A Plea for Paraphrase

By Joseph Bailey

I am a Professor of New Testament in the diocesan seminary. Last year when the students went home for spring break I went to Vail, Colorado, for some spring skiing. On Good Friday afternoon we came down off the mountain to attend the liturgy at the Vail chapel. Still in ski togs we were ushered to the front pew where copies of the Paluch Missalette were put in our hands. We were invited to participate in the reading of the Passion according to St. John. As usual in such cases the celebrant read the words of Jesus, a lay reader took the role of narrator, and the congregation took the vari¬ous other voices. Thus we all joined “the Jews” in crying out “Away with him, crucify him.” My inner impulse was to stand up and say “No!” I honestly felt manipulated and was ashamed that the lay people who filled the chapel did not feel the same way. This was an emotional moment.

In later reflection I recalled my first experience of the Good Friday Passion as a college student back in the 40’s. Back then the entire text was sung in Latin by the three priests, with the celebrant taking the Jesus words in a bass-baritone, the narrator a shrill tenor and the third somewhere in between. When the latter sang “Crucifige eum” it was solemn, lugubrious and unemotional. I was moved more by the performance than by the words in the context.

It seems to me that we must restore some of that emotional distance. And obviously we cannot do that by returning to the Latin. The text used in the Missalette by Roman Catholics is that of the NAB lectionary. If changes are to be made they must be made in the lectionary. Sad to say we cannot depend on informed catechesis by the homilist (I am thinking of the Catholic priest who presides). In spite of the forthright statement on Jewish culpability in the death of

Christ as set forth in Nostra Aetate and the specific instructions in the follow- up “Notes on the Correct Way to Present Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church”, June 24, 1985, the average homilist is not sufficiently equipped or motivated to provide such explanations. We need to make changes in the text itself. And here we are back at the dilemma of paraphrase. Can we even dare to consider the alternative of paraphrase?

Paraphrase is looked upon by many as a dirty word, associated only with such versions as The Living Bible. So we have invented the current catch-word “dynamic equivalency.” No matter what you call it, the effort made in the revisions of both the NRSV and the NAB is really para-phrase. We are by no means finished with paraphrase yet. We still have to face up to the application of inclusive language to the deity in both testaments. J.A. Sanders amusingly points out that the task force on the NRSV “weighed the problems involved and decided that the NRSV might simply not be used in most churches if inclusive language for God were attempted.” (p. 56 in Removing the Anti- Judaism from the New Testament, ed. by Howard Clark Kee and Irvin J. Borowsky)

This should make us realize that the problems with biblical language are often the creation of the Christian community itself. A much greater fluidity in translation is evident in the versions before the fourth century, before the fixation of the church with the concept of divine inspiration. Calling the Bible “the Word of God,” as we address it in our liturgies, has only added to the problem of its immutability. For that reason the Dutch exegete Lucas Grollenberg has called for a moratorium on the expression: “One of the expressions which, as I see it, must be avoided is this – the Bible is the word of God.” (p. 170, Bible Study for the Twenty- first Century) Connotations override denotations.

We simply cannot avoid the moral imperative of addressing this problem now. The problem of inclusive Ianguage pales beside it. As Lloyd Gaston put it twenty years ago, we are on the horns of a nasty dilemma: “A Christian Church with an anti-Semitic New Testament is abominable. A Christian Church without a New Testament is inconceivable. It may be that the Church will survive if we fail to deal adequately with that question but more serious is the question whether the Church ought to survive.” (p. 48, Anti-Semitism and the Foundations of Christianity, ed. Alan T. Davies) Norman Beck in Mature Christianity (p. 34) is even more forthright: “Are we willing to take the risks involved in a drastic repudiation of a portion of the New Testament, namely its anti- Jewish polemic?” Repudiation is a strong word. Paraphrase is mild by comparison.

Just at this moment when we are preparing to launch a new lectionary in the Catholic Church it may not be opportune to start talking about paraphrase. But recalling the number of years it has taken to adopt inclusive language, a beginning must be made soon. If Jules Isaac had not seized the moment and gone personally to Pope John )0UB we probably would not have the conciliar document known as Nostra Aetate.

