Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Clear Word Debate

I mentioned in my last posts that I would deal a little with the Clear Word (first published as the Clear Word Bible). Here is what Dale Ratzlaff said in his letter to Jud Lake:

Yes, and why is it that the church continues to allow The Clear Word to be sold and now
sells the Clear Word for Kids knowing that there is purposeful and blatant deception where

the views of Ellen White and SDA theology are read right into the text without any manuscript evidence whatsoever?14 How does the church expect intelligent, informed and honest people to go along with this kind of purposeful deception?

14 Here are just three examples. In Dan. 8:14 in The New American Standard Bible reads, “He said to me, ‘For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.’” Now compare this to The Clear Word Bible (CWB). My copy does say “Bible” but I understand now it is just The Clear Word. “He said to him, ‘After twothousand three hundred prophetic days (or two thousand three hundred years), God will step in, proclaim the truth about Himself and restore the ministry of the Sanctuary in heaven to its rightful place. This is when the judgmentwill begin, of which the cleansing of the earthly sanctuary was a type.’” In Jn. 8:58. NASB reads: “Jesus said tothem, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” The Clear Word reads, “Jesus said, ‘Because I existed before Abraham was born.” The CWB omits the “I AM” which shows that Jesus is indeed the Divine Lord, the YHWH (Jehovah), the eternally existent One mentioned in Ex. 3:4-13. The CWB makes the “Bible” agree with many of the Arian statements in the writings of EGW. A third example is found in Rev. 1:10. The NASB reads, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet.” Even though the term “Lord’s day” was used for Sunday in the early church (See Sabbath in Christ, p. 315-330.), The CWB twists Revelation 1:10 to read, “One Sabbath morning when I had gone to the rocky island shore to meditate and worship, I suddenly heard a voice behind me that sounded as loud as a trumpet.” I encourage the reader to go to: where you will find 22 pages of documented places where CWB has added, deleted and twisted the wording of numerous texts to help them line up with the unbiblical teachings of Ellen White and Adventism. Why would anyone want to twist the Bible like this? Why would a church continue to allow such a book to be sold? The answer should be obvious to any seeker for truth. See also Cultic Doctrine, p. 303-324.

Jud Lake does not really deal with the advertised representation of the Clear Word but assumes that the disclaimer inserted into the book is sufficient and then Jud Lake ignores the rather huge issues such as that of Dan. 8:14. Jud Lake writes in response to Ratzlaff:

There is much that could be said about these strong words, "purposeful and blatant deception." But I will save a more detailed analysis for another time. The cover of The Clear Word (2000) states that it is "An expanded paraphrase." The "Preface" begins with these words:

"The Clear Word is not a translation, but a devotional expanded paraphrase of the Holy Scriptures intended to nurture growth. It should not be considered a study Bible. Excellent translations of the Scriptures are available for such purposes."

Later in the preface, the author, Jack Blanco, states: "Much like a sermon, the volume in your hands is an interpretive work based on the greatest Book ever written."

This is hardly how the book is advertised.

Checking the Adventist book center online

Reveals a total of 15 editions of the Clear Word, from paperback to leather and including The Easy English Clear Word, The Clear Word for Kids, The Clear Word Gospel of John, and a version The Clear Word Psalms and Proverbs and The Clear Word New Testament Audio CD. While the ads noted the book as a paraphrase, not once did it say “expanded paraphrase”, though of the pocket size Gospel of John the description did say, expanded devotional paraphrase from The Clear Word. I am not even sure what that means. It the pocket book of John an expansion of the material in the already expanded Clear Word or is it just taken from the Clear Word which itself is already and expansion.

The main details screen for the Clear Word reads:

For everyone who hungers for a clearer understanding of God’s Word and a richer devotional experience

Imagine how much more you would get out of the Bible if the meaning of every passage were crystal clear. Compare the same text from the King James Version and The Clear Word.

"Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way" (Psalm 119: 36, 37, KJV).

