My Bibles, My Life

“The Bible, more than most books, forms part of one’s life once it is absorbed into the system. It does not remain static, any more than you remain ever the same. Your perspective of it will change with the years.”—A.N. Wilson, The Book of the People

I cannot remember a time in my reading life when a Bible was not within my reach, both literally and figuratively. In the home I grew up in, the Scripture was the primary source of one’s instruction and inspiration. It was read aloud morning and evening, discussed at church, memorized as Bible verses, emblazoned on bulletin boards at school, and called upon in times of celebration and grief. Its phrases came naturally to the lips, its stories became the video of our imaginations long before there were pixels, the grand highway of its narrative from Genesis to Revelation (pitted with potholes in the Pentateuch) provided both a spiritual history of humankind and a kind of eschatological weather report (“Look for a cloud on the horizon the size of a man’s hand!”). Later, through the ministrations of our well-meaning elders, its revelations came to us like birthday gifts from distant uncles who still thought of us as five-year olds. It was unavoidable and indispensable.

But I find I can trace out the course of my life by looking at the Bibles on my bookshelves, each one having played a role in my life that was both episodic and cumulative.


In high school my Bibles of choice were the Living Bible and Good News for Modern Man: The New Testament in Today’s English. The Living Bible was a paperback brick, lovingly slipped into a doeskin cover that my grandfather had gotten for me in Canada, with a painting of an Indian brave on the front. Inside the end pages I wrote notes of favorite verses, quotes from religious authors, and lines of poetry. The LB was fresh, a bit cheeky, conversational without falling into cultural jargon. TheGood News New Testament was plain, small enough to carry in one hand, and modest in its literary aspirations. Its line drawings were simple, evocative, and good-humored. I was also reading a lot of C. S. Lewis at the time, along with Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Byron, Shelley, Yeats, and Matthew Arnold. It was a heady mix.

My first year in college, working on a double major in religion and journalism, I used a standard issue King James in my religion classes. I’d had it since my baptism at 12 and I knew my way around its paths by sight. These were the phrases and verses I had heard all my life. They seeped into my consciousness and became the language of my operating system, an eloquent counterpoint to the informality of the modern versions.


In the summer of 1971 I left California for England to work with friends in Coventry in starting and running a Christian folk club and then to spend the school year at Newbold College. Away from home for the first time, I spent the year in a constant state of wonder and discovery. That summer I bought my first New English Bible, a paperback Penguin version of the New Testament whose language and verses seemed like poetry to me. I found a tanner’s shop in Leamington Spa and made a book cover for it from suede leather, stitching a peace symbol with a cross in the center on the front. The cover art on the Penguin version was a reproduction of Georges Rouault’s Head of Christ, thus beginning a lifelong admiration for his art. In the fall, as a student at Newbold, I hitchhiked down to Reading and bought J. B. Phillip’s The New Testament in Modern English. I also started a year-long course in Koine Greek. I was terrible at it, but I scraped by with enough margin to be given a copy of the British and Foreign Bible Society’s Greek New Testament with critical apparatus. Burrowing into the permutations of Greek verbs and nouns reinforced my life-long fascination with word origins and their meanings.

That year I always carried in my backpack at least one Bible, usually two. As I hitchhiked to Scotland or down to Wales or up to London, these Bibles became my traveling companions, provoking comment and conversation from the generous people who gave me rides. Comparing these translations and paraphrases jolted my imagination and gave me different lines of sight to their meaning. And always I carried a small Authorized Version whose cover could be zipped closed. I left it behind in a train station in Milan one December; two years later it showed up in my mailbox at Pacific Union College, having made the journey through the kindness of strangers on the strength of my college address at Newbold.


