Cutting Jesus off at the knees

Every other week I attend a prayer group for the persecuted church through the organization Open Doors. We come together in the middle of suburbia because our hearts ache for believers who are tortured, imprisoned, killed, harassed, and kept from the freedoms we so recklessly enjoy here in the States. During a recent meeting the Voice of the Martyrs program “Bibles Unbound” was discussed. The gist of the program is this: Pay a small fee ($6) to cover the costs of the text, shipping, and labels for one Bible to be sent to a closed country (China, Egypt, Columbia, or Indonesia) to believers who cannot buy the Scriptures for themselves because it is forbidden and dangerous.

It’s amazing that there as such an opportunity for us to furnish believers with the Words of God. I was thrilled to hear about this program; but one major point seriously disturbs me: why is it that only half of the Word is being sent? Why only the New Testament? I am going to be a stick in the mud and say that I will not support a program that divides the Scriptures in half. It goes against the very words of God and I will not be a participant.

Open Doors says on their site:

Due to the enormous growth rate of Christianity in China, Bibles are not available to many Christians. The Word of God is essential for the growth and establishment of the Church. Without it, false doctrines lead many astray and believers are limited in their Christian growth.

It’s painfully true that the Bible is not available to many believers. VOM’s program is doing an amazing job in response to this issue. At the same time hey are perpetuating the spread of the disease of false doctrine within the young isolated churches of the world.

By splitting the Bible in twain, one loses the entire basis for what’s written in the half they keep. Without the Old Testament, the New Testament has no roots, no meaning, and no basis whatsoever. Bedrock truths such as the Oneness of God, relationship with God through covenants, the chosen people of Israel, sacrifice, atonement, sin, and the very concept of a messiah cannot be explained or understood without the Torah, Writings ,and the Prophets. None of what Yeshua teaches in the Gospels makes sense without the original Scriptures. The allusions, quotations, and teachings based completely on Old Testament writings and concepts throughout the New Testament lose their Hebraic context, spiritual meaning, and theological depth.

They’ve cut Jesus off at the knees.

2 tim 3: 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Does VOM realize that this verse is not just speaking of Matthew through Revelation? That at the time this passage was written the Scriptures had already existed and those Scriptures that are authoritative and good for all of the above are now called the “Old Testament”? Do they realize what they are doing by handing young believers the equivalent of an arrow without a bow? How can they be truly effective and teach correct doctrine if they don’t have the whole Truth?

The Torah specifically tells us (Deuteronomy 4:2) “You shall not add to the word that I commanded you, nor shall you subtract from it.” Revelation 22:18-19 says “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” So on both ends of this book we call the Bible there are commands not to add or subtract from it. So how can we only value one half? Does that not show an attitude of subtracting from the Word?

So am I a bad Christian for refusing to support this project by VOM when our brothers and sisters in the lord are in such need? Or am I simply speaking up for a truth that should not be compromised? Is there a lesser of two evils in this situation? You’ve heard my schpeal. Feel free to speak your mind.


10 thoughts on “Cutting Jesus off at the knees

  1. Amen, Julia.

    It is through the Old Testament we recognize that Jesus is the Messiah. Otherwise, why would we have his lineage in Matthew and Luke as part of the verification of his identity? There are plenty of pocket-sized Bibles that have both testaments in them that they can use. Maybe this should be pointed out to VOM while at the same time we pray that God’s wisdom will be exercised in this situation.

  2. I see your point, but I also think that it’s better to provide people with at least part of the bible rather than none of the bible.

    For newer Christians, especially, the OT is a little harder to understand. I think it takes a certain amount of spiritual maturity to grasp some of the “roots” that are laid down in the OT. It’s an important part of the bible, but if I were persecuted and reliant on others to send me the bible, I’d gladly take the NT, even if it doesn’t tell the whole story.

