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Reach Out and The Greatest is Love are versions of the New Testament Scriptures. Both are illustrated editions of “The Living New Testament,” the copyright to which is held by Tyndale Foundation, Wheaton, Illinois. The date of the copyright is 1967. The text of both of these New Testament Bibles is the same. They differ only in the illustrations which they contain and in the comments that accompany the illustrations. These Bibles are being widely disseminated and widely used, today. They either replace the older versions of the New Testament, such as the King James Version, or they are used with the older versions as an aid to understanding those allegedly obscure versions. They are especially urged upon the children and young people of the Church as the Bibles that will make the Word of God clear and relevant. The charge is made that the older versions, particularly, the King James Version, are unclear and generally unsuited for the use of modems, especially, the youth. 

In fact, the translation of the New Testament Scriptures, God’s holy Word, that is found in Reach Out and The Greatest is Love is, in its entirety, wretchedly bad, so that one cannot know and understand God’s Word from it. It is a loose paraphrase of the New Testament Scriptures, rather than an accurate translation. This paraphrase is, throughout, corrupted with the private interpretations of the one who did the paraphrasing, so that the very Word of God in the particular text is obliterated. What is still worse, these “Bibles” represent a deliberate, wicked attempt to destroy certain fundamental doctrines in Scripture which the producers of these “Bibles” hate. This attempt is made by distorting, or eluding, the words of the New Testament Scriptures that teach these doctrines. These Bibles are an all-out attack upon the Reformed faith, or Calvinism. They have the effect upon a man who is Reformed and rears his children to be Reformed that he burns with holy anger. 

I will demonstrate these charges to the complete satisfaction of every man that is willing to weigh the evidence honestly, before the face of God, Whose Word the Scriptures are.

The text, or translation, of these two versions is the main thing. There are, however, several other serious objections to these New Testament Bibles. The very first objection must be registered against the titles of these books. It is wrong to put a title of our own choosing on God’s Word. The only title it may have is “Holy Bible,” of “New Testament.” Putting a title on the Scriptures forces all of God’s Word into the mold of that title and leaves the impression that the title expresses the one, main truth of the Scriptures, to which all of the contents are subordinate: What audacity, not to mention falsity, to subject the whole Word of God in the New Testament to the human concept of “Reach Out.” Even though “The Greatest is Love” tries to be a Biblical quotation (in fact, it is not a quotation, for I Corinthians 13:13 says: “the greatest of these is love,” in reference to faith, hope, and love), it, too, is a selection by men of that which they think to be most important in the Bible and a subjection of the whole New Testament to that truth. 

The second objection concerns the pictures and accompanying comments in both of these Bibles. A Bible should not have pictures, certainly not pictures that are intended to be illustrations of the truth of Bible, aids in understanding the Bible. The fundamental reason for this every Reformed man, woman, and child knows. It is the reason given in the Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 98, in connection with the prohibition of images: “God . . . will have his people taught, not by dumb images, but by the lively preaching of his word.” The comments accompanying the pictures in Reach Out are bad. These comments appear as an introduction to the entire New Testament Bible and as introductions to each of the books in the New Testament. Not once is the word, “sin,” mentioned in these comments. It is amazing that someone could introduce the meaning of the entire New Testament and the meaning of each book’ without mentioning sin. Never once do the comments, in any way, say that Jesus died for the sins of His people. Instead, these comments prefer to describe the purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world this way: “Into this world He came . . . not as an emperor, but as a low-born person, to taste of the poverty, the sorrow, the anguish, to be just one man in a system in which men exploited men” etc. (Cf. the introduction to the book, no page number given). When they do mention His death, the comments say, “He was murdered” (cf. the introduction to Luke). The comments make false statements concerning Christ and concerning the calling of Christians. They do so in order to cater to the sin of modern youth of engaging in revolution against authority. The introduction to Mark, boldly entitled, “Be a Rebel with a Cause,” takes issue with those who object to the rebels of our day and denies that it is necessarily bad to rebel. It then defends as good the revolution of the colonies against England in 1776. In this context, it refers to Christ as a rebel. “Be a rebel!,” it says to young persons, as long as “in your rebellion—in your uprooting of the evils and inequities of contemporary society—(you) replace them with integrity, reality, and God’s love flowing through your life.” All of this is sheer deviltry, especially, in light of the circumstances of revolution among the youth in our day. Christ was no rebel, nor a revolutionary. It is monstrous, a blasphemy, to call Him one. Christ calls all rebellion against authority, sin, whether that authority be parents, civil government, or the elders of the Church. The calling with which the Word of God confronts the young people of Christ is: Do not be a rebel. The warning is: Every rebel that continues impenitently in, his revolution will be damned (cf. Romans 13:2 in the King James Version). In addition, the comments are simply worthless as introductions to the books of the Bible. For example, what must one think of an introduction to Ephesians that does not so much as mention the Church, or God’s election of the Church in Christ to be Christ’s Bride, but instead shows three pictures of the war in Viet Nam and declares that in Ephesians Paul talks about the basic hatred behind war “and goes on to describe the only cure and the only weapons which will really change planet earth.” The overwhelming emphasis of the comments, in keeping with the nature of the illustrations, is on man, man’s troubles, man’s happiness, and man’s duties to his fellow man. The various evils in human society are viewed merely as problems for men, never as transgressions against God, nor as the judgments which God in the last days sends on the wicked world. The nature of the humanistic comments makes plain that the title,Reach Out, supposedly the very heart and center of the New Testament Scriptures, refers to man’s reaching out for his fellow men. This is false doctrine, the false doctrine of making man the center of all things, in God’s stead. Reach Out is guilty of perpetrating this outrage upon God’s own Scriptures, the message of which is, in fact, what God has done, what God does, and what God will do, in Jesus Christ. 

