Abortion and the Christian: Given the Mood of the Country, We’ll be Called on to Defend What We Believe
With President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court justice, we’ll soon be hearing a lot more about abortion, the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 and when life begins in the womb.
As Christians, we’ll be in the thick of things, whether we speak up or are merely linked by association. So here are a few key things to know as the debate about Kavanaugh heats up.
A Brief History of Birth and Abortion
First, let’s look backwards. Throughout most of the world’s known history, abortion has either been illegal or so rare as to go unmentioned. Even though abortions took place in clandestine areas, they were mostly sought by prostitutes or by those attempting to hide illicit affairs.
Child birth itself killed a fair share of babies and mothers.
A few historical societies have allowed abortion, but before modern scientific breakthroughs, the goal was to keep as many kids alive as possible. Child birth itself killed a fair share of babies and mothers, and childhood diseases that are now eradicated or easily treatable killed many other children in their first few years of life. Just 100 years ago, a flu epidemic swept the nation – and most of world – decimating the population. In one family I personally know of, three children died in a single week.
In agrarian societies, more children meant more workers for the farm, so there was no incentive to limit the number of children being born. If you had 10 and six or seven lived to adulthood it was great news.
So killing babies through abortion was a ridiculous idea for most of history.
The Roe v. Wade Decision
It wasn’t until the Free Sex Era of the 1960s and ‘70s that the easy access to abortion became a growing concern. In 1970, a Texas woman named Norma McCorvey – who became infamous under the pseudonym Jane Roe – became pregnant and sought to end her pregnancy. But the illegal abortion center she went to had been shut down. She then falsely claimed she’d been raped, thinking that would get her access to a legal abortion. It didn’t.
McCorvey sought the help of two female lawyers, who filed a lawsuit to declare the Texas law prohibiting legal abortions to be unconstitutional. It eventually reached the Supreme Court, and after being argued and reargued over more than a year, the Texas law was declared unconstitutional on Jan. 22, 1973.
While the Left makes this seem like purely a women’s issue, the ruling was a relief to many men at the time.
That ruling, in effect, struck down any state laws prohibiting abortions. The ruling was based on a somewhat liberal and convoluted interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (That amendment deals primarily with voting rights and the selection and removal of state senators, but it does have a clause that says states cannot infringe on people’s individual rights. Because of this, Roe v. Wade is often cited as granting the right to abortion. While the Left makes this seem like purely a women’s issue, the ruling was a relief to many men at the time who no longer had to face either marrying the women they got pregnant or paying 18 years of child support.)
Roe v. Wade did allow states to prohibit abortions after a fetus is deemed to be “viable,” meaning that it can survive after birth. At the time this was considered to be the third trimester, meaning states could stop abortions only after the first two trimesters, at about 26 weeks or so.
A subsequent 1992 ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, acknowledged that modern science has pushed the viability date back, meaning that babies in the second trimester could be viable, but the decision left a rather vague guideline to follow in determining an exact date. Most states, to avoid drawn-out court battles, dropped most abortion laws for many years, although recently some conservative states have again brought them into play.
While people on the Left have raised the specter of Kavanaugh’s appointment leading to making abortion illegal in the United States, at best all it could mean is a reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision. If that happened it would leave it up to individual states to decide on the legality of abortion. Probably even the most conservative states would allow some form of early abortion while liberal states like California could build a Planned Parenthood abortion facility on every block if they chose to.
Planned Parenthood and the Rise of the Abortion Industry
Which brings up the next part of our look backward: The prominent role of Planned Parenthood in the abortion debate.
The group’s name sounds like it’s a nice organization, helping parents make wise decisions about parenting. In reality, it is primarily an abortion facility with some very dark beginnings.
The roots of the organization are generally traced to Margaret Sanger, who was a birth control advocate in the early part of the 20th century. Her stated goal was to liberate women from the “slavery” of motherhood. But she was also in league with leaders of the eugenics movement.
Eugenics was the basis for Adolph Hitler’s belief in a superior Aryan race and the inferiority of the Jews.
Eugenics was a pseudo-scientific belief that some races – those primarily from Northern Europe – were superior to other races. Those “feeble-minded” inferior races, as Sanger called them, included Negroes and undesirable immigrants, especially South European Catholics. (Eugenics was the basis for Adolph Hitler’s belief in a superior Aryan race and the inferiority of the Jews.) Sanger was also said to have had ties to the Ku Klux Klan.
