I use the English Standard Version as my standard reading Bible. Our church, however, has the New International Version in the racks so when teaching, I usually use it. (I even have a red ‘preaching Bible’ that I seem to misplace more often than I’d like to admit.)
This might be surprising to some of the readers who know that I am not a big fan of the Greek Critical Texts. It is my firm belief that with modern technology available to us, there is no reason we cannot use a modern version and hold to a more traditional or majority view of the texts.
Here is how it works out in my life and ministry.
More often than not, I teach from whole books or large passages of the Scriptures. For example, we are currently in the middle of a five week study of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). During tessarakoste (Lent for those of you in the western tradition), we will be journeying through the major books of the Exile (Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezra and Nehemiah). After Easter, we’re doing an expositional study of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.
As I am teaching through a book, I am studying it. Really, I don’t spend much time on word studies because in real life, we don’t do word studies. We read to understand. If we don’t understand a word, we look it up and move on. Instead, I read the passage repeatedly. My office is full of whiteboards, and I will write out large passages in the original languages and read over them to familiarize myself with them.
This is where technology comes in. In my version of Logos Bible Software, I have a number of Greek texts. When I’m studying the New Testament, I use Scrivener’s 1881 text and I lock it to both Nestle-Aland 26 (I’m too cheap to upgrade so I have 27) and Stephanus’ 1550. I scroll through the texts, watching for variants and reading along in English – both the ESV and the KJV, as well as the NASB usually.
This allows me to see, at a glance, everything that is going on – all the competing ideas. Because I spent years reading the KJV, I can usually recognize a major variant in the English pretty quickly. If there’s a valid reason for the variant (because I don’t believe the TR is infallible), then I accept it and move on. If the variant is pointless or silly (like removing “broken for you” in 1 Corinthians 11:24), I just add it back in when I read.
When teaching, I will often point out that translation is an imperfect art. It is not uncommon for me to ask someone in the congregation to read a passage from the KJV, or read it myself (although I don’t preach with notes or a pulpit, and bringing another Bible up with me would look silly). At these times, I remind the congregation that translation is a community activity and we need to be connected with our heritage as well as with our contemporary culture.
I love the King James Version of the Bible, and I love it for a lot of reasons and I believe we can still learn a lot from it. It is, and should continue to be considered, the fount from which all English translations should flow. With modern technology at our fingertips, there is no reason why we can’t connect to that stream and use a version of the Bible people find readable.