Concerns about the translation practices of our Evangelical Bible Translation agencies.

The recent publication of the Tchadien Bible translation on bible.com provides a solid example about why we should be very concerned about current translation practices being employed by Bible translation organizations like Wycliffe and SIL. All of the concerns addressed in this article have been raised with SIL prior to the release of this translation. In light of the recent publication of this translation, it appears that those concerns fell on deaf ears.

This translation, published in partnership with SIL, can be found here:

For a more detailed examination, see the full report here.

Key concerns

While the focus of this review is the Tchadien Arabic translation, the key concerns described here are consistently seen in many other (MIT) Muslim Idiom Translations. While not every MIT exhibits all of the issues described, most MIT’s exhibit the majority of these issues. 

These concerns are as follows:

  1. Inconsistent translation of Elohim and Theos that emphasizes that Allah is God’s name.
  2. Using Allah to translate the name Yahweh, emphasizing that Allah is God’s proper name.
  3. Using Allah to translate ‘Lord’ in the NT only when it refers to the Father challenges Trinitarian theology. 
  4. The adoption of Quranic quotations and idioms emphasizes Islam as a valid biblical faith.
  5. Inconsistency between OT texts and NT quotes obscures the OT connection. 
  6. The translation of Familial terms in ways that obscure the relationship of Jesus to his Father. 
  7. The inclusion of paratexts 1 that provide unorthodox meanings for biblical terms

While it is often suggested that the WEA review process has resolved all the troubling translation practices of the recent past, it should be noted that all of the issues described in this document, with the exception of the Familial terms issue, are completely outside the scope of the WEA (World Evangelical Alliance) review process. A translation that exhibits any of the other issues described in this article will not affect its approval by the WEA review board.

The inconsistent Translation of Elohim and Theos emphasizes that God’s proper name is ‘Allah’

Most translations are very careful with the translation of the divine terms ‘Yahweh,’ ‘Lord,’ and ‘God,’ allowing the reader to recognize which terms were used when reading their translation. The following description is taken from the preface of the ESV (similar descriptions are found in most Standard English translations)

“In the translation of biblical terms referring to God, the ESV takes great care to convey the specific nuances of meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek words. First, concerning terms that refer to God in the Old Testament: God, the Maker of heaven and earth, introduced himself to the people of Israel with a special personal name, the consonants for which are YHWH (see Exodus 3:14–15). Scholars call this the “Tetragrammaton,” a Greek term referring to the four Hebrew letters YHWH. The exact pronunciation of YHWH is uncertain, because the Jewish people considered the personal name of God to be so holy that it should never be spoken aloud. Instead of reading the word YHWH, therefore, they would normally read the Hebrew word ’adonay (“Lord”), and the ancient translations into Greek, Syriac, and Aramaic also followed this practice. When the vowels of the word ’adonay are placed with the consonants of YHWH, this results in the familiar word Jehovah that was used in some earlier English Bible translations. As is common among English translations today, the ESV usually renders the personal name of God (YHWH) by the word LORD (printed in small capitals). An exception to this is when the Hebrew word ’adonay appears together with YHWH, in which case the two words are rendered together as “the Lord [in lowercase]GOD [in small capitals].” In contrast to the personal name for God (YHWH), the more general name for God in Old Testament Hebrew is ’elohim and its related forms of ’el or ’eloah, all of which are normally translated “God” (in lowercase letters). The use of these different ways to translate the Hebrew words for God is especially beneficial to English readers, enabling them to see and understand the different ways that the personal name and the general name for God are both used to refer to the One True God of the Old Testament.”

Most Standard Arabic Bibles follow a similar method for translating these divine terms. Similar to English Bibles, the most common translation of the proper name Yahweh is ‘al-rabb’ (the Lord) which is used consistently throughout the translation and Allah (and ‘ilah’) are used consistently to translate common nouns for ‘God.’ When reading these translations it is easy to understand whether a common noun like Elohim was used in the original text or whether the proper name Yahweh was used. However, the Tchadien Bible translates Elohim sometimes as ‘Allah,’ sometimes as ‘Allah the Lord,’ and sometimes as ‘the Lord’ which significantly obscures which term was used in the underlying text. The Tchandien Bible almost consistently translates Yahweh as Allah which creates another set of problems i.e. Allah is the correct translation of common nouns like Elohim and Theos; it actually shares a common Semitic root with Elohim. It is an incorrect translation of Yahweh.

In Arabic the most common word for God is ‘Allah’; it is derived from common Arabic noun for god (ilah) and it is directly related to the Hebrew word ‘Elohim.’ Standard Arabic translations use both forms because the latter is required to communicate plurals and possession i.e “my God,” “your God,” or the plural “gods.” In Arabic possession is indicated by adding a possessive suffix onto the noun but the form ‘Allah,’ which also functions as a proper name, does not allow for these suffixes to be attached. Proper names in Arabic do not take a possessive suffix. 

In the Greek NT text when the terms ‘Lord’ and ‘God’ appear together in the text, the possessive pronoun is almost exclusively attached to the noun ‘God’ i.e. ‘The Lord our God’ rather than “God our Lord;” however, because translating the phrase ‘our God’ as it appears in the NT would require the form ‘ilahuna’ to be used rather than ‘Allah,’ Muslim Idiom translations, attempting to promote the idea that Allah is a proper name for God, frequently change the phrase to ‘Allah our Lord.’ In doing so, they preserve the form “Allah,” emphasizing its understanding as God’s proper name.  

