The Mirror of the Soul

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“The Mirror of the Soul”
Allie R. Fry
As we live on this, “God’s footstool”,
Let’s prepare for heaven’s goal;
Let us look into the mirror;
“The mirror of the soul.”

We look often in the looking glass
To try and look just so,
But let’s look more in the mirror,
“The mirror of the soul.”

God has given us the Bible,
That we his will might know;
Yes the Bible is our mirror,
“The mirror of the soul.”

We may put on fine apparel,
To make an outward show;
But let’s not forget the mirror,
“The mirror of the soul.”

God looks on your heart my brother,
Your every thought he knows;
So keep looking in his mirror,
“The mirror of the soul.”

When you look into the Bible, what Bible do you use? Most likely if you’re reading this you use an English Bible with 66 “books” in two “testaments.” And most likely it is one of a handful of versions, perhaps a King James Version or a New International Version, or one of the “Standard” versions based on the King James phrasing. These have, for several years, been the most popular English Bibles available. In the last few years another flurry of publishing activity has taken place in the area of Bible translations and several new translations and revisions have arrived on the shelves.

Whenever a new English translation is announced one can (usually) greet the announcement with a mingling of hopeful anticipation (perhaps it will be better than any current translation) and dread (how bad will this one be and what damage may it do). It seems likely that any new translations that arrive in the near future will follow at least some of the same principles followed by those most recently released, since those principles of translation reflect our times, the state of our culture and our language.

How far will translators and publishers go to produce a Bible that meets the (perceived) mind-set of our generation, and how careful will they be to honestly portray the meaning of the original language? The answer of course is that many will go far indeed to produce a Bible that will be popular and enjoy sales success. The publishing industry is, after all, about selling books, and a lot of “scholarly” work is about notoriety and recognition. This is nothing new, it just needs to be recognized when choosing what Bible you use. Many Bibles available today, and becoming available, are based on principles other than accuracy and integrity in translation.

Ease of reading has come to be a goal in Bible translation that can over-ride accuracy. There is a real need for clarity and readability in a Bible, and the original text was in the language of the common man, but a recent trend has been to “dumb down” the text, attempting to produce a Bible that is readable with about a third grade vocabulary. The unfortunate result is a great loss of precision and accuracy in many of the newest versions. Oversimplification today goes beyond even the paraphrasing of a generation ago in losing the original meaning of the text and important distinctions that God has made.

Another goal, growing in importance in most of the Bible versions of the last several years is gender neutrality. Newer versions that generally can fairly be described as “translations” otherwise attempt to broaden their appeal by substituting “brothers and sisters” for “brothers” in the original text, for example. While this is not necessarily altogether bad, many times masculine terms are inclusive, it really is commentary rather than translation, and the scholars thus expressing their opinions about places where it is appropriate to use “inclusive language” are selectively modifying the message, which is always inherently dangerous.

The publication of new Bible translations is in many ways a good thing. It is always good to be reminded how popular the Book is, and the continued effort to produce new versions and new editions is a reminder of the continuing demand for readable English Bibles. Even inferior versions may sometimes lead the curious to a new understanding of God’s truth or a new awareness of personal responsibilities. Furthermore, one of these days, one of those publishers just may produce an English translation that is better than any currently available, which is to be eagerly anticipated. In the meantime, it is appropriate to view every new translation (and every old one too) critically, considering its accuracy and its usefulness for ourselves and those we teach. Our goal in using a Bible for reading and teaching should be above all to know God’s will.

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