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.
This weekend we will mark the biblical festival of Shavuot. Known in Christian circles as Pentecost, it is often referred to as the birthdate of the Church. For many centuries it was viewed as the beginning of a new institution that had replaced or superseded the people of Israel. This was the understanding of most traditional churches for much of Church history. The assumption was that God was finished with Israel as His people and we, the Church, are the new and better people of God. For many Christians, they felt that God had disinherited His people and consequently wrote a “New Testament” in which He removed the blessings from Israel and showered them on the new Gentile church.
When Paul wrote his letters to the churches in Asia Minor, Greece and Rome, however, he did not view his writings as chapters of a new book called the “New Testament”. For the believers in the early Church, the expression “New Testament” was not the name of a book, nor was it the name of a new religious movement. For them, it rather described a new spiritual reality which dramatically shaped and transformed their lives. The “New Covenant” described an experience that the Jewish people had been waiting and hoping for over many centuries. It was an integral fulfillment of Israel’s prophetic, redemptive expectations for generations. The person who coined the very expression “New Covenant” was not Jesus nor the early Apostles, but one of the great Hebrew prophets of old – Jeremiah.
Jeremiah not only announced the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile, but he also was one of the greatest harbingers of a glorious future restoration for Israel. The most well-known restoration passages of Jeremiah are in chapters 30-33, where God affirms His “everlasting love” for Israel (31:3), and promises to bring them back to their homeland from the “north country” and the “farthest parts of the earth” (31:8). This process of Israel’s restoration is a message that needs to be declared to the nations; yes, even to the remotest places around the world, saying: “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.” (31:10) God even affirms through Jeremiah that with the same determination in which He scattered Israel, He would restore, build and plant them back in the Land (31:28).
As the climax of this restoration process, God announces through Jeremiah something brand new that would go beyond the mere restoration of Israel to some past glory. God announces a glorious New Covenant lies ahead!
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33)
The actual phrase “New Testament” is given to us through the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, compiled by the early church father Jerome in Bethlehem. He translated “new covenant” as “new testament”, and this expression has stuck within Christianity ever since.
However, New Covenant is in many ways a far better expression than New Testament, as it highlights more a relationship than a legal document. Jeremiah foresees for his people a new type of relationship that would be an “upgrade” to the covenant made at Sinai. On Mt. Sinai, the Lord God was giving Israel a law that, in principle, was flawless and spiritual. The challenge, however, was not so much with the law, but rather with the people. Israel – and with them, humanity – struggled to fulfill the commandments of God, such that King David cried out: “There is none who does good, not even one.”(Psalm 14:3) And this promised new covenant would deal with the biggest problem of mankind – that of the human heart.
The main agent for implementing this New Covenant is the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel describes it in the following way: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”(Ezekiel 36:26-27)
This announced New Covenant would be a radical transformation of the heart. God would write His torah (“law”) not like at Mt. Sinai, on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. And according to Ezekiel, this transformation of “hearts of stone” to “hearts of flesh” would be accomplished by the Holy Spirit coming upon His people.
It is in the light of this promised new covenant that Pentecost needs to be viewed.
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)
Unlike on Mt. Sinai, when God came upon the mountain in fire and gave Moses the law written on tablets of stone, there in the Upper Room flames of fire settled on human vessels. The result was the transformed hearts of the early Jewish disciples, and their lives were radically changed.
According to Jesus, this New Covenant transformation by the Holy Spirit is so radical, it would feel like being “born again”. Jesus made this famous statement to Nicodemus, one of the leading Torah scholars of his time: “… unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) But the Torah sage was puzzled: “How can this be? Can a man enter a second time into the mother’s womb?” (see John 3:4+9). Jesus responded with surprise: “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” (John 3:10) In other words, as a well-trained scholar in the Hebrew Scriptures, Nicodemus should have known this. The prophets were filled with promises of a divine heart transformation. Already, Moses longed for a national infilling of the Holy Spirit (Numbers 11:29), and he foresaw a time when God would circumcise the hearts of the nation (Deuteronomy 30:6-8) so that as a consequence Israel will keep His commandments.