The urgency of the problem is emphasized by the instruction just sent out by the U.S. Catholic Conference on the use of the new lectionary. In answer to the question, May a read¬er change the text in proclamation? The instruction says: “No. Just as the Church is obliged to faithfully pro¬claim the Bible as it is passed on, the reader is obliged to faithfully proclaim the text exactly as it appears in the Lectionary for Mass. The homily is the proper place to explain biblical texts which are unclear or appear to be inconsistent with contemporary sew activities. We can never change the Bible because it is the Word of God.”

Msgr. Joseph Bailey
Msgr. Bailey is a Catholic priest, ordained in 1943. He studied at the Catholic University of America, and later at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

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Polemics or Anti-Semitism?

In the last twenty-five years several books and articles have appeared in which it is concluded that the New Testament contains expressions of Anti-Judaism (i.e. criticism of or opposition to Judaism as a religion) and/or Anti-Semitism (i.e. prejudice toward or hatred of the Jewish people). Although this conclusion has been advanced by sensitive people who have called for open, honest dialogue and who are willing to reassess their respective religious traditions and to criticize and challenge them as needed, it is anachronistic, uncontextualized, and quite erroneous.

First of all, there appears to be a lack of awareness of the nature of the polemic within the Jewish Scriptures themselves. The harsh expressions of condemnation in the classical prophets go well beyond anything in the New Testament (e.g. Isa 1:4, 21; 30:9; 57:3-5; Jer 3:6; 7:25-26; 9:26; 11:7-8; Hos 1:2; 4:6). Severe words of condemnation are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls as well (e.g. Hoydaot 4.6-14; Rule of the Community 2.4-9; 5.10-13; 9.16-22). Indeed, the covenanters of the Qumran community anticipated taking part in the punishment of the faithless of Israel (Commentary on Habakkuk 5.3-5).

Secondly, many Jews and Christians read the New Testament writings in the context of medieval and/or modern non-Jewish Christianity. The New Testament writings are read as though they had been authored by gentiles. New Testament polemic is then viewed as Anti-Judaistic or even Anti-Semitic. On the contrary, New Testament polemic should be viewed as part of the intra-Jewish polemic that took place in the first and early second centuries (as illustrated, for example, in the Dead Sea Scrolls and various other intertestamental writings). If the Qumran community had survived and had its membership over the years become non-Jewish, I suspect that many people today would view its writings as Anti-Semitic. Of course, no one interprets its writings this way. This is because they were found in Judaea, dating back to the first century CE and earlier. There is no subsequent history of the Qumran community to muddy the waters. We interpret Qumran as we should. We interpret it in its Jewish context, for it never existed in any other context, and thus no one ever describes its polemic as Anti-Semitic.

Finally, the New Testament can be read and, tragically, has been read in an Anti-Semitic manner. Its intramural polemic has been misappropriated and leveled at the Jewish people, something that its authors never intended. Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees was not Anti-Jewish, nor was it Anti-Pharisaic. Paul’s criticism of “Judaizers” was not Anti-Semitic. But divorced from their original context, these expressions do readily lend themselves to Anti-Semitic ideas. Responsible scholarship must expose and criticize this misuse.

Therefore, the question, “Is the New Testament Anti-Semitic?”, can be answered both yes and no. Yes, the New Testament can be understood as Anti-Semitic, if it is taken out of its early Jewish context. But if it is interpreted in context, as it should be, the New Testament is not Anti-Semitic.

 

Craig A. Evans, Professor of Biblical Studies, Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Is the Bible Anti–Semitic?

There were two very important conferences that took place in October and November of 1992. These conferences, sponsored by the American Interfaith Institute in conjunction with Princeton Theological Seminary’s Center for Continuing Education and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), concentrated upon the crucial theme “Is the Bible Anti-Semitic?” These symposia were especially outstanding because of the cooperation of the All with one of the oldest Christian seminaries in the United States as well as one of the oldest and largest learned societies in the nation. Jewish-Christian dialogue concerning the issues of Anti-semitism and the Bible took place on one of the highest academic planes involving internationally recognized Jewish and Christian scholars.

