Wycliffe Experts: Our Begetter Who Is in Heaven (Lord’s Prayer)

It is coming to light that this controversy involving Wycliffe/SIL has been largely orchestrated by the work of two individuals. The Bible mistranslation practices by these organizations highlighted over the past few months can be traced to their experts Larry Ciccarelli[1] and Darrell Richard (Rick) Brown. If this controversy continues to drag on without a resolution, damage to these organizations’ reputations may be irreversible. I pray Wycliffe and SIL will resolve these issues soon.

Ciccarelli and Brown expressed that they are fully convinced Arabic and Turkish do not have “social familial terms” for “father” which “convey a non-procreated familial relationship.” Even when native Turkish and Arabic speakers have voiced concerns about these translations, these Wycliffe/SIL experts have refused to listen. Perhaps they trust the judgment of their Muslim friends over that of their fellow Christians. Wycliffe and SIL are dealing with these “warthog holes” mostly because of this erroneous mindset.

Ciccarelli and Brown explain their reason why Arabic and Turkish do not have a term equivalent to “father” in English that does not carry a biological relationship. They claim adoption and step-relations are not even recognized in these cultures. Brown and Ciccarelli even go as far as claiming if the Lord’s Prayer is rendered accurately from the original Greek—as presently in modern Arabic and Turkish translations—the “mistake” would make the Arab or Turkish reader understand it as, “Our begetter, who is in heaven…”

I knew this concept was false for Arabic, because there are two terms for “father” and only one of them carries a “begetter” connotation. My concern shifted toward the claim’s veracity for the Turkish language. I decided to investigate and here is what I found:

I do not read or speak the Turkish language. I consulted one of my friends who is a native Turkish speaker, an MBB and a pastor who holds a Master of Divinity degree from a seminary in the United States. He says Turkish only has one word for “father” and it is “baba,” which is pronounced “buh-buh.” He told me Muslim parents in Turkey can adopt children and the term for stepfather is “üvey baba.” (By the way, Islamic teachings prohibit adoption. Adoption was legal in Islam until about 626 A.D. when Prophet Muhammad married his then adopted son Zayd bin Haritha’s wife Zaynab. For more information, please read Sam Shamoun of Answering Islam’s detailed post HERE.)

I know another person who knows at lease one case of adoption among Muslims in Turkey. Even the US Embassy in Ankara has information on adoption in Turkey. The embassy websites states:

According to current rules and regulations, Turkish families are given preference in adoption of children between the ages of 0-6.  According to the 21st/b section of the “Children’s Right Agreement” every child has right to be raised in his or her own environment, culture and religion.

So, adoption is legal in Turkey, which means the issue of the term “stepfather” not in existence in Turkish is false.

As for the Arabic language—a language I can read and write and speak partly—there are two terms for “father.” Ab and waalid. Ab can apply both as a biological or social term for “father.” For example, one of the most known Muslim after Prophet Muhammad was nicknamed Abu Bakr. Almost every Muslim knows his name because he was one of the first converts to Islam. He was also the first Caliph (successor after Prophet Muhammad’s death.) Abu Bakr means, “the father of the foal of the camel,” yet no Muslim can claim Abu Bakr “beget” a camel. On the other hand, waalid is strictly biological. In fact, a chapter of the Qur’an, Suratul Al-Ikhlas, which Ciccarelli has quoted HERE to try to argue against using “Ab” for “Father” in Bible translations uses yaalid, a variant of waalid. Yaalid, which means “beget” in Arabic, obviously is biological and has nothing to do with ab. There is no problem translating “Father” as “Ab” in Arabic.

If Muslims have an issue with the correct rendering of “Father” in Arabic or Turkish, Christians should explain to them the meaning behind it. After all, the Qur’an accuses Christians of worshiping a trinity that includes father, mother and son. The work of evangelizing Muslims often begins with first educating them about what Christians actually believe.

Contrary to what Ciccarelli and Brown have claimed, which unfortunately appears to be Wycliffe and SIL’s position, the justification for mistranslating “Father” in Arabic and Turkish new Bible translations is based on false assumptions.

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The Petition to hold accountable Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers USA is found HERE.



[1] Larry Ciccarelli also goes by Larry Chico, Leith Gray, Mansour Ciccarelli