The Clear Word Bible: Is It the Word of God?
Letting the "Power of the Ancient Texts Come Through"
"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."1
Although Adventism lagged behind Mormonism, the Watchtower, and Christian Science in the publication of their version of the Bible, they have made up for lost time by outperforming these other organizations with numerous printings and changes. Since its first printing in 1994, The Clear Word Bible has been reworked into no less than seven unique versions of the Scriptures.
The seven versions are: The Clear Word Bible, ©1994,2 The Clear Word, ©1994,3 The Clear Word, ©2003,4 The Clear Word, ©2004 (Pocket edition),5 The Easy English Clear Word, ©2005,6 The Clear Word for Kids, ©2005,7 and Savior (The Clear Word version of the gospels, combined into one narrative), © 2008.8 The Clear Word Bible, original edition, has never been recalled or rejected by the Seventh-day Adventist organization. Although some changes have occurred to the text, the church has not publicly called for the original to be removed from circulation. Because the changes to the text in many cases are not directly doctrinal, recalling the early editions would not change the status of this work.
After receiving criticism for the title, the publisher removed the word "Bible" from the original The Clear Word Bible, and the words "An Expanded Paraphrase" were added to subsequent printings. These subsequent versions are not just reprintings with modifications to the title. They are different versions containing numerous changes to content throughout the books. Most modern publishers will be honest with their readers, indicating changes to content or revision of materials when books are reprinted. The Review and Herald Publishing Association, however, provides no statement to this effect, leaving the reader to believe that he/she has the same document in hand with only modifications to the title. In the publishing world, this lack of disclosure is tantamount to lying.
What is truly shocking, however, are not the changes, but the problematic passages that have remained. Although the back cover of The Clear Word indicates that the author/paraphraser is allowing "the power of the ancient texts [to] come through", he does not indicate that the texts are coming through a very strong Adventist theological lens, replete with quotes and paraphrases from the writings of Ellen G. White. Following we will examine how three Adventist teachings regarding food, Sabbath, and hell have shaped Blanco's thinking resulting in inaccurate wording of the "biblical" text. Then we will look at ten texts dealing with the nature of God.
Adventist Doctrine Incorporated into The Clear Word Bible
The Clear Word Bible has provided us with the ability finally to see the actual definitions of common Scripture passages that are twisted in the Adventist mind. By comparing The Clear Word passages with accepted translations of the Bible there is no doubt that a spirit other than the Holy Spirit is at work in Adventist theology.
Adventism promotes vegetarianism and requires members to follow the Old Testament food laws given through Moses to the Israelites. The Clear Word (TCW) demonstrates that, regardless of what is stated by individual Adventists, the abstinence from certain foods is a major church teaching.
Gen. 9:3, ESV: "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything."
Gen. 9:3, TCW: "Many of these animals will provide food for you, and from now on, you may eat meat as well as vegetables."9
The words "every" and "everything" are replaced with "many," and "meat" and "vegetables."
Of course, the Christian doesn't live by the code of conduct given in the Old Testament. Christians take the words of Jesus and His apostles in the New Testament for final authority on these matters. It is no wonder, then, that Blanco twists the meaning of one of the clearest passages in the NT to promote the SDA understanding:
1 Timothy 4:1-5, ESV: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer."
1 Timothy 4:3-5, TCW: "Others will say that it's wrong to marry and to eat the good things God created which we should receive with gratitude. God created everything. Nothing should be rejected which He has said we can eat, and we should do so by offering thanksgiving and praise. These foods not only have the approval of the word of God, but will also be blessed by Him through our prayers."
Once one is indoctrinated into the Adventist worldview, the good things God created "which He has said we can eat" is understood to be vegetables and clean meats according to the Mosaic law. In Adventism it is only the clean meat that has the "approval of the word of God." This deviates from the clear counsel of Paul to Timothy that "nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving" and that all food, not only the meat of clean animals, "is made holy by the word of God and prayer."
Mark 7:18-19 record Jesus' words to the Pharisees about what truly defiles a man. All modern translations of Mark include a parenthetical statement at the end of verse 19 which was not included in the King James' version of the Bible. The reason for its inclusion in more recent versions is that older manuscripts than those used for the KJV have been discovered which include this sentence:
Mark 7:19b, ESV: "(Thus he declared all foods clean.)"
The Clear Word in all its versions simply omits this statement. Its omission underscores the Adventist teaching that God requires the observance of the Mosaic food laws.
Saved by the Sabbath
Does the Adventist church really teach that one must keep the seventh-day Sabbath to be saved?
In any accepted translation of the Bible, including the KJV, Colossians 2:16-17 delivers this message:
Col. 2:16-17, ESV: "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ."
