USA (MNN) — An independent panel has completed its work in the Muslim context Bible translation controversy. It all came to a head last March when Wycliffe Bible Translators requested an independent panel to look into its Bible translation practices after they were publicly accused of eliminated familial terms describing God and Jesus in certain Arabic and Bengali translations of the Bible so as not to offend Muslim readers.
The most widely known issue was replacing phrases such as “Son of God” with “Messiah of God” or “God the Father” with “guardian.”
The 12-member panel was organized by the World Evangelical Alliance in September. Prior to the panel meeting, Wycliffe Bible Translators, SIL, and the Wycliffe Global Alliance agreed to submit to whatever recommendations that were made. This week those recommendations were presented.
Mission Network New caught up with Wycliffe USA Chief Operations Officer Russ Hersman. “The World Evangelical Alliance-facilitated panel completed their study. And they brought back to us 10 recommendations. We’ve received it with thankfulness and gratitude, and it’s entirely our intention to implement all 10 recommendations.”
One of those ten recommendations: “If there’s a language which has more than one word for father or more than one word for son, use the most suitable one, but it always has to be a familial one.”
When necessary, Hersman says, qualifying words like Heavenly Father or Holy Son should be used. If additional clarification is needed, that information should be in footnotes and or commentaries.
The issue caused friction within Christian circles. Some organizations started petition drives to boycott the ministry and told supporters to stop donating to the ministry. Some people were even more militant in their venom against the ministry. Hersman says, “Hopefully this will help settle this controversy. We certainly would like it to do that so we can get about the job of continuing to translate for accuracy, so that more people will have access to God’s Word.”
Hersman says translations that were put on hold and any new translations will have to conform to the new recommendations. He says starting translation projects for those who don’t have God’s Word is still a priority. “There are less than 2,000 languages left in the world today that don’t have any Bible translation projects in progress. In fact, there are more languages with a translation project in progress than there are that need it.”
While this controversy caused a lot of stress, Hersman believes it’s been good for the church. “It’s been a little rough over the last year or two, but the church has engaged in a way that I believe that this is going to result in good things and not in bad things.”
Hersman is praying that this controversy will actually help Bible translation be even better as it nears completion.
If you’d like to see the official response from the President of Wycliffe Bible Translators, Bob Creson, click here.