Archive for ‘Posts’

April 19th, 2012

Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers’ Translation Controversy and the Ahmadiyya Sect

Al Kalima Editorial Committee—which includes Wycliffe/SIL and Frontiers USA members—has been trying to weather mounting criticisms over mistranslations in The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ. It has gone as far as claiming the translation “was produced in classical Arabic.”[1] Al Kalima also claims The True Meaning is in “Standard [sic] Arabic.” These statements do not add up. Classical Arabic and standard Arabic are not the same but this contradiction is trivial compared with some of its bold claims.

I have some serious concerns about Al Kalima’s rationale behind translating “Father” as the issue is not linguistics in nature but theological. When I read through Al Kalima Responses to Adam Simnowitz’s Criticisms, I was particularly interested in Islamic sources the committee had used to make the case for substituting “Allah” (“God” in Arabic) for “Father.” By the way, I am not opposed to translating “God” as “Allah” in Arabic translations.

Al Kalima claims:

It is true that Muslims are attracted to an intimate relationship with God. And that is an advantage of using a more accurate term that presents the fatherhood of God in terms of his paternal care rather than in terms of sexual procreation. The renderings rabb and wali found in The True Meaning help the reader understand that intimate relationship, whereas the traditional biological term hinders understanding of that intimacy by communicating inaccurate meanings. (The revised edition will regularize the usage to wali.)

There are several errors in the English translation here. First, the term rabbuna in Arabic has the sense of a paterfamilias. Muslims explain its usage in reference to God as meaning he is our “Cherisher and Sustainer.” One source notes: “In their commentary on this sura, Md. Abdul Hakin and Md. Ali Hassain write thus: ‘the real or root meaning of rabb is father.’”[2]

(Rabbuna appears about 14 times in the Qur’an and every time Muslim scholars have rendered as “our Lord.” Wali also appears in the Qur’an and it does not mean “father.” You can read more about wali HERE.)

Al Kalima Source Footnote

The reference to “rabb is father” is on page 8—last page, footnote #5—of Al Kalima Responses to Adam Simnowitz’s Criticisms and has this link to Unchanging Word website. (This website tries to explain the term “Son of God” in Arabic very well. However, I disagree with its claim the title is figurative.)

Al Kalima did not even use the primary source for this quote. When you go to the article on Unchanging Word, the preceding sentence reads, “The first Sura of the Qur’ān, Sura Fateha, begins with the words Bismillah Rabbil Alamin.”

Al Kalima Editorial Committee's Source

First error: This phrase “Bismillah Rabbil Alamin” is not in the Qur’an. Al Kalima committee seems to know so much Arabic and Islam and boasts of rendering The True Meaning in classical Arabic yet it could not even catch how this post misquotes the first verse of the Qur’an. A devout Muslim recites this verse at least 17 times a day.

Second error: Even if this post had quoted the first Qur’an verse correctly, the interpretation is wrong because orthodox Muslims do not interpret “Allah” or “Rabbi” as “Father.” I had thought Wycliffe/SIL and Frontiers USA were coming up with this translation to reach practicing Muslims. Shouldn’t they at least have chosen orthodox Muslims’ interpretation?

Surprises: What is equally telling, first, the quote about the Arabic argument for Allah as “Father” only appears online in one other place and it is on a website run by proponents of Insider Movement.

Second, the Islamic scholar quoted belonged to Ahmadiyya, which is a sect orthodox Muslims consider heretical and even kill its adherents especially in Pakistan and Indonesia. It has “tens of millions” of members worldwide.

A Muslim website dedicated to exposing Ahmadiyya/Qadiani translations and interpretations of the Qur’an states:

Khan, Mohammad Abul Hakim, The Holy Qur’an, (Patiala, 1905), 2 edns. Subtitle: ‘With short notes based on the Holy Qur’an or the authentic traditions of the Prophet (pbuh), or/and New Testaments or scientific truth. All fictitious romance, questionable history, and disputed theories have been carefully avoided. A physician by profession, Abul Hakim Khan was not thoroughly versed in Islam. Initially he had Qadyani leanings which he later recanted. His translation is more of a rejoinder to the anti-Islam missionary propaganda rife in the day than a piece of sound Qur’anic scholarship. Contains scant notes. His translation is badly marred by literalism.” [Emphasis mine.]