At least a part of the early idea behind eugenics was that undesirables like the black population could be controlled or even eliminated by birth control, abortion and forced sterilization. Although Sanger later disavowed her prejudice against people of color, it was from these roots that Planned Parenthood began.
Currently, Planned Parenthood claims it offers women a range of contraceptive services and even mammograms. But we know from former Planned Parenthood employees and pro-life research that most clinics only offer abortion services. A few offer contraceptives, but few if any offer more than that.
Medical Research and the Beginning of Life
Bringing things into the present, we can look at the medical research regarding a baby’s development in the womb. As the Supreme Court acknowledged in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the age of viability keeps changing as medical technology and research has increased the ability to keep babies alive at a younger age. Doctors now even have the ability to do surgery on babies in the womb.
The age that life begins varies depending on who you talk to. Those on the farthest conservative side say that it begins at fertilization, since everything is in place for the formation of a human at that point the sperm hits the egg. Those on the farthest liberal side generally believe that life doesn’t start until the baby is fully delivered (allowing for the controversial partial-birth abortion).
Even a definition that life begins with a heartbeat or brain function places the beginning of life within the first month and a half.
A baby’s heartbeat can be detected by about day 22 or 23 after fertilization. Brain waves can be detected at 40-43 days. So even a definition that life begins with a heartbeat or brain function places the beginning of life within the first month and a half. It is hard at that point to call it simply a mass of tissue or a part of a woman’s body, as pro-abortion advocates describe it.
The Question of Murder
The question then arises, is abortion murder? The answer is yes, no, maybe – again depending on who you ask. The pro-abortionist will say that it isn’t, that it’s simply removing an unwanted growth, as you would a wart. They claim it won’t be a baby until it is birthed.
For those advocating for abortion, the deciding factor to call something murder or not depends on the woman’s choice.
Ah, but what happens if someone kills the mother and the baby dies in the womb? Or hurts the mother in a way that causes the baby to die inside the womb? Then it is considered murder, or in the first case, double murder. So it seems that for those advocating for abortion, the deciding factor to call something murder or not depends on the woman’s choice. If she chooses to end the life of the child, it’s not murder. If someone else ends the life of the child at the same stage of pregnancy, then it is murder.
Staunch pro-lifers will say that killing the baby, whether by making a choice of abortion or at someone else’s hand, is always murder. But there are also the maybes – those who believe abortion is murder, except if the baby was conceived through rape or incest, or the mother’s life is in danger.
Statistics show (depending on the wording of the question on surveys) that the number of Americans who think abortion is wrong is growing, and is now more than 50 percent of the population.
The Christian Perspective on the Value of Life
So what does the Bible say about abortion? Surprisingly, the answer is: nothing.
But this hardly means the Bible condones it. As I mentioned at the beginning, in earlier times abortion was at such odds with the goal of keeping children alive that it hardly warranted a prohibition against it.
The Bible does, though, make frequent mention of the value of life, even in the womb. All life is created by God even when human means of conception are used (Jer. 1:5, Ps. 139:13-16).
Murder is almost always defined in the Bible as the taking of innocent life.
Murder is wrong by God’s standards, which He stated in the Ten Commandments and which Jesus re-emphasized. Murder is almost always defined in the Bible as the taking of innocent life. Nothing could be much more innocent than a baby in the womb.
Children are considered a blessing from God (Ps. 127:3-5, John 16:21). All human life is considered valuable and made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26).
Given the value of human life, in the womb and beyond, there hardly needs to be a specific prohibition on abortion to see that it is not part of God’s will. In other words, there is no doubt that abortion is wrong.
As Christians we must stand strong on this – in love, of course, not in condemnation (if you have had an abortion, please read this message of hope). When confronting other Christians who believe that a woman’s right to choose trumps the life of the baby, we can use the life-giving message of the Bible as our God.
Non-Christians, though, will put little trust in what the Bible says. Then we will get better traction by speaking of the medical science.
We mustn’t be afraid to speak up.
Many times, we as Christians try to avoid controversial subjects such as these. But when something is clearly so wrong as abortion, then we mustn’t be afraid to speak up. And, given the current emotional state of our country, Christians will become part of this narrative, whether we want to or not. Knowing the facts, and what we believe, is an important part of standing up for what we believe.
