Saturday Short Thought – C.S.Lewis on the KJV

At the risk of opening a bigger can of worms, I’m going to share a quote from C.S.Lewis on the King James Bible (or Authorised Version if you are in the UK).  The point he makes could lead us off into endless discussions on Bible versions, and maybe sometime I’ll go there in the blog.

For now, though, my point is to round up a week of posts about how we preach the text of the Bible.  It is relatively easy to half-cook a sermon out of a Bible text. But when the Bible is really preached, listeners feel the impact of the text as it is proclaimed.  You’ve experienced that sometimes, right?  That sense of the text hitting home more profoundly, more personally, more powerfully than you expected?  That is the goal.

So, Clive Staples (I came across this quote without good citation, if you have it, please let us know), over to you:

We must sometimes get away from the Authorized Version, if for no other reason, simply because it is so beautiful and so solemn. Beauty exalts, but beauty also lulls. Early associations endear, but they also confuse. Through that beautiful solemnity, the transporting or horrifying realities of which the Book tells may come to us blunted and disarmed, and we may only sigh with tranquil veneration when we ought to be burning with shame, or struck dumb with terror, or carried out of ourselves by ravishing hopes and adorations.

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Next week – Delivery Matters

Study Bibles and Studying the Bible

We are starting to hear about the 2011 edition of the NIV Bible, timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the original King James Version.  King James may not have really “authorised” the often called Authorised Version, but he was motivated to have a Bible that had no notes attached to the text (other than Hebrew/Greek notes).  Interestingly, it is 100 years since the first publication of the Scofield Reference Bible.  C.I.Scofield, whatever your view of his theology, was motivated to see serious students of the Bible studying it more systematically.  Later came the New Scofield Reference Bible and the Ryrie Study Bible, not to mention a plethora of other reference and annotated Bibles from various theological streams.  The popularity of the NIV Study Bible seemed insurmountable, although recently we saw the launch of the highly lauded ESV Study Bible.

I’ve already mentioned seven Bibles that could all spark significant criticism (we are very quick to attack Bible versions and Study Bibles aren’t we?)  Obviously Study Bibles and annotated Bibles all have a particular theological agenda or leaning, that goes without saying.  But let’s make a simple observation.  Lots of “special” Bibles are published and sold because a lot of Christians feel both some motivation and some level of inadequacy for Bible Study.  A good Study Bible is a great resource for many people!

So the question then arises for us as preachers – how do we encourage our listeners to be effective Bible students?  Here are some questions to chew on – do we encourage them to use helpful study aids like Study Bibles and other resources?  Do we undermine the text they are looking at by critiquing the translation too freely?  Do we offer training in basic Bible study approaches – such as an inductive Bible study class?  Do we preach in such a way that listeners get the sense that the Bible is understandable and that Bible study would actually help them?

We may not place ourselves in the camp of the NIV translators, the Scofield notes, the Ryrie theology, the ESV Study Bible notes, or whatever.  But let’s consider how we can follow in this tradition of looking for ways to help people be serious students of the Word.