The Bible, YouVersion and You

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , , , , , , | Posted On Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 11:01 PM

Our church, Gateway Community Church, has just begun using a new mobile Bible app called YouVersion. It's an amazing - and free - app that allows anyone to access dozens of Bible translations, use one of many different daily reading plans, and it now offers a Sunday morning option called YouVersion Live.

That's very different from how many of us think of the Bible. Maybe it's leather-bound, or maybe it's a simple paperback, but for hundreds of years when anyone thought of the Bible, they automatically assumed it to be a printed book (and before that, a hand-copied book). In fact, Johannes Gutenberg printed about 180 Bibles as some of his first work in the mid-1400s after he invented a printing press with movable type. Since then, it's been estimated that more than four billion have been printed, in hundreds of languages and thousands of editions. The Bible has been the number one best seller for so long that it's not even included on the lists anymore.

But in my lifetime the first truly new Bible has emerged in hundreds of years - the digital Bible. First seen in computer software programs, I began using a Bible software program called Accordance several years ago, designed specifically for Mac computers (Yes, I'm a Mac guy). It allows me to search the Bible and study in ways I never imagined twenty-five years ago in seminary. 

And now, the Bible has spread to mobile apps. By my guesstimation, there are over 2,500 different Bible-related apps in the iTunes App Store alone. 

For many folks, there's no substitute for a bound Bible in your hand. But for others today, using an app on your phone or tablet is becoming just as comfortable, or to have handy when you're out and can't keep a bound Bible with you. That's why we decided to put the YouVersion into service. Many folks already had it when we first mentioned it publicly. YouVersion is one of the most complete apps I've seen, and it's free.

According to an article I found at, the idea for YouVersion first came to Bobby Gruenewald on a layover at the O'Hare airport in Chicago in 2006. He said, "I was going through the security line, and for whatever reason at the time, I was sitting there processing what today's technology could mean for the Bible and could it be transformational in our engagement, and if so, in what says."

He talked about it with some of the folks at his church, in Edmund, Oklahoma, a rapidly growing, multi-site church. In 2007 they created YouVersion as a Bible website, and the results were good but not revolutionary. Not long after they created the website, they decided to try a free mobile version. There was a lot of initial skepticism, even among the team, as to whether people would want to read the Bible on a mobile screen. But they discovered it worked!

Within days of launching it, 80,000 folks had installed it on their iPhones. They actually went live with the app before Apple went live with their App Store, and it was one of the first apps released in the store. Earlier this year they passed the 25 million downloads mark, and continue to expand at the rate of two million downloads a month, making it the world's largest mobile Bible app.

Today Bobby Gruenewald is the Innovation Leader at and was recently named one of the top 100 most creative leaders by Fast Company magazine, alongside people like Oprah Winfrey and Conan O'Brien. In fact, his is the only name in the religion section of this list.

But Gruenewald never set out to get famous - he set out to reshape our culture through the power of God's Word. He said, "It's possible we could see the most engaged generation in history as far as the Bible is concerned, which is a pretty big leap because of all the trends and all of the data points were pointing to people reading the Bible less and less decade after decade." 

For Gruenewald, it not about the number of people who install the app - it's about the number of people who become really engaged with the Bible. A church named Willowcreek in the Chicago has done some amazing research across hundreds of churches and thousands of Christ followers, and they have discovered something many Christians have known for years: "The Bible is the most powerful catalyst for spiritual growth, ... (and) reflection on scripture is the most influential spiritual practice." (Follow Me, pp. 105, 115)

To that end, Gruenewald has created the YouVersion Bible app, and we at Gateway have decided to promote and encourage it. We began promoting the use of the Life Journal reading plan a couple of years ago, and we were thrilled to discover that among the many plans available on YouVersion is the Life Journal. There have been over nine billion collective minutes spent reading the Bible using YouVersion on mobile devices. What's more, people are sharing scripture on their social networks every day at the rate of about 25,000 posts from YouVersion on Facebook and Twitter.

According to the article, Gruenewald says YouVersion isn't meant to replace the traditional print-bound Bible. Instead, it's there to offer and create more opportunities for Bible reading and to take down barriers that keep people from engaging God's Word.

That's exactly what I want to see happening in our church and beyond. I am convinced that as we engage God's Word (and by this I mean more than simple reading; I mean spending time reflecting on what we read and how God is speaking to us in that moment), we will not only help people grow spiritually, but we will see lives radically transformed! The Holy Spirit works through God's Word to speak into our lives and change us. It's incredible!

So, we're promoting YouVersion (or any Bible app or program or website that gets folks into God's Word). If you don't have it yet and would like to try it, download it for free for your mobile device by clicking on YouVersion. You can also access it on your computer by clicking here. And you can even link them together. I'm not out to "sell" anything, but I do want to help you know God better, and I know for many folks, YouVersion is working. Try it out - see what you think! And let me know how it goes. 

Types of Bible Translations, plus a little more…

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , , , , , | Posted On Saturday, October 22, 2011 at 11:01 PM

One of the questions that often comes up as a person begins to explore the Bible is which Bible translation should I get. It may sound like a simple question, but walk into a bookstore and ask for a Bible, one of the first questions you will be asked is, “Which translation?” If they aren’t familiar with translations, all of a sudden a lot of folks aren’t sure where to begin. So, I want to give you a hand walking through this.

The first thing we need to understand is that all Bibles are translations. Most of the Old Testament is written in the Hebrew language (though a few portions are in Aramaic – a version of Greek), and the New Testament is written in Greek.

