Ten years ago, Biblical Missiology led a petition asking Wycliffe Bible Translators, SIL International, and Frontiers to stop replacing or removing the terms “Father” and “Son of God” from Bible translations. The petition came only after years of efforts to address the problem privately, and after we saw the wisdom and pleas of local churches being repeatedly sidelined and ignored. The petition led to Wycliffe and SIL asking the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) for an external review that ended up slightly changing their policies, while Frontiers made no changes. We believe now is a helpful time to consider what happened at that time and since then, as well as the current status of the Father-Son issue and other issues in what are often called “Muslim Idiom Translations” or “Religious Idiom Translations.”
As a preface, this piece will necessarily focus in part on the situation within Wycliffe and SIL, since the Wycliffe family of organizations were the only groups involved in the external review by the WEA and subject to their guidelines. However, it is important to state at the outset that we do not want to single out Wycliffe and SIL as organizations, nor do we believe that problems with Muslim Idiom Translations are specific to them alone. Some contributors to the Journal of Biblical Missiology are former SIL members who have served on SIL projects for years, and we know God is doing great things through many faithful Wycliffe members, who are often completely unaware of the actions of their leadership and translators outside their own areas. In addition, as we will see, the problems that remain in Muslim Idiom Translations are by no means restricted to Wycliffe and SIL. What is written here is written in a spirit of loving correction, and a desire to see Wycliffe, SIL, and all Bible translation organizations thrive and serve the church, faithfully using their gifts to God’s glory.
Indeed, it is specifically our desire to see Bible translation organizations thrive that leads us to speak publicly about some admittedly difficult issues. We believe the Church needs an open, accurate account of what is happening in order to make informed decisions. We encourage the Church to engage on these issues in a spirit of love—love for God’s people, whom He desires to be like-minded and gracious with each other, and love for the purity of God’s Word, a rich treasure that He has given us to share with the whole world.
With that in mind, let us consider the situation ten years ago, and consider where we have come to today.
The petition launched by Biblical Missiology arose as a response to translations geared toward Muslim audiences, in which translators in Wycliffe, SIL, Frontiers, and other organizations were replacing “Son” or “Son of God” with terms like “Messiah” or even “Caliph,” and replacing “Father” with terms like “God” or “Guardian.”
The translators responsible argued that in some languages, terms meaning “Father” and “Son” are used only to describe a biological relationship, and to describe God and Jesus as “Father” and “Son” means that God must have had a sexual relationship with Mary to produce Jesus. Therefore, their alternative translations captured the “true meaning” of the terms “Father” and “Son” in reference to God better for these audiences than words that actually describe a familial relationship, and that Muslims will be offended and not read the Bible if it contains the normal familial words.
However, there is no known language in which the normal words for “Father” and “Son” are used only to describe biological relationships. The reason Muslims often believe that “Son of God” refers to the offspring of a sexual relationship has nothing to do with the inherent meaning of the words for “father” and “son” in these languages, but instead is a result of Islamic clerics falsely teaching that this is what Christians believe. Correcting this misperception is not accomplished by changing the words used in a translation, but by teaching Muslims what Christians really believe.
All human cultures have normal words for expressing the father-son relationship. The original inspired Greek terms for “Father” and “Son” could also have been misunderstood in a sexual way by pagan Greeks, but the Holy Spirit nonetheless used this central and universal human relationship to convey His truth. Deep and beautiful biblical meaning is lost when alternative terms are used. Using words that don’t clearly indicate the divine Father-Son relationship are not faithful to the meaning that God has revealed.
After a couple months of misleading denials and deflection (which we responded to here), Wycliffe and SIL asked the World Evangelical Alliance to draw up guidelines for translating these terms, and agreed to abide by those guidelines. The World Evangelical Alliance formed a panel to address this question for Wycliffe and SIL, which was released April 2013 and can be read here. Frontiers, meanwhile, defended their translation practices, and to our knowledge, has not made any changes to their translations of these terms to this day.
The WEA report slightly tightened SIL’s previous guidelines on translating Father-Son terms in “Scripture products.” Unfortunately, news reports in Christian media focused mainly on this tightening. As a result, many who were concerned about Wycliffe and SIL’s translation of “Father” and “Son” were left with the impression that there was no longer a problem, and that Wycliffe and SIL had learned their lesson and re-committed to faithful translation practices. Others (like ourselves) were more cautious, noting that much depended on how the guidelines were actually implemented, and whether Wycliffe and SIL used the report as an opportunity to shift directions and to specifically acknowledge and correct past errors, or treat the report as permission to continue to follow the underlying philosophies that led translators to remove “Father” and “Son” terms from the Bible, and would avail themselves of every possible loophole that the WEA guidelines provided them.
After ten years, we have a much clearer sense of the direction that Wycliffe and SIL, and the Bible translation world in general, has taken. Sadly, it’s quite clear that major issues of overly contextualized translations remain, both in relation to Father-Son terms and to other issues of deep theological significance.
Problems With the WEA Guidelines and Their Implementation
The “Scripture-Based Product” Loophole
In the last ten years, we have seen many examples of Wycliffe and SIL finding and using loopholes in the WEA guidelines to remove or obscure the biblical meaning of “Father” and “Son” terms.
First, the WEA guidelines allow translators to call their works a “Scripture-based product” and thereby avoid having to follow any of the restrictions on translating “Father” and “Son.” Some of the most egregious translations from before the WEA continue to be distributed or developed using this loophole. For example, the Bedouin Arabic “Stories of the Prophets,” which Wycliffe translator Rick Brown described as an “audio panoramic Bible,” translates “Son of God” as “God’s Caliph” in Luke 1:35 (hear it for yourself). For those who don’t know, “Caliph” in Islam is a term used for the successors to Muhammad and leaders of the Islamic Empire, related to the word “Caliphate.” This translation was done before the WEA guidelines were issued, but because Wycliffe and SIL chose to classify it a “Scripture-based product,” they are able to continue distributing it. In fact, this translation was uploaded and distributed to the public by Wycliffe/SIL subsidiary Sabeel Media as recently as December 2019.1Sabeel Media is primarily funded by Wycliffe and SIL, and is led by SIL International Media Consultant Stephen Coats. Sabeel Media uploaded the Bedouin Arabic translation onto their SoundCloud page in September and December 2019.
This is not simply a matter of “old work” continuing to exist on the internet. Since the WEA report was released, Wycliffe and SIL have used the “Scripture-based product” loophole to translate “Son (of God)” as “Messiah” in newly released translations as well. For instance, Wycliffe released the Sudanese Arabic version of the “Stories of the Prophets” series in 2018 through Sabeel Media,2See Sabeel Media, 2018 Annual Report (March 2019), 5. in which God the Father says at the Transfiguration in Luke 9:35, “This is the Messiah, the uniquely beloved one” (listen here). Sabeel has uploaded translations replacing “Son of God” with terms like “Messiah”3From Acts 9:20, Sudanese version. as recently as this year (2022).
Wycliffe and SIL continue to use terms like “Caliph” and “Messiah” for “Son of God” because the WEA guidelines allow them this loophole. (This is despite influential translators like Rick Brown and the “Grays” (pseudonym) saying that they had changed their minds about “Messiah” as an adequate translation of “Son of God.”4See Rick Brown, Leith Gray, and Andrea Gray, “A New Look at Translating Familial Biblical Terms,” International Journal of Frontier Missiology 28:3 (2011):117.) Indeed, Ruedi Giezendanner, a Wycliffe translator, has acknowledged directly that Wycliffe translators are utilizing the “Scripture-based product” loophole to give themselves “creative freedom” to translate “Father” and “Son” with words that don’t indicate a Father-Son relationship.5Ruedi Giezendanner, “As much as I resonate” [Comment on the online forum post Can a video be ‘the Bible’?], MAP (Modular Aggregation of Principles for Bible Translation, April 28, 2020), accessed March 23, 2022.
Giezendanner is quite right that the WEA guidelines allow translators to take out Father and Son as long as they simply label their works “Scripture-based products” rather than “Scripture.” We have even seen that they are actively doing this in new translation projects, while also continuing to distribute many older works that remove terms meaning “Father” and “Son” entirely. How many Wycliffe and SIL donors or partners realize that they may still be funding work that removes the concepts of God being Father and Son by virtue of this loophole—a loophole that Wycliffe translators themselves have publicly acknowledged they are actively using?
