“What Bible Version do you follow?”
This is a popular question that I get a lot of times from folks when they first find out that I am a religious professional. It also tends to come up when folks are unfamiliar with my tradition. But, then the question usually goes more like this: “What version of the Bible do you Episcopalian’s follow?”
I guess the short answer would be “lots of them” and, more to the point, “several at the same time.”
The list of bibles “approved for use in worship in the Episcopal Church” is long and varies. Certainly the King James Version holds pride of place for its role in the history of the Anglican Tradition. However, if you were to walk into most Episcopal Churches on an average Sunday morning, you would hear either the Revised Standard Version or the New Revised Standard Version being read. My current congregation uses the latter.
Approved Bibles are not limited to English, however. The reformation commitment to encouraging each person to encounter the Word of god in his/her own language persists. Therefore, the list of non-English bible used regularly in Episcopal Churches is as varied as the people who have found a home in our congregations. Spanish, Korean, Igboo, Tagalog, Navajo only scratch the surface.
Because my primary role in the Church is as teacher and worship leader, most of my favorite bibles for study and devotion are the sames one I use to prepare for sermons and Sunday school and the same one that is used in Sunday worship – the New Revised Standard Version. I own several other versions, however, that I use when I want a different take on the text that I am studying. I particularly enjoy Eugene Peterson’s The Message, when I am trying to get my mind around the emotional content of a passage. The English Standard Version is a popular one for copy-write reasons on online sites. I have even been known to dust off my Hebrew and Greek Original language texts when I am trying to impress myself or others.
This brings us to the “several at the same time” comment from earlier. Because so few read the original languages of the bible – and even those who do are not fully immersed in the culture in which these books were first written – it is difficult to ever pin-point the ‘original meanings’ of the texts. The best we can do is to triangulate by adopting several vantage points on the same passage. By looking at the same verses in several different translations, and even languages, we can use the subtle differences in translation and style to help raise threads of meaning that are obscured when only one version is used. If you want to get to the core of a juicy passage of scripture, try reading it in as many bibles as possible, taking note of the different ways in which different authors have rendered the same concept.
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