Posts tagged ‘SIL’

April 18th, 2013

Wycliffe/SIL Bible Translation Scandal Resulted from its Experts’ Confusion of Natives’ Languages and Cultures

One reason Wycliffe/SIL experts give to justify pursuing alternative terms for “Father” and “Son” is because, they claim, Arabic and Turkish do not have “social familial terms” for “father” which “convey a non-procreated familial relationship.” (Before you read any further, please bear in mind this article appears on Wycliffe Global Alliance website, an umbrella organization that represents all Wycliffe Bible Translators organizations worldwide.) Wycliffe/SIL’s experts Larry Ciccarelli** and Darrell Richard (Rick) Brown explain their reason why Arabic and Turkish languages do not have a term equivalent to “father” in English that does not carry a biological relationship. They claim in the article adoption and step-relations are not even recognized in these cultures.

As for Turkish, I do not read or speak the 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 do prohibit adoption. However, adoption was legal in Islam until about 626 A.D. after 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 was satisfied with my friend’s answer but I still wanted concrete proof that adoption is indeed recognized in Turkey. That was when I turned to the US Embassy in Ankara for more information. The embassy states on its website:

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 Wycliffe/SIL experts claim about 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 Muslims during the times of Prophet Muhammad was nicknamed Abu Hurairah. Almost every Muslim knows his name because he collected several thousand of aHadith—sayings of Prophet Muhammad—that Muslims use today. Abu Hurairah means, “father of the kitten,” because he owned a kitten as a child. No Muslim in his or her right mind would claim Abu Hurairah “beget” a kitten.

On the other hand, waalid is strictly biological. When the Qur’an in Suratul Al-Ikhlas (chapter 112 of the Qur’an) says, Allah cannot “beget,” the Arabic word used is “yaalid,” a variant of waalid. Yaalid, which means “beget” in Arabic, obviously is biological and has nothing to do with ab. Wycliffe/SIL experts appear to confuse these two terms. (Ciccarelli has quoted and argued against using “Ab” for “Father” in Bible translations into Arabic HERE.)

Arab Muslims would have minimal struggle reading a Bible version in Arabic that translate “Father” as “Ab.” A little explanation in a footnote might clear their confusion. Translators should do their part and leave the Holy Spirit do His Work.

As for translating the “Son of God,” it is even easier. Terms Wycliffe experts have suggested as equivalent for translating mean created being to a Muslim. The Qur’an says “Messiah” is a created being. “Beloved of God” is a term Muslims exclusively use for Prophet Muhammad. I assume this was not the intention of Wycliffe/SIL to bring Jesus Christ to the same level with Muhammad.

New Testament scholar Dr. Vern S. Poythress once argued for these two terms as equivalent to “Son of God.” Wycliffe/SIL invoked him to justify some of its mistranslations. It still does HERE in the footnote. I talked with him about Muslim views and he has since issued a statement calling for “Son of God” “to be communicated clearly in translation.”

Wycliffe/SIL translations in the current controversy came to fruition because of Ciccarelli and Brown’s faulty reasoning. How Wycliffe/SIL can justify expending its financial resources which Christians have sacrificially given on these translations, which even facts do not support, is beyond me. Turkish and Arabic both have multiple modern translations of the Bible already available and Wycliffe claims “209 million people [still] do not have any Scripture in their language.” Shouldn’t the latter be Wycliffe’s priority?

If you are unfamiliar with this scandal, please read the petition that was started to hold accountable Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers USA HERE.

** Larry Ciccarelli also goes by Larry Chico, Leith Gray, Mansour Ciccarelli.

April 17th, 2013

Wycliffe/SIL and the WEA’s Missteps Raise integrity Questions

Here are a few but significant missteps of Wycliffe Bible Translators/Summer Institute of Linguistics and its auditor, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA):