  3. Obviously it would be better if they were sending both the new and old testiments. I guess the question is: why are they only sending half of the Bible? If it is because they don’t believe the OT is needed then I wouldn’t support them. If on the other hand for practical reasons they are starting with the NT to be followed by the OT in the future that is something that can and should be supported.

  4. Hmmmm. I don’t know their motives, but I’d guess they are just trying to be practical.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about Deut. 4 or Rev. 22, though. Whatever their motives, it doesn’t sound like VOM is claiming that the New Testament is a complete Bible. They aren’t denying the Old Testament as the inspired and inerrant Word of God. They just aren’t giving away free copies.

    I mean, if I had to choose, I suppose I would make the same choice they did. Then make sure that there are a few complete Bibles in each set as well.

    I figure it’s better to do something, than to wait for perfection. Interesting dilemma, though. And a good reminder about the importance of the Old Testament for giving weight and substance and support and context to the New Testament.

  5. You all make excellent comments on this issue. One Scripture sprung to mind, and I’d like to know if anyone thinks this could be applicable. I admit I’m no expert on Shaul’s meaning, but it is playing in my mind:

    Galatians 1:6-9
    I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

    Two questions (I’ll try to communicate this clearly, but I may fall on my face):
    1) If we do not furnish the people of God with the complete Gospel (and by Gospel I mean the Truth of God as it has been revealed to us through His Word, not just the 4 accounts of Yeshua’s life called the gospels), how can they have correct doctrine and teach the Truth? I’m wary of asking this because I am a firm believer that God will accomplish His purpose and expand His Kingdom no matter how we botch it up… but if we have the ability and resources to fully equip our Family in the Lord but do not do it… are we opening the door to a false gospel?

    2) Is an incorrect Messiah better than no Messiah at all? Jen made the good point that, “I … think that it’s better to provide people with at least part of the bible rather than none of the bible.”
    I want to agree that some is better than none. However, when that “some” taken alone loses its meaning and relevance and can be (completely without malice or conscious effort) misunderstood, even to the point where people use it to speak against its other half… is that the Truth? Is that a good thing?
    I don’t think I communicated that well…hmm.. how about this: When we take one verse out of context, we can make it mean anything we want, even to the point where we make it mean something completely unbiblical–something against God’s character entirely. Who’s to say that taking half the Bible out of context can’t be treated in the same destructive manner?
    This isn’t to say that everyone who has the whole Bible teaches correct doctrine or even understands it. But there is the chance to at least see it in context.

    Should we not take every opportunity to avoid this? Are we cheap enough to only send half the bible now and the other half later? I’d gladly pay twice the price to send all of it. Wouldn’t you?

  6. Here’s a quick check that I did to show how intertwined the Old and New Testaments are. Abraham is mentioned about 70 times in the NT, Moses is mentioned 79 times, David-54 times, Joseph-6 times, the twelve tribes of Israel are named in Revelation, Hebrews 11 mentions various OT saints to highlight their faith and then we are told in Hebrews 12 that they surround us as a great cloud of witnesses.

    If a person is totally ignorant of the OT, how can they understand fully the testimony of OT saints mentioned in the NT? They would be like Apollos who was only aware of John’s baptism of repentance until Aquila and Priscilla taught him more completely.

    “And he [Jesus] said unto them [his disciples], These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures [i.e. the OT scriptures]” (Luke 24:44-45)

  7. Julia:

    THANK YOU for praying for persecuted Christians. Our brothers and sisters in restricted nations want our prayers more than anything else, and I appreciate your commitment to lift them up before the Throne!

    I would like to answer a couple of misconceptions that I think you have about Bibles Unbound ( based on the criticism of the program that you’ve posted here.

