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Doctrinal Matters: Bible Interpretation

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"Radical" Distortion of the Scriptures

by  Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

The As Good As New version of the Bible, translated by former Baptist minister John Henson, and subtitled “A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures,” was released in June 2004 by an English group of self-confessed radicals who call themselves “One.” As Good As New might have gone largely unnoticed by the religious community, had England’s archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams (the leader of the Anglican church) not given the translation his enthusiastic stamp of approval (see “New Bible Translation...,” 2004). A press release from “Ekklesia,” a London-based theological think tank that supports the “One” translation, revealed the following:

The translation by John Henson from the organization “One” aims at a “new, fresh and adventurous” translation of the early Christian scriptures. It is designed both for mature Christians and for those who have limited experience of traditional Christianity or “may have found it a barrier to an appreciation of Jesus” (“The One Translation,” 2004).

However, it is apparent that Henson’s focus was not on giving his readers an accurate translation, but on making his radical readers feel comfortable, even if it compromises the real meaning of the Scriptures. One retailer wrote of As Good As New:

It also follows the cultural translation, where for instance “demon possession” becomes what it is as understood today, “mental illness.” It follows “contextual translation,” following the sense over longer sections. It is also “inclusive,” following the principles which Jesus adopted in relation to his culture. It is women, gay, and sinner friendly. Other radical departures reflect the need to demythologize in order to translate adequately into our own culture. For instance “Kingdom of God” thus becomes “God’s New World” (“A Radical and Readable...,” 2004).

The archbishop has praised Henson for replacing “the stale, the technical, the unconsciously exclusive words and policies” of the Bible, with modern phrasing (not to mention modern teachings, which differ from the plain teaching of the original Bible authors) [“New Bible Translation...,” 2004]. Few have a problem with those who merely want the Bible to be understandable (though it certainly is understandable in more traditional versions), but after considering the lengths to which Henson went to morph the Bible into something he considers “readable,” reasonable readers will reject it. Keep in mind that a “community” of random religionists, who happened to take interest in Henson’s translation process, provided contributions to this work. Apparently, the group of contributors in translation was not composed strictly of Greek or Hebrew scholars, but of “whoever” happened to contribute.

Henson and company have not given readers merely an English “translation” from the original Bible languages. (As Good As New is a translation only in the sense that “One” calls it a translation. Henson did not seem concerned about the actual original words themselves [see “The One Translation,” 2004], but only the “sense” of various collections of those words, so “paraphrase” would better describe what “One” has produced.) In short, Henson has attempted to rewrite the Bible.

For example, in an attempt to include only what “One” deems to be “the selection of books which were held in the highest esteem by the early Church in the first two centuries,” the book of Revelation has been excluded, and has been replaced by the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas (“A Radical and Readable...”, 2004). In their efforts to eliminate all “big words” from scripture, this vaguely defined group of translators has given modern nicknames to many of the Bible’s characters. For example, the apostle Peter is “Rocky,” Mary Magdalene is “Maggie,” John the Baptizer is “John the Dipper,” Aaron’s name is shortened to “Ron,” and Nicodemus becomes, simply, “Nick.”

“One” has subverted plain Bible texts in order to make the Gospel more politically correct. According to London Times religious correspondent Ruth Gledhill, “Instead of condemning fornicators, adulterers, and ‘abusers of themselves with mankind’ [as Paul did, through inspiration, when he wrote 1 Corinthians 6:9—CC], the new version of Paul’s first letter to Corinth has Paul advising Christians not to go without sex for too long, in case they get ‘frustrated’ ” (as quoted in “New Bible Translation...,” 2004). Instead of properly translating Paul’s command (recorded in 1 Corinthians 7:1-2) that, to avoid fornication, every man should have his own wife, and every woman should have her own husband, As Good As New has Paul writing: “My advice is for everyone to have a regular partner” (quoted in “New Bible Translation,” 2004).

The perversion does not stop there. “Heaven” becomes, in the new translation, “a world without time and space.” “Parables” are called “riddles.” In an effort to find favor with women, the contributors to As Good As New chose to render “Son of Man,” a title Jesus often called Himself, as “The Complete Person,” and “Father,” one of God’s scriptural titles, as “All Loving God.” Also in order to please women, Jesus is not called the “Son of God,” but rather “God’s Likeness.”

Such perversion is what one might expect from an organization that lists in its top five priorities, not to teach or defend the truth, but to “challenge oppression, injustice, exclusion and discrimination,” to “accept one another, valuing their diversity and experience” (“Who We Are,” 2003). Members of “One” commit themselves to accepting one another “in Christ,” to “support actively those doing Christ’s work inside or outside this institutional church,” and to combating “poverty, racism, and oppression through social and political action” (“Who We Are,” 2003, emp. added). One does not have to examine much of the “One’s” published material before he realizes that the primary purpose of the group is not to teach people how to be saved, but rather to push a leftist agenda down the throats of religious people. For “One,” a major step toward accomplishing that purpose would be widespread acceptance of As Good As New.

Accordingly, archbishop Williams hopes the new translation will spread “in epidemic profusion through religious and irreligious alike.” However, reasonable people will realize what As Good As New is: a twisted perversion of the Holy Scriptures. Henson, Williams, and the members of “One” and “Ekklesia” should fear for their souls, because they not only are teaching things that are contrary to plain Bible teaching (even though they do so by attempting to deceive people into thinking just the opposite), but also promoting exactly what the inspired apostle John forbade: “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him he plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).

The truth is that we can know, without a doubt, what books belong in the Bible (see A.P. Staff, 2003) and that the Bible is understandable. Because of the work of respected Greek and Hebrew scholars, we can understand, in English, just what God wants us to know. For example, the King James Version is on a 12th grade reading level, the New American Standard Bible is on a 10th or 11th grade level, and the New King James Version on an 8th or 9th grade level (“English Bible Translation...,” 2004; “Reading Levels of Various...,” n.d.). Religious people do not need a dangerous distortion of the Bible in order to overcome a perceived problem in comprehending the Gospel. People have been reading, understanding, and obeying the Bible for almost 2,000 years, with no help from John Henson or his makeshift group of translators.

REFERENCES

“A Radical and Readable New Translation” (2004), John Hunt Publications, [On-line], URL: http://www.o-books.net/goodasnew.htm.

“English Bible Translation Comparison” (2004), International Bible Society, [On-line], URL: http://www.gospelcom.net/ibs/bibles/translations/index.php.

“New Bible Translation Promotes Fornication” (2004), [On-line], URL: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=39114.

“Reading Levels of Various Bible Translations,” (n.d.), [On-line], URL: http://www.bridgebuilders.4mg.com/bibles_reading_levels.htm.

A.P. Staff (2003), “The Canon and Non-Canonical Writings,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1972.

“The One Translation” (2004), [On-line], URL: http://one.gn.apc.org/Translation.htm.

“Who We Are” (2004), The “One” Council, [On-line], URL: http://one.gn.apc.org/whoweare.htm.




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