Another loophole in the WEA guidelines allows translators to add modifiers to Father-Son terms. For example, a 2010 translation into Kazakh, which the Bible Society of Kazakhstan attributed to Wycliffe, called Jesus the “spiritual Son” of God6In Kazakh, рухани Ұлы instead of just “Son” of God. The addition of “spiritual” weakens the force of the Father-Son relationship as revealed in Scripture, and calls into question whether Jesus truly is the Son of God. The Bible Society of Kazakhstan rejected the addition of “spiritual,” stating that Wycliffe’s translation of “Son” terms in Kazakh “diminishes the person of Jesus Christ.”7Quoted from “Guidance document to translate the Biblical text into Kazakh,” the translation brief for the Bible Society of Kazakhstan’s translation project after Wycliffe’s translation was found to be unsuitable. They therefore felt they had no choice but to reject this translation and embark on their own.
Another modifier allowed under the WEA guidelines is to call Jesus the “Son who comes from God,” rather than simply “Son of God.” This type of translation had already been used in Indonesian, in the Kitab Suci Injil translation.8The Indonesian phrase is Sang Anak yang datang dari Allah. In contrast, the inspired Greek text makes clear that Jesus is not just someone’s son who comes from God (just as Muhammad is “someone’s” son who “comes from God” as a prophet, in their view), but that He is in fact God’s one and only Son. When Jesus asks the Pharisees whose son the Messiah is (Matthew 22:42), and then shows them that he cannot simply be David’s son, readers of a faithful translation will know the unspoken answer to Jesus’ question: He is God’s Son! Sadly, readers of the Kitab Suci Injil, as well as any others that follow the WEA guidelines’ allowance of this kind of phrase, would not.
Meanwhile, in Wycliffe’s Chadian Arabic translation, published in 2019, most instances where “Father” is used in reference to God are expanded to “Allah the Father” (or “God the Father”). But in a number of instances, the Greek term for “Father” is translated as just “Allah,” omitting the familial term found in the Greek text. The former is troubling, but the latter is a direct violation of the WEA guidelines.9One example where “Father” is translated as “Allah” in the Chadian Arabic Bible, in violation of the WEA guidelines, is John 3:35.
Most Organizations Have Not Agreed to the WEA Guidelines
The Wycliffe/SIL family of organizations is certainly large and influential. But they are by no means the only major player in Bible translation. The WEA guidelines, developed at Wycliffe/SIL’s request, apply only to them. While some translation organizations have signed the Arlington Statement or committed to only using literal terms for Father and Son, translators in organizations like the United Bible Societies, Frontiers, and the Navigators are still free to remove “Father” and “Son” from their translations any time they want to.
Andy Warren-Rothlin, who heads the United Bible Societies’ efforts to “contextualise” Scripture for Muslim audiences and who sits on the board of directors for SIL, acknowledged that many organizations are completely ignoring the WEA guidelines, a fact that he speaks of approvingly:
[T]he WEA guidelines only apply to certain organisations such as SIL that have chosen to adopt them. There are very many other Bible translation projects in the world that are untouched by (and unaware of) them, and churches and organizations (including of several contributors to this thread) that would not choose to impose such restrictions on their translators…
A key concern underlying this discussion for me is still how we articulate these considerations to funders without falling into the trap of setting rules and fixed boundaries.10Andy Warren-Rothlin, “Sure, Ruedi—I’m sure we’ll all agree” [Comment on the online forum post Can a video be ‘the Bible’?], MAP (Modular Aggregation of Principles for Bible Translation), 28 April 2020, accessed March 23, 2022.
Warren-Rothlin, and likely others at UBS and elsewhere, consider the WEA guidelines, along with other “rules and fixed boundaries,” a “trap” to avoid “falling into.” While Wycliffe and SIL agreed to external oversight in response to donor pressure, translators in other organizations with the same translation philosophy, which treats “Father” and “Son” as expendable terms that Muslims don’t need to know, are happy to continue removing these key biblical concepts as they did before.
Seeing the WEA Guidelines Accurately
It is certainly true that the WEA guidelines slightly modified SIL and Wycliffe’s previous policies on translating “Father” and “Son.” Yet in the years since the panel report came out in 2013, the difference between the WEA guidelines and those committed to communicating the divine Father-Son relationship simply and clearly has often proven unbridgeable.
For example, Wycliffe Associates—a separate organization from Wycliffe, founded in 1967 for volunteers to serve Wycliffe translation projects—broke off from the Wycliffe Global Alliance in 2016, after Wycliffe/SIL failed to guarantee that Wycliffe Associates personnel would not be involved in projects that used modifiers or nonliteral terms for Father and Son.11There were also significant differences over Wycliffe Associates’ new translation method, called “MAST.” Sadly, Wycliffe Associates has since then been reported to the ECFA on questions about their fundraising and financial practices, and Wycliffe Associates responded by withdrawing from the ECFA rather than remain under investigation. Similarly, in 2018, the Assemblies of God World Missions discontinued their working relationship with Wycliffe. The following were their main stated reasons:
“Associated members of the broader Wycliffe community hold a position contrary to AGWM’s position on the translation of divine familial terms in translations of Scripture for Muslim contexts that conflicts with the Assemblies of God doctrinal statement. There is disharmony between AGWM’s position paper www.fatherson.ag.org and the World Evangelical Alliance guidelines designed for the translation of the divine familial terms in Muslim contexts.”12From https://www.agwm.org/quicklinks/wycliffe-agwm/, accessed August 21, 2021.
In other words, translators and theologians who are committed to straightforward translation of “Father” and “Son” with normal terms that describe human father-son relationships, and who have looked carefully at the WEA guidelines and Wycliffe/SIL’s implementation of those guidelines, see clearly that the WEA guidelines contain significant loopholes that allow translators to remove or obscure Father-Son terms in their translations, loopholes which Wycliffe and SIL have been using.
No Change of Heart Seen
When Wycliffe and SIL solicited the WEA’s help and asked them to draw up guidelines on translating “Father” and “Son” for them, they were facing tremendous financial pressure. Donors, including large denominational partners like the Assemblies of God and the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), were threatening to withhold funding if the issue was not resolved. Yet Wycliffe/SIL leaders continued to believe that their way of translating was right.
By appearing to tighten SIL’s guidelines, the WEA report helped ease Wycliffe/SIL’s financial pressures. Yet SIL’s statements and actions, both at the time and since then, demonstrate a lack of public repentance or accountability for unfaithful translation practices. Freddy Boswell, Executive Director for SIL at the time that the WEA’s report was released, made this statement:
In reviewing this report, we recognize that SIL contributed to the controversy through our failure to communicate translation standards and practices clearly. We also recognize that our processes for monitoring translation of Divine Familial Terms have been inadequate. We apologize and will endeavor to correct these shortcomings.
The WEA panel decided that in certain key respects, SIL’s translation practices for Father-Son terms were unfaithful. If SIL leaders had agreed, they would have apologized for the translations themselves, and for needlessly tampering with God’s holy Word. Instead, they apologized for their “failure to communicate” clearly and for inadequate “processes.” SIL presented their problems with Father-Son terms as simply a matter of not explaining what they were doing more clearly, and not having enough bureaucratic checks. Nowhere is the notion that they were actually translating unfaithfully found—because, in our view, Boswell and others in SIL still believed they were right. Financial pressures had forced them to go to the WEA, but there was no apparent change in heart.
A true change of heart would also have resulted in those who had promoted unfaithful translations either publicly repenting, or being demoted or fired. Instead, top leaders who had misled the public remained in their positions, while consultants like Rick Brown and “Leith & Andrea Gray” (pseudonyms) continue within Wycliffe and SIL the same as before, consulting on translations without any public repentance over their discredited approaches. The corporate response from Wycliffe and SIL was to do what was necessary to make the PR and financial problems go away, but not to actually repent over their unfaithful translations or overhaul their translation philosophy. Kirk Franklin, Director of the Wycliffe Global Alliance from 2008-2020, demonstrates the Wycliffe/SIL leadership’s condescending attitude toward critics in regards to the Father-Son debate in his thesis, written during his tenure as director:
This particular debate is a good example of the interplay between two perspectives: 1) well-meaning Western theologians and their church denominations who have not actually done Bible translation in vernacular languages; and 2) those who are engaged in Bible translation in non-Western contexts and have translation experience that employs expertise in linguistics and anthropology. Navigating between these two perspectives can be filled with tension and misunderstanding.13Kirk James Franklin, The Wycliffe Global Alliance – From a U.S. Based International Mission to a Global Movement for Bible Translation (University of Pretoria thesis, 2012), 44.
Such characterizations give the impression that Wycliffe/SIL leaders mainly saw the issue as “we experts” versus “you well-meaning but ignorant and inexperienced critics.” This ignores the fact that many top PhD Bible translators, linguists, and theologians, from SIL and other organizations—including Muslim-background native speakers of languages such as Arabic, Turkish, and Bengali in which unfaithful Father-Son translations were done—have strongly rejected Wycliffe/SIL practices on translating “Father” and “Son.”
