Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Clear Word Easy English More Travesties

The Clear Word - Yikes!!!

The following is taken from a series of posts on the Atomorrow,com Discussion Board by Don Sands and Adventist Educator. I have compiled it here with his permission because I think it is a critical issue in modern Adventism. (I have refrained from making any comments so that his thoughts can be seen as originally posted with a few minor deletions for clarity.

I visited the local ABC today and bought the wonderful Parallel Commentary on the New Testament featuring Spurgeon, Wesley and Henry. But, I noticed the latest addition to the Clear Word and am appalled. The Easy English edition leaves out "the more sordid details of wars and immoral practices". Maybe they want to make sure it can sell when communist Hong Kong puts the regular Bible on the restricted list.
Note this quote from the ABC site:

(I have highlighted in red the sections I find offensive):


At Last God Speaks Your Language

What better way to get acquainted with the English language than to study the world’s greatest book—the Book upon which the culture was founded. This fresh, slightly condensed paraphrase of the Bible conveys the ideas of each Bible verse in the most basic terms. There are no strange idioms, archaic jargon, or big words for scholars. Just pure, simple English to make God's message plain to those who are not native speakers of the language.

At last you can understand the Word of God!
At least you can hear His voice more clearly than ever and
know what He wants for you. Are you listening?

This is not a translation of the Bible but a condensed paraphrase for easier reading that focuses on the central thought of each passage. Verses have been grouped to make it easier to understand what the Bible is telling us. Long lists of ancestors have been shortened to include only the more familiar names. Some of the more sordid details of wars and immoral practices have been eliminated. But the basic message shines through loud and clear.

The Easy English Clear Word is a rewrite of Dr. Jack Blanco’s phenomenally successful paraphrase, The Clear Word, which has renewed the devotional life of thousands. Those who are just learning English and those with visual limitations will find the simplicity and larger type size of this paraphrase especially helpful. With reduced repetition, violence, and genealogies, The Easy English Clear Word is so easy to read that you’ll have to force yourself to stop. At last you can understand the Word of God! At last you can hear His voice more clearly than ever and know what He wants for you.


Who decides what is necessary and what isn't? Is it Dr. Blanco, or a publishing committee? Does anyone else see the dangers in this kind of publication?

Remember when Earnest Angley had his Reader's Digest Bible burning?

Where is the leadership of the
SDA Church on these matters?

We need to treasure careful Bible scholarship and avoid the slippery slope caused by such travesties as the Clear Word.

This is not the first time I have addressed this issue. Note this post and following discussion.

What are we doing to the Word of God? We need to rise to the heights of Biblical Scholarship. We can. But this is not the way, IMO.

The Clear Word Examined Genesis 1

Interesting paraphrase of the 'It was good' phrases.

  • Day One - God was pleased
  • Day Two - None
  • Day Three - It looked good,
  • Day Four - Blanco None, Hebrew Yes.
  • Day Five - 'What He saw made Him happy."
  • Day Six - 'What He say made Him happy." "It looked good. It made Him very happy."

This caught my attention because it talks about God being happy when He creates something. Biblical Theology acknowledges emotions in God. Classical Theology usually places God beyond the experience of emotions. After all, how can you know everything, the end from the beginning, and have emotions too?

The Clear Word - Genesis 2

vs 4


New International Version

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens-

The Easy English Clear Word

This is the story of how God made the earth and the sky in six days.

vs 18


The New International Version

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

The Easy English Clear Word

When God and His Son created man, They said to Each Other, "It's not good for man to be by himself. Let's make a suitable companion for him."

vs 25


New International Version

The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

The Easy English Clear Word

Adam and Eve didn't have to wear clothes then because God covered them with His light.


vs 4, A purpose of this paraphrase seems to be to remove ambiguity. Many contend that Genesis 2 presents a second version of the Creation story. Dr. Blanco opposes that by inserting 'in six days' into the chapter two text.

vs 18, The New Testament teaches that the Father made all things through the Son. Theologically, Dr. Blanco is correct. Again, the mystery of the text suffers in order to be clear in one's teaching. This verse does not have a plural base, it seems, yet Dr. Blanco inserts it.

vs 25, In his introduction to The Clear Word Youth Devotional, Jose Rojas states:


This is an expanded paraphrase of the Bible with many added insights from Ellen White and other Bible commentators. It is not intended as a study Bible to establish doctrinal truths. It's not intended to be read aloud in public. It's just for that moment each day in which you look into the eyes of God through the experiences of people from another time and place who trusted Him with their lives...

