The success of a South Pacific Division (SPD) initiative to distribute Bibles to young people in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific nations and equip them to share their faith with their friends has raised key questions about the Bible and its significance.
The latest shipment of the World Changer Bible project will bring the total number of Bibles distributed to 750,000, including 40,000 in Tok Pisin. Young people and church members in Australia and New Zealand have donated more than AU$1 million (about US$780,000) to support their fellow South Pacific young people in this way. Including copies of the New Living Translation (NLT) among these distributed Bibles, however, has raised questions and concerns for some church members.
“The Adventist Church has never endorsed any translation, believing that each translation serves a purpose, some better for devotional reading and others for more serious study,” Leigh Rice, team leader of Discipleship Ministries for SPD, explained. “The NLT was chosen because it is an easy-to-understand English translation and was translated by a group of serious Christian scholars using the latest available resources.”
Enter Enjoy the Living Word: Inspiration, Manuscripts and Translations, a book published in 2021 by Signs Publishing in Australia, to respond more fully to the concerns that had been heard.
“Some believers were agitated over modern English translations — with some led to believe that the only reliable translation is the King James Version, even though English is not their language,” author Peter Roennfeldt said. Roennfeldt has spent significant time teaching disciple-making in Papua New Guinea and other Pacific nations in the past few years. “In some cases, we might have been told that the very words used in a particular translation are God’s words. It is then quite disconcerting to be introduced to another translation with different words. But it is also distressing to observe people struggling with a language that they do not understand when they could read their Bible in their languages or easily understood English translations.”
Roennfeldt and the group of church leaders and scholars who gave feedback in the development of the new book were anxious to not only respond to objections but to highlight the important role the Bible plays in the life of following Jesus. “Enjoy the Living Word explores the role of the Holy Spirit as prophets and apostles wrote — inspiration — the selection of the text to translate from the multitude of manuscripts available, the principles of translation, and how to enjoy reading the Living Word and grow as a disciple-maker,” Rice said.
While there are so many voices and sources of information in the world today, Roennfeldt reflects, spending time reading the Bible for oneself and together in fellowship is vital. “When I entered the ministry, I quickly learned that when I opened and read the Bible in homes, conviction came upon the people,” he said. “I could sit and talk, but when the Bible was opened, it was as if the Spirit who had inspired the Word was tangibly present.”
Enjoy the Living Word also works as an introduction to these various aspects of the Bible for those who have not previously read it. It also outlines the group dynamic of Discovery Bible Reading as a way of spending time with God and sharing faith with friends and neighbors. “Bible reading is essential in the life of followers of Jesus for it was inspired by the Holy Spirit to reveal Him to us,” Roennfeldt said. “People who read the Bible in small groups — using Discovery Bible Reading — find it is so enjoyable and invigorating.”
In short, Roennfeldt’s recommendation for Bible reading is simple: “Read each book, as a whole, in an easy-to-read-translation.”