To be clear, if Wycliffe/SIL leaders truly believe that no significant change or repentance was necessary, and that the only mistakes they made were in “communication” and “inadequate processes,” then one cannot ask them to apologize for something they do not believe to be wrong. However, it is important to realize that without a true change of heart, translators who believed they were correct would find ways to continue engaging in the same practices under new rules as much as possible. This is, indeed, exactly what has happened.
What About Now?
Despite the lack of visible change of heart among Wycliffe and SIL leaders following the WEA report, there was some hope that over time, new leadership would appreciate the damage done by unfaithful translations and make greater efforts to establish clear, faithful boundaries for contextualization and Muslim Idiom Translations. Unfortunately, recent events and actions have shown this to be far from the case. Rather than making efforts to rein in overly contextualized translations, recent corporate actions by Wycliffe and SIL show that just like their predecessors, the current leaders continue to favor proponents of Muslim Idiom Translations—including those who have publicly criticized or minimized the value of the WEA guidelines as being too restrictive—while actively opposing efforts to establish tighter boundaries for contextualization in the translation of “Father” and “Son” and similar issues. This goes beyond the continued development and distribution of translations using terms like “Messiah” in place of Son of God, as stated above.
At the Bible Translation Conference of 2019, for example, translators and linguists from SIL and other organizations requested and received permission to advertise their workshop on “Alternatives to Religious Idiom Translations” on the conference website. Yet conference organizers from SIL removed this link the following month, despite the fact that the conference advertised “Religious Idiom Translations” as one of the themes of the conference, and despite a detailed agenda of the workshop being sent to a conference organizer in SIL weeks before. Conference organizers made clear that the link was being removed because workshop participants were approaching Religious Idiom Translations from a more conservative standpoint than SIL. Meanwhile, conference organizers retained the link to the post-conference meeting of the Abraham Center at Dallas International University, at which professors who train SIL translators going into Muslim contexts advocated for the position that Muhammad could be considered a true biblical prophet of God.
As noted above, Andy Warren-Rothlin made public comments in March 2020 calling into question the value and relevance of the WEA guidelines. Warren-Rothlin is also a strong proponent of Muslim Idiom Translation practices such as including the Islamic profession of faith (La ilaha illa Allahu, “There is no god but Allah”; see below) in Bible translations. Despite these public stances, Warren-Rothlin continues to sit on the SIL board of directors, head the United Bible Societies’ efforts on Muslim Idiom Translations (known as “TAZI”), and consult on SIL translations.
Similarly, last year, Dallas International University (DIU), the main training school for SIL translators, brought on Patrick Krayer to teach at the Abraham Center. Krayer has publicly criticized the WEA guidelines for being too conservative and for reflecting a “colonial praxis and discourse,” and has suggested that Arab and Turkish Christians who oppose Muslim Idiom Translations are doing so for “ethnocentric” reasons. In his role at DIU, Krayer now trains translators for SIL, Pioneer Bible Translators, and other organizations to work and translate among Muslim-majority groups.
In contrast to its full acceptance and institutional support of Muslim Idiom Translation proponents such as Warren-Rothlin and professors at DIU’s Abraham Center, SIL put significant pressure on its members who were involved in the drafting or signing of the Arlington Statement on Bible Translation. The Arlington Statement did not name Wycliffe, SIL, or any translation organization, nor any specific translations or translators as being involved in any practices critiqued by the statement, but focused exclusively on the translation principles that signers commit to follow. Statement drafters repeatedly reached out to translators and leaders in SIL, UBS, and other organizations for feedback on the draft, including asking for critical feedback. In response to this request for feedback, SIL leaders told two members of an SIL entity that if they wrote to anyone else outside SIL for feedback on the Arlington Statement draft, they would be forced to resign, would lose their SIL-sponsored visa, and their family would be forced to leave their country of service within seven days.
In other words, SIL is content to have its translators going into Muslim areas taught by professors who believe that Muhammad may be faithfully considered a true prophet14In addition to the Abraham Center meeting previously mentioned, another professor at Dallas International University’s Abraham Center, “Harley Talman” (pseudonym), wrote an article arguing that Muhammad may be considered a true biblical prophet (“Is Muhammad also among the prophets?” International Journal of Frontier Missiology 31.4 :169–190). Ayman Ibrahim gives an excellent series of rebuttals to Talman’s claims. or that SIL was pressured into following the “colonialist” WEA guidelines, but is not willing to allow discussion or even private solicitation of feedback regarding the translation of Father-Son terms and other Muslim Idiom Translation issues for those who come from a more conservative view. Is it any wonder that Wycliffe and SIL have found and exploited the loopholes given them in the WEA guidelines?
Not Just “Father” and “Son”
Much of this review has focused on the translation of “Father” and “Son,” because this issue has received the greatest public scrutiny, and was the subject of the 2012 petition. However, other important theological issues have arisen in Muslim Idiom Translations as well, which have received far less attention.
For example, many translations today, including translations done by Wycliffe, SIL, UBS, Frontiers, the Navigators, and other organizations, have included the Islamic profession of faith in their Bible translations. They argue that the words La ilaha illa Allah, “There is no god but Allah,” are the natural “functional equivalent” for biblical expressions of monotheism such as “Yahweh—He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39), or “For who is God, except Yahweh?” (Psalm 18:31), and therefore put this Islamic phrase into the Bible.15The words “there is no god but Allah” (لا إلهَ إلاّ الله) are found in 1 Kings 18:39 in the Arabic True Meaning translation, recently produced by a Frontiers translator with Wycliffe/SIL help, and the Chadian Arabic Bible produced by Wycliffe/SIL and UBS in 2019. Likewise, the same phrase is inserted into Psalm 18:31 of the Arabic Sharif Bible (done with input from Wycliffe/SIL translators), the Al-Zabbur translation (done by Navigators translator Jeff Hayes), and the Chadian Arabic Bible. This, however, fails to recognize the difference between the meaning of biblical affirmations of monotheism and the Islamic meaning present in the words “There is no god but Allah.” Whereas the Bible affirms that the only true God is Yahweh, the God of Israel, who is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the words “There is no god but Allah” in Islam are always followed by the statement, “and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” Saying “There is no god but Allah,” then, indirectly affirms Muhammad’s prophethood.
Wycliffe, SIL, and UBS leaders have continued to promote and defend these translation choices even after these issues were raised. This should not be surprising, since, as mentioned before, many SIL translators going into Muslim areas are trained by professors who believe Muhammad actually should be considered a true prophet in some sense. Why would connotations of Muhammad’s true prophethood bother them?
Similarly, many Muslim Idiom Translations translate instances of the Greek word kyrios “Lord” differently for verses which the translators believe refer to God the Father than for those they believe refer to Jesus. For example, according to Wycliffe/SIL translators Rick Brown and the “Grays” (pseudonym), Arabic translations produced with help from Wycliffe translators, such as the Sharif Bible and some versions of the JESUS film, have translated kyrios as “Allah” for God the Father,16To be clear, we do not oppose the translation of elohim or theos as “Allah” in Arabic, which is the normal word for God used for centuries by Jews and Christians before Islam. However, “Allah” is not at all an adequate translation of the word kyrios “Lord,” which plays a key role in establishing Trinitarian theology in the New Testament. It is especially problematic when God the Father is called “Allah” but Jesus is merely called “master,” when the original text uses the same exact term, kyrios, for both. This obscures the equality of the Father and the Son, and makes the case for the divinity of Christ much harder for readers to see in such passages. but “master” (sayyid) for Jesus.17Leith Gray and Andrea Gray (pseudonyms of two Wycliffe/SIL translators) write that “a recent Muslim-sensitive translation of the Bible, The Noble Book (Al-Kitaab al-Shareef)…uses the term as-sayyid (the master) when ‘the kurios’ is found as a title for the Messiah, and Allah when the the [sic] Greek kurios is referring to God” (“A Muslim Encounters the Gospel of Mark: Theological Implications of Contextual Mismatch,” International Journal of Frontier Missiology 25.3 :128). Likewise, Wycliffe/SIL translator Rick Brown writes that the Greek text of the New Testament “makes a subtle grammatical distinction between ‘Lord’ as a name for God and ‘Lord’ as a Messianic title,” a distinction “followed in some recent versions of the JESUS film and in al-kitâbu sh-sharîf,” such that the “name of God is translated as Allah…and the Messianic title ‘Lord’ is translated as as [sic] sayyid” or other terms that distinguish the two (“The ‘Son of God’: Understanding the Messianic titles of Jesus,” International Journal of Frontier Missions 17.1 :51). The erroneous claim that the New Testament authors make a distinction in Greek between “Lord” as a name for God and “Lord” as a Messianic title, as well as the claim that Muslim Idiom Translation advocates are basing their translation decisions on this supposed grammatical distinction rather than on theological considerations within an Insider Movement context, has been thoroughly rebutted in Seth Vitrano-Wilson’s “Kύριος in the New Testament: Christology, Trinity, and Translation,” Journal of Biblical Missiology (2022).
