What is your favorite version of the Bible to read? My go-to is the NLT, New Living Translation. It’s easy to read, easy to understand….and easy to gloss over when I’m distracted.
My friend Daniel put me onto a new translation of the New Testament. And while it probably won’t ever be my “take to church service Bible”, it’s been very interesting to read so far. It’s called The Second Testament, translated by Scot McKnight. It’s a little clunky to read, but it makes you stop and think about what the author was conveying. Where most translations try to translate the Greek to English to make it sound more, well, English, McKnight has striven to make the English sound more Greek. It breathes new life and new perspective into familiar passages.
So, for the next few weeks while Daniel is on a break from his regularly scheduled Tuesday morning meetings, he asked if I wanted to get together and go through 1 John, using this translation as our base. 1 John was one of the next books on my radar to study anyway, so it sounded like a great idea to me. Our first meeting was this morning to go through the intro and first chapter.
In my posts as we go through, I want to share thoughts about the letter in general, just as I have in studying other books. But some of it will be what stood out to me in this particular translation. I bounce back and forth between it and my NLT as I read and study to try to get a fuller picture of marrying the modern and the ancient in my mind.
In the introduction, McKnight notes that John uses “simple grammar and vocabulary appearing frequently.” If you’ve read John, you know how he grabs his theme and sticks with it. God is love. If you’re in Him you have love, and you can’t be in Him without it. He uses opposite pairs of love and hate, truth and falsity, life and death, and light and darkness.
Going into chapter 1, the very first thing that stood out to me was the use of the senses. John says that they are proclaiming what they saw, heard, observed, felt – things they actually experienced in the knowing of Jesus. One difference in this translation that stood out to me was where NLT uses the phrase “was revealed” in verse 2, here is used “made/become apparent.” Those two give me completely different connotations. When I hear “was revealed,” I think of a curtain being pulled back and being shown something new that has been in hiding. “Made apparent” sounds more like whatever I’m looking at has been there all along, but I was missing it. While the man Jesus hasn’t always been here, God has, in all three persons. Jesus came to earth to reveal God’s true self to us. While God has always been here, we couldn’t fully realize His Light, His Life, His Truth until Jesus walked among us.
All throughout, where the NLT uses “fellowship”, McKnight uses “common life”. I absolutely love this. So often we use the word fellowship as getting together to share a meal on occasion, or for a project or something specific. But we are to share life together. All of it. All aspects of it. Not just once a month on a Saturday night. Or staring at the backs of each others heads on Sunday mornings. Or getting together for a service project. Our common lives. Our daily lives. We are part of the same family. The same body. We are supposed to live together, to work together, to play together, to share together. And what binds us together is Jesus. Again, His Light, His Truth, His Word. We walk through life with each other, and we walk through life with Him. He wants to share that common life with us as well.
Verse 9 in the NLT reads, “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all wickedness.” Confess is replaced with “openly agree” – a thought of God already knows. We just have to be willing to admit it. Then, “He releases us from our sins.” Forgiven is a beautiful word. But release…that depicts true freedom. That freedom that Paul talks about in Romans 8 and in 2 Timothy. Freedom from the chains that sin bound us with. That fear and cowardice held over us. When we take ownership of our sinfulness and lay it at God’s feet, He releases us of that bondage and cleanses us. We are free, fresh, and full of the good things that come from Him – peace, love, joy, grace. We are filled with His Light, His Life, His Truth, His Word.
Looking forward to what else this translation will “make apparent” that has been hidden in plain view in familiar passages.
To find all of mine and Daniel’s posts on 1 John, click here.