Run the Race

Later this month approximately 1,000 runners will take part in the Hook Fun Run and Road Race covering distances from 2.5 miles right up to 10 miles. I am sure that the organisers have placed a request for a bright sunny day so that all the participants, marshals, supporters and spectators have a pleasant and enjoyable experience. On the day there are four races and there will be prizes for a limited number of people in various gender and age categories. For the vast majority of runners who won’t win prizes the goal for the day will be about taking part and they will be satisfied with their finisher’s medal and a well-earned rest in the afternoon.

Even fun runners will usually make some effort to prepare for the run by going on a few practice jogs to check that they have some chance of completing the distance. Clothing and shoes are selected by the competitors to ensure they are suitably equipped to run efficiently and reduce the risk of injury. On the day itself runners will have certain goals; a personal best to be achieved, a rival that they want to beat or simply to survive and get round the course. It is this preparation and goal setting that is being alluded to in the New Testament when the Christian life is said to be like running a race.

Deciding to follow Jesus is not like taking out an insurance policy where you pay the premium and then forget about it until you need to make a claim. Following Jesus involves a lifelong commitment to a self-disciplined life. It involves setting aside distractions and self interest in order to ensure that we are able to complete the course.

What is the primary goal of a follower of Jesus? It is to become like Him in character. As we focus on Him and choose to follow in his footsteps on a daily basis his Holy Spirit gradually brings about change so that we become like him. If we lose sight of the goal of becoming like Jesus then we risk falling into one of two traps. Trap one is that we become disillusioned and give up on being a follower of Jesus. Trap two is that we focus on outward religious observance.

Lots of runners find that they need the encouragement of running mates to successfully achieve their goals. The only way to successfully complete the Christian life is to do so with Jesus as your running mate. Will you choose to run the race?

This blog post featured in the May 2015 edition of Hook Focus

Lost in Translation

Lost In Translation

I have recently started using the NIV(2011) version in my preaching on Sundays, and a few people have asked me why I am doing this after using the ESV for 10 years, so I thought that I would take a moment to share a little of my reasoning. The short answer is that sometimes it is refreshing to have a change, but is not simply a matter of taste as I hope to briefly explain.

The starting point is the fact that the Bible was written in ancient languages: Hebrew for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament. As few of us are, or indeed ever will be, fluent users of these languages we need to have a translation into a language that we can read and understand. Translation however is an imprecise process and also involves a degree of interpretation. The Italians have a proverb which says ‘traduttore traditore’ meaning ‘the translator is a traitor’. There is inevitably loss when something is translated; the question is how much loss is acceptable.

Consider the simple English expression ‘My name is David’. If you were taught French at school you would have been taught to introduce yourself with the expression ‘Je m’appelle David’ and told that this means ‘my name is David’. However, if you simply replace the words with English this would become something like ‘I call myself David’. This would be understandable but not the way English people speak. A translator has to choose between formally following the wording and structure of the original language, and producing something that is more readily understood in the target language. Bible translators use three words to describe the priority of their translation.

  • Formal translation – aims to replace word for word, at times sacrificing good English style and using a more extended vocabulary. A formal translation is good for students of the bible with a wide vocabulary and a good understanding of the background of the Bible times. In short those who are prepared to work a bit to understand what the Bible says. (e.g. NASB, KJV, ESV, RSV)
  • Functional translation – aims to achieve a more understandable quality of English using more common vocabulary in the same way as the wider population. This sacrifices some of the nuances of meaning for the sake of readability and makes the text more understandable to a general reader. (e.g. NIV, TNIV, HCSB)
  • Free translation – places the highest priority on simplicity of English and vocabulary. The results are often very easy to understand but the reader may be more strongly influenced by a translator’s interpretation than they realise. These translations can be good for less confident readers, but are also popular for bringing a refreshing perspective on familiar scriptures for readers who normally use other translations. (e.g. GNB, NCV, NLT, The Message, Living Bible)

Note however that all translations involve interpretation, the question is how much are you prepared to accept? It would be easy to assume that the best or most accurate translation would be the one that is most formal. However if you then can’t understand the English that is of little benefit to you! This is compounded by the fact that every language changes and even over a period of a few years words can become outmoded, take on new meanings, or become loaded with vastly differing meaning. This means that we will always need newer translations to take account of these adaptations. The NIV was first developed in the 1970’s and has gone through a couple of revisions such as NIVI and TNIV. The latest revision is known as NIV(2011) because it was produced in 2011, and is one of the most readable and popular English translations available. I hope this will help me make my preaching clearer. If you use the NIV on the You Version Bible app or have bought a new NIV in the last two years then these will be NIV(2011).

Should you change version? That is really up to you! You will find it easier to follow what I am reading on Sunday mornings if you do, and the NIV(2011) is freely available on a smart phone or tablet. In the end, the best translation for you is one that you will read and understand. There is value in any of those listed above and I will continue to refer to them all in my study.

This blog post featured in the February 2014 edition of Lifelines