By Samuel Martin
A video from early May that went viral on Facebook in the Bahamas followed a similar pattern found around the world, pitting religious leaders against children's rights activists.
Children's rights campaigners pointed out how it was now high time to ban spanking in the Bahamas, while Christian leaders quickly quoted the Bible: "We know that foolishness is bound in the heart of the child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." (Proverbs 22:15)
But there is a problem here which must be addressed by reasonable, God-fearing people. How much longer are we going to allow a more than 400-year-old translation of the Bible to control what we believe - a translation which was prepared by churchmen controlled by an English king who was so arrogant that he had the name of the Lord's brother, Jacob, changed to James just so his own name could be in the Bible!
The time for understanding the Bible from the "If the King James Version was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me" mentality is over. It is time for a fresh look at what the Bible really teaches. It is time to stop using tin cans and strings to communicate and come into the modern age where we all have smartphones.
And what do we find when we come into the modern world? What we find is that God is calling Christians to be gentle. This is exactly what St Paul taught the Corinthians saying: "What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?" (I Corinthians 4:21 NIV)
Unfortunately though, well-intentioned Christians today still don't prefer "love" and "a gentle spirit".
Never mind that our Lord Jesus Himself said: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:29 NIV)
Gentleness is what God wants, not violence, especially not family violence.
God wants us to properly understand His Holy Bible. This is especially the case when it comes to the issue of spanking children. This is where a "just tell me what the Bible says" approach is a recipe for disaster. Don't get me wrong. What the Bible "says" is important, but what the Bible "means" is a 100 times more important than what is says.
With this approach in mind, new research has come to the fore to help all of us who love the Word of God to better understand what the Bible means in the texts, which seem to be so clear and plain in saying that parents should spank their children.
What modern research has found is that these seeming clear and plain Bible texts were mirages: they looked clear and plain, but upon further careful stud, the teachings we thought were clear were in fact never there at all.
This is what has happened due to a careful examination of over 350 different biblical texts, using almost 40 different theological references and referencing scholars going back to almost the beginning of the time when Christians started to write about the Bible and its teachings on spanking children.
First, it was noted that in the book of Proverbs the main term used for those towards whom corporal punishment was to be directed was "na'ar" in the Hebrew language; it refers to "youngsters", but definitely not to small children (under the age of about 10 years old).
Second, the research also pointed out that the subject matter of Proverbs is directed towards males and not females, so this point must be taken into consideration by any Christian advocating spanking children. The Bible does not say "child" or "children". It says "male child" only in the book of Proverbs! Read that book yourself and you will find its subject matter focuses on men and boys only.
Coupled with this is a detailed discussion of the legal environment that ancient biblical society lived in. It is noted that the structures that we have today to regulate social behaviour (schools, police, courts, parliaments, the UN, et cetera) did not exist in ancient times. Families were responsible for maintaining social order and fathers were responsible for the behaviour of their sons in particular. A wayward child would have brought great shame on the whole family, and shame and honour played important roles in regulating society, much more than is the case today.
Men and women in the biblical period functioned in that society taking on different roles and responsibilities. The roles were very different than what we, Christians living in the modern world, are operating in.
Additional research concerning Proverbs 19:18 showed that a major translation error occurred in the King James Version of the Bible, which has been retained since it was first published in 1611 and has now been corrected. The text now means the exact opposite!
In addition, the whole issue of Proverbs 23:13,14 and its link to spanking and the child's eternal soul shows that what seems "clear and plain" on the surface in King James' English is found not to be so clear at all when a more careful scholarly examination of the original Hebrew words is undertaken.
Numerous Christian scholars all over the world have reviewed this new research favourably. Thousands of parents all over the world have downloaded my book without cost and changed their view of spanking children forever.
The book, "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy", can be downloaded free at this link: http://www.biblechild.com/assets/thy-rod-and-thy-staff-they-comfort-me-mar-2013.pdf