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Chester pastor helps draft new Bible translation

Rob Noland considers himself a “biblical teacher.”

“Accurately communicating God’s word to people is important to me,” said Noland, a pastor at Restoring Hope Foursquare Church in Chester. “Anytime I have an opportunity to do something that helps along that line, I’m going to take that opportunity.”

Such an opportunity came along about two years ago when Noland was asked to join 46 other people to create a new translation of the King James Bible. Their work, the Modern English Version, was published in May by Charisma House.

“I’ve always enjoyed making sure that the scripture is accurately translated,” Noland said. “I believe it’s important that we properly understand what the Bible says.”

Noland has two master’s degrees in divinity and religious education from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and served as a chaplain for the U.S. Army. While serving as Deputy Command Chaplain of the Army Reserves Medical Command in St. Petersburg, Fla., Noland met Jim Linzey, a retired Army National Guard chaplain who spearheaded the MEV translation effort.

When Linzey asked Noland to assist with the new translation, he jumped at the chance.

The King James Bible, published in 1611, is the oldest English language version of the Bible. It was translated into the New King James Version in 1982, but Noland said the Modern English Version provides readers with wording that is even easier to understand.

“The language of the King James Bible is so outdated that there’s a lot of words in there that mean something totally different today than they meant when the King James Bible was made,” Noland said. “There are even language differences since the New King James.”

Preserving certain aspects of the King James Version was just as important as updating the language, Noland said.

“It was just bringing the King James Bible style into our modern day language so that people today can understand it better, but still have the same kind of feeling of reading the King James,” Noland said.

Most of the translators involved were military chaplains because Linzey’s original goal was to translate the Bible to help soldiers better understand the language in the King James Version. After the process began, Linzey and his peers realized the Modern English Version was a tool that could help those outside of the military as well.

“My hope is that it’s a translation that anybody, young or old, can pick up and read it and feel like they have a clearer understanding, or it makes sense to them like it hasn’t made sense before,” Noland said.

Noland was responsible for translating 10 books of the Bible: Genesis, Colossians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Philemon, Titus, James and 2 Peter. The process took him just over two years.

“Some of it was easy. Some of it took a lot more prayer, thought and time,” Noland said. “Sometimes I hit a blank wall and would have to get away from it for a few weeks and come back to it fresh and the proper translations would come.”

The process was similar to putting together a sermon or presenting the scripture to individuals at Restoring Hope, Noland said. He tried to make the source material of the King James Version understandable for his audience.

Aside from helping the average reader understand the Bible, Noland said translating the 10 books was a rewarding process for him for another reason.

“As I worked on the (translations), I got the advantage of studying, in depth, the books,” Noland said. “So that helps my understanding of the scripture and that, to me, is the most rewarding thing. I have a deeper understanding and a deeper appreciation of the scripture.”

With nearly 50 other translators involved, the Modern English Version’s approach was different, Noland said. He said having such a large translation committee allowed for greater accuracy.

Ensuring the best translations were used was a priority during the project, which is why Noland said each chaplain’s work went through a thorough review process.

“Once we did our work, then there were academic scholars that went through it again to check our work to make sure it was accurate,” Noland said. “So there have been checks and double checks. It’s a very accurate translation.”