. For instance, in Luke 1:60-61, the text is laid out like this:

Elizabeth (disagreeing): No, We will name him John.

Her Relatives (protesting): That name is found nowhere in your family.

The translation pays close attention to alliteration and other devices of sound, such as Genesis 1:16: “the Divine needled night with the stars.” Or another example, when the angels rejoice over Jesus’ birth in Luke 2:14: “To the highest heights of the universe, glory to God! And on earth, peace among all people who bring pleasure to God!”

All of these features make The Voice a Bible that is well-suited to be heard, whether read aloud or heard in the reader’s mind.

The Compass Bible is an edition of The Voice translation that adds some appropriate Bible-reading aids, primarily in the back, which include a 40-day reading retreat plan with suggestions for meditation and prayer, a 365-day reading plan through the whole Bible, an index of notes by topic, and maps. Other than a few Bible-reading aids, there is no difference between the text in the Compass Bible and other editions of The Voice translation, as they all include the topical notes in the text. The Compass Bible is printed on a less expensive paper, and retails for less than the regular edition.

Taken together, the Compass edition of The Voice translation should make the Bible come alive to people who are not familiar with the Bible, and it should bring new insights to those who are familiar with the Bible.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me state that I received a free copy of the Compass Bible for review, without any obligation to give a favorable review, and I did not receive any other compensation for writing this review.

If you see a video ad below this post, I do not necessarily endorse the product.

Book review: “Deep Mentoring”

DeepMentoring   Deep Mentoring: Guiding Others on Their Leadership Journey, by Randy D. Reese and Robert Loane is a guidebook for Christian leaders on why and how we should mentor future leaders. Deep Mentoring is a deep book. It is not an easy read, but it is well worth reading. The book is scholarly, yet practical; academic, yet full of pithy quotes and illustrations.

Reese and Sloane divide their work into three parts. Part One is entitled, “Noticing God’s Already-Present Action.” In this section, the authors show how we need to slow down enough to pay attention to people and their needs. Part Two is, “Learning from Those Who Have Come Before Us.” This section takes the reader through the stages of life. They give a powerful explanation of how important it is to know a person’s background to really understand him or her. Then they show how our roles change from young adults who are actors to middle adults who are actors who influence others, and how we should finish well as influencers. Part Three, “Guiding the Formation of Others,” shows the techniques that Jesus used to influence others, and then lays out a plan for the reader to do the same. Each chapter of the book includes specific exercises for the reader to apply to his or her mentoring relationship. Four appendices at the end of the book give practical tools that the reader can come back to and use again and again through the mentoring process.

I bought this book because I have a desire to lead my church in greater discipleship of believers through mentoring. After reading the book, I have an even greater desire for mentoring, and many new tools for the journey.

NOTE; If you see a video ad below this post, I do not necessarily endorse the product.

Book review: “Out of Control”

OutofControl Ben Young & Samuel Adams’s book, Out of Control, has a very long subtitle: Finding Peace for the Physically Exhausted and Spiritually Strung Out. But the subtitle is accurate. They describe how our culture is out of control because rather than letting the greater efficiency afforded by technology such as cell phones and computers give us more time to rest, we have instead tried to cram even more activity into shorter time.
Young and Adams describe seven symptoms of an “out of control” lifestyle: out of shape (physical), out of sorts (emotional/mental), out of touch (relational), out of time, out of focus, out of balance and out of order (spiritual). Then they confront the lies that keep us out of control, particularly the idea of pleasing the world to be successful and the idea that getting rest is laziness.
The rest of the book takes a pleasantly surprising turn, as it is NOT another “how-to” book with seven easy steps. Instead, they dig into the spiritual disciplines of the Bible, and encourage the reader to practice a real “Sabbath” and take time to unplug completely from technology in order to practice the other spiritual disciplines of solitude and prayer.
This book influenced me to become more serious about unplugging from technology for a large portion of the day on my day off in order to spend more authentic time with God. It was a truly rewarding experience that I pray I will continue to explore for a long time to come.

Guest blog: OUT OF THIS WORLD! Part Three: Books and audiovisuals on near death experiences and the afterlife.

Copyright 2013 by Joyce C. Rogers

BOOKSnde(For the past two days on this blog, my mother, Joyce Rogers, has shared her insights from scripture and other resources on the subject of what happens when we die. Today she lists the books, articles and audiovisuals she read on the subject, with a brief comment about each.)

