. . . by Dr. Larry Spargimino
Someone once said: "The only things that never change are death and taxes." If you are a Bible-believing Christian you would also want to add that God never changes. He's the same "yesterday, and to-day, and for ever" Hebrews 13:8.
The Edenic Attack On God's Word
But there is something else that never changes, at least in this present order of things, and that is Satan's method of operation. One of the devil's great tricks is to get people-even good Christian people-to doubt the accuracy and validity of the Word of God. He often does that by introducing some very minor changes, often called "improvements," in the Word. God said to Adam: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it" (Gen. 2:16-17). In his approach to Eve, however, Satan misquoted this prohibition: "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" (Gen. 3:1). God said "You may eat of every tree except . . ." Satan said "You shall not eat of every tree." Satan made God look cruel and unkind. He did the same thing in Genesis 3:3 by adding the words, "Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it." The lesson from this is that we must not tamper with God's Word. Unless we want the devil to be our role model.
This important truth seems obvious enough. However, as common sense is not very common, so an obvious truth is not always very obvious. In the name of making the Bible more understandable to the masses, and for the stated purpose of showing greater cultural sensitivity to people living in a pluralistic society, a new approach to Bible translation has surfaced. Shying away from the term "gender-inclusive," which connotes a feminist agenda, many neo-evangelicals are now talking about the "gender-accurate" approach.
"Gender-Accurate" Or "Gender Corrupt"?
What is a "gender-accurate" translation? It is one that avoids masculine terminology when the original author was referring to members of both sexes. The advocates of the "gender-accurate" approach argue that they are not trying to advance a feminist agenda, but are seeking to accurately convey the sense of the original into modern English.
Like every error, this one seems to have some persuasive arguments on its side, so we need to look at them. Gender-accurate advocates like to cite Romans 3:28: "Therefore we conclude that a man [anthropos] is justified by faith." Since the apostle did not mean to teach that only men are justified by faith and not the ladies nor boys and girls, gender-accurate translators translate it this way: "Therefore we conclude that people are justified by faith." However, if male human beings are intended, then, say the advocates of the "gender-accurate" approach, masculine terminology will be kept, as in Matthew 9:9: "And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man [anthropos], named Matthew."
Though such modifications are offered in good faith, and for the purpose of helping people understand the Word better, there are several objections to this "gender-accurate" approach.
1. Where Will It Stop?
Once translators give in to the idea of "improving" on the Scripture in order to make it more culturally acceptable, there is no end in sight to the possibilities for corruption and perversion. How about having a black Jesus or an oriental one? Now wouldn't that communicate! Or how about one that looks like a native American?
This author comes from an Italian-American background, but I wouldn't want a "Jesus" who loves pasta and sings opera! Though I love pasta and sing opera- (only in the shower!)- my Bible tells me that the only One who can save me from my sins and the awful consequences there of is the virgin-born Son of God, "which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Rom. 1:3). Those words may not seem all that culturally-relevant, but the Bible places no emphasis whatsoever on being culturally-relevant. Churches and ministries want to be culturally relevant. That's the big thing in ministry. Our music has to be contemporary along with our Bible translations. Many churches now feature contemporary services that appeal to the young. Hymns are out, choruses are in. And we don't have "Sunday School"- it sounds too "teachy." It's now called "The Bible Fellowship Hour," or some similar designation. If being "trendy" is so important, you would think that God's Word would promote it.
In the past century there have been a large number of new translations of the Bible in English. The stated reason: to give the public a Bible that is "in the language of the people." Weymouth's New Testament (1903), Goodspeed's translation (1923), the Centenary Translation (1924), Moffatt's Translation (1926), the Williams Translation (1937), the Revised Standard Version (1952), Today's English Version (1966), the New English Bible (1970), the New American Standard Version (1971), the Living Bible (1971), the New International Version (1973), and many others have all come into existence for the same purpose: to give the public a Bible that is "in the language of the people."
This great number of versions suggests:
1. that all previous attempts to give the public
a translation "in the language of the people" have been
2. that no one really knows what "the language of the people" really is; or
3. that the English language has been changing so rapidly that translators have to crank out another version every few years to keep up with this language shift. I want to give another, and perhaps more likely explanation: money!
