Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Removing "Father" and "Son of God" from the Bible Part 2

Lost In Translation: Keep "Father" & "Son" in the Bible

Translators of the Bible have to deal with issues that few of us concern ourselves with. They're forced to make uncomfortable and highly controversial decisions that reflect how the gospel will be heard and how the Word of God is heard and read within a culture. What do you do if there is no word or concept for bread in a language? What are the theological consequences for saying that Jesus is the "rice of life" or the "yam of life." What if there is no concept for snow? Will Christ's blood make us white as milk? What if the people have never seen a sheep as in Papua New Guinea? Do His pigs hear His voice too? All of these questions should make us squeamish if we have a reverence for the Word of God, and the answers are not always simple or comfortable. We don't like to hear about these decisions or most often give the translators the benefit of the doubt.

Many translations are produced by the western world, and locals have a hard time keeping translators accountable, while westerners are often ignorant of the decisions translators are making. Because of this accountability is extremely difficult.

In the case of removing "Father" and "Son of God" from the Bible a number of missionaries, linguists, and indigeonous church leaders have come together to petition the engine behind these translations. I recognize that the translators will probably not get a fair hearing. Most conservative Christians will look at the issue and immediately be indignant and take offense without really looking at the issues or motives behind them. They may rail against institutions that are doing very admirable and excellent work otherwise. They may denounce organizations and missions that are doing real and much needed work among the lost. Unfortunately right now the majority of those who are looking at this issue are missionaries and linguists, and the proponents of these translations have published vast amounts of material that are very popular and used to educate those who come to the mission field with little knowledge of the issues or of Islam. They are taught that this is true before they have any interaction with Muslims. Others simply do not want to divide the body of Christ on the mission field where unity is so crucial and division is so costly. These ideas have been generated in the west by American Christianity. Westerners and American Christians will have to take a stand against them. I do not wish to give any of the translators a bad name or any backlash. I want them to reverse their decision.

 While I do wish to give the translators the benefit of the doubt, I have read their justifications for these translation choices, and they in no way constitute a strong enough case to make such a choice. Their justifications essentially argue that the culture has made the term "Son of God" so offensive that it cannot be translated, as if to say that the term "Son of God" only ever means spawn of carnal intimacy in Arabic, Bengali and a number of other languages that are spoken by a Muslim majority. But even if that's true, so far no one has proposed an alternative wording that communicates a Father/Son relationship that protects the Sonship of Christ and the doctrine of adoption.

In addition are we creating an "evangelistic translation" or a translation Christians can actually use for discipleship? They shouldn't be different. Christians should be able to use the same Bible they give to non-believers, yet Christians and former Muslims all over the globe are protesting these changes and attempting to have these translations banned.

It gives Muslims the ammunition they've always wanted in order to claim that the Gospel has been changed and corrupted. Islamic tradition (not the Qur'an) states that the Injil or New Testament has been corrupted, that Christians changed it and the Qur'an now replaces the previous revelation. This is the number one objection that stops Muslims from reading the New Testament. Muslims have been searching for evidence of this for centuries. If these translations become popular, they now have the evidence that Christians have indeed changed the Bible.

More to follow.

Additional Reading:

Lost in Translation

Fact Check: Biblical Missiology’s Response To Wycliffe’s Comments On “Lost In Translation” (This is the most thorough and specific exposure of the issue on the web.)

The "Son of God" by Rick Brown

Explaining the Biblical Term "Son(s) of God" in a Muslim Context by Rick Brown

Explaining the Biblical Term "Son(s) of God" in a Muslim Context Part 2 by Rick Brown

Chrislam: How Western Missionaries are Promoting an Islamicized Gospel

Monday, January 30, 2012

Removing "Son of God" and "Father" from the Bible

Lost In Translation: Keep "Father" & "Son" in the Bible

The blogosphere has caught up with a long-running debate between missionaries and Bible translators over removing "Son of God" and "Father" from the Bible. As a missionary to Muslims, this issue hits very close to home for me. I have been researching and praying about this issue for months, and it is very possible that Muslims who I have been proclaiming the gospel to have received "Muslim Compliant" translations from others which remove or replace the terms "Son of God", "Father" and other familial language from the Bible in favor of less offensive terms such as "Beloved one", "companion" and "Guardian." Anyone with a sense of loyalty to the Bible is going to immediately feel outraged and sickened about these changes, but they come with a complex set of arguments that need to be weighed in order to respond fairly. I have spent months reading thousands of pages in order to weigh the arguments, and I absolutely feel that their reasoning, exegesis and theology is wrong and that removing "Son of God" from the Bible removes the doctrine of adoption and alters the word of God in a dishonest and destructive way; however, most will condemn the authors of these changes far too easily. The proponents of this approach have high motives, they want to reach Muslims with the gospel; however, they have poor theology and have been deceived by postmodern ideas.