The idea that Adam and Eve wore garments of light is an ancient one, apparently. It is not supported by the text, however.

I bought The Easy English Clear Word not because I approve of it, but because I want to see if my initial shock is justified. As I read the book, I sense what Dr. Blanco is trying to accomplish and I even have sympathetic moments in favor of what he has done. But, its still wrong, IMO. I remain shocked.

As Adventists, we could lead the way in sound Biblical scholarship and we opt for this. I went to school at Southern and took Biblical Studies from one of the most careful scholars I have ever met, Dr. Gladson. He led the way to a dignified study of Scripture. The Clear Word, also a product of a Southern professor, confuses sound Biblical scholarship.

The Clear Word - Genesis 3

vs 6


The New International Version

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

The Easy English Clear Word

Instead of running back to her husband, Eve lingered at the tree. The fruit looked delicious! Then she touched it and nothing happened. So she took a bite. Excited, she ran to tell her husband. From this, Adam knew that Eve would die, so he took the fruit and ate it to die with her.


The idea that Adam and Eve were separated in the Garden can be traced back to Ellen White's writings:


The angels had cautioned Eve to beware of separating herself from her husband while occupied in their daily labor in the garden; with him she would be in less danger from temptation than if she were alone. But absorbed in her pleasing task, she unconsciously wandered from his side. On perceiving that she was alone, she felt an apprehension of danger, but dismissed her fears, deciding that she had sufficient wisdom and strength to discern evil and to withstand it. Unmindful of the angels' caution, she soon found herself gazing with mingled curiosity and admiration upon the forbidden tree. The fruit was very beautiful, and she questioned with herself why God had withheld it from them. Now was the tempter's opportunity. As if he were able to discern the workings of her mind, he addressed her: "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" Eve was surprised and startled as she thus seemed to hear the echo of her thoughts. But the serpent continued, in a musical voice, with subtle praise of her surpassing loveliness; and his words were not displeasing. Instead of fleeing from the spot she lingered wonderingly to hear a serpent speak. Had she been addressed by a being like the angels, her fears would have been excited; but she had no thought that the fascinating serpent could become the medium of the fallen foe.
Patriarchs and Prophets, page 53

And to John Milton two hundred years before that:


Eve says to Adam:

214 Let us divide our labours; thou, where choice
Adam replies to Eve:

249 For solitude sometimes is best society,
250 And short retirement urges sweet return.

Adam worries about the foe

251 But other doubt possesses me, lest harm
252 Befall thee severed from me; for thou knowest
253 What hath been warned us, what malicious foe
265 Or this, or worse, leave not the faithful side
266 That gave thee being, still shades thee, and protects.
267 The wife, where danger or dishonour lurks,
268 Safest and seemliest by her husband stays,
269 Who guards her, or with her the worst endures.

Paradise Lost, Book 9

If the format of Dr. Blanco's text did not simulate the Biblical text then his work could provide useful insights into Adventism. As it is, his work confounds the readers understanding of the Biblical text.

The Clear Word - Genesis 3 cont.

vs 7-9


The New International Version

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

The Easy English Clear Word

Immediately God's light that had covered them disappeared. They were naked and felt ashamed. So they got some large leaves and tried to cover themselves. Then they heard God walking in the garden. They were afraid, so they went and hid. But God knew where they were."


Dr. Blanco includes the 'light of God' idea further here.

'God knew where they were.' Of course, God is omniscient. Dr. Blanco does not intend this work to be a translation. Nor is he trying to be 'true' to the text. However, the publishers advertise 'Now God speaks your language'.

The Clear Word - Genesis 3 cont. (further)

vs 22


The New International Version

And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.

The Easy English Clear Word

Then God said to His Son, "Because Adam and Eve ate of the tree of good and evil, they are not like Us anymore..."


This example presents a far more serious matter.

Dr. Blanco has reversed the meaning of the text.

Yikes!!! I respond this way not because I like the original reading, but once we begin fooling with the meaning all we have left is our own ideas. I prefer a difficult ancient reading to my own 'correcting' of the text. I may even go so far as to suggest that the meaning got reversed somehow, but I will not tamper with the original thought, as it reads in the accepted text.