"Turn my heart toward your law more than toward accumulating riches. Help me not to desire worthless trinkets, but give me more desire for your word" (Psalm 119: 36, 37, TCW).

The Clear Word lets the power of ancient texts come through today. As the meaning of Scripture becomes more transparent, you see more of God’s grace. His love shines through even in difficult Old Testament passages. The Clear Word has renewed the devotional lives of thousands of people. Let it renew yours. Now available in the popular two-column format with the text in paragraphs.

Only at the end under the author does it even identify the work as a paraphrase on this the details page.

Jack J. Blanco is the former dean of the School of Religion of Southern Adventist University, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. He began writing this paraphrase by hand to develop a deeper devotional experience with Jesus Christ.

Jud Lake continues:

Please note this is considered by the author to be much like a "sermon," an "interpretive work" based on the Bible. As such, this paraphrase does not attempt to adhere strictly to the original manuscripts. As Eugene Peterson says in the introduction to his paraphrase, The Message (which Blanco quotes in his preface!), "The goal [of a paraphrase] is not to render a word-for-word conversion of Greek into English, but rather to convert the tone, the rhythm, the events, the ideas, into the way we actually think and speak."

The above statement may be true of a paraphrase. But there is no such definition of an “Expanded Paraphrase” the author has can’t insert information found nowhere in the Bible and assert that it carries the tone, rhythm, the events, the idea’s into a way we speak. Possibly the expanded paraphrase can carry the rhythm, but not the tone of the text, the events of the texts or the idea’s of the text. For example the Book of Mormon does an excellent job of carrying the rhythm of the King James Bible, yet without the merit of meaning that is the primary reason for use of the Bible.

Jud Lake uses something that is very familiar to those who have to deal with traditionalist Adventists when he continues:

Now, you may disagree with the way Blanco has paraphrased certain passages, but to say that the church is committing a "purposeful and blatant deception" by publishing the Clear Word greatly misrepresents the facts. Please note: The Clear Word is not an official publication of the SDA Church, but a publication of the Review & Herald Publishing Association. There has never been any official vote to publish The Clear Word at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

The churches publishing arm publishes the book, it’s Adventist Bible centers sell and advertise the book, yet since there was no vote of the official General Conference it is a book separate for the Seventh-day Adventists. As I recall the book on the 27 fundamental beliefs was never voted on either, the marketing of that book as well as the Clear Word however tells a different story then the claim that it is not “official”.

As Wikipedia says:

In addition to the fundamental beliefs, a number of "Official Statements" have been voted by the church leadership, although only some of these are doctrinal in nature.[3] Books published on denominational presses could be considered to have a basic level of endorsement by the church, but it must be realised that these are in no way "official", and that there is diversity in which books are thus accepted. Another non-"official" way of determining the church's teaching would be to examine the various majority positions among Adventist scholars. The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary is significant, as are the various periodicals published by the church.

The SDA commentary would not be official either; I imagine that there are very few actual official SDA publications, maybe the Yearbook and possible some Ellen White books.

Referring to John 8:58 most all Bibles translate the verse to retain the “I am” meaning. Using Olivetree website since it is the easiest form to look at multiple translations here are the results:

(NKJV) John 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."
(NASB) John 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."
(KJV) John 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
(CEV) John 8:58 Jesus answered, "I tell you for certain that even before Abraham was, I was, and I am."
(TEV) John 8:58 "I am telling you the truth," Jesus replied. "Before Abraham was born, 'I Am'."
(RSV) John 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."
(Rotherham) John 8:58 Jesus said unto them--Verily, verily, I say unto you: Before, Abraham, came into existence, I, am.
(BBE) John 8:58 Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, Before Abraham came into being, I am.
(GodsWord) John 8:58 "Jesus told them, "I can guarantee this truth: Before Abraham was ever born, I am."
(Holman NT) John 8:58 Jesus said to them, " I assure you: Before Abraham was, I am."
(ISV NT) John 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly I tell you, before there was an Abraham, I am!"
(ASV) John 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was born, I am.
(Darby) John 8:58 Jesus said to them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
(Wey NT) John 8:58 "In most solemn truth," answered Jesus, "I tell you that before Abraham came into existence, I am."
(Young) John 8:58 Jesus said to them, `Verily, verily, I say to you, Before Abraham's coming--I am;'

In fact it is perfectly reasonable to question the Clear Word’s usage as it is the usage of the New World translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, see the CARM link.

