1. Zach Harris

    A personal anecdote on encountering a MIT, by Elliot Clark, Mission Affirmed: Recovering the Missionary Motivation of Paul, 2021:

    “Our Ends Determine Our Means
    I once visited an old Armenian Protestant church building in the heart of Istanbul’s Golden Horn, only a fifteen-minute walk from the majestic Hagia Sophia. I was there attending meetings with a consortium of Christian ministers from throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. We had converged on this small sanctuary to establish partnerships, collaborate on mission, and formulate new strategies for reaching a specific unreached people group in a nearby region.
    Out time together was also an opportunity for encouragement, in part as we heard about those who were laboring in difficult places or on significant projects. In one such case, I was able to attend a breakout session—with no more than seven people in a circle—as we heard a report about a brand-new translation of one of the Gospels. A representative from the translation team was presenting their work, and I was eager to learn about their progress and a potential new resource.
    But my enthusiasm quickly turned to dismay.
    Since the translation was designed for a particularly challenging audience, the presenter shared how the team had changed their approach. Specifically, instead of retaining the Bible’s familial language for God the Father and Son, they were modifying the original wording to be more “sensitive” to readers from a conservative Muslim background. Recognizing that the Quran clearly teaches that Allah has no son, the translator noted how Muslims flatly reject the notion of Jesus as the Son of God. Others infer from the term “Son” that Christians believe God had sex, presumably with Mary, resulting in Jesus’ birth. This translation would avoid such confusion. In lieu of “son” the translators offered a less offensive title, similar to “authoritative representative.” They felt that by doing so they were being faithful to the original meaning while eliminating a potential stumbling block to Muslims. They were, in a sense, clearing the runway for the gospel to land among this unreached people. In fact, the presenter excitedly reported that initial tests with sample readers produced positive feedback. His whole session was brimming with hope this new translation would create, with the doors it would open.
    But the more he basked in their ingenuity, the more I reeled in disbelief, even anger. As he spoke I could barely contain my frustration. My heart drummed against my chest. My jaw strained. Sitting there in that small group, my mind raced with all I wanted to say, all I felt I had to say. What of the fact that this is God’s unchanging revelation of Himself to us? What about the Lord’s prayer? What of Jesus’ warnings of being ashamed of the Son? Finally, it came to a point where our session opened for discussion. After a bit I spoke up, but I have no idea what I said. The words came out haltingly. I expressed deep concerns. My voice flared. I pled with them to reconsider, but I couldn’t communicate all that I wanted to say. In my mind this wasn’t a legitimate translation, at least not a faithful one. And even if it managed to bring the blessing of God to more people, I feared it was going to bring the judgment of God upon them.
    After a minute or two, someone else in the group asked to speak. He was an Iraqi pastor. As a national leader who had suffered for his faith, he commanded the group’s attention. Everyone listened. “You know what you’ve done, don’t you?” he asked in a reprimanding tone. “Every single Muslim believes that our Scriptures are corrupted. In fact, they constantly argue with us ans say that the Injil has been twisted, that we’ve changed Allah’s words.” Then he paused, staring straight into the presenter’s eyes with clarity and a sure conscience. “Now you’ve proven them all right,” he said. “You actually have changed God’s word. You know what you’ve done? You just handed them bullets for their gun.”
    For a brief moment, the group sat in stunned silence. I assumed his argument landed with force. But I was equally shocked as the presenter casually deflected his comments and, after a short back and forth, doubled down in defense of their translation. The team’s intentions were honorable. This resource would reach more people. How could anyone find fault with their work?
    To this day, I look back on that experience as one of the most frustrating moments of my life. I was convinced something wrong had happened in that room but felt powerless to do anything about it. I walked out of the church with no clear sense of what to think or how to respond. Did I overreact? Did I say too much? Or not say enough? I wasn’t sure if I’d spoken out of turn. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure if I’d adequately communicated my alarm. But one thing I did know. I’d seen it clearer than ever: in missions, when reaching others becomes your primary end, you’ll easily justify any means.”

  2. Adam Simnowitz

    Rick B., I advise you to ask the person/group for an English “back translation” for the Bible translation that you support. Without a “back translation” into a language that you understand, unless you know the language of the translation (or someone who does), there is no way to be assured of fidelity to the original languages of Scripture. The lack of accountability from those involved in the Bible translation industry has emboldened many to engage in cultural relativism via paraphrase and alleged “religious idiom.”

  3. Mike Tisdell

    Byron Shenk,

    The female pastor was Ann Holmes Redding; she helped found a ministry called the Abrahamic Alliance that teaches that Islam is just a separate path to God. My first introduction to these corrupted Bible translations in 2008 was through interactions with the leaders of that ministry. They were promoting them!

  4. Editor

    Hi Theo,

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Your original comment was approved, and should be viewable in this article’s comment section under the username “tb”—but if you do not see it there, please resubmit your comment. We are sorry for any confusion.

    Thanks again and God bless you.

  5. Rick barnard

    Thank you so much for this excellent article on being accurate in translating the Bible! I am a financial supporter a Bible translation, and I don’t want to support any mistranslations of the Word of God! I pray that all Bible translators will remain faithful to the original language of the Scriptures!

  6. Theo Buitendyk

    On August 4th before noon I left a comment in this blog post with four scripture passages that speak to the issues … four passages that the Spirit has worked into my life over the years with respect to the question of how we treat the word of God in general. Due to my fear of God and trembling at his word I felt it neither necessary nor helpful to add my own personal commentary to the word, believing that the Holy Spirit can and will speak through these passages to those who have ears to hear.

