February 07, 2013
A few years ago, before the Harris Teeter at Golden Gate Shopping Center closed down, I used to shop there all the time, and sometimes I would see this older black lady shopping there, and, every time I saw her in the store, she was holding a well-worn Bible.
The first few times I saw her, I just kind of thought to myself, "Well, that's unusual I wonder why she always has a Bible at the grocery store."
Then, one day, when I saw her in the produce section holding her Bible, I went up to her and I said, "Excuse me; I was just wondering why you always have a Bible with you when you're shopping."
And her face lit up and she answered.
"Oh, I always have my Bible with me," she said. "I have it with me everywhere I go."
She then went into a short sermon about how you always need to keep God at the center of your life, in everything you do, and she said that an essential part of that is reading God's word, studying it and keeping it close at all times.
When she finished, she looked at me and asked if I was saved.
I told her that, yes, I believed I was.
"Have you read the Bible? Cover to cover?"
"Yes," I said.
Then she had another question for me.
"But have you read the King James Version?" she asked.
I told her I'd read some of the King James Version, but the times that I had read the Bible cover to cover, it had been other more modern versions.
And, still grinning from ear to ear, she said, "Oh, well you need to read the King James Version all the way through."
I thanked her for that advice and, while I didn't go home and start reading the King James Version cover to cover, that conversation apparently did plant a seed in my mind. It got me thinking: Is it really important which version of the Bible you read?
I'd always had the view that it didn't matter which version you read just that you did read one.
The first Bible I ever read all the way through was The Living Bible, back when I was a teenager. When I was growing up, The Living Bible translation was my favorite version.
I had read the stand-alone New Testament version of The Living Bible first called Reach Out and I still have that book today.
After I read Reach Out, I wanted to have that translation of both the Old and New Testament, so I got The Living Bible, which I read for years as my Bible of choice.
I read that and highlighted it and took notes in it from Young Life and Sunday school at West Market Street United Methodist Church where former Greensboro Mayor Jim Melvin was my Sunday school teacher by the way.
Every now and then, I would hear someone criticize The Living Bible translation saying it wasn't a very good one because it took too many liberties with the language and it was written too much in modern day vernacular.
Over the years, I bought or was given a lot of different versions of the Bible including the King James Version, the Revised Standard, the Max Lucado Devotional Bible and several others.
But, for me at least, The Living Bible had one major overriding virtue compared to the King James Version and some of the others: When I read it, I could understand what it was saying.
You know, when I read some of the others especially when I read the Old Testament sometimes I had no idea what was going on because the language, while often beautiful, was hard to understand.
Recently, I was thinking about all this, and I was curious to see how many versions of the Bible I had in the house, so I went around and collected them and took a picture.
When they're all put together like that, it looks like I'm some sort of religious nut, but I don't think you can have too many Bibles in your house.
When Judgement Day comes, and the Good Lord is separating the wheat from the chaff, I seriously doubt that having too many Bibles around can do anything other than work in your favor.
In fact, and I'm just guessing here, but I'll bet that, if you're right on the line between getting into heaven or not, and God is trying to decide what to do with you, then having a lot of Bibles around might be the thing that really tilts the scales in your favor and saves you from eternal damnation.
Whichever Bible you read, I do think it's important to pay attention to the names of the books in the Bible especially in the New Testament and I think it's very important to pay close attention to the order of the books.
I have this theory about what happens when you're at the gates of heaven and they are deciding what to do with you. I think one major part of the test to get in to heaven is that they ask you to name the books of the New Testament in order.
I think that's probably a key question on the test and if you get it right then they let you in and, if you don't, well, then you don't want to know what happens.
At one point back in high school when my mind wasn't so foggy and I was active in Young Life, I could strike a match, hold it between my fingers, and name all the books of the Bible Old and New Testaments before the match burned down to my fingers.
There's no way I could do that now. But naming all the books of the Bible in order is a lot to ask anyone and I don't think the angels at the gates of heaven will ask you to do that.
I think it's only the books of the New Testament that you have to know. I don't think there's any way they would expect you to know the books of the Old Testament because then practically no one would get in.
Also, you would have a problem whenever a Catholic tried to get in because I think the Catholics throw about a half dozen extra books into the Old Testament, so it would get very complicated; and, for all those reasons, I think they're likely to stick to the books of the New Testament.
Also, before you get too worried because you can't even name the books of the New Testament in order, I don't think you have to get them all exactly right. I think it's like your driver's license exam, where, if you get three wrong answers or whatever, you're still good to go.
In addition, like on the sign identification part of the driver's license test, I think that, if you get stuck and you're right on the line between getting into heaven or not, they drop you a few hints.
Like, if you get to the end of naming the books of the New Testament and you're almost there, and you've already missed your limit, but you can't think of what comes before Revelation, I think they jump in and give you a hint like, "Well, just take a breath and stop trying to think of it for a minute. In the meantime, let me tell you about the music in heaven. Everyone up here really likes the Beatles; you know, personally, one of my favorites is that song
oh my, what's that song called again? It's got a two-word title, 'Hey, something.' I think it's a girl's name or something."
Because, you know, they're angels, not devils, and they're pulling for you to get in.
Anyway, as long as your Bible has the books in the right order, I think you are golden.
But, look, I don't know what else there is to the test, but there certainly might be other questions, and, after giving some thought to what the woman in the Harris Teeter said, I wondered if there were any relevant differences between the different Bibles. ...continued on page 2