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alcorn, Randy. Heaven. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Randy is considered a leading authority on Heaven. He answers some tough questions as he invites you to picture Heaven as the Scripture does. This is a very scholarly book. One needs more than an afternoon to read it!

Alexander, Eben, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. Simon and Schuster Paperbacks. Dr. Alexander spent seven days in a coma and experienced a heavenly reality of love and beauty. His experiences changed his scientific mind to one of profound belief in God, spirituality and love. An excellent book.

Black, Dale. Flight to heaven; A Plane Crash: A Lone Survivor: A Journey to Heaven and Back. Published by Bethany House Publishers. Captain Black pursued his dream of flying planes, even after being severely injured in a plane crash. His trip to Heaven is beautifully detailed. The story is a fascinating read.

Burpo, Todd and Sonja Burpo. Heaven Changes Everything. Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. This is a sequel to the very popular book, Heaven is for Real, the story of little Colton Burpo’s unforgettable trip to Heaven. This family’s lives were changed. The Burpos show how believing in Heaven helps one survive hardships here on earth, including the death of a loved one, particularly the loss of a child. A sweet and down to earth book.

Burpo, Todd with Lynn Vincent. Heaven is for Real: A little boy’s astounding story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. Thomas Nelson Publishing. A four year old child, he sat on Jesus’ lap, said angels took him from his hospital bed and other wonderful things. Colton spoke with disarming innocence. A delightful and convincing book. Colton and his parents were interviewed on the “Today” show, showing the public interest in this story.

Garlow, James and Keith Wall. Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife: True Stories From People Who Have Glimpsed the World Beyond. People who have had near death experiences (NDEs) bring back word descriptions of the pathway to Heaven or the descent into the darkness of Hell. Those who go to Heaven lose their fear and report amazing feelings of love, warmth and acceptance. Those who go to Hell are horrified and so thankful they get to come back.
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Graham, Billy. Death and the Life After. Word Publishing. Billy Graham talks about how the culture relates to death, the death of children, living wills, euthanasia, hospice care, the grief process, and preparation for death. He explores the practical side of death. Dr. Graham helps the reader find peace and comfort for those grieving or pre- paring a will or planning a funeral.

Graham, Billy. Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well. Thomas Nelson Publishing. At 93, Dr. Graham said that old age was a surprise. He advises one not to retire from life. Many older people have heard and obeyed God’s call. He says leave a legacy of faithfulness. We are meant for Heaven, our final home. Heaven is glorious because it is the dwelling place of God.

Graham, Billy. The Heaven Answer Book. Thomas Nelson Publishing. This short little question and answer book gives straight biblical answers about heaven in typical Billy Graham style. He answers such questions as “Does Heaven really exist?” and “What is a resurrected body?” Dr. Graham is evangelistic in his approach to these questions and answers.

Harris, Trudy. Glimpses of Heaven: True Stories. Published by Revell. A hospice nurse relates stories of those leaving the world in his/her own unique way.

Harrie, Trudy. More Glimpses of Heaven: Inspiring True Stories of Hope and Peace at The End of Life’s Journey. Published by Revell. More stories of the beauty and pain of life’s end as observed by hospice nurse, Trudy Harris.

Lotz, Anne Graham. Heaven, My Father’s House. W. Publishing Group. Billy Graham’s daughter writes about our heavenly home compared to our earthly home. She says, “The invitation to my Father’s house is extended to all, but you have to RSVP.” This is an inspiring little book.

Malz, Betty, My Glimpse of Eternity. Published by Chosen. Betty was “officially” Pronounced dead for 28 minutes before waking to report seeing and hearing angels and understanding several different languages at once. Catherine Marshall said, “Upon occasion God breaks into human life to give us a glimpse of what lies ahead.
Betty Malz’s remarkable experience is a resounding ‘Yes, there is life after death.’”

Neal, Mary C. MD. To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, angels, and Life Again. Waterbrook Press. Dr. Neal, a spine specialist, had a kayak accident and drowned. Her friends worked hard to revive her and finally did. In her “in-between “ state, she experienced a joyous welcome celebration in Heaven. Very readable and interesting.

Piper, Don with Cecil Murphy. 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life. Published by Revell. A popular book involving a car accident, being pronounced dead and waking up to sing with a minister praying and singing over him. After a long, grueling recovery, Don was persuaded to tell his story.

