This article highlights a difference that I recently noted in the KJV translation and our modern versions.
BIBLICAL JUSTICE VS SOCIAL JUSTICE
POSTED BY MIKE RATLIFF ∙ 28 DECEMBER 2017 ∙ IN DEVOTION/TEACHING
1 “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts. 2 And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the Lord’s release. Deuteronomy 15:1-2 (NKJV)
I was contacted by a friend right after Christmas about writing a post comparing what the Bible says about “justice” and how it is used by many today who call themselves “Social Justice Warriors.” I looked up the Hebrew and Greek words. I studied the context. It was very difficult to see how anyone could take those passages and come up with the Progressive political context called Social Justice from that. I did more research. I then found a very well grounded and well written article by E. Calvin Beisner that nailed it. If you read the entire article I assure you that you will not be confused by what is going on by this topic any longer. The article is called Biblical Justice vs Social Justice. View article →
As noted before, I raised this question because I began noticing that the KJV Bible I started to read a few years ago, did not have the word Justice in most of the verses that friends and pastors were reading to me out of the modern versions. Justice is used 135 times in the ESV and almost as many in the NIV, but only 28 times in the KJV. And as mentioned below even the Hebrew words the KJV translated Justice were much more frequently translated righteousness.
It maybe just coincidence but in the mid 19th century and into the 20th century, the new “original” biblical texts were being discovered, and began to work their way into our modern translations, and this too was the time the Social Justice, Marxist and Darwin moverments were being formed.
Is it possible that there was a planned movement make the Biblical text less focused on “Judgment” and “Righteousness” and more focused on “Justice”? Certainly not to completely eliminate those concepts but perhaps to seed the word Justice more often in the Bible as a way to root that concept in the scriptures?
I really like the comments that Beisner writes and particularly the distinction of positive and negative Justice and the difference between Justice and charity and grace.
Thanks for putting this up.
There are some good talks and articles to be found in the Trinity Foundation websites:
One of those is Beisner.
Below I make a comment on a couple of verses Beisner writes, which illustrate the use of the word Justice mentioned above.
“Nonetheless, the Old Testament also frequently associates help for the poor with justice (Psalm 72:2, 4; 82:3; 140:12; Proverbs 29:14; 31:9). Why?”
Interesting the word Justice was not used at all in the KJV in these verses, except Psalm 82:3.
The concepts of righteousness and proper judgment and concern for the poor, fatherless, afflicted and needy are still evident in the text and context, but not the word Justice.
Psa 72:2 He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.
Psa 72:4 He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
Psa 82:3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Psa 140:12 I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.
Pro 29:14 The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established for ever.
Pro 31:9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.
Curiously in the verse below Deuteronomy 10:18 discussed by Beisner on the last page, the word H4941 משׁפּט mishpâṭ
which is used 417 times in the OT is translated only once as justice, in Job 36:17.
And even there as John Gill comments there is a connection with judgment which is majority use of the word in the KJV…”justice and judgment take hold on thee; afflictions in righteousness, or the chastening hand of God, in righteous judgment, had taken hold upon him, and would hold him until he was sufficiently humbled under them.”
(ESV) He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.(KJV) He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.
(KJV+) He doth execute H6213 the judgment H4941 of the fatherless H3490 and widow, H490 and loveth H157 the stranger, H1616 in giving H5414 him food H3899 and raiment. H8071
(Greek NT TR+)
(Hebrew OT+) עשׂה H6213 משׁפט H4941 יתום H3490 ואלמנה H490 ואהב H157 גר H1616 לתת H5414 לו לחם H3899 ושׂמלה׃ H8071
Finally, the most frequent use of the word Justice in the KJV is:
tsedâqâh or tsedeq
Yet these words are in the vast majority of times translated as righteousness.
It’s not likely that the KJV translators were illiterates in their translation but perhaps they did not read into the Bible the modern progressive concept of Justice which Beisner identifies well in the article.