As my personal style rather obviously attests, I pay no attention to what GQ magazine has to say. So when it released a list of 21 Books You Don’t Have to Read, and included the Bible as one of those, it made little difference to me.
But some Christians have been in an uproar about the Bible’s inclusion on this list because, of course, it is vital to our faith. They are angry with GQ’s advice that you don’t have to read the Bible to have a successful life. My question, though, is, Why have so many Christians seemed to follow this advice for years?
It isn’t so much that these Christians don’t think the Bible is important as that they live as if most of it is irrelevant to their lives.
“Bible illiteracy” is a phrase used with increasing frequency by pastors to describe their congregants’ lack of knowledge about the book they supposedly revere. It isn’t so much that these Christians don’t think the Bible is important as that they live as if most of it is irrelevant to their lives.
Of course, they’d never say so. Most of them have Bible apps on their phones and can quickly pull up any verse. Some of them get the daily push notification for the Verse of the Day, which they take time to look at several days a week. On Sundays, some of them read the verse along with the pastor when it pops up on the big screen for a minute or two.
But, unfortunately, that is the extent of Bible reading for all too many Christians, even those who take exception to GQ’s list.
Why is this? I think there are several reasons, and with chagrin, I admit that those of us in church leadership may be sabotaging the very thing we desire to see in our congregations. Here are a few thoughts on why Bible reading has become so lax among so many Christians.
Reading has become irrelevant. Society as a whole has placed decreasing value on reading anything longer than 140 characters. Many people tell me that they seldom read a book, often less than one per year – and some tell me this with a measure of pride in their voices. Perhaps it’s our decreasing attention spans that cause this problem, or we’re so inundated by information from so many sources that reading seems like an overwhelming endeavor.
If people aren’t going to read the latest action thriller, they probably aren’t going to read through 1 Chronicles.
Whatever the reason, it has spilled over into our Bible reading. If people aren’t going to read the latest action thriller, they probably aren’t going to read through 1 Chronicles. Reading starts by example. If parents aren’t reading the Bible, it’s unlikely the kids will start on their own – and if church leaders aren’t reading the Bible, the congregants won’t see it as a priority, either.
Bible studies don’t live up to their names. Often today’s Bible study consists of watching a video and answering questions from a book by an author who quotes Bible passages to illustrate his point. There is nothing wrong in this in itself, because many authors have valuable points to make about Christian life. But they are studies that often mean the participants don’t have to open the Bible, or even bring one along.
A Bible study should have the Bible as its center point, and should consist of entire passages to include context. Otherwise it becomes a study about pieces of the Bible instead of a Bible study.
The Big Screen. When was the last time you heard a pastor asking you to turn to a passage in your Bible? Most churches today, even those of relatively small size, have at least one big screen at the front that flashes the pastor’s next point and the verses to illustrate that point. It’s also popular to have “talk notes” that list out the verses.
Again, nothing wrong with this, and it can often be helpful to have everyone looking at the same translation. But I’ve noticed that few people even bother bringing a Bible to church, and those that do seldom turn to a passage to follow along. The problem is that this makes actually reading the Bible, placing a passage in context, seem irrelevant. On many occasions, when reading the verses before and after, I’ve gained new insight or even noticed additional information. Pastors are often limited to 30-40 minutes in their sermons, which frequently means they can’t bring out all the nuances and information about a passage that you can pick up by seeing a verse in context.
The Little Screen. Many people have switched to doing most of their reading from a tablet or smartphone, including their Bible reading. Because I often read more than one book at a time, this is great for me – except for Bible reading. I’ve switched back to reading a paper Bible.
One reason is that it does help me better place things in context, when I can see an entire page, or even two pages at a time. There’s also a certain weight that words on paper have that doesn’t seem present in electronic versions.
But probably the main reason I chose to go back to paper is to avoid the distractions. When reading on my tablet, I saw the various notifications pop up from email, text, Twitter, news feeds and Facebook. Even when I chose to ignore them, they were a distraction. Reading in paper avoids those notifications and the temptation to “just for a second” look at those other things.
Why should we read about how to treat slaves or how to get along with our multiple wives in an era when neither of those are part of our culture?
