A review of the book, The Clear Word: A paraphrase to nurture faith and growth, by Jack J. Blanco, printed and distributed by Review and Herald Publishing Association, Hagerstown, 2nd printing, 1994, 1425pages, Hardcover, $29.95.

A useful new Bible study tool—when properly used—is available to Seventh-day Adventists: The Clear Word, prepared by Jack Blanco, head of the religion department at Southern College. To benefit from The Clear Word, we must understand its place among the various translations, paraphrases, and commentaries on the Bible.

Not many lay people read the original Hebrew and Greek. For them, the next best thing in Bible study is a literal English language translation such as the King James Version, the New King James Version, or the Revised Standard Version. Perhaps the best conservative literal translation is the New American Standard Bible.

If you are willing to risk some accuracy to gain readability, try a "dynamic" version such as the New Testament by J. B. Phillips. Rather than being a strict translation of the Greek and Hebrew words themselves, dynamic versions are somewhat interpretive because they translate phrases as well as words in the context of ancient culture. Nevertheless, dynamic versions are genuine translations, and some are quite conservative and generally reliable, such as the New International Version.

The next class of versions is the paraphrase, which does not hesitate to sacrifice accuracy for the sake of easy reading. The most popular paraphrase is The Living Bible, which is not a translation nor does it claim to be. The authors of biblical paraphrase express in their own words what they believe the text might mean. They aren't bound by strict rules of interpretation as translators are. Paraphrases make for interesting devotional reading but are not sufficiently reliable to teach doctrine.

Some paraphrases take such liberties with the biblical text that they are more like personal commentaries. An example of this is The Message from Navpress. Even greater liberties are taken in the "Cotton Patch" Version, which substitutes the names of Southern American towns for Galilee villages. This type of paraphrase/commentary freely ventures beyond the meaning of the text by introducing thoughts not suggested by the original languages.

Where does The Clear Word fit into the picture? Since the author relies heavily upon extra-biblical sources, particularly the writings of Ellen G. White, it's more of a paraphrase/commentary than a real Bible. For example, he speaks of Adam and Eve wearing robes of light in the Garden of Eden. Nothing in the original text remotely suggests this; there is nothing regarding garments of light upon which to base even a loosely worded paraphrase. Thus The Clear Word is a commentary based upon information from Ellen White─which is fine, so long as we don't treat it as Scripture. The author explains this in his preface. 

Nevertheless, there has been considerable confusion and misuse of this study tool. One reason for this was the title of the first edition: The Clear Word Bible. The word "Bible" has now been removed. Another challenge is the verse-by-verse format of The Clear Word, which makes the text appear as a Bible translation rather than as a paraphrase/ commentary. Contributing to that misperception is the absence of footnotes to document extra-biblical sources.

To minimize the potential for confusing The Clear Word with an actual Bible, we recommend that it not be used in preaching, in Sabbath school teaching or in Bible classes. Such use would be a serious stumbling block to nonmember visitors who may already associate Adventists with cults like the Jehovah Witnesses who design their own Bibles to teach their strange beliefs. Seventh-day Adventists have no such problem; we can teach all our doctrines out of real Bibles familiar to Christians everywhere.

To summarize: The Clear Word is actually not a Bible but a paraphrase/commentary that, when used properly, can enrich one's devotional study and can be recommended in that way.