The translation of Yahweh as ‘Allah’ in the OT emphasizes that Allah is God’s proper name.

Most historical translations use a form of the honorific “Lord” to translate Yahweh following the Hebrew tradition of verbally substituting ‘Adonai’ (which means My Lord) when vocalizing the name Yahweh. A few follow the Hebrew textual tradition and transliterate the name rather than use an honorific to represent the name. In early manuscripts we see numerous methods employed to demonstrate reverence for the name Yahweh i.e. the use of the honorific “Lord” in Greek, Latin, Aramaic, etc.; the use of sacred abbreviations in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the retention of the Paleo Hebraic form of Yahweh in Hebrew manuscripts from the Dead Sea. The one common theme seen in each of these methods is the extreme reverence and care that was placed on the divine name Yahweh. 

While some missiologists have suggested that ‘Kurios’ and ‘Theos’ were proper names of pagan gods that were co-opted by the NT authors as a new proper name for Yahweh, there is zero evidence to substantiate the claim that these terms were ever used as the proper name for any god. While these terms, like ‘god’ and ‘lord,’ can refer to Yahweh, false gods, and even men, they were never used as the proper name of a specific deity and the NT usages are consistent with the usages found in Jewish writings centuries earlier. 

The best example in Scripture of a common noun, like Allah, that could also be used as a proper name of a false god is ‘Ba’al.’ In meaning, the noun ‘ba’al’ could easily be used to refer to Yahweh as master/owner/husband; however, Scripture avoids in using this term in reference to Yahweh. In other words, while it would be perfectly acceptable to say that “The master is Yahweh,” phrases like this simply do not appear in the biblical text. It appears that the Biblical authors recognized that this phrase could be easily be misunderstood as communicating the idea that “Ba’al is Yahweh” and avoided making such a connection.

The Translation of ‘Lord’ in OT quotes and allusions in the NT creates a distinction between the Father and his Son that undermines Trinitarian theology.

When the NT authors use OT quotes with the name Yahweh in reference to Jesus, the same term ‘Lord’ is translated differently in the Tchadian translation. While the term ‘Lord’ is translated as ‘Allah’ whenever it refers to the Father, an alternate term is used whenever it refers to the ‘Son.’ Even when quotes from the OT appear in the same passage (like in 1 Pet. 3:12-16), the term is changed when the NT author indicates that the reference refers to the Son. There are a number of places in the NT where the NT authors use OT quotes to equate Jesus with Yahweh but the connection of Jesus to these OT texts is broken in the Tchadien translation. 

Additional comments on Matt. 22:44 

The Tchadien Arabic translation uses ‘Allah’ for the first instance of ‘‘Lord’’ that represents Yahweh in the Psalm, but uses ‘my master, the king’ for Lord in the second referent. This translation choice is very troubling because the point of Jesus’ question is that David could not refer to the Messiah as ‘My Lord’ unless the Messiah was greater than he, and that would require him to be divine. In Arabic, like Greek and Hebrew, the word ‘Lord’ can be used with the understanding of a divine referent but the vocabulary chosen in the Tchadien translation for this verse would typically not be understood this way. While the NT text uses ‘Lord’ for both references, the Tchadien Arabic translation differentiates between these references and its choice of vocabulary obscures the intended meaning of divinity in this text! The following are some commentaries that expound on the meaning of this verse.

“The Pharisees’ answer (v. 42b) sets up Jesus’ real question. If the Messiah is merely the human offspring of David, why does David himself speak of him as “Lord”—a master or sovereign above the one who is king of Israel and the highest human authority in the land? Jesus here employs the rabbinic method of setting up an antinomy and then resolving it. He bases his argument on Ps 110:1, assuming with the Judaism of his time the accuracy of the Davidic superscription, and the inspiration of the actual text itself, which would therefore imply its truthfulness. Given these assumptions, the second “Lord” (Heb. adoni, not Yahweh) can only be the Messiah. Again Jesus’ reasoning finds pre-Christian Jewish precedent.102 This “lord” resides at the position of highest privilege and authority, second only to God the Father. He sits next to the Father’s throne and rules over all his enemies (Ps 110:4), presumably including those in Jesus’ audience!”

Blomberg, Craig L.. Matthew (The New American Commentary) (p. 336). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“44.   [The Lord said to My Lord, Sit at My right hand until I place Thy enemies underneath Thy feet.] So Mk. That is to say, “there is a Psalm of David in which the writer speaks of the Messiah as Lord.” It is assumed that the Psalm is Davidic, and that it deals with the Messiah. The reference is to Psa 110:1. Both Mt. and Mk. differ from the LXX. in omitting the article before ‘Lord’, and in substituting ὑποκάτω for ὑποπόδιον.

45.   [If, therefore, David calls Him Lord, how is He His Son?] Mk. has: “David himself calls Him Lord, and whence is He His Son?” Christ here raises a difficulty which He does not solve. If the Messiah is David’s Son, how is it that David, speaking by divine inspiration, ascribes to Him a divine title and divine prerogatives? The solution suggested, though not expressed, is that the Messiah is not only Son of David, but Son of God. See Dalm. Words, pp. 285 f.”

Willoughby C. Allen, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary; ed. Samuel Rolles Driver, Alfred Plummer, and Charles A. Briggs; 3rd ed. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), paragraph 3308.