In order to harmonize with Adventist doctrine, The Clear Word has changed that statement:
Col 2:16-17, TCW: "Don't let anyone control your life by giving you a set of ceremonial rules about what to eat, what to drink and which monthly festivals or special Sabbaths to keep. All these rules about ceremonial days were given as a shadow of the reality to come and that reality is Jesus."
A distinction here is implicit between "special" or "ceremonial" Sabbaths and the weekly Sabbath. This distinction is even clearer in the Easy English and Clear Word for Kids where there is no doubt that a weekly Sabbath is necessary for salvation:
Col. 2:16-17, Easy English and Clear Word for Kids: "Don't let anyone tell you that you have to go through certain rituals, eat certain foods, keep certain feasts, or observe extra Sabbaths to be saved. All these things pointed forward to Jesus. So now they're meaningless."
This passage is one of the clearest implicit examples from Blanco's eisegesis indicating that the keeping of the weekly (not an "extra") Sabbath is something observed by those who are being saved. This Sabbath-requirement is the kind of legalism with which Jesus constantly confronted the Pharisees. It is the kind of legalism that Christians are to avoid, particularly given Paul's stern warning to the "bewitched" Galatian gentiles who were being led into Jewish practices like those taught by the Adventist church and emphasized by Blanco.
Hell or Annihilation?
Adventism does not teach eternal punishment for the disobedient. In effect, Adventists interpret the hell promised by Christ as a mercy killing so the lost do not suffer the consequences of their rejection of the eternal sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Only by redefining the meaning of the biblical words can one avoid the terrible consequence of rejecting Christ. At the end of Jesus' discourse in Matthew 25, he tells the consequences for the righteous and wicked:
Matt. 25:46 ESV: "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
The Clear Word removes the reference to "eternal life" and redefines "eternal punishment":
Matt. 25:46, TCW: "I have no choice but to end your lives, because in my kingdom everyone cares about everyone else.'"
In Adventist theology, the unrighteous dead are awaiting God's judgment which will follow their resurrection at the end of time. Once judged, they will be annihilated, never to suffer again. In contrast to this belief, Peter states:
2 Peter 2:9, ESV: "then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment."
Adventist doctrine cannot have the wicked being punished now, however, because this belief contradicts both their doctrine of soul sleep and the ongoing "investigative judgment". Blanco settles this problem by reworking this verse to read:
2 Peter 2:9, TCW: "From Lot's experience you can see that the Lord knows how to rescue His people but bring the wicked to judgment to face what they have done."
The Amalgamated God
The Adventist understanding of the Godhead has undergone many changes. The organizers and influential individuals within the early Advent movement were primarily Arians and other anti-Trinitarians. Co-founder James White, the husband of their "messenger of God," Ellen G. White, was a minister from the Christian Connexion which denied the deity of Jesus. Upon founding the Seventh-day Adventist church, these anti-Trinitarians were not ready to part with the doctrines they had so fervently defined and defended.
While today's Adventist scholars acknowledge the anti-Trinitarianism of the organization's founders, they assert Adventism now teaches the Trinity. Nevertheless, they have never renounced nor repented of their founding error or corrected its lingering effects.
An important book came off the Adventist presses in 2002, titled The Trinity.
"From about 1846 to 1888 the majority of Adventists rejected the concept of the Trinity—at least as they understood it. All the leading writers were anti-Trinitarian, although we find scattered references to members who held Trinitarian views.... Ambrose C. Spicer ... grew so offended at the anti-Trinitarian atmosphere in Battle Creek that he ceased preaching."
The Adventist church has never repented of its Arian/anti-Trinitarian position, nor has it dealt with the resulting issues that allow current members to maintain membership while being openly anti-Trinitarian. It is a well-documented fact that anti-Trinitarianism is on the increase within Adventism. George Knight, retired professor of church history at Andrews University, the Adventist seminary, has made this fact very clear in the annotated edition of Questions On Doctrine published in 2003. He states:
"... the denomination in the closing years of the twentieth century and the opening years of the twenty-first has witnessed a resurgence of anti-Trinitarianism and semi-Arianism on the basis that the earliest founders of the denomination held those views."1
The Adventist church is much more articulate about its day of worship than about the nature of the God to be worshiped. They leave little room for error regarding when the seventh-day Sabbath begins and ends and what must be done in preparation for that day. The understanding of the nature of Christ within Adventism, however, is so diverse that one Adventist theologian, Eric Claude Webster, was able to write Crosscurrents in Adventist Christology, showing at least four major streams of thought within Adventism ranging from His being a deified human who showed us how to live, to His being one who was truly God-with-us.12
Jack Blanco incorporates the continuing anti-Trinitarian influence within Adventism into The Clear Word. Below we compare ten passages from TCW with an accepted modern translation and identify the problems in The Clear Word. (TCW refers to the current version of The Clear Word, copyright 2003, that is currently sold in Adventist Book Centers. ESV refers to the English Standard Version used throughout this article. The Clear Word Bible, original edition, is used as necessary.)