All through graduate studies at Andrews University and Claremont Graduate University, my familiars were the New English Bible I had bought in Wales in 1974 when I worked in evangelism there, and The Jerusalem Bible, another chunk of a Bible whose lyrical Psalms were refreshing and whose Job was high tragedy. Later, teaching Jesus and the Gospels, Hebrew Prophets, and Paul and His Letters at Columbia Union College, I entered into a professional relationship with The New International Version. Those who knew their biblical languages assured me it was the latest and most accurate rendering, but its starched and anemic language gave me no joy. Time and again I went back to my NEB, by now so annotated and stuffed with typed-out quotes and photos of friends, that when the spine finally collapsed my wife made me a book cover for it from the jeans I wore out hitchhiking through the UK.


In these later years I have come back to the New Revised Standard Version, not to be confused with the Revised English Bible, a second take on the NEB. As I write there is one just behind my shoulder on the bookshelf, another one next to my comfy chair across the loft, and a third one, barely marked, in another bookshelf. Recently, having finished my courses for the semester at Trinity Washington University, I stopped into the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, right across the street from Catholic University, and indulged myself in a beautifully leather-bound Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha. I intend to study the Apocrypha this summer.


I’ve entered the Bible as into a vast and varied library — ta biblia, the books. Not a single, coherent narrative, but stories of wonder, beginning in a garden of light and ending in a city with a river running through it. To try to understand the people within the stories is to read with a dual vision: that in certain irreducible ways they and we come from the same stock and harbor the same emotions and motivations. And in other ways, bound by time, culture, language, and technology, we arrive at our final home having traveled such disparate paths. I am grateful to the archeologists, linguists, anthropologists, and theologians who have peeled back the layers of the Bible for us and interpreted its structures.

The Bible has meant different things to me through many different stages of life. It has both revealed and hidden God, and it has held a mirror up to myself. The Jesus I have found there is no less enigmatically divine than when I first began with the Gospels, but now even more touchingly human. The Bible, I’ve found, is large enough that it can play many roles in a person’s life. Like the Earth itself it presents a different but constant face to the observer hovering in orbit above it. It is guide, wisdom, puzzle, danger, mystery, and light. It is still the literary foundation of many of us.

The Bible creates an alternate world that runs parallel to our own. It is like holding two magnets in tension so that you feel the pull of one to the other. Let one go and the tension is gone, the case closed, the story resolved, the horizon suddenly walled up. Unless we see both the fragments of light it illumines around us and the Light itself — and the distinction makes all the difference — the Bible remains just another revered bestseller.

Barry Casey taught religion, philosophy, and communications for 28 years at Columbia Union College, now Washington Adventist University, and business communication at Stevenson University for 7 years. He continues as adjunct professor in ethics and philosophy at Trinity Washington University, D.C. More of the author’s writing can be found on his blog, Dante’s Woods.

Image Credit: Rafael Barquer /

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

What a colorful history told in the journey of God’s Word.
I have 6 different views of God’s Word [translations]. Each one many times
provides a more complete view, understanding of what writers
of Hebrew or Greek were trying to tell their readers. [the Bible was meant
to be READ OUT LOUD in community – the Hearing of the Word, in
addition to seeing the Words.]
Some Christian communities still READ the Bible out loud each week. And
enjoy singing the Psalms on Sunday and at other times in the week.
SDAs not so much reading the Word, and I have never heard singing the
Psalms. Several decades ago a group did attempt to introduce the singing of some
Bible verses, but it didn’t last long. Their published song book is probably lost.
My Jewish friends enjoy singing the Psalms. On Sabbaths they read the word out
loud – takes 6 or 7 readers each service. The WORD is also reverently Carried
about the room, giving all the opportunity to KISS/Touch the Word.[think Isaiah 6:6]


Well said. The Bible is “literary foundational” for many of us. Leaving this foundation is like attempting to stand on thin air. Biblical foundation allows for varied cultural, personal and religious orientations to give to the Bible its myriad meanings and interpretations.

Perhaps this what God intended, when he give us such a complex text. God is pleased with the endless applications and conclusions humanity has taken from the Bible. If God wished us to drew uniformity of practice and understanding of what is “truth,” would He not have left us a short list of obligations? Something undeniably final, a set of truths, leaving NO room for discussion?