John Cunniff, Associated Press business analyst, in a 1976 Associated Press release entitled, "Bible Still the Best Seller," wrote: "In the cold, hard material world of book selling, there is nothing like the Bible. The Word sells like nothing else. It beats sex, diet, money, and fad books. It has no equal year after year."
I think he is right. Not only do we have a large number of translations, but there is a style and format fitted to target every possible consumer group imaginable: the Quest Study Bible, the New Student Bible, the Women's Devotional Bible, the Adventure Bible, the Couple's Devotional Study Bible, the Life Application Bible, the Cabbage Patch Bible, Youthwalk Devotional Bible, and others. Does anyone want to start working on a "Space Explorer's Bible"? We live in a market-driven society and the market is wide open for novelty in Bible translation and format. The Bible is no longer in the hands of the worshipping community of faith. It is now a for-profit endeavor. May I suggest that the "gender-accurate" approach to Bible translation and the hype that is being raised in its favor is just another device to create a market?
2. What About Reverence for God's Word?
Isaiah 66:2 says: "But to this man will
I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and
trembleth at my word." Many years ago when I was a young
Christian I was wrestling with two passages that seemed to be
contradictory. I was deeply troubled because I knew that the Bible
really has only one Author. How could God contradict Himself?
Well, the answer is:
He doesn't. I brought my question to a godly pastor who has influenced my life and ministry in many positive ways. He showed me that the "contradiction" that I thought I had found was apparent and not real. By looking at the context and the historical setting, the so-called "contradiction" evaporated. This pastor then said: "God is smarter than we are." That has always stuck with me, and it is a truth that has never been undermined-even after studying many years in a seminary and doing postgraduate work in biblical studies.
I have a problem with "adjusting Scripture," even for the sake of making it more understandable. We don't need to adjust Scripture. We need to be adjusted by Scripture. That won't happen unless we have absolute confidence in the Word of God as written.
Several years ago my father and I were camping in northern New York State. It was the day after Thanksgiving and the sun was sinking fast. The temperature was already down to a chilly fifteen degrees. Just before dark we heard a man yelling off in the distance. He would fire three shots and yell some more. Around seven p.m. the state police came up to camp and said that a hunter was lost back in the mountains. They wanted to know if we knew anything about a lost hunter. We told the troopers about the yelling and shooting that we had heard, and, knowing that part of the county pretty well, volunteered to help in the search. Around eleven p.m. we found the lost hunter. He had removed his coat and hat, and had very little on. When he realized that he was lost, he tried to find his way out of the woods and was overheated with the exertion. But now he was shivering uncontrollably. The amazing thing is that this hunter should not have gotten lost! He had a compass and a topographical map and had used the compass. Why, then, was he lost? Because he did not trust the compass. He would follow it a bit, but after a while he felt very sure that the compass was faulty. He didn't recognize any of the landmarks. Everything looked different, so he kept walking in circles, trying to get his bearings with the compass but then, because he had "this strange feeling" that it was in error, he changed his direction.
Why do I relate that story? Because if we don't have complete confidence in the Bible, we too will wander in circles.
The Bible is worthy of our trust and confidence. It has withstood the attacks of unbelievers and skeptics for hundreds of years. Voltaire, the infamous eighteenth-century skeptic, once foolishly boasted that in one hundred years every home would have at least one of his books, but that Bibles would be entirely absent. Was he right? How many of our readers have at least one copy of Voltaire?
One day a rich man hired a mason to build him a wall that would never fall over. "I want you to give me your guarantee that this wall will never fall over," said the rich man to the mason.
A week later the mason came for his money. The rich man said to him:
"Have you built me a wall that will never fall over?" "Yes, indeed," said the mason. "You have my guarantee." "But how do I know the wall will never fall over?" the rich man inquired. "Because I built it four feet high and five feet wide. If it does fall over it will be a foot taller than before it fell over." The Bible is like that. Try to discredit it and you will find that it endures. Science, archaeology, history, and linguistics all demonstrate the accuracy and reliability of God's Word. For example, Genesis 17:12 reveals that God required male children to be circumcised when they were eight days old as a sign of God's covenant. But why the eighth day? Why not on the seventh or on the ninth day? In recent years science has provided the answer. It has to do with the clotting of blood and the healing of a wound. There are two factors in our blood that facilitate clotting, vitamin K and prothrombin and they are at the highest levels on the eighth day of life!
