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I have lived in South Asia ten years, speak two Muslim languages and have Muslim friends from a variety of people groups. I have never had one single conversation with a Muslim where the term “son of God” proved to be an obstacle. Almost every one knowsthe term and many want to reproach us with it, but when I tell them that all Christians affirm the virgin birth and that Jesus had no earthly father they are satisfied with that. If they still question the term “son of God” I explain the symbolic, spiritual nature of the term. The person I’m speaking to has always understood this. They aren’t stupid. So, I really question one of the first assumptions of your article, that the Son of God term is too controversial ordifficult and must be translated with different terms. Perhaps this is true of other Muslims but I have not found it to be true in South Asia. Maybe it is in other parts of the Muslim world.

I am surprised this article was in CT…it’s a pretty complex issue that most people will quickly misunderstand. