Classic Chance to Update the Bible
By David W. Daniels
It was an amazing day of celebration. After 70 years of captivity, the children and children’s children returned to Jerusalem, to their ancestral home.
Nehemiah, their temporary governor, had faced many battles to get them to this point. There were false prophets and prophetesses, false brethren and false accusations. And despite the looming threat of extinction by adversaries, the Lord had helped them rebuild the wall of Jerusalem in just 52 days! What a feat!
Now the people were resettled in their own cities and had come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. It was time for Ezra the priest to read a copy of the Law of Moses to the people —all 50,000 of them.
There was just one problem. A lot of the people didn’t understand the ancient Hebrew terms anymore. What’s a priest to do? This was a classic opportunity to “update” the Bible. There were terms the young people would not understand. There were concepts the next generation had not been taught. Who knows? Some of the parents may have said to him: “Remember, Ezra —you don’t want to lose the young people!”
Ezra could have made some “cultural substitutes” —you know, take a term from their Babylonian culture and substitute that word for the old Bible word. He could have made an RBV, Revised Babylonian Version, Youth Edition. This was his chance. It was classic!
But did he? Not a chance! Ezra did what God commissioned him, as a priest and his people, the Levites, to do: he arranged to teach them. The priests and Levites circulated among the people, helping people to understand the words —but they still read exactly what God had said. They didn’t change a word!
Take a look for yourself in Nehemiah 8:8: “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” That’s our job as Christians. In Matthew 28:19-20 the Lord Jesus said: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you….”
Teach them God’s words. Then, when they’re saved, teach them what God says about how to obey Him. We cannot compromise God’s words with “cultural equivalents” and pass that off as scripture.
Ezra and the Levites did what every faithful pastor should be doing: taking God’s “sure word” and helping his people understand the “sense” of that word; teaching the people how to implement God’s words in the current culture.
Translators of the modern versions have changed God’s words to try to fit in with the culture. Instead, the culture should be changed to fit itself to God’s word.
That is the burden of a true pastor or Bible teacher: to admonish and exhort the culture to obey God’s words. That is the only thing that will redeem the culture from Satan’s lies. But how can we recognize Satan’s deceptions if we don’t have a Bible that we can trust to be authoritative truth?
I believe these examples from the scriptures. I will read from my King James, God’s preserved words in English, and I will gladly help “give the sense, and cause them to understand the reading.”
That way they’ll be lifted up to learn God’s words, instead of (dare I say it?) dumbing-down God’s holy scripture for them.
That way we can teach them to observe all Christ commanded us, without compromising God’s words. And Christ will be with us.
I hope you will join me in not dumbing-down —I mean, “updating”— the holy words of God.