We had a visit from a representative of the Gideons this morning in our church, and the man made a heartfelt pitch for the saving nature of Scripture. One never knows what fish may be caught using the Word as bait; all we can do is cast those seeds out and pray that some bear fruit. OK, enough of the evangelization metaphors…
I know from personal experience that I’m always comforted when checking into a hotel, and finding one of the Gideon’s sturdy KJV Bibles. In fact, I’ve been known to ask at the front desk if there wasn’t a copy in the room. In my travels around the country, I’ve never gotten a negative response for this request; at worst, it’s “we’ll look into getting those in the rooms.”
Scripture is the one, single thing that is indispensable for learning about God’s revelation to humanity. Note that I write “thing.” It is obvious that the Book by itself is insufficient for salvation. For that one must have one thing, the Book, and, much more importantly, one Person: God, working through His Holy Spirit.
As for which translation, that’s quite secondary. Better the worst translation than none at all. Hence, although my preferred version is the English Standard, the KJV, NRSV, or even the cloyingly politically correct TNIV will do for starters.
But what should not happen is for a newbie to only receive the New Testament, which the Gideons also distribute freely. What’s the harm in someone reading only the Gospels? A lack of context which can too easily lead to grave misunderstanding of how Jesus of Nazareth came to be God incarnate among men.
As John has Jesus telling us, “salvation is from the Jews” (Jn 4:22). The Saviour comes out of Zion, and it’s necessary to understand all of God’s revelation to humanity that leads to Jesus. To do this it is essential that the seeker, not to mention the mature Christian, know Scripture.
This means knowing Genesis and the Fall; knowing the story of God’s covenants with humanity, starting with Noah and ending with Jesus. Jesus did not just appear in a vacuum. He was, and is, the Word. Again, the reason to never ignore the Hebrew Scriptures may be found in John 1:
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Start with Genesis. End with Revelation. It’s all of a piece, and it’s all telling us the story of God’s love affair with humanity.