Whatever path you are on, signposts are helpful! A guidebook with a map is useful and if they contain suggestions for futher advancement on that journey all the better.
For me the main guide is The Bible. For a Muslim it would be the Qu’ran. Holy books are the bedrock on which faith is built. Ever since the Bible was set down in writing there has been disputes over which ‘books’ should be included (that’s another story!) and later different translations were made. I myself have five different Bible translations and we have one other at home which belongs to my son. (I also possess an English translation of the Qu’ran). My first Bible was given to me when I was at secondary school (Revised Standard Version – an authorised revision of the Amercian Standard Version). I rarely opened it and when I did I thought I should start at the beginning and work my way through to the end – not the way to the read it which is probably why after a few chapters of Genesis I gave up.
When I was in my early 30’s and had been attending church for a while and had small children I began confirmation classes and after the service I was given The Good New Bible and my parents gave me the New International Version which I use 98% of the time now. When I was doing some study I was recommended The King James Bible and though I recognise it’s importance it is not one I particularly like due to the old language which confuses me.
One day I became interested in reading the Apocrypha as I came across the Book of Tobit which is instrumental to the story in the book Miss Garnet’s Angel (Salley Vickers). As I couldn’t find a book of just the Apocrypha I ended up purchasing the New Jerusalem Bible!
For a while I had wanted to buy The Message. I had read lots of quotes and I liked them so this year after receiving some money for my birthday I finally bought myself a copy.
Now, do I need all these Bible versions? Well, I could probably manage with one (the NIV would be my choice) but I would miss so much else. When writing an essay for a course I was doing the NIV version of the Bible passge I wanted to quote didn’t quite express what I was trying to get across but the Revised Standard Version did! Sometimes a different version can flesh out a passage and you see things in a different light, something clicks at last. As you study having different versions to compare key passages against is a real help. I don’t see myself buying any other versions now, but I never say never! The Message is in today’s language, very accessible, especially perhaps to new Christians who want to get to the heart of things in a language they recognise. If it is beauty of words then the older versions come into their own. Psalms, my favourite book, is best read (for me) in the NIV or maybe KJB because I love the poetry of it.
The Bible (or other Holy Book) is the word of God with sacred teaching and describes God’s dealings with his people – our relationship with him and each other. It is the start of the journey.
So, the Bible is the key tool for your journey and in whichever version you choose. Have a look at different ones, choose a passage and see which version speaks to you more. It’s worth taking time over this (maybe the library will have a selection for you to borrow). As your journey progresses you may feel it is time to explore another version – quite often it is quotes I see in magazines and books which catch my attenion and I always look to see which version it is from and that might push me in another direction. Good reading!
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. (Isaiah 40:8 – NIV)
True, the grass withers and the wildflowers fade, but our God’s Word stands firm and forever (Isiah 40:8 – The Message)