Prince, Dennis and Nolene. Nine Days in Heaven: A True Story. Charisma House Publishing. Nine Days in Heaven relates the vision of 25 year old Marietta Davis more than 150 years ago, in 1848. Her story is re-written in modern English. She was shown the heavenly nursery where infants are cared for and taught redemption’s story. Each section is supported by Scripture. Beautifully done. Especially helpful for those grieving for a lost child. Not to be confused with 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper.

Rogers, Joyce C. “After This, Then What?” Family Bible Study, Life Ventures Learner Guide. Summer, 2005, p.116-161. LifeWay Sunday School unit. Speaks of salva-tion here and now and throughout eternity, Jesus’ return, and the special place God has prepared for His own.

Sigmund, Richard. My Time in Heaven: A True Story of Dying…And Coming Back. Whitaker House Publishing. Following a traffic accident, Richard found himself in a thick, cloudy veil. He could hear sirens and the words, “He’s dead.” He could hear singing and laughter on the other side. Led along a path by angels, he saw a book containing his name. He claims to have seen mansions belonging to loved ones and many other wonders. The book has testimonies, select scriptures and an index.

Springer, Rebecca. Within Heaven’s Gates. Published by Whitaker House. After feeling alone in her illness far from home and family, Rebecca has a vision of life in Heaven. She describes with unspeakable joy life in Heaven where she has her own mansion and visits with loved ones. A vision, not an NDE.

Stone, Perry. Secrets from Beyond the Grave: The Amazing mysteries of Eternity, Paradise, and the Land of Lost Souls. Published by Charisma House. Detailed studies of questions related to death and the afterlife. The author asserts that Heaven and Hell are real places. Details he relates include: people in Heaven or Hell have all 5 senses; are not limited to time or space or travel hindrances; and have conversations not with words but with thoughts.

Wiese, Bill. 23 Minutes in Hell; One man’s story about what he saw, heard, and felt in That place of torment. Published by Charisma House. Bill Wiese said that he saw the searing flames of hell and was terrorized. He said, “My sincere hope is that this book is the closest you will ever come to experiencing hell for yourself.” A question he answers is “Can ‘Good’ people go to hell? There is an 18-page scripture index.

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY Of AUDIO VISUALS

Besteman, Marvin with Lorille Craker, read by Maurice England. “My Journey to Heaven.: What I Saw and How It Changed My Life.” Baker Publishing House, Christianaudio, 2012.. Marvin Besteman shares the true story of his experience of Heaven in detail. He speaks of angels accompanying him to the gate, his conversation with St. Peter, and his joy when he recognized friends and family members who had touched his life. Very interesting story. Running time 4.7 hours. CD.

Malarky, Kevin. “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven,” Tyndale Entertainment Production in Association with Franklin Films. Based on book by Kevin Malarky. Six year old Alex Malarky suffered a terrible car accident which left him in a coma for 2 months. He awoke to share an incredible story of angels, Jesus and his trip to Heaven. He was left paralyzed, but we see how God is still using him today. This is an amazing and convincing story. Running time 50 minutes. DVD.

_______. “The Final Frontier.” Produced by Eternal Productions. Revived patients encounter some form of extension of consciousness beyond clinical death. They encounter some form of reality: Heaven or Hell. These are not hallucinations, but a highly structured and organized phenomenon. More and more scientific evidence tells us that life after death exists. Where we are going is a matter of choice. We must think about our own lives. This DVD makes one think. Running time 53 minutes.

_______. “The Lazarus Phenomenon: A Glimpse of Eternity.” Eternal Productions. Lan McCormack was stung by jelly fish off the coast of an island in the Pacific and was unable to get help. His experiences changed his life. On the other side of the world, a pastor died and 48 hours later revived. He was shown his death certificate. He also had experiences beyond the veil. Well worth watching. Running time 100 minutes..

Jeremiah, David Dr. “Revealing the Mysteries of Heaven.” Turning Point Television. Shadow Mountain Community Church, San Diego, California.. Sermons on Heaven. Dr. Jeremiah preaches a 3 month series of sermons on Heaven. Each sermon covers A different aspect of Heaven. Topics such as “Won’t Heaven be Boring?” and “What About the Children?” are covered. He says “Worship in Heaven is not about us – its about Him. Its not about here – its about there. Its not about now – its about then. Its not about one – its about many.” Wonderful resource. Each sermon about 30 to 40 minutes. DVD.