Genesis 1:26a, 27
ESV: Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
TCW: But this was not the end of His work for that day. Next He said to His Son, "Now let us make beings who look like us and can reflect our thinking and our personality. Let's give them the responsibility of ruling over and caring for the fish, the birds and the animals which we created." So they created two human beings, a male and a female, equal but with different functions, to reflect the unity of the Godhead.
Problems: The image of God is a physical characteristic in TCW. John 4:24, however, states that "God is spirit", not a physical body. Further, the Godhead in TCW consists of two united beings, not one Being expressed in three Persons as in accepted translations. Since Blanco admits the Son as being present in creation, why does he not also present the Holy Spirit? The oneness of Adam and Eve was never a way to understand the oneness of the Godhead. Paul uses marriage as a symbol of Christ and his church. The Godhead presented in this passage of TCW is a bi-unity, not a tri-unity.
ESV: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
TCW: From the beginning, the Word of God was there. The Word stood by the side of God, and the Word was fully God.
The Clear Word Bible, original edition, reads, "In the beginning, going further back in time than can be imagined, the Word of God was there. The Word stood by the side of God, and the Word was fully God."
Problems: "Further back in time than can be imagined" is not equivalent to "In the beginning." Moreover, "From the beginning" is not equivalent to "In the beginning". "From" connotes something continuing since the beginning. "In" connotes a presence not only at the beginning but also before and after. Standing "by the side of" and being "with" carry different theological meanings. One has to do with physical space, the other with identity or "being".
ESV: Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."
TCW: Jesus answered, "Because I existed before Abraham was born."
Problems: Jesus is quoting the name of God from Exodus 3:14. In the Septuagint, the Greek reads , which literally translates to I AM. Jesus was not claiming to pre-exist Abraham. He was claiming the title of Almighty God.
ESV: I and the Father are one.
TCW: You see, my Father and I are so close, we're one.
Problems: Jesus' statement has nothing to do with closeness, but with exactness. It has to do with identity of being. TCW implies they are separate entities. The biblical text says they are one.
John 14:8, 11a
ESV: Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.
TCW: Philip spoke up, "Lord, give us just one glimpse of the Father before you go and we'll be satisfied." Believe me when I tell you that the Father would do everything I have done if He were here.
Problems: Jesus is not speaking about what the Father would do if he were there. He is making a statement of fact that the Father is literally in him. The Father is present in Jesus.
ESV: Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
TCW: You must believe me when I tell you that I am the Father in action and that the Father is living out His life in me. All the things I've taught you were not just my own, but the Father's. It's the Father living in me who's doing all this.
Problems: For Jesus to state that he is "the Father in action" is (or is bordering on) modalism. The real Jesus does not confuse the persons of the Father and Son. Moreover, Jesus is not confusing the persons of the Father and Son, as "I am the Father in action" would suggest. He literally means He and the Father are separate persons but are in each other.
ESV: Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
TCW: Thomas stood there speechless. Then fell to his knees and said, "Lord, you're alive! They were right! I believe! You are my Lord and my God."
Thomas' words in the original The Clear Word Bible read, "Lord, you're alive! They were right! I believe! You are the Son of God."
Problems: Scripture does not indicate that Thomas was speechless. His declaration is profound. The phrase "Son of God" as used in The Clear Word Bible is not equivalent to the Christian understanding of Lord and God. There is an old argument used by Jehovah's Witnesses, (not used much anymore) that Thomas was startled and cried out something similar to the modern, "Oh my Lord, oh my God!" In TCW Thomas seems to be startled, expressing emotion rather than making a declaration of truth revealed by God (compare with Matthew 16:16-17.)
ESV: For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.
TCW, The Clear Word Bible, original edition: With pleasure the Father acknowledged Him as fully God, in spite of His human nature.
More recently, this has been changed to: The Father was pleased to acknowledge the fullness of God in Him.
Problems: This paraphrase is problematic, particularly if His human nature detracted from His deity. The actual Scripture does not allow a question about Jesus' human nature. The Adventist teaching about the "sinful nature" of the human Jesus is a direct result of the teaching of Ellen White. Christ's humanity was absolutely perfect. The Clear Word Bible, original edition, paraphrase, has never been recalled as being incorrect. Many still have and use this version for personal study in the Adventist church. Moreover, TCW suggests that the Father was looking on and acknowledging deity in Jesus. The actual Scripture states that the "fullness of God" was pleased to dwell in Jesus, not merely for "part" of God to acknowledge deity in Jesus. The actual Scripture here is reminiscent of God filling the temple in the Old Testament. Jesus the man was also all that God is.
