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“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” — Psalm 23:4
Like many fellow Christians, Dawn Love grew up on “thees” and “thous.”
As a child, she read and memorized the KJV. Even today, Love said, she finds herself reciting certain Scriptures in the King James language. For her Bible reading and study, however, she prefers the NIV.
And she has plenty of company.
The NIV — introduced in the 1970s — ranks as the most-popular Bible translation among members of Churches of Christ, the Chronicle survey found.
The NIV “has been translated from the original Greek and Hebrew texts, and it is much easier to understand,” said Love, who worships with the East High Street Church of Christ in Springfield, Ohio.
At the Caldwell Church of Christ in Idaho, most use the NIV, minister Jay Hawkins said.
“It’s so common that many people use it just to be reading what most others are reading,” said Hawkins, who prefers the New Revised Standard Version, released in 1989.
Likewise, the Newark Church of Christ in Delaware generally uses the NIV, minister Steve Mahoney said.
“We have a few KJV people, but I try to encourage the NIV for public reading unless the person is highly proficient at reading the KJV. It’s just too hard for the younger generation to follow,” Mahoney said.
“I find that the teens in our church mostly like ‘The Message,’” he added. “Several of our younger members read their Bibles on their iPhones or other devices.”
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” — Matthew 6:9-10
In the survey, 41.5 percent of the 1,100-plus respondents gave the NIV as their preferred Bible.
The New American Standard Version came in second (17.1 percent), followed by the New King James Version (10.3 percent) and the English Standard Version (9.5 percent). The original King James Version ranked fifth (5.8 percent).
“Such diversity in terms of which Bible translations are being read among the Churches of Christ is probably a good thing as every translation has its strengths and weaknesses,” said K. Rex Butts, minister of the Randolph Church of Christ in New Jersey. “It is also good to be part of a fellowship that grants the freedom to everyone to read from the Bible version of their preference.”
At the Bear Valley Church of Christ in Denver, the 1995 New American Standard Version is the Bible placed in pews and the translation read by most members, minister Neal Pollard said.
“In my preaching, I quote most often from KJV and NASB (New American Standard Bible),” Pollard said. “I grew up reading and using the KJV. I never had the difficulty reading and comprehending the KJV that you so often hear … in complaints about it.”
Jay Kelley, minister of the Austin Street Church of Christ in Levelland, Texas, does not dispute the NIV’s popularity.
Still, he prefers the KJV, seeing it as a more accurate translation than the NIV.
“It is the Bible I carry and read regularly, although I use other translations,” Kelley said of the KJV. “Most of my writing is done using the NIV because that is what most folks read.”
“And now, why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, washing away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” — Acts 22:16
At the 19th-century beginning of the Restoration Movement, with no viable alternative on the American scene, the King James Version was “completely dominant,” according to the Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement.
In the 1800s and 1900s, Restoration church leaders supported developing new English translations. They insisted that the availability of better text materials, advances in the knowledge of the Greek language and changes in English since 1611 made revisions imperative, scholar Jack Lewis wrote in the Stone-Campbell encyclopedia.
The American Standard Version, seen as a more literal and accurate translation than the KJV, gained prominence among Churches of Christ after its release in 1901, said Cecil May, dean of the Bible college at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala.
In the mid-20th century, a few prominent church leaders championed the use of the KJV and criticized modern translations, said Lewis, professor of Bible emeritus at Harding University Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tenn.
“The Stone-Campbell Movement has never had a unified position on Bible versions,” wrote Lewis, who helped with the NIV translation. “For most of the Movement’s history the issue of what translation to use has not been a test of fellowship.”
Growing up in black churches, “KJV was the king and anything other than that was heresy,” said Loventrice Farrow, a member of the Naperville Church of Christ in Illinois.
“I believed that the KJV came directly from the mouth of God, and as a child, I thought that King James was a biblical character,” Farrow said.
Most black congregations still prefer the KJV, said James A. Maxwell, minister of the Holgate Church of Christ in Seattle.
“But I have seen in recent years the NKJV and the NIV become a favorite of many 18 and up, especially the NIV,” said Maxwell, a graduate of Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas. “As we have younger men stepping up to serve, most of them are now using the NIV.”
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” — Ephesians 3:20-21
As an elementary student in Honolulu, Roger Woods studied the KJV. Then a Sunday school teacher introduced him to an easy-to-read translation dubbed “Good News for Modern Man.”
“I loved that I could read it without a dictionary,” said Woods, minister of the Walled Lake Church of Christ in Michigan. “When we moved from Hawaii, I deliberately left my KJV hidden in the church building.
“Later, as a teen in Virginia, I used the Revised Standard and early versions of the NIV New Testament. Today, I am alarmed at the commercialization of Bible translations but still support the translation of the Bible fresh for each generation.”
For decades, Katherine Cooper, whose husband, Dan, preaches for the Pitman Church of Christ in Sewell, N.J., has relied on the New American Standard Version — and before that, the American Standard Version. She’s transitioning to the English Standard Version.
Yet, Cooper said, “When I try to quote a Scripture, it still comes out in the King James!”
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