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The God of the Bible is a god by DR JOHN SCLIM
God the Creator of the heavens and Earth is a god, according to some nonEnglish translations of the Bible. The Shen Edition of the Chinese Union Version (CUV) of the Chinese Bible published by the Hong Kong Bible Society addresses God as “ shen” (Chinese “ ), the same term idolatrous 神” Chinese people in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and other countries call their gods. The unbelievers may think the God mentioned in the Bible is just one of the idolatrous gods. Why those who know God can see it is wrong to address God as “ shen” Many years ago, a Chinese Christian pointed out to the writer that shen should not be used for God as it makes Him a Chinese god. Instead Shangti (Chinese “ 上帝” should be used. The writer knew that, but, alas, ) Christian bookshops stock mostly shen Chinese bibles. Over the years, millions of the shen bibles have been printed and sold by the Hong Kong Bible Society and other organisations, making those who use the shen bible think it is nothing wrong in addressing God as shen, in writing, in speaking, and in prayer. But a spiritual Christian can discern straightaway something is wrong in using the term shen for God. Some years ago, the writer visited the bookroom of the Bible society of Singapore. He pointed out to one of the staff on duty at that time that God was addressed as shen in the shen Chinese bible. She saw, immediately, it was wrong to address God as shen’ as it makes God as one of the idolatrous gods. When the writer was in Canada, he met an elder of an assembly who was on duty at the Gospel and Bible stand at an exhibition. He knows scriptures very well, and reverence for God is important in his church (they do not address God as “ You” but “ Thou” He is a white man who knows nothing about Chinese, ). and yet could perceive it was wrong to address God as shen. He asked me to write for him shen and Shangti in Chinese. Why Chinese Bible translators and scholars cannot see it is wrong to use shen for God If ordinary people can perceive it is wrong to address God as shen, why not the Hong Kong Bible Society and the Chinese Bible scholars and translators? Are they like the Jews whom the Lord Jesus Christ denounced for their wilful blindness: "That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand"? *(Mark 4.12; Matthew 13.14) Aete “v re ri , n n v r b t c met tek o l g o te r h y ee l n g a d ee a l o o a n e o h n we e fh d
t t” (Tmoh 37 With all their theological training, their Doctor of r h? 2 i ty .) u Theology, Doctor of Divinity degrees, etc, their judgment will be greater if they are found wanting with respect to their knowledge of Divine truths and principles, and obedience to God’Word. s Why those who translate the Bible into Chinese are not able to see it is wrong to use shen for God? They are not able to see for the following reasons: 1. They may have never been saved (every saved soul should be able to tell when, where, how, and why they were saved). They are still spiritually dead. They may be religious but are dead in God’sight. s 2. If they are saved, they may be carnal believers, and so will not see either. The indwelling Holy Spirit is grieved when they mind the things of the flesh, not the things of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8.5), and indulge in fleshly lusts (“ el t fh f s , n tel t fh e e , t u o te l h a d h u o te y s h s e s and the pride of life,”1John 2.16) Imagine those involved in translating God’Word indulging in worldly pleasures, TV, sports, etc. s If they are a friend of this world, they are constituted an enemy of God. (James 4.4) The carnal man will tell you,I s c n s ei h t ay" – "j t a ’ e t a w u t t he can’ t see anything wrong in using shen for God. 3. They cannot see if they do not possess the fear of God, “h fa o T e er f the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments: Hi pa e e d rt fre e. s ri n ueh o v r s ” (Psalm 111.10) “h s ce o teL R i wt te ta fa h T e e rt fh O D s i h m h te r i h m.” (Psalm 25.14) -2– 4. There is disobedience in their lives. They have not obeyed already revealed truths. “ this man will I look to him that is of a meek and To quiet spirit and who trembleth at My word” (Isaiah 66:2). If the women involved in translating work are conforming to the world (Romans 12.2), have bobbed or shorn hair (going against 1Corinthians 11.15), wear jewellery, make-up, earrings (contrary to 1Timothy 12.9; 1Peter 3.3), how can such ones be fit to translate God’Word? s 5. They are totally ignorant of Divine principles. They do what they think is right; “ They are so far removed from the truth and totally ignorant of it, yet they are absolutely sincere and devoted to te ‘ li ’–to h i r io ” r eg n quote a writer in a Christian magazine. 6. They want to have their own way, not the Lord’way. s Translating God’ Word is very serious business. And those who are s involved in this business have to be filled by God “ i teSpirit of God, in wt h h wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of
workmanship,”just as He filled those people involved in building the Tabernacle. (Exodus 35) But how can God fill those involved in translating His Word if they are not right with Him (see the six reasons given above)? In that state, how can they produce a translation that is true to His Word? Warning Here is a warning to Bible translators, translation consultants, and Bible publishers: For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the tree of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22.18,19) There is a principle here. They would suffer loss if they had altered His Word to mean what it does not mean, to ascribe to God what is not true, and what does not give Him honour and reverence (as in the case of using shen for God in the Bible).
