After my last post I was thinking about all the bibles I’ve had over the years. Here is chronology of those bibles (now that I’ve written it I’m reluctant to post it, because I might look like a crazy):
1. Early childhood — I had a children’s bible of one sort or another. I’m pretty sure I never read it. But I really liked the glossy, full-colour drawing dispersed throughout. My favourite picture was the one of Samson, filled with one last gift of strength, pushes against the pillars of the Phillistine temple (?), killing himself and many of the people nearby. In the pictures, the pillars are frozen in mid-buckle.
2. Later childhood — I was given a paperback NIV, with a blue, faux-leather-looking cover. Everyone had one. I still have it. The corners of the pages are curled and it’s tearing.
3. 1992 – I was given a shiny new NIV thinline bible for my birthday. It took me through jr. high, high school and Bible college. It was a really nice size Bible. In jr. high and early high school I used this bible to argue with friends about the roles of husband and wife in marriage (submit! I was such a clueless little idiot) and, worse, pre-mill vs. post-mill theology (didn’t have a clue about that either, we each just went with whatever our dads believed). I also underlined throughout it and in bible college followed the suggestion of multi-coloured (coded) underlining and circling, etc.
4. University (c. 1997-1998) – I decided I wanted to “study” the Bible some more and thought perhaps a study bible was the place to start. Not having a clue about these things, I asked my dad. My dad, being a John MacArthur fan, suggested the John MacArthur Study Bible (NKJV), but warned that the temptation with a study bible is to always go down to the commentary immediately after reading the scripture text. Dixie gave me this study bible. I never did use it much because a) it’s bulky; b) I realized that perhaps a better choice of study bible would have been one with commentary from multiple scholars; c) I realized shortly after receiving the JMSB that John MacArthur may not be my cup of tea. The NIV Study Bible would probably have been a better choice at that point. I still have the JMSB and refer to it from time to time.
5. Post-university (ca. 2002 -2003) — my NIV thinline was coming apart at the seams and was filled with multi-coloured markings and notes about marriage roles and a sketch of the Romans Road evangelistic tool. I felt like a different person in my faith by that time, not really identifying with all that stuff, so I wanted to start with something clean and fresh. Ended up with an NIV Thompson Chain Reference bible. The Thompson Chain Reference system is really quite useful and I still use it a lot. However, I do find the chain references, etc. distracting for general reading and the text in my edition is crowded tightly into two columns which occupy only about 2/3 of the page.
Here things start to get a little crazy. I tend to be compulsive about some things (see this post about some of my favourite books and my redundant Tolkien collection) and buy on impulse. I admire Phil for his deliberate and patient choices–I could learn a thing or two (probably more) from him. Learning that skill would save me money and frustration.
Anyway, about this time I also started on my short-lived quest for the “perfect” bible. There is no such thing, of course.
6. Somewhere along the line here we were given a copy of The Message (remix). I read it more like a commentary than a translation (it is a paraphrase). I refer to it from time to time. That edition is apparently gauranteed for life–or would be if we lived in the U.S.
7. Thinking back to my bible college days, I thought that perhaps bible note-taking might be a useful thing to do, so I got a NIV wide margin bible. I took only a couple of notes. It was the victim of a poor attempt at trying out RLP‘s good idea of putting each book of the bible into its own duotang folder. Fail! I’m not sure where that gibbled bible went. Chucked it, I suspect, although I would have done that with a great sense of guilt.
8. When Luke was still a baby, I wanted to have a Bible that I could slip in my pocket so that I could carry my kids without having to manhandle the large TNIV Thompson Chain bible as well. Purchased a pocket ESV, which I use when I travel or do visitation.
9. When Dixie’s mom’s Christian bookstore closed in 2008, I picked up an NRSV pew bible. I continue to use it: it has plain text without the distraction of cross-references or commentary, although the type-face is budget (pew bibles are generally inexpensive) and not the best for reading.
10. The TNIV appears to be used more and more in our denomination and some of the editions I saw at the Midwinter Conference reminded me of that thinline edition of the NIV I received some 17 years ago. That old bible is, after all this time–all these years of working in the cover–the most comfortable, most readable bible I’ve had. So I bought myself a thinline edition of the TNIV, and in a sense came full circle. Inside the front cover:
11. Oh yes, after landing in Saskatoon after the conference, I stopped in at the Jesus Christ Superstore (Scott’s Parable), looking for a TNIV bible. Happened upon a pulp-paperback edition of the NLT for $1.99! Couldn’t pass that one up. The NLT has gone through a couple of revisions and is gaining a lot of respect, even as a bible study tool. The NLT Study Bible, for example, is getting rave reviews (and, not surprisingly, so is the ESV Study Bible).
There you have it, folks. These days I refer to the NRSV, NLT, ESV, NIV and TNIV. The tactile-loving side of me would almost like a hard copy of the NET Bible, which has thousands of translators’ notes (instead of the commentary found in a study bible), but I can easily access it online. Plus, after pulling out that old NIV thinline bible, I realized that I probably could have used that bible for many years more than I did. So I had better curb my urges.
I know you’re thinking this is totally ridiculous, and I agree, it totally is. But looking at the translations, commentaries and theological books I have collected over the years, it makes me wonder if my compulsions didn’t in a way “foresee” my current direction in life, even while I didn’t see it coming until much later.
On the other hand, all this translation acquiring probably distracted me from the more important issue of actually reading the bible, in any translation.