Al Kalima quotes a Muslim who was not a scholar of Islam but someone who was just trying to respond to Christian missionaries early in the 20th century. He was a Pakistani not an Arab, and reputable Christian organizations are now using his expertise in Arabic and Islam—while totally ignoring other Arab Christians (Lebanese, Saudis, Iraqis, etc)—to change God’s infallible Word.

Al Kalima is pressing on with the revised edition of The True Meaning and Wycliffe supports this revision, which still removes “Father” from the Trinity:

[T]he translation team decided in May 2011 to proceed with a complete revision of the Gospels and Acts on the basis of friendly user feedback and insights gained while translating the New Testament epistles. The plan is to regularize the usage so that the Arabic translation is concordant with regard to key terms, in order to provide transparency and clarity about which Arabic terms represent which Greek ones. This will include the consistent use of al-wali for the Father. In addition, the articles and footnotes will be revised to incorporate the latest insights. This will be done with the input of approved Bible translation consultants, Arab specialists in Arabic, and Bible scholars, both Arab Bible scholars and others.

However, Simnowitz’s critiques are laced with significant errors and misrepresentations of The True Meaning, the Arabic language, and Muslim culture and practices. We believe it would be best for him to withdraw these documents and consider presenting criticisms that are valid and well-meaning.

The Church of Jesus Christ should be thankful for Adam Simnowitz. Had it not been for his efforts, Wycliffe, SIL, Frontiers USA and Al Kalima wouldn’t have slowed down.

Please, keep on putting pressure on these organizations until all these mistranslations of Scripture that are in print are destroyed and the project scrapped. There are already about a dozen modern Arabic translations of the Bible. Why are these organizations wasting their resources—Frontiers USA spent $214,900 through 2009 on this project—when “about 350 million people” worldwide do not have any portion of Scripture in their languages?

You can read Adam’s criticisms that elicited Al Kalima Editorial Committee’s response at the links below:

  1. “Son” as rendered in The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ
  2. “Son of Man” as rendered in The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ
  3. “Son of God” as rendered in The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ


[1] Al Kalima Editorial Committee, Responses to Adam Simnowitz’s Critique Of Familial Terms in The True Meaning, January 13, 2012.

[2] Unchanging Word, www.unchangingword.com/obj_misc_33sonofgod.php

April 17th, 2012

Wycliffe Invokes Al Kalima, Al Kalima still Defends Removing “Father” from Trinity

Wycliffe Bible Translators USA is directing questions about an Arabic Bible mistranslation, The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ, to Al Kalima website. Wycliffe claims, “Al-Kalima has a page answering questions about this translation” but the page raises more questions than it provides answers.

Al Kalima asks, “Is the translation directly translated from the Greek?” It answers emphatically, “Yes, the Greek text of the New Testament was the direct basis of the translation.” Al Kalima is not telling the truth. The first edition of The True Meaning substitutes “God” for “Father.” For example Matthew 28:19 in part reads, “cleansing them with water in the name of God, his messiah and his holy spirit.”

Wycliffe and SIL officials must be unaware Al Kalima’s revised edition still replaces “Father” with an Arabic term which does not mean “father.” So much for this translation using Greek text as “the direct basis of the translation.” Al Kalima—which includes Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers USA members— on its page defends removing the equivalent of “Father” in the revised edition as follows:

The traditional term ab, even though often translated into English simply as “father,” is understood in Arabic to mean “biological father”. This is a problem for Arab readers when they read that Joseph, the husband of Mary, is called Jesus’ “biological father”, and so they assume that this means that Jesus was not born of a virgin. The problem is made worse when this word is applied to the relationship between Jesus and the Father, or believers and the Father. It is understood as a terrible insult to God, and misses the meaning intended in the Scriptures of a close relationship like that between a father and his son. While many Muslims are attracted to a relationship with God characterized by paternal intimacy, love, and care, they are also repelled by terms that would communicate a narrowly sexual meaning.

The first edition of The True Meaning uses various terms to express the meaning of the Greek word Pater. The second edition will feature a consistent translation of the Greek Pater using paternal terms, with an indication of the traditional word used to translate the Greek.

