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Deleting ‘Israel’ from the Bible?

The Folly of the Danish Bible Society

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21 May 2020
Deleting ‘Israel’ from the Bible?

In April, Christians in Denmark raised the alarm about a new translation of the Bible published by the Danish Bible Society which omits or replaces hundreds of references to “Israel” in both the Old and New Testaments.

In the new Contemporary Danish Bible 2020, the name “Israel” is deleted in all but two of the sixty places it appears in the New Testament, and in some instances it is replaced with phrases like “the Jews” or “land of the Jews.” In the revised Old Testament, some 250 references to Israel are similarly erased or replaced, amounting to just under 10% of all such references in the Tanakh.

The Danish Bible Society contends that these changes were necessary so that ordinary Danes will not mistakenly connect Biblical Israel with modern Israel. However, this can never justify such an assault on the integrity of the Holy Scriptures and their eternal truths. And because most national Bible societies around the world receive broad support from Evangelical believers, it is important that we raise our voices about this errant work of Bible translation.

First of all, we must uphold the Holy Scriptures as inviolable – their original, essential meaning must never be changed. Now translating the Bible into various languages can present many challenges, especially when it comes to certain Hebrew or Greek words in rare use or with multiple meanings. But “Israel” is “Israel”, and there is no need or rationale for ever changing it.

Secondly, it is impossible to remove the nation and people of Israel from their central role in God’s redemptive plan for all humanity, as is so consistently affirmed throughout the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. The New Testament concurs with theOld Testament that God’s election over both the land and people of Israel are inseparable and enduring. But the Danish Bible Society is seeking to sever that connection in people’s mind, which would render of no effect the many divine promises of Israel’s last-day restoration to the land. This would mean God is unfaithful or untrustworthy concerning His promises, and even turn Him into a liar. Heaven forbid!

In an exchange of letters between the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and the director general of the Danish Bible Society, they have insisted that the Danish public has a problem when they read the Bible, see the word “Israel,” and immediately equate it with the modern-day state of Israel. It seems that today’s Israel is viewed in such a negative light throughout Denmark (thanks largely to the Danish media’s incessant bias against Israel), making any connection to it skews the average Dane’s understanding of the historic Israel of the Bible.

Their answer is to steer the reader’s attention away from Israel as a nation inhabiting a particular land, and focus it instead on the ancient (and modern) Jewish people. But, more often than not in the Bible, “Israel” refers to both the land and the people – that is, the nation of Israel. This is an inescapable truth! And the two cannot be separated so easily, as it does incalculable harm to its original, fundamental meaning – and to the immutable counsel and purpose of God (Hebrews 6:13-20).

Now what the Danish Bible Society has sought to accomplish, they easily could have done in column or foot notes alongside the Bible text, which has become the accepted practice in the field of Bible translation. But here, the sacred words themselves were changed in order to accommodate shifting secular views.

It is one thing to seek to interpret biblical passages in a way which divests the Jewish people of their unique place in Scripture or their irrevocable heritage in the Land of Israel. This is a grave mistake which many Christians have been making for centuries now. But to translate actual passages of the Bible by erasing key references to Israel in this way is an even greater travesty.

Where does this folly end? Will they one day replace the word “Church” in Scripture with the name of some popular socialist movement? Will they replace the name of Jesus with some false savior?

And how can you rob God of His very own identity, seeing that He repeatedly describes Himself in Scripture as the “God of Israel”? (See e.g., Exodus 5:1; 2 Samuel 12:7; Psalm 72:18; Isaiah 45:3; Jeremiah 31:23; Ezekiel 44:2; Malachi 2:16; Matthew 15:31; Luke 1:68; Acts 13:17). Sure, He was the God of an ancient people known as Israel, but He also gave this people a specific land as an “eternal possession” (Genesis 17:8), planted them in that land so they could become a unique nation in the earth, and promised to watch over them in that land. Some may not be comfortable with what the contemporary nation of Israel is doing today, but God has brought the Jewish people back to their eternal homeland to do great and marvelous things with them here which will bless the whole world. This is not something to run from but to embrace, and to take the time to explain as best we can to every Dane and anyone else who will listen.

The international network of Bible Societies around the world are widely respected within the Christian world for their noble mission of making the Word of God available to all peoples and nations in their native languages. But the Danish Bible Society has now brought disgrace upon its own chapter of this revered association by its disturbing and unacceptable actions. They need to honor the integrity of the Holy Scriptures by withdrawing this seriously flawed Bible translation from circulation.

Please sign our online petition to the Danish Bible Society 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and Senior Spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. 


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