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(March 23, 2012 Boulder, Colorado)
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, Son and 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.
(Feb 14, 2012 Boulder, Colorado)
The current issue of World Magazine features an article by Emily Belz titled “The battle for accurate Bible translation in Asia.” The subtitle states: “Local pastors and churches object to translations that call God the father ‘the great protector’ and Jesus the ‘representative of God.”
According to World, the translation efforts of Frontiers and SIL have clearly resulted in very mixed feelings by these Asian churches. On the one hand, there is genuine appreciation for the sacrificial efforts of missionaries, as expressed by the Pakistani-born Dr. Samuel Naaman, now teaching at Moody Bible Institute, who says, “I was discipled and trained by the missionaries.” On the other hand, the article contains strongly worded statements from nationals who feel they are being treated like subjects of Western experimentation:
- Fikret Bocek, a former Turkish Muslim, declares, “They’re not listening,” he said about the missions agencies: “They come with theories and they leave with theories . . . We are going to be the ones who are going to be sweeping up all their mistakes.”
- General Secretary Anthony Lamuel wrote a letter explaining Pakistanis’ rationale for severing ties with SIL, stating, “We the Pakistan Bible Society will not promote experiments with the translation at the cost of hurting the church.”
- Edward Ayub from Bangladesh and a former Muslim says, “I want to die for the Bible,” not a misleading translation. “The harm they are doing now for the church will be long-lasting.”
While the Director of Frontiers Bob Blincoe was quoted as saying, “There is no cause for anyone to be alarmed by the accuracy of this translation,” these national leaders strongly disagree. They see first hand the detrimental impact of Western experimentation in their own countries, and the “long-lasting” damage now left for them to fix. But in the World article, Bob Blincoe of Frontiers appears to be open to input from nationals:
“The team believes that if Turks do not take ownership, the project will just fade away, as the teacher Gamaliel commented about human efforts in Acts 5.”
Clearly Turks, Pakistanis and Bengalis have not taken ownership of these translations. It is therefore time for Frontiers and SIL not simply to let these projects fade away, but to eliminate them entirely.
For a related article on how nationals feel Western missionaries are treating them, in their words, as “lab rats,” please see the St. Francis Magazine article, “The Year of the Lab Rat”
The petition referenced in the article can be found at http://www.change.org/petitions/lost-in-translation-keep-father-son-in-the-bible
(Feb 1st, 2012 Boulder, Co.)
SIL/Wycliffe Denies Removing Father-Son Terms from Bible Text: Biblical Missiology Responds
SIL/Wycliffe’s recent news articles (Facebook post, SIL news, Wycliffe Canada) claim that they do “not support the removal of the divine familial terms…” Sadly, the truth is that they not only support removing these terms, but they have actually been involved in the production and distribution of such translations for years. The “substitute” terms they are using are not accurate, faithful translations, but rather deny God’s Fatherhood and Jesus’ Sonship and deity at each point where they change God’s Word. For example, one of SIL/Wycliffe’s Arabic translations of Matthew 28:19 says:
“…baptize them with water in the name of God and His Messiah and the Holy Spirit.”
This is only one example out of hundreds of verses in dozens of translations where “Father” and “Son” have been changed, in essence, “removed”. This is not accurate, faithful Bible translation.
Denials without addressing the evidences detailed in the Fact Check, the claims put forth by nationals and evidences given by SIL/Wycliffe members only create deeper character issues for Wycliffe/SIL as now they not only have done these mistranslations, but are covering them up and deceiving donors.
Please sign the petition to keep “Father” and “Son” in the Bible text in every language.