More than any other term, the New Testament authors used kyrios as a linchpin of Trinitarian theology. Removing this linchpin in translation makes the truth of the Trinity much more difficult for readers to piece together, weakening the case for the divinity of Christ and the identity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one God. Both of these issues are crucial for Muslims to understand, as well as for all readers. Indeed, this is one reason why kyrios is one of the main terms that Jehovah’s Witnesses change in their Bible translations, in order to accommodate their heretical anti-Trinitarian theology. Translations with highly problematic renderings of kyrios continue to be published by Wycliffe, SIL, UBS, and others despite leaders being made aware of these problems.
Translations Designed to Help Muslims “Stay Muslim”
The development of Muslim Idiom Translations has not taken place in a missiological vacuum. So-called “Insider Movement” theology has played a central role in driving Islamicized translations. This goes beyond merely using vocabulary and terminology that Muslims are familiar with. Instead, translation choices are designed specifically to help Muslims stay within the structures of Islam. The inclusion of the first half of the Islamic profession of faith is the clearest example of this, given the absolutely critical role this profession plays in Muslim life, but it is by no means the only example.
At a recent meeting of the mission and translation organization Frontiers, a field leader gave a candid acknowledgement of the tight link between Muslim Idiom Translations and the Insider Movement. Speaking in praise of Muslim Idiom Translations, she said:
Praise God, I think it is absolutely one of the main keys to see Muslims come into the Kingdom and be able to stay Muslim because they have a translation that sounds like the way they talk.18From an audio recording of the meeting; emphasis added. Date and location withheld for security reasons.
Again, the goal she expresses is not merely that they understand the meaning, but that the translation is produced in such a way that enables them to “stay Muslim”—that is, to continue calling themselves Muslims and worshiping at the mosque, where they will continue to affirm the prophethood of Muhammad and the authority of the Qur’an.
Not Just Wycliffe, and Not Just Among Muslims
Perhaps the most concerning recent development is the effort to spread the same translation philosophy that has produced mistranslations of Father-Son terms, and the other issues just mentioned, beyond Muslim contexts. Up to now, for various historical and theological reasons, the great majority of work on Religious Idiom Translations has taken place in Muslim contexts. However, a 2020 email from UBS leader Andy Warren-Rothlin to SIL translators makes clear that serious efforts are underway to spread the Religious Idiom Translation philosophy into Hindu and Buddhist contexts, and perhaps other contexts as well.
In the email, Warren-Rothlin says that his efforts in Muslim contexts include the development of “deeply contextualised” translations that are “not bound by formal constraints on how translators render things.” He mentions a “new UBS policy document on ‘Bible for other Faiths,’” and says that he and his colleagues would like to form groups of translators working in majority Hindu and Buddhist areas for the following purposes (with emphases added):
- “Promoting communication between those working in such contexts across the world
- Developing a website where resources and ideas can be shared, and best practices developed
- Organising conferences at which we can push forward our thinking
- Developing strong rationales for contextualised translation strategies (including what justification there can be for using particular Sanskrit etc. key religious terms in Bible translations)
- Working for unity between our organisations working in the Hindu and Buddhist world”
The clear purpose of Warren-Rothlin and others involved in his efforts is not simply to neutrally follow “what the church wants,” as he states elsewhere, but in fact to push the church toward accepting “deeply contextualized” translation approaches with no guardrails. Given the dangerous record of similar efforts in Muslim contexts, the church must wake up and push back.
The Need For Accountability
There are fundamental differences in translation philosophy between advocates of Religious Idiom Translations like Andy Warren-Rothlin and others at UBS and SIL on the one hand, and those with more conservative approaches on the other. Many in Wycliffe, SIL, and UBS have tried to frame this debate as simply a continuation of the “dynamic versus literal” translation debate, but this is a serious misrepresentation. Translators on the more “literal” side are of course opposed to Muslim Idiom Translation practices like removing “Father” and “Son”—but so are a great number of proponents of “dynamic equivalence” and “meaning-based translation.” Indeed, there was deep and widespread opposition among experienced “meaning-based” SIL translators to translations that removed “Father” and “Son,” a fact not reported on at the time because of SIL policy that forbade public discussion of the issue, and even some private discussion (a policy still being enforced today).19Indeed, this policy was recently used as the basis for threatening members with forced resignation and loss of their visa, as mentioned above. The policy may be read here. Translators from other organizations who fully accept “meaning-based translation” principles still oppose the unfaithful practices found in Religious Idiom Translations because of the way the meaning is changed. The fundamental difference is not “literal” versus “dynamic,” but whether translators are authorized to make whatever changes are necessary to meet “the needs and expectations of the target audience,”20Christiane Nord, 1997, “Defining translation functions: The translation brief as a guideline for the trainee translation,” Ilha do Desterro 33, p. 51. or whether loyalty to God’s Word must come first, even if audiences may sometimes be offended or find the Bible’s teaching challenging to their worldviews.
These fundamental differences are unlikely to go away anytime soon. Just as the WEA guidelines did little in the end to “resolve” the problem of unfaithful translations of “Father” and “Son” terms, we should not expect the leadership of Wycliffe, SIL, UBS, and other organizations to have a sudden change of heart, barring a glorious work of God. Sadly, disagreements on these issues will likely continue for many years, perhaps until Jesus returns. Protestant evangelicals have no “pope,” and even when global evangelical bodies such as the WEA issue opinions, they are not universally accepted as the final word.
The only way forward, then, is for translators to be fully transparent about their approaches, enabling partnering churches, donors, members and staff to be fully informed on such issues and make prayerful decisions accordingly. This need for transparency applies to translators and organizations with more conservative approaches as well. If partners and donors understand what kinds of translations are being done and believe they honor God, they will ultimately stand or fall to their own Lord (Romans 14:4). The job of every Christian is to study the Word of God and submit to God’s truth in regard to translation, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and apply this as best we can. We can reason, pray, and discuss, but there is no way to require others outside our authority to do as we believe should be done.
But potential partners and donors also have responsibility to ask more questions, and to avail themselves of the information that already exists. We can and should insist that translators and translation organizations be fully transparent about their translation practices and philosophies, but human nature being what it is, we should not expect that they will always want to divulge every detail that partners and donors would consider relevant. Churches and individuals involved in translation projects, therefore, need to ask the questions that they consider important when it comes to applying faithful biblical teaching to the translation of God’s Word. Contrary to Warren-Rothlin’s desire that funders not set “rules and fixed boundaries,” donors will honor God by insisting that translations follow faithful, biblical principles. There should be no “blank checks,” literally or figuratively.
Churches also need to become more involved in the task of Bible translation, and not assume that the “experts” always have the right approach. Theologians, Bible scholars, and Greek and Hebrew experts, from all over the world with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, should all have a greater role in translation worldwide. Organizations can work together to develop free tools and resources for native speakers of different languages to develop their own theological, biblical, and language skills, rather than relying unquestioningly on large Western organizations.
A Prayer for Faithfulness
Since the Biblical Missiology petition went up ten years ago, unfaithful translation practices and thinking have grown in influence and are considered acceptable by far too many translators.
Let us pray that God will convict the hearts of those who have produced deeply problematic translations, embolden those sitting on the sidelines to speak out in support of faithful translation practices, and strengthen those who have remained faithful to keep the course.
Finally, let us pray that God will raise up faithful servants committed to everyone being able to know, love, and obey His Word through faithful translations that honor God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—one God, one Lord, just as He has revealed Himself to the nations.
- 1Sabeel Media is primarily funded by Wycliffe and SIL, and is led by SIL International Media Consultant Stephen Coats. Sabeel Media uploaded the Bedouin Arabic translation onto their SoundCloud page in September and December 2019.
- 2See Sabeel Media, 2018 Annual Report (March 2019), 5.
- 3From Acts 9:20, Sudanese version.
- 4See Rick Brown, Leith Gray, and Andrea Gray, “A New Look at Translating Familial Biblical Terms,” International Journal of Frontier Missiology 28:3 (2011):117.