So far, we have criticized the comments in Reach Out. There are comments in The Greatest is Lovethat are, if anything, worse than those noted inReach Out

At the very beginning of the book (page c), there appears what is intended to be an introduction to the entire New Testament. These remarks purport to provide the key to understanding the New Testament. We read the following: 

“1. We do not deserve God’s love. 

2. God loves us so much that He gave His Son to die for us. 

3. We must accept God’s love for us. 

4. If we accept God’s love our life will be transformed and we will live forever. 

5. We accept God’s love by acknowledging Jesus Christ as the Son of God and surrendering our lives to Him.” These introductory comments proclaim a certain theology. Stated briefly, the theology teaches that God loves all men and sent Christ to die for all to make salvation possible for all. Whether a man actually is saved or not depends upon his acceptance of God’s love by believing in Jesus Christ through the power of his free will. This is the theology of Arminianism. It is the theology that the Reformed Churches condemned as heresy at the Synod of Dordt in 1618-1619. This theology is, not the gospel, nor the key to the gospel, but a perversion of the gospel, for it denies the good news that salvation is of God’s grace alone and makes salvation, at the decisive point, dependent on man’s will and an accomplishment of man. The introductory comments of The Greatest is Love, therefore, lead away from the gospel of the New Testament, under the guise of leading into it. 

Our fundamental criticism of these Bibles, however, concerns their text, or translation. Both Reach Outand The Greatest is Love have the same text of the New Testament Scriptures. 

First, this text is not an accurate, reliable translation of the original Greek New Testament Scriptures. Apparently, it does not attempt to be. The result is that it does not faithfully give the words of God in the New Testament in English. For this reason alone, Reach Out and The Greatest is Love are incapable of serving as New Testament Bibles, whether in replacing other versions or in aiding one to understand other versions. What good is a “Bible” that fails, not just in a few passages, but throughout, to give the very words that the Holy Spirit inspired? As a consequence of this careless unfaithful rendering of the New Testament Scriptures, important doctrines are utterly obscured. I will now prove this charge by referring to passages in The Greatest is Love at random and comparing them with the correct translation of the King James Version. 

1. John 1:1The Greatest is Love reads: “Before anything else existed, there was Christ.” It substitutes “Christ” for the term that the Holy Spirit used, the term, “Word.” 

2. John 3:3The Greatest is Love has Jesus saying to Nicodemus: “Unless you are born again, you can never get into the Kingdom of God.” In fact, as the King James Version translates, Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Without now pursuing the doctrinal implications, it is plain to everyone that there is a vast difference between not being able to get into the Kingdom and not even being able to see the Kingdom. 

3. Ephesians 2:1 The Greatest is Love reads: “Once you were under God’s curse, doomed forever for your sins.” That which the Holy Spirit actually inspired is: “And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” The important doctrine that is obscured by the new translation is the doctrine of total depravity. This text teaches that man in himself is dead in sins, incapable of any good, also the good of accepting God’s love by believing in Jesus. 

4. Romans 8:7 The Greatest is Love reads: “Because the old sinful nature within us is against God. It never did obey God’s laws and it never will.” The King James Version correctly translates: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” The last phrase teaches the inability of the natural man to keep God’s law. He cannot do the good. 

5. Romans 8:28 The Greatest is Love reads: “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into His plans.” The King James Version correctly reads: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” The new version gratuitously inserts the word, “if,” and completely alters the last phrase, so that it seems that it depends upon what we do, whether all things work for our good or not, rather than upon God’s calling us according to His purpose. 

These are merely examples of the inaccuracies inThe Greatest is Love and Reach Out that make them totally unreliable Bibles. This unfaithfulness to the true words of God occurs on every page. No one should try to minimize the seriousness of this unfaithfulness. These books claim to be the New Testament Bible, the New Testament Word of God. The fact that they play fast and loose with God’s Word is an evidence that the producers of these versions have no regard for the verbal inspiration of Holy Scripture. If God inspired the very words of Scripture, no one may lightly substitute other words for God’s words or replace the exact words that God inspired with a phrase that is supposed to express the idea of the text in a general way. Such Bibles constitute an attack on the doctrine of the verbal inspiration of Scripture and, thus, an attack on the doctrine of Scripture itself. For if such books are accepted as good, usable versions of Holy Scripture, the doctrine of inspiration, by virtue of that fact, falls away. The production of such Bibles as these, and their widespread use in the Churches, is a loud and terrifying testimony to the extent to which the Churches have departed from the truth that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (II Timothy 3:16).

(to be continued)