10th July 2023

Moving house makes me reflect that it is much easier to acquire things than dispose of them – research files, pictures, brown furniture, artefacts representing different movements in church life, etc. – all seem valuable to me but will anybody else give them the same value?

Over the years members of the family have passed down their much valued Bibles which it would grieve me to see going to the skip. And so I tried to send a boxful of Bibles and commentaries to Africa only to be told that the charity could accept all versions of scripture except the New English Bible. Querying why this should be I was simply told nobody wanted them. Why I wondered? Was the title an unacceptable legacy of an imperial past? Had language and race got horribly mixed up? Did some missionary zealot from the North Atlantic find that the words of some cherished text in older versions now not say quite what he wanted it to say?

By contrast world-renowned evangelical scholar, F. F. Bruce, welcomed the new translation: “To the sponsors and translators of the New English Bible the English speaking world owes an immense debt. They have given us a version which is contemporary in idiom, up-to-date in scholarship, attractive, and at times exciting in content…” The Baptist Union was one of the sponsors of the new translation which involved a number of Baptist scholars for whose work I can only thank God.

The words we put in front of ‘Bible’ intrigue me: King James Version, Revised Standard, New International, when perhaps the only legitimate adjective is ‘Holy’, with appropriate action: ‘Mark, learn and inwardly digest’ as the old collect has it, that is a prayer that we ‘take note of, ensure we understand, and most importantly make scripture a programme for daily living’. Or in other words, let the ‘Holy Bible’, whatever version is to hand, shape Christ’s church into being a church of ‘Holy People’.

John Briggs