Yesterday, my friend and co-worker said to me:
“Hey! You know that New Testament you gave me? I’ve been reading it everyday. I can actually understand it!”
I’ve been hearing comments like that quite a bit over the last several months. See, I’ve been giving English Standard Version (ESV) Bibles and New Testaments to friends who’ve only ever known the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.
Now, I happen to like the KJV. It has within it some wonderfully poetic language. However, the fact is that languages change. Over the years words come to take on different meanings. What was clearly understood centuries ago may very well cause serious misunderstanding today.
Here is an excellent example:
“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ” – Philippians 1:27 (KJV)
How would you understand the word “conversation” in that verse? I think most readers today would think it refers to the exchange of ideas or opinions when we talk. In fact, everyone I’ve asked this question gives me that answer. It’s a good guess, but wrong.
When the King James Version was written the word “conversation” was routinely used to mean our conduct or behavior. It referred to how people lived their whole life. What was clear hundreds of years ago is easily misunderstood today.
Here it is in the English Standard Version:
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ”
And in the New American Standard:
“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”
This is why we need new translations. So people can understand God’s Word. So that people like my co-worker can, for the first time in their lives, actually make sense of Scripture.
What a joy it is to hear a friend relate how excited she is to be reading the Bible everyday! May there be many more like her.
Blessings in Christ,