In short, the coming of the Holy Spirit on that noted Day of Pentecost was not an unexpected new thing which caught everyone by surprise. It was something which was promised, waited for and anticipated. Therefore, Jesus commanded his disciples to stay in Jerusalem to wait for the “promise of the Father.”
When the Holy Spirit finally was poured out on Pentecost, Peter arose in the temple courts and declared to a Jewish audience that this was the promise which God gave to them and their children (Acts 2:39). The Apostle Paul would later refer to the Holy Spirit as the “spirit of promise” (Galatians 3:14, Ephesians 1:13).
This means that the New Covenant and the birth of the Church were not the disinheritance of Israel and transferring of a new testament to a gentile church, but it was exactly the opposite. It was God‘s covenant faithfulness to His people Israel, to fulfill all that He had promised to them. As Gentile believers, we therefore should not look down on Israel but should rather be thankful that we have been included in the incredible blessing of the Holy Spirit which primarily was promised to them first and less so to the Gentiles. Paul declared that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is “to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The same is true for the impartation of the Holy Spirit. It was promised to the Jew first.
We also need to understand that the vast majority of ‘Holy Spirit prophecies’ of the Bible are given in the context of an end-time restoration of Israel back in their Land (Isaiah 44:3; Jeremiah 31:31; Ezekiel 36 & 37; Joel 2:28; Zechariah 12:10-14; etc). Today, we see Israel being restored at an incredible pace after 2000 year of exile. Israel is currently outpacing the expectations of many Christians who actually believe in her divine restoration. We thus can expect God also to fulfill all the promises He made to them regarding the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This needs to be our prayer as we enter into this season of Pentecost, or Shavuot.
Let us make this year’s Pentecost celebration not just another Pentecost like every year, but let’s trust God for something new – in particular for Israel. This Corona crisis is causing a global wave of prayer like never before. There is an unprecedented worldwide expectancy for a new breakthrough in the things of God like I have never witnessed in my lifetime. Let us expect God to meet us afresh this year. Let us also be thankful for allowing us to be partakers of the amazing promises God gave to Israel and for including us to participate in the incredible blessings of the Spirit.
Let us invite the Holy Spirit to do His work in our hearts. Allow Him to change and transform your heart. If you have never done it before, invite Jesus in this Pentecost and ask Him to fill your heart with the Holy Spirit. You will never be the same again!
Also, don't forget to join us this Friday May 29th from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM (Israel time) join ICEJ's Global Pentecost Prayer Chain! Join this 12-hour prayer chain here: https://on.icej.org/ICEJPentecostPrayer
Coronavirus Shutdown Update
The coronavirus shutdown has meant an incredible amount of stress for many people—either from losing a job or working from home while homeschooling children and cooking three meals a day. Some funny videos have been circulating that make light of the multitasking required and the many pets who stole the show during video conference calls!
We at the ICEJ have certainly mastered the art of working remotely as we have not just continued our ministry but have been busier than ever. Our May 2020 Word From Jerusalem magazine reports on our many activities in Israel and around the world.
At the same time, we are busy building new communications and educational tools to have a greater impact for Israel in the future. The world will never be the same after this pandemic, and our challenge is to stay on top of the many changes in communications and operations that are developing.
We Are Becoming a “Post-Truth” Society
One change taking place in our world that preexisted the pandemic but has become quite noticeable during this time is the world’s progression toward a “post-truth” society. The proliferation of “fake news” has made us suspect all news. The subversive actions of the “deep state” have caused us to lose trust in our government. And the politicians who demonize the other rather than band together for the good of the country have made us lose respect for elected officials. It is becoming difficult to discern what is even true anymore.
This is a very serious situation as it leaves many people confused and vulnerable to misinformation, intentional disinformation, and conspiracy theories. In this atmosphere, anti-Semitic theories will run rampant, and more people will believe them.
Those of us involved in supporting Israel have been up against “fake news” for decades. In fact, the case could be made that the Jewish people were the first target of fake news, such as when accused of the blood libel in the Middle Ages, blamed for the bubonic plague in the fifteenth century, or said to be sub-human by the Nazis. This history teaches us when rumors and conspiracy theories spread unchecked, it is dangerous for the Jewish people.
