As I typically put up on projection via Powerpoint the majority of Scripture texts I use in a given sermon, I often, and quite deliberately, make use of a variety of English Bible translations. Though I might reference a dozen or more texts, they might appear from as many as a half a dozen different versions.
Have you ever wondered why I consider this a good thing to do? I think this approach offers a host of pluses, but let me share just a few of them with you here, in no particular order.
1. It “shows my work” to the people and thereby, ups my credibility. In effect, it silently says to those assembled: “Yes church, I’ve done my homework on this passage and looked at it through several different lenses. I’m not flying by the seat of my pants here. You can take this to the bank.”
2. It exposes people to matters many of them would otherwise never be exposed to in Bible study. It asks: “Did you know there’s a whole new world of understanding out there in a different cover? There’s much to learn from actually studying your Bible.”
3. It models good study habits to the church that they can imitate. It tells people: “Here’s a way you can study, not just read your Bible, and you’re already well equipped to do it. It’s as simple as closely comparing the wording of a text in several different translations and pondering what they have in common and how they differ.”
4. It does healthy pastoral work by allowing the pulpit to reflect the variety of renderings used by the variety of people in a flock. For example, it subtly says to that singular user of the Good News for Modern Man, “No, I haven’t forgotten you; we have this in common.”
5. It allows me to utilize the rendering I sense does the best job of conveying the text’s meaning rather than simply using a version because a lot of people do and then having to explain that version’s quirkiness. Think about how many times you’ve had to say something like this: “The rendering of the _____ is unfortunate here because …” Using a variety of translations lets you get back to wrestling the demons that needs to be grappled with, not the translation demons.
6. It injects just another little bit of variety into a sermon and that helps people remain attentive, thinking, and engaged. You’ll know that’s happening when someone comes up to you afterward and says something like: “Hey preacher, I noticed the ____ uses the word ___ and my version, the ____ uses the word ____ and that got me to thinking …”).
7. It helps put the emphasis where it belongs, on the word of God and not on any one “brand” of God’s word. After all, what we’re about is not about a particular version of the Bible, but the “Thus saith the Lord,” right?”