Al Kalima Editorial Committee has already decided on an Arabic word “walî” to replace “Father.” In a document it prepared in its defense during this controversy titled “Al Kalima Responses to Adam Simnowitz Criticisms,” and dated January 13, 2012, which was sent to people who had concerns about this translation, on page 7 Al Kalima claims:

The Greek word pater means social father, as discussed in the IJFM article “A Brief Analysis of Filial and Paternal Terms in the Bible.” Arabic does not have an exact semantic equivalent, so the question of “literal” is meaningless. The issue is which Arabic term is closest in meaning to pater, especially as used of God, without introducing an unbiblical meaning. The main choices are between a term for biological father and a term for paterfamilias, the man who provides the paternal care and authority for a family, whether they are all his biological children or not. This latter is very close in meaning to the Greek pater. The term for biological father means a father by virtue of sexual procreation, and this is not the meaning of God’s fatherhood, nor is it the meaning of the word pater when used of humans. One’s pater might be biological or not. The traditional Arabic translation uses the Arabic term ab, which means “biological father.” So it is not a literal translation of Greek pater. The True Meaning uses wali, which is the man who exercises paternal authority and care-giving (paterfamilias). The True Meaning explains all this in an article “The Relationship of Jesus to God,” which presents the traditional Arabic term and explains what the Greek term really means, especially in reference to God.

(Al Kalima claims in the same document The True Meaning was “produced in classical Arabic by our committee, which consists of Arab Bible scholars and clergy, professional translators, and authors of Arabic literature. It is intended for well-educated unchurched Arabs with little knowledge of the Scriptures who want to know the meaning of the Gospel.”)

I wrote a short post last week to show Wycliffe and SIL experts’ erroneous claims about “Father” if translated accurately from the original Greek into Arabic it would lead Arab Muslims to understand the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer as “Our Begetter who is in Heaven.” Arabic words Ab and waalid both mean “father.” Waalid is only biological while ab is both biological and social. You can read my post HERE.

Even the Qur’an in the original Arabic shows “walî” cannot in any shape or form exclusively mean “father” as a brother can also be a “walî.” Whatever happened to Wycliffe and SIL personnel employing dynamic equivalence in Scripture translation? It is not too late for them to repent and apologize to Christians whose trust they have betrayed. This Arabic translation is not worth defending.

There are examples of Arabic terms known to Muslims that Christians can use to defend translating “Father” as “Ab” in Arabic Bibles. Here are four examples:

  1. Abu Bakr—first Islamic Caliph who succeeded Prophet Muhammad. His name means “the father of the foal of the camel.”
  2. Abu Huraira—Prophet Muhammad’s contemporary, narrator of the Hadith. His name means “father of the kitten.”
  3. Abu Dhabi—the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Its name means, “father of deer.”
  4. Abu Ghraib—a city in Iraq known for its notorious prison bearing same name. Its name means, “father of little crows.”

No Muslim in his or her right mind can argue these examples show the use of “father” is biological.

April 11th, 2012

Internal Letter Shows Wycliffe Leadership Out of Touch with Reality

Wycliffe USA President Bob Creson has sent a letter (below) to Wycliffe employees worldwide. Mr. Creson’s letter clearly shows how out of touch he is with the reality. His letter contradicts Wycliffe’s prior official statements and correspondence. Here are a few examples:

1) Mr. Creson sent a letter to the PCA in 2011 which acknowledged Wycliffe and SIL’s involvement in a Bangladeshi Bible translation, the 2005 Injil Sharif, which is an issue in the current Bible translation controversy.

2) Wycliffe USA has issued a lot of official statements which went from total denial to “sort of” acknowledging involvement in Bible mistranslations. On January 12, Wycliffe insisted—contrary to the allegations in Biblical Missiology‘s petition—that ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ were “not removed, but are preserved in a way that does not communicate incorrect meaning.” This statement also defended True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ, an Arabic translation that removes ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ from the Trinity. Then on February 2, Wycliffe insisted it “never has and never will be involved in a translation which does not translate these terms.” Five days later it claimed, “we have never intentionally sponsored a translation.” And on February 15, Wycliffe “is making every effort to identify translations that may have used terms which do not adequately convey the divine familial relationship and to work with project partners to remove them from circulation.”

3) Wycliffe USA issued a statement, even quoting Mr. Creson, when it announced World Evangelical Alliance agreeing to lead a review of Wycliffe and “SIL Translation Practices.” Wycliffe needs to answer questions. What is there to review if Wycliffe and SIL experts have done nothing wrong?

Mr. Creson’s Letter:

April 10, 2012

Dear Colleagues,

Antonio, a mother-tongue translator in Panama, would frequently stand up at the end of a workday, stretch, and say, “Ah, this translation work, it breaks my head wide open!”

