Children’s Bible Publishers Are Modifying References to Jews

By Howard Clark Kee
Professor Emeritus
Boston University

Children’s publishers are seeking to remove the anti-Judaism in Bible translation and church school curriculum that has fostered worldwide anti-Semitism. The past 40 years of biblical and historical studies have changed Christian understanding of Judaism in the time of Jesus and provided new insights about the origins of Christianity which remove the responsibility of Jews as a people for the death of Jesus.

Children’s Bibles are peculiarly susceptible to nefarious interpretations because they paraphrase Scripture. The fact that children cannot easily understand the New Testament in terms of its own historical context makes this matter all the more urgent. They do not make clear that Jesus himself was a Jew and that the controversies in the Gospels are between the Jew Jesus, his Jewish followers, and other Jews, such as the Pharisees and Sadducees. It is most important that children understand that references in the New Testament to “the Jews” are not to be equated with the Jews of today.

Religious publishers are taking into account the urgency of the theme “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself,” given that religious conflict lies at the heart of killing throughout the world today: in the Sudan, the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, as well as here in America at Waco, Ruby Ridge and Oklahoma City.

New studies show that the murder of Jews has been solely based on the fact they were born of a Jewish mother just like Jesus, John the Baptist and other founders of Christianity. What needs to be shown is that Jesus was put to death by the Romans, using their standard mode of execution: crucifixion. A small number of Jewish leaders who served the Romans in their rule of the land collaborated with them in his execution, not the Jewish people as a whole.

Reed Children’s Books in England stated in recent correspondence to the Institute, “…it was never our intention to issue ‘hateful statements’ and I would certainly wish to avoid encouraging any religious hostility. We will therefore be altering this text and would assure you that this will be done at the earliest opportunity.”

Pauline Books and Media are phasing out their The Bible for Young People and The Bible for Children and will be writing an entirely new children’s Bible which will prevent any anti-Judaism from appearing in their forthcoming edition.

Gospel Light/Regal Books stated they concur with the Institute’s concerns to carefully distinguish between “Jewish” people and “religious” leaders in their What the Bible is About for Young Explorers.

Examples from Lion Publishing’s “The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories.”

Page  Prior edition Revised edition
299 The Jewish teachers were strict about keeping the Ten Commandments, including the one that says, ‘Do not murder’. but there were murderous thoughts against Jesus in their hearts. The religious teachers were strict about keeping the Ten Commandments, including the one that says, ‘Do not murder’. But many of them had murderous thoughts against Jesus in their hearts.
358 Jesus was in the north of the country once more, out of the way of the Jews in Judea, who had tried to stone him. Jesus was in the north of the country once more, out of the way of the rulers in Judea, who had tried to stone him.
359 ’We must stop Jesus working such wonders,’ the Jewish leaders agreed. ‘If we don’t, everyone will follow him.’ From that day they began to make plans to have Jesus arrested and killed as soon as possible. ’We must stop Jesus working such wonders,’ the leaders agreed. ‘If we don’t, everyone will follow him.’ From that day they began to make plans to have Jesus arrested and killed as soon as possible.
364 The Jewish leaders were growing more and more determined to silence Jesus, once and for all. The religious leaders were growing more and more determined to silence Jesus, once and for all.
381 The next Sunday the disciples were together again and Thomas was with them. The door was locked because they were still afraid of the Jewish leaders. The next Sunday the disciples were together again and Thomas was with them. The door was locked because they were still afraid of the religious leaders.
386 Some of the Jewish leaders were listening too and, before long, some burly temple guards seized Peter and John and threw them into prison, by order of the Council. Some of the leaders were listening too and, before long, some burly temple guards seized Peter and John and threw them into prison, by order of the Council.
388 But soon he made enemies among the Jews who hated Jesus. They invented false charges against him and brought him before the council. But soon he made enemies among those who hated Jesus. They invented false charges against him and brought him before the council.
391 But the Jews who would have once been his friends and allies, became Saul’s bitter enemies. They made up their minds to stop his preaching and made a plot to kill him. But his own people who would have once been his friends and allies, became Saul’s bitter enemies. They made up their minds to stop his preaching and made a plot to hill him.
401 God has told me that you will be arrested and the Jews will hand you over to the Romans. God has told me that you will be arrested and handed over to the Romans.
403 But a little group of Jews took a solemn vow not to eat or drink until Paul was dead. But a little group of Judeans took a solemn vow not to eat or drink until Paul was dead.
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Anti-Jewish Children’s Bible in Germany