It is fun to see the different streams of truth that run counter to each other. We have over 1000 laws of Moses that demand obedience VS the teaching of Paul declaring the law does not save. In Scriptures there is room for all viewpoints. One group sees women cannot be ordained while another group reads they should be ordained. As there is variety in nature–there is variety in theology. Love alone can bridge the gap (we hope).

  1. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. --John 15:7
  2. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. –John 1:1
  3. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. –Psalm 1:2
  4. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.—1 Timothy 2:7

Thank you Barry for this wise reminder of how God’s word is such a precious gift. In the midst of all the political noise these four declarations about the Bible stand strong giving me hope that God has a better way,


Very perceptive question. The Bible has all the characteristics of an accumulation of thoughts by humans that don’t agree with each other. Calling it the word of God enables misogynistic MCPs to burn millions of women to death in one age and to deny them the right to be ordained ministers in another. And it prevents us from benefiting from the less than perfect wisdom that has been stored there.


Some of our Adventist doctrinal interpretations are heavily dependent on the KING JAMES VERSION wording.

Their arguments dissipate when other translations/versions use different wording.

New information reveals a horrifying fact for our more fundamentalist and homophobic church members :

King James, the man responsible for our most beloved Bible version, has now been identified as being a practicing homosexual . GOD FORBID !!

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This, Barry, is both touching and (as I hope for myself) motivating. As a library of (somewhat) disparate points of view, it can be put to horrifying use. But when it is read with due attention to its nuance, development and capstone, Jesus Christ, it is the best of written treasures.

I know how widely you read, and yet you testify to the centrality of Scripture. So thankful I am for you and your point of view. I must read the Bible more, and more lovingly.



A vital evidence of life is change. A vital evidence of death is stagnation. As we continue in our spiritual journey, although the Bible remains the same our perspective and understanding of the bible changes as a result of our developing brain and maturing mental cognition. As a consequence, our perspective of life changes. However, one does not need physical death to stagnate and fixation in a belief and refusal to accept “present truth” is evidence of death.

Let this be a lesson to all.


90% of churchgoers have never read the whole bible.

Since most preachers present topical sermons instead of expository verse by verse sermons, most who attend church get very little exposure to the 31,000 verses in the bible, never mind almost 8000 in the new testament.

It is called diminution of the bible

…“And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.” 1 Sam 3:1

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Prov 29:18

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” Hos 4:6

The current trend in Christianity is that the clergy are antinomian.

When society has ROM 8:7 clergy the result =

In 1972 at academy graduation I received the New English Bible (the very latest thing!!); it has been my beloved all these years: traveling with me, getting lost/found, wet/dry, worn/marked and now retired and home-bound. I’ve got a friendly NIV, a “Street Bible” which our study group ready through together, and an elderly King James which belonged to my Grandma - my go to translation for the olde tyme readings. A couple of years ago I came across an abandoned mint-condition hard-cover New English Bible, signed inside by Mr Harry P. Gray (Hooray, Harry, whoever you were!) and now it’s my carry along Bible. I love to read it, but perhaps not study it as others might (but Judges 19-21 are gone, I ripped them out and made paper airplanes, sorry).
P.S. Barry, I still have those UK hitchhiking signs…

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Lovely to hear from you, Carolyn! Our Bibles, our memories, eh?

‘When knowledge expands, it renders the interpretive framework of ancient people inadequate, and it reveals the ignorance of the past. For people living in one age to try to cling to the objective truthfulness of the concepts of another age is to participate in a doubtful enterprise.’ JSS


I’m not familiar with all of the Bible versions mentioned in the article, but I have found that studying more literal translations has helped greatly in my understanding of Scripture.

I am not saying that all is clear to me, but many difficult or confusing passages now make more sense. I think the literal translations help remove the bias (subconscious or not) which inevitably occurs in the mind of the translator.

Studying these versions has proven important to me because I believe they more clearly show God’s plan of salvation for mankind.

