Miserable Interpretation

Published by Luke Saint on

“… And I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”  Psalm 23:6

I don’t like getting caught up in Bible translation arguments.  They tend to generate more heat than light.

The King James (Authorized) version of the English Bible has served since 1611 as a source of rich imagery and phraseology for our language.  It’s powerful and poetic.  By most counts, there are still some 250 to 300 KJV Bible phrases still in common usage in day-to-day writing and conversation.

But I understand the desire to make the Bible more understandable and to update from the old English of the King James.  Even most literate people today don’t understand phrases like:

“Quit you like men..” (1 Corinthians 16:13)

“How long halt ye between two opinions?”  (1 Kings 18:21)

The sentence structure, too, is difficult for many to follow.  Thee’s and thou’s bother many.  I don’t think it’s a bad thing to make God’s word more accessible.  (Full disclosure:  I’m a New American Standard Version reader.)

But things can go too far and many translations have been re-interpretations that take out not only archaic words or sentence structure, but also essential meaning.  Accepting the idea of new translations has opened up the possibilities of slipping in more “modern” concepts.  Removing difficult grammar has allowed for removing difficult doctrine.  Watered down is not better in wine or the word.

This was driven home for me at a funeral recently held in a main-line denomination church.  The cover of the bulletin had printed on it the 23rd Psalm.

For obvious reasons, David’s Psalm of praise to God has comforted millions at these times of mourning.  Who doesn’t want to lean on the Lord when mortality must be confronted?

But where’s the comfort when the Psalm ends like this,

“…and I will dwell in the house of the LORD as long as I live.”?

Really?  That’s it?  Only for as long as I live?  Once I die where does that leave me?

If this is my consolation from David, I’d have to number him with Job’s friends and say with Job, “…miserable comforters are ye all.”

What’s worse, is that when we had opportunity to ask the church’s minister which Bible version the cover was printed from he had no idea.  It’s just the one that comes with the bulletin size they like to use.  What’s worse, part II, is that he went on to say that it’s a shame that the Psalm was re-stated but we tend to “wear that one out, anyway.”

Wow!  Wearing out the Word of God.

The take-aways for me are these.  First, here’s a re-interpretation that seems to be done just for the sake of change.  There is no difficult doctrine here.  There’s just a change.  It’s not easier to take; it’s just said in a different and weaker way.

Second, if a baby Christian needs pabulum at the beginning so be it.  But part of working out salvation with fear and trembling is to look ever deeper into the text of the Bible.  If we are to tremble for the fear of God, it must be because we’ve heard from Him, not someone’s feel-good re-interpretation.  And if the Holy Spirit truly indwells, He’ll be prodding in that direction.

Last, for crying out loud!  Find a pastor who will at least try to wear out the Word of God.

~ John Bingaman

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Luke Saint

The board’s youngest member, bringing with him a youthful zeal and valuable contributions. Raised in a homeschool environment by parents with a reconstructionist vision, he claims Christian Reconstruction as the mindset and mission of his faith. In addition to his day job as a UPS driver, he ministers in music at his church and currently hosts a podcast, Brotherhood of the Silver Screen, a critique commentary on the latest movies and cinema trends. Luke resides in Reading, PA.


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