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Chapter 38

Paraphrases of Scripture

 

It has now become popular in some Christian circles ģ~=,se a form of the Bible which is no longer a translation of the original manuscripts but rather a paraphrase. The most popular of these is The Living Bible, paraphrased by K.N. Taylor. He claims that in using the paraphrase technique

We can be much more accurate than verbal translation. Evangelism Today, December 1972

In this claim he seriously errs.

The use of paraphrases of Holy Writ has no place in the worship of sincere Christians. They are totally without value, for they replace inspired testimony with manís foolishness.

Not the least offensive feature of The Living Bible (TLB) is the use of coarse language, at times bordering on the vulgar. To represent the Word of God in such language is blasphemous. One example of the use of vulgarities may be seen in Isaiah 5:11 (American Edition). We will not reproduce it here.

Many crude expressions are included in this paraphrase. Among such are the following examples:

Mark 10.50: Bartimaeus yanked off his old coat. (TLB, American Edition) ó And he, casting away his garment (KJV)

Ecclesiastes 5.3: Blabbermouth (TLB) ó A foolís voice (KJV)

Ezekiel 22.12: Loan racketeers (TLB) ó thou has taken usury and increase (KJV)

Proverbs 27.15: A cranky woman (TLB) ó a contentious woman (KJV)

Isaiah 5.14: Hell is licking its chops in anticipation of this delicious morsel (TLB) ó Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure (KJV)

Mark 2.16: How can he stand it, to eat with such scum? (TLB) ó How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? (KJV)

Mark 12.17: They scratched their heads in bafflement (TLB) ó And they marvelled at him (KJV)

Luke 10.40: Martha was the jittery type (TLB) ó But Martha was cumbered about with much serving (KJV)

Isaiah 41.24: Anyone who chooses you needs to have his head examined (TLB) ó An abomination is he that chooses you (KJV)

James 1.4: Donít try to squirm out of your problems (TLB) This passage is not in the original Greek, hence there is no comparable text in the KJV.

Jonah 1.2: Your wickedness . . . smells to highest heavens (TLB) ó For their wickedness is come up before me (KJV)

Genesis 13.17: Hike in all directions (TLB, American Edition) ó Walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it (KJV)

John 11.49: You stupid idiots (TLB) ó Ye know nothing at all (KJV)

Jude 16: These men are constant gripers. . . . Loud-mouthed "show-offs" (TLB) ó These are murmurers, complainers . . . and their mouth speaketh great swelling words (KJV)

Nahum 1.14: How you stink with sin! (TLB) ó for thou art vile (KJV)

Zechariah 9.7: I will yank her idolatry out of her mouth (TLB) ó I will take away . . . his abominations from between his teeth (KJV)

Distressing as is the use of coarse language to convey the message of the Word of God, The Living Bible may be faulted on the even more serious ground of mistranslation of Godís messages. On occasion the paraphraser takes it upon himself to add words of his own for which there is no basis in the original manuscripts. One example is:

Moses gave us only the Law with its rigid demands and merciless justice, while Jesus Christ brought us loving forgiveness as well. John 1:17, TLB

This travesty of scriptural truth can be discerned by comparison with the translation in the Authorized Version which closely follows the original Greek.

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. John 1:17, KJV

It will be promptly observed that John wrote nothing whatsoever concerning the law containing rigid demands and merciless justice. Had John so written he would have contradicted Scripture, for God has declared that

Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Romans 7:12, KJV

To charge Godís law with the characteristic of rigidity, and to state that it operates on the principle of merciless justice, is rank blasphemy; for Godís law is a transcript of His character. Only the archdeceiver and his agents would dare to charge our merciful heavenly Father so falsely. This major affront to our Godís character highlights the perils of the paraphrase method of presenting Scripture. Not only does it devalue Scripture, but it is liable to contradict divine revelation. At the very least it affords numerous opportunities for the paraphraser to interweave his human biases into Holy Writ, a most serious defect.

Some additions may appear to be "minor," but God has warned of a most terrible anathema upon those who add to the sacred Word.

If any man shall add unto these things [those written in Scripture] God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. Revelation 22:18, KJV

Ignoring this fearful prospect, the paraphraser of The Living Bible frequently adds his own material. Let us look at one apparently innocuous addition.

Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart. Hosea 4:11, KJV

Clearly this passage warns against loose women and alcoholic wine. But Taylor sees fit to add a further word when he refers in this passage to "Wine, women and song." The paraphraser also adds modern-day conclusions to some of the epistles, when no such concluding greetings appear in the originals. Thus The Living Bible completes the first epistle of John with the words, "Sincerely, John" (1 John 5:21, TLB), while Peterís second epistle has a "Good-bye" added to its conclusion (2 Peter 3:18, TLB).

