The previous entry attempted to provide some insight on what the Bible is and why reading it is so important for believers and our mission. As mentioned in that entry, the Bible is a big and complicated book. Reading it can be a daunting task. Further, it is essential that we not just read it but also understand what God is trying to communicate to us.
Technology, in some cases, has developed in a way that might make it more difficult for people to live righteous lives. That said, advances in technology can also be put to use by those who choose to pursue God. That should not be a surprise. After all, God is the one that blessed humanity with the knowledge and capability needed to produce the advances in technology we now see.
Aspects of the Bible have changed over the centuries since it was put together. God’s Word itself is the same as it always was, but originally the various books of the Bible were written in Hebrew or Greek depending on the book. As Christianity spread around the world, it was translated again and again to serve the people to which it was introduced.
That is a good thing, but the problem is that translating texts, particularly those as complex as the books of the Bible can be hard. Words have multiple meanings, and sometimes it’s not always clear to translators which definition of a word was the one God intended.
For example, a past blog entry covered the concept of meditation. Philippians 4:8 is a good example of the Bible instructing us to meditate, and if you’re reading the New King James Version, that fact is clear.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Maybe it’s not as clear with the New International Version.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
One version says “meditate” and the other says “think.” Which one is right? Both are. “Think” is a pretty broad word. It can mean to quickly consider something. It can also mean to deeply contemplate something. Upon first encountering the verse, readers might not understand what God is trying to say, but when taking both translations together, it becomes clearer that the NIV translators meant something closer to that second definition for the word “think,” which would be consistent with what is presented in the NKJ version.
To add onto the difficulty translators face, figurative language exists. Consider the phrase “Hit the Road.” People who grew up in America understand that the phrase is an idiom (i.e., a phrase that has a non-literal definition). When someone tells you to “Hit the Road,” they don’t want you to go outside and physically strike the pavement. They are telling you to leave.
The Bible has examples of figurative language too. The problem is that translators who understand the language but don’t understand the cultures from which those languages came can make the mistake of translating figurative language too literally and delivering a completely different message than God originally intended. Take this pretty well-known saying from Jesus:
Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. – Luke 18:25
Many scholars disagree with what the “eye of a needle” actually is. Some believe it means the literal eye of a needle. Some say it referred to a particularly small gate leading into the city of Jerusalem. Still others think it might have referred to a particular type of rock formation present in the deserts of the Middle East. Depending on the interpretation, Jesus could be saying that getting into heaven would be very difficult for a rich person or impossible (without God, as Jesus goes on to explain that God can make the impossible possible).
Some translations of the Bible err on the side of being more literal, while other translations such as the NIV try to be truer to the intent of the original writers.
What does this have to do with Technology? Well, perhaps the best way to deal with the uncertainties of the various translations of the Bible are to read more than one. The NKJV, NIV, American Standard Version, and others all have their strengths and weaknesses, and when you read multiple versions it becomes easier to get to what God’s original message might have been. In the past, doing that would have meant having to carry around multiple Bibles. which could be cumbersome. Now with Bible apps and programs, we are able to gain access to dozens of translations all at the same time. That can be a big help when trying to study the Bible.
The benefits of those apps aren’t limited to providing multiple translations of the Bible either. Most people carry phones with them everywhere they go. The existence of Bible apps means that the Bible can be with you everywhere you go too. Most Bible apps have a search function. That means that if you ever have a particular question, it’s now easier than ever to find the answer in the Bible. Many modern Bible apps offer devotionals and reading plans that give believers and those seeking knowledge of the Bible great ways to study and understand the Bible. Even for those people that feel like they don’t have enough time in the day to really read the Bible, apps also send out “Verse of the Day” reminders that can help anyone make some time for God’s Word even if that exposure comes in a small tidbits each day.
God’s Word is as true today as it always was, but it’s also true that what we read today is not exactly what was written centuries ago. If you can’t read Hebrew or Greek, there’s a good chance you’re probably going to miss something. Still, some of the Bible’s evolutions are undoubtedly good, and we have to use those positive changes to enhance our Bible study.
At the end of the day making the best use of all the tools associated with the modern Bible is great, but there’s only one foolproof tactic that will work for believers trying to understand the Bible in whatever form it takes – asking God for help. No matter what tools we use, we will need God’s help to truly understand his word. So we have to make sure to pray for guidance and understanding. After all, the Bible itself tells us that the Holy Spirit is what allows us to gain any true insight from God’s Word.
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. – 1 Corinthians 2:10-12