Writing For The Plow Boy

from Issue #1, April 2016, page # 20

by James G. Landis

William Tyndale yearned to translate the Bible into English so that even a “plow boy” might understand it. A priest once argued with Tyndale that the Bible must be kept in Latin because the untrained were not fit to interpret it.

Putting the Bible into simple language that untrained and unfamiliar people could understand, spurred the Anabaptist movement forward. When even simple peasants read the Word of God, they found the “Bread of Life” and had the courage to obey its teachings.

Today, instead of trying to keep the meaning of the Word of God hidden from the common people, we need to help them see it through Anabaptist binoculars.

Out of one eye, Anabaptist Voice focuses on the same kind of plow-boy writing that encourages the understanding of the Word of God by the common folk with willing hearts. This magazine is not meant for those learned ones who are “ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:7) or for those who would “make the Word of God of no effect” (Mark 7:13).

Out of the other eye, Anabaptist Voice focuses on helping the believer put the Gospel into shoe leather. The magazine is for those who have heard the Word of God and now wish to “DO” it every day (Matt. 7:24-27).

Our goal for Anabaptist Voice is to keep our writing clear so that both the writer and the reader understand and apply the gospel message to their daily lives.

A New Type Of Bible Study 

With this goal in mind, let us engage in a Bible study of I John 1:1-2:3. In this study, we will attempt to put the passage in such simple language that it is clear even to a modern-day “plow boy”.

A Plow Boy Writing of I John 1:1-2:3 

Verse 1 – I want to tell you about the One who was from the beginning, the One we have heard with our ears, the One we have looked upon with our eyes, and the One our hands have handled, Jesus, the Word of Life. 

Verse 2 – (For Jesus, the Life, was shown unto us, and we have seen Him, and we bear witness of Jesus, the Eternal Life, the One who was with the Father and was shown unto us.) 

Verse 3 – The One we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus, the King. 

Verse 4 – And we write these things unto you that your joy may be full. 

Verse 5 – This then, is the message which we have heard from Jesus and now declare unto you: “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” 

Verse 6 – If we say that we have fellowship with God, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. 

Verse 7 – But if we walk in the light, as the Father is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin. 

Verse 8 – If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 

Verse 9 – If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

Verse 10 – If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and his word is not in us. 

Chapter 2, Verse 1 – My little children, I write these things unto you so that you do not sin. But if you sin, you have someone to plead for you before the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 

Verse 2 – Jesus is the one sacrifice that brought us peace with God. Jesus is the forgiveness for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 

Verse 3 – And this is the way we are sure that we know God, if we keep His commandments. 

Writing For Clarity 

John’s message in this passage comes through with forceful clarity.

We must know Jesus.

We must know the Father.

We must walk in the light.

We must not sin.

We must keep His commandments.

Let us examine several reasons this simple rendering helps convey the message to the reader.

John Was Excited 

In the first three verses John repeats himself in each verse, “The One we have seen and heard.” John was so enthralled with the experience of having met the Lord in the flesh that he just had to tell about it.

Point: Enthusiasm adds zest to the writing.

John Stated His Purpose 

In verse 1:4 John says, “These things I write unto you that your joy may be full.” And in 2:1 John writes, “I write these things unto you so that you do not sin.” John had it clear in his own mind why he was writing to “his dear children.” He knew what he wanted to tell them and wrote it out so they knew why he was writing to them.

Point: Somewhere in the passage a writer should clearly state why he is writing a piece.

John Used Repetition 

In this passage John uses the word “sin” ten times. He uses the word “fellowship” five times. In the first three verses he mentions again and again that he has seen and heard Jesus. In three verses John contrasts light and darkness.

Point: Repetition of words and picturing the same subject in different ways can help rivet the thought in the mind of the reader.

John Used Many Pronouns 

Look at I John 1:1-2:3 in the KJV. You will find that the translators used a number of pronouns that are not clear as to whom they refer.

I John 1:7 — Who does the “he” refer to?

I John 1:9 — Who does the “he” refer to?

I John 1:10 — Who does “him” refer to?

I John 2:3 — Who does “him” refer to?

I John 2:4 — Who does “his” refer to?

Point: Writers must be careful to keep pronouns (he, him, it) close to the nouns they refer to (Father, Son, Spirit).

John Used Simple Language 

In the above rendering John used only one word containing three sounds (syllables): ”e-ter-nal.” The passage is mostly single-sound words with a smattering of double-sound words among them.

Point: Many long words will reduce the number of readers who can comprehend the message and who have interest in reading it.

The Clincher 

When a teacher or minister says that a passage is “deep”, what he really means is that the writing is not clear or else he does not understand it.

Plain writing is putting great truths in simple language so that all can understand them.”

We pray that Anabaptist Voice will be a prophetic voice proclaiming truth to living Anabaptists in language even a child can understand.

~ JGL, Waynesboro, GA



Plow Boy Challenge – Ephesians 1:1-23 

A preacher called Ephesians one an English teacher’s nightmare. Then he proceeded to read through the passage ignoring much of the punctuation. He stopped where there was no punctuation. He did not pause at commas and semicolons. He did not stop at some periods.

Many people publicly read the Scripture poorly. Some race through. Others jerk along. With some study and practice, we can do better. Here is the Plow Boy Challenge. Write out Ephesians 1:3-12 in simple English you understand. Read it out loud until you can read it smoothly. Then record it and listen to it.

When you are satisfied, send your “Plow Boy Rendering” to us at Anabaptist Voice.


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