Why We Don’t Want a Modern Bible
We all want the Bible to reach the most people, right? We want its words to extend into the 21st century so people may see the light of God’s salvation and the glory of his character. But sometimes, in this effort to “meet people where they are” we can actually hinder growth in God’s Word.
The other day, I stumbled across an example of this within the comments on an article discussing Bible translations. As I scrolled through the comments, I read one claiming that readers today don’t understand the Ancient Near East depth behind the use of the word “sons.” The writer proposed a more inclusive language for everyday reading, and for us to leave the other reality for deeper dives into theological study.
While on the surface these requests might seem like a good idea, we all lose so much when we seek to alter God’s Word to our own understanding.
We Lose the Richness
When we center the Bible in modern language and culture, we’ll lose understanding of the richness of God and his redemption. If God is the sovereign Creator and King who foreshadowed his redemption way back in Genesis, then this must mean the drama of Scripture isn’t arbitrary. God didn’t haphazardly decide to call Abraham, redeem the Israelities from Egypt, appoint David as king, or send Jesus to Bethlehem. God enacted his will in history in a particular time and a particular place. He chose to make himself known in the midst of cultures who created covenants, offered sacrifices, and understood the world in a far different way than our modern viewpoints.
Through these specific cultures and people groups, he weaved truths about who he is and what salvation meant. Through the not-very-relateable sacrificial system we see incredibly clear and beautiful explanations of our sin and the holiness of God. In the confusing-to-us laws of the Old Testament, we can grasp the abundant kindness of God contrasted with every man-made deity. Amidst the now-irrelevant covenantal systems, we observe the incredible gift of salvation and the promises of our Father. Through the no-longer-relatable viewpoint of “sons” and “heirs” of the Ancient Near East, we understand the Christian’s position in Christ holds immense value and security.
These explanations aren’t only for a seminary class. We do ourselves a huge disservice when we view these truths as details only for those who want to do a “deep dive” into the Bible. The richness of our place as heirs in God’s kingdom is for the mom sweeping her floor with her baby strapped on her back. The perfection of God evidenced in the Holy of Holies can bolster the man struggling with doubt. The beauty of the covenants is for the teenager who feels guilt press in over messing up once again. In his wisdom, God chose a particular culture and particular language to convey the truths of who he is in order that every culture afterward could learn. We don’t want to lose the complexity for more relatable phrases. When we do, we miss out on so much of the beauty and depth weaved into the Scriptures.
We Forget About Community
With an effort to make the Bible simpler, we’ll also perpetuate the false idea that the Scriptures were meant to be read completely alone. God gave us his Word. He gave it to his people to read, study, and follow together. The church is called a body every part needs each other (1 Cor. 12:12-27). The New Testament tells us some of those members of the body are teachers who help others learn and understand the Word of God (Eph. 4:11). Yes, you and I should still study and read the Bible on our own, too. We need not return to the days when priests and bishops force-fed teaching to an uninformed audience, but we do want to remember the immense value of learning together.
The Bible can be confusing. There are some difficult passages that leave us scratching our heads. We won’t naturally comprehend why sons were so important or why birth order mattered so much. We wonder if David was right to kill those Moabites and puzzle over why God could call menstruating women unclean. 1 Instead of brushing over these difficult passages or adjusting them to more relatable language, we can use them to remember our need for help through community. We need our pastors, elders, Sunday school teachers, and friends to come alongside us and work together to unearth the richness beneath God’s Word. Even more, we should read the Scriptures along with our brothers and sisters who have gone before us—saints who lived with another completely different set of assumptions in Puritan New England, 5th century Egypt, or 13th century Europe.
A trove of beauty and richness awaits us in the Scriptures, and it already relates perfectly to your life—whether you’re a college student driving Uber for extra money or a sixty-year-old seminary student. Our Father chose to speak in a particular way, in a particular time, for a reason, but those words still hold immense truth and power today. Let’s not be afraid of the not-very-relatable sections of Scripture. Instead, let the hard sayings push us to dig in-towards the community God’s given and to the Holy Spirit who unveils the riches of his Word to his children.
- The former is in 2 Samuel 8 which my own pastor preached on a couple weeks ago, and I appreciated him taking the time to address, not just skim over.