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

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