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Asking the clergy: When is it appropriate to update the Bible?

Can emoji help millennials relate to the Bible?

Can emoji help millennials relate to the Bible? Credit: Depositphotos / BNP Design Studio

Can a smiley face draw millennials to organized religion? “Bible Emoji: Scripture 4 Millenials,” the King James version translated into emojis and emoticons, was released in May for sale online, reportedly to broaden its appeal to younger people. This week’s clergy discuss whether it’s indeed time, once again, to re-translate one of the most holy and often-translated books.

The Rev. Laurel E. Scott

Pastor, The United Methodist Church of Port Washington

The simple answer is that it is always appropriate to update the Bible. We should be using whatever tools we develop to make the universal wisdom that is contained in the holy text available and accessible to everyone. To quote St. Paul, one of the most prolific writers in the New Testament, “Now is the acceptable time. Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians: 6:2)

What we need to be careful of, is that we do not dilute the meaning of the text in any way in our translation; that means careful “translation” of the original script into whatever language we are using, even Millennial English. It is entirely appropriate and functional to constantly update the Bible as the language is constantly changing, like everything else around us. As long as we reach millennials with the biblical truths, it is commendable that the holy text is provided in their language, so that they, too, can appropriate its wisdom into their lives. By making biblical wisdom accessible to all people, no matter who they are, or where they may be, we realize the goal of this task. The original biblical languages were Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. At some point in our history they were translated into English and continue to be explored and updated by biblical scholars, so why not a Bible for millennials in a form that they can easily understand?

Rabbi Alan Lucas

Temple Beth Sholom, Roslyn Heights

If by update you mean change the text of the Bible — the answer is never. For us Jews, the Bible is a sacred text — it has been lovingly and carefully transmitted from generation to generation. We count every sentence, word and letter so as to make sure that nothing is lost. Remarkably, when an ancient copy of sections of the Bible, thousands of years old, were discovered on top of Masada in Israel, we were not surprised, when comparing it to a modern text, to learn it was the same word-for-word and letter-for-letter. If by update you mean reinterpret and apply ancient truths to modern situations — that began from the very moment it was given back at the foot of Mount Sinai — all of Judaism is one long process of interpretation and adaptation. If by update you mean a new edition, or translation — that, too, is a process that has been going on for millennia. The text of the Bible we use in our synagogue is based on the development of a new Hebrew font and a modern English translation that was completed in 2001. If adding modern English, or even emojis, makes the ancient text more appealing and accessible to a new generation, I am all for it.

The Rev. Alejandra Trillos

Christ Episcopal Church, Brentwood

I do support efforts to make the Bible more accessible to younger generations. The Bible has been “updated” many times, and it is appropriate as long as the update is a faithful and accurate translation of Scripture. If emojis will get younger people to start reading The Greatest Story Ever Told, then I’m all for it. The Emoji Bible isn’t the only attempt to update the Bible. Eugene H. Peterson has already produced the widely read “The Message,” which is a paraphrase of the Bible in everyday modern English. From what I understand there is a movement led by the American Bible Society to create a more contemporary version of the Bible and connect it with historical events. I think it’s important for younger generations to have the Bible with more accessible language and historical accuracy. I’m not only speaking of the Millennial generation, but older generations as well, who also will benefit from a Bible that speaks to them in modern language. More contemporary and inclusive language helps people to engage the Scriptures. I think it would be even helpful to create an app, which would help younger generations to do biblical research. Many versions of the Bible are currently available. I am Episcopalian, but one of the Bibles I use is the New Jerusalem Bible, which was completed and published in 1985. It’s a Roman Catholic Bible, and what I like about this version is the research behind it. It’s a modern-language version, and uses inclusive language like “brothers and sisters” for the Greek adelphoi (brothers). For instance, an example of inclusive and specific language, is in Exodus 20:17: “You shall not set your heart on your neighbor’s spouse,” rather than “neighbor’s wife” or “neighbor’s woman.” This is an update that is very valuable for pastors and Bible readers in general.

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