Western missions agencies Wycliffe, Frontiers and SIL are producing Bibles for Muslim audiences that remove or replace Father, Son and Son of God in the text. The agencies defend this practice by saying Muslims can only hear sexual implications in these terms. Critics of the translations respond that Muslims are able to hear these terms without such connotations, for even the Qur’an uses “son” in ways that are non-biological. But more importantly, using other terms for “Father” and “Son” misrepresents the familial nature of God. The idea that God eternally exists as God the Father, Son and Spirit is indeed offensive to Muslims, but such theological obstacles must be explained rather than obscured.
Concerned about the integrity of the Scriptures and of the gospel message, a network of missionaries, linguists, theologians and global pastors have privately appealed to these missions agencies to stop producing these translations, but to no avail. This network, called Biblical Missiology, launched a petition on Change.org in January 2012 that asks these agencies to commit to retain Father, Son and Son of God in their Bible translations. To date, over 12,000 from all over the world have signed the petition, including many people from a Muslim background.
Some examples of replacements documented in Biblical Missiology’s Fact Check:
- Wycliffe/SIL produced Stories of the Prophets, an Arabic Bible that uses “Lord” instead of “Father” and “Messiah” instead of “Son.”
- Frontiers worked with an SIL consultant to produce The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ, an Arabic translation which removes “Father” in reference to God, and removes or redefines “Son,” e.g. the Great Commission in Mt 28:19 reads, “Cleanse them by water in the name of God, his Messiah and his Holy Spirit.”
- Frontiers produced a Turkish translation of Matthew, distributed by SIL, that uses “guardian” for “Father” and “representative” or “proxy” for “Son.”
- SIL consulted on the Bengali Injil Sharif, which translated “Son” as “Messiah” and “Son of God” as “God’s Uniquely Intimate Beloved Chosen One.”
In June 2011, the Presbyterian Church in America explicitly declared such translations as “unfaithful to God’s revealed Word” because they “compromise the doctrines of the Trinity, Scripture, and the person and work of Jesus.” More recently, the Assemblies of God issued a similar statement. Perhaps most importantly, church leaders in places like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Turkey, and Malaysia have called for an end to these translations. The Pakistan Bible Society ended its 20-year relationship with Wycliffe/SIL over the translation controversy. However, all such appeals have gone unheeded.
Adding fuel to the fire, these agencies have raised millions of dollars for these projects, yet donors are unaware their gifts are being used for translations that remove Father, Sonand Son of God from the text.
A thorough explanation of Biblical Missiology’s concerns can be found on their website, which includes a Fact Check, as well as a set of FAQs answering common questions, including responses to agency denials.