Some time ago, the leadership of our church decided to switch from the New King James Version and begin using the English Standard Version of the Bible in services. Years ago, I’m thinking well over twenty, I began using the New King James, much to the chagrin of the church where I was raised, which was KJV only. But hey. I was an adult and married and I could finally make my own decisions, thank you very much.
(Clearly, I needed to read the Bible more.)
Once I was convinced that reading a version other than the King James would not result in an eternity in Hades, thanks to my husband who helped me work through such nonsense, I readily made the swithceroo. I was weary of my mind and tongue tripping over the thees and the thous and the withersovers of the KJV, even though I had been reciting them since I was a preschooler.
Lo and behold, I found the NKJV much easier to follow. It flowed like milk and honey, not water and oil. I began to understand verses that had perplexed me throughout my childhood. As a result, I learned more of who Jesus was and how He dealt with sinners like me. Jesus became clearer, because my Bible lingo became simpler.
Well, when our church switched versions I did, too. I bought an ESV and didn’t like it, because my eyes are old and the yellow tinge on the paper coupled with the tiny print flustered me to the point of not reading, which is bad in the same way being a heathen is bad. So I switched to a different ESV. It was larger print, but void of chapter breaks, which made me feel like I couldn’t take a breath, even if I was reading silently. Because I valued oxygen, I ceased reading again. Again, I entered a cycle of guilt and shame. Then I decided to download an ESV on my phone, and found that out of all of the ESV’s strewn about my house (it’s embarrassing how many Bibles we have), I like the electronic version best. I can’t tell you why, other than the format is pleasing to my eye. It also gives me the option of having it read to me by some guy with a deep, soothing voice whilst I fix my pretty little head in the mornings. This makes me not worry my pretty little head about not getting my Bible reading done for the day, because Bible reading is the Law and grace is cheap, ya’ know?
Still, I find the need to read in a way that doesn’t involve multitasking. Sometimes it needs to just be little ol’ me, my hard copy Bible, and a big God. For those times, I revert back to my New King James. My marginal notes are there. My favorite verses are underlined. And I no longer feel I’m reading a stranger’s Bible.
The other day, I was having a conversation with Andrew (my son) about Bibles. His is packed away in the shed and the lot of us are too lazy to go out and get it because why should we when there are fifty seven other Bibles lining the bookshelves inside, where we celebrate Hygge as often as we can without feeling like a sluggard?
Yeah. I don’t know either.
So I brought out Shaun’s old ESV, the one he put on the shelf to collect dust when he got a new, large font ESV. And I said, “You can use this one, if you’d like. It’s Dad’s but it’s easier to read than the NKJV, and I think having something simpler would help you be faithful in your reading.
He smiled and said “Okay, well thank you.”
And he took it.
And he’s reading it.
And my heart has never been happier. Knowing my kids are reading (in general) is great. Knowing my kids are reading the Bible makes my Mama heart all balmy and squishy and stirred in a way that confirms hope springs eternal, because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. And what I want most for my kids is a faith that perseveres.
I can insist on their good behavior, but until a mind and soul start soaking up the words of God like a crunchy sponge soaks up rain, and until their heart changes by God’s power, I am powerless. I’m always powerless to change my child, but you pick up what I’m putting down, of course. I work to increase and cultivate my kids’ faith. But God does the real, life changing work. He changes hearts, and changed hearts are what produces true good works. Not the other way around.
*End of freebie paragraph.
To wrap up, in my search for a “better” Bible for Andrew coupled with my own willy-nilly-ness about which version of the Bible I’m going to read, I stumbled across my Dad’s Bible, who you know died back in June of last year. It’s King James Version. I’m pretty certain he didn’t use it toward the end of his life, as he had other versions stashed around the house that told me otherwise. But when I was a kid, this is the Bible he took to church with him. When I took it home from the funeral, I took it to church with me for a few months. I liked having it near, as it reminded me that Dad’s faith, though wavering, was genuine.
So I clung to that black, worn, marked up Bible, regardless of who translated it. Then I put it back down for a few months, and now I’m back in it again, in addition to the electronic ESV and the marked up NKJV. I’m finding I enjoy reading the old King James. The thees and the thous and the whithersoevers don’t irritate. They sooth in a way that allows some kind of connection with my childhood. It makes my quiet time more homey. Hygge more Hygge-y.
As long as the version we read is accurate, it doesn’t matter which one we cling to most. There are wicked versions, and I use that term because to add or take away to what God has said is evil. Clearly, it’s vital to not err when choosing a version. So I make sure what we are reading is true. But now that I have the false from the true established, I read whatever version I want. They’re all beautiful in their own way. When my mind is feeling overtaxed, I read ESV. It’s simple and easily understandable as far as sentence structure and word usage are concerned. When my mind and heart are eager for language I know best, I read NKJV. When I miss Dad and want the comforts of home (I swear his KJV smells like him) and what Biblical language once was to me, long, long ago, I read his KJV. All three versions are truth. But all three are unique, and impact me in different ways.
No more agonizing about this for me. No more living under the impression that if I don’t choose to read the ESV, along with the church leadership (which my husband is a part of), I am being rebellious. Alas, if I read the KJV all week and then go to church and read along in the ESV, it’s definitely different. But not wrong. Truth is truth, and truth can be said in multiple ways.
My dog peed under the tree.
My Labrador Retriever urinated beneath the weeping willow.
Both are true (and TMI). But one is more specific.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16, KJV
-For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16, ESV
Both are true. But only one makes you want to avoid the spit pit (aka the front row) at church.