Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 29, 1962
NUMBER 46, PAGE 1,12

A Basic Religious Reference Library --- (No. I)

Robert H. Farish, Lufkin, Texas

Some people buy their religious books on the spur of the moment. A book salesman with a nice personality and a persuasive line calls and presents an attractive appearing book and tells about what different people have said about the book, how many copies have been sold, etc. etc. The impulsive buyer adds a book to his library! The book may be fine for some people but utterly useless for the one who bought it, or it may be just the book that the buyer needs, but it is likely to serve as a monument to the folly of impulsive buying. In the main the results obtained by impulsive buying are extremely disappointing. Book collections gotten together in such fashion are woefully lacking. The same amount of money invested through an intelligently planned program of book buying would provide a balanced, useful, religious library.

Lists of books that should be in a basic religious reference library have been published from time to time; these have been valuable guides, not only to preachers, but to anyone who bought the books and studied them. The books listed and briefly discussed in this article are some of the books which I have found really worthwhile. They are listed and discussed in order of importance.


The first book which should be placed in the library of every person is a good Bible. By a good Bible I mean a Bible neatly and durably bound, with clear print on good paper. Too many people are content to "get along" with a cheap shoddy Bible. Such a book discourages study and is a reflection on the contents of the hook. People are generally willing to spend generous sums for clothing, automobiles, and even on meeting houses but this willingness does not extend to investing in attractive, readable, and durable copies of the Bible.


Before selecting a Bible one should know something about the different versions of the Bible. There are many translations of the Bible by individuals which are not of general interest but are mainly used by preachers and teachers. Then there are some "slanted" versions which have been issued and should be rejected in selecting a Bible for regular study. These translations are obviously the fruits of partisan zeal for some peculiar denominational tenet which unbiased translations do not support. The "Scofield Bible" and the Jehovah Witnesses' Bible called "The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures," are examples of "slanted" versions. The average Bible student should know something about the background of the five versions which have been produced by companies of scholars.

"Red Letter Editions" of the New Testament have contributed to an improper attitude toward the scriptures. The edition causes some people to put more emphasis on the truth printed in red ink than on the truth from the same authority printed in black ink. If the teaching of Jesus were printed in red ink, then all that which was taught by apostles and recorded in the New Testament should be put in red ink. Christ said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall take of mine, and shalt declare it unto you." (John 16:13, 14)

More people are familiar with the terminology of this version and thus the preacher will not be called upon to explain over and over why the differences in wording.

The words of the apostles are the words of Christ and have the same weight; they are of equal authorativeness.

The King James Version which also is known as the Authorized Version was issued in 1611. The King James Version is an incidental, unplanned fruit of a conference called by King James I, "for hearing and for determining things pretended to be amiss in the church." The conference was a failure so far as its chief objective was concerned but it did result in a movement which brought about the King James Version of the Bible. Dr. John Reynolds, president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, suggested that a new version of the Bible was desirable. This was the way the idea was publicly introduced; from this the movement continued until the version was printed in 1611. It is the work of fifty-four scholars.

It is called the Authorized Version, which has confused some people. It was not "authorized by royal proclamation, by order of council, by act of parliament or by vote of convocation." It is not known whether the words "appointed to be read in churches" were ordered by the editors or were inserted by the printer "on his own." The translation was not "authorized" specifically by God! Nor was it formally authorized by the king. King James said at the outset that it "should be ratified by royal authority, and adopted for exclusive use in all the churches," but so far as is known, no civil force was ever exerted to advance the version; it had to win its way on its merit. So those today who insist that the King James Version be exclusively "read in the churches" do not have ever, the authority of King James to back up their contention! Of course, the King James Version is authorized by God just as any correct translation into any language is authorized. The "go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," requires its being expressed in the language understood by the people addressed.

The main disadvantage experienced in using the King James Version is due to the fact that English words change in meaning. Words that conveyed one idea three hundred and fifty years ago, in many cases, mean something entirely different to present day readers. This does not mean that the average English speaking person in our day cannot learn what he must do to be saved and how he ought to behave himself in the house of God from studying the King James Version. There are some advantages that should be considered. A fine copy of the King James Version can be bought for much less than a book of comparable workmanship and material in other versions can be bought. Competition has helped to keep the quality of workmanship and material at a high level.

The English Revised Version of the New Testament was published in 1881 and the Old Testament in 1884. There were one hundred and one scholars connected with this effort. Sixty-seven were of the British and thirty-four of the American company. J. W. McGarvey used this version as the text in his "New Commentary — Acts of Apostles," which was published in 1892. The English Revised and the King James versions were placed side by side in Johnson's commentary "The People's New Testament With Notes." It would be a fine thing it some of the Bible publishing houses would put out a top quality book of this translation.

The American Standard Version was published in 1901 by Thomas Nelson and Sons. This version differs from the English Revised Version in that the renderings preferred by the thirty-four Americans scholars, who worked with the English scholars on the English Revised Version, are used instead of the English preferences which were used in the earlier version. This version became very popular with gospel preachers, but of late years the quality of paper and binding has been so poor that one would scarcely "get used to" the book before it was coming to pieces. Since the copyright has run out some publishers have printed New Testaments. The best one that I have seen is cloth-stiff-back bound — printed on good paper, page size 6X9. Some one should put out a good "preacher's Testament" with limp leather cover.

The Revised Standard Version of the New Testament was published by Thomas Nelson and Sons in 1946. This is featured by Nelsons; they have spent large sums advertizing it, but it is not favored by conservative scholars on account of the evidence of the modernistic influence that can be detected in some of the rendering.

The New English Bible was published under the joint imprint of Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press in 1961. Limitations of space and the fact that this writer has not had the time, to examine the translation carefully, forbid any attempt to give attention to some of the particulars which are objectionable or to features which are commendable. It is sufficient for the purposes of this article to simply suggest that this version be used only for the purpose of comparing it with other versions. It should not take the place of tried and proven translations in one's library. If you can afford only one Bible, then by all means select either a King James, English Revised, or American Standard Version.