If you’re over 30 and have attended the usual number of weddings, you’ve heard this many times:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
It’s 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, in the Revised Standard Version, and it’s the only version I remember having heard. But I recently went to another wedding and heard this:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
This is from the New International Version, and I have to admit I like it, though in general there’s much about the New International’s breeziness (and can I say occasional superficiality?) I don’t like.
For well-known, traditional verses, I almost always prefer the King James to its newer competitors. I don’t know the Bible well, though once long ago (it was my Carlos Kleiber summer) I worked my way through the King James with a Revised Standard open at my elbow. Once you have managed to work out the meanings of the arcane language, its power and beauty shine out.
Here’s the King James version of this verse:
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
The first thing you notice is the use of “charity” rather than “love,” which probably explains why is doesn’t show up in modern marriage services. And it’s undeniably awkward and long-winded to modern ears. (Well, to my modern ears,anyway.)
So I’ve decided the next time I get married, it’s the New International for me.
Not surprisingly, it’s 2 Timothy 4:7 that I actually think of most these days. As both the Revised Standard and the New International have it:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
(The King James goes with “a” good fight.)
I recognize that Timothy is writing about Paul, who is in a tragic, frightening altogether horrible situation, and is confronting it with the power of his beliefs, and I don’t mean to trivialize that, but the language undeniably speaks to everyone feeling creaky with age, regardless of health or threat. To me, an unbeliever, it’s a metaphor for something like, “I worked hard to be good and do good, I’m pretty much done now, I tried my best.”