“Verse 44. The Lord (hwhy Yeve or Jehovah) said unto my Lord, (ynda Adni or Adonai, my prop, stay, master, support,) Sit thou on my right hand. Take the place of the greatest eminence and authority. Till I make thine enemies thy footstool-till I subdue both Jews and Gentiles under thee, and cause them to acknowledge thee as their sovereign and Lord. This quotation is taken from Psa. cx. 1; and, from it, these two points are clear: 1. That David wrote it by the inspiration of God; and 2. That it is a prophetic declaration of the Messiah.

Verse 45. How is he his son? As the Jews did not attempt to deny the conclusion of our Lord’s question, which was, the Messiah is not only the son of David according to the flesh, but he is the Lord of David according to his Divine nature, then it is evident they could not. Indeed, there was no other way of invalidating the argument, but by denying that the prophecy in question related to Christ: but it seems the prophecy was so fully and so generally understood to belong to the Messiah that they did not attempt to do this; for it is immediately added, No man was able to answer him a word—they were completely nonplussed and confounded.”

Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Accordance electronic ed. 6 vols.; (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2004), paragraph 36998.

“Jesus’ argument is based on a well-known psalm, which, as a “psalm of David,” was obviously relevant to the question. But it is not merely David’s psalm. “In the Spirit” presupposes that this psalm owes its origin to the Spirit of God rather than merely to human initiative; cf. the idea that David was a prophet in Acts 2:30.8 For a similar understanding of Scripture more generally cf. Acts 1:16; 4:25; 28:25, and Heb 3:7; 9:8; 10:15; 2 Pet 1:21. Apart from this underlying presupposition that the scriptural text is divinely inspired and therefore authoritative, this introductory formula makes three hermeneutical assumptions which will be crucial to Jesus’ argument:9 (a) that the speaker in Psalm 110 is David; (b) that David is speaking about the Messiah; (c) that someone described as “my lord” is superior to the one speaking. Of these the third is the most obvious: superiority is inherent in the meaning of the word “lord,” in all the various social relationships to which it may be applied, whether in Hebrew (ʾādôn),10 Aramaic (mar) or Greek (kyrios). You would not speak of your son as your “lord.””

R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 850-851.

The adoption of Quranic quotations and idioms promotes the idea that Islam is a valid expression of biblical faith

The Shahada – This is the Islamic confession of faith and reciting this in public means that one has converted to Islam. In Islamic theology one is not required to believe when they recite the Shahada, they are converted simply by reciting it. In a Muslim context, this text is as well-known as John 3:16 is in a Christian context i.e. a Muslim completes in his mind “La Ilaah illa Allah—” as easily as a Christian completes “For God so loved the world—“. 

One of the troubling trends that is exhibited in most Muslim Idiom Translations is the insertion of the first half of the Shahada into the biblical text; doing so requires a significant change to the text. A survey of some of the occurrence of the Shahada text in the Tchadien Arabic translation shows that a significant effort was made to adapt significantly different underlying texts to this single well-known Islamic creed.

The 99 names of Allah – Each of the 99 names of Allah carries with it significant theological baggage, so incorporating these names into the text of Scripture is very problematic. Adapting a translation to use these designated names of Allah is a frequent feature of Muslim Idiom Translations. 

Deut. 6:4 is one of the most theologically important verses in the OT, and in quotation in the NT, but its handling in the Tchadien Arabic translation is very troubling. It reads “Allah our God, he is Allah The One.” The two most significant issue with this translation are the translation of Yahweh as Allah and the insertion of the article i.e. “The One” which transforms this in to a very anti-Trinitarian text. Even without the Islamic implications, adding the article (which does not exist in the Hebrew source text) is problematic but with the Islamic understanding of this form as a name of God, it is a disaster. The names ‘The One’ and ‘The Only’ are seen in Islam as a unit and are frequently combined in the lists of 99 names. They convey a very anti-Trinitarian concept i.e. commonly being understood as one who has no partner in His Being nor in His attributes nor in His works, one who is not begotten and who does not beget. 2

The Bismillah 

The exact equivalent of the Bislmillah i.e. “in the name of God” is never used in Scripture; in the Hebrew Scriptures when the phrase “in name of God” appears, it is always declined with a possessive or modified with an adjective i.e. “his god,” “your god,” “their god,”  “our God,” or “other gods.” These phrases appear only six times and five of these six occurrences are used in reference to false deities!

References specifically to ’the name of Yahweh’ are common, appearing 46 times in the OT (the equivalent NT phrase “in the name of the Lord” appears 14 times). While the phrase “in the name of God” is avoided in Scripture, it is used consistently in the Tchadien Arabic to translate “in the name of Yahweh” and in the NT to translate “in the name of the Lord.” This change allows the Islamic Bismillah to be introduced into the text even though the equivalent phrase does not exist in any biblical manuscripts.  

The Bismillah is an important part of Islamic worship; it is included in every Muslim prayer and is recited before all but one of the Suras when the Qur’an is read. By incorporating well known Islamic terms phrases like the Shahada, the Bismillah, and the 99 names of Allah into Scripture, we confirm the Muslim belief that the Prophets of the OT, who in this translation appear to know these Islamic terms and phrases, were themselves Muslims, and in many cases these changes become obstacles to orthodox Christian theology, especially as it relates to the divinity of Christ and belief in the Trinity. 

