Three Cheers for the New Jersey Supreme Court

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 1 November 2006 0 Comments
Please login with your account to read this essay.


I've decided to read the Bible this year - taking notes. So far I am nearly

finished with Exodus. I find this revealing - the stories I've known since

childhood but with additional points of which I was unaware. (Pharaoh did

not respond because the Lord "hardened his heart" what is that all about?)

I'm reading the King James Version but I do find it a little

tough going and have been tempted to change to the New International Version

or the Revised Standard Edition. Which of these versions do you think I

would be wise to devote my time to? Thank you.

P. S. I have heard you speak twice. As a "Christian Alumnus" I

didn't feel anything could rekindle my interest in religion. But you give

hope to a world desperate for mature guidance.


I think that the more people who actually read the Bible, the

less people will be fundamentalists. But, you are right, it is hard

sledding. Most people who decide to read the bible from cover to cover stop

somewhere after Exodus 20. That is the chapter in which the stories stop

and the recitation of the laws governing worship and life begin. If you get

through that then Leviticus awaits you, where narratives cease and religious

rules abut how to worship, what to eat and how to act follow in concentrated

doses. If you make it through the entire Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,

Numbers and Deuteronomy), you might make it. Though other tough places will

be Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and some parts of the prophets. Revelation is

also tough but if you get that far, the fact that it is the last book of the

Bible and you can see the finish line, usually provides the energy to


You ask about the various versions of the Bible. The King James

Version is beautiful but Elizabethan English is quite difficult to read for

words and styles have changed dramatically since 1611.

My favorite is the Revised Standard Version because it was the

work of a community of scholars who challenged each other constantly and

kept most personal agenda out of the translation. Bible translations are so

often in the service of the ones translating. For example, the Jerusalem

Bible goes to great lengths to protect Roman Catholic doctrine, particularly

in regard to the Virgin Mary but on other issues as well. The New

International Version (NIV) is the favorite of the Protestant Evangelicals

and fundamentalists because it goes to great lengths to protect traditional

ideas. It is also NOT given the time of day in academic circles. One can

be folksy and accurate. However, the NIV does not manage to accomplish


I would love to hear from you when your journey through the

Bible is over. Tell me what was really new, what surprised you and what you

found unbelievable. My readers might like to share your learning.

John Shelby Spong




Leave a Reply