 

The first of these conferences was held in Princeton, N.J., on October 27-28, at Adams House and the MacKay Student Center — both on the campus of Princeton Seminary. Princeton Theological Seminary was founded in 1812 by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. It is the main seminary for the training of ministers for the Presbyterian Church in the United States; but it also maintains four other degree programs including a full range of doctoral studies. It also prides itself on having a diverse student body including individuals affiliated with 60 different Christian denominations. It was through the agency of Professor Geddes W. Hanson and the efforts of his excellent staff that the All was able to present the two-day symposium which included papers delivered by Krister Stendahl, Dean of Harvard Divinity School (Emeritus); former Bishop of Stockholm; James A. Sanders, President of the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center, Claremont, CA; James H. Charlesworth, George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Princeton Theological Seminary; and Louis H. Feldman, Professor of Classics at Yeshiva University. The conference was opened by a keynote address by Irvin J. Borowsky, Chairman of the AII.

 

The second symposium was given at the national meeting of the SBL in San Francisco on November 23. In 1880 a group of eight scholars resolved to establish “a Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis for the purpose of promoting a thorough study of the scriptures by the reading and discussion of original papers.” Since then the SBL has become one of the most respected learned societies in the United States, with a membership of over 5,000 Jewish, Christian, and non-affiliated scholars representing virtually all of the country’s institutions of higher learning. Hence the Society represents the essence and core of biblical research in the United States. Thus, being invited to convene a major panel for the Early Jewish/Christian Relations Group — Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity section at the 1992 Conference — gave the concerns of the All the widest possible academic audience in the nation.

 

The papers presented at this event included those given at the Princeton Symposium with the additional contributions of Walter Harrelson, Vanderbilt University Divinity School; Craig Evans, Trinity Western University; and Adela Yarbro Collins, University of Chicago Divinity School. Respondents to the papers were Alan F. Segal, Barnard College, Columbia University and Michael Fishbane, University of Chicago Divinity School.

 

The contributions made in these papers raised numerous questions concerning both the way Anti-Semitism can be found in or read into scripture texts. But even more to the heart of the matter were the strategies outlined to combat the misuse of scripture in order to foster hatred of Jews by Christians. Such suggested strategies ranged from highlighting the need to develop more accurate and sensitive translations of the New Testament to better instruction of the Christian laity concerning the appropriate use and interpretation of the New Testament documents based upon the common ground shared by each community. The creative and necessary recognition of differences should be allowed to become the basis for a vigorous and honest Jewish-Christian dialogue. In short, as Krister Stendahl commented in his paper, these symposia were engaged in “consciousness raising” of the most important sort.

 

The reader will find in this issue short versions of several of the papers delivered at these conferences. We are sure that our readers will find them challenging, stimulating, and clear evidence that there is hope that, with the advance of Jewish-Christian dialogue within the context of such forums, the tragic history of relations between church and synagogue may be reversed. The papers in their final form will be published in a volume sponsored by the All and Trinity Press International.

 

James H. Charlesworth, George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Princeton Theological Seminary, Editor, Dead Sea Scrolls Project

The Hermeneutics of Translation

It is common place to note that there are two basic kinds of translation; formal equivalence and dynamic (or functional) equivalence. The King James Version (ICJV) of the Bible may well be the best extant example in English of a completely formal ‘equivalence translation.

The Good News Bible, and its successor, The Contemporary English Version, are good examples of dynamic equivalence translations. The focus of dynamic equivalence is to score the essential point or points of a passage in the receptor language without necessarily reflecting the original with its textual nuances.

In the case of biblical texts which purport to recount “history” there is often still a gap between what scholarship understands to be the time of the author(s) and editors of a text and the events which the text relates. How to span the gap between record and event is a constant problem for the student interested in the historical value of biblical texts.

Second Testament scholarship in the past century has convincingly made a distinction between the date of the composition of the text of the gospels and Acts, and the historical events they purport to recount.

Judaism in the period, which began in the sixth century B.C.E., was highly pluralistic, having a number of different shapes and forms, leaving a variety of Jewish literature either preserved by the early churches (such as the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, and the Second Testament) or recovered through modern archaeology (such as the Dead Sea Scrolls). What rabbinic Judaism preserved after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE was of a certain type of Judaism only.

What has become quite clear is that Jesus and all early Christians were Jews, whether by birth or by conversion. The term, Christian Jews, simply designates all early, first century Christians, whether born Jewish or converted to this particular sect of Judaism in the early first century, who believed in “the Way”. Hence the churches’ insistence in the first century on adding the gospels and Epistles onto Jewish Scripture and, then in the second century, insisting on keeping the “Old Testament” in the Christian canon.