Copyright 2013 by Joyce C. Rogers

FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY- Discipling New Church Members

IAmAChurchMember I am giving away a free copy of Thom Rainer’s book, I Am a Church Member, this week on my blog. Here’s what you need to do to win:
1. Follow my blog. If you are not already following, click on the link at the right and sign up.
2. Leave a comment below telling me what your church does, or what you wish it would do, to disciple new members. You must leave me an email address in the comment, so that I can contact the winner.
I will select a winner based on the comments (the person must also be a follower of my blog), and I will announce the winner on Friday afternoon. LifeWay will mail the book directly to you. (By the way, the winner must live in the United States or Canada.)

Free book giveaway

I WILL BE GIVING AWAY A FREE BOOK NEXT WEEK TO SOMEBODY WHO VISITS MY BLOG.

WATCH FOR DETAILS ON MONDAY!

Book Review: “I Am a Church Member”

IAmAChurchMember If you are looking for a resource for your church’s new member class, this is a book you will want to read.
Thom Rainer, CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, has written I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference. It is a short book that can easily be read in one sitting, but it has the potential of making a big impact in local churches.
The book opens with a story about two members of the same church with completely opposite attitudes about church. Then he zooms in on the Biblical attitude members should have in six short chapters, based on Rainer’s extensive research in attitudes among church members. These chapters teach members to be active, bring unity, avoid the tendency to insist on personal preferences, pray for leaders, lead their own families to be involved, and to treasure church membership as a gift. The main point of the book is that church membership is not like a country-club membership with perks and privileges.
There are some churches that reject the term “membership,” saying it is an unbiblical modern term. Rainer disagrees, pointing out that 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 speaks of the “individual members” of the church. Rather than reject the term, Rainer seeks to give a Biblical definition of the term “membership.” He emphasizes that Biblical church membership is a treasured gift, just as our salvation is a gift, and thus we should serve in our churches gladly, not begrudgingly.
One of the strengths of this little book is that each chapter includes a pledge of loyalty for members to make. This requires the reader to respond to the challenge of the book. Each chapter also includes discussion questions, making this book an outstanding resource for small group or one-on-one study for church members, both new and old.

Book review: “The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religon in America”

FoundingFathers
Frank Lambert, professor of history at Purdue University, does an excellent job of surveying this complex topic over a 200-year period. He does so thoroughly, yet concisely, in only 296 pages. While making generalizations at times, he often illustrates his points with quotations from original sources of the time period.

He begins by criticizing extremists on both sides of the issue, and proceeds to present a balanced approach. However, as I will explain at the end of this review, he shows his bias at the end.

Lambert’s thesis is this: America WAS first settled by people who wanted to make it a Christian nation, whether Puritans in New England, Anglicans in Virginia, or Quakers and others in Pennsylvania. These early founders had a vision of making America “a city on a hill,” a model Christian commonwealth. However, two major influences led the founding fathers to establish a government that separated church and state. These two influences were the Enlightenment and the Great Awakening. Men like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, who were influenced by the Enlightenment, felt that men should be free to use their own reason in matters of religion. The Baptists and others who benefitted from the rapid growth of “free” churches in the Great Awakening were persecuted by established churches and wished to have no established church, so they joined with men like Jefferson in calling for separation of church and state.

Lambert shows that there was great division over these issues, and gives interesting anecdotes and quotations from both sides. He quotes frequently from religious leaders on both sides of the issue. However, near the end of the book he spends much more time quoting Republicans like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and gives little space to Federalists like George Washington and John Adams. At one point, on page 161, Lambert implies that John Adams was a deist, even though biographies of Adams have shown him to be a devout Christian with a Puritan heritage.

Lambert shows his view in his conclusion, as he criticizes accomodationists such as Judge William Rehnquist and “religious right” preachers like Pat Robertson.

While Lambert gives both sides of the argument, he clearly leads the reader to his own separationist interpretation. Because the book is so full of useful information, I highly recommend it as a textbook on the subject, but let the reader understand that Lambert has his own bias, too.