Translating accurately from one language to a dramatically different one is hard, even when the subject matter is common, everyday activities. But translating accurately about deep spiritual matters is much harder. The current discussion about divine familial terms is about as hard as it gets: How do you translate words that refer to the relationship between God the Father and God the Son? 

Like most of you, I’ve listened to both sides of the issue, and I confess I don’t know all the answers. I don’t speak the languages or live in the cultures where these issues are most critical, so I have to trust those who tell me that certain terms are accurate or inaccurate. I don’t read biblical Hebrew or Greek either, so I have to trust biblical language scholars to tell me the meanings of the words that have been translated into English, such as “Son” and “Father.”  I must also trust those who are checking translations to ensure accuracy.

Nevertheless there are certain things I’m absolutely confident of.

I know that Wycliffe and SIL have not swerved in our commitment to orthodox theology. We love the Lord and are determined to serve Him faithfully.

I know that accurate translation is difficult, but supremely important. We have been called to give people groups a version of God’s Eternal Word that expresses the original meaning accurately, not a watered-down version that avoids difficult conversations.

I know that the Great Commission was given to the Church. That’s why I feel comfortable being guided by a panel convened by the World Evangelical Alliance to consider this issue. We are part of the Church, not separate from it. When the panel is chosen, it will include “respected Evangelical theologians, biblical scholars, translators, linguists and missiologists, and will include representation of national believers from countries with majority Muslim populations and mature followers of Christ from Muslim backgrounds.” (See http://www.worldea.org/news/3934 .) It will represent the Church (including us) well.

I also know that while this discussion is impacting all of us, it’s not about us. It’s about those still waiting to hear the Good News about Jesus…those still waiting for Scripture.  And they deserve to hear it accurately–worded as clearly as possible–so that they have the best chance to come to know Jesus, the Son of God, and submit to Him as Lord. These are people for whom Christ died, and we must remain focused on getting that Good News to them.

This conversation is demanding a lot from all of us—administrators, language personnel, support workers, prayer and financial partners…all of us.  But never lose sight of God’s perspective.  Church history, as well as the history of Wycliffe, is filled with stories of God working through difficulty to bring about good. Even now we’re seeing good in the midst of difficulty—we’re learning to partner much more intimately with the Church than we ever have before. Let’s pray that God will use these events to impress on His people that Bible translation is essential to the Great Commission and that it’s the responsibility of the entire Church. Pray that this will be a pivotal moment in the global Church’s involvement in Scripture translation so that people from all nations can hear the Good News and become Christ’s disciples.

Finally, Wycliffe is a close-knit community…a body of believers. Romans 12:5 says, “We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (NLT). I Corinthians 12:25-26 says, “…all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad” (NLT).

So let’s encourage one another. If one of your colleagues is concerned about a potential drop in income, pray with her or him. If someone expresses an opinion that you disagree with, be kind in your response.

And please never forget that the Administration of Wycliffe USA is here to help. At the bottom of this letter are links to Insite, UNITY, and Wycliffe USA’s website where you will find resources to help you. If you cannot access them there, please write to response@wycliffe.org  and we’ll forward your e-mail to someone who can send you the information you need by e-mail attachment. If you need an answer that isn’t covered in these links, that would be another reason to write toresponse@wycliffe.org .

Warmly,

Bob Creson

President

Wycliffe USA

Wycliffe leadership is out of touch with reality. Even some Wycliffe members are shocked by the recent letter. I have analyzed it on my website. Mr. Creson’s ambivalence is shocking.

March 27th, 2012

Wycliffe, SIL & the Current Bible Translation Controversy

Three people have asked me in the past week what I would like Wycliffe and SIL to do in order to resolve the current Bible translation controversy. I told them had these organizations heeded Biblical Missiology Society’s petition, which you can find HERE, this controversy would have been resolved in January. It is Wycliffe and SIL’s own fault this matter is on the verge of bringing them down. All the petition has asked them is for “a written commitment… not to remove Father, Son or Son of God from the text of Scripture.” Apparently, that is still too much to ask of these organizations.

There are a lot of unanswered questions. Wycliffe and SIL leaderships know the answers to questions. In October 2011, Wycliffe USA Senior Vice President Russ Hersman openly admitted to the World Magazine, “200 translation projects Wycliffe/SIL linguists have undertaken in Muslim contexts, about 30 or 40 “employ some alternate renderings” for the divine familial terms.”