Lack of relevance I. The Bible is a book that began being written 4,000 years ago, and was last added to 2,000 years ago. Many of the customs, histories and even language feel old and out of place, hard to relate to in modern times. Why should we read about how to treat slaves or how to get along with our multiple wives in an era when neither of those are part of our culture? And not boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk – is that even a thing?
Lack of relevance II. The Bible is a book that calls us to live differently than the world. But living different from the world seems to mean little more than going to church on a fairly regular basis and not cussing quite as much. Other than that, we justify things like pursuing money and the things money can buy as a top priority, leaving a spouse because we want something “more,” and planning for the ultimate, retirement. After all, we don’t want to turn off the world from Christianity, right? So we’d better make it acceptable to them or they’ll think we’re weird and won’t want to join us.
Of course, with both relevance I and II, it’s very easy to justify leaving the Bible on the shelf. After all, the verses we get on our daily app are so much more encouraging. (Today’s was, “For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God.” Very encouraging as long as I don’t have to think about it too long, and it only took seconds out of my day to read it!)
I’ve already written about the importance of Bible reading, and will add more in the future. But for now, I think it is important that before we criticize GQ for making the Bible sound irrelevant, we’d be best served to spend more time making it relevant for ourselves.
Gary Kauffman is a Christian life coach, freelance writer and part-time church staff member in Augusta, Ga. No, he cannot get you tickets for The Masters.
If you’ve been reading your Bible on a regular basis, you’ve come across a word dozens, perhaps hundreds of times, depending on the translation you’re reading. It is so ubiquitous that people often read right over it, often unaware how important that one word can be to creating a better understanding of the words they’re reading.
This important word is “therefore.” It pops up a lot. The New International Version (NIV) uses it 442 times, the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) employs it 611 times, it appears 785 times in the English Standard Version (ESV), 903 times in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and a whopping 1,340 times in the New King James Version (NKJV).
Obviously, it is an important word or it wouldn’t be used that much. So what does it mean?
Anytime you see the word “therefore” you have to ask, what is it there for?
Anytime you see the word “therefore” you have to ask, what is it there for? It is a connector word that links one thought to the next. The passage that comes after the “therefore” always will relate to the passage that came before it. The dictionary definition is “in consequence of” or “as a result.” Or we could say, if this passage is true then the result is the next passage. The NIV and HCSB, especially, often replace “therefore” with “that is why” or “then.”
Consider Eph. 6:13: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” What is the “therefore” relating to? Why are we to put on the full armor of God?
Back up to verse 12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Here we see that the reason we need the full armor of God is because we are fighting a battle against spiritual forces of evil.
Or consider Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” What is the “therefore” there for? Why are we no longer condemned?
Back up again to chapter 7, where Paul has spent a good deal of time lamenting the fact that the Law cannot save, and it in fact just makes sinning seem all the worse. He tries to do what is right but ends up failing, and the Law condemns him for failing. In verse 24 he cries out in anguish, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” The answer comes in verse 25: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
What follows is 8:1. The “therefore” refers to his failing and Christ’s deliverance. Because of that deliverance, Christ followers are no longer condemned for their sins. He goes on to explain that what the Law was powerless to do, Christ did for us.
The Bible often explains a passage with another passage, and “therefore” creates that link. Therefore, the word “therefore” is an important piece in understanding the Bible better.
“What is God’s will for my life?”
That is one of the most frequently asked questions by Christians, often in a voice tinged with anguish, confusion, longing or fear – sometimes all of them at once. It is a legitimate question because as sincere Christians we want to honor God in all that we do. Knowing His will is an important part of that.
The question is often asked by young people in college or soon after graduation, when they realize that the real world awaits. Is it God’s will that I take a job in the secular world or that I go into full-time Christian work? And if so, is it God’s will that I attend a seminary or go onto the mission field? Is it God’s will that I marry that cute girl I saw in church but whose name I don’t even know yet?
But older people ask it as well, sometimes with even more angst because there are families, bills and prestige to consider. Is it God’s will that I go back to school? Is that job offer three states away God’s will for my life? Is it God’s will that I buy a motorcycle instead of car because of the better gas mileage? (Yes, I’ve actually heard that one.)
I’ve wrestled with the question myself and I’m sure you have too. Doing God’s will is important. So what if I told you a sure-fire way to determine God’s no-doubt-about-it will for your life? Interested?
OK, here’s how you do it – read the Bible.