The Clear Word - Genesis 4

vs 1


21st Century King James Version

And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have gotten a man from the LORD."

Easy English Clear Word

Sometime later Eve had a baby boy and called him Cain. She said, "Maybe this is the boy that God promised would save us."


1) Cain means 'possession'. Eve acquired a man from the LORD.
2) Some literalists say that Eve gave birth to a full grown man. The Hebrew word 'man' has a variety of meanings.
3) The idea that Eve thought that Cain was the promised Redeemer is not unique to Dr. Blanco. Note this passage. I have not been able to find out if Ellen White said that Eve thought this way? Has anyone studied this?

Here is a more thorough examination of the idea:


Another Look at Eve

...In time, a son was born to them. God had promised a birth that would bring victory over Satan. Eve rejoiced over her firstborn, exclaiming, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord” (4:1), which Bushnell translates as “I have gotten a man [the word baby had not yet been coined] – even The Coming One!” Eve’s reasoning is understandable, although she was mistaken in identifying Cain, her firstborn, as the promised one.

Bushnell states: “The earliest Hebrew often employs ‘v’ (or ‘w,’ which is the same letter), where later Hebrew employs ‘j.’ The future form of the verb ‘to be’ is ‘jhjh,’ which is the name for Jehovah, Jahve, or Jahwe [Yahweh], as the name is variously spelled in English.”8

H. L. Ellison writes on 4:1 in the IVF International Bible Commentary:

Mediaeval commentators, as well as some later ones, understood Eve’s joyful words as meaning “I have gotten a man, even Yahweh,” as though she thought that Cain was the fulfillment of 3:15. This is highly improbable, though it is a possible rendering of the Hebrew. On the other hand, her recognition that her son was Yahweh’s gift suggests a growing trust in God (cf. 4:25). 9

Ellison does not explain why he thinks that Bushnell’s understanding is highly improbable. She quotes Dean of Canterbury Payne-Smith (1818–1895), also a member of the then Old Testament Revision Company. He wrote in Ellicott’s Commentary:

Jehovah means literally “He will come,” that is, “The Coming One.” The name is really man’s answer to and acceptance of the promises made in Genesis 3:15, and why should not Eve, to whom the promise was given, be the first to profess faith in it?… She did not know the meaning of the words she uttered, but she had believed the promise, and for her faith’s sake the spirit of prophecy rested upon her.… 10

Alexander Whyte also wrote: “Cain’s mother mistook Cain for Christ.… What a joyful woman Eve was that day!”...

Sexuality and the Clear Word

I have noticed that the reading of the Bible can be an effective launching point for sex education. Our own children understood the basic principles of sexuality long before puberty. When others were tittering about new found information, they calmly noted that they had heard it all before.

The Easy English Clear Word has "shortened some of the details of wars and immoral practices." How? Here are some examples:

Genesis 2:24,25 - Adam and Eve and Nakedness


New American Standard Bible

24(Z)For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25(AA)And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

The Easy English Clear Word

24 That's why men and women get married, because they belong to each other.
25 Adam and Eve didn't have to wear clothes then because God covered them with His own light.

Were Adam and Eve able to see each other, to admire the other's body? When they sinned they became aware of the shame of nakedness. Was it simply the modest effect of the light of God that changed?

Genesis 19:4-8 -
Sodom and Sexual Assault


New American Standard Bible

4But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. 6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, 7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. 8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.

The Easy English Clear Word

5-8 They said to Lot, "Bring your guests and come with us, and we'll all have a good time." Lot stepped outside, closed the door behind him, and said, "These men are my guests. They've come a long way and are tired. Don't insist that they go."
The men said, "Get out of our way. We're comig in and taking your guests with us whether they want to go or not."

The sin in the Easy English Clear Word is insisting that tired guests stay up and party.

This passage is one of the most sordid of all scripture. It is understandable why Dr. Blanco has toned it down. But the Biblical canon should not be toned down even if the final effect is more palatable. It is impossible to get a real sense of the wickedness involved from Dr. Blanco. A discourteous party spirit replaces an intended heinous sexual assault.

Genesis 19:30-38 -
Lot and Incest


New American Standard Bible

30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. 31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
37 And the first born bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. 38 And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.

