Posts tagged ‘Mistranslations’

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

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.

February 28th, 2012

Wycliffe’s Strategy to Use NT Scholar Vern Poythress’ Article to Justify Mistranslations Backfires

Wycliffe and SIL leaderships need to act quickly. These organizations’ reactions have been dismal. It has taken 7 weeks for them to admit they are responsible for a translation that removed “Father” from the Trinity. They have yet to admit that same translation also removes “Son” from Matthew 28:19.

For starters, I am not in this discussion to tarnish Wycliffe and SIL’s reputations. Their constant denial of culpability has already done that to the attentive observer. I hope and pray a serious change of heart takes place and these organizations admit, accept and take full responsibility. Admitting one issue late in the evening on Friday, February 24, 2012, without even issuing a statement is not a transparent way to deal with this controversy. Even invoking the reputable New Testament scholar Dr. Vern Sheridan Poythress will not detract those of us who will not rest until the truth of the matter of mistranslations has been brought to the light and the causes of such have been dealt with.

Wycliffe is using Dr. Poythress’ “input, feedback and support” according to one of Dr. Rick Brown (real name Darrell Richard Brown) and Leith Gray’s (who also goes by Larry Chico but his real name is Larry Ciccarelli) articles, Translating Familial Biblical Terms: An Overview of the Issue, as an endorsement of their translations in this current controversy. The article is posted on Wycliffe Global Alliance website with this endnote:

The authors gratefully acknowledge the helpful input, feedback and support received from many translators and other interested parties, and from Bible scholars such as Prof. Vern Poythress of Westminster Theological Seminary and Roy Ciampa of Gordon-Conwell Seminary.

Eddie Arthur, director of Wycliffe UK, wrote a post Bible Translation Controversy: The Problem of English on February 19, 2012.

Mr. Arthur cites Dr. Poythress to defend these mistranslations. He claims elsewhere this controversy has been misunderstood. On January 30, he responded to a tweet, “you might want to get the full facts before spreading Internet rumours [sic] about other Christians.” The tweet in question, “Is this a good translation of Mt 28:19, “Cleanse them by water in the name of God, his Messiah and his Holy Spirit”?”

The person who had tweeted was quoting True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ, one of the mistranslations in the controversy, which Wycliffe has admitted as of late last Friday it replaces “Father” with Allah. Wycliffe initially had denied “Allah” was substituted for “Father.” It had also claimed, “This translation is unfinished and still being revised” but you can buy copies of its consulted translation online on Amazon UK. Wycliffe’s FAQ, with all new revisions, mirrors Biblical Missiology’s Fact Check, which is a review of Wycliffe’s initial statement.

Mr. Arthur also wrote and posted a letter which has a link to Dr. Poythress’ article. In that letter he assures, “I trust that this allays your concerns. However, if you have further questions, you may first want to read… Vern Sheridan Poythress, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary and Editor of Westminster Theological Journal, writing on this issue for the online publication, Mission Frontiers” and gave a link to the article.

Mr. Arthur invokes Dr. Poythress in defense of, among other translations, Turkish-Greek interlinear translation which removes ‘Son’ and ‘Father’ and replaces them with ‘protector’ and ‘representative’ respectively on the right but have an interlinear on the left with a literal translation of the titles.

I have read Dr. Poythress’ blog article on the Mission Frontiers page titled Bible Translations for Muslim Readers. I would like to point out two errors in regards to Islamic understanding of certain terms:

First, he wrote, “As a result, I am critical of any translation that would put into the New Testament text the expression “Messiah” (or equivalent) instead of “Son of God” (or equivalent)–with no further explanation.”

“Messiah” in Islam is a created being and can be destroyed. Qur’an, 3:59, shows the Jesus of Islam was a created being. He can also be destroyed in 5:17. Therefore, Messiah cannot be substituted for “Son” or “Son of God” even with footnotes. True Meaning, the Arabic translation Wycliffe has defended in this controversy, uses “Messiah” for “Son.”

Second, he wrote, “However, it should be noted that the expression “Beloved of God” is being tried out and tested as a possible translation in language situations where the expression is regularly used in the language in question to refer to a man’s only son. So it means more in these languages than it does in English.”

“Beloved of Allah” is a title Muslims exclusively use for Prophet Muhammad. Devout Muslims would not accept its use for other prophets in Islam. Also, using it in place of “Son of God” brings Jesus Christ to the same level with Prophet Muhammad. That certainly is not Wycliffe/SIL and other parties’ involved intentions.

It is apparent Wycliffe is using Dr. Poythress’ good name and connection with Westminster to mitigate further damage to its good reputation while covering its tracks and possibly advancing this agenda. I know he had no intention to contribute to this current crisis with his article. I have contacted him and he is aware of my concerns. Please pray for him.

I have been praying for Wycliffe and SIL leadership to realize how heretical these translations are. They need to pull all the 30-40 translations from circulation and destroy them. An overhaul of its staff and policies is also necessary.

Biblical Missiology’s Fact Check on Wycliffe’s initial statement is found HERE.

Petition to stop these mistranslations is HERE.

FAQ on why the petition was started is HERE.