Book review: “Multiply” by Francis Chan

MultiplyChanFrancis Chan, author of the influential books Crazy Love and Erasing Hell, has written Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples for the purpose of multiplying disciples in the church.
The book has some excellent material; however, I was disappointed in the book, because it was not what I expected. I downloaded the book and read it on my Kindle, deceived by the title into thinking it was about how to make disciples. While the introduction and first three chapters (about 40 pages) discuss how to use the book for discipleship, that’s about it. The rest of the book is an overview of the teachings of the Bible.
Don’t misunderstand me. The overview of the Bible is excellent. It’s well-written, and has good support material with questions for discussion and videos available to watch online. If you are a mature Christian, you will find very little new information here, but it is a good, solid summary of what the Bible teaches. If a person goes through this material with a new believer, that person will be very well-founded in a biblical worldview.
The bottom line: if you are looking for material for an in-depth teaching of the basics of Christianity for a small group or one-on-one, this is a great book. But if you are looking for a book on how to organize your church for the purpose of multiplying disciples, you will probably find more help elsewhere, such as Real-Life Discipleship by Jim Putman.

10 Biblical steps to getting out of debt

ItsNewDay Back at the beginning of “The Great Recession” in early 2009, our church went through a study on how to get out of debt, using the teaching materials of Crown Financial Ministry. Here is a summary of 10 wise and Bible-based principles for getting out of debt:

1. Pray for God’s provision (see 2 Kings 4:1-7 for an example).

2. Start giving regularly (Malachi 3:8-10).

3. Don’t go further into debt. Stop charging with credit cards!

4. Establish a written spending plan by writing down every penny that you spend for a month, and then developing a spending plan that is realistic and living within your means.

5. Open a savings account and contribute faithfully to it until you have $1,000 in savings for emergencies. (This prevents further debt because you can use your savings for unexpected expenses.)

6. List everything you own and see if you can sell unnecessary assets to eliminate debt (Proverbs 27:23).

7. Make a list of everything you owe.

8. Establish a debt repayment schedule. Pay off the smallest debts with the highest interest first. When that debt is paid, apply that payment amount to the next second debt, and so on. See Crown Financial Ministries for free calculators and tools that can help at www.crown.org/Tools/Calculators.

9. Consider earning additional income.

10. Consider a radical change in your lifestyle (Romans 12:1-2).

Recommended reading on The Lord’s Prayer

There are many wonderful books that have been written on the Lord’s Prayer, but there are two in particular that I have found inspiring.
LordsPrayerLucado
Max Lucado’s book, The Great House of God: A Home for Your Heart, uses the creative analogy of a big mansion to compare to the Lord’s Prayer. He takes each part of the prayer and compares it to part of the great house. For example, the study is where we learn “thy will be done,” and the kitchen is where we pray “give us this day our daily bread.” Lucado draws a visual image of the prayer that helps the reader see it in fresh ways.

 

 

 
LordsPrayerHaase
Albert Haase’s book, Living the Lord’s Prayer: The Way of the Disciple, is my favorite book on the Lord’s Prayer. He challenges the reader to live the prayer, not just say the prayer. He takes each part of the prayer and challenges us to put the principles into practice. He uses personal and deeply moving illustrations that encourages the reader to be different because of this prayer.

Book Review: “Crime Scene Jerusalem: A Novel”

Copyright 2013 by Bob Rogers
Crime Scene Jerusalem
Crime Scene Jerusalem: A Novel by Alton Gansky (published by David C. Cook, 2007) does a masterful job of pulling off a peculiar premise: Max Odom, a forensics expert, is taken back in time to investigate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Gansky makes the story much more than believable– he makes it gut-wrenching. The forensics expert doesn’t want to be there, and expresses all of the sarcastic humor of a jaded American man. But when he comes face-to-face with the cross, and sees how Jesus’ death speaks to the pain in his own life, he… well, read the book yourself. You will not be able to put it down, and you’ll be changed by the experience. Gansky describes life and culture in first-century Jerusalem vividly, and Gansky keeps the reader guessing what hurt Max Odom experienced that must come to the surface as he witnesses the Passion of Christ. A fascinating read for the Easter season or any season.

