Putting It In My Own Words

I really like to read the Bible from different translations and paraphrases. Two of my favorite versions for devotional reading are the New Living Translation and Eugene Peterson’s The Message. The first is a dynamic translation meant to reproduce the readability of the older Living Bible paraphrase. Unlike the Living Bible, the NLT is an actual translation. The Message is total paraphrase that attempts to render a lot of the archaic language and figures of speech in modern terminology. Mr. Peterson is a true Biblical scholar and does know the original languages but he takes some liberties when putting things into his own words. I don’t always like what he does, but for the most, I really enjoy reading from it.

When I was in Bible college the first time back in 1994, I had a couple of professors who really pushed the New American Standard translation over the New International Version or the older King James Version. They insisted that it was more reliable version that was closer to the original text than the NIV. When I went back to Bible college in 2005, many were still using the NAS. I, however, at the urging of my Reformed buddies, had made the transition to the English Standard Version. That is still my preference when I am seriously studying the Bible, although I do fall back on the NAS from time to time. When I preach, I typically use the NIV because that is what the majority of the congregation uses.

I occasionally pull out the New King James Version and on rare moments, the Contemporary English Version. The only reason I use the CEV is because the church purchased a bunch of them in the past and have them in the classrooms for the younger kids. When I am teaching one of those classes I will use it so the kids can read along with me. I haven’t read much in it but it seems to be a decent translation. It’s not one that I would use often. The same goes for the Holman Christian Standard version. That one is a relatively new translation that was headed up by Lifeway. It’s a pretty good translation and I have a digital version on my Kindle Fire. I use it for comparisons and that’s about it. The only times I have used the trusty KJV was for my grandmother’s funeral last year and for the handful of times I filled the pulpit in a little Freewill Baptist Church back in Rocky Mount. I have nothing against it, in fact, I love reading the Psalms from it, but it’s not my first (or second) choice for a Bible.

I think the weirdest version I’ve come across is Rob Lacey’s The Word On The Street. I don’t consider it a true Bible and I’m not even comfortable calling it a true paraphrase. It’s more like a post-modern re-interpretation of the Bible. Lacey is a Welsh poet and theatrical storyteller. Unlike The Message, The Word On The Street isn’t a verse by verse paraphrase. There are some really interesting bits in it and, according to all the information available, it was checked out by serious scholars before being published. It’s not something I enjoy reading often but I do occasionally flip through it out of curiosity.

I have often thought about sitting down and just putting Scripture into my own words. It’s not something I would want to do as a commercial venture. I imagine that it would be more for my own devotional use. I do not know the original languages so it’s not like it would be a serious scholarly endeavor either. It would be for my benefit and my benefit alone. If nothing else, it could be a tool to help me through my own daily quiet time. If I am reading the Bible and then taking the time to write it back out in my own words, I am at least interacting with it. Like I said, this isn’t a serious project that I am planning, it’s just something that occasionally crosses my mind.

I think I want to paraphrase Psalm 1 first. That was the theme for my week of camp this summer. On one of the days I had the campers put the first three verses in the their own words. It was really interesting to see what they came up with. I think it might be just as interesting to see what I come up with.

Psalm 1 (The Modlin paraphrase)

If you want to be happy in this life you shouldn’t take the same road as those who are telling you it’s okay to do wrong, or hang around with those who are up to no good, or make yourself at home with those who ridicule God’s ways.

God’s Word will bring you complete joy, especially when you devote yourself to learning it and putting it into practice.

You will be like a mighty tree, planted next to the river. It always produces fresh fruit and there isn’t a dead leaf on it.

Those who reject God’s Word are the exact opposite. They get blown away with every gust of wind. They won’t have a leg to stand on during judgment and there will be no place for them among God’s people.

God will keep His eye on those who obey Him, but those who go in the other direction will only find death.


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