Where are the scriptures prohibiting the use of shen for God? 1. Principles in the Word of God If God wants people to address Him in a correct and reverent way, He must have given principles in His Word that forbid the use of shen for Him. Let’ s us look at an example of a principle. Where does it say in the Bible one must not be late for worshipping God on the Lord’ Day? We cannot find a s scripture that says “ Thou shalt not be late for meeting,” we can find the but Lord setting an example of punctuality: “n w e teh u w sc me He A d hn h or a o , sat down, and the twelve apostles with Hi ” m.(Luke 22.14) Divine principles make God’Word relevant and applicable today. s 2. To the law and to the testimony We must go to the scriptures –“ tel a dt tetsmo y ( a h t h a n o h e t n. I i o w i ” sa 8.20) to know the answer to this issue. We should not turn to history, culture, politics, society, etc, to get the answer. God is an omniscient God, and knows history; instead, “ history is His story.” is the Author of History. He GOD KNEW FROM THE BEGINNING that men would one day address Him as shen (god) in the Chinese language, and so He put certain principles in His Word that His Name should be hallowed, and not profaned.
-3– 3. Hallowing God’ Name s Using shen for God does not set Him apart from gods, but, instead, goes against the Lord’ command Who says that God’ Name is to be hallowed. s s “ Hallowed” o sf m teG e khagiazo me n g“ ma eholy” c me r h re o ai t n o k (from hagios,h l )s n i t s t p rfr o ,os n t ,oma eap ro “o ” i i s o e a ato G d t a cf t y, g f e i y k es n or thing the opposite of koinos,c mmo ;ii t n l e “ ao e ,wt ‘ o n’ts r s td H lw d” i a a l h reference to the Name of God the Father in the Lord’Prayer, Matthew 6.9; s Luke11.2” i ’ E p soy Dco ay o N w T s me tWod )C n .Vn s x o i r ii r f e e t n ( e t tn a rs a shen h lw G d N me I o s l Is a ,ntd y u a e ten me ao o ’ a ? mp sie n t d i o a ’ s g ,h a l s b! e s shen makes God as one of the gods. Addressing God as shen does not set Him apart from gods. Even secular dictionaries show the distinction between God (Shangti) and god (shen) in Chinese. The book The Right Word in Cantonese by Kwan Choi Wah, a Hong Kong author and authority on Cantonese, gives the following translations of God and god in Chinese: God – 上帝 (Shangti) god, gods – 神 (shen) In the Oxford Advanced Learner’ English-Chinese Dictionary, 6th Edition, s God is given as Shangti (上帝), and god as shen (神) When Shangti is used, it sets God apart from shen, gods. Shangti and shen cannot both be used for God otherwise His Name is profaned. We cannot call God “ shen” and in the same breath call idolatrous gods “ shen.” Mo e o o d c rs “h L R y u G di G do g d , n L r o s s f l e l e :T e O D o r o s o f o s a d od f d a lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, Who regardeth not persons, nor tk t rw r. (Deuteronomy 10.17) Truly, God is an awesome God and a eh e ad” “ c n u n fe”H be s1 .)N teta w u eac p a G fr o . a o s mi i .( e rw 29. oi h t e s gr c a il o G d t Why not a small g? Obviously we want to distinguish God from gods. The same can be said of using Shangti to distinguish God from gods called shen. o i “ o o g d ”nD ueo o 1 .7t n l e i teS e H w s G d f o s i e trn my 01 r s td n h h n a a Edition of the CUV of the Chinese Bible?