Further, in attempting to make The Living Bible relevant to the twentieth century, K.N. Taylor has introduced terms unrelated to the period of which Scripture tells. This may appear to be a reasonable technique to attract the contemporary reader, but it does patronize such readers, assuming that they are so lacking in understanding that they cannot comprehend matters and objects of a past era; this strange approach in an age when educated people have never been more numerous. In an era where tertiary education is frequently sought, Taylor presumed that people are less able to comprehend the past than those of yesteryear who were fortunate if they completed the elementary grades of education. Where Habakkuk reported:

And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. Habakkuk 2:2, KJV

the paraphraser finds it needful to substitute billboard (U.S. Edition) and hording (British Edition) for table. Such use of a modern publicity medium not only disturbs the sense of the original but also sounds ludicrous when placed in a setting of antiquity. Similarly,

My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them. Hosea 4:12, KJV

is altered to read,

"Divine Truth" comes to them through tea leaves! Hosea 4:12, TLB

Many other renditions are incongruous with their ancient setting and add absolutely nothing to biblical understanding. Three further instances are cited to evidence this assertion. Speaking of the manna, Moses stated that the Lord had commanded the children of Israel that they

Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations. Exodus 16:32, KJV

The Living Bible renders this passage,

Take three quarts of it to be kept as a museum specimen forever. Exodus 16:32, TLB (three litres in the Australian edition)

King Solomonís words,

Because of the savour of thy good ointments. Song of Solomon 1:3, KJV

are transformed in The Living Bible to

How fragrant your cologne! Song of Solomon 1:3, TLB

while the report that

The watchmen that go about the city found me. Song of Solomon 3:3, KJV

is paraphrased,

The police stopped me. Song of Solomon 3:3, TLB

Such renditions make a mockery of history. How would we regard a history detailing the military exploits of Alexander the Great which substituted tanks for chariots, machine guns for spears, and bayonets for swords? The historical work would be laughed to scorn. Why anyone would think of the substitutions in The Living Bible in any better light is a profound mystery.

At least one important Messianic prophecy is destroyed by this use of paraphrase.

He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. Psalm 34:20, KJV

The Living Bible translates this prophecy,

God even protects him from accidents. Psalm 34:20, TLB

But the apostle John, referring to the fact that although the shin bones of the two malefactors who were crucified with Jesus were broken, because of Jesusí prior death

they brake not his legs. John 19:33, KJV

asserted

For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. John 19:36

In relation to the Passover, God had commanded of the paschal lamb,

neither shall ye break a bone thereof. Exodus 12:46, KJV

To mutilate such a significant prophecy is no small matter.

In yet another manner The Living Bible perverts Bible doctrine by introducing the paraphraserís bias. The original Greek of 1 Peter 3:19-20 does leave some ambiguities, but the translators of the King James Version accurately translated the passage,

By which also he [Christ] went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 1 Peter 3:19-20, KJV

The Living Bible states that between His death and resurrection, Christ preached to

spirits of those who, long before in the days of Noah, had refused to listen. 1 Peter 3:19-20, TLB

Such a paraphrase specifically distorts the biblical teaching that death is a sleep. One commentary upon The Living Bible presentation of this text rightly states the matter.

This is not the true meaning of the text, which is well expressed in the note in the Dutch Bible of 1637:

By spirits here are understood the souls of those persons to whom the spirit or Godhead of Christ formerly caused repentance to be preached by Noah, namely, while they were yet alive . . . who were in prison or held when Peter wrote his epistle. The Living Bible, Article no. 18 of the Trinitarian Bible Society

Of course we must remember that the Bible use of the term hell is often synonymous with grave. This fact is underlined by the record that Jesus was in hell during His death.

Quoting from the prophecy of Psalm 16:10, Peter stated on the Day of Pentecost:

Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. . . . He [David] seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. Acts 2:27, 31, KJV

As with virtually all modern translations, the deity of Christ is weakened. Thus 1 Timothy 3:16 is stated to say:

But the answer lies in Christ, who came to earth as a man. 1 Timothy 3:16, TLB

Christís creatorship is omitted in the following reduction:

Ephesians 3:9: who created all things by Jesus Christ (KJV). He [God the Father] who made all things (TLB).

Ephesians 3:14-15 testify that God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. But the Living Bible simply states,

The Father of all the great family of God.

The defects of The Living Bible are manifold. Only a few examples have been cited in evidence. Paraphrases should have no place in private or congregational worship, for they seriously distort the Word of God. It is a matter of serious spiritual danger to utilize a false Scripture, for Satan will certainly seize the opportunity to distort Godís truth if we do so.

 


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