Since it is clear that Jesus was a Jew, that all his early followers were Jewish by birth, or by conversion to a sect of Judaism, and that the Dead Sea Scrolls have shown that Christian Judaism was as much a Jewish community as any other within the Jewish pluralism of the time, then the polemic within the NT against “the Jews” needs to be addressed for what it really was, instead of allowing the NT language of Christian hurt and rejection at the end of the first century to continue to color what was going on in the first half thereof If Bible translations like the NRSV can legitimately “correct” exclusion on one level, caused by the patriarchal cultural trappings in the text, they ought to be able to “correct” exclusion on the broader level, so that the text reflects what was essentially an intra-mural Jewish situation of the early first-century period. The narratives provide clear mirrors for Christians today to see their own humanity reflected in those around Jesus, instead of identifying with Jesus and dehumanizing his fellow Jews.

The real issue is whether biblical scholarship is prepared to “go public” with the truth about the crucial gap between record and event in the case of these canonical narratives of Christian origins. If we think we have arrived at that point, then we should offer historically dynamic translations or we should print in banner headlines across the top of the usual formal equivalence translations of the gospels and Acts that they were written decades after the events recounted and in a quite different situation with regard to Christianity’s Jewish origins. The present falsehood, with all the pain and damage it has for centuries caused both Christians and Jews, cannot in good conscience be permitted to continue.

James A Sanders. President, The Ancient Biblical. Manuscript Center. Emeritus Prof of Biblical Studies. Claremont School of Theology, California

An Historical Bible Translation – The Bible Stars on Broadway, A Remarkable Reading of a New Edition

Around-the-clock, 90-hour, cover-to-cover, public reading of a new translation of the Bible, the Contemporary English Version (Old and New Testaments), took place on an elaborate set design depicting a biblical scene on Broadway in NYC on the plaza in front of the American Bible Society.

A total of 360 readers participated, including political leaders, Broadway and film actors, media personalities, New York schoolchildren, religious leaders and congregants from a broad range of churches and denominations.

The occasion celebrated the American Bible Society’s ten-year translation project of a Contemporary English Version of the Complete Bible.

Reviewers from virtually all walks of life are calling this new edition a major achievement in making the world’s best-selling book more accessible and easy to understand for everyone.

Translated directly from the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic languages of the Scriptures, the Contemporary English Version faithfully communicates the meaning of the biblical text in a lucid and lyrical style, appropriate for both private and public reading.

Worldwide, more than one hundred people – translators, consultants and reviewers – were actively involved for more than ten years in the process of translating the Contemporary English Version of the Bible. The translation team was led by Dr. Barclay M. Newman, the American Bible Society’s senior translations officer.

The translation team focused first on the meaning of the ancient manuscripts and then worked to express that meaning in language easily understood by today’s reader.

The drafts in their earliest stages were sent for review and comment to a number of biblical scholars, theologians and educators representing a wide variety of church traditions. In addition, drafts were sent for review and comment to all English-speaking Bible Societies and to more than forty United Bible Societies translation consultants around the world. Final approval of the text was given by the American Bible Society Board of Trustees on the recommendation of its Translations Subcommittee.

 

Dr. Eugene B. Habecker

President, American Bible Society

 

The following are examples of the Contemporary English Version compared to the King James Version

Gospel

King James English Version

Contemporary English Version

Matthew 23:34

Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men and scribes and some of them shall kill and crucify and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues and persecute them from city to city.

I will send prophets and wise people and experts in the Law of Moses to you. But you will kill them or nail them to a cross or beat them in your meeting places or chase them from town to town.

John 5:18

Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

Now the leaders wanted to kill Jesus for two reasons. First, he had broken the law of the Sabbath. But even worse, he had said that God was his Father, which made him equal with God.

John 7:1

After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for He would not walk in Jewry because the Jews sought to kill him.

Jesus decided to leave Judea and to start going through Galilee because the leaders of the people wanted to kill him.

John 7:13

Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.

But the people were afraid of the leaders and none of them talked in public about him.

John 19:7

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”

The crowd replied, “He claimed to be the Son of God! Our Law says that he must be put to death.”

Acts 26:7

Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king A-grip’-pa, I am accused of the Jews.

Day and night our twelve tribes have earnestly served God, waiting for his promised blessings. King Agrippa, because of this hope, some of their leaders have brought charges against me.

