Gise J. Van Baren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hudsonville, Michigan.

Gray Letter Edition of the Bible:

We’ve all seen the “red-letter” edition of the Bible where the words of Jesus are all printed in dark red type. Now a new edition is being proposed by “scholars” who have sought to determine if Jesus really said what the Bible says he said. These, through their “scholarly” studies have decided that much of the New Testament record of Christ’s sayings, and of events there described, are not, in fact, authentic. It has been proposed that an edition of the Bible be printed to reflect this “fact”. The words which the “scholars” determine are genuinely Christ’s words, would still be printed in dark red. Those words of His which were possibly spoken by Him (though the “scholars” have reason to doubt this), would be printed in a light red. Those words attributed to Christ but, according to these “scholars”, not truly spoken by Him, would be printed in a light gray. The following lengthy quotation from the Christian News, March 13, 1987, gives an idea of the extent of this horrible enterprise. It gives one, too, a clear idea of the direction in which higher criticism goes. Then let none be deceived into thinking that a “scholar” can tamper with the first chapters of Genesis without ultimately doing the same thing this article recounts. I found the answer of one minister to the following quotation very interesting. I trust you will enjoy it too.

New York (RNS)—There was no Jewish trial of Jesus before his crucifixion, according to a group of Scripture scholars trying to determine the authenticity of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. 

That conclusion—just one of several that run counter to long-held beliefs—was arrived at by a vote of scholars attending the fifth session of the Jesus Seminar. The seminar is an organization of some 250 experts in religion and New Testament studies that has been meeting periodically since March 1985. 

At a Feb. 25-27 gathering at United Methodist related Willamette University in Salem, Ore., about 40 of the group members—the average attendance of each session—concluded that “there was no Jewish trial of Jesus before his execution by Roman authority, and the Jewish crowd did not participate in his condemnation.” 

Other conclusions of participants in the Salem session:

—It is unlikely that Jesus’ conversations with this disciples at the Last Supper were those recorded in the Bible. 

—Jesus’ words on the cross, asking why God had forsaken him, probably were not spoken by him. 

—Jesus, while on the cross, probably did not speak the words asking God to forgive his persecutors. 

Dr. Marcus Borg, professor of religion at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., one of the scholars at the Salem meeting, told RNS in a telephone interview that the group felt there was not enough historical evidence to back up the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin. 

He said the group’s conclusion that the Jews did not have “any direct responsibility for the death of Jesus” was significant since the Gospel accounts have often been used to justify Christian Persecution of the Jews through the centuries. 

Various Bible scholars have been urging Christians to eliminate what they consider to be “anti-Semitism” in the New Testament. Dr. Norman Beck, an American Lutheran clergyman who teaches at the ALC’s Texas Lutheran Collage in Seguin, Texas, and who has the support of top officials of the ALC, argues in his Mature Christianity—the Recognition and Repudiation of the Anti-Jewish Polemic of the New Testament that the “anti-Jewish polemic” and “anti- Semitism” in the New Testament should be removed. He is working on a translation of the Bible which will eliminate all sections of the Bible which he considers “anit-Jewish” and which Jews find offensive . . . .

A letter written in response to the above provides some interesting observations as well:

. . Upon reading which of the words of Christ on the cross they excised from the record, I began to wish fervently that there were some place to find a record of their discussions. Why should “Father, forgive them. . .” fall by the way, while “It is finished” stays? Why axe “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” (I don’t suppose the fact that the Gospels record the original Aramaic made any impression on the Seminarians) but not “I thirst”? 

Might it have happened in this way? When the discussion turned to “I thirst,” some of the scholars decided that it seems like a logical thing for a man on the cross to say, and so “red-lined’ it as undoubtedly authentic. Others gave it the gray, saying that the fact that the request was answered by a Gentile soldier giving Jesus wine vinegar smacked of late Pauline antinomianism and universalism. Other participants gave it a provisional approval, on the assumption that while it might be logical that Jesus would be assailed by thirst, they knew of no non-biblical ancient sources that actually connected requests for the assuaging of thirst with the latter stages of crucifixion. Then they held their vote, and after a deal was struck that one man would vote yes on “I thirst” if another would change his vote on “Father, forgive them,” it made it into the “new New Testament canon.” 

It is devoutly to be hoped that these butchers of the sacred text will come to their senses before they destroy the faith of too many people. Otherwise they will have all eternity to discuss and vote on whether or not they really heard Him say, the last time they ever saw Him, “Depart from me, ye workers on iniquity. I never knew you.”

The above gives some idea of the direction that is taken whenever the infallibility of the Bible is denied. When the Bible is regarded as an untrustworthy book, one which man must edit, then nothing can be considered true unless man declares it so. For this reason, also, the church must steadfastly condemn and reject every view of Scripture that questions the reliability of any part.

Moratorium On Mission Work?:

The R.E.S. News Exchange, March 10, 1987, points out that in heathen lands, there are specific reminders that mission work is not appreciated. Christians may do their “good works” provided these do not proselytize. The article states:

According to an EPS report, Indian President Zail Singh has urged Christian Missionaries to declare a “self-imposed moratorium” on efforts to convert Hindus. He made his appeal while attending a cornerstone laying for a church-sponsored “children’s village” here. Singh said there is enough for church people to do “in terms of service to the country’s poor and destitute. That is where God lives.” Most Indians are Hindus; some Hindu groups have increasingly demanded a government ban on conversions.