ESV: But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you."
TCW: In contrast to these ungodly men is the Lord Jesus, also called Michael the Archangel, for He is over the entire angelic host. When He was challenged by Satan about His intentions to resurrect Moses, He didn't come at Satan with a blistering attack, nor did He condemn him with mockery. He simply said, "God rebuke you for claiming Moses' body."
Problems: Scripture never refers to Jesus as an archangel. Further, nowhere in Scripture is there a reference to Moses' body being resurrected. This comes directly from the pen of Ellen White. The Jehovah's Witnesses use this same argument to deny the deity of Jesus. If it were Jesus, why did he not rebuke the devil in the same fashion he did when he walked the earth? (See Mt. 17:18; Lk. 4:25, 9:42)
ESV: ... from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword ...
TCW: Each time He spoke, a beam of light like a two-edged sword came out of His mouth.
Problems: Adding extra "information" can be misleading. Hebrews 4:12 compares the word of God to a two-edged sword that judges people. Isaiah 49:2 describes the mouth of the Messianic servant of the Lord as a sword. Ephesians 6:9 identifies the "sword of the Spirit" as "the word of God". The imagery of Revelation 1:16 connotes judgment, not beams of light.
Mysterious, But Not Difficult
In Adventism, numerous concepts of God are equally acceptable, existing simultaneously as shown in the pages of The Clear Word. One can be an Arian, semi-Arian, modalist, anti-Trinitarian, even a Trinitarian and find support for one's position throughout the writings of Adventism, including TCW. The Adventist God is truly an amalgamation.
What God has revealed about Himself in the Bible is neither tricky nor difficult. By adding words and using human logic we can trick ourselves, but the glimpse of God that the Bible provides can be stated simply.
There is one Creator God. This one God has given us the Bible. In the Bible He reveals Himself to us as Father, Son and Spirit. These are not three beings, but one Being. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God. The three persons, Father, Son and Spirit, are not confused (i.e., the Father is not the Son or Spirit, the Son is not the Father or Spirit and the Spirit is not the Father or Son.)
Analogies are rarely helpful, often generating as many questions as they attempt to answer. The following drawing , however, may help.
"In a very real sense, Adventist emphasis on Scriptures as the sole source of data for executing theology has given theological reflection on God a new and revolutionary start... Adventists were determined to build doctrines on the basis of Scripture alone. The difficulties implicit in this fresh approach may account for the scant number of Adventist statements on the doctrine of God."3
The Adventists' "new and revolutionary start" is neither new, nor revolutionary. Nor are there a "scant number of Adventist statements on the doctrine of God." Adventist literature is full of often widely-divergent statements about the nature and identity of God.
What is scant, perhaps missing entirely, in Adventism, is a willingness to state "we introduced you to a 'Jesus' who was not the eternal, Almighty God. Of this we repent, and we come to the cross to be washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ."
Having received severe criticism following publication of The Clear Word Bible, the Adventist church has continued to make numerous changes to the text. Christians must continue to hold them accountable for altering the words of the Bible until the organization either gives up its efforts to mold Scripture to its doctrines and repents, or they simply get tired of the ongoing changes and allow the world to see them for who they truly are.
"And Jesus cried out and said, 'Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me" (John 12:44-50).
Not one iota or dot will pass from Scripture until heaven and earth pass away, and this unaltered word of God will be our judge. We dare not add, subtract, or amend it. Our eternal reward depends upon it! † (From "Is this word clear? by Stephen Pitcher, Proclamation!, January/February 2009.)
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Originally titled The Clear Word Bible and released in 1994, this “expanded paraphrase” was written by Jack Blanco, former chair of the religion department at Southern Adventist University. Produced and distributed by the Adventist Review and Herald Publishing Association and its subsidiary Autumn House Publishing, The Clear Word weaves Adventist doctrine seamlessly into the text.
This Adventist paraphrase rewrites biblical passages to teach core Adventist doctrines including their “state of the dead” belief that humans do not have spirits that survive death. It eliminates eternal hell, including statements of annihilation instead. This book further incorporates the necessity of keeping the seventh-day Sabbath into New Testament passages, and it downplays the divinity of the Lord Jesus. It also inserts their doctrine of the investigative judgment directly into Daniel 8:14.
This website exists to expose the true nature of The Clear Word and to show how it differs from official Bible translations and also paraphrases. It is marketed as a Bible by the Adventist Book Centers, and it is available through a variety of Christian booksellers as well. Consumers need to know that The Clear Word is not merely a paraphrase of the Bible but is written to give “biblical” authority to distinctive Adventist doctrines. It is an “Adventist paraphrase” of Scripture, and it teaches Adventist beliefs subtly but powerfully throughout its amended text.