Familial Language

The familial language issues are less of an issue in the Tchadien Arabic translation than they are in other Muslim Idiom translations, but issues with familial terms are not completely absent. On the positive side, the Tchadien Arabic translation generally retains ’Son of God’ and ‘Father.’ However, frequently the translation of “my Father,” “Your Father,” becomes “My Father Allah,” “Your Father Allah.” And in several places more substantial changes are made, for example, “Your Father who is in heaven” in Mt. 6:1 becomes “Your Father Allah.”

Tchadien Arabic Review Arabic and Hebrew Script Version

By Mike Tisdell 5/23/2020

The reviewed version is the La Bible en arabe tchadien © Alliance biblique du Tchad, 2019

Key concerns

While the focus of this review is on the Tchadien Arabic translation, the key concerns are consistently seen in many other (MIT) Muslim Idiom Translations. I chose to evaluate this particular translation, not because it is more problematic than other recent translations, but because it is a completed translation where Wycliffe/SIL’s involvement is not in dispute. 

While not every MIT (including the Tchadien Arabic translation) exhibits all of the issues described below, most MIT’s exhibit the majority of these issues. These concerns are as follows:

  1. Using Allah to translate יהוה (YHWH)
  2. Using Allah to translate Κύριος (Kurios) in the NT 
  3. Inconsistent translation of אלהים (Elohim) and Θεός (Theos)
  4. Adoption of Quranic quotations and idioms 
  5. Inconsistency between OT text and NT quotes 
  6. The mis-translation of Familial terms
  7. The inclusion of paratexts that provide unorthodox meanings for biblical terms

Additionally, it should be noted that all of the issues described in this document, with the exception of the Familial terms issue, are outside the scope of the WEA review process. The changes to DFT’s found in many Muslim Idiom Translations are only theologically significant issue that is being evaluated by the WEA working group. The current scope of the working group prohibits it from denying an approval based on most of the issues that are covered in this document, even when the panel members agree that these are problematic issues. 

Inconsistent Translation of אלהים (Elohim) and Θεός (Theos)

In Arabic اله\الله (god) is a direct cognate of אלוה (god). The form الله (Allah) can function as either a common noun or a proper name and it has been used as a common noun to translate for אלוה\אלהים (Eloah/Elohim) and Θεός (Theos) for many centuries. Standard Arabic translations regularly use both الله and اله, the latter allows for the declension and pluralization of these terms. In Muslim Idiom Translations, رب (lord) is frequently being adopted to translate Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic words for ‘god’ so that الله (Allah) can function as proper name for God in place of יהוה (Yahweh). This is a significant, troubling, and unwarranted change in translation practices that represents a significant shift in translations practices over the last two decades.

  • Gen. 1:1 אלהים is translated as الله
  • Gen. 1:2 אלהים is translated as الله
  • Gen. 1:3 אלהים is translated as الله الرب
  • Gen. 1:4 אלהים is translated as الله الرب
  • Gen. 1:5 אלהים is not translated 
  • Gen. 1:6 אלהים is translated as الله الرب
  • Gen. 1:7 אלהים is translated as الرب
  • Gen. 1:8 אלהים is not translated 
  • Gen. 1:9 אלהים is translated as الرب
  • Gen. 1:10a אלהים is not translated 
  • Gen. 1:10b אלהים is translated as الله الرب
  • Gen. 1:11 אלהים is translated as الرب
  • Gen. 1:12 אלהים is translated as الله الرب
  • Gen. 1:14 אלהים is translated as الرب
  • Gen. 1:16 אלהים is translated as الرب
  • Gen. 1:17 אלהים is not translated
  • Gen. 1:18 אלהים is translated as الله الرب
  • Gen. 1:20 אלהים is translated as الرب
  • Gen. 1:21a אלהים is translated as الرب
  • Gen. 1:21b אלהים is translated as الله الرب
  • Gen. 1:22 אלהים is not translated
  • Gen. 1:24 אלהים is translated as الرب
  • Gen. 1:25a אלהים is translated as الرب
  • Gen. 1:25b אלהים is translated as الله
  • Gen. 1:26 אלהים is translated as الرب
  • Gen. 1:27a אלהים is translated as الله
  • Gen. 1:27b אלהים is translated as الرب 
  • Gen. 1:28a אלהים is translated as الرب
  • Gen. 1:28b אלהים is not translated 
  • Gen. 1:27b אלהים is translated as الرب 

The translation of θεὸς (god) and κύριος (lord) – when the referent is the Father is الله; however, when both appear together in a text, Scripture almost exclusively attaches the possessive pronouns to θεὸς (god), but the Tchadien Arabic translation reverses this and almost always attaches the possessive to رب allowing the undeclined form of الله to be retained. As names in Arabic are never declined, this emphasizes that الله is a proper name for God. This is exactly backwards from the Greek text which uses κύριος (Lord) as an honorific to stand in place of God’s name. 

