Thursday, December 1, 2011


The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'"  John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.   -- Mark 1:1-4 (NRSV)

Here begins the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.  In the book of the prophet Isaiah, God said, "Look, I am sending my messenger before you, and he will prepare your way.  He is a voice shouting in the wilderness: 'Prepare a pathway for the Lord's coming!  Make a straight road for him!'"  This messenger was John the Baptist.  He lived in the wilderness and was preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had turned from their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.  -- Mark 1:1-4 (NLT)

The other day I was asked what translation of the Bible I use.  I said, "The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)."  I like that translation's poetic language, but I especially like my Bible.  It is called "The NRSV Notetaker's Bible".  It has lined margins that are two inches wide, which are perfect for jotting down my own notes.  Before I came across it, I was complaining to myself that there was very little room to make any notes in my Bible -- the margins were miniscule, much narrower than in most other books.  Soon after my grumbling, I found this Bible.  It answered my prayers.  Though I didn't realize they were prayers, someone was listening!  I've never seen another one like it, anywhere, since.   (I read once that Martin Luther made a Bible for himself with wide margins for notes!  I felt a certain kinship with Martin Luther when I read that.)

I asked my friend, in return, what Bible translation he used.  He said, "The NLT, New Living Translation."  He said he used the NLT Study Bible and the NLT Life Applications Bible both.  He likes the translation, but he especially likes the commentary and notes provided by the scholars.

That is one thing my Bible lacks.  Because so much space is taken up by the wide margins, there is no room for commentary of any kind.  Sometimes I miss that.  I see other people's Bibles, with beautiful pages highlighting historical, cultural, and devotional insights, and I think, "Oooh, I want that."  So I go to the bookstore to look at the different Bibles.  (This can be overwhelming -- especially if I go to a Christian bookstore!)  I sit down, and start looking at all the extra stuff inside them.

I love the historical and cultural tidbits I find, but, inevitably, I put the books back on the shelf. Why?  Because I always come across an interpretation that I disagree with!  Am I really that contrary?  I must be.  But, I have found that the commentaries always come with one particular point of view -- the point of view of the writer, of course.  And, at some point or another, I find that we don't see "eye to eye".  I just can't bring myself to buy an expensive book that I know I will want to throw across the room some day.

So, while I have resource books that give me some of the historical and cultural background that I crave,  I shy away from study Bibles, especially ones directed to specific groups of people, such as mothers, or women, or -- the latest one I saw -- American Patriots.  I long to find a study Bible whose interpretation I can agree with wholeheartedly.  But, I am beginning to realize, that that is going to be as impossible as finding a person with whom I agree wholeheartedly. 

My Notetaker's Bible has spoiled me -- or not, depending on how you look at it.  I've had to ponder the daily passages on my own.  I've had to take time to think about what it means to me.  If I'm really at a loss, I can look at other translations, or at my resource books for some background and context.  But, mostly, I'm on my own.

Well, that is not really true.  For I do believe that God is with me every step of the way.  As I struggle to make sense of the Bible passages I read each day, and how they correspond to my thoughts and experiences of the moment, I know God is listening in and leading me to the answers I need to find.  That has certainly been the case so far.  I trust that that will always be the case.

I am, however, contemplating making a change to a different translation.  The beginning of the church year seems like a good time to change things up a bit.  Maybe I'll start reading the NLT.  I like its easier flow of language, but I will miss my wide margins.  Too bad I can't find a "NLT Notetaker's Bible".

Dear Lord, thank you for your word.  Though the Bible has been re-written in multiple languages and multiple styles of language, the same message shines through, no matter what.  And though I may disagree with other interpretations of your word, I believe the Good News of Jesus Christ is evident for all to see.   Thank you, God, for that.  Love always, Pam


Doug said...

Now Pam, looking for that one bible that completely, from Genesis to Revelations, supports your viewpoint is a quest that I suspect will never be attained. Unless of course you are willing to make one major compromise. If you are willing to completely toss aside your current beliefs, be willing to question nothing, be willing to accept everything as written, and totally accept the interpretation of whichever bible you are reading, then and only then will you possibly be able to reach your goal. But in my opinion, you may be deeply disappointed with the end result. God gave us the ability to think, to question, to seek answers, and that is what I believe we do with our bible studies. In the end the only interpretation that matters is the one you are comfortable with in your relationship with God. And for me, the only way to get to that point is to get many different opinions, hear different interpretations. God will let us know if this is His message for us. So relax, enjoy the fact that at bible study you already have a multitude of bible interpretations available to you, and soak em up.

Pamela Keane said...

Yes, that is so true Doug, and that is one of the reasons I love our Bible study -- for the variety of opinions. Now, if I could only find such a variety of interpretations in one Bible! Wouldn't that be grand!!