Book review: The Cross of Christ by John R. W. Stott

StottCrossofChrist
Copyright 2013 by Bob Rogers
John R. W. Stott, who was pastor of All Soul’s Anglican Church in London before passing away in 2011, was one of the most respected evangelical writers in Great Britain. I thoroughly enjoyed his classic book, The Cross of Christ (InterVarsity Press, 1986, 2006). I found it to be the best book I have ever read about the Cross. I’m not surprised that it received the 1988 Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Gold Medallion Award.

Stott wrote as an evangelical pastor and scholar. While he thought deeply, he wrote with clarity and frequent illustrations. In fact, I used his book as the basis for a series of sermons on the cross.

Stott’s book begins by making a passionate argument for the centrality of the cross to the Christian gospel. Then he explores the reasons for the crucifixion, and while describing many “images” of atonement, he zeros in on Christ as a substitutionary sacrifice to satisfy both the holiness and love of God. His discussion in chapter seven of propitiation, redemption, justification and reconciliation is perhaps the best chapter of the book. The book concludes with chapters on what it means to live as followers of the One who died on the cross, with excellent explanations of service, overcoming evil, and understanding suffering.

Stott has read widely on the subject and he graciously comments on opposing views from liberal scholars and Roman Catholic scholars. He takes other views seriously, but he is faithful to an orthodox evangelical interpretation of scripture. I found it interesting that he disagrees with the popular view of Jesus’ death as a “ransom” paid to the devil in a strictly literal sense. His discussion on the distinctions between Protestant and Roman Catholic views of justification is particularly insightful. Stott rejects the doctrine that God does not suffer, maintaining in chapter 13 that it is precisely because God did suffer on the cross that we are able to bear our suffering.

Many parts of the book read as if they were sermons. This is not surprising, since Stott was a pastor. Yet it comes together as a systematic theology of the cross. His conclusion makes an excellent sermon on how central the cross is to Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

This is a book that I will read again and again in the years to come.

What Bible translation should I use?

bible-translations

Article copyright by Bob Rogers, Th.D.
English-speaking readers of the Bible have so many different versions to choose from, that it can be hard to know which one to use. As a pastor who has studied nearly every translation over the 34 years of my ministry, many people ask me which translation they should use. Thus I have written this article to give you some guidance.

Please note that I am referring to translations and paraphrases. I am not referring to various kinds of study Bibles and specialty Bibles. For example, you can get the Scofield Reference Bible or the Life Application Bible, etc. in multiple different translations. And there are children’s and youth Bibles, military Bibles, athlete Bibles, etc. with different covers and notes and devotional comments. None of that is discussed here. I am strictly talking about the text of the Bible itself.

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (and some Aramaic), and the New Testament was written in Greek. The biggest issue for translations is: How literally should we translate it into English? If a translation follows the exact word order and literal idioms of the original language, the result may be technically accurate, but it may be difficult to understand. On the other hand, if a translation or paraphrase strives to put it in modern English, the result may be easy to read, but inaccurate and lacking the precise teaching of God’s Word. As they balance between these two extremes, Bible versions tend to fall into four different categories: literal, dynamic, free and paraphrased.

Literal translations strive as much as possible to follow the original text word for word. This is not entirely possible, because certain words require more than one word in English to translate, and sometimes English words need to be added that are not in the original language for the sentence to make sense in our language. Also, word order can have different meanings in different languages. So no translation is completely literal, but the ones that I list as “literal” try their best to faithfully follow the original, sometimes at the sacrifice of being clear to modern readers.

Here are the best-know literal translations: King James Version (KJV), New King James Version (NKJV), Revised Standard Version (RSV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), English Standard Version (ESV), Douay Rheims (DR), and the New American Bible (NAB).

The King James Version was first translated in 1611, and the current edition of the KJV was updated in 1769. While the KJV is a literary masterpiece, its archaic language can be difficult to read and can be misunderstood by modern readers. Nevertheless, its familiar words are still preferred by millions of Christians who were brought up with the KJV. The New King James Version preserved most of the traditional wording of the KJV, while making it more readable and more accurate. However, because the NKJV follows the same manuscripts as the KJV as much as possible, it unfortunately does not use some of the more accurate manuscripts available today to translators.

The Revised Standard Version is an accurate, literal translation, but it tends toward a more liberal viewpoint on certain translation issues. This approach is preferred by its sponsors, the National Council of Churches. The New Revised Standard Version updated the RSV and made it gender-neutral when referring to people, much as the NIV did recently (see below). Thus the NRSV is the preferred translation today in liturgical and liberal Protestant churches.