In fact, a recent study uncovered that over half of American Jews have either witnessed or directly experienced anti-Semitism during the past five years, and 63 percent feel less safe than they did a decade ago. This is happening on our soil, and we must do something about it.
A Revolutionary Act . . .
A quote that keeps coming to my mind about this may have originated with George Orwell and says, “Speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act.” We are moving quickly toward a time of universal deceit and must be prepared to speak the truth. It is a spiritual battle that we must fight in prayer, but it is also a battle of words, and we must be courageous enough to speak the truth.
It is the church that can stop anti-Semitism from gaining more ground in the United States, but we must begin at home. Dangerous trends within the American church are opening the door to anti-Semitism, and we must address them. I speak more about this in my article "Does Christian Anti-Semitism Exist?"
So, while there may have been a coronavirus “shutout,” there was no “shutdown” for the ICEJ! We are busy assisting the needy in Israel during this crisis but are also preparing for the future and the dangers that lurk ahead. Please stand with us in prayer as we pray for you and your families—for your protection, health, and strength. If you ever have a personal prayer request, feel free to contact us as we pray regularly for you.
Thank you for your generous partnership during this critical time. I realize that some of you are giving at a time of great personal need. May the Lord bless you as His Word promises, and may he provide for you an abundant harvest from all the seeds you have sown into His work (Luke 6:38).— by Susan M. Michael, ICEJ USA Director
The ICEJ is working hard to represent your Christian love and support for the people of Israel. We are also preparing the communications and educational tools to defend the Jewish people and support Israel like never before. Your prayers and partnership are critical. Please stand with us, and let’s walk into tomorrow together.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem mourns the passing of our dear friend David Pawson, even as we celebrate his exemplary life and rich legacy as a Bible teacher par excellence.
Dr. J. David Pawson (25 February 1930 – 21 May 2020) was a noted Bible expositor and leading Evangelical theologian for the Christian Zionist movement. His global teaching ministry impacted Christian believers all around the world, and the ICEJ was privileged to have a special ministry connection with him as a frequent speaker at our events, including the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem.
“We greatly honour David Pawson as one of the most outstanding Bible teachers within the Christian world over the past half-century”, said Dr. Jürgen Bühler. “He was especially appreciated by our global constituency for his firm theological stand with Israel, which he always presented in such clear, understandable terms.”
Dr. Pawson was a featured speaker at the very first Feast of Tabernacles in September 1980, and thus was present at the founding of the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. He last spoke at the Feast in 2016, when the ICEJ presented him with the Olive Tree Award in special recognition of his strong biblical stand with Israel. In 2009, the ICEJ also bestowed upon him its annual Nehemiah Award in recognition of his lifetime achievements in building support and understanding for Israel.
Born in England in 1930, Pawson came from a long line of farmers and Methodist ministers dating back to John Wesley. He first earned a degree in Agriculture from Durham University, but soon answered the call into ministry and studied theology at Cambridge. He subsequently served as a chaplain in the Royal Air Force, and then as a parish minister in Methodist and Baptists churches in the United Kingdom. While pastoring Guildford Baptist Church in the 1970s, his recorded sermons became popular with listeners around the globe, leading him to launch an itinerant teaching ministry which would soon have a global impact.
During his career, Pawson was highly sought-after as a speaker in churches and conferences worldwide, while authoring 81 books and producing over 300 teaching videos that eventually sold millions of copies globally. Many of his books were transcribed from his pulpit messages, which often tackled such difficult subjects as hell, salvation, divorce, male leadership and Israel. His preaching style was both authoritative and humble, forthright and witty, clear and uncompromising. Pawson always encouraged Christians to read the Bible for themselves, to discern whether his explanations of Scripture were true.
His most popular work, Unlocking the Bible (2006), presents a book-by-book study of the background, purpose, meaning and relevance of every book in the Bible. It remains one of the best and most widely-read Bible study tools available today.
