No Copyright on God
Very early one morning the telephone rang at my home. It was The London Times calling to interview me for an article. I am not accustomed to trans-Atlantic phone calls first thing in the morning, but I did my best. After the interview I waited expectantly to see what the Times would print about Jews believing in Jesus. But when the article finally appeared I was disappointed. My part in it was much smaller than I had anticipated. The paper had invited others–two rabbis and two Christian clerics–to say what they felt was wrong with Jews for Jesus and Jewish evangelism.
This is the usual scenario in the secular media. Invariably their articles are designed so that they quote more heavily from spokespeople who are against Jewish evangelism than they quote from our Jews for Jesus statements for Jewish evangelism. But I never worry about the odds because I remember a motto I heard when I first became a believer. That motto has become a major part of my philosophy of life: With God, One is a majority.”
Anyhow, that London Times article quoted Rabbi Shmuel Arkush, who spearheads Operation Judaism (an anti-missionary campaign). Rabbi Arkush had made a rather audacious statement, which I hope was tongue-in-cheek. He said, “The Jews invented the Messiah. We have the patent on him.”
In response to that statement I sent a letter to the editor of the Times. They agreed to print most of my letter, but they deleted an important line. I had written, “Rabbi Arkush says that he has a patent on the Messiah. Next he will claim that he has a copyright on God!”
As I wrote that letter, I started thinking about the many people who respond to the gospel message with, “No, thanks. I have my own religion.” Those who say that have not exactly filed for a copyright on their particular religious outlook, but they might as well have done that. The main purpose for copyright and patent laws is to protect the interests of those who hold the copyrights. And, after all, the motivation for anyone to invent their “own religion” is based on their own personal convenience. They formulate certain ideas about what God is like, and what he may or may not require of them in order to suit their own lifestyles and benefit their private corporations of “Me, Myself and I.”
Even at that, I doubt that Mary Baker Eddy or any other founder of a religion ever filed for a copyright on their particular viewpoint. Undoubtedly, every founder or follower of a religious tenet believes it to be true, but there can be no copyright on any truth–especially God’s truth.
The Bible is God’s truth, and though some might consider me old-fashioned, I like to use the King James Version of the Bible. Aside from my liking its accuracy and poetic language, I have another reason for continuing to use it. I don’t like the fact that the newer, highly- touted versions are advertised like merchandise. Actually, that is exactly what those translations are. Anyone who comes up with a new rendering–even a paraphrase–can get a copyright on it, produce it and receive royalties. Worse yet, sometimes those who benefit most from such royalties are not even believers. I think it is generally wrong for anyone to take royalties on the Bible.
But my biggest problem with the Bible copyright is even worse than anyone’s making a profit on God’s Word. The problem is that if, under copyright law, only an author has the original right to be protected, then any copyrighted translation of the Bible, whether it is accurate or inaccurate, contains an implied statement about its authorship. If you cannot have a copyright on God, you cannot have a copyright on God’s Word.
The Bible, God’s truth, is not a clever human invention. It is God’s revelation given through those who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In that case, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, we all must believe what the Bible says about God, about human nature, about sin and salvation and about Yeshua, the prophesied Messiah.
I am sure that Rabbi Arkush has what he considers to be a “patent on the Messiah.” He must think that because Jewish writers penned the Old Testament Scriptures, he and other Jewish leaders today can make the Messiah be or not be whatever suits them. He says that the Messiah is a Jewish invention. I say that if it is an invention, it doesn’t work, or at least it hasn’t worked yet. Worse yet, if the Messiah is a Jewish invention, the entire Scriptures are an invention, and there is no divine revelation. But the Scriptures are God’s revelation, and the prophesied Messiah described in the Hebrew Scriptures is not an invention. He is real. We read of his coming in the New Testament, and his name is Yeshua (Jesus).
Rabbi Arkush’s statement merely illustrates his lack of faith in the Hebrew Scriptures, and what Yeshua said to some of the Jewish leaders of his day: “…had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46). Believing in Jesus is not a matter of religion or believing something that some clever individual made up; it is a matter of accepting God’s revelation as it is recorded in the Torah, the prophets and the rest of Scripture.
Many people today prefer a convenient, do-it-yourself faith. They assemble their own “copyright religions” from components they have found at the pick-and-choose shelves of their “religion supermarkets.” I have news for them: Their inventions might be called “religion” meaning a compilation of religious thought. They might even get others to “buy” their ideas. But if they are not based on God’s holy Word, they are not divine revelation. They are like an airplane without a motor. It may look real, it may feel right–but in the end, it just “won’t fly!”