By Dr. Peter Fiedler

Herder Verlag in Freiburg, Germany has adopted Lion Publishing’s The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories. This book has become a best-seller (more than 100,000 copies in 5 years), provided with the “imprimatur” granted by the authorities of the archdiocese of Munich. That seems to be a great success – but at what a price! We leave aside the (mis)treatment of the Hebrew Scriptures as if they were leading directly and exclusively to the Jesus event and exemplify the anti-Jewish character and effects by exploring the presentation of Jesus’ life and work in the book. “Jesus the teacher” is confronted with the religious leaders. On a single page the chapter on the Sermon on the Mount contains a lot of false or misleading assertions, e.g: The religious leaders refuse to accept what Jesus was teaching about God; by adding hundreds of precepts to the Torah of Moses; they have their own ideas how to please God; they prevented Jesus from teaching in the synagogues: they liked only to pretend to be good, but in their hearts they had murderous thoughts against Jesus. Such a confrontation obviously implies malicious distortions of the Torah itself and its various interpretations at Jesus’ time.

In the chapter entitled “Jesus’ Enemies”, the children get to know the Pharisees as a special sort of his inhuman and hostile enemies among the religious teachers. Their hearts are stubborn: they hate Jesus, therefore they decide to kill him. That attack on the Pharisees is underlined by the picture added. On the one side, the children see Jesus and his disciples pictured with “usual” clothes and on the other side three of such Pharisees, not only wearing black but also covering their heads the way tallits do. The medieval anti-Jewish picture tradition thus returns in a modern form.

As expected, the polemics grow in the section entitled “Jesus’ Enemies Become More Powerful”. The same dark figures appear, now pictured twice as big as before. The religious leaders are accused without any distinction of seeking how to kill Jesus; they want to trap him by asking him for the right of paying tribute to Caesar. The comment on Jesus’ escaping from this trick question reverses the historical situation: The Jews owed much to the Romans, for they supplied them with roads and water and granted peace between the nations – what ingratitude on the part of Jews not to pay tribute to their oppressors!

This is particularly offensive for a publishing house which claims to promote the Jewish-Christian dialogue.

The parable of the wicked husbandmen then gives the opportunity not only to ascribe blazing hate to the religious leaders but also ascribes to Jesus’ audience the schizophrenia of being happy that God will take away the election of the Jewish people.

The murderous thoughts of Jesus’ enemies become realized in the betrayal by Judas. The illustration added is obviously anti-Semitic: A money counting figure covered with a red kippah-the “Stuermer” sends his regards. The scene of Jesus’ standing before the Sanhedrin returns to depict black and white: Jesus in white clothes faces the members of the Sanhedrin in black garments suggesting tallits. As the pretext for the demand to crucify Jesus, the High Priest lets him claim to be God-against the clear evidence of the Gospels which unanimously use the title “Son of God.”

These examples which could be multiplied by the presentation of the post-Easter church are sufficient. They show a distinct anti-Jewish atmosphere in order to separate Jesus’ person and teaching from its real “Sitz im Leben” of the contemporary Jewry in Israel. Such an opposition between Jesus and the religious leaders of his people obviously contradicts not only the historical facts but also the fundamental change the churches have undertaken concerning Judaism. This is particularly offensive for a Catholic publishing house like Herder Verlag which claims to promote the Jewish-Christian dialogue. It is even worse that the “Imprimatur” has been provided-and until now not revoked by church authorities. Thus, the new attitude of the Catholic Church in view of Judaism, publicly again and again emphasized since Vatican II, is likewise publicly compromised.

