Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cranmer on Bible Translation Controversy

Below are some insightful excerpts on this issue from the well respected conservative blog Cranmer:
One of the problems (if not the principal one) is that the sound-bite ‘Wycliffe have removed the Son of God from the Bible’ is a much easier message to impart than a nuanced discussion about the nature of the Trinity, the vagaries of language and the imprecision of meaning. There are complex and legitimate questions to be asked about the way in which terms such as the ‘Son of God’ are translated in some contexts. These cannot easily be discussed on febrile blogs or in 140-character tweets. And those who have pledged to withhold their tithes as a result are acting like children.
All of Wycliffe’s translations are checked according to a set of standards agreed internationally by all Bible agencies. They would never publish a translation which systematically removed Jesus’ relationship to the Father and they certainly would not make translation choices in order to mitigate the offence of the Gospel of Christ. When many risk their lives in some hostile societies, the allegation of diluting or dumbing down Scripture is absurd.

The notion that translation can be effected by internet petition (by people many of whom will have very little understanding of the host culture situation) seems like the very worst kind of Western Christian arrogance. We may know what ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ mean in English, but it does not follow that they must have the same semantic range in another language. Who but the Greek and the scholar of Greek can know what is meant by huios? Who but the indigenous and the participant observer can begin to grapple with the difference and distinction between biological and social familial terms?
There is a long-standing convention in the missionary world that organisations do not give out the names or locations of those working in sensitive areas. All missionary organisations have agreed to this and it has been respected, until now. Some websites critical of Wycliffe and some of the emails in circulation make it possible to identify some of the people, missionaries and local believers who are in very sensitive situations. This is utterly irresponsible: indeed, it is an assault upon the work of God.
Read the whole thing here.

The article doesn't deny that perhaps some thorough examination of translation practice needs to happen as a result of all this.  There may be, in fact, serious revisions needed.  But the point is, this is not such a clear-cut "win" or "lose", "right" or "wrong" issue as the petitioners would have us believe.  And it and has caused no small amount of tension in the body through finger pointing, name calling, and other knee-jerk reactions by all sorts of individuals, churches, and ministries who either don't understand the real issues, or disagree with the view of others.  Thankfully, Wycliffe and Frontiers have not resorted to this kind of behavior, and their leadership is to be commended for that. 

No comments: