A new Bible translation that alters references to God as “Father” and Jesus as “Son of God” is “unacceptable and unusable,” charge representatives of the Alliance of Protestant Churches in Turkey.
“As leaders of local Protestant churches,” the leaders said they find “the misleading translations of these very important and foundational New Testament terms to be wrong and extremely adverse.”
“We most certainly cannot approve of it,” a letter from the organization said.
Biblical Missiology is one of the groups criticizing the new Turkish translation and others in languages in the Muslim world.
“How is it the ‘West’ knows what’s best for the national churches on the front lines, who are pressed in every way, who have sacrificed their lives for the gospel and have to live with the ramifications of these translations and methodologies?” asked the group, which posted the letter from Turkish leaders on its website.
WND previously reported that Wycliffe Bible Translators, which says it changed some references to “Son of God” and “Father” in an Arabic Bible translation for accuracy, is allowing an outside review of its translations in the Muslim world.
Wycliffe agreed to a review of its policies by the World Evangelical Alliance, a network of evangelical church alliances in 128 nations, which plans to set up a panel of experts on the issue.
WND broke the story earlier about the dispute and then reported again later when Wycliffe said, through Wycliffe Global Alliance American consultant Mary Lederleitner, that the issue “hinges on whether or not one believes that using the most common term in a receptor language in translating the familial terms for God (Father, Son of God, Son) is the only acceptable translation or whether – in the minority of cases when the most common term conveys inaccurate meaning – there are times when other terms (terms which maintain the concept of familial relationships but are not the most common term) can be used.”
The controversy centers on Wycliffe, the Summer Institute of Linguistics and Frontiers, which have produced Bible translations that remove or modify terms that they have deemed offensive to Muslims.
The translations alter references to God as “Father” and to Jesus as the “Son” or “the Son of God.” One example can be seen in an Arabic version of the Gospel of Matthew produced and promoted by Frontiers and SIL.
It changes Matthew 28:19 from “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” to “cleanse them by water in the name of Allah, his Messiah and his Holy Spirit.”
Biblical Missiology set up a petition stating that Wycliffe and the others “are producing Bibles that remove Father, Son and Son of God because these terms are offensive to Muslims.”
Wycliffe responded earlier that’s not quite right.
“The titles are not removed, but are preserved in a way that does not communicate incorrect meaning. The issue is not that the Greek term is offensive to Muslims, rather the issue is that – unfortunately – for some readers, traditional translations may imply that God has sex with women and give readers the impression the translation is corrupt.”
Many evangelical mission leaders, former Muslim converts and indigenous Christians from countries where the translations are being used were indignant. After numerous appeals were rejected, a petition was launched calling for the end to the translations.
The Turkish leaders said in their letter that they had been in discussions about the translation for an extended period.
“It was established that this translation used a number of terms which were harmful to the basic doctrines and concepts of Christian belief. And so in order to avoid Turkish-speaking people, whether Christians or non-Christians, from being exposed to wrong teachings and misunderstandings, the translation committee was asked to change the points which, it was felt, were undermining Christian theology.”
However, translators “did not take into consideration our concerns and warnings about words vital to Christian belief and used adverse terms such as ‘God’s representative’ instead of ‘Son of God’, ‘Mevla (Protector/Helper)’ for Father and ‘repentance ablutions’ for ‘Baptism’ in their translation.”
“In short, our warnings about this project that it was obviously going to open the way to great problems came to nothing and unfortunately the translation of Matthew’s Gospel containing these errors appeared.”
The church leaders continued: “While it is desirable for different groups of people to understand … the undermining of basic theological teaching will only open the way to greater problems and confusion. Those responsible for this translation are aware of our serious concerns about this. … For this reason, we are expecting them to change the misleading words.”
Biblical Missiology said the Turkish organization of Christians was not the first to express alarm at the edits in the Bible.
“The Bengali church has taken a large stance against the Islamized translations and the Insider Movement that Islamizes the church,” the organization reported. “The Malaysian church has also made a statement opposing the new changes.”
“As a church in a Muslim majority country, we are concerned that there are currently movements to remove all reference to God as ‘Father’ and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ as ‘Son of God’ on the translation of the Holy Scripture to the local language,” said a letter from Moko Chen Liang, the general secretary of the Gereja Presbyterian Malaysia, to U.S. officials in the denomination.
“Let’s not forget the Presbyterian Church in America has taken a strict stance in their statement document ‘A Call to Faithful Witness’ as well as the Assembly of God denomination has given Wycliffe a deadline to change their ways,” Biblical Missiology reported.
They reported that the new translation “is opposed not only by the Alliance of Protestant Churches of Turkey, but also by Turkish Christian television, the director of Turkish Christian radio, as well as pastors, believers, and veteran expatriate workers across Turkey.”