The Easy English Clear Word

30 After Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, Lot was afraid to stay in the little town because it, too, was very wicked. So he took his two daughters and went up into the hills and found a cave to live in. 31-38. While they were there, each of the girls had a baby. The older daughter called her baby Moab. And the younger daughter called hers Ammon. These two boys became the fathers of the Moabite and the Ammonite people.

Again, it is quite understandable that Dr. Blanco has left out some of the Scriptural account. The horrendous behavior of Lot's two daughters can not be sensed at all. For all we know, they went into that cave already pregnant.

Apparently, Dr. Blanco did not intend for the Clear Word to be treated as a Bible. But, when it first came out, it was called 'The Clear Word Bible'. The advertisers have said to our youth, 'At last God speaks your language!' Shall we write this off as advertiser enthusiasm? The Review and Herald has brought God into their marketing of this Book. The Biblical Canon is God's Word. To take away some of His Word, or to add new thoughts to it, is to mess with the Biblical Canon. The Bible is not for cutting and pasting. We as Adventists have said that the Roman Catholic Papacy has thought to change times and laws. If we consider the Torah as a 'Law', the Adventist Church has also thought to change the 'Law'.

I am pushing the point, of course. The Bible contains the Law and the Prophets. Adventists, through the Review and Herald's publishing of the Clear Word, has changed the 'Law'.

Is this what they claim for it?

No. At least not after all the criticism. I believe that the name was changed to accommodate the critics within the church.

But. Some of my friends use it as their 'go to church' Bible. I have presented the ads where they say 'Now God speaks your language'.

Simply a person's commentary

It is not simply a person's commentary. It looks like a Bible. It feels like a Bible. It reads like a Bible. It is advertised as a Bible. It is bound in special 'Bible' covers, etc. From what I can tell, the Review and Herald and Dr. Blanco cannot see, nor sense, the confusion this thing creates. They have been confronted by people with significant standing in Adventism, yet they plunge headlong with it. Ellen White decried poor judgment in her day. I certainly don't have any of the influence she had. But, this publication is an offense to me. I, too, speak for Adventism in one small corner of the kingdom.

If, instead, Dr. Blanco had designed some Biblical footnotes or parallel study guides, I would not be devoting this time to oppose his work. It is interesting to compare Ellen White's commentary to the Biblical text. Just don't fuse them together.


Dick Larsen said...

This is a pretty amazing thrust forward (backward?) for the "Clear Word". Anyone could write commentaries or paraphrase the Bible. Even writing fiction with a Bible base can be acceptable. But to do so within a semi closed system as Adventism and not have a clear word campaign to educate members as to what they are reading is hugely problematic. It will come back as a curse. I know if a pole was done in the local SDA Church here the Majority of the members would not see a difference between the Clear Word and a Bible. In fact they would trust it along the King James and above newer translations. This is the result of Church leadership and publishers for not making what it is "clear".

Ani Hall said...

Let's not compare apples with oranges here. Paraphrases are meant to be paraphrases, translations are meant to be translations and versions to be versions. Once again, the Clear Word is a paraphrase. Paraphrases are influenced by the author's own theological understandings of Scripture. Take The Message Bible for instance, or most study Bibles. They are written by authors who interpret the Bible theologically-hence a paraphrase. It is not Biblical, scholarly or even ethically correct to try to compare verses in the Clear Word with versions such as the NIV. One could easily argue that the NIV differs greatly from the KJV (which it does in many instances)and is therefore not a reliable version. What made the NIV or the KJV the standard of inspired Bible writings? A more sound approach would be to compare any text with the original Greek and Hebrew texts. Each type of Biblical document exists in its own sphere. At any rate, 'All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness... (I Tim. 3:16.) The only way to come to a sound conclusion of any Biblical passage is through the Holy Spirit's guidance. Without this, any study is in vain.

Ron Corson said...

So Ani, Travesties are OK as long as it is a paraphrase of the Bible? Or do you believe anyone can add anything they want to a Bible paraphrase and it will still be the "All Scripture inspired by God?

No I can't buy your reasoning

Don said...

Don Sands here...

Even a paraphrase should find its rationale in the original manuscripts. Dr. Blanco has veered far away from that. Ellen White has added much extra-biblical material. We allow this; prophetic licence. But, even what she has done has created a Biblical literacy problem within Adventism. Blanco has added to the problem, IMO.