What are these translations? I contacted Wycliffe and SIL on January 11 via email after their disastrous initial response to the petition and did not get an answer. (Please read Wycliffe/SIL response and Biblical Missiology’s Fact Check HERE.) I called them on January 18 (Wycliffe Orlando and SIL Dallas). Wycliffe Orlando Office promised someone would call me back by the next day. I never heard from anyone. Then again on January 24 I called, and did not get an answer. Mark you; this was before I wrote my first Yahoo! News article. After the article, finally someone returned my calls but did not answer any questions. I am committed to writing on this issue until I get the answers.

So far, all the translations in the current controversy, which Wycliffe has admitted involvement—thanks to the petition—removes ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ from the Trinity.

Wycliffe officials also need to apologize for calling our efforts to hold Wycliffe and SIL accountable as “satanic.”

March 27th, 2012

Wycliffe Still in Denial about Involvement in the Turkish Translation

Wycliffe Bible Translators is still in denial. Perhaps the leadership doesn’t want a major fallout with its financial supporters if it goes forth with telling the truth. The leadership has not publicly admitted Wycliffe was involved in the Turkish translation from the beginning of the project. Instead of answering questions, it has been misleading the public.

Here is an article I wrote for Yahoo! News which clearly shows Wycliffe has and is still evading the truth in this controversy. Wycliffe leadership cannot answer questions candidly and wants Christians to wait for an international review panel to conclude its investigation at the year’s end.

Wycliffe leadership knows the answers to the questions and it should give them NOW.

March 27th, 2012

Wycliffe/SIL Delay Tactics Continue-WEA Review

Wycliffe/SIL evasion of questions regarding the current translation controversy continues. A press release has been sent out. Wycliffe and SIL are submitting to a World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA) independent review panel which will conclude its report by the end of this year. Yep. You read that right!

While majority of Wycliffe and SIL’s financial support comes from the United States, apparently, there is no sense of urgency for Wycliffe and SIL to resolve this issue for the US Christian public which wants answers to questions now. This long review period does not preclude Wycliffe and SIL officials from answering questions.

Wycliffe has called our efforts to hold it accountable “satanic.” I wonder if Wycliffe officials will apologize to us now that it is realizing we have been right all along. We will see.

WEA press release:

WEA to Form Independent Review Panel on Wycliffe and SIL Bible Translation

New York, NY – March 27, 2012

In the light of certain controversies about Bible translation, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), as a respected and trusted global evangelical association, has been asked to form a panel to independently review Wycliffe and SIL International’s translation of “God the Father” and the “Son of God.”

“Rejoicing that many Christians globally do not have to learn Hebrew or Greek to read God’s Word and wishing to strengthen Evangelical unity on the basis of God’s Word, the WEA has agreed to facilitate an independent external audit of Wycliffe and SIL International’s practice of the translation of “God the Father” and the “Son of God”,” said Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General of the WEA.

Wycliffe Global Alliance and SIL International as organizations dedicated to the accurate translation of God’s Word are committed to applying this review’s recommendations. The panel’s mandate includes reviewing SIL’s translation practices; setting boundaries for theologically acceptable translation methodology particularly in Muslim contexts; and suggesting how to practically implement these recommendations.

Facilitated by the WEA, this transparent and independent review will be conducted by a global panel of respected Evangelical theologians, biblical scholars, translators, linguists and missiologists, and will include representation of national believers from countries with majority Muslim populations and mature followers of Christ from Muslim backgrounds.

Reports throughout the process, as well as the final report, will be sent to Wycliffe and SIL International. The intention is that the panel’s final report will be delivered by the end of the year 2012.

PRESS CONTACT: newsservice@worldea.org

March 22nd, 2012

Wycliffe, the Insider Movement and Bible Translation Controversy

Wycliffe Bible Translators has a firm position when it comes to removing terms in the Bible that  hinder Muslims from ‘understanding’ the meaning. Its ‘translation standard’ states, to “In certain circumstances” where a literal translation for ‘Son’ or ‘Father’ “would communicate wrong meaning, an alternative form with equivalent meaning may be used.” (So far, “alternative form with equivalent meaning” in certain Muslim contexts has been disastrous because it doesn’t portray the same meaning but robs the divinity of the ‘Father’ and ‘Son.’)