  1. Wycliffe/SIL went to the WEA, “as a respected and trusted global evangelical association,” to review its translation practices yet it is perfectly fine with Wycliffe/SIL that Dr. Robert E. Cooley, who it had recommended to participate from a position favorable to Wycliffe/SIL, is participating, let alone, leading the review process. Don’t get me wrong. I am not questioning the integrity of Dr. Cooley. I contacted the WEA on April 11, 2012—four weeks prior to Dr. Cooley’s appointment to chair the global panel—about my concerns and even shared the evidence. I received a one line response thanking me for the information. Little did I know my concerns would be ignored. Wycliffe/SIL and the WEA have essentially taken shortcuts to transparency and integrity. It is a fact, Wycliffe/SIL were involved in Bible translations that removed “Father” and “Son” from the context of Scripture. The WEA leaders might just be ignorant of Wycliffe/SIL’s culpability. Dr. Cooley’s point man at the WEA admitted to me in early August he did not know why Wycliffe/SIL were being audited.
  2. Wycliffe/SIL initially defended the Bible translations in the current controversy. Wycliffe’s initial statement was in the form of an email, with a PDF attachment (HERE), which was sent out to all Wycliffe organization personnel worldwide from then Senior VP of Wycliffe USA Russ Hersman’s email account. (Mr. Hersman has since been promoted to the Chief Operating Officer of Wycliffe USA.) The statement defended Bible translations in the current controversy. Passionate Wycliffe supporters who had all along thought Wycliffe/SIL was being falsely accused forwarded the email to Biblical Missiology, the organization that started the online petition. Biblical Missiology responded with a FACT CHECK which you can access HERE. A Wycliffe member who has since resigned confirmed Wycliffe’s initial statement defending the translations was sent from Mr. Hersman’s email account. Wycliffe hasn’t retracted the initial statement to date.
  3. I have italicized “respected” and “trusted” in the WEA’s initial sentence about itself because the WEA has had significant ethical problems. There are several examples, but let me just point out two. The WEA defines its Associate Members—Wycliffe is one of its Global Partners—as “independently incorporated organizations with their own specific ministries and accountability, an international scope of ministry, and the capacity and authority to serve in and beyond the WEA community.” That is far from true. More HERE. First, let me show you something about a WEA associate member Holy Bible Society (HBS). I chose to go with this ‘organization’ because it touts Zondervan, the Lockman Foundation and LifeWay as its “significant partners.” I contacted all these three organizations and none of them knows what HBS is, let alone as a “partner.” Zondervan was looking into the possibility HBS was using its “name without permission.” President and CEO of LifeWay, Thom Rainer, had no idea what it was. He responded via Twitter he was “not familiar with the organization” and LifeWay was “looking into it.” A friend who unknowingly supported and promoted Bible translations in the current controversy—who has since resigned—says, “This alone is reason to call the WEA into question as an independent arbitrator of the translation issue.  If they promote as viable partners and member organizations that are really nothing more than shells, or fronts for the same organization, then how can they be expected to be truthful when it comes to the translation issue?” The WEA’s North American Council member David Jang is the president of HBS. Another WEA associate member is Young Disciples of Jesus, which is considered a cult in China. I was at Wheaton College in July 2012 participating in a program for the Chinese church. I asked one of the leaders if he had heard of Young Disciples of Christ. I said the name wrong. He quickly corrected me. He asked, “You mean Young Disciples of Jesus?” When I answered in the affirmative, he said “it is a cult.” Young Disciples of Jesus is associated with the WEA’s David Jang.
  4. Christianity Today published an extensive article about Mr. Jang who is considered in his denomination as “Second Coming Christ.” You can read the first article HERE and a follow up HERE. The WEA is aware of these troubling concerns but instead of distancing itself, it has defended Mr. Jang and organizations associated with him. He is still a leader of the WEA. I contacted Wycliffe, and even talked with one of the leaders at great length about the WEA last summer before the WEA assembled the panel, the review process still continued.
  5. Though the review bears the WEA name, Wycliffe/SIL is the sponsor. Wycliffe/SIL is not just paying the bills; a Wycliffe/SIL source with knowledge of the deliberations says Muslim Idiom Translations (MIT) proponents have had access to deliberations of the WEA panel members, urging them to support Wycliffe/SIL position on Muslim Idiom Translations (MIT), while Wycliffe/SIL personnel who oppose MIT have not had a chance to speak with the WEA panel. It is troubling, especially when Wycliffe/SIL had claimed the review would be “independent.” Wycliffe and SIL had recommended Dr. Robert E. Cooley to the panel, and per Wycliffe/SIL document, he would “participate from a position supportive of” Wycliffe/SIL current translation policy, but I didn’t know non-panel members who are also proponents of MITs would be the only voice in these deliberations.
  6. Finally, the WEA has broken a promise. A big one. The initial WEA press statement about the global review panel stated “followers of Christ from Muslim backgrounds” would be included in the panel. That hasn’t been the case. There are hundreds of thousands of Christians from Muslim background. The WEA claims to represent “650 million Christians” worldwide and surprisingly it could not come up with one believer from Muslim background to sit on its panel. Did Wycliffe/SIL nix this promise because it was too risky for its integrity? I would like to know. None of Muslim background believers I have met agrees the title, “Messiah,”which in Islam is a created being, and “Beloved of God,” a term Muslims exclusively use for Prophet Muhammad, are terms suitable for translating “Son of God.”
April 11th, 2013