The New American Standard Bible and English Standard Version are the most accurate literal translations and the most popular among evangelical, conservative Bible scholars. The NASB, a revision of the American Standard Version of 1901, is considered the most accurate for serious study, and the ESV is considered the most literary and readable among literal translations. The ESV tends to be popular among Reformed churches.

Douay Rheims is the traditional Roman Catholic translation published in 1582 and 1610, heavily dependent on the old Catholic Latin Vulgate. It includes the Apocrypha, additional Old Testament books used by Catholics. In recent years, this translation was revised and published for Roman Catholics as the New American Bible, and in 2011 the New American Bible Revised Edition was published. This translation uses gender-neutral language.

Dynamic translations also seek to follow the original text as accurately as possible, but they are more willing to revise word order and phrases and use more contemporary words to translate the original more clearly. The best-known dynamic translations are: New International Version (NIV), Amplified Bible (AB), Christian Standard Bible (CSB), Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), Jerusalem Bible (JB), the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) and God’s Word Translation (GWT).

The New International Version of 1984 became the bestselling Bible translation in English. It was the first translation since 1611 to outsell the King James Version. However, in 2011 the NIV underwent a major revision, which made it more accurate in many places, but also changed thousands of male-focused words to gender-neutral words, a controversial change that makes it less accurate to the original language. (The gender-neutral language is only in reference to people, such as changing “brothers” to “brothers and sisters,” “the man who” to “the people who” or changing “fathers” to “parents.” It retains male pronouns when referring to God.)

The Amplified Bible is a unique translation that consistently lists alternate translations in parentheses, making it a useful study Bible. However, this feature makes it an awkward Bible for reading.

The Christian Standard Bible (CSB), published in 2017, is a major revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible. It is one of the most accurate of the dynamic translations.  It eliminated some of the unique and quirky characteristics of the older HCSB, following more traditional renderings of the text. It is more accurate than the NIV, and while having some gender-neutral translations such as “brothers and sisters” for the “brothers” Paul addresses in his letters, it does not go as far with gender-neutral translation as the NIV, continuing to refer to “fathers” rather than “parents.” The CSB was translated by conservative scholars and its copyright is owned by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Jerusalem Bible is a dynamic and literary translation for Roman Catholics that includes the Apocrypha. It was based on a French translation. The Jerusalem Bible was later revised as the New Jerusalem Bible, which includes gender-neutral language.

God’s Word Translation is perhaps the most readable among the dynamic translations. It uses gender-neutral language, and tends to use shorter sentences and words like “kindness” instead of theological words like “grace.” It was hard to decide whether to list GWT as a dynamic or a free translation, but since it tries to follow more closely the original text than other free translations, I will list it here.

Free translations seek to translate thought for thought more than word for word. Free translations use very contemporary language, shorter sentences, and they freely add phrases that are not in the text in order to communicate the idea to our culture and language. These translations are very easy to read, but are less accurate for serious study. All of these translations use gender-neutral language to some degree. Some of the best-known free translations are: New Living Translation (NLT), Good News Bible (GNB), New Century Version (NCV), Common English Bible (CEB), Contemporary English Version (CEV) and New International Reader’s Version (NIrV). Some of free translations target a child’s reading level by using very short sentences, especially the CEV and NIrV. The Common English Bible tends to follow a more liberal viewpoint in translation, and is thus more popular among liberal Protestant churches.

Among free translations, the New Living Translation is one of the more accurate, and has become the most popular.

Paraphrases radically alter the original text, putting the emphasis on communicating the thoughts and ideas in very contemporary language. Two of the best-known paraphrases are: The Living Bible (TLB) and The Message (TM). The Living Bible, paraphrased by Ken Taylor, sold millions of copies a generation ago, and at one time was nearly as popular as the KJV, yet it was strongly opposed by those who preferred literal translations. The publishers of the Living Bible responded to this criticism with the New Living Translation.

The Message is a vivid, newer paraphrase written by Presbyterian pastor and Bible scholar Eugene H. Peterson. It tends to capture the emotion of scripture. The Message is more literary and sophisticated than the Living Bible. The Message has been very popular in the past decade.