Let me add as well that this is not the same debate as the use of Allah for God in the Bible. That issue has its own debate. Allah is the only word for God in the Arabic language and it predates Islam. While some Arab Christians have invented another word for God in their language, most Arab Christians use the term Allah. The Islamic Allah and the Christian God are vastly different in their character and nature, but I believe it is acceptable to use the word Allah in translations as long as it is used consistently to refer to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and not to the Father only as some Muslim Compliant translations choose.

The most published scholar behind the movement to remove "Father" and "Son of God" from the Bible is Rick Brown. I recommend reading his articles The "Son of God" and Explaing the Biblical Term 'Son(s) of God' in a Muslim Contexts (Part I and II) in order to understand the arguments put forth in favor of the removal of familial language. For an overview of the entire debate I would reccommend the Biblical Missiology website and their article debating Wycliffe and others, as well as Chrislam: How Western Missionaries are Promoting an Islamicized Gospel. Brown's arguments generally fall into three categories, though there is a broad range of argumentation:

1.) Linguistic: Brown argues that the arabic word for son: Ibn always refers to a biological son and infers a carnal act between God and Mary. A number of Arabic linguists debate this fact and Jesus is referred to as "son of Mary" (ibn of Mary) in the Qur'an in spite of the fact that the Qur'an reinforces the virgin birth and absolutely does not infer a carnal relationship between God and Mary.

2.) Exegetical: Brown argues that the term "Son of God" and "Christ or Messiah" are identical and interchangeable, therefore nothing is lost when "Son of God" is removed. I believe this is poor exegesis and completely ignores the most basic meaning of the term and the importance of our adoption.

3.) Cultural: Brown argues that Muslims have been taught repeatedly that Christians believe in a carnal relationship between God and Mary, therefore the term "Son of God" is anathema to them. He argues that our understanding of the term son of a b____ is so offensive we would never apply it to Jesus no matter how it was redefined. This is a convincing argument, but all the Muslims I've interacted with take your word for it when you explain that the term does not refer to that and move on to object to the deity of Christ, which is the real issue with the term.

Brown makes a number of other arguments in similar lines, but in another article he makes it clear that he believes the deity of Christ is not necessary for salvation, "These doctrines about the deity of Jesus and his substitutionary punishment are wonderful parts of the Good News, and it is worthwhile discussing them with seekers, as Paul demonstrated in Romans. But the overwhelming Biblical witness is that although these doctrines are important for the disciple to understand, an understanding of them is not required for salvation." (from What Must One Believe about Jesus to be Saved?) This belief has crafted an entire missiology. It is dead wrong and endorses cheap grace, false salvation and syncretism and immunizes people to the true gospel.

I will be posting more on this in the future, but please read the links and the following articles in order to inform yourself on the subject:

Sign the petition to keep "Son of God" and "Father" in the Bible:

sign the petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/lost-in-translation

Christianity Today: The Son and the Crescent

Critique of Christianity Today's Article Entitled: The Son and the Crescent by Jay Smith

January 2012 Giveaway Winner

The winner of this month's giveaway, a brand new edition of the Expositor's Bible Commentary Volume 7 Jeremiah - Ezekiel is: Marji. Marji please send your address to biblereadingproject@gmail.com, and I will ship the commentary out to you. If no one contacts me within five days I will pick another winner. 

Didn't win? Stick around for more giveaways.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 2012 Giveaway - Expositor's Bible Commentary - Jeremiah - Ezekiel

I've been fairly busy lately, and since I'm moving in the next week, I may continue to be busy. During the down time I would like offer another fantastic giveaway. This one is in support of Dr. Michael Brown's ministry. Dr. Brown is one of my favorite authors and I have been enjoying his commentary on Jeremiah greatly. This month's giveaway is a brand new edition of the Expositor's Bible Commentary Volume 7 Jeremiah - Ezekiel.

You can read my review here. I will say I regret my single critical comment on the text. After reading the majority of the commentary, I feel foolish that I nitpicked in such a way.

Enter by commenting on this post with your full name. If you post the giveaway on a blog, post a second comment with the link accompanied again with your full name for an extra entry. I will randomly select a winner on Monday January 30th and announce their name on the blog. If they do not contact me at biblereadingproject@gmail.com within 5 days I will post a second winner. Tell all your friends.

