By John Pierce
If you haven’t heard, liberalism always creeps. It crept into my otherwise staid Southern Baptist Church experience when someone showed up with a copy of Good News for Modern Man in the late ’60s.
The somewhat familiar language (there were no “ain’ts” or “fixing to’s”) was a departure from the original language of God, the patriarchs, the prophets, Jesus, the disciples, Paul and King James I. The same verses we had been coerced (in a good way) to learn by rote were less poetic but more clearly comprehendible in this new translation.
So it was indeed good news for modern youth, at least. However, the stick figure illustrations cast doubts on our long-held belief that all biblical characters were made of felt.
After its launch in New Testament form in ’66, the translation expanded to all 66 books (we didn’t know anything about the Apocrypha in Boynton, Ga.) of the Bible and took on different names — becoming known as Today’s English Version and then as the Good News Bible. (The American Bible Society repeatedly affirmed that this version of the Bible was indeed a translation, not a paraphrase — like its contemporary, The Living Bible— as some KJV loyalists had charged.)
For those of us steeped in biblical teaching through Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, Sword Drills and more, there is a special relationship with the particular translations (and even editions) of the Bible that we possessed during our most formative years.
Some familiar verses that were long captured by memory during those times seem stripped of their glory when heard in any other way than in the King’s English.
Yet some of the underlined (something I’d have never done with my genuine leather KJV as a youngster) verses in the paperback Good News version spoke more clearly and directly to my young mind and heart. And the stick figures seemed less removed from my daily experiences than the flannel graph board.
Another sign of relevance — which I just recalled recently when seeing an early version of the Good News for Modern Man New Testament — was found on the gray cover with red lettering. The background was softly filled with the banners of daily newspapers from around world.
That connection between biblical revelation and contemporary culture is something we try to foster through Baptists Today.
Today, various Bible translations abound. Except for a few lingering KJV-only congregations, most churches have a great variety of Bibles on hand each week.
Southern Baptists even own their own translation now. And there are more translations, paraphrases and topical Bibles on my office bookshelf than I can number.
But I’m grateful beyond measure for particular Bibles that were given to me during my childhood and youth — and for the deeply committed, faithful (and somewhat coercive) teachers who made sure I learned a good portion of what was in them.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.