II Corinthians 11:24

Of the Jews five times I received forty stripes save one.

Five times my own people gave me thirty-nine lashes with a whip.

 

Random Samplings

The following are examples of the Contemporary English Version compared to the King James Version selected at random by our managing editor, Dana Lang

Gospel

King James English Version

Contemporary English Version

Matthew 10:17

But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues

Watch out for people who will take you to court and have you beaten in their meeting places

Matthew 23:34

Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men and scribes and some of them shall kill and crucify and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues and persecute them from city to city

I will send prophets and wise people and experts in the Law of Moses to you. But you will kill them or nail them to a cross or beat them in your meeting places or chase them from town to town

John 7:1

After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry because the Jews sought to kill him

Jesus decided to leave Judea and to start going through Galilee because the leaders of the people wanted to kill him

John 7:13

Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews

But the people were afraid of the leaders and none of them talked in public about him

John 9:22

These words spake his parents because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue

The man’s parents said this because they were afraid of their leaders. The leaders had already agreed that no one was to have anything to do with anyone who said Jesus was the Messiah

John 10:33

The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not

They answered, “We are not stoning you because of any good thing you did

Acts 26:2

I think myself happy king A-grip’-pa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews

King Agrippa, I am glad for this chance to defind myself before you today on all these charges that my own people have brought against me

Acts 26:7

Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king A-grip’-pa, I am accused of the Jews

Day and night our twelve tribes have earnestly served God, waiting for his promised blessings. King Agrippa, because of this hope, some of their leaders have brought charges against me

II Corinthians 11:24

Of the Jews five times I received forty stripes save one

Five times my own people gave me thirty-nine lashes with a whip

I Thessalonians 2:14

For ye brethren became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews

My friends, you did just like God’s churches in Judea and like the other followers of Christ Jesus there. And so, you were mistreated by your own people, in the same way they were mistreated by their people ■

 

Oxford University Press Introduces New Bible at the 1995 AAR/SBL

The New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version speaks directly to today’s social concerns, especially the move toward universal inclusivity. The project was undertaken by our team of biblical scholars, theologians and educators, who carefully studied the Bible’s original language texts and also compared their work with many modern Bible versions.

Issues of race, gender, and ethnicity figure prominently in the news today and are forcing serious debate over the equality of many of our accepted social standards, from national policies to our daily interactions with one another. These topics are profoundly reflected in the religious community in highly charged issues such as the ordination of women and the problem of anti-Semitism. Naturally, the Bible has been a prime source of debate concerning these and other inclusivity questions. Bible translators have recognized the limits of the language used in many older versions and in recent years have produced new versions that begin to use language that emphasizes a universal community rather than a particular gender or group.

The New Testament and Psalms moves far beyond these first attempts in its level of inclusiveness. While previous versions focused on limited gender issues such as the elimination of some unnecessary male pronouns, The New Testament and Psalms delves deeper into the Bible text to revise language on a broader level that addresses a wider range of agendas.

References to Judaism in the New Testament have often been translated in ways that allow anti-Semitic interpretation. The New Testament and Psalms corrects imprecise allusions that promote such readings by replacing a passage that reads “. . . for you suffered . . . as they did from those who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets.” This ambitious work even addresses the volatile issue of how to refer to God in universal terms without removing the important parental concept of caretaker: where God is referred to as “The Father,” The New Testament and Psalms uses a new term “Father-Mother” to include both genders, as in “As you Father-Mother, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…”

Oxford’s Bible Editor, Donald Kraus, explained the principles behind this new version: “The first principle is to use the version of current English that is the most expressive of inclusiveness.” Kraus noted that this applies to racial and religious inclusiveness and to sensitivity in language about disabled people, as well as to gender issues.

“The second principle,” Kraus continued, “is that the same word in the original language can be rendered by different words in English in order to make the inclusive meaning clear.” For instance, the Greek word pater is translated into “father” in literal contexts: “Abraham was the father of Issac” (Matthew 1.2). But when it is used in a metaphorical sense of God, it can be rendered “Father-Mother.”

Oxford’s Bible sales director Hargis Thomas believes the work will be a best seller: “There’s a huge audience out there for this. These issues are no longer considered academic or extremely radical by many Christians. People recognize the need and are ready to address it — I think this version is arriving at exactly the right time.”