The Voice Bible was first published in 2012. The Voice is a translation that is amplified with paraphrase. That is, the text has a fairly accurate translation, but then it inserts additional words into the text in italics for clarity and explanation. It emphasizes the hearing the word (thus the name The Voice), and is written in a literary style. It is displayed in screenplay format, to highlight spoken words.

Paraphrases can be useful in getting new insights into scripture, but they should not be used for serious Bible study. Even Eugene Peterson himself says that his paraphrase is intended to make Bible reading fresh, but it is not intended to be read in church or Bible studies as if it was the Word of God.

There are other paraphrases that are interesting novelties, such as the Cotton Patch Version written by Clarence Jordan, which sets the events of the New Testament in Georgia; the Clear Word Bible written by Seventh-day Adventist Jack Blanco for devotionals; and The Word on the Street written in urban lingo by Rob Lacey.

CAUTION: There is one other widely distributed “translation” that I should mention. The New World Translation is distributed by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, which is the publishing arm of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Beware of this perversion of the Bible that twists scripture to deny the divinity of Jesus Christ.

So we have come full circle back to the original question of this article: What Bible translation should I use? The answer: compare several of them! For serious study, it is wise to refer to a literal translation. I myself prefer the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and English Standard Version (ESV) for this purpose. For daily Bible reading, a dynamic or free translation may be useful to get a clear understanding of the meaning. For daily reading, I prefer the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and New Living Translation (NLT), and I still like to read my old Holman Christian Standard (HCSB) and refer to my old 1984 edition of the New International Version (NIV84), which are both no longer in print. Occasionally, I also like to read The Message to get a feel for the passion of scripture, especially the Psalms. And I still quote familiar passages like Psalm 23 from the King James Version.

My prayer for you, as you read this guide, is not that you will choose a translation that makes you feel good, but that you will choose a translation that best helps you understand and obey God’s Word. To God be the glory!

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Book review of Mother Teresa: A Simple Path

 I was asked to read Mother Teresa: A Simple Path, to see if it should be placed in our church library. I am recommending that we do put it in the library because of its positive elements and for the Christian reader to be informed about her historical work, but with a statement of caution in the flyleaf. Why is that?

Mother Teresa is well known for her work with “the poorest of the poor” in Calcutta, India and around the world, for which she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. This book is a collection of thoughts by Mother Teresa and her followers on her philosophy of life and ministry. This path is summed up on page 1 of the book this way: “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace.”

The book is inspiring in its devotion to love the poor by loving Jesus Christ through the poor. There are many inspiring testimonies from volunteers, prayers, and simple statements that show how she kept her focus on her mission. She had a wonderful appreciation for the value of every human life, including the unborn. On p. 55 she asks why people worry about children being killed in wars but do not oppose mothers killing their own children.

I hesitate to say anything critical about Mother Teresa, because she has done far more for the needy in the name of Jesus than I have. However, I must point out that while she was a devoted follower of Christ, she encouraged people to follow whatever religion they were in, rather than convert to Christianity. For example, on p. 31 she says, “I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.” This same philosophy is found throughout her book:
“I have never found a problem with people from different religions praying together. What I have found is that people are just hungry for God, and be they Christian or Muslim we invite them to pray with us…”
“God is not separate from the Church as He is everywhere and in everything and we are all His children– Hindu, Muslim, or Christian…”
“Anyone is capable of going to Heaven…” In this passage, she does not clarify that going to Heaven is by faith in Christ.
(Mother Teresa, A Simple Path, p. 31-32, 59, 73.)
Mother Teresa says that she is saved through Jesus, but she believed that Muslims and Hindus can be saved through Jesus, while remaining Muslims and Hindus.
This contradicts the words of Jesus, who said He was the only way to the Father (John 14:6), and the words of the apostle Paul, who said that there is salvation in no other name than the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). We should not be surprised that Mother Teresa takes this viewpoint, as Roman Catholic theology generally teaches that the cross of Jesus Christ saves people who follow their own consciences and own religions, even if they never declare faith in Christ. (See statement by Pope John Paul II in Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue – Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation, 19 May 1991, n. 29; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 July 1991, p. III; and Catechism #841.)

Mother Teresa’s work is truly inspiring and deserving of recognition. However, her teaching about salvation sadly follows the typical Roman Catholic viewpoint of salvation, a viewpoint that falls short of the teachings of the Bible. Let us be inspired by Mother Teresa’s devotion, but cautious of her as a theologian.