- 5Ruedi Giezendanner, “As much as I resonate” [Comment on the online forum post Can a video be ‘the Bible’?], MAP (Modular Aggregation of Principles for Bible Translation, April 28, 2020), accessed March 23, 2022.
- 6In Kazakh, рухани Ұлы
- 7Quoted from “Guidance document to translate the Biblical text into Kazakh,” the translation brief for the Bible Society of Kazakhstan’s translation project after Wycliffe’s translation was found to be unsuitable.
- 8The Indonesian phrase is Sang Anak yang datang dari Allah.
- 9One example where “Father” is translated as “Allah” in the Chadian Arabic Bible, in violation of the WEA guidelines, is John 3:35.
- 10Andy Warren-Rothlin, “Sure, Ruedi—I’m sure we’ll all agree” [Comment on the online forum post Can a video be ‘the Bible’?], MAP (Modular Aggregation of Principles for Bible Translation), 28 April 2020, accessed March 23, 2022.
- 11There were also significant differences over Wycliffe Associates’ new translation method, called “MAST.” Sadly, Wycliffe Associates has since then been reported to the ECFA on questions about their fundraising and financial practices, and Wycliffe Associates responded by withdrawing from the ECFA rather than remain under investigation.
- 12From https://www.agwm.org/quicklinks/wycliffe-agwm/, accessed August 21, 2021.
- 13Kirk James Franklin, The Wycliffe Global Alliance – From a U.S. Based International Mission to a Global Movement for Bible Translation (University of Pretoria thesis, 2012), 44.
- 14In addition to the Abraham Center meeting previously mentioned, another professor at Dallas International University’s Abraham Center, “Harley Talman” (pseudonym), wrote an article arguing that Muhammad may be considered a true biblical prophet (“Is Muhammad also among the prophets?” International Journal of Frontier Missiology 31.4 :169–190). Ayman Ibrahim gives an excellent series of rebuttals to Talman’s claims.
- 15The words “there is no god but Allah” (لا إلهَ إلاّ الله) are found in 1 Kings 18:39 in the Arabic True Meaning translation, recently produced by a Frontiers translator with Wycliffe/SIL help, and the Chadian Arabic Bible produced by Wycliffe/SIL and UBS in 2019. Likewise, the same phrase is inserted into Psalm 18:31 of the Arabic Sharif Bible (done with input from Wycliffe/SIL translators), the Al-Zabbur translation (done by Navigators translator Jeff Hayes), and the Chadian Arabic Bible.
- 16To be clear, we do not oppose the translation of elohim or theos as “Allah” in Arabic, which is the normal word for God used for centuries by Jews and Christians before Islam. However, “Allah” is not at all an adequate translation of the word kyrios “Lord,” which plays a key role in establishing Trinitarian theology in the New Testament. It is especially problematic when God the Father is called “Allah” but Jesus is merely called “master,” when the original text uses the same exact term, kyrios, for both. This obscures the equality of the Father and the Son, and makes the case for the divinity of Christ much harder for readers to see in such passages.
- 17Leith Gray and Andrea Gray (pseudonyms of two Wycliffe/SIL translators) write that “a recent Muslim-sensitive translation of the Bible, The Noble Book (Al-Kitaab al-Shareef)…uses the term as-sayyid (the master) when ‘the kurios’ is found as a title for the Messiah, and Allah when the the [sic] Greek kurios is referring to God” (“A Muslim Encounters the Gospel of Mark: Theological Implications of Contextual Mismatch,” International Journal of Frontier Missiology 25.3 :128). Likewise, Wycliffe/SIL translator Rick Brown writes that the Greek text of the New Testament “makes a subtle grammatical distinction between ‘Lord’ as a name for God and ‘Lord’ as a Messianic title,” a distinction “followed in some recent versions of the JESUS film and in al-kitâbu sh-sharîf,” such that the “name of God is translated as Allah…and the Messianic title ‘Lord’ is translated as as [sic] sayyid” or other terms that distinguish the two (“The ‘Son of God’: Understanding the Messianic titles of Jesus,” International Journal of Frontier Missions 17.1 :51). The erroneous claim that the New Testament authors make a distinction in Greek between “Lord” as a name for God and “Lord” as a Messianic title, as well as the claim that Muslim Idiom Translation advocates are basing their translation decisions on this supposed grammatical distinction rather than on theological considerations within an Insider Movement context, has been thoroughly rebutted in Seth Vitrano-Wilson’s “Kύριος in the New Testament: Christology, Trinity, and Translation,” Journal of Biblical Missiology (2022).
- 18From an audio recording of the meeting; emphasis added. Date and location withheld for security reasons.
- 19Indeed, this policy was recently used as the basis for threatening members with forced resignation and loss of their visa, as mentioned above. The policy may be read here.
- 20Christiane Nord, 1997, “Defining translation functions: The translation brief as a guideline for the trainee translation,” Ilha do Desterro 33, p. 51.
The separate comment announced in my first one:
I read the article »Is Muhammad Also Among the Prophets?« by Harley Talman (linked as an example what SIL students are taught). It starts rather innocuously with asking »Which Muhammad do we talk about?«. Indeed, we no next to nothing about the historical person Muhammad. Some »revisionists« even claim he never existed (well, such “higher” critics said the same about Jesus …), the article cites a researcher who claims that he lived in Petra, and not Mecca, which cannot be refuted by early sources (though it deviates from later Islamic Siras etc.). So it is a legitimate question that he may be a sort of Christian or even had some sort of prophetic role.
But this is not the Muhammad encountered in interactions (discussions, evangelizing etc.) with Muslims. We do not encounter the Muhammad of the Qor’an either (even if we identify the usually unnamed prophet of this book with the Muhammad mentioned five times – four of them may be no personal name, but a sort of title!), and about this Muhammad likewise little can be known. The Muhammad relevant for almost all practical means is the Muhammad formed by Islamic tradition, in Hadiths, Tafsir, and Sira.
A similar issue appears with Islam. The article rightly points out that early Islam was quite different, viewed as a christian sect, preferred to Byzantine Christianity by some Christians. It seems that the author has no problems to see the greeting by Anti-Trinitarians as a sign that this Islam was theologically acceptable.
Whatever was the theology of this »early Islam« – it was surely strongly heterodox, if not outright heretical. It seems to have been an »Arabic Christianity«, but this was obviously replaced as a consequence of the revolution of Abu Muslim (about 750 AD), which established a more intercultural faith, introduced the words Muslim and Islam in a technical, almost modern meaning, established the centrality of the Qur’an and indirectly established the Abbasside dynasty (and in the long run, traditional Islam). – But this is just history, in part interesting stuff for church historians, but by and large no help for any missionary activity (it may help to know that even the »denial of crucifixion« can be harmonized with John 10:17-18, if you neglect Islamic exegesis and look at the Qor’anic text, but how much does that help in winning Muslims to Christ?).
In sum: The article shows a rather fuzzy concept (neglect?) of trinity, it speculates about a person we know next to nothing about (the historical Muhammad), and as a result can easily be misunderstood as condoning a false prophet (Muhammad as presented by Islamic tradition) as a sort of true prophet.
The article has some interesting information (much I knew from other sources), but the conclusion drawn I cannot share. The warning of »Editor« about such teachings are fully justified.
I stumbled over this today. The discussion raises different topics.
I read the German translation of Nida’s book on translation, and so I know that he draws a line between dynamic-functional (or dynamic-equivalent) translation and accommodation of the text’s content. And though I am no Bible translator, I see myself in the camp of those who favor a DFT (or DE translation), but consider the replacement of the »family terms« father/son by terms like guardian or messiah as inadequate.
To blur the distinction between the word »God« (or Allah in languages like Indonesian) and the name of God (YHWH) is not good. Nor is a translation good that makes a clear distinction between the Father as LORD (kurios) and the Son as LORD (kurios). I can’t see any NT basis for that. There are verses where kurios appears in an OT quotation and renders YHWH, »but« points to Jesus, who has been bestowed with that most high name (Ph 2,9-11). How on earth can this be seen in a translation that makes such distinctions?
Another point deserves a separate comment …
i suggest all of those involved in this discussion read the synopsis “Tawhid or Trinity is Allah a real god” the original text is that of the conversion of Nabeel Qureshi to Christianity. A 4 year journey study comparing the Quran and the Bible KJV.
Author is shown as W.O. Williams. $5.95 Amazon. Nabeel debated Muslim Scholars and was an experienced apologists.