Pray for the WEA Wycliffe Global Panel and…

It has been ten months since I wrote a blog entry about Wycliffe Bible Translators, Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and Frontiers’ Bible translation controversy. I have taken this break partly to give these organizations time to sort out their mess. Only time will tell if they admit to their mistakes, repent and apologize to the global church.

(Frontiers hasn’t wavered. Its leadership has taken ownership for its organization’s part in the translations, though it couldn’t defend them.)

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) assembled a panel of thirteen global experts, which is currently meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, reviewing Wycliffe and SIL’s translation practices. The review will not audit Bible translations Wycliffe/SIL produced, funded or approved through consultation, even though this is the main issue in the current controversy.

The first meeting was in Canada in November 2012, which three panel members did not attend. Please pray for the panel to arrive at a God-honoring decision on Wycliffe/SIL translation policy.

The review panel’s decision, if not followed by Wycliffe/SIL repentance and apology for its involvement in Bible translations in the current controversy, marks the beginning of a new phase. I have Wycliffe/SIL internal emails and documents which show its culpability. At this stage, Wycliffe/SIL leaders cannot claim ignorance. After all, they had 16 months to come up with a plausible explanation on what role their organizations’ played.

Wycliffe appears to be moving “past” this controversy. Not so fast, unless, of course, integrity means nothing to this once reputable organization.

Please pray. Thank you.

May 10th, 2012

Frustration in Outreach and Bible Translation Controversy

Saudi Christian Al Fadi appeared on In the Market with Janet Parshall, discussing among other issues, Wycliffe Bible Translators controversy. Wycliffe leadership claims “individuals in the American Church” are opposed to its translation practices while actually the opposition comes from the global church, which includes native speakers, Muslim background believers (MBBs), pastors, missiologists, linguists, Bible translators, and current and former Wycliffe employees. They are not just questioning Wycliffe’s commitment to faithfulness in Bible translation but have evidence in the form of corrupted Bible translations.

A few Arabic translations are featured in this controversy. Al Fadi is a native Arabic speaker and also has studied Greek. When asked about the controversy, he says:

Muslims are always raised up to believe that the bible is corrupted and that Christians corrupted the bible. Besides why are we ashamed of what the Gospel message is, it is clearly going to be troublesome for the world? Why are we ashamed of it? Why are we ashamed of declaring who Jesus is? He himself acknowledged Himself to be the Son of God. They (Wycliffe) claim that Muslims would take it as if it is a sexual relationship. I am sorry. That is not the intent I took from the Bible. So, we need to do a better job of reaching out and trusting the Holy Spirit.

Wycliffe’s translations are marred with gargantuan errors. First, they replace “Son” with “messiah” in at least one Arabic translation. The Qur’an clearly states “messiah” is a created being. Wycliffe’s experts apparently did not realize that. How else would someone who believes and “is committed to preserving the eternal deity of Jesus Christ” render the term to mean a created being?

Second, the Arabic language has two words—“ab” and “waalid”—for “father.” “Ab” does not carry a sexual connotation. For example, Abu Dhabi, the capital of United Arab Emirates, means “father of deer” yet no Arab or Muslim can argue there was sex involved in order for the city to bear that name. There are many more examples: Abu Bakr, Abu Hurairah, Abu Graib, etc. “Ab,” even though it does not carry a sexual connotation, is a term Wycliffe has refused to use in these mistranslations.

Wycliffe had used “Allah”—“God” in Arabic—in place of “Father” and now has settled on using “Wali”—which means “helper,” “protector,” “friend” or “guardian.” The latter has become Wycliffe’s preferred term to render “Father” in the revised edition of The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ translation even though “Wali” does not mean “Father.” “Wali” is not equivalent to “father” in Arabic. In fact in the Qur’an “Wali” also refers to Satan.