If anyone is interested, I would suggest The Companion Bible (with extensive margin notes, and 198 appendices of info), the Concordant Versions of the Old & New Testaments, the Emphatic Diaglott, Young’s Literal Translation and/or The New Testament translated by Jonathan Mitchell as it contains multiple renderings of many passages.

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Frank –
If you read the words of Jesus, He read the Torah very differently than the Religious
Preachers of His day, both at the Temple–synagogues, and at the “Seminaries”.
He said "Keeping the many PURITY LAWS did NOT make one Pure."
He actually made “fun” of the Pharisee who went to pray and recited to God all the
Purity Laws that he kept. – Jesus said he went home “UN-blessed”.
Jesus said Purity began in the heart – the source of thinking, feeling, behavior,
intellect, emotions. The Heart shapes them.
Jesus applied the Torah to the internal person, hot the external – how well one was
keep Rules and Regulations.
Jesus [Mark 7:18-23] called for TRANSFORMATION in one’s disposition, emotions,
thoughts, desires. And Mark gives a long list of these that need to be TRANSFORMED.
Matt 5:8 – Blessed [happy] are the Pure In Heart for they shall see God. Purity is
hampered by what comes out of the heart [not by a broken Rule or Regulation of the
Jesus called for “Compassion as God is Compassionate” to be perfect [Matt 5:45,48,
6:22-30,36; Luke 12:24-28]
this includes His call to LOVE one’s enemies, pray for those who persecute you. And to
have My sins forgiven I have to forgive those who sin against me. Matt 6:14.
For Jesus, the Path to Purity of Heart was not exclusively or even primarily through the
obedience to the Torah, but the path of dying to the self and to the world.

Even before the 1st gospel was written, Paul voiced the same messages of Jesus in
many of his letters to the churches. Purity begins with TRANSFORMATION of the Mind,
thinking, feeling, behavior, intellect, emotions. And to Transform them with the Gifts of
the Spirit – Galatians 5:19-25.

It was the Socio-Religious and the Political Implications of his teachings that got Him
killed. BY NOT implementing His teachings into the Social Structure, in AD 70 as a
consequence of not loving one’s enemies, and staging a revolt, Jerusalem was
destroyed, the Temple accidently burned and the hunt for the gold, and an awful
carnage to the people of that area.
but Jesus saw its possibilities and attempted to prevent it. but He knew it was coming.
that is why He warned His disciples – not one stone of the magnificent edifice will be
left standing. And why on the Mt Olives He wept prior to His death seeing it.

All the work of Ezra and Nehemiah and the Returnees — Gone, up in smoke, and
further destroyed for greed for gold by the Roman soldiers.

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I have 6 different translations of the Bible that I enjoy comparing.
When one says something I don’t quite understand, sometimes
being said with a different word or a different sentence structure
helps to make passages more clear.
I conduct a Bible Study Class at my Apartment on Monday
afternoons. I use the Revised Common Lectionary Guide for the
weekly verses to present and group comment on.
Helps to have more than just the 1611 King James.


I fully agree with you, this being the reason I am a Christian focused on Jesus and his teachings.

What baffles me is how millions and million of Jewish believers before and after Christ who have spend their life studying the Torah–from NT point of view misunderstand it. They got is wrong from beginning to end. So, I ask myself, why is Scripture given in such a manner that few could understand it? Something does not sound right to me. One would think that God wants all to easily understand it. But such is not the case in history–disagreements, based on study and prayer, are historically divergent. Why?


Frank –
the humans who wrote the Scriptures had two types of personalities in mind.
–1. Those who required a list of Rules and Regulations to keep checking off
every day. This is anxiety living.
–2. Those who could live by Principles, by Outcomes.
Those who live by Principles have more joy, more peace, less anxiety.
The Good News Gospel are Principles, Outcomes, Removal of some things,
Addition of some things through the Holy Spirit.

Much of the Psalms, Proverbs, prophets promote Principle Living.