This may help with your contentious debate.To change the truth of the bible is to make it irrelevant. I have studied Islam and speak to groups about Islam’s goal to dominate America. Emphatically no Christian Bible translator should think changing it to accommodate Islam is going to help any missionary convert a Muslim. The opposite would be more likely. We would like to meet with one or more of your translators to reveal how Muslims think based upon the Quran, Hadith Sira which is the
Sharia,(Islamic law). The Muslims will accuse you of abrogating your holy book, thus discredit the entire Bible.
(Replying to Don Fisher, Dec 21st):
Don, thank you for engaging on this topic. I’m sure others could comment with greater knowledge than I, but it appears to me that you may not have understood why this article is critiquing the Kitab Suci Injil/TZI translation in Indonesian (or perhaps that you sidestepped the critiques rather than addressing them).
It is not enough to simply say that the TZI does “not compromise meaning to be more Muslim friendly,” is “faithful and accurate,” that the translation uses Father-Son terms “correctly,” and that what the article states is “incorrect.” Instead, you would need to engage with what is actually said in the article about the translation, show why in your belief it is incorrect, and why the TZI is faithful to the meaning of the God-breathed text. Then others could engage with your ideas more fruitfully.
The article refers to Matthew 22:42 to show the inadequacy of the phrase “son who comes from God” (Indonesian Sang Anak yang datang dari Allah), not because Matthew 22:42 contains that phrase. As far as I can tell, the TZI uses this phrase every time the Greek has phrases like ho huios tou theou, theou huiou, etc. (“the Son of God” or “Son of God”), rather than just “the Son” (as you quote in Matthew 11:27).
For example, in Luke 1:35 in the TZI, Gabriel calls Jesus the Sang Anak yang datang dari Allah (“son who comes from God”), but nearly every other translation in Indonesian simply has Anak Allah (“son of God”), using the normal Indonesian construction for “son of X” used for humans. The TZI’s circumlocution here and in many other places makes it much harder for readers to understand that Jesus is God’s Son in a deep relational way, not just someone’s son who comes from God. The fact that the Greek is printed in parallel is helpful on some level, but I imagine many readers (most?) will not bother actually looking at the Greek, but instead will just see it as a sign that the Indonesian on the other side comes straight from the Greek—in this case, we would argue, an unwarranted conclusion, because being someone’s son is different from being a son “who comes from” (yang datang dari) someone. And I would argue that since the Bible uses the same type of construction to refer to Jesus’s relationship to the Father as is normally used to describe human sons’ relationship to their fathers, and since this idea is deeply woven throughout multiple themes of Scripture (adoption, inheritance, the essential nature of Jesus, parables of fathers & sons, etc.), we should not redefine the relationship simply because some people are unwilling to accept clear explanations of what the phrase does and doesn’t mean. Too much is lost, and nothing is truly gained.
As for 1 Kings 18:39 and Psalm 18:31, I don’t see the article critiquing the TZI on those points—but since you bring it up, I personally believe there are some very concerning aspects of their translation of those two verses. Specifically, the use of ALLAH to translate the Hebrew YHWH creates serious problems.
YHWH is God’s name. The New Testament translators, under divine inspiration, wove this name deftly into their usage of the title kyrios “Lord,” in a way that strongly supports the divinity of Christ and the Trinity (two points that are very important for Muslims to see and understand; see my paper for a detailed analysis of the role of kyrios in Christology and the Trinity: https://biblicalmissiology.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/%CE%9A%CF%85%CC%81%CF%81%CE%B9%CE%BF%CF%82-in-the-NT-Vitrano-Wilson-2022-06-30.pdf). In the Old Testament, I believe there are good reasons for either treating God’s name like any other name (that is, transliterating in some reasonable fashion), or for approaching the divine name in the Old Testament the same way it is handled in the New Testament (that is, by using the same term that is used to translate kyrios in the New Testament as a representation of the divine name; most English translations do this by using “LORD”).
But the TZI does neither here. Instead, it translates God’s name as ALLAH. While Allah is used by millions of Indonesian and Malay-speaking Christians to refer to God, and has broad acceptance in the church as a translation of elohim and theos (both titles for God, not names), it is quite a different thing to translate YHWH as ALLAH. To do so indicates that ALLAH is God’s name. But we cannot just decide for ourselves what God’s name is! To say that God’s name is ALLAH is problematic on many, many levels.
The TZI translation of Psalm 18:31 has the same problem. Rather than these translations being “clearly accurate,” the translators of the TZI have decided for themselves what they want God’s name to be, rather than following what God has actually revealed by either transliterating the Hebrew name YHWH or by following the New Testament example and using a translation of kyrios for the divine name. The fact that this usage is explained in the introduction does not make it any less problematic.
Finally, you state that the TZI uses Father-Son terms “correctly,” and quote Matthew 11:27. I see nothing in this verse that causes me concern personally, and I agree that the TZI is not as bad as some Muslim Idiom Translations in its treatment of Father-Son terms (such as the Stories of the Prophets series, which uses khalift Allah (“caliph of God”) to translate “Son of God” in Bedouin Arabic, as the article mentions, and which is still being distributed by Wycliffe/SIL subsidiary Sabeel Media even after the WEA guidelines were issued). However, for reasons stated above, I do believe the article is justified in critiquing the use of Sang Anak yang datang dari Allah, found all over the place in the TZI. The fact that some verses like Matthew 11:27 translate “Son” and “Father” more accurately in the TZI does not mean that the terms are handled accurately, in particular the term “Son of God.” If you want to argue that the TZI is faithful in its treatment of Father-Son terms, you would need to show that the use of the circumlocution Sang Anak yang datang dari Allah is better than the more commonly used Anak Allah, which you have not done (nor do I believe could be done in light of the problems I mentioned above).
In summary, I do not believe that either Biblical Missiology or its readers should endorse the TZI. I appreciate your desire to engage, and recognize that the TZI could be worse, but that is hardly reason to endorse a translation with the significant problems mentioned above. Instead, I hope that the translators of the TZI will reconsider their approach on these issues, and will recognize the problems which they have introduced. If those problems are inadvertent, the translators will be open to correction and will revise the translation accordingly, and I’m sure the Biblical Missiology editors would be very happy to let people know that the problems have been addressed.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts so that we could have this conversation, and may the Lord be glorified among Indonesian readers and among all nations.
I am not qualified to comment on Arabic and other translations, but I read, write, and speak Indonesian. The Kitab Suci Injil and the TZI [Taurat, Zabur, Injil] (which is the KSI plus the Old Testament) are sound translations. They do not compromise meaning to be more Muslim friendly. Your comment on Matthew 22:42 are incorrect. The Indonesian is faithful and accurate to the Greek, which is printed in a parallel column in the Kitab Suci Injil version.
The TZI rendering of 1 Kings 18:39b is ““ALLAH, Dialah Tuhan! ALLAH, Dialah Tuhan!” meaning “LORD He is God! LORD, He is God!”
Psalm 18:31a(32a) is “Siapakah Tuhan, selain ALLAH?” meaning “Who is God other than LORD?”
These are clearly accurate translations with the ALL CAPS substitution for the tetragrammaton, explained in the introduction.
With respect to the avoidance of the terms “Father” and “Son,” the Kitab Suci Injil (and it’s expansion to the TZI) use the terms correctly . Note Mt. 11:27b: Tidak seorang pun yang mengenal siapa Sang Anak, kecuali Sang Bapa, dan tidak ada seorang pun yang mengenal siapa Sang Bapa, kecuali Sang Anak . . .” meaning (back translation) ” No one knows who THE SON [is[ except THE FATHER, and there is no one knows who THE FATHER [is] except THE SON. . .” Clearly the Kitab Suci Injil and the TZI are accurate translations even though they contain many Muslim types of terms.
I wish that you would endorse the Kitab Suci Injil (and the TZI) version rather than denigrating it and questioning its accuracy.
1. I have personally met with SIL leadership about some of the translations mentioned but, in the world of Bible translation, there are security issues that often make it unwise to release details. If Wycliffe and/or SIL ever publically denies their involvement in these translations then I may be required to provide additional details; however, even in this case I would first discuss this with them directly and hope that they would correct any inaccurate statements regarding their involvement if inaccurate statements are made in the future. To my knowledge, they have not made any public statements disavowing their involvement in these translations and many of these issues have been raised for years (some directly with SIL long before the translations themselves were even published). If there are statements made by Wycliffe or SIL privately to you that suggest that they were not involved then I would be glad to enter in dialog between you and Wycliffe and/or SIL privately to get those questions resolved.
