Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear.—1 Peter 3:15-16 (NABRE)
Original piece by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.
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Navigating Bible Translations
We are blessed with access to so many different translations of the Bible these days, freely available online.
I believe it’s helpful to have a few different translations always handy as you read through it, and particularly if there is a verse(s) you’re struggling to understand. Bible Gateway has a very convenient split view available. Here is an example with three different Bible translations side-by-side.
Even better, I find, is a solid study Bible. A really great one for the New Testament is The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament. At the time of writing this, they only have some books of the Old Testament complete.
The four Bible translations I like to reference the most right now are (listed in order of publication date):
- Douay-Rheims American Edition (DRA) – 1899
- New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) – 1985
- Revised Standard Version 2nd Catholic Edition (RSV2CE) – 2006
- New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE) – 2011
The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament uses RSV2CE and it was eye-opening for me to see how some of the verses or words in that translation could be easily misunderstood by a modern reader, so I was grateful to have the added context and clarifications provided by Dr. Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch.
Translations of the Bible, the very Word of God, into human language, can be a really tricky thing. In Speaking in Tongues, I share thoughts on the inherent limitations we seem to have with human language.
The Different Translations of 1 Peter 3:15-16
Looking at 1 Peter 3:15-16, different English translations yield different words/phrases for “explanation” (NABRE): defense (RSVCE); to satisfy (DRA); answer (NJB).
Each varying word or phrase suggests different tones by which we could give a reasoned articulation of the Christian faith, so it’s helpful that Saint Peter clarifies in verse 16 the manner by which we present our case: gentleness and reverence (NABRE, RSVCE); modesty and fear [of God]; courtesy and respect (NJB).
The earlier translation (DRA) renders the word “fear”, and a reader could get confused if they misunderstand that as “fear” either of explaining the faith or of the person they’re speaking with, when really it’s referring to a reverent fear of God.
Understanding The Fear of God
The fear of God is not a servile type of fear, where we tremble in terror at an overpowering master, but the fear of God is rather a filial type of fear, where we are afraid of falling short in giving our Father our full love due to him as a son or daughter.
For a wallpaper on the topic, see The Fear of the Lord is Not a Bad Thing.
Always Be Ready to Give an Explanation
Core to the approach of explaining to others the reason for our hope is maintaining a calm and loving yet courageous composure, rooted by that filial fear of God.
If we don’t do this with love and compassion for the other person, we deny the very truth and peace that comes with what we seek to explain. We must always honor the very faith and hope we seek to share by wrapping it in love.