  • Mt. 1:23 θεὸς is translated as الله
  • Mt. 3:9   θεὸς is translated as الله
  • Mt. 3:16 θεὸς is translated as الله
  • Mt. 4:7 τὸν θεόν σου is translated as رَبَّكْ
  • Mt. 22:37  τὸν θεόν σου is translated as رَبَّكْ
  • Mt. 27:47 ὁ θεός μου is translated as إِلٰهِي
  • Mk. 12:29 ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν is translated as رَبِّنَا

The translation of יהוה (Yahweh) in the OT

Most historical translations use a form of the honorific “Lord” to translate יהוה following the Hebrew tradition of verbally substituting אדוני when vocalizing the name יהוה. A few follow the Hebrew textual tradition and transliterate the name rather than use an honorific to represent the name. In early manuscripts we see numerous methods employed to demonstrate reverence for the name יהוה i.e. the use of the honorific “Lord” in Greek, Latin, Aramaic, etc…; the use of sacred abbreviations in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, the retention of the Paleo Hebraic form of יהוה in Hebrew texts from the Dead Sea. 

Some missiologists have claimed that Κύριος and Θεός were proper names of pagan gods that were adopted by the NT authors as a new proper name for יהוה, but there is zero evidence to substantiate the claim that these terms were ever used as the proper name for any god. While these terms, like ‘god’ and ‘lord,’ can refer to יהוה, false gods, and even men, they were never used as the proper name of a specific deity; the NT usages are consistent with the usages found in Jewish writings centuries earlier. 

The best example in Scripture of a common noun that is also used as the proper name of a false god is בעל which could easily be used to speak about יהוה as master/owner/husband; however, in this case using this term in reference to יהוה is avoided. In Scripture we see בעלי or the idiom בעל חמה used in reference to יהוה but the absolute, undeclined form בעל is always used for the false Canaanite god or to speak about men, and it is frequently used to describe Baal in opposition to יהוה.  The authors of Scripture carefully avoided confusion between reference to יהוה and other gods, like בעל, and this should serve as an example for us as we translate God’s word. 

  • Gen. 4:1 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 4:3 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 4:4 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 4:6 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 4:9 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 4:13 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 4:15a יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 4:15b יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 4:16 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 4:26 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 5:29 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 6:3 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 6:5 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 6:6 יהוה is not translated
  • Gen. 6:7 יהוה is not translated
  • Gen. 6:8 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 7:1 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 7:5 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 7:16 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 8:20 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 10:9a יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 10:9b יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 11:5 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 11:6 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 11:8 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 11:9a יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 11:9b יהוה is not translated
  • Gen. 12:1 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 12:4 יהוה is translated as الله
  • Gen. 12:7 יהוה is translated as الله

With the exception of a few cases where an explicit subject is translated implicitly, the translation of יהוה is consistently الله (Allah). In traditional Arabic translations this would be consistently translated as الرب (the Lord).

The Translation of κύριος (Lord) in OT quotes and allusions in the NT

In historical Arabic translations, ‘Allah’ is used to translate θεὸς, but in the Tchadien Arabic Translation ‘Allah’ is primarily used as a translation of ‘κύριος’ when the referent is the Father. When constructions like “Κύριον τὸν θεόν σου” (Lord your God) appear in the NT text a traditional Arabic translation will read “ٱلرَّبَّ إِلَهَكَ” (the Lord your God) but the Tchadien Arabic translation changes this to “رَبَّكْ اللهْ” (your Lord Allah/God), inverting the translation. This emphasizes the idea that “Allah” is God’s proper name because names in Arabic, like Hebrew, are not declinable while common nouns are declined. Note: in each case the OT text from which these NT texts are quoting uses “יהוה” but the translation differentiates when Jesus is the referent. 

  • Mt. 3:3 κύριος is translated as الرَّبّ
    • Prepare the way of the Lord – the referent is Jesus and ‘Allah’ is not used
  • Mt. 4:7 κύριος is translated as الله
    • You shall not put the Lord your God to the test

Note: ٱلرَّبَّ إِلَهَكَ is changed to رَبَّكْ اللهْ

  • Mt. 4:10 κύριος is translated as الله
    • You shall worship the Lord your God

Note: ٱلرَّبَّ إِلَهَكَ is changed to رَبَّكْ اللهْ

  • Mt. 21:9 κύριος is translated as الله
    • Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”

Note: “Hosanna” has been replaced in this translation by “الْحَمْدُ للّٰهْ” and “Hosanna in the highest” has been translated “أَحْمُدُوا اللّٰهْ فِي الْعَالِي”; this is neither a transliteration nor a translation of the meaning of “הושע-נא”. Additionally, by translating κύριος as اللهْ the Bismillah has been introduced into the text (بِأُسُمْ اللهْ). Both changes to the text demonstrate significant Islamic influence. 

  • Mt. 21:42 κύριος is translated as الله 
    • “this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” 
  • Mt. 22:37 κύριος is translated as الله
    • You shall love the Lord your God 

Note: ٱلرَّبَّ إِلَهَكَ is changed to رَبَّكْ اللهْ

  • Mt. 22:44a κύριος is translated as الله
    • The Lord said to my Lord
  • Mt. 22:44b κύριος is translated as لِسِيدِي الْمَلِكْ
    • The Lord said to my Lord – the referent is Jesus and ‘Allah’ is not used.

Note: This instance is very theologically significant and the words chosen are not typically used of divinity (see additional comments below)

  • Mt. 27:10 κύριος is translated as الله
    • and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.
  • Mk. 1:3 κύριος is translated as الرَّبّ
    • Prepare the way of the Lord – the referent is Jesus and ‘Allah’ is not used.
  • Mk. 11:9 κύριος is translated as الله 
    • Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Note: “Hosanna” has been replaced in this translation by “اللهْ يَنْصُرْ” and “Hosanna in the highest” has been translated “سُبْحَانْ اللهْ وَ تَعَالَى”; this is neither a transliteration nor a translation of the meaning of “הושע-נא”, but these are well known Islamic phrases that come from the Hadiths.
Additionally, by translating κύριος as اللهْ the Bismillah has been introduced into the text (بِأُسُمْ اللهْ), another well know Islamic phrase.