3. The Masculine Language of Scripture Is Deliberate.
One of the greatest challenges facing both society and the evangelical church is gender identity. God's Word very specifically delineates the God-ordained role of men and women. But both society and church have either ridiculed those roles or totally ignored them for the sake of expediency: pagan rituals at Harvard Divinity School; a feminist seder in the Bronx; women deacons and "pastorettes" in some Baptist Churches. What is going on? Here's what's going on: The followers of "the Goddess in all of us" are now rebelling against our male-dominated culture, and now Bible translators want to join in.
If you went in to a bookstore fifteen years ago you would be unable to find any titles dealing with "goddess spirituality."But suddenly, around 1990, books on goddess worship exploded into view. With voluptuous illustrations and an underlying mother-earth mysticism, there is now a steady stream of books advocating the very Canaanite religion that made the Canaanites ripe for judgment centuries ago. Titles such as The Great Cosmic Mother, Spellcasting and Other Feminine Arts, The Return of the Goddess, The Wounded Goddess Within, and many other similar titles are popping up in even the local supermarket. Ecofeminists are now raving about "masculine cruelty to Mother Earth." The clarion call has sounded: "Replace the hateful, patriarchal system of a Father God with a more compassionate culture of the loving Mother Goddess!" By the middle of this decade more than two hundred American colleges and universities were offering majors in "Women's Studies," a fast-growing field that pushes reproductive rights, lesbianism, witchcraft, and ecumenism. Most of these courses teach the "evils of biblical Christianity."
What does the resurgence of goddess spirituality suggest? That our society is returning to the worship of Babylon's mysterious prostitute. Ishtar, queen of heaven, worshipped with cultic prostitution, is alive and well on planet earth. Repng on: The followers of "the J our male-domiible translators want to join in. ers of Scripture. Jesus ry. give an resenting fertility and the joy of life, she is presented as the tender, erotic, and compassionate "savior of us all." A fair reading of Scripture will prove that Divine inspiration extends down to the very jot and tittle-the smallest parts of the letters of Scripture. Jesus promised that His very "words" would not pass away (Matt. 24:35). Our Lord indicated that He had given the apostles the very "words" that He had received from the Father (John 17:8). The apostle Paul took Scripture seriously, even basing his argument on the word "seed" being singular in Genesis 22:17 (Gal. 3:16). But now, so we are told, there really is an area of Scripture that may be safely modified and changed, and that is the masculine language. It is now regarded as baggage from another culture that confuses modern readers.
In view of the full extent of the inspiration of Scripture, and the gender-identity crisis that presently exists in the church, we must say a resounding "no" to that. God knew perfectly well what He was doing when He gave us His Word.
The Bible is indeed a vast treasure house. I don't profess to understand everything that is in the Bible. There are things there that I would have said differently if I were writing the Bible. But I'm glad that I did not have a part in writing the Bible. Leave the masculine language as is. Indeed, leave everything as is.
Don't be surprised, however, that there is a spirit of disrespect for God and His Word. The world is being prepared for the revealing of the one who will have "a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies" (Rev. 13:5).
Something Else to Think About . . .
The first thing I want to add is from a listener in California who sent us a report from Science News (October 3, 1998) entitled "The Priests" Chromosome? DNA analysis supports the biblical story of the Jewish priesthood."
Some three thousand years ago, at the time
of the building of the first Temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish priesthood
played a leading role in the worship of God. According to Scripture,
Moses' brother Aaron was selected as the first priest (Lev. 8:1-9:22).
This ministry was also given to his sons and provided the basis
for the abiding practice in which a Jewish priest bestows this
status on his children. Individuals who claim to be descendants
of Aaron have no proof that they belong to the priesthood other
than the word of his father, and his father's father before him.
"Y" chromosome research by Karl Skorecki, a researcher
at the University of Toronto, however, has come up with some new
findings that prove a shared genetic material that may probably
stem from an ancestor who lived roughly at the estimated time
of the beginning of the Jewish priesthood. The report states:
Calling the results "powerful," Laurie Zoloth-Dorfman director of the Jewish studies program at San Francisco State University, compares their impact to her experience when she visited Jerusalem for the first time and laid her hands on the Western Wall of the Second Temple that she had read about in the Old Testament.
