Interpreting Scripture, Part #738

I was about to graduate from high school and I liked studying about Jesus and the Bible and what I believed. I had heard of a “Parallel Bible” and I asked for one for Christmas or birthday.

The Parallel Bible my mother Mary Ann gave me was published by a company called Zondervan. Zondervan is a huge religious publishing company, founded in the 1930s in Michigan by two Zondervan brothers who began in a barn and the business grew; in 1988 HarperCollins bought Zondervan for $50 million. Calendars. Bible software. Study tools. Christian fiction. Christian living. Christian inspiration. Children’s books. And many kinds of Bibles.

Mine was a Layman’s Parallel Bible.

The same passage – a story in Genesis, or a passage of Jewish Torah Law, or a Psalm, or a Jesus story – was laid out in four parallel columns, so you could compare the texts while seeing them all at the same time. I could see the differences in how the texts expressed an idea. The way scholars thought about God or the world or Jesus or good and evil in the 17th century vs the 19th or the 20th. The different phrasings, flavors, insights.

I loved it. It helped the Bible feel alive to me.

I would later realize that in studying with this parallel Bible, I had begun looking at the text as text, in addition to its being “the Word Of God.”

There is a persistent Christian belief that the Bible is a thing that God spoke or expressed or inspired or dictated, and which is a perfect expression of God’s self, God’s desires, God’s views, and is therefore God’s Word. So …

Which one of these 4 was The Word Of God?

  1. The King James Version of 1611, also known as The Authorized Version, was produced by a group of scholars and clergypersons whom the King of England commissioned to produce a Bible that he could use for his Protestant-ization of his kingdom. The King said, “Make me a Bible I like.” It became the Bible for English-speaking people everywhere. It’s why we think God sounds like Shakespeare.

Is that The Bible? The Word Of God?

  1. The American Standard Version of the Bible was an update of King James’ Authorized Version of 1611. 30 scholars from nine Protestant denominations used ancient source materials, as well as King James’ version and others from the mid-to-late 1800s. They said, “We have a Bible. We want to produce a different Bible.” For whatever reasons – Doctrinal. Political. Financial.

Then, the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA had some scholars update the ASV and create the Revised Standard Version, which was published in stages during the middle of the 20th century. Millions of copies have been distributed worldwide.

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA owns the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. As in, that Bible is owned by a company.

Is that The Bible? The Word Of God?

  1. The Modern Language Bible was a late-1960’s translation meant to speak to the emerging culture of the mid-century culture. It’s an update by Zondervan of a translation written by a Dutch-American Presbyterian pastor. Zondervan created the MLB to reach out to youth culture of the 1960’s and 70’s. It sold millions of copies and Zondervan made tens of millions of dollars.

Is that The Bible? The Word Of God?

  1. The Living Bible was published in 1971. Ken Taylor – a founder of Tyndale House Publishers – wrote it, paraphrasing the language of the American Standard Version into what was then contemporary English. It sold millions of copies. I liked it a lot. It sounded like real people.

Is that The Bible? The Word Of God?


How’s this: I don’t think there is such a thing.


Next time: “Interpreting Scripture, Part #738, or, My Bible’s Better Than Your Bible”

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