However, when it comes Insider Movement, an ideology that is responsible for procuring and producing heretical translations of Scripture, Wycliffe has no position. As a former Muslim, it is okay with Wycliffe if I continue to go to the mosque to observe the Five Daily prayers, make a pilgrimage to Mecca, observe the fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan and even acknowledge Muhammad as a prophet of God. As incompatible these beliefs and practices are to the Word of God—Muhammad came to preach another gospel—Wycliffe has no position.

Even when some of its missiologists and linguists have written articles, which are considered heretical by the Word of God’s standard, Wycliffe has not taken a position. In fact, it has endorsed some of these articles, which advocate for the Insider Movement. Wycliffe has gone as far as linking to some of these articles to defend its practices in the current translation controversy.

Here is what former Muslims say about the Insider Movement. I hope in the end Wycliffe realizes just what a heretical practice, which has been a menace in reaching Muslims with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it has tacitly endorsed and reverse course. Or else, it might as well start bidding farewell to its 80-year history of faithfully translating the Word of God.

Former Muslims in Bangladesh talking about Insider Movement:

A trailer of a documentary to be released later in 2012 about former Muslims in Bangladesh dealing with Insider Movement:

March 13th, 2012

Wycliffe’s Director of Communications’ Take on Bible Mistranslations

Wycliffe Bible Translators USA leadership has taken to the airwaves trying to mitigate the damage its linguists and missiologists have brought upon this reputable organization. So far, none of the lingering questions Biblical Missiology has raised has been answered. I will share more tomorrow.

I would like to share with you what a colleague brought to my attention a few weeks ago. It is a blog entry by Dawn Kruger, who is the Director of Communications for Wycliffe International Asia Pacific and SIL International Asia area. Here is what Dawn writes about the current controversy. Since she is in charge of communications, I am surprised she wrote this entry four days after Wycliffe USA admitted it was involved in an Arabic translation, which removes ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ from the Trinity. Wycliffe had denied for seven straight weeks it was involved in this translation. Dawn writes:

So I showed you the fun parts of traveling to England. But why were the meetings significant?

The topic discussed was critical to our organization. You may have seen online that Wycliffe and SIL have been the targets of unscrupulous attacks against the principles and practices used in translating certain key terms in the New Testament. Because our goal is meaning-based translations rather than transliterations (which would be utterly meaningless if taken directly from the original language sources), translators often need to carefully search for meaningful ways of expressing difficult concepts in other languages. For example grace, mercy, atonement, sanctification [sic], etc., are often difficult to express in other languages. Even in our own Bibles, Greek terms have been adjusted to carry meaning to English-speaking readers.

But the current attacks are being levied against translations that found culturally appropriate ways of expressing the relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son without using familial terms. In some contexts, using the terms father and son can ONLY[sic] imply a family relationship based on the father having sired the son through a physical relationship with the son’s mother. There can be no other understanding of the term. So in deference to the holiness of God and in reverence to the relationship between the first and the second persons of the Trinity, in some translations, terms were used to denote the sacredness of the father and son relationship without using those exact words.

In response, some people who do not understand the principles of accurate and meaningful translation, and are working strictly from English source texts rather than the original Greek, are levying unprincipled, untrue attacks against our organization and our closest partner — attacks that are stirring up a great deal of concern among well-meaning people looking for answers.

I contacted Dawn two weeks ago and she has not responded yet to my comment. I hope she realizes Christians who are opposed to these mistranslations are missiologists, native speakers of languages  where mistranslations have happened, pastors, linguists—some have resigned from Wycliffe and SIL, Bible translators and others who are still with these organizations. (Bold emphasis is mine.)

March 12th, 2012

The Assemblies of God Gives Wycliffe a Deadline

The Assemblies of God (AoG) and Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) are the only Christian denominations that have taken a stand against Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL’s involvement in Bible translations that removed ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ from the Trinity. PCA acted last year.

The AoG’s statement, “Essential Scriptural Integrity,” was on page 28 and 29 of the March 4 issue of the denomination’s magazine, Pentecostal Evangel. The statement, in part, reads:

For many years Assemblies of God World Missions has partnered in ministry with Wycliffe Bible Translators. While some missionaries are appointed by AGWM to do Bible translation for specific and unique reasons, most of those with a specific calling to Scripture translation are assigned to Wycliffe. The AG World Missions Executive Committee made this determination because of the highly specialized nature of Bible translation into other languages. Presently 35 AG missionaries work with Wycliffe.