It is becoming clearer we Christians get easily discouraged when trying to share the Gospel with Muslims. We know the terms “Father” and “Son” put Muslims off. Have we forgotten they were also a hindrance to Jews and Jesus Christ did not concede during his discourse? I agree with Al Fadi “we need to do a better job of reaching out and trusting the Holy Spirit.”

Some of us Christians have a heart for Muslims but are frustrated. Our frustration has manifested itself even in our efforts trying to have the Word of God translated in a language Muslims can understand. We need to go back to the basics (Bible) in our outreach to Muslims.

Let us continue praying for Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers leaderships.

April 26th, 2012

“Son” in Arabic Dialects, Prophet Muhammad, Wycliffe and Translation Controversy

I have a friend, a former Wycliffe Bible Translators missionary kid from Cameroon, who says he has been told this translation controversy resulted due to different Arabic dialects. It is not true. There is no difference in translating “Father” and “Son” in various Arabic dialects. “Father” is “ab” or “waalid” and “son” is “ibn” or “waalad” in every Arabic dialect. “Waalad” has sexual connotation because in Arabic it means [masculine] “begotten.”

Ibn” is used in the Qur’an and it does not imply “sexual connotation” that Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers contend in this controversy. For example, “ibn sabeel” which in Arabic literally means “son of the road” to refer to a traveler appears in two verses. There is no Muslim in his or her right mind who thinks the road has begotten a son.

Muslims also are aware Prophet Muhammad used to have an adopted son and his name was Zayd bin (a variant of “ibn”) Muhammad. Zayd was “son of” Muhammad for the first 16 years of Islam because Muhammad had adopted him. It was only after Muhammad had a heart for Zayd’s wife Zainab when Zayd’s sonship became an issue. Muhammad received a revelation to have it terminated. You can read it all in chapter 33 of the Qur’an. Verses 4 and 6 of the chapter state:

Allah has not made for any man two hearts in his (one) body: nor has He made your wives whom ye divorce by Zihar your mothers: nor has He made your adopted sons your sons. Such is (only) your (manner of) speech by your mouths. But Allah tells (you) the Truth, and He shows the (right) Way. Call them by (the names of) their fathers: that is juster in the sight of Allah. But if ye know not their father’s (names, call them) your Brothers in faith, or your maulas. But there is no blame on you if ye make a mistake therein: (what counts is) the intention of your hearts: and Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.

The most renowned Muslim commentary on the Qur’an, Tafsir Ibn Kathir, states:

This was revealed concerning Zayd bin Harithah, may Allah be pleased with him, the freed servant of the Prophet. The Prophet had adopted him before prophethood, and he was known as Zayd bin Muhammad. Allah wanted to put an end to this naming and attribution.

So, “ibn” does not carry a sexual connotation in Arabic. Not even in the Qur’an. Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers’ arguments against the use of “ibnu’llah” (Son of God) in Arabic Bible translations are unfounded. Wycliffe still maintains:

In particular regard to Bible translations done for Muslim contexts we affirm that in the majority of cases a literal translation of “Son of God” will be the preferred translation. 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 alternative form must maintain the concept of “sonship”. All translations for Muslim audiences should include an explanation of the meaning of the phrase “ho huios tou theou” (the Son of God) when it refers to Jesus Christ. This may be in a preface, in one or more footnotes, or as a glossary entry, as seems appropriate to the situation.

Had Prophet Muhammad not married his adopted son’s wife, Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers would not have been making these claims today. I cannot believe three reputable Christian organizations have changed God’s Word over an issue that could easily be explained to Muslims who object to “Son” is being translated accurately in Arabic. It could be explained a) ibn does not carry sexual connotation and (b) Zayd was “son of” Muhammad who Muhammad did not father. The title of choice these organizations have used in the Arabic translation in place of “Son” is “Messiah,” which is a created being in the Qur’an.

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 12th, 2012

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.

————–

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

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.

April 9th, 2012

Cutting through Wycliffe’s Verbiage in Bible Translation Controversy

Wycliffe Bible Translators and Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) leaderships have not really answered any questions. Perhaps they are hoping for Christians to forget their organizations are involved in translations of Scripture that remove “Father,” “Son” and “Son of God” from translations geared toward Muslims.

There is so much that has been lost in this discourse and I would like to clarify it before I tackle two of Wycliffe and SIL’s attempts at putting this controversy to rest.

First, a Wycliffe member is an automatic SIL member outside of his or her sending country.