Deut. 10.17 “ YHVH your God is God of gods and Lord of lords” . Hebrew: “ YHVH Eloheichem Hoe Elohei ha’ Ki elohim v’ adonei ha’ adonim” Literally: For YHVH your God He God of the gods & Lord of the lords 因 为 耶和 华 你 们 的 神 他 是 万 神 之 神 ， 万 主 之 主 C V y weiy héhuá nmen dí shén tshìwànshénzhshén U :ī n ē ǐ ā ī wànz ǔ hz ǔ h zī h It is confusing –which“神”(shen) refers to God the Almighty? Here, God is not distinguishable from gods! He is profaned. His Name is used promiscuously! 4. Sanctifying God God does want us to set Him apart, or distinguish Him from gods. Look at the following scriptures: Thus will I magnify Myself, and sanctify Myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD. (Ezekiel 38.23) Sanctify the LORD of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. (Isaiah 8:.13) -4T ew r “a cf c me f m teH be k d a hand is equivalent to h od s n t ” o s r h e rw ā h s i y o the New Testament Greek verb hagiáz . According to the International ō Standard Bible Encyclopedia, k d a h h s te “n eln i a o te ā h s a h u d ri d y g e fh s p rtn s o h l n tr o h l u e”h ts tes t ga ato G d e aae e s f o aue r o s ,ta i h et y y , i p rfr o n only. Where i te‘ p rtn s’ r et gG da atrm C i s g d s h s aae e s o s t e i o p rf n o h ee o s n when shen is used in addressing Him? Instead calling God shen lumps Him with the Chinese gods and bringing Him down to their level. The psalmist po lms“ eL R i age t o , n age t i a o ea g d , rc i t O D s a h ra G d a d ra Kn b v l o s g l ” (s l 9 .) n “k o ta teL R ige ta dta o r odia o e P a 53 a d I n w h th O D s ra, n h t u L r s b v m all gods. (Psalm 135.5) Calling God shen does not make Him above all gods but, instead, one of the gods of the nations. 5. Profaning God There is a word in the Old Testament that tells us not to address God as shen. h w r i “rfn ,a dG dc mma d Hsp o l n topoa e T e od s poa e” n o o n s i e p o t rfn e HsN meb toh lwHm.A dy s a n t rfn Myh lN me b t i a u t ao i “n e h l o poa e l l o a ;uI y wlb h lw da n tec irno I a l (e i u i e ao e mo g h hde fs e ” L vi s22.32) The word l l l r . t c “rfn ” o s rm teL t profanus, before (that is, outside) the temple. poa e c me f o h ai n The things in the temple are sacred, and bringing in things from outside the tmp poa e tetmp . ra h w teL r J s sC r tw n i o e l rfn s h e l We e d o h od e u hi “ e tn e e s t
the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that s l d v s T e ep o l h dpoa e tetmp o G d ( t e 2 .2 o o e . h s e p a rfn d h e l f o .Mat w 11 ) d ” e e h Today, the Church of God (or Church Universal), the mystical Body of Christ, is the temple of God (Ephesians 2.21). A local church is also the temple of God (1Corinthians 3.16-17; 2Corinthians 6.16). Bringing shen into the temple of God by addressing God as shen is profaning the temple and therefore God Himself. Shen i u e frd l a d“ h t ge me t ah s s d o i s n w a a re n h t o, the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and th y s a b My p o l ”(2Corinthians 6.16) This is very serious e hl e l ep . e indeed; God is being profaned whenever He is called shen. In the Hebrew Od T s me t “rfn ”c me f m te H be chalal, and has the l e t n, poa e o s r a o h e rw s n eo “ r o e s ff c mmo u e (h Itrai a Sa d r Bble Encyclopedia). o n s ”T e nen t n l tn ad i o So shen is “ common use” God and gods. What does it imply? Simply for for this: God is a god – one of the gods in this world. And, to call the Son of God as “神的儿子” (Son of a god) is blasphemy! God has said: “I am the LORD: that is My Name: and My glory will I not give to another, neither My pa e t ga e i g s ( a h 4 :;a o 4 .1 U k o i l ri o rv n ma e . I i s ” s a 28 l 81 ) n n wn y s g, Chinese believers are, indirectly, giving praise and glory to Chinese gods whenever they address God as shen. And God says He will not give His glory and praise to idols. Think! We know that when the Chinese pray to their gods (神, shen), they are actually praying to“demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with demons. (1Corinthians 10.20; also Deuteronomy 32.17) Addressing God as shen is linking God to demons. Think! The question is, do the Chinese people consider God as one of the gods? If they address Him as shen, then He is just one of the gods. The Shen Edition of the Chinese Version of the Bible makes people believe God is a shen (god). If the Bible scholars and translators insist God can be addressed as shen, then they have no Holy Spirit to show them that they are wrong. The Holy Spirit does not teach some people to call God Shangti and some shen. The Devil is a great Deceiver. He has deceived so many people, including those who address God as shen.
