Earlier this week, the Jerusalem Post published an article about a new contemporary translation of the Bible, produced by the Danish Bible Society. While new Bible translations are usually cause for celebration, this new contemporary Danish Bible is cause for serious concern.
Before commenting on the translation, we want to make it clear that we appreciate and respect the staff and the ministry of the Danish Bible Society, and recognize them as our brothers and sisters in the Lord. They are a group of people very committed to making the Bible available and accessible to everyone, and have been doing so for many years.
Our concern is strictly in regard to the translation itself.
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. 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.