People are always wanting to rewrite the Bible, or revise it to suit their own preferences. That has been going on for as long as Scripture has been available to us. It contains all sorts of politically incorrect truths and hard sayings which the unbeliever, the worldly, and the casual and compromised believer all find offensive and unpalatable.
Many of course will claim they are not rejecting the Bible altogether, just those bits which they find not to their liking. So revising the Bible to suit our own tastes and preferences is rather common. It is easy to simply cut entire slabs out of the Bible (think of Marcion here, or the infamous Jefferson Bible), or simply ignore those parts which you don’t want to have to deal with.
Even those who call themselves biblical Christians can play fast and loose with Scripture here. They can be all rather selective about what they read and what they believe. Instead of heeding the whole counsel of God, they choose those bits which fit their ideology or pet peeves.
As but one example of this, consider the so-called Red Letter Christians, who think we can somehow let the words of Jesus as found in the gospels trump everything else in Scripture. It is usually those of the religious left who are pushing this, and you have to remind them that all of Scripture is inspired, including the words of Jesus as found in the book of Revelation – words which often do not fit the agenda of the Red Letter brigade. I have spoken to this elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2008/03/03/on-reading-jesus/
But here I wish to look at another clear-cut case of such biblical revisionism. It seems Hitler also felt the need to re-write the Bible to suit his own purposes. A recent news item speaks about the discovery of a Nazi Bible which was radically rewritten, especially to expunge all Jewish content and references.
Here in part is how the article unfolds: “An institute in Germany has unearthed a Nazi bible ordered by Adolf Hitler to replace the old and new testaments expunged of all references to Jews. Hitler’s race theorists even rewrote the 10 commandments and added two more for good measure in the book called ‘German with God’ which alongside Hitler’s autobiography was meant to be required reading in every home in his Third Reich….
“His plan was to gradually ‘Nazify’ the church beginning with a theological centre he set up in 1939 to rewrite the Holy Bible. He appointed lackey professors to work on a thoroughly Nazi version that would remove all references to Jews and all compassion. Their brief: ‘The cleanse church texts of all non-Ayran influences.’ The first to go were the 10 Commandments. The Nazi 12 run:
“Honour God and believe in him wholeheartedly.
Seek out the peace of God.
Avoid all hypocrisy.
Holy is your health and life!
Holy is your wellbeing and honour!
Holy is your truth and fidelity!
Honour your father and mother your children are your aid and your example.
Keep the blood pure and your honour holy!
Maintain and multiply the heritage of your forefathers.
Always be ready to help and to forgive.
Honour your Fuehrer and master!
Joyously serve the people with work and sacrifice.
That is what God wants from us!
“More important for Hitler, however, was the eradication of Jewish words, including Hallelujah, Jehova and even Jerusalem – it was instead termed the eternal city of God. ‘The book will have to serve the fight against the immortal Jewish enemy!’ said Hitler in a memorandum to the institute in Eisenach.
“Hansjoerg Buss of the Nordelbischen Church Office discovered the Bible in an archive search. It was printed in 1941 by a company in Weimar and was shipped out to thousands of churches across Nazi-occupied Europe. It is understood most have been destroyed. The name of the office Hitler created to shape the Bible in his image was the ‘Institute for the research and removal of the Jewish influence on German church life’.”
Bizarre, but not surprising. Of course, to eradicate any references to the Jews, Hitler would have had to eliminate just about the entire Old Testament, as well as the gospels and much of the New Testament. A hopeless task, in other words. Such are the radical steps required of those who wish to push their radical agendas.
But as I said, while some extreme cases like this are of course to be dismissed as lunacy, the question is, how many believers effectively act in a similar fashion, by the way they pick and choose what they want to believe in Scripture? And this also has to do with what we actually read.
How many believers today have read the entire Bible? And on a regular basis? Many Christians today do well if they get through a few Psalms and a bit of the New Testament – in a month! They seem to assiduously avoid any of the challenging bits of Scripture, and can easily gloss over those bits which they do in fact read.
So simply our selectivity in reading the Word is an indication of our own biblical revisionism at work. So before we condemn the Hitlers and the Jeffersons, maybe we need to look at ourselves. Maybe we are just as guilty of decimating Scripture to suit our own purposes.
And it is not just the believer in the pews and his reading of Scripture. What about the pastor and preacher who also selectively proclaim biblical truth. The great majority of these folks today are highly selective on what texts they use, and they use very little of it when they do.
Topical sermons are all the rage today, and the faithful, systematic exposition of entire books of the Bible is very rare indeed nowadays. I for one grow really weary of all this topical preaching which maybe allows one or two verses in a Sunday sermon.
That is not how we should be treating the Word of God. That is why I love reading people like Martyn Lloyd-Jones. They actually preached Scripture, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book. Indeed just last night I was reading the Doctor and I came upon his views on this.
He was discussing the marvellous plan of God in our redemption, and the amazing biblical storyline, and he said this: “Do you know the message of this gospel? Do you know why Paul gloried in it? It is because he had come to see that God had got a plan for this miserable, wretched, failing sinful world.
“And it is a plan that he had planned before the very foundation of the world itself. I know of nothing so wonderful in the whole world today. That is why I do not preach topical sermons, I have something to tell you that is worth listening to!”
And what he said in thousands of sermons and millions of words most certainly was worth listening to. That is because he routinely and unflinchingly proclaimed biblical truth – the whole counsel of God. He preached the “nice” bits as well as the “unpleasant” bits.
So whether it is the Christian in the pews or the preacher in the pulpits, we all have an obligation to preach and read the whole Bible for the whole man. We have no right at all to simply revise and re-write the Bible to suit our own purposes. We expect enemies of Christianity to engage in such biblical revisionism, but no one naming the name of Christ dare be found guilty of such practices.