On Change.

By Monday, March 1, 2010 5 0

Yesterday I finally got a new study Bible for Chris and I. Chris’s old NIV study Bible was falling apart, not to mention it had a love note from his ex-girlfriend inside the cover. I never used my NIV study Bible because I always use my NIV Thinline. I LOVE that thing. It’s falling apart, and it has ink stains, tears, underlines, highlights, etc. It’s used. Bible Study Fellowship lessons, Beth Moore studies, and Max Lucado books all use NIV. I am, simply, used to it.

I often compare translations in study, and I’ve been using a tiny pocket ESV on occasion, but I was having trouble making the complete switch.

Then, this weekend, I was watching John Piper preach via live stream from Mars Hill Church, and he referred to the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, in John 11. The NIV says in verses 4-6, When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

But the ESV says, But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Do you see the difference? While the story does not change because of the translation differences; the meaning, and Jesus’ intentions, change significantly. Did Jesus love Mary and Martha BUT stay two more days, or did He love Mary and Martha and SO stay two more days?

The ESV, which is an “essentially literal” translation, indicates that Jesus basically let Lazarus die because He loved Mary and Martha. The meaning of the NIV is the same. After all, in verse 4, Jesus said Lazarus’ sickness will not end it death, but for God’s glory is that God’s Son may be glorified. But it’s not very clear. The reader misses this incredible detail that Jesus’ love meant Mary and Martha might suffer.

John Piper said, “if your Bible doesn’t say, ‘so’ or ‘therefore’, get a different translation.” Now, this is a preacher, a Bible scholar, and a man I trust immensely. So, I did. I drove to Mars Hill’s Bellevue campus before grocery shopping yesterday and picked up a beautiful leather ESV study Bible for HALF PRICE (thank you, Mars Hill!). It’s gorgeous, and it’s full of color maps, illustrations, tables, graphs, notes and references. It’s the most comprehensive study Bible I have ever seen! I am so excited to dive into it, especially as we begin our first class, Methods of Bible Study, this week.

But, it represents something deep inside of me that I can’t eliminate, despite all my prayers and petitions: I don’t really LIKE change. Now, a caveat: I do seek change, for my benefit. A strength in my character is that I desire to be better, constantly (not saying I always AM better, but I do desire it), and I am usually willing to “suffer” for improvement. But, because I don’t really enjoy change, I don’t seek it out very often. Even when God is ushering me into a changed state, I delay, for comfort’s sake. I want to be able to say I am the kind of person who “thrives on change,” but in reality, I hate it more than the average person and I benefit from it as much as the average person.

I’m interested: how do you handle change?

It seems small, but changing Bible translations is a big deal to me. I have memorized scripture in NIV that is really different sounding in ESV. Christ’s words are not in red in my new Bible. And, perhaps most importantly, nothing is underlined. I feel, in a small way, like I’m starting over spiritually!

How did my reaction manifest itself yesterday? I was emotional. So many blessings were given (tax return numbers), needs were presented (dear friends’ prayer requests, earthquakes in Chile and Japan), and so much information was shared (an amazing sermon). In trying to battle these needs, I felt like I couldn’t turn to anything familiar for comfort, and it sort of overwhelmed me.

But God is SO faithful.

This morning I did my Bible study with my new Bible. I almost went back to my trusty (comfy) NIV, but I am really feeling God’s tug on this change, so I obeyed. And He blessed me. I read a portion of scripture I have read a million times in a totally new way: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him (1 John 5:13-15).

I already have the requests I ask of Him according to His will.

And you know what? The NIV says exactly the same thing. But I think I would have missed it.

A helpful resource over at Desiring God.

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  • unmowngrass

    Is that the only instance where the translations give a different meaning to the passage? (just curious)

    • No. If you click the resource I posted at the end of the blog entry (I posted it later), you’ll see a long list of examples.

  • Thanks for sharing this, Rose! Switching translations can feel really uncomfortable. I remember that when I switched to the NASB it was kinda awkward.

    Now I have to go look up that passage to see how it’s worded! 🙂

  • Mine says “so.”

    • NASB is very similar to ESV and also a word-for-word translation. ESV is newer (2001) so it might be a little “easier” to read, but that’s personal opinion, I think. I remember I was proud of you for making the switch to NASB, but couldn’t do it myself. LOL.