The Old Testament also comes to us in a Greek version called the Septuagint. By around 200 BC there were perhaps a million Jews living in and around Alexandria, Egypt. Most now spoke Greek instead of Hebrew (after Alexander the Great conquered that part of the world more than a century earlier), so, according to the story, seventy Jewish scholars spent seventy days translating the Hebrew scriptures – what we today call the Old Testament – into Greek. The name “Septuagint” refers to the seventy scholars and seventy days, and the translation is often abbreviated in Roman numerals as LXX.

Like any language, both the Hebrew and Greek languages are unique. Oftentimes, translating from one language into another is not an exact science. Words have shades of meanings, and sometimes there are no direct or equal words from one language to another.

However, whether in Hebrew or Greek, both of the original Bible languages are ancient languages. The Hebrew language actually disappeared from use for many centuries (and was only revived with the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel following World War II). And over time some of the words in Greek dropped out of usage. So, translating both languages is not always an exact science. For this reason, modern translations that use multiple scholars stand a better chance of overall accuracy.

Another issue in translations relates to the actual process of translating. “Word-for-word” translations – called formal equivalence – are usually the most accurate, but sentence styles and structures have changed over the centuries. So, word-for-word translations tend to be harder to read.

The main Bible many folks own is a King James Version (KJV) Bible (in fact 62% of all American adults own a KJV Bible), and it is an example of a word-for-word translation. This translation first appeared in 1611 – 400 hundred years ago this year – because King James I did not like the few English translations available at the time. So, he pulled together a group of 54 scholars to translate the Bible.

Because it is a word-for-word translation, the sentence structures are often awkward to 21st Century Americans. It was awkward to 17th Century English, too, but the King James Version of the Bible became so pervasive and was so often read aloud in church during those early years that it actually changed the way English spoke.

However, the translators did try to use more common or familiar terms, even if the structures were awkward. Interestingly, at the time “you” was a more formal way of addressing someone, while “thou” was a more familiar or common term. The translators decided not to use any special grammar for God, so they chose to use “thou” just like everybody else did. That decision has profoundly affected the English language, and only in the last 30-40 years have translations begun to move to pronouns more current than the traditional “thou.”

A second primary way translators now choose to translate the Bible is a method called dynamic equivalence, and it is more of a “thought-for-thought” translation. This method allows the translator to take the basic idea of a sentence of phrase and put into a modern language form that is more natural and comfortable to read and speak. This method makes these kinds of translations much easier to read, though they tend to more often miss nuances found in the original text.

Translations today tend to lean more toward either the “word-for-word” approach or the “thought-for-thought” approach. However, it’s not an exact science, and in fact, all translations fit somewhere in between these two approaches, as seen in the chart below (originally prepared by Zondervan, a Bible publisher):

(see the end of this article below for the meaning of the various abbreviations)
Below are six translations that span the range of approaches:

John 1:14 (NASB): “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14 (KJV): “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14 (NIV): “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14 (NLT2): “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”
John 1:14 (CEV): “The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw his true glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. From him all the kindness and all the truth of God have come down to us.”John 1:14 (Message): “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” 

Clicking on A Guide to Popular Bible Translations will take you to a chart (available as a pdf for download) that gives a great deal of information about the various translations, including the approach to translation and graded reading level. I always suggest that when you are trying to decide which translation to buy, look up a few passages in several different translations to see which reads best for you. 

If you are wanting to become a more serious Bible student, consider multiple translations spanning the range of translation approaches, to give you more insights. Some publishers offer multiple translations side-by-side in one book. Bible software and Bible websites are also available that offer multiple translations, often side-by-side (and I'll write more about those in a future blog).

Finally, when searching for a Bible, decide if you want study helps. There are many good study Bibles available now that offer helpful (though usually not overwhelming) insights to understanding various passages and words. One of my favorites is called the Life Application Bible, and it is available in several translations. 

Of course, any of the pastors or staff at Gateway are available to help you. In addition, most Christian bookstores tend to have knowledgeable people working with Bibles. You can also do research online. The main thing is to choose a Bible with which you feel comfortable, which you will use and read. Don't pick one just because your parents used it or it just happens to be lying around on a shelf somewhere - do your homework. The Bible is the most important book in the world, and it deserves some attention. God is still using it today to speak to us - don't miss the chance to read what He wants to say to you!

Translation Abbreviations
NASB - New American Standard Bible (1971; update 1995)
AMP - Amplified Bible (1965)
ESV - English Standard Version (2001)
RSV - Revised Standard Version (1952)
KJV - King James Version (1611; significantly revised 1769)
NKJV - New King James Version (1982)
HCSB - Holman Christian Standard Version (2004)
 NRSV - New Revised Standard Version (1989)
NAB - New American Bible (Catholic, 1970, 1986 (NT), 1991 (Psalms)
NJB - New Jerusalem Bible (Catholic, 1986; revision of 1966 Jerusalem Bible)
NIV - New International Version (1984)
TNIV - Today’s New International Version (NT 2001, OT 2005)
NIV11 - New International Version 2011
NCV - New Century Version
NLT - New Living Translation (1st ed. 1996; 2nd ed. 2004)
NIrV - New International reader’s Version
GNT - Good News Translation (also Good News Bible)
CEV - Contemporary English Version
Living - Living Bible (1950). Paraphrase by Ken Taylor.
Message - The Message by Eugene Peterson (1991-2000s)