What was your first Word?

I have a friend that I have know for a really long time. As long as I have known him, he has always been a “good” guy. Recently, after months and months of prodding and then eventually giving up asking him to come to church for the time being, he has started asking questions about forgiveness and Christianity (really strange how that works). I tried my best to answer and got him “Mere Christianity,” (I actually bought this before he started asking the questions) and he is interested for more.

Here is the question:

If you had to give this person a Bible, which version would you give him and why? (NIV, TNIV, King James, NASB, Message, etc.)


5 thoughts on “What was your first Word?

  1. I suppose it depends on what he’s looking for and what kind of person he is. The biggest issue is that he simply has a Bible that he will read. Two cautions, however:

    1. I wouldn’t give him a King James: In addition to its archaic english, the original KJV’s format treats scripture as a collection of individual verses. The NKJV changed the format but still makes for awkward reading, and just as important, it is still based on late manuscripts.

    2. Though they can be helpful at times, I would also be a little weary of paraphrases like The Message if this is going to be his only Bible. Sometimes they nicely capture a passage, but other times (especially some of the paragraph headings) they tend to be a little too embedded in our cultural perspective and language.

    A number of translations would be fine. I like the (N)RSV. One good translation that doesn’t sound stuffy is the Jerusalem Bible. Check out the following link. The post briefly discusses the JB, and the blog on the whole is very educated (though often quite technical) when it comes to translations.

  2. Thanks for the tip. I had heard of the Jerusalem Bible but never really explored it. It seems like it would be a fun one to read.

    As for your comments on the other translations, I agree, I would never give the King James to him. I would be partial to The Message, but there are two problems I see with this right away:

    1) For your first Bible (at least while you are coherent), I would not want to give you a translation that removed the text from its original context. Although it will take quite some time to read the Bible in context, its easier to start there, then read it in a millennial context and have to work backwards (at least from my perspective).

    2) I think its good to get in the habit of reading whatever your pastor at church reads on Sunday morning when he preaches. This way it becomes easier to follow along and comprehend what you are reading. You don’t want to constantly be trying to convert the sermon in the message.

  3. I’m with Kyle on this one… it depends on how he’s giong to use it. If he’s going to read primarily on his own, I’d get him something like The Message. For one thing, it’s in chronological order and you won’t come across duplicate stories. While this doesn’t make for good scholarship (but what first time Bible reader wants that?) but it will insure he reads the Bible with an understanding that the whole thing is one story and one dialogue (between God and man). And if he reads the whole thing he’ll be have a good background on the content and intent of the Bible, rather than (like a lot of first time readers) starting at the beginning and then putting the Bible aside (maybe for good) at Numbers.

    If he’s primarily going to use it at church, then you definitely want a regular Bible so he can reference Scripture verses mentioned in the Sunday message. I still like the NIV for its understandability. While other versions are more accurate, you are less likely to run across words that you’ll look up never (but never do) in the NIV as opposed to say, the NSRV.. Again, it’s not the best for scholarship, but it’s good for a new reader.

  4. In response to my esteemed colleage, two quick points just for the sake of clarification:

    1. The Message is not in “chronological order” (I don’t know who would determine that order).
    2. The Message doesn’t eliminate “duplicate stories” (I would feel cheated if I got a Bible that was missing stuff).

    Beyond these two points, I agree that it’s mostly a matter of what he’ll read. And hopefully no one is urging anyone to “start at the beginning” and just read. I think your relationship with him can guide that process. It’s that relationship that bears fruit — and it’s more important than which translation he has.

    Unless he has the KJV. Haha…I kid. (kind of)

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