I knew this topic would cause controversy when I brought it up at the Oak Street Bible Shop. I didn’t want controversy, but I respected the beliefs and knowledge of everyone there and their experiences too. I wanted to hear what they all had to say.
Gary, the resident Bible man, usually stood behind his counter, surrounded by rows of Bibles. When anyone came in to look or to inquire, he would ask a few questions, “Who is it for? What use do you have in mind? Do you want a small Bible to carry with you? Do you need a study Bible?" And so forth. He really preferred that Joy was not hovering nearby, which she usually was.
Joy would get so tense sometimes. She thought the only Bible worthy of the name was the King James Bible, or as some people call it, the Authorised Version. As for study Bibles, she liked the Scofield, as do I, but got very upset when anyone asked for the New Scofield as I did the first day I was ever in her shop. Gary liked to give people some latitude, let them choose and be happy. He once told me that if a person was happy with their shopping experience there was a good chance they would return. There might well be other days to talk about which Bible was best. Gary took the long range view. Most of all he wanted a happy customer and I had to agree with him on that.
Sue stayed out of controversies with customers whenever possible, but could be very persuasive, one on one, away from the shop. She had her own ideas and they were based on personal experience.
I introduced the topic brought up by my friend Carl, though I had already advised him to get a New Scofield as a study Bible and an NIV for Helga and him to read together.
Joy looked at me with her big dark eyes. “I remember when you first came in here” she said to me, from her position on her stool. “Dave was still working here. That’s before we had you.” she said to Gary. “We tried to steer you to the original Scofield, but you chose the New.” I remembered the day well, long ago, how tense they both appeared when I made my decision, as if life and death depended upon which one I chose.
Glen spoke up from the coffee urn table. He patted the pocket of his field jacket, and finding it empty, finished off the rest of his coffee. “The man made a good decision, Joy.” he said. “I know, we owe a lot to the original Scofield, with its great dispensational notes. But the old Scofield promotes the “harrowing of hell” idea, that Jesus descended into hell in his soulish form during the three days his body was in the tomb. He preached to the souls in hell and then led the ones who believed up to heaven. He then returned, or his soul did, and got back into his body and was resurrected.”
Joy was “inspecting the ceiling” as Glen talked. She had heard this before and was trying to restrain herself.
“I mean, Joy," said Glen, "do you still believe that?”
“Why do you say “still”? She replied. “As long as Ephesians 4 says that Jesus descended into the lowest parts of the earth I guess I’ll keep on saying Jesus descended into hell. It’s the same thing as far as I can see.”
“I looked up that term, “lower parts of the earth” said Glen, “and I see a parallel with what David said concerning how he was formed as a baby . David says that he was “curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth”, Psalm 139:15, curiously, meaning intricately. But he says he was in the lowest parts of the earth. David sure isn’t saying he was in hell, is he?”
“All I know is it says, right there in the Psalm “lowest parts of the earth”.
“Well, I looked around to see what some other translations say and I found one which I think agrees with the idea of where a baby is formed. Gary, do you have The Message Bible handy?”
“Oh that hippy dippy thing!” said Joy. “We don’t even sell them. What will quoting from “the Message” prove, anyway?”
Gary took his copy off the shelf, found the passage and began to read;
Oh yes, you shaped me first, inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God-you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration-what a creation!
You know me inside out,
You know every bone in my body!
Sue clapped her hands together, "I worship in adoration-what a creation!"
She recited, “That is so good!”
Glen smiled at her enthusiasm. “Doesn’t “my mother’s womb” express where David was formed better than the lowest parts of the earth?”
“But that is David” objected Joy. “We were talking about Jesus descending into hell.”
“Actually” said Glen, “You were talking about it, or maintaining it. I said the Old Scofield held to that interpretation, but the New Scofield does not.”
“But what has being formed in a mother’s womb got to do with “descending?” said Joy.
"Jesus was with the Father. For him to come down to become a baby, was descending.” said Glen. “In John chapter 17, Jesus prayed ...glorify me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made, verse five. Concerning Psalm 139, I feel The Message captures the true meaning very well.”
Joy turned to Gary, “We don’t sell The Message do we, Gary?”
Gary held up the volume, “This is my copy” he said. “Sometimes people just can’t find a reading that connects with them. Then I show them The Message and I tell them I can order one for them.”
“All this is a bit much for me” said Joy.”I’ll stay with my King James Bible until the end, but if another translation helps people, who am I to hinder them?”
Sue brightened up at this. “I know The Living Bible is only a paraphrase, but I know someone who got saved from reading it.”
“One thing is sure true about all these Bibles,” said Glen, “The devil hates every one of them”.