    You apparently saw fit to not accept the comment… Ironically that decision seems to speak to how much respect you have regarding what the word of God itself has to say on the issue … perhaps you think that posting scriptures does not add to the conversation? I certainly hope not.

    I can only hope I’m mistaken … otherwise I’m very disappointed and must say that it’s not surprising that you are having these struggles with those whom you perceive to be corrupting God’s word. Why do you not respect a fellow believer’s thoughts (taken directly from the word) enough to let them stand on their own in your blog comments? It’s disappointing that you of all people would treat the word of God like that…perhaps the Lord will use it to help you to understand more deeply what it’s like to be on the other side of the question of what it means to really BELIEVE God and his word.

  7. George

    Thank you for this crucial post! I fear that most true believers who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture have no idea of this controversy.

    I know firsthand. About 10 years ago I applied to Wycliffe headquarters in Orlando, Florida for a position there. My simple question to them was, “What word do you use for God’s true Name, Yahweh (YHWH)? The reply I got was also simple: Allah. Needless to say, I could not in good conscience work there.

    And at another time, when I was looking for a Farsi translation for an Iranian friend, I was told by a different society that the Name used was Allah.

    As a student of Biblical history, my ears are pricked reading your article, thinking there is more to this story.

    If you study the history of the Catholic Church and especially the Jesuits, you will find yourself saying, as I did while reading this, that this sounds exactly like something they would do…obscure the Name of our Creator and God – for their own purposes.

    Jesuits have infiltrated many Protestant denominations, even becoming pastors and other types of leaders. They even “lose” confrontations on purpose in order to place themselves in a better position for later plans. They will do anything to weaken what we commonly refer to as “Bible-believing” churches, people, or denominations.

    For an example of the Jesuits’ influence (as far as it comes to translations of “holy” texts), you should find it suspicious what the Muslim Koran says about Mary. She has two chapters devoted to her and is the only woman mentioned in the Koran. She’s described as born without sin, lived a sinless life, was a virgin, gave birth to Jesus, and went to heaven in her physical body. Suspiciously Mohammed’s mother is never mentioned – nor is Mohammed!

    So, I believe when it comes to translations of the true Scripture given by Yahweh, any discussions – like the ones you presented here – should be taken seriously. Our congregations should be made aware!

    Oh, how I would like to peek behind the curtain of these translation societies and see just who is pulling the strings!

  8. Eldo Barkhuizen

    Adam Simnowitz (posted Aug. 5), thank you for your tremendous post, which lays out the translation situation so clearly. If Christians no longer have an accurate sea chart (Bible) to steer by, how can they navigate the reefs and currents of life and arrive safely at their heavenly destination – and help others to do the same? What a dreadful postmodern world we live in . . .

  9. Adam Simnowitz

    As one who has been in direct contact with WBT, SIL, and the WEA, I can assure you that the members of the WEA committee that issued its Panel Report were carefully selected by SIL’s leadership and their expenses were paid by SIL. This was a clever public relations move which certainly achieved its purpose. A much deeper issue, however, is that the Bible translation organizations and the Bible societies are beholden to Eugene Nida’s theory of “dynamic equivalence” (a.k.a. “functional equivalence”), which is code for cultural relativism. Nida was committed to spreading the teachings of Leonard Bloomfield, one of the architects of “American Structuralism.” According to this branch of Linguistics, words have no inherent meaning and there are no synonyms. Whenever one uses the same words, they ALWAYS have a different meaning because language is a highly malleable form of expression that only reflects the speaker’s subjective point of view at that moment. Further, since culture is always in flux (i.e. dynamic), the best that one can do is to understand that language only consists of “equivalents” (i.e. approximations; or, that which is relative), not exact or identical meanings. To attempt to translate literally is to be guilty of ethnocentrism, of imposing one culture upon another. Language is a subset of culture and can therefore never be a transcendent medium of expression. In other words, there is no Truth – yet even if “Truth” exists, it could never be communicated through language. This belief negates any possibility of the divine inspiration of Scripture. After close to six decades of Nida’s theory being the prevailing view among Bible “translators,” it is no surprise that the state of “Bible translation” has degenerated into what it is today.

  10. Byron Shenk

    I know of a traditional mainline Christian congregation a few years ago in Seattle, WA whose female pastor joined the local Muslim congregation, became a bone fife member and wore her Muslim dress and headdress to her Christian church service. Why was she able to do this? Because the congregation voted and 75 percent of her member said they were comfortable with her being at one and the same time a Christian and a Muslim. I do not believe you can mix darkness and light and be faithful to the Word of God as revealed in the Bible (at least the traditional Bible translations of the past 300 years before these Muslim affirming changes have been incorporated).

  11. Eldo Barkhuizen

    God’s Word is unchangeable. Those who violate His words misrepresent Him and weaken the power of His Word. How can we win spiritual battles with a blunt Sword? Well done to JBM for highlighting this vital issue. I’m sharing your article on my Facebook page and tweeting it too. I encourage others reading this to do the same.

  12. tb

    [Psa 12:6-7 KJV] 6 The words of the LORD [are] pure words: [as] silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.

    [Pro 30:6 KJV] 6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

    [Isa 66:2 KJV] 2 For all those [things] hath mine hand made, and all those [things] have been, saith the LORD: but to this [man] will I look, [even] to [him that is] poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

    [Rev 22:18-19 KJV] 18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.

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