I was eight years old when an assassination attempt was made on President Ronald Reagan. I sent him a card and a bag of jellybeans to wish him a speedy recovery. I still have the thank you card he sent in return. As we toured the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Semi Valley, CA last week I learned that he ate jelly beans to help him break his habit of smoking, I was also reminded why he was the greatest president of my lifetime.
The library is not only a repository of presidential records for Reagan’s administration but also an exhibit featuring a full-sized replica of the Oval Office from his two terms, a one-foot-to-one-inch recreation of the White House, the Air Force One pavilion, a number of his quotes and chronology of his significant achievements in foreign relations as president, a piece of the Berlin Wall, as well as his gravesite.
President Reagan had a contagious optimism that helped restore America’s confidence as a nation. His impressive powers of persuasion convinced a Democratic controlled Congress to pass his economic proposals. His direct and honest approach in dealing with America’s adversaries reestablished our nation as a world power to be reckoned with and led to the collapse of communism. His skill at talking evocatively, using anecdotes that a child could understand, and his gift of wit and warm humor caused others to dub him “The Great Communicator.”
The book Reagan In His Own Hand is a collection of essays Ronald Reagan wrote for radio commentaries he delivered between 1976 and 1980. Reagan covered foreign and defense policy, economic policy, energy, individual liberty, and social issues in the essays. I found one particular entry interesting on Reagan’s thoughts about the Bible…
President Reagan wrote, “What would you say if someone decided Shakespeare’s plays, Charles Dickens novels or the music of Beethoven could be rewritten & improved?
Writing in the journal ‘The Alternative’ Richard Hanser author of ‘The Law & The Prophets’ and ‘Jesus: What Manner of Man is This?’ has called attention to something that is more than a little mind boggling. It is my understanding that the Bible (both the old & new testaments) has been the best selling book in the entire history of printing. Now another attempt has been made to improve it. I say another because there have been several fairly recent efforts to quote ‘make the bible more readable & understandable’ unquote. But as Mr. Hanser so eloquently says, ‘For more than 3½ centuries its language and its images have penetrated more deeply into the general culture of the English speaking world, and been more dearly treasured, than anything else ever put on paper.’ He then quotes the irreverent H.L. Mencken who spoke of it as purely a literary work and said it was, ‘probably the most beautiful piece of writing in any language.’
They were, of course, speaking of the authorized version, the one that came into being when the England of King James was scoured for translators & scholars. It was a time when the English language had reached its peak of richness & beauty.
Now we are to have ‘The Good News Bible’ which will be in, ‘the natural English of everyday adult conversation.’ I’m sure the scholars and clergymen supervised by the American Bible Society were sincerely imbued with the thought that they were taking religion to the people with their ‘Good News Bible’ but I can’t help feeling we should instead be taking the people to religion and lifting them with the beauty of language that has outlived the centuries.
Mr. Hanser has quoted both the St. James version & the ‘Good news Bible’ some well known passages for us to compare. A few thousand years ago Job said ‘How forcible are right words!’ The new translators have him saying ‘Honest words are convincing.’ That’s only for openers. There is the passage, ‘For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.’ Is it really an improvement to say instead, ‘The wiser you are, the more worries you have; the more you know the more it hurts.’
In the New Testament – Matthew, we read ‘The voice of the one crying in the wilderness. Prepare ye the way.’ The Good News version translates that, ‘Someone is shouting in the desert. Get the road ready.’ It sounds like a straw boss announcing lunch hour is over.
The hautingly beautiful 23rd Psalm is the same in both versions, for a few words ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ but instead of continuing ‘I shall not want’ we are supposed to say ‘I have everything I need.’
The Christmas story has undergone some modernizing but one can hardly call it improved. The wondrous words ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy’ has become, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am here with good news for you.’
The sponsors of the ‘Good News’ version boast that their bible is as readable as the daily paper – and so it is. But do readers of the daily news find themselves moved to wonder, ‘at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth’? Mr. Hanser suggests that sadly ‘tinkering & general horsing around with the sacred texts will no doubt continue’ as pious drudges try to get it right. ‘It will not dawn on them that it has already been gotten right.’”
I don’t think we will see another president like Ronald Reagan – not only a true conservative that intelligently communicated his position but also a president that had a genuine respect for the word of God.
Reagan is my favorite president of the modern era. Who is yours?
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” – Proverbs 29:2