Oh, did that disappoint you? After all, the Bible says nothing about going back to school, or job offers in other states, or marrying cute girls, and is especially silent on the motorcycle vs. car debate.
God has made it abundantly clear what His will is for our lives – He’s stated it and in most cases restated it more than once.
But it is chock-full of passages about God’s will for your life. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
It is God’s will that you:
- Love God with all your heart, soul and strength. It says so in Deut. 6:5 and Jesus emphasized it in Matt. 22:37, Mark: 12:30 and Luke 10:27.
- Love your neighbor as yourself. Lev. 19:18, Matt. 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27
- Love one another as believers. John 15:12, 1 John 4:11-12
- Make disciples. Matt. 28:19, 1 Cor. 11:1, Heb. 13:7
- Be generous. Mal. 3:8-10, Luke 6:38, 1 Tim. 6:17-19
- Live in victory. John 10:10, John 16:33, 1 Cor. 15:57
- Keep His commands. John 14:15, 1 John 2:3
- Be thankful. 1 Thess. 5:18, Eph. 5:20
There are a number of other things that are God’s will as well, such as prayer, submitting to one another and being filled with the Spirit. If you are a married man, it is God’s will that you love your wife unconditionally as Christ loved the church; if you are a married woman, it is God’s will that you submit to your husband as the church submits to Christ.
Maybe we should start by asking, “Am I doing God’s will that He has already revealed to me in His Word?”
The point is, God has made it abundantly clear what His will is for our lives – He’s stated it and in most cases restated it more than once. So before we ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” when facing new situations, maybe we should start by asking, “Am I doing God’s will that He has already revealed to me in His Word?”
If we’re not already loving and being generous and living in victory, etc., then maybe we should concentrate more on those things before wondering about that out-of-state job or the cute nameless potential marriage partner. It’s not that God doesn’t care about those things, or that He doesn’t have a will for those areas of our lives. He does. But it seems rather self-serving to seek His will in the unknown if we’re not already living in His known will.
Plus, there’s a good chance that once we start following His will as outlined in His Word, the path of His will in those other situations, even regarding motorcycles and cars, will become much clearer.
The other day I read an interesting article about a neat little trick our brains do to us called experience-dependent neuroplasticity. Before your eyes glaze over, let me explain this amazing brain ability.
The brain can actually rewire its neurons to help you remember things better and faster. If you think the same thoughts over and over, the brain starts grouping those neurons together to make it easier for you to access those thoughts. It’s part of the learning process that makes it easier, for example, for you recall the facts and processes you need to do your job well.
Here’s the bad part – the brain does the same thing even if we keep thinking negative thoughts. So if you complain a lot or are a worry wart, your brain helpfully starts grouping those neurons together. “You want to worry?” your brain asks. “Here, let me make it easier for you.”
The concept of neuroplasticity has only been around in the scientific/psychology realm for less than 70 years, and is just recently starting to be accepted as a modern discovery of how to help people move from negativity to a more positive outlook.
Since He designed our brains, God he knew they would tend get stuck in a rut of thinking the same wrong thoughts over and over.
Except the concept isn’t modern at all – God revealed it in Scripture thousands of years ago.
Since He designed our brains, God he knew they would tend get stuck in a rut of thinking the same wrong thoughts over and over. But the great thing about neuroplasticity is that works both ways – yes, it can make negative thoughts easier to access, but when we train it with positive thoughts, it also makes positive thoughts easier to reach. So God outlined plenty of encouragement and ways for us to turn neuroplasticity into a rut of correct thoughts.
For example, in Deut. 6:4 we have the Shema, later quoted by Jesus, which tells us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and strength. But it continues with a command that shows the importance of neuroplasticity in positive thoughts.
“These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:6-9)
In other words, keep repeating God’s words over and over so that your brain reroutes the neurons to make them easy to recall.
This concept of using the brain’s innate ability is found throughout the Bible.
The more we think about God’s word and His character, the easier our brain will make it for us to keep thinking that way.
In Philippians 4, Paul instructs us to not worry about anything (don’t let negative thoughts dominate your mind so that they’re easy to recall). Instead, he tells us in Phil. 4:8, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”
In Romans 12:2, he instructs us to not be conformed to the world but instead “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Why? So that we may discern “what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
In the very first Psalm, we find this principle at work: “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers. Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.” The Psalmists frequently encourage meditating on God’s word and His character: “I will reflect on all you have done and meditate on your actions.” (Ps. 77:12)
So the more we think about God’s word and His character, the easier our brain will make it for us to keep thinking that way. It will allow us to do His will, to not be anxious or worry and to live a life that is an example to others. Thinking about God will become a self-perpetuating habit.