2. DIU is the main school that is training SIL translators, and it is professors at DIU that have expressed these ideas. I have personally attended lectures at DIU where these ideas have been expressed, and I have provided you with a published article by a DIU professor that also expresses these ideas. These are the professors who train those who are going into Islamic contexts. In the field, DIU trained translation consultants are involved in training national translators and do bring these ideas to the table. I have personally discussed these issues with national translators in a number of Islamic contexts and every one of them, without exception, has been instructed to translate in accordance with the kind of training being provided at DIU; many have expressed concerns.
3. If you are looking for a source document with that EXACT quote, my question is why? There are not quotes in the article itself. There are references that do provide quotes (including the one I have already provided) that supports EXACTLY what is said in the statement that YOU have quoted. Here is that quote again.
“[Mohammad] may be seen as fulfilling a prophetic role, whether in response to general revelation or special, whether as a preacher or religious leader, whether as an ecstatic or charismatic prophet, or something more.”
4. Russ Hersman (Wycliffe VP at that time) publically stated that there were 30-40 translations that did not use literal DFT’s; there is additional documentation that I may provide at a later time that is currently not public.
5. No, translating Yahweh as Allah is not a new claim. It is the exact issue being raised in the article i.e. check the verses referenced and you will see these are all issues with the translation of Yahweh. It is also a primary issue addressed in the Arlington Statement, and there is an article that I wrote myself that addresses this same issue that is many years older.
And it is not true that most English (and historical Arabic) translations are inconsistent in how they translate YHWH. Most English translations have clear standards included in their preface that defines how YHWH is translated. For example, my NIV translation states: “In regards to the divine name YHWH, commonly referred to as the Tetragrammaton, the translators adopted the device used in most English versions of rendering that name as “Lord” in capital letters to distinguish it from Adonai, another Hebrew word rendered “Lord,” for which small letters are used. Whenever the two names stand together in the Old Testament as a compound name of God, they are rendered “Sovereign Lord.”
While I would agree that in some translations I have seen some inconsistencies, even in the few translations where these inconsistencies exist, these are still exceptions that break a very clear pattern, or in other words a place that should be noted for correction in an updated publication of that version (like other corrections we see as translations are updated). The new Wycliffe translations would require more than minor corrections to resolve these issues of inconsistency. I will provide a link to a review of the Tchadian Arabic translation that will provide insights in to the scope of these issues. Maybe we can discuss these issues in more detail.
6-7. The WEA panel has a published list of scholars (that does include native Arabic speakers). I, and many others, do wish that they had included MBB’s as some of the very strongest rejections of Wycliffe’s practices have come from MBB’s. Additionally, the Arlington Statement site has a list of scholars who have signed that statement and the statement itself is designed to exclude the problematic choices being made by Wycliffe, SIL, and other translation organizations today. Examples cited on that site come from Wycliffe bible translations work. And yes DA Carson’s book is relevant because it is a book written by one of the leading scholars involved in bible translation and the book was a repudiation of Wycliffe’s non-literal translation choices. I included the reference to Carson’s book because he is a well-known scholar who is not on either of the two lists I mentioned but has also made very clear statements against the practice of using non-literal DFT’s. In Carson’s book he specifically says the following about Wycliffe and SIL translators. “But I have to say that rather few of them are trained in exegesis, biblical theology, or systematic theology. Very few of them have an MDiv, let alone more advanced training. With rare exceptions, I have not found them to be deep readers of Scripture, with the result that their approaches to translation challenges tend to be atomistic.”,Jesus and the Son of God, D.A Carson, Crossway 2012. In other words, if you check these sources, you will have a significant list of names PhD bible translators, linguists, and theologians that have strongly rejected Wycliffe/SIL practices of translating “Father” and “Son” with non-literal DFT’s
In regards to the WEA panel, while the panel did reject Wycliffe’s use of non-literal DFT’s, Adam is correct when he says 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.” Many of us were surprised when the WEA panel so strongly condemned Wycliffe’s use of non-literal DFT’s but were far less surprised by the loopholes they left in the agreement that allow Wycliffe to continue to use non-literal DFT’s nearly unhindered. Here are some of the major loopholes:
a) When working with partner organizations, Wycliffe may produce a translation that does not adhere to the WEA guidelines while being officially disengaged from the project i.e. there is no guidelines regarding the time table for which an official disengagement must be completed when a translation does not follow the WEA guidelines.
b) If a project is declared a “Scripture based product” then the WEA guidelines do not apply.
c) Some of the guidelines themselves are problematic i.e. accepting translations that use “Spiritual son of God,” and “Spiritual Father” for example. And this loophole has been used in places where this clearly miscommunicates the familial language of Scripture.
d) No public disclosure of translations produced and/or funds spent on translations in which the use of non-literal DFT’s required Wycliffe to officially “disengage.” (see point a).
e) While WEA panel members have privately expressed concerns related to other translation issues associated with Religious Idiom Translation practices, the scope of the WEA working group specifically prevented them from addressing these other issues.
One of the biggest challenges with these issues is that there is a formal policy in place at SIL and Wycliffe that prevents translators from discussing these issues with those on the outside which prevents any real scholarly dialog regarding these issues. I would love to see to Wycliffe and SIL engage in open and honest dialog regarding these translation choices.
As I told the editor when he reached out to me by email…. PLEASE show the Evangelical world where missionaries and translators are off base. I do not care for the insider movement and categorically reject substituting “Son of God” in any way. But please do it in a way where we can use your research to approach them.
1. It is the accuser’s job to show connection. If you dont do that, you are simply using “guilty until proven innocent.”
2. What do you mean, “need more context”? The author said “most SIL translators going into Muslim areas are trained by professors who believe Muhammad actually should [italics in article] be considered a true prophet in some sense.”
I spell out clearly in a comment below that the author has no research to claim that “most” of these translators are trained in any certain way. Did he survey them? Does he have statistics of any kind? Is he considering the hundreds of non-western SIL workers who have no idea about this school or this professor? Does he have SIL literature saying they must be trained in this way? Nothing. Just a strong statement with no research.
3. I am specifically dealing with the EXACT statement made by this author: “professors who believe Muhammad actually should [italics by author] be considered a true prophet in some sense.”
No such statement was made anywhere in the referenced articles. Please read my full comment below and the quote by the author above….and the articles he refers to (to see if they say he “should be considered a true prophet in some sense…”). The BM author just “paraphrases” it that way for us (and then claims that “most” SIL Muslim-area workers are trained by these people). Can you see the point here?
4. Are those public statements? Please reference. Otherwise just repeating someone doesnt make it true.
5.Your number 5 is a new claim. It is NOT the claim being made by the author. Very few (if any) English translations use Yahweh consistently in the way you are describing. Shouldn’t they also then be questioned?
6-7. Mike, the article quote was this…..“many top PhD Bible translators, linguists, and theologians,…. have strongly rejected Wycliffe/SIL practices on translating “Father” and “Son.””
You are now referring to the WEA document and panel….. which by the way Adam refers to as this: “…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.”
Here is the article’s full quote: “many top PhD Bible translators, linguists, and theologians, from SIL and other organizations—including Muslim-background native speakers of languages such as Arabic, Turkish, and Bengali in which unfaithful Father-Son translations were done—have strongly rejected Wycliffe/SIL practices on translating “Father” and “Son.””
When a person makes a claim like that they should document it. Who are these “many”? Surely the author is not referring to the “carefully selected” “public relations” WEA panel since they do not include “Muslim-background native speakers of languages such as Arabic, Turkish, and Bengali…” Right?
Who are these “many PhDs…etc”? That was my point.
Bringing up a DA Carson book about the topic in general is not relevant since I am dealing specifically with the author’s claim that
“Many….have strongly rejected Wycliffe/SIL practices on translating “Father” and “Son””
Bringing up the Arlington Statement is also irrelevant since there is no mention of the “many” who “have strongly rejected Wycliffe/SIL practices on translating “Father” and “Son.”” The only mention of Wycliffe in the statement is by a Wycliffe person who signed it.
8. Yes, see number 1.
As I said…. please hold missionaries and translators accountable…but please dont put opinion in as if it were a documented fact (such as “most SIL translators going into Muslim areas are trained by professors who believe Muhammad actually should [italics in article] be considered a true prophet in some sense.”).
It just hurts your credibility.
1. There were Wycliffe translators assigned to this project. You do realize that Wycliffe translators work on many translations in cooperation with other organizations, correct? Has Wycliffe or SIL denied involvement with either of the two translations in your response? If you can show that they are denying involvement then I can see if I can provide additional information demonstrating that denial to be false. One of the big problems with how these translations are being produced is the lack of accountability for organizations like Wycliffe that produce translations that are published under the names of other organizations. I have personally sat down with SIL leadership and discussed translations that were ultimately published under the name of another organization despite the work being done by Wycliffe.