In Defending Christian Zionism and Israel in the New Testament, Pawson set out the theological and prophetic significance of Israel’s modern-day restoration and why Christians should support the renewed Jewish presence in the land of their forefathers.
One of his latest books is Where Is Jesus Now?, in which Pawson explains why the Ascension of Jesus is an often neglected event in salvation history and how it can still be a source of inspiration to every Christian believer.
In recent years, Pawson had to curtail his travels and public ministry due to health challenges, such as cancer and the early onset of Parkinson’s symptoms. Having reached 90 years of age, he passed away on Ascension Day, which many admirers noted was appropriate for this devout and beloved servant of the Lord.
Our condolences go out to his wife, Enid, and their entire family.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is currently helping Israel and the Jewish Agency with an unexpected wave of Aliyah even during the Coronavirus crisis, as the ICEJ has already sponsored flights for 601 Jewish immigrants since February, and will bring another 160 Jews to Israel this week.
The newest arrivals include a group of 41 Russian Jews flying in on Tuesday (19 May) from Moscow, with another ICEJ-sponsored flight carrying 119 Ethiopian Jews scheduled to land at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday (21 May).
This will raise the total to 761 Jewish immigrants the ICEJ has brought on flights to Israel since Corona travel bans were first imposed worldwide in February. For many of these recent arrivals, the ICEJ also is helping to cover the added costs of their post-flight quarantine, in support of the Jewish Agency.
As global travel has ground to a halt over recent months, many in Israel were expecting a pause in Jewish immigration due to the COVID-19 threat. But the nation is currently experiencing a surprising surge in Aliyah, as many Jewish families worldwide are moving up plans to immigrate to a country they view as safer and better positioned for economic recovery.
The present influx of Jewish immigrants is coming from around the world, including Ethiopia and the former Soviet republics, among other regions. With most regular international flights still suspended at this time, Israeli and Jewish Agency officials have been working to arrange emergency charter flights which are bringing back stranded Israeli citizens as well as Jews from abroad who are approved for immigration to Israel.
Many of these recent Jewish arrivals are coming from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, where the local economies are struggling and the Corona threat is just peaking. Even travel within these countries is difficult and in some areas not even allowed. Yet we are hearing stories of Jewish families making incredible efforts to board flights for Israel, with some even walking great distances with children in tow. In other instances, pregnant mothers nearing term were suddenly determined to reach Israel in time to give birth in the Jewish homeland. And Israeli and Jewish Agency officials are exploring all avenues to safely funnel these people through airports even when most people are not allowed to fly.
On Tuesday, a flight will arrive from Russia with 41 Jewish immigrants sponsored by the ICEJ. One Jewish couple on board has sped up their move here to be with their daughter, an Israeli mother of two who has been diagnosed with advanced brain cancer and will undergo emergency surgery in coming days.
Meantime, some 7,000 Ethiopian Jews have been living for years in difficult conditions in transit camps in Gondar and Addis Ababa, and concern is growing that they will be hit hard by the Coronavirus as it spreads through Africa. Thus, those Ethiopian Jews previously approved for Aliyah are being brought now, including Thursday’s flight of 119 olim, while the new Israeli government will have to decide on possible emergency measures to process and safeguard the rest. We expect swift government action to start bringing more to Israel in coming weeks.
Ever since the Ethiopian Aliyah resumed in 2015, the ICEJ has been the exclusive sponsor of flights for the historic return of this ancient Israelite community, and we need your help to sponsor these upcoming flights. Meantime, the Jewish Agency has also approached the ICEJ with a request to help cover the flight costs for another 150 Russian Jews they hope to bring to Israel by early June.
Assisting Israel with Aliyah is always exciting and prophetic. But how much more of a privilege and joy it is for the Christian Embassy and our supporters to play a central role in this extraordinary wave of Aliyah, which is taking place at a time when a global pandemic has brought the world to a standstill, but it could not stop the Jews from coming home to Israel.
Please consider what you can do to bring Jewish people to Israel at this truly unique moment in history. God is urgently calling them home and He is calling on you to help!
"Comfort, comfort my people says your God" Isaiah 40