Neuroplasticity may seem like a recent breakthrough in the study of the brain science, but Bible readers have known about it for thousands of years. God has known about this little brain trick all along because He created it.
Parts or all of the Bible have been translated into more than 2,100 languages. But there was one language that almost didn’t get a Bible translation because of the deadly controversy surrounding it.
Translating the Bible into this language was a dangerous task, often ending in the death of the translator. It took almost 200 years before the Bible finally appeared in this language. You might think it was Arabic, given the natural animosity between the Islam and Christianity. Or perhaps Latin, given the early opposition to Christianity by the Romans. Or perhaps Chinese or Russian.
It was English.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). In the late 300s A.D., Jerome translated it into Latin, which became known as the Vulgate (or common person’s) Bible. It was the standard of the Roman Catholic Church for the next millennium.
John Wycliffe came along with the strong belief that the Bible should be translated into English.
However, despite its name, few common people at that time could read the Vulgate – or read anything, since formal education was only for the elite. That meant only the priests had the knowledge of what the Bible said, and the population had to trust their interpretation of it.
In the 1380s, John Wycliffe came along with the strong belief that the Bible should be translated into English. He began the translation process from the Latin Vulgate. He produced dozens of handwritten copies of the Bible. But the Roman Catholic Church saw this as a direct affront to its authority, and had him excommunicated. His work so enraged a later Pope that 44 years after Wycliffe’s death, he had Wycliffe’s bones dug up, crushed and scattered in a river.
One of Wycliffe’s protégés, John Hus, continued his work. For his troubles, he was burned at the stake in 1415. The fire was ignited using Wycliffe’s English translations of the Bible.
In 1517, Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation and along with it began translating the Bible into his native German. But English was still non grata. While Luther worked on his German translation, seven people were burned at the stake for teaching their children to recite the Lord’s Prayer in English.
William Tyndale befriended Luther and in 1526 successfully printed the first English copies of the New Testament. They were quickly confiscated and burned. Tyndale was imprisoned and finally, in 1536, it was decided that one death wasn’t enough for him – he was strangled and burned at the stake. A year later, two of his disciples, Myles Coverdale and John Rogers, managed to successfully publish the entire Bible in English.
What finally turned the tide in bringing the Bible to the English-speaking world was not a great reformer, but a king who wanted to have his way. King Henry VIII, who famously had eight wives, made a break from the Roman Catholic Church when the Pope refused to grant him a divorce. He formed his own church, which became known as the Anglican Church, which was neither Catholic nor Protestant. Coverdale was hired in 1541 to produce an English Bible for this new church.
The peace was short-lived. In 1553, the Queen known as Bloody Mary assumed the throne and returned England to the Catholicism. Some of the blood on her hands belonged to Bible translators, including Rogers. Coverdale escaped to Geneva, Switzerland, where he continued his work. Finally in 1560 – 180 years after Wycliffe began the translations – the Swiss church published the first English version of the scriptures, which became known as the Geneva Bible.
The Roman Catholic church, recognizing it had been beat, produced their own English version in the 1580s, although since it was based on the error-prone Latin Vulgate, was not considered as accurate as the Geneva Bible. When King James I assumed the throne, he returned England to the Anglican Church. It was under his authority that an Anglican version of the Bible was printed in 1611, which was heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic version. It became the popular King James Version that would dominate English speaking churches for more than 250 years.
When the first Protestants sailed to America, for example, it was the Geneva Bible that crossed the ocean with them.
The Geneva Bible was the first to mark chapters and verses and was immensely popular for the next 80 years, outshining the King James Version for several decades.
When the first Protestants sailed to America, for example, it was the Geneva Bible that crossed the ocean with them, and it remained popular in the new country into the 1800s. But the King James Version was the first English Bible to be printed in America.
After almost 200 years of bloodshed, more than 200 years of peace reigned as virtually all English speakers began using the King James Version. It wasn’t until 1880 that the English Revised Version of the Bible turned some people from the KJV. It was also the first Bible, either Protestant or Catholic, to remove the Apocrypha from between the testaments.
