13 December 2009

The Conservative Bible Project: All Kinds of Wrong

MSN.com recently had a link to the Conservative Bible Project, an attempt to "render God's word into modern English while removing liberal distortions." To accomplish this task, the CBP allows for anyone to remove those "liberal distortions" by copying the King James Version text and editing it to make it more conservative. It is then submitted for review (by other "translators") and then is posted on the site. One of the advantages of this, they believe, is "an unbiased and truthful Bible is of immeasurable value to society." The CBP believes that their efforts are leading to an unbiased and truthful Bible.

I am still in process in my thinking on this subject, but liberals shouldn't be the only ones upset by this. A few thoughts (and I reserve the right to add more later):
  • this process is a mockery of biblical interpretation and Bible translation. The CBP encourages users to click on a link when copying the KJV text that will show them the Strong's concordance number and the lexical form of the Greek word being translated. What's wrong with this? It's backwards: starting with the English and then finding the Greek is simply the wrong way to translate. Further, ignoring the grammar of the Greek and simply translating the dictionary form for each word separately is completely irresponsible. Like any language, Koine Greek is nuanced and meaning can be and often is affected by things like the verb tense, word order, and the case, number, and gender of words (and participles). Putting translation in the hands of anyone with Internet access is naive and dangerous.
  • One example of the above is the proposed translation of Matthew 1:18: "The birth of Jesus Christ happened this way: His mother, Mary, was engaged to Jospeh, but before they were married, she became pregnant with the child of the Divine Guide." My problem with this is the title "Divine Guide." This is not a translation of pneumatos hagiou ("Holy Spirit" in the genitive case); it is an interpretation and downright ignoring of the Greek. If this kind of result is accepted, what else is acceptable? Yes, the Holy Spirit is a guide, and yes, he is divine. But he is much more than that!
  • This will not produce an unbiased Bible. It exchanges a Bible with a perceived liberal bias with a Bible having an actual conservative bias. One of the proposed methods is to "identify conservative terms that are omitted from existing translations, and propose where they could improve the translation." How is this NOT inserting bias into the text? The stated goal is a conservative Bible, not an accurate rendering of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
  • This is a sickening, forced mixing of Scripture and a political agenda. What I hear is "forget accurate translation (and, for that matter, accurate biblical theology), we just want our Bible our way," which is just as bad as what they're accusing liberals of. I also hear "I don't care what those scholars who spend their entire careers translating and interpreting the text say, this is what ____ means."
  • It is also a conflation of liberal theology and liberal politics. The two are not identical.
  • It assumes that recent moves by Bible translators (such as the use of "brothers and sisters" when the word adelphoi occurs) is solely motivated by an anti-conservative, feminist bias. This is simply not the case. There are some places where adelphoi probably refers to more than just men; therefore, it's not some shady liberal plot to undermine biblical authority.
The Bible is God's Word for our lives, not something to translate according to your political views.

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