2. Need more context
3. The following published article is written by one of the DIU professors mentioned, and if you look at the current issue of the DIU Journal of Language, Culture, and Religion you will find an article by this same professor arguing for the elevation of Ishmael’s place in redemptive history.
Here is a direct quote from the paper mentioned in the article, Is Muhammad Also Among the Prophets?, Harley Talman, IJFM (International Journal of Frontier Missions), 31:4 Winter 2014•169
“This paper has provided theological, missiological, and historical sanction for expanding constricted categories of prophethood to allow Christians to entertain the possibility of Muhammad being other than a false prophet. He may be seen as fulfilling a prophetic role, whether in response to general revelation or special, whether as a preacher or religious leader, whether as an ecstatic or charismatic prophet, or something more.”
4. Wycliffe’s own staff has acknowledge many translations exist.
5. Allah is the normal Arabic word for God, and has been used in bible translations as the translation of words like Elohim, El, Theos, etc… but it is not the normal word used for the translation of the divine name YHWH in Arabic bibles. In places where both Elohim and YHWH appear together, Wycliffe’s translations deviate from normal Arabic translations in order to maintain the use of Allah as a translation for YHWH. The translation of terms like Elohim and Theos are frequently inconsistent in recent Wycliffe translations in order to adopt Allah as a translation for YHWH.
NOTE: If Wycliffe followed historical practices for the translation of terms for “God” i.e. Elohim/theos as Allah then there would be no issue. They did not do this!
6-7 the WEA report (referenced in this article) was composed by a panel of PHD scholars who rejected Wycliffe’s translation choices. This is an important historical document that should be read by anyone wanting to understand this issue. Additionally, DA Carson’s book, Jesus and the Son of God, D.A Carson, Crossway 2012 provides another response from a top scholar related to these issues. For the names of additional scholars opposed to these practices, look at the list of scholars who signed the Arlington Statement on bible translation as well as the the scholars involved in the PCUSA’s report on DFT’s. There are others that can be cited, if needed.
8. See point 1.
To “fromoverhere”: first, your ad hominem attacks in your Oct 25 comment to me are certainly unwarranted and your combative comments in your Oct 26 comment to me is not appreciated. I am unsure as to why you have tried to drag me into defending the ESV. I did not mention anything regarding the ESV in any of my comments.
I stand by my comment regarding Nida’s theory of “dynamic equivalence.” So many use this term or its alternate, “functional equivalence,” as synonymous with “non-literal.” This is a grave misunderstanding of what Nida taught. His theory is nothing more than cultural relativism under a different name with the presupposition that language is an inexact medium. If you really want to understand why I am of this “opinion,” I refer you to the fifth chapter of my thesis where you will find abundant documentation. What I have written is not an “attack” on Nida but an analysis of his writings and lectures. My thesis is available on this website, “Muslim Idiom Translation: Assessing So-Called Scripture Translation For Muslim Audiences With A Look Into Its Origins In Eugene A. Nida’s Theories Of Dynamic Equivalence and Cultural Anthropology.” https://biblicalmissiology.org/blog/2016/03/21/muslim-idiom-translation-assessing-so-called-scripture-translation-for-muslim-audiences-with-a-look-into-its-origins-in-eugene-a-nidas-theories-of-dynamic-equivalence-and-cultural-anthro/
Here is a list of the mistakes and potential mistakes in this strongly worded attack (see details in the list of comments).
1. Said the Kazakh translation was Wycliffe and it is not.
2. Said “most translators….” but BM would have absolutely no way of knowing or claiming that.
3. Claimed that two professors made statements on Mohammed. No such statements are found (even in the links that BM provides).
4. Claims that “many translations…” then gives five possible ones (that would need to be confirmed, and connection to Wycliffe confirmed).
5. Insinuates that “Yahweh” is substituted for a Muslim name but it is simply the (accepted) Arabic term for God.
6. Claims that, “many top PhD Bible translators, linguists, and theologians,…. have strongly rejected Wycliffe/SIL practices on translating “Father” and “Son.”” but references none. Claim “many” reference none.
7. Claims that the WEA panel found….” but references none.
8. Insinuates that the Kitab Suci Injil translation is SIL’s infraction of WEA rules…but SIL had no part in it.
Please address these when you can.
The author says:
“For example, Wycliffe produced a translation into Kazakh that called Jesus the “spiritual Son” of God…..”
With a very little bit of research it was easy for me to find out that Wycliffe and SIL did NOT produce this translation at all. It is owned and produced by a completely separate and unrelated organization.
Once again the author is being inaccurate. This is just an outright false statement, accusing Wycliffe of something it was not connected with.
Once again this casts doubt on other statements made in this article.
The author states:
“…..most SIL translators going into Muslim areas are trained by professors who believe Muhammad actually should (emphasized) be considered a true prophet in some sense.”
Does the author have any information that “MOST” translator going into Muslim contexts are trained by these men? Or is that just hyperbolic opinion? Does the author have any data, stats, links, references? Or is that just conjecture?
One professor was mentioned and a link given (it goes nowhere).
Another professor mentioned wrote a long, scholarly-looking paper where he said the question of Muhammed could be re-discussed. But nowhere in the article does it say what the BM author attributes to it….. “That Muhammad actually should (emphasized) be considered a true prophet in some sense.”
Honestly, some of us who want to see purity in God’s Word will have a hard time taking this BM article seriously with so many misquotes and unreferenced claims.
The author claims:
“For example, many translations today….” and then lists a possible five. They would all have to be verified, but not “many” of us would consider five as “many”.
Then the author paraphrases the verses in question using the word “Yahweh” (implying that Yahweh is removed or downplayed). The websites linked to the verse (by the author) show that only in the Holman Bible and the Lexham English Bible (rare translations indeed) is the word “Yahweh” used. All others referenced use “Lord” or “God”.
The author knows that plenty of Arabic translations use “Allah” for “Lord” and “God”….and surely even ones that the authors may favor.
If we look at how this paragraph was constructed it looks to be a straw man, who tugs at our emotional strings by stating that “Yahweh” is replaced by an Islamic figure.
To say that this “indirectly affirms” something is simply the author’s opinion.
The author states:
“This ignores the fact that many top PhD Bible translators, linguists, and theologians, from SIL and other organizations—including Muslim-background native speakers of languages such as Arabic, Turkish, and Bengali in which unfaithful Father-Son translations were done—have strongly rejected Wycliffe/SIL practices on translating “Father” and “Son.””
Can the author produce a list of the “many top translators”? Would there normally be a footnote here saying where to find such a list of the many who have strongly rejected these practices. That would be helpful to the conversation. Otherwise it is just a statement.
The author states:
“The WEA panel decided that in certain key respects, SIL’s translation practices for Father-Son terms were unfaithful.”
One would expect a footnote for such a claim. Is such a decision by the WEA available to the public or just an assumption?
In the paragraphs discussing WEA and SIL/Wycliffe, the author switches quickly to the Kitab Suci Injil translation.
My research with the organizations behind that translation show that SIL had nothing to do with it.
But the flow of the article (discussing WEA guidelines both before and after that statement) imply that it is another infraction by SIL. Is this intentional sleight of hand or just poor composition on the author’s part?
Can you say definitively that SIL/Wycliffe were connect to that translation? And if not, why do you make it look that way?
I expect to see you take on the ESV for their use of Eugene Nida’s idea. Everyone does it.
I only wish the wooden ESV had use more DE, then we would not have….
Women “Grinding Together” Luke 17:35 ESV
Rock badgers being people Prov. 30:26 ESV
Nice legs! Ps. 147:10 ESV
Clean teeth! Amos 4:6 ESV
Trembling loins? Psalm 69:23 ESV
Have a look and go pick a fight with then for using too much DE and not using enough of it!
Reply to “fromtoverhere”: Thank you for your response. The witness of Scripture regarding ‘Father” and “Son” terminology in reference to God and Jesus do not allow for us to understand them as figurative terms but ontological truths of God’s eternal nature. To replace these terms with other words or wording will always result in a distortion of meaning. You wrote that all translations use dynamic equivalence – my guess is that you mean that all Bible translations are not always literal. Unfortunately, this is a serious misunderstanding of Eugene Nida’s theory of “dynamic equivalence.” See my comment below that I left on August 5th.
All translation use dynamic equivalence to some degree.
See this article on how the ESV falls into many, many problems trying to use word-for-word too much.
Elliot Clark, the author of the quote in my other comment, also wrote this: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/may-christians-in-closed-countries-stay-undercover. Biblical Missiology might be interested in connecting with him if they aren’t already.
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.”
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.”
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 . . .
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.
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).
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.
[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.