It is not however, a very strong point as there are others who will translate or paraphrase the verse in a similar way:

See this link A partial listing from that website:

New American Standard Bible (NASB) (margin 1960-1973 editions): Or, "I have been."
The Living New Testament: "The absolute truth is that I was in existence before Abraham was ever born."
The 20th Century New Testament: "before Abraham existed I was."
The Complete Bible, An American Translation Goodspeed: "I tell you I existed before Abraham was born."
New Believers Bible, New Living Translation: "I existed before Abraham was even born."
The New Testament, C. B. Williams: "I solemnly say to you, I existed before Abraham was born."
The Book, New Testament: The absolute truth is that I was in existence before Abraham was ever born."

In truth it is very hard to get rid of all the Jesus divinity passages in the Bible, though it is true that early Adventists and even Ellen White had Semi-Arian tendencies it is doubtful based upon John 8:58 that such is Blanco meaning.

Finally Jud Lake says:

Later in this footnote you reference a study by one of your colleagues, Verle Streifling, that supposedly documents places where The Clear Word has "added, deleted, and twisted the wording of numerous texts to help them line up with the unbiblical teachings of Ellen White and Adventism." Don't all paraphrases add, delete, and change the wording of texts? In doing so, the authors obviously bring their theological understanding to the table. Are all evangelical paraphrases corrupting the Bible when their authors add, delete, and change the wording to reflect their particular theological understanding? Are all these paraphrases corrupt when they interpret texts differently than you do? If Eugene Peterson's The Message paraphrases a text differently from your theological understanding, is it then corrupt like Blanco's The Clear Word? Lets be fair and let a phraphrase be a paraphrase!

The problem that in Dan 8:14 reveals is, that Blanco's version is so different from any translation or paraphrase that it is clearly trying to insert meaning that is found nowhere in the Biblical text. Is that wrong? I think so. At one time we as a church would say do not add to or take away from the words of the Bible. Clearly we don’t live by that point of view anymore. In fact if it were applied to Ellen White the Adventist church would have condemned her long ago. Saying one thing and doing another has always been a problem in the SDA church. The church should not be surprised when, as has been the case for over a hundred years when people call the church on such activity.

Eugene Peterson has a problem with his verbiage when he uses New Age or Wicca terminology such as “as above so below” and Blanco has numerous interpretive problems. The advice that all should seriously consider is why use a paraphrase at all. Today there are excellent translations in English and there is no reason to use books that do so poorly at presenting the Biblical meaning as the Clear Word.


Anonymous said...

There is no Clear Word debate from what I can tell. It's obviously not written to be a Bible. It's someone's interpretation, which is how a paraphrase is defined. This paraphrase speaks to many Adventists, which is obviously why it's selling a lot and has been published in many versions. I think this blogger is making mountains out of small dust specks to create sensation.

al said...

My daughter teaches at a SDA school which has many non-Adventist students attending. When researching the school and Adventist beliefs, one parent of a prospective students wanted to know why Adventist had their own Bible. Perhaps it is not so obvious as some might wish.

Greg said...

Ron, I completely agree with your conclusions. It's a shame that the Adventist church has continued its tacit approval of the Clear Word. The Clear Word for Kids is now marketed as making the Bible "plain as pie," but anyone who has read it realizes how much it actually obscures the inspired Word of God with man-made doctrines.

I've blogged about your post at

Thanks for a great blog post.

For "anonymous", I'd simply ask whether you believe the same about the New World Translation. Because it "speaks" to Jehovah's Witnesses, do you believe this book that hides the deity of Christ is beneficial?