The consequences for religious education are obvious. Against the clear instructions in the Vatican guidelines of 1974 and 1985 (and other relevant documents), Jesus’ Jewishness does not serve to promote a better understanding between Christians and Jews but is misused to continue the “teaching of contempt”, even of hate. It is not by accident that the vocabulary of hatred often occurs; the illustrations strengthen this atmosphere. Should we really assume that the editor and the church authorities did not see how disastrous the effect must be for Christian children by getting to know an anti-Jewish Jesus?

Dr. Peter Fiedler, Professor
Paedogogische Hochschule
Freiburg, Germany

Protect Christian Children From Being Taught To Hate Their Jewish Friends

By Dr. Howard Clark Kee

Throughout the last half of the 20th Century, the proliferation of Christian-Jewish dialogue has led to open and honest communication between two great religions. Bridges are being built over a twenty centuries-old chasm of abstract perceptions and limited information. Today, powerful relationships have been forged which reach out to historical truths, respect of the other and acceptance of the elements that link Christians and Jews.

As a result, distinguished theologians representing every facet of Christianity are calling for New Testament editions that reflect research and translations at the highest level of scholarship; that utilize this research to correct and modify the virulent suppositions and language about the Jewish people; that acknowledge the historical truth of First Century events within a framework of the political realities of the period; that remove the presentation of Jews as the enemies and killers of Christ.

Responsible translation – especially of ancient documents like the Bible – must avoid using terms that have changed meaning over the centuries, and must convey what the terms referred to in the original setting.

Children’s Bibles are particularly susceptible to nefarious interpretations because they often paraphrase Scripture. The fact that the children cannot easily understand the New Testament in terms of its own historical context makes this matter all the more urgent. They do not make clear that Jesus himself was a Jew and that the controversies in the Gospels are between the Jew Jesus, his Jewish followers, and the other Jews, such as the Pharisees and Sadducees. It is most important that children understand that references in the New Testament to “the Jews” are not to be equated with the Jews of today.

Had this initiative been implemented centuries ago, anti-Semitism would have been so diminished that Hitler and other purveyors of hate would not have succeeded in the murder of six million innocent men, women and children whose sole crime was having a Jewish mother or ancestor, just like Jesus. The Holocaust was a continuation of the atrocities that began with the First Crusade in the eleventh century. About two out of five Jews were murdered in the 20th century alone.

Today “the Jews” means the whole Jewish people. But as used in the gospel narratives, it refers to a group of Jewish leaders who were collaborating with the Roman invaders by serving on their ruling council. They were similar to the Quislings of Norway and the Vichy of France. What needs to be shown is that Jesus was put to death by the Romans. using their standard mode of execution: Crucifixion. A small number of Jewish leaders who served the Romans in their rule of the land collaborated with them in his execution.

Now is the time to take a bold new step and remove all anti-Judaism from Bibles and sermons. Now is the time to prevent ambitious bigots from exploiting the New Testament and Christianity. We urge, therefore, that anti-Judaism be removed from the King James Version, the New International Version, the New International Reader’s Version and all other versions of the New Testament, especially Bibles published for children.

We pray that Bible publishers, editors and translators understand and accept that their blessed efforts will help bring the Kingdom of God to faith communities now and in all the tomorrows to come.

We seek your support. Together we can eliminate anti-Semitism in this century. Contact Bible publishers and advise them that anti-Judaism should be removed from Bibles. Anti-Judaism is not needed and confuses Jesus’ message of love your neighbor.

Dr. Howard Clark Kee
Professor of Biblical Studies, Emeritus
Boston University