Additional comments on Mt. 22:44

The Greek of Mt. 22:44 reads “Εἶπεν Κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου” which is an exact quote of Ps. 109:1 (LXX) i.e. there is no distinction made between either instance of “Lord”; the Hebrew text reads: “נְאֻם יְהוָה לַאדֹנִי” but is always read as “נְאֻם אֲדֹנָי לַאדֹנִי” which is what is represented in the Greek text. Traditional Arabic translations convey this in the same way i.e. “قَالَ ٱلرَّبُّ لِرَبِّي”. However, the Tchadien Arabic translation uses ‘الله’ for the first instance of ‘κύριος’, but  ‘سِيدِي الْمَلِكْ’ for Lord for the second referent i.e. ‘my master, the king,’ loosing this connection with the source text. This one is really troubling because the point of Jesus question is that David could not refer to the Messiah as ‘My Lord’ unless the Messiah was greater than he, and that would require him to be divine. In Arabic, like Greek and Hebrew, the word Lord (رب) can be used with the understanding of a divine referent but the vocabulary chosen in the Tchadien Arabic translation would typically not be understood this way. While the NT text uses κύριος for both the references, the Tchadien Arabic’s differentiation between these references and choice of vocabulary obscures the intended meaning of this text! 

“The Pharisees’ answer (v. 42b) sets up Jesus’ real question. If the Messiah is merely the human offspring of David, why does David himself speak of him as “Lord”—a master or sovereign above the one who is king of Israel and the highest human authority in the land? Jesus here employs the rabbinic method of setting up an antinomy and then resolving it. He bases his argument on Ps 110:1, assuming with the Judaism of his time the accuracy of the Davidic superscription, and the inspiration of the actual text itself, which would therefore imply its truthfulness. Given these assumptions, the second “Lord” (Heb. adoni, not Yahweh) can only be the Messiah. Again Jesus’ reasoning finds pre-Christian Jewish precedent.102 This “lord” resides at the position of highest privilege and authority, second only to God the Father. He sits next to the Father’s throne and rules over all his enemies (Ps 110:4), presumably including those in Jesus’ audience!”

Blomberg, Craig L.. Matthew (The New American Commentary) (p. 336). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

“44.   [The Lord said to My Lord, Sit at My right hand until I place Thy enemies underneath Thy feet.] So Mk. That is to say, “there is a Psalm of David in which the writer speaks of the Messiah as Lord.” It is assumed that the Psalm is Davidic, and that it deals with the Messiah. The reference is to Psa 1101. Both Mt. and Mk. differ from the LXX. in omitting the article before κύριος, and in substituting ὑποκάτω for ὑποπόδιον.

45.   [If, therefore, David calls Him Lord, how is He His Son?] Mk. has: “David himself calls Him Lord, and whence is He His Son?” Christ here raises a difficulty which He does not solve. If the Messiah is David’s Son, how is it that David, speaking by divine inspiration, ascribes to Him a divine title and divine prerogatives? The solution suggested, though not expressed, is that the Messiah is not only Son of David, but Son of God. See Dalm. Words, pp. 285 f.”

Willoughby C. Allen, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary; ed. Samuel Rolles Driver, Alfred Plummer, and Charles A. Briggs; 3rd ed. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), paragraph 3308.

“Verse 44. The Lord (hwhy Yeve or Jehovah) said unto my Lord, (ynda Adni or Adonai, my prop, stay, master, support,) Sit thou on my right hand. Take the place of the greatest eminence and authority. Till I make thine enemies thy footstool-till I subdue both Jews and Gentiles under thee, and cause them to acknowledge thee as their sovereign and Lord. This quotation is taken from Psa. cx. 1; and, from it, these two points are clear: 1. That David wrote it by the inspiration of God; and 2. That it is a prophetic declaration of the Messiah.

Verse 45. How is he his son? As the Jews did not attempt to deny the conclusion of our Lord’s question, which was, the Messiah is not only the son of David according to the flesh, but he is the Lord of David according to his Divine nature, then it is evident they could not. Indeed, there was no other way of invalidating the argument, but by denying that the prophecy in question related to Christ: but it seems the prophecy was so fully and so generally understood to belong to the Messiah that they did not attempt to do this; for it is immediately added, No man was able to answer him a word—they were completely nonplussed and confounded.”

Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Accordance electronic ed. 6 vols.; (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2004), paragraph 36998.

“Jesus’ argument is based on a well-known psalm, which, as a “psalm of David,” was obviously relevant to the question. But it is not merely David’s psalm. “In the Spirit” presupposes that this psalm owes its origin to the Spirit of God rather than merely to human initiative; cf. the idea that David was a prophet in Acts 2:30.8 For a similar understanding of Scripture more generally cf. Acts 1:16; 4:25; 28:25, and Heb 3:7; 9:8; 10:15; 2 Peter 1:21. Apart from this underlying presupposition that the scriptural text is divinely inspired and therefore authoritative, this introductory formula makes three hermeneutical assumptions which will be crucial to Jesus’ argument:9 (a) that the speaker in Psalm 110 is David; (b) that David is speaking about the Messiah; (c) that someone described as “my lord” is superior to the one speaking. Of these the third is the most obvious: superiority is inherent in the meaning of the word “lord,” in all the various social relationships to which it may be applied, whether in Hebrew (ʾādôn),10 Aramaic (mar) or Greek (kyrios). You would not speak of your son as your “lord.””