Why give away books? It helps spread the messages and works that the Lord has used to inspire me in life and ministry. It helps spread passion and zeal for the work.  Many of the books will be ones I've received for free or extra copies that I have on hand, or simply books that I feel are important enough that they need to be disseminated to the body of Christ at large. I hope this contest draws interest in Dr. Brown's work and ministry and grabs interest for the blog.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: ESV Ryrie Study Bible

The Ryrie Study Bible has been popular since its first publication in 1978 and has sold over 2.6 million copies. Moody Press has released the Ryrie Study Bible with the ESV text, a new layout, and in a new soft-touch faux leather binding. Among single author Study Bibles, Ryrie's stands out as the most popular and perhaps the most accessible. Though distinctly dispensational, it includes enough study materials and basic informational notes to remain relevant and useful to those who disagree with dispensational theology. The Ryrie Study Bible's strength is in its ability to make academic information concise and accessible to all.


The Soft-Touch binding is smooth and attractive with a handsome design that looks modern but will be appealing to more than just youth or those with trendy taste. The back features an imprint of 2 Timothy 3:16, and I appreciate the lack of gold lettering or ostentatious design. The Soft-Touch material is firmer and less textured than than Crossway leathersoft but has a nicer, matte texture when compared to Hendrickson's flexisoft. It is not as flexible or as thick as either, but it doesn't seem to have as much of a rubbery element. It will be interesting to see how it wears.

At 6.94 x 9.5 the Bible is fairly large but not as thick or as heavy as many study Bibles. It seems that Moody has arranged the layout and materials of the Bible to facilitate a fairly thin spine, a compromise I usually don't favor, but when it comes to study Bibles this may be a deciding factor for some. The ESV study Bible is almost certainly too large for most people to use it as an everyday Bible, while this edition will be appealing to those who wish to carry a study Bible with them everywhere.

The Soft-Touch edition features an obviously glued binding (correction: CBD staff state that this is smyth-sewn as well as glued), which means it may begin to crack and release the maps at the end if put through rigorous use for more than a year or two.

I was impressed to see this edition perform yoga fairly well in spite of its more rigid binding; it took a little more coaxing to get it there, but it held the position well and returned to its original posture without folds or seams showing up.


One of the reasons I was interested in looking at this edition was because I wanted to look at the ESV as rendered by a different publisher from Crossway and Cambridge. Moody Press hasn't done anything revolutionary with the layout, but they have provided a readable double column format, featuring a center column of references and humble note placement. The occasional graphic, map or chart interrupts the text but for the most part the notes are uninterrupting, staying fairly far down on the page in a readable but narrow sans serif font. The main text is very similar to a Crossway layout with a taller serif font at about an 8/9 pt size. The text is given headings that correspond to outlines given in the book introductions, which creates an extra tool for study, reference and is very helpful in tracking topics or finding certain passages or events in the narrative or argument of the text. 

Moody has changed their previous layout style, which included two columns of side column references. The center column reference bar creates a more unified, less cluttered look and makes the margins look wider, though in actuality the previous layout may have afforded more space for note taking.

My co-laborer Andrew's 1995 NASB Ryrie Study Bible.


The Ryrie Study Bible features a holistic commentary on the text, providing a wealth of pratcical, factual information without being intrusive, and providing more in depth commentary on verses within a millennial dispensational perspective. This means there may be an unusual emphasis on the millennial kingdom and the specifics of how God worked in different ways at different times. The strength of the Ryrie notes is their ability to quickly and concisely convey basic information that helps understand biblical terms, history and language better.

Ryrie states his positions within the notes without listing other interpretive choices, which is not unusual for study Bibles edited or created by a single scholar. It should be kept in mind that the notes are from a single perspective.

Matthew 16:19
16:19 the keys. The authority to open the doors of Christendom was given to Peter, who used that authority for Jews on the Day of Pentecost and for Gentiles in the house of Gentiles in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10). shall be bound . . . shall be loosed. Heaven, not the apostles, initiates all binding and loosing, whereas the apostles announce these things. In John 20:22-23 sins are in view; here, things (i.e.,practices). An example of the apostles binding practices on people is found in Acts 15:20.


The additional study tools and features are one of the biggest draws to the Ryrie Study Bible. The inclusion of an expanded topical index, a comprehensive concordance, 16 full color maps, an 8 page historical timeline and Daily Bible Reading adds powerful and distinct study tools that make information quickly accessible. Detailed articles include a synopsis of Bible Doctrine, The Inspiration of the Bible, Understanding the Bible, How We Got Our Bible, The Meaning and Blessings of Salvation, Archaeology and the Bible and A Brief Survey of Church History.

It is easy to see why the Ryrie has been so popular for so long. It features a popular layout and relevant usable study tools, and the notes feature important information in a concise format. Those searching for a study Bible they can carry with good commentary from a dispensational perspective should look no farther.