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Historical Accuracy or Relatability?

May 19, 2007 by

In the Church Marketing Lab Discussion, user ‘wheres my sanity’ poses an interesting question. It’s one I’m sure many of you have wrestled with. Many of you have heard the term anachronism. It’s placing something outside of its proper time frame. Often times, this is done to make an idea more understandable and easy to relate to.

The dilemma in this post rests in a series on the ten commandments. The design team wants to go with Hebrew numbers on the tablets for authenticity, but the pastor wants to do Roman numerals so all will understand. Have you come across this dilemma before? How did you handle it?

Head to the Church Marketing Lab and help ‘wheres my sanity’ out!

Post By:

Joshua Cody


Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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10 Responses to “Historical Accuracy or Relatability?”

  • A.B. Dada
    May 19, 2007

    Wow, that’s a hard hitting question, one that probably goes deeper than the original person realizes.
    As someone who serves actively in a congregation that is a denomination completely opposite of my own beliefs, and someone who serves many denominations where my person beliefs don’t agree with the presentation of theirs, I went through this often in the beginning.
    Now I realize that each leader is blessed in their own way, for God’s own reasons, whatever they may be. Because of this, I no longer let my own beliefs interfere with the processes of whatever congregation I am dealing with at a given moment. I’ve had to do political designs that I definitely did not agree with, and even doctrinal issues that are far off of my own views.
    I’m not the one teaching that particular assembly — the pastor/leader is. I am a tool that the person uses to produce a final product that they request. I have to be as neutral as possible, even if it goes against my personal opinion or belief. I’ve done designs for others that I may not have liked, but they wanted it that way.
    Unless they’re doing something REALLY awful, I think neutral is the best way to go. If you want to change the leadership team, join it :)


  • Hugh Griffiths
    May 20, 2007

    I love the idea of authenticity and would always seek to be real. However, we must be clear about what authentic really means and for me at least it means making God’s commands as real and accessible as they should be. After all the commandments were only given in Hebrew so that the Hebrews could understand them – conveying meaning to the audience is therefore the measure of authenticity.
    If it has some meaning or significance in communicating to the current audience, no problem using Hebrew characters – but if the design team is really serious about this, shouldn’t the rest of the text also be in Hebrew so it is ‘authentic’! Please – let’s keep hold of and concentrate on the purpose. Otherwise perhaps we should also debate whether the design team should make them in stone…


  • Mark Collier
    May 20, 2007

    Couldn’t agree with Hugh more.


  • Damian
    May 20, 2007

    This discussion makes me think of what Paul says 1 Corinthians 14:19, where he says “But in a church meeting I would rather speak five understandable words to help others than ten thousand words in an unknown language”. The question to ask is… “who are we communicating to?”. The answer “people who don’t read Hebrew”. It seems you’re burning time, and getting hung up on a minor issue. The combination of someone who’s serious about God’s Word (not that there’s anything wrong with it!), and someone who’s serious about design (again…) makes someone who can really hang up the process unless they keep the questions “who are we communicating to, and how can we do it best?” before them at all times.


  • st. Mars
    May 21, 2007

    …as an artist….whatever looks the best.


  • Liza
    May 22, 2007

    Can I pose this question on the matter of authenticity? Why do you need numbers? There aren’t any attached to the commandments in my bible. Just a thought!


  • Mean Dean
    May 22, 2007

    I think the title of this thread obfuscates the real issue …
    … one could present the commandments in any order, but they are all equally compelling and relevant regardless of ordinal order.
    Perhaps both parties need to emotionally divest themselves from their own goals, and rethink their objectives?
    Meaning, regardless of whether I’m the pastor or on the design team, I need to ask myself “does it really matter” in light of the overall goals of the lesson?


  • John W. Killinger
    May 23, 2007

    Seems to me this is a similar debate to that over the use of The Message, Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible. Is it more important to get the translated words accurate, even if the rendering confuses the reader? Sometimes it is more important that the idea is accurately conveyed in parlance that is easily understood by the reader.
    And yet we aren’t talking about providing people with scripture, we’re talking about a piece of art that reinforces the message of scripture. I think that this swings the pendulum in the direction of the familiar. If the graphic confuses the viewer to the point that it distracts from the message, then it becomes counterproductive to its reason for existence. In the case of art in worship, familiarity and meeting the aesthetics of the intended audience should supersede trivial historical questions.


  • Mean Dean
    May 23, 2007

    John, I think perhaps we’ve found the boundary where the marketing mechanism ends and the educational tool begins …
    … for example, do I compel my 7 year old daughter to learn the hebrew, or am I satisfied that she can read and comprehend the 10 commandments in any form?
    Likewise with adults – if we want it to stick then we gotta put a peanut butter on it they’ll eat – provided it doesn’t ruin the meal.


  • John W. Killinger
    May 23, 2007

    Dean–
    Exactly. I probably didn’t make it clear enough that I’m a huge fan of the Message for that very purpose. It IS more important that people get the idea. So if we fudge the non-essentials, in the interest of helping them understand, all’s good.



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