The KJV continues to be the Bible of choice slightly more than half of Americans.
That started a wave of English translations over the next 140 years, including the American Standard in 1901 and the New American Standard in 1971. In 1973, the New International Version was produced and has since become popular in evangelical churches. In 1982, the New King James Version was printed. The English Standard Version joined the popular translations in 2002 and the Holman Christian Standard Bible in 2004. A revision of the Holman Bible, the Christian Standard Bible, was released in 2017.
But more than 400 years later, the KJV continues to be the Bible of choice slightly more than half of Americans. The NIV ranks second (between 11 and 19 percent, depending on the survey), the only other English version that garners double-digit popularity.
Through various Bible apps you can now view dozens of English translations of the Bible. And if you’re so inclined, Bible Gateway app offers the opportunity to read the Bible that started it all, the Geneva Bible.
Gary Kauffman is a freelance writer, photographer and Bible teacher in North Augusta, S.C.
Healthy eating is important to everyone, but even more important is healthy Bible reading.
I was reminded of this recently when I came across information about Ezekiel bread. Apparently it’s nothing new, but this particular reference was urging Christians to eschew regular bread in favor of Ezekiel bread. This bread is made from a “recipe” found in Ezekiel 4:9: “Also take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt. Put them in a single container and make them into bread for yourself.”
The idea is that all these things mixed together create a far superior and more nutritious bread than bread made from wheat, especially bread made from refined flour. This reference touted it as being God’s plan to keep us healthy.
That all sounds great, especially since it actually quotes a Bible verse. What could be better than following God’s recipe? But here is the danger in taking things out of context. When God gave this recipe to Ezekiel, it wasn’t because it was a good thing to eat but because it was a bad thing to eat.
God’s Strange Command to Ezekiel
Here is the context of Ezekiel 4: God has instructed the prophet to make a drawing of the city of Jerusalem, set up a model of it being attacked by a foreign army and then he is to lie in front of it on his left side for 390 days – a little more than a year. After that, he gets to change sides! But he’s only going to be on his right side for a mere 40 days.
During this time he is to eat this bread made from the four grains and two legumes. And he is to bake it using human excrement as fuel – that’s right, human excrement. When the prophet protests, God relents and allows him to use cow dung as the fuel source. Whew!
Like lying on his side, this bread recipe also serves as an illustration for the people of Israel. “The Lord said, ‘This is how the Israelites will eat their bread—ceremonially unclean—among the nations where I will banish them.’” (Ezek. 4:13)
That’s right, Ezekiel’s bread was considered an affront to God. Touching or eating anything unclean in those days meant you were basically banished from society until you could make yourself clean again. So Ezekiel was not considering any health benefits coming from this bread.
Although it doesn’t say what about this recipe makes it unclean, it is probably because of the mixing of grains and legumes. In the Old Testament law, mixing of two things was often prohibited – the Israelites weren’t allowed to plant two types of grain together, they weren’t allowed to plow with both an ox and mule yoked together, they weren’t allowed to breed two types of cattle and they weren’t allowed to make clothing from two types of fabric.
While making bread from more than one type of grain isn’t specifically forbidden in the law, the general rule of not mixing unlike things together probably applied to this as well. That is why the bread made in Ezek. 4:9 would be considered ceremonially unclean.
The Importance of Context
This is an illustration of what happens when we decided to focus on one verse without the entire context. We can mistakenly think it means one thing when, in fact, it may mean the exact opposite. Unfortunately, with the advent of verse-of-the-day apps and large video screens in churches showing only the specific verse a pastor is citing, we often see verses out of context.
I have nothing against those apps or video screens, but even when the verse is being cited correctly, we can miss the deeper and richer meaning we get when we view it in context. And sometimes another verse within the context will have an even more significant personal application. That is why it is always advisable to consider verses in context, even from people you trust. This is the healthy way to read scripture.
After Peter’s vision of the clean and the unclean in Acts 10, we as Christians generally believe that the prohibition of eating unclean things has been lifted for us. So there is nothing that prohibits Christians from eating Ezekiel bread (although at around $19 a loaf, the question of stewardship of finances may arise). It may even have all the health benefits it touts.
However, if you hear anyone claiming Christians should eat Ezekiel bread because this is God’s health plan as stated in Ezek. 4:9, advise them to read the context of the reference. And please ask what they’re using as a fuel source for baking.