Over the last 5 years I have had the opportunity to teach at Trinity Baptist College in Jacksonville, FL the faculty of which is quite eclectic. For four years I taught on campus and have this last year started to teach online. In the opportunities in which I had to teach Bibliology or something in the neighborhood of Bibliology I did a particular instructive exercise.
Before starting the exercise I would charge the students not to quit. I explained to them that once the exercise began they would have a desire to quit almost instantly, but they should not if they wanted to get the full force of the exercise. In the two times I have done this none of the students quit even though some obviously wanted to.
After explaining the above I then handed out a sheet of paper on which a passage of Scripture was printed. It was the same passage for all the students but each printout came from a different version of the Bible, the 20 or so most popular versions in circulation. Once everyone had their particular printout with their particular version on it, I began to read from the KJV. Once I began to ready all the other students were to join in with their particular version.
As you can imagine, the result was confusion. Only a handful of words were discernable. And just as I had predicted, as soon as the reading of Scripture became noise some students wanted to stop, but I encouraged them to keep on going until we made it to the end. At which point we were all isolated at best. Given the cacophony of sound most knew what they as individuals were reading but they did not know the words of their neighbor and for some, the very fact that everyone was in disagreement, those gleaned nothing from the reading. The exercise brought confusion, loss of focus, and for some, no learning at all.
To add to the point I offer you this audio aid. I took the opportunity to record myself reading 1 Peter 1:1-5 in the KJV, CSB, NIV, and ESV. I put them all on top of each other to illustrate what the 21st century church in America was to sound like if she read her respective Bibles during the public reading of the Scriptures. Before listening, remember that the greeting at the beginning of epistles is some of the most uniform grammatical structures in all Greek manuscripts, yet even with this commonality things are going to get lost fast. Enjoy!
So we are suppose to believe the American Church is stronger and more unified because of the above phenomena. We are suppose to believe further that translators and publishing houses have done the American Church an incalculable service by assisting in making the public reading of our Bibles impossible both logistically and morally given God’s injunctions to give attention to the public reading of the Scriptures and to do everything decently and in order. But then we here at StandardSacredText.com come along, make a compelling case that a standard sacred text is a good thing and that it is philosophically, theologically, and exegetically grounded and then Christians come to dispute with us why our case is the wrong one while simultaneously supporting the confusion heard above. The mind boggles.
This kind of confusion happens most Sundays in most churches in America. Then when it comes to preaching, the pastor reads one text and the people in the pew read something else. At a minimum the people in the pew are jumping around in their text trying to find where the pastor is reading. Many times his text has different words, in different places, and sometime his text has words or does not have words that are or are not in the congregant’s text. And let’s not forget the children in the congregation. They can hardly read as it is, but then the pastor seems to be jumping around and using words not in the child’s Bible. At a minimum this leads to confusion every time the pastor reads as well as a loss of focus. What is more, seeing that we are to give attention to the reading of the word of God in public worship [1 Timothy 4:13], this confusion and loss of focus can easily lead to not learning from the public reading of the text.
If a church hasn’t totally done away with the divinely commanded public reading of the word of God, she must resort to other means. To combat the confusion, loss of focus, and lack of learning, many churches have resorted to…you guessed it, a standard sacred text in the form of words on a screen or printed passages of Scripture in the bulletin. The pastor or elders know that a simple reading of the Bible is not possible because there is no standard sacred text so they make one up in the bulletin. They choose a text, often from the pastor’s preferred version and the church reads from that for the public reading of the Scripture. The point is, if you are going to obey the commandment of 1 Timothy 4:13 and the additional commandment to do everything decently and in order [1 Corinthians 14:40] you must have a standard sacred text even if that means you make one up every week.
Apparently for the CT/MVO crowd it is worth it that there is barely any public reading of the Scripture in church even though the Bible commands it. Apparently it is also worth it that the saint in the pew has less focus and more confusion at the reading of the Scripture, but then we wonder why Christians are biblically illiterate. But wait there’s more! For an additional cost of children who are just starting to read being completely lost as the Bible is read you can have as many versions as you want. And then we turn around and decry the fact that our children are leaving organized Christian religion at a record pace. Every church has its own problems but for the Standard Sacred Text position, reading the Bible out loud as a congregation is not one of them.
2 thoughts on “This Is What the Church Sounds Like.”
Great article on an important issue. I teach detailed Bible studies on Sunday nights at my local church. We’re currently going through Zechariah, and last night I had a common experience most of us have had. I use the KJV, along with about half of those who attend the study, with the other half using mostly the NIV, NASB, or ESV. We had to cover Zech. 13:6, a messianic verse that asks the question, “what are these wounds in thine hands?” For those not using the KJV, “hands” is variously translated as “arms”, “back”, or “chest”. I made the case that “hands” is clearly the proper translation, and expected our non-KJV users to be appalled at how their translations corrupted what should be a clear messianic prophecy. To my surprise, most were prepared to defend their modern versions, even while recognizing their Bibles got this one wrong. I cannot begin to understand why this would be the case. Indeed, confusion is rampant in our churches.
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Thanks for these observations. At a minimum, the multiplicity of versions serves as an encumbrance to the teaching of the word of God. If a discussion must ensue because one Bible says “hand” and another says “arm” then we are not having a discussion about what the Bible says but what the Bible is.
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