‘Antisemitism new low’ as new Danish Bible allegedly removes references to ‘Israel’
By Danielle Jarvis
April 27, 2020
Anti-semitism has reportedly hit a new low after a new Danish translation of the Bible has allegedly purged the New Testament of references to Israel, removing more than 60 instances of the word “Israel” from the new edition.
The word ‘allegedly’ is normally used for legal purposes, but in this case, it is because while the Danish Bible Society is being heavily criticized for removing the words ‘Israel’, ‘Jew’, and ‘Jewish’, they deny this categorically.
The Jerusalem Post released an article last week in which it stated that the Danish Bible Society has omitted dozens of references to Israel from translations of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.
They defended the deletions, stating that deleting certain words was done so as to prevent confusion with the modern-day country. The omissions occurred in a project titled “Bible 2020” that was published earlier this year under the society’s supervision. It is the first translation into Danish in more than 20 years.
The Jerusalem Post reports that The Song of Ascents from the Book of Psalms in the Hebrew Bible, a popular Shabbat hymn for Jews, originally states that “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” In the new translation, Israel is replaced by the word “us.”
The Bible Society in Israel released an official statement on the contentious release, stating that, “While new Bible translations are usually cause for celebration, this new contemporary Danish Bible is cause for serious concern.”
“In the translation, called “Danish Contemporary Bible 2020” the term “Israel” is almost completely removed from the New Testament, and is changed several times in the Old Testament,” they stated. “As a national Bible Society, the Danish Bible Society did this project using their own budget and team and not under the supervision of the United Bible Societies. The Bible Society in Israel had no knowledge of the project prior to its publication.
“In this new Danish Bible (which uses a New Testament translation from 2007), the term “Israel” only appears twice in the entire New Testament, despite appearing more than 60 times in the Greek from which the New Testament is translated. The term “Israel” has been replaced with “the Jewish people”, “the Jews”, “the people…”, and in some cases removed altogether.
“A press release of the Danish Bible Society says this translation decision was made because, “for the secular reader, who does not know the Bible well, ‘Israel’ could be referring only to a country. Therefore, the word ‘Israel’ in the Greek text has been translated in other ways, so that the reader understands it is referring to the Jewish people.” From our discussions with the Danish Bible Society, we understand that there was no political agenda behind this decision. The purpose was to engage a secular Danish audience with the word of God, and to make it personal to them.
“The local body of believers as well as others in Israel and beyond were very surprised by and disappointed with the approach that the translators took regarding the term Israel and in its implementation in this translation.
“We at the Bible Society in Israel have done some preliminary research regarding how the term “Israel” was translated throughout the new Danish Contemporary Bible 2020, and were troubled by what we found. Following are a few examples where the term “Israel” has been replaced or removed.”
The Danish Bible Society has responded, calling it ‘fake news’ that certain words have been removed.
“The Contemporary Danish Bible 2020 is a special kind of Bible translation directed at secular readers with no or little knowledge of the Bible and of its history and traditional church and Bible language,” they said. “This means that many things are translated differently than in traditional Bible Translations. For instance, it doesn’t use the usual Danish words for sin, grace, mercy, covenant and many other typically biblical words, which an average Danish reader wouldn’t be familiar with the meaning of.
“In the translation of The New Testament it uses The Jewish People, The Jews, God’s chosen people or simply The People to translate Israel since the majority of Danish readers wouldn’t know that Israel in The New Testament at large refers to the people of God with which he has made a covenant.
The New Testament in Contemporary Danish was first published in 2007. It has been slightly revised up to the publication of The Contemporary Danish Bible 2020. In this revision the question of Israel has not been discussed.”
The Society may yet have been caught out in the controversy, stating that, “In light of the critique raised The Danish Bible Society will carefully consider if specific verses in The New Testament need a revision.”