"It's to me an extraordinarily moving and intense experience of history and sacred history coming together," she says. "I think the ["Y" chromosome research] does the same thing genetically. It's a tangible, embodied moment of connection to our past."
The Bible leads us to believe that the Jewish Temple will be rebuilt in later times, and that many of the features of Israel's ancient religious practices will be restored. Zechariah 6:12 informs us: "Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord."
The second item relates to spiritual discernment. Since I joined the ministry early this summer I have spoken to several parents who have called regarding their sons' and daughters' involvement in what appears to be cult groups led by particularly dominating leaders. These kids were raised in Christian homes. Many of them went to Sunday School, worship, Vacation Bible School, and summer camp. But when Mom and Dad try to reason with them from the Scriptures, these young people seem totally unaffected by what Scripture teaches. They say something like this to their parents: "I don't care what you say. I've found meaning and purpose in life, and I am loved and accepted."
It is a case of their experience so clouding the thinking of these young people that Bible truth is not important to them. But do many parents share some of the blame for this? Large numbers of evangelical Christians have lost their doctrinal moorings. Feelings and fun are more important to them than truth and commitment to Christ as Lord.
Many Christians are obsessed with the bizarre and sensational. In 1977 newspapers all over America told of Maria Rubio of Lake Arthur, New Mexico. She reported that while frying tortillas she noticed that the burn marks seemed to reveal the likeness of a face. She concluded that it was the face of Jesus manifesting itself in a modern-day miracle, and built a shrine to a tortilla.
I say this not to poke fun at anyone, but to demonstrate a strange fascination people have with the spectacular. Some claim that the spectacular will bring conviction and conversions. And yet, we find that the miracles associated with the Exodus did not keep Israel from falling into apostasy. There was the parting of the Red Sea, the manna, and other dramatic happenings like the sudden judgment on Nadab and Abihu, but Israel nevertheless went astray.
Perhaps one of the most spectacular of our Lord's miracles was the raising of Lazarus of whom it was said, "by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days" (Jn. 11:39), but instead of believing on Jesus they began to conspire to slay Him! (vs. 53). John 12:37 clearly establishes the inability of even one of our Lord's most spectacular miracles to generate faith: "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him."
In Deuteronomy 13:1-5 we are warned that if a prophet or dreamer of dreams arises who performs a miracle or sign that actually comes to pass and says, "let us go after other gods," we are not to follow that person. The fact that an individual performs a miracle or some work that cannot be explained through the normal processes of nature does not necessarily imply that that person is "from God." In view of the widespread resurgence of pantheism, occultism, and testimonies to the reality of paranormal experiences, we need to remember the admonition of Isaiah 8:20: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
Some "miracles" are not miracles at all, but the effects of the power of the mind. Dr. Larry Dossey, who was raised a Southern Baptist but has now disavowed his Christian faith, is the executive director of the Journal of Alternative Therapies. There was an interview with him published in the Daily Oklahoman for September 28, 1998. He states: "250 studies show that people who follow some religious path live longer, have better health, and go to the doctor less." He points out that various "scientific prayer experiments" have shown that something happens when people pray, "no matter what their religion."
There are obviously other sources of health and healing than the Holy Spirit. Reader's Digest for October 1998 had an article entitled, "Faith Can Help Heal You," but it is not talking about faith in Christ, or any kind of faith in the Christian sense. It reports that the relaxed state brought on by prayer and meditation has been scientifically demonstrated to reduce the impact of stress hormones, such as noradrenaline and adrenaline. "Repetitive prayer slows a person's heart and breathing rates. It lowers blood pressure and even slows brain waves, all without drugs or surgery."
Our present age is one of spiritual deception, and the Scripture leads us to think that it is going to get worse. First John 2:18 tells us that "even now [some two thousand years ago!] there are many antichrists." In Revelation 2-3 we see that in the seven churches there was "the woman Jezebel' seducing God's servants, coldheartedness, and a Laodicean spirit. First John 4:1 tells us: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." Gullibility is not a Christian virtue.
Dr. Larry Spargimino
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