Second, Wycliffe/SIL consultants do not work independently. I know it because I was involved in Bible translation in Kenya. I have also heard from current and former Wycliffe/SIL employees that a consultant cannot work on a project without Wycliffe/SIL’s approval. And if there is travel involved, he must file months in advance of his travels.

Third, Darrell Richard (Rick) Brown and Larry Ciccarelli (who also goes by Larry Chico, Leith Gray, etcetera) are the two missiologists and linguists who are responsible for this controversy. It is quite troubling when only two experts are involved and yet Wycliffe has changed its “Answers to Commonly Asked Questions” several times as if Brown and Ciccarelli have not been forthcoming.

The following are two statements on Wycliffe’s “Answers to Commonly Asked Questions” page that have gone through several changes.

Wycliffe asks:

HAS WYCLIFFE USA USED THE TERM “ALLAH” FOR “GOD THE FATHER?”

Wycliffe answers:

Wycliffe USA did not sponsor the project titled The True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ, which in the first edition used the equivalent of “God” in certain places for the term “the Father.” One Wycliffe USA member, seconded to SIL International, served as a consultant on this project, which was organized and led by Al-Kalima.

Based on user feedback and discussion, the local translation committee made the decision to revise the first edition and include the traditional divine familial terms at the recommendation of the SIL consultant. Since Wycliffe USA does not sponsor this project, but only serves in consultation, we do not control its publication, distribution, or revision; nor do we control the content of Al-Kalima.com or other websites where the first edition may still be available. Al-Kalima has a page answering questions about this translation at their website.

What has been lost:

  1. Wycliffe/SIL was never accused of sponsoring this project.
  2. Wycliffe has yet to admit this Arabic translation also removes “Son” and replaces it with “Messiah.” For example, the latter part of Matthew 28:19 reads, “cleanse them with water in the name of Allah, his Messiah and his Holy Spirit.” This substitution clearly robs Jesus Christ of his divinity in this translation. The Qur’an is unequivocal that “Messiah” was a created being.
  3. The supposedly revised first edition that now includes “the traditional divine familial terms at the recommendation of the SIL consultant” still substitutes “walî” for “Father.” Even Wycliffe/SIL consultant Ciccarelli—who writes under pseudonym Leith Gray—knows “walî” is an Arabic word which means “helper, supporter, friend, relative patron, protector, legal guardian,” etcetera. He writes in an article “The Missing Father” for the November-December 2008 issue of the Mission Frontiers magazine and in it he gives a dictionary definition for “walî” I have quoted above. Apparently to Wycliffe this new revision contains “the traditional divine familial” term in Arabic for “Father” when clearly it doesn’t. I will write more on this subject later this week when I review Al Kalima’s page responding to this controversy.

Wycliffe asks:

WHAT WAS WYCLIFFE’S OR SIL’S INVOLVEMENT IN INJIL SHARIF (ALSO KNOWN AS THE BENGALI BIBLE)?

 (Updated March 30, 2012)

Wycliffe answers:

The Bengali Injil Sharif translation was produced by Global Partners and included a non-SIL consultant.

 Neither Wycliffe USA nor SIL had official involvement in the translation.

 The translation team for Injil Sharif decided to use the equivalent of “Messiah” in place of “Son of God” in their first edition based upon their understanding of published articles written by an SIL consultant. In 2005, the team sought advice from the SIL consultant who had published the articles. The SIL consultant recommended that they stop using “Messiah,” and instead find a word or phrase that conveyed the divine familial relationship. After more than two years of discussion and testing in the local community, the team settled upon a phrase that when translated back into English, reads, “God’s Intimately-Unique Loved One.”

What has been lost:

  1. Wycliffe USA President Bob Creson sent a letter to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 2011 acknowledging Rick Brown consulted on this Injil Sharif project.
  2. In the letter Wycliffe defended this Injil Sharif translation.
  3. Mr. Brown himself admitted consulting on this Injil Sharif translation in a post on SIL’s internal wiki “insite” on February 18, 2011 after Christianity Today published an article “The Son and the Crescent” in early February 2011 where he was interviewed extensively about Bible translation in Bangladesh. Wycliffe USA also cited his internal post in the letter to the PCA.

The allegations against Wycliffe and SIL in this controversy are not unfounded. Two of their experts are involved in these two projects and yet Wycliffe and SIL have not been forthcoming. When are they going to answer questions?