    The biggest reason to send a New Testament instead of a whole Bible is SIZE. Remember, these are being mailed by Bibles Unbound participants into RESTRICTED nations…places where the mail gets searched, confiscated or simply stolen on a regular basis. Our goal is to send an envelope rather than a package, to make it as innocuous looking as possible in order for it to run right through the mail sorting machine while drawing as little attention as possible. A Bible would require a larger envelope or even a package, which would draw far more attention from authorities that do NOT want the Word of God to come into their country. We believe that by mailing New Testaments the way we have chosen we have a far higher success rate of them actually being delivered into the restricted nation. I can’t go into a lot of detail, but Bibles Unbound was developed in close consultation with Christians inside each of these nations, and we tested different options before deciding that a New Testament in an envelope was the most effective way.

    Another misconception is that these New Testaments are all being mailed to believers. In fact, VOM is working with believers in each nation to collect the names and addresses of non-believers and put God’s Word into the hands of these who would not otherwise have it, and probably would not choose to go out and get one (with all the risks that would involve) on their own. Our brothers and sisters inside these nations can then do the follow-up work of answering questions and witnessing to these non believers. They can also, in many cases, provide an entire Bible for those who are interested or who come to faith in Christ.

    I challenge your statement that “Without the Old Testament, the New Testament has…no meaning, and no basis whatsoever.” Thousands of people have come into a personal relationship with Christ before they read the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit can use the New Testament to touch the hearts of nonbelievers. VOM has launched balloons into North Korea that are printed with only one Gospel; in that country some have prayed for decades for a copy of the Scriptures, and having one Gospel is to them like having a bar of pure gold would be to an American.

    This is not to say that VOM does not value the entire canon of Scriptures. In fact, part of VOM’s statement of faith is that, “The Voice of the Martyrs believes the Bible to be the inspired, authoritative Word of God Who is eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” We would love to deliver whole Bibles in every restricted nation; where that is not possible we are trying to get in as much as we can.

    Bibles Unbound participants are asked to pray for those to whom they are mailing New Testaments. We pray that the Holy Spirit will work on their hearts, that He will prepare them to receive His Word, and will use that Word to open their eyes to His truth.

    I hope that this gives you a little more insight into Bibles Unbound and why VOM chose to mail New Testaments instead of whole Bibles. I would be happy to send you a Bibles Unbound information pack, which includes a sample of one of the New Testaments that we send.

    Thank you again for your prayers for persecuted Christians! Pray with us that Bibles Unbound will be effective in reaching people in restricted nations for Christ.

    Todd Nettleton
    Director of Media Development
    The Voice of the Martyrs

  8. Thank you for your note, Mr. Nettleton. I appreciate the time you took out of your day to respond to my thoughts. As I stated in the original post, I’m so glad there is this opportunity to provide Scriptures to people in closed countries. Thank you for clarifying that these go to unbelievers as well. I’ll say it again: I want to believe that some is better than none. And I don’t doubt in any way that God uses this program to expand His Kingdom. And for that I am grateful to Him and to VOM for being proactive in an area of ministry filled with challenges and struggles.

    God can reveal Himself any way he chooses; I am so glad we can be a part of it. But I also want to exhort believers to not split the Word in half. The dividing page should not be there in the first place. It is one story from the One God for all the world. And I want everyone to have it. All of it. I have no doubt VOM wishes the same thing.

    Perhaps its too impractical a dream, or perhaps I shouldn’t just talk about it, but should search for ways where it could be possible.

    Again, thank you for taking the time to respond. It’s greatly appreciated!

  9. I think it is important to have a whole bible if possible. However, I don’t think we should let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Obviously it’s better to have a whole bible but if that’s not possible, part of the bible (especially the Gospels) is better than nothing.

    In the book of Jude, he references the Book of Enoch, an apocryphal book. Does that mean we can’t understand Jude without Enoch? Not at all. Can Enoch deepen our understanding of Jude? Perhaps.
    Maybe this is a bad analogy since the Book of Enoch isn’t God breathed, but I thought it might be useful.

  10. I believe it is more godly to pray and work for ALL persecuted persons, regardless of race, religion, gender, politics, geographic location or sexual orientation.
    Persecution is persecution, whatever the reason, and it’s just plain wrong.

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