R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 850-851.

Adoption of Quranic quotations and idioms

The Shahada – This is the Islamic confession of faith and reciting this in public means that one has converted to Islam. In Islamic theology one is not required to believe when they recite the Shahada, they are converted simply by reciting it. In a Muslim context, this text is as well-known as John 3:16 is in a Christian context i.e. a Muslim completes in his mind “لا اله الا الله—” (There is no god but Allah…) as easily as a Christian completes “For God so loved the world—“. One of the troubling trends that is exhibited in many new Arabic Muslim Idiom Translations is the insertion of the first half of the Shahada into the biblical text; doing so significantly changes the meaning of the text. Below are the Hebrew phrases and the adapted Arabic translations of this phrase found in the Tchadien Arabic translation. 

2 Sam 22:32

כִּי מִי־אֵל מִבַּלְעֲדֵי יְהוָה

أَشَانْ لَا إِلٰـهْ إِلَّا اللّٰهْ

Ps. 18:31

כִּי מִי אֱלוֹהַּ מִבַּלְעֲדֵי יְהוָה

أَشَانْ لَا إِلٰـهْ إِلَّا اللّٰهْ

1 Ki. 18:39

וַיֹּאמְרוּ יְהוָה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים יְהוָה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים

قَالَوْا: لَا إِلٰـهْ إِلَّا اللّٰهْ! لَا إِلٰـهْ إِلَّا اللّٰهْ!

Ps 118:27

אֵל יְהוָה

لَا إِلٰـهْ إِلَّا اللّٰهْ ّ

The following is a common Quranic variant i.e. “There is no God but He” is frequently found in the Qur’an (Q2 1:163, 255; Q3 1:2, 6, 18; Q4 1:87; Q6 1:102, 106; Q7 1:158; Q9 1:31, 129; Q11 1:14; Q13 1:30; Q20 1:8, 98; Q23 1:116; Q27 1:26; Q28 1:70, 88; Q35 1:3; Q39 1:6; Q40 1:3, 62, 65; Q44 1:8; Q59 1:22-23; Q64 1:13; Q73 1:9)

Deut. 4:35

יְהוָה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים אֵין עוֹד מִלְבַדּוֹ

اللّٰهْ هُو بَسْ الْإِلٰـهْ وَ لَا إِلٰـهْ إِلَّا هُو

Deut. 4:39

אֵין עוֹד

لَا إِلٰـهْ إِلَّا هُو

Reviewing some of the occurrence of the Shahada text in the Tchadien Arabic translation shows that significant adaptation was employed to harmonize significantly different underlying Hebrew texts to this well-known Islamic creed.  The first half of the Shahada appears only twice in the Qu’ran (Q37 1:35; Q47 1:19), but five times in this translation. The common variants “There is no God but He” and “There is not God but Me” are also included in this translation numerous times; the latter puts the words of the Shahada into the mouth of God himself exactly as it is expressed in the Qur’an (Q16 1:2; Q20 1:14; Q21 1:25).

The 99 names of Allah – Each of the 99 names of Allah carries with it significant theological baggage, so incorporating these names into the text of Scripture is very problematic. Adapting a translation to use these designated names of Allah is a frequent feature of Muslim Idiom Translations. 

Deut. 6:4 is one of the most theologically important verses in the OT and in quotation in the NT, and its handling in the Tchadien Arabic translation is very troubling. The following is the Hebrew text and its translation:

Deut. 6:4

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד

أَسْمَعَوْا، يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلْ! اللّٰهْ إِلٰـهْنَا هُو اللّٰهْ الْوَاحِدْ

There are a number of significant issues with this translation, but the two most significant are the translation of יהוה as اللّٰهْ and the insertion of the article in الْوَاحِدْ (The One) that transforms this in to a very anti-Trinitarian text. Even without the Islamic implications, adding the article (which does not exist in the Hebrew source text) is problematic but with the Islamic understanding of this name, it is a disaster. The names الْوَاحِدْ (The One) and الْاحِدْ (The Indivisible) are seen in Islam as a unit and are frequently combined in the lists of 99 names. They convey a very anti-Trinitarian concept i.e. commonly being understood as one who has no partner in His Being nor in His attributes nor in His works, one who is not begotten and who does not beget.

Note: this is translated in Mark 12:29 as “أَسْمَعَوْا يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلْ! اللّٰهْ إِلٰـهْنَا هُو اللّٰهْ الْوَاحِدْ” 

Sura 1:1 from the Qur’an is part of the daily prayer of every Muslim. The first two of the 99 names of Allah come from this verse. Sura 1:1 reads: بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ, as can be seen these names are carried over into the Tchadien Arabic translation and this verse is translated in a way that its connection with Sura 1:1 would not be missed by any Muslim.