In the last year the propriety of this long-held partnership has come into question for the first time. A major factor in this issue is how the Scriptures are translated for Muslim readers. Nearly every Muslim has heard the name of Jesus. Most even revere Him as a sinless prophet. But they think of Him only as a human being—not as God the Son.

Communicating God’s Word for Muslims presents challenges regarding their beliefs concerning the Trinity and Jesus as the Son of God. Consequently, some translations designed for Muslim readers remove familial terms, such as Father, Son, Son of God, Son of the Living God and Son of Man, from the text. In their place, alternative terms are used, such as “Beloved of God,” a familiar Arabic Muslim characterization often used when referring to Muhammad.

Wycliffe addresses its translation standards on its ministry website: “In certain circumstances, specifically where it has been demonstrated that a literal translation of ‘Son of God’ would communicate wrong meaning, an alternative form with equivalent meaning may be used.” The problem arises in what is meant by communicating “wrong meaning” and “equivalent meaning.”

AGWM missionary leaders, missiologists and scholars have met twice with leaders of Wycliffe and its partner ministry, Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), to deal with the increasing disagreement concerning Bible translation practices.

Dr. Mark Hausfeld, director of Global initiative—Reaching Muslim Peoples, a ministry of AGWM, states, “Initially, familial language in the Bible is offensive to Muslims because the Qur’an and their religious instruction teach them not to apply such words as ‘Son’ and ‘Father’ to God. Our responsibility as followers of Jesus is to build relationships from which we can instruct Muslims in the truth of such familial terms from the biblical text as translated from the original languages. There is no need to change biblical language to try to help the Holy Spirit bring the Muslim to the understanding of the inspired text.”

Dr. Greg Mundis, AGWM executive director, says, “Our Fellowship is deeply committed to the integrity of Scripture. I believe we have done due diligence in researching, reflecting and searching both the Scriptures and our hearts. This places us in a position in which we cannot agree with Wycliffe/SIL’s stated and publicized position.”

AGWM has established a four-month review period until May 15, at which time a final decision will be made concerning its ongoing relationship with Wycliffe/SIL. The consequences could include asking AG personnel to leave Wycliffe/SIL, recommending that AG churches withdraw financial support for Wycliffe/SIL personnel, and engaging in translation ministry with other organizations holding a position on Bible interpretation comparable with AGWM convictions.

Dr. George Wood, general superintendent of the U.S. Assemblies of God, says, “Our Fellowship is unrelentingly committed to the authority and infallibility of Scripture. While we appreciate the challenges missionaries and translators face in intercultural communication, we will neither compromise nor dilute God’s eternal truth, nor change its intended plain meaning.”

In this challenging issue concerning Bible translation, AG World Missions leadership approaches this four-month time of review with fervent prayer and determination that our mission will neither compromise concerning the truth of God’s Word nor communicate inaccurately the nature of God the Father and His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Emphasis mine. Wycliffe USA still has as its doctrinal statement on its website HERE, the statement at the center of AoG’s concern. I wonder how long it takes until Wycliffe leadership realizes this is not a minor issue.

March 4th, 2012

Vern Poythress Distances Himself from Bible Mistranslations

Wycliffe Bible Translators had invoked New Testament scholar Dr. Vern Sheridan Poythress to justify some of its mistranslations of “Father” and “Son” in some Bibles geared toward Muslims. I spoke with Dr. Poythress and he wants these terms to be translated literally. I review his article on Bible translation for Muslim readers HERE.  He has since clarified his position publicly in a post on his website:

In view of the continuation of controversies, I am having doubts as to whether my articles–which were intended to be a help–are in fact helping. So let me clarify my intentions.

In 2005, I criticized translations that remove language for sonship in translating “Son” (Greek huios) in the New Testament. Language that explicitly indicates a sonship relation between Jesus and God the Father needs to be present in translations, both for accuracy and for the spiritual health of the church. The same goes for translating the word “Father” (Greek pater). The Father-Son relation is an important aspect of Trinitarian teaching, which needs to be communicated clearly in translation. As a framework for translation, we need to recognize that human relationships between human fathers and sons are analogous to the original Trinitarian relationship. The Trinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son is foundational, rather than being, as some people allege, merely a culture-bound projection from human relationships.

Please read more HERE.