6. The New Testament goes beyond the Old Testament
There is one important point that has been overlooked by many: the New Testament goes beyond and above what the Old Testament teaches. The Lord Jesus Himself has brought out -5this point. He says: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matthew 5.27,28) A man may not need to go to bed with a woman to commit adultery, but to look at her with lust is adultery enough. There are other examples given by the Lord in Matthew Chapter Five. When the Lord Jesus tells His disciples to hallow God's Name, He wants them to set God apart from all others, and make Him uncommon (Vine's Dictionary) so as "to shut out false conceptions of Him" (JFB). Using shen for God is not setting Him apart from gods; it "gives false conceptions of Him" and makes Him one of the gods. 7. The El/Elohim argument The Chinese translators argue that: “ te i p e w i r o te Od I h n i d res f h l f sr t Testament use the same terms "El / Elohim" to refer to both the true God of Israel and to other false gods, their rendering by the Chinese term "Shen" may not be as condemnable a s me C r t n h v c i d”I have s o hii s a e lme . sa a proved that this reasoning is false because it goes contrary to the scriptures given above. Why use a capital letter for God, since it is not in the original language? If we follow the argument of the Chinese translators defending the use of shen for God, then they should not have used a capital “ for “ G” God of Israel” –they should write “ of Israel.” capital letter for God is not in god A the original language. Obviously, there is a principle involved - we use a capital “ G”for God to distinguish Him from god. It is of paramount importance that any Chinese translation of the Bible should show the distinction between God and gods, but shen does not. Chinese translator can tell you the historical background as to how shen and Shangti have come to be used for God. They say there are people who are averse to using shen or Shangti fr o , n s H B “e i dt h v tod frn o G d a d o K S d c e o ae w i e t d f e editions - Shen and Shangti - t me th n e so e ey o y T i ma o e te e d f v rb d . h ” s y please everybody, but not God. They could always find another term for God, a term that is different from shen and Shangti. For example, the Chinese Union Version calls Jehovah as “ 耶和华”(Yehehua, in pinyin), whereas the Chinese version of the Good News Translation uses “ Shang
Zhu” 上主”for Jehovah (one thing good about this Chinese version is that (“ ) it uses Shangti, not shen, for God). God does not approve of the writers using the same term for Him and gods If God is silent on something, it does not mean that thing has His approval. We have shown above why the Chinese Bible scholars and translators cannot use the El/Elohim argument to justify the use of shen. We are now under the New Testament, and so should go beyond and above what is given in the OT. Scriptures have been shown above that God does not approve that the same Hebrew terms (El and Elohim) be used for Him, god, and judge, just as He has not approved of the use of musical instruments in worship of Him though you can find David and the psalmists asking Israel to worship God with the instruments of music, for example, in Psalm 150.35The idea of using music in their worship was their own. Where did musical instruments originate from? From one who did not know God - Tubal, one of the descendents of Cain who murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4.21). In the New Testament, you can never find that musical instruments were used in churches. Their singing was all of a spiritual character without the aid of any instrument. . The Lord Himself says, in John 4.23, ta “ e t e ht t r h u worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for also the Father s e ss c a Hsw rh p r. T ea o t P u s y:Wh tsite ?I e k u h s i os i es . h p se a l a s “ a i th n p ” l will pray with the spirit, but I will pray also with the understanding; I will sing wt te s i ,b tIwls g a o wt te u d rtn i . (C r t n i h pi u h r t i i l l n s i h n es d g” 1 oi i s h a n na 1 .5 H d e n t a :I is gwt tei t me t 41 ) e o s o s y “wl i i h n r n. ln h su ” Do you have pity for God’ Name? s Do you know God attaches great importance to His Name? That He has p yfr i N me R a ti “u I a p yfr h l N me w i te i o Hs a ? e d h :B t h d i o My o a , h h h t s t y c house of Israel had profaned among the -6n t n w i e te w n. (z k l 62 ) D to ew oc lu o te ai s h h r h y e t E e i 3 .1 o t ” e o hs h a pn h l Name of God and who “nameth the Name of Christ” (2Timothy 2.19) care at all about God’ Name? Should they adopt a lax attitude to s addressing Him? Would it not be insulting to God that His people should call Him shen [神] just as the Chinese call their gods shen [神]? Does not God feel grieved to be called by such a term? His Name is being profaned by His own people. Using shen for God does not glorify Him, but, instead makes God a small god, as one of the Chinese gods. To address God as shen is to profane
Him. Now scriptures have been shown, and the principles involved, Bible societies, Bible scholars and translators, and others cannot say it is all right to use shen for God (they have no scriptures to support their stand).. Those who still insist using shen for God in the Bible, in writing, prayer, singing, and those bookshops that sell shen bibles are accountable to Him. The Third Commandment states: “ Thou shalt not take the Name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh HsN mei v i ”E o u 2 .) i a n a .(x d s 07 God will deal with them in His own way. n They will suffer eternal loss. Note that the pronouns for God in this article (He, His, Him, Himself My, Me, etc) begin with a capital letter so that we may know they refer to God (in this way, we reverence His Name). In some English translations too, the pronouns for God begin with a capital letter for distinction.