Excerpt taken from "Why They Changed the Bible", pages 34-36.
As we look at an event significant to Nida, fathers, please take note. What faith or doubt we present to our children, they may carry it with them the rest of their lives. In a 2002 interview with Christianity Today, Nida revealed a key teaching moment with his father.
"When I was a small boy, my most important theological learning was the result of a preacher who used the 13th chapter of Revelation to prove that Mussolini was the Antichrist. One week later, another man used the same passage to prove that Mussolini wasn't the Antichrist. So I asked my father, 'What's wrong?'
He said, 'Son, it's much more important to know how to doubt than it is how to believe.'"15
In Nida's autobiography, Fascinated by Languages (2003), he said this was "one of the most meaningful experiences of my life."16 And he quoted his dad in a slightly different way:
"...But my father helped me understand by saying, 'In life it is even more important to be able to doubt than to believe, because too many people love the unbelievable.'"17
But what did Nida believe in his youth? And what did he doubt? Let's hear from Nida:
"...The fact that whales were actually mammals that had become aquatic millions of years ago seemed astounding, and the realization that dinosaurs once dominated the earth and left fossils of their bones and eggs seemed almost incredible, but obviously true. Even more amazing was the existence of millions of galaxies hundreds of light-years across.
"The Scientific American (my favorite magazine) and the accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 made sense only as two quite different ways of understanding texts: literally and figuratively. But in Genesis 6 the Bible also says that God himself was sorry for having created people. This I could readily believe because truly good people seem to be so scarce."18
Somehow the Bible had taken second place to the Scientific American magazine.
Let's consider this carefully. Young Nida, perhaps influenced by his chiropractor father,19 felt he could take the Scientific American literally, including its theories about evolution over millions of years. On the other hand, he decided to take the Bible figuratively, unless it seemed reasonable to him. So the Scientific American Nida accepted with faith, and the Bible he approached with doubt.
Let's see what Nida would have found, if he had approached the Bible with faith.
15) "Meaning-full Translations: 'The world's most influential Bible translator, Eugene Nida, is weary of "word worship"'," by David Neff, in Christianity Today, October 7, 2002.
16) This is the way Nida referred to the event in his autobiography, Fascinated by Languages (Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Pub. Co., 2003), p. 1.
17) Fascinated by Languages by Eugene A. Nida (Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Pub. Co., 2003), p. 1. Emphasis mine.
18) Fascinated by Languages. p. 1. Emphasis mine.
19) See the obituary for Eugene Nida, from the Telegraph of London, Thursday, September 1, 2011 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/religion-obituaries/8736036/The-Reverend-Eugene-Nida.html)