2 Chr. 30:9

כִּי־חַנּוּן וְרַחוּם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם

أَشَانْ اللّٰهْ إِلٰـهْكُو هُو الرَّحْمـٰنْ الرَّحِيمْ 

Note: The Hebrew text does not include the article and has a direct cognates in Arabic for both terms used in this verse. While the Tchadien Arabic translation has sacrificed the meaning of this text in order to create an Islamic connection, the following Arabic translations accurately communicates the meaning of this text without:

ٱلرَّبَّ إِلهَكُمْ حَنَّانٌ وَرَحِيمٌ (Van Dyke)  

الرَّبَّ إِلٰهَكم حَنونٌ رَحيم  (الترجمة الكاثوليكيّة)

The Bismillah – The Hebrew equivalent of the Bislmillah (بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ) i.e. בְּשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים is never used in Scripture; when this phrase is used in the Hebrew Scriptures אֱלֹהִים is always declined with a possessive or modified with an adjective i.e. “his god,” “your god,” “their god,”  “our God,” or “other gods.” The following is the complete list of all such occurrences in the OT (there are no equivalent examples in the NT). Five of the six occurrences are used in reference to false deities!

‏‏וַאֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר בְּשֵׁם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וּמֵת הַנָּבִיא הַהוּא (Deut. 18:20)

‏ or [he]who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die

וּבְשֵׁם אֱלֹהֵיהֶם לֹא־תַזְכִּירוּ (Josh. 23:7)

‏ or remember the name of their gods

וּקְרָאתֶם בְּשֵׁם אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וַאֲנִי אֶקְרָא בְשֵׁם־יְהוָה (1 Ki. 18:24)

‏ Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of YHWH

וְקִרְאוּ בְּשֵׁם אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וְאֵשׁ לֹא תָשִׂימוּ (1 Ki. 18:25)

‏‏ and call on the name of your god, but do not set a fire

כִּי כָּל־הָעַמִּים יֵלְכוּ אִישׁ בְּשֵׁם אֱלֹהָיו וַאֲנַחְנוּ נֵלֵךְ בְּשֵׁם־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד (Mi. 4:5)

‏ Though all the peoples walk, each in the name of his god, as for us, we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever

נְרַנְּנָה בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ וּבְשֵׁם־אֱלֹהֵינוּ נִדְגֹּל (Ps. 20:6)

We will rejoice in your salvation, and in the name of our God we will raise banners

By contrast the phrase “in the name of Yahweh” is very common; it appear 46 times in the OT (the equivalent NT phrase “in the name of the Lord” appears 14 times). While the phrase “in the name of God” is avoided in Scripture, it is used consistently in the Tchadien Arabic to translate “in the name of YHWH” (OT) and “in the name of the Lord” (NT). This change introduces the Bismillah into the biblical text even though an equivalent phrase does not exist in any biblical manuscripts. The Bismillah is included in every Muslim prayer and, with the exception of one chapter, is recited before each Sura when the Qur’an is read. 

The Alhamdulillah – The phrase الْحَمْدُ للّٰه means “praise Allah” and is heavily associated with Islamic worship. In the Qur’an it is stated that the last cry of Muslims will be “ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ” (“Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” -Q10 1:10 Shakir Qur’an). This phrase is added into the text in several places, but perhaps the most significant addition is found in Rev. 19:6 where the addition of the “Alhamdulillah” aligns the text to the cry of believers in paradise ( Sura 10:10). Note the inserted “الْحَمْدُ للّٰهْ!” has no equivalent in the Greek text. 

هَلَّيْلُويَا! الْحَمْدُ للّٰهْ! رَبِّنَا اللّٰهْ الْقَادِرْ قَاعِدْ يَمْلُكْ

Αλληλουιά, ὅτι ἐβασίλευσεν Κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν, ὁ παντοκράτωρ

Concluding thoughts on the adoption of Islamic phrases

By adapting the Biblical text to use well known Islamic phrases we are confirming the Muslim belief that the Prophets of the OT, who through these translation practices appear to know these Islamic phrases, were themselves Muslims. In many cases these changes also become obstacles to orthodox Christian theology because of their associated Islamic understanding, especially as it relates to the divinity of Christ and belief in the Trinity.

Familial Language

The familial language issues are less of an issue in the Tchadien Arabic translation than they are in other Muslim Idiom translations but issues with familial terms are not completely absent. On the positive side, the Tchadien Arabic translation generally retains إِبْن اللهْ (Son of God) and ‘Father’ however, frequently the translation of “my Father,” “Your Father,” becomes “My Father Allah,” “Your Father Allah;” this also emphasizes the idea that Allah is God’s proper name. In some cases the text is significantly changed, here are a few examples:

Mt. 5:45

“Your Father in heaven” (τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς) becomes “your Father Allah” (أَبُوكُو اللهْ)

Mt. 5:48

“Your heavenly Father” (ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος) becomes “Allah your Father in heaven” (اللّٰهْ أَبُوكُو فِي السَّمَاءْ)

Mt. 6:1

“Your Father who is in heaven” (τῷ πατρὶ ὑμῶν τῷ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς) becomes “Allah your Father in the heaven” (أَبُوكُو اللّٰهْ الْفِي السَّمَاءْ)

Overall, the Tchadien version retains Father/Son language better than most other Muslim Idiom Translations. 

Notes:

  1. A paratext is a footnote, endnote, appendix, etc… that contains additional information about the translation of a text or commentary on the text.
  2. Note: this is translated in Mark 12:29 as  “Our Lord Allah, he is one God/Allah” besides having its own set of problems, also highlights the inconsistency between OT text and their NT citations. 

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