The editors of the book are Victor Roland Gold, Professor of Old Testament at Pacific Lutheran Seminary; Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., a Bishop in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; Sharon H. Ringe, Professor of New Testament at Wesley Theological Seminary; Susan Brooks Thistlewaite, Professor of Theology and Culture at Chicago Theological Seminary; Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr., Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Bangor Theological Seminary; and Dr. Barbara Withers, a prominent religious educator and editorial consultant.

By: Helen McInnis, Oxford Vice President and Editorial Director for Academic and Trade Books.

The Need for Two Translations of the Bible, One for Scholars and a Second “Hate-Free” Edition for the Public

There are over 170 different English translations of the Bible in print. Nearly all portray Jews as the enemy of Jesus, creating a widespread view of them as “deicide people,” the “other” in the community who were Christ killers. It is time to remove these weeds of hatred from Christianity.

 

The competition in the first century between the Jews who believed Jesus was their long awaited Messiah and the other Jews is now ancient history. Scholars agree that anti-Judaism is defective perception from defective substance and defective language. They agree Jesus was perceived as a threat to Roman rule and that it was the Romans who crucified him.

 

There were three named Jews involved in condemning Jesus: Judas, Caiphas (the high priest who brought the major charges), and his brother-in-law Annas. There were other hirelings and members of the priesthood who supported the charges, fulfilling their role as Quislings employed by the Roman invaders. Yes, there was a conflict between Jesus and this small number of his fellow Jews but they represented only an insignificant number of all the Jews of the first century.

 

No one denies that anti-Semitism is a Christian problem. It must be dealt with at its carelessly translated source – the New Testament. There is no longer any doubt about who condemned Jesus to death. Jesus’ crucifixion, a Roman form of execution, is an assured fact. Three conclusions can be drawn:

 

a. Romans ultimately put Jesus to death;

b. There were Roman legal proceedings beforehand; and

c. Jesus was condemned for a political crime.

 

There are millions of new Christians from the former communist nations, Asia, and Africa who, upon studying the Bible will be trained to distrust and hate Jews, because Jesus is presented as a Christian who was killed by Jews. These references support the bias of millions of other Christians who are anti-Jewish. The stakes are high. Innocent people have been murdered because of these words.

 

Bible societies and publishers have a responsibility to produce new editions for the public similar to the Contemporary English Version, published by the American Bible Society, which contains no anti-Judaism. Sincere and meaningful dialogue between Christians and Jews will not solve anti-Semitism unless the references to Jews in the New Testament accurately reflect the historical past. Publishers readily agree that anti-Semitism is anti-Christian madness and yet consciously or subconsciously leave unchanged the anti-Judaism in Bibles and Sunday school curriculum that was written centuries ago.

 

It is time to clean up the garden and pull out the weeds of ignorance and error. The New Testament does not need to denigrate Jews to affirm its core message. In fact, it drastically distorts the aims of Christianity.

It is the responsibility of scholars and translators to correct the mistakes of the past. Every noble cause or achievement inherently calls for great leadership and effort. A final question, how safe would a Christian be living in a Muslim nation if Muslim prayer books contained similar passages that Christians sough to kill Mohammed?

Examples from two bibles recently published illustrates how anti-Judaism can be removed without changing the meaning of the message.

Gospel The Catholic Bible; Personal Study Edition The American Bible Society; Contemporary English Version
John 5:15, 16 The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath. The man left and told the leaders that Jesus was the one who had healed him. They started making a lot of trouble for Jesus because he did things like this on the Sabbath.
John 5:18 For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God. Now the leaders wanted to kill Jesus for two reasons. First, he had broken th law of the Sabbath. But even worse, he had said that God was his Father, which made him equal with God.
John 10:31 The Jews again picked up rocks to stone him. Once again the people picked up stones in order to kill Jesus.
John 11:8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” “Teacher,” they said, the people there want to stone you to death! Why do you want to go back?”
John 19:7 The Jews answered, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” The crowd replied, “He claimed to be the Son of God! Our Law says that he must be put to death.”
John 19:14, 15 It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon. And he said to the Jews “Behold, your king!” They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” It was about noon on the day before Passover, and Pilate said to the crowd “Look at your king!” “Kill him! Kill him!” they yelled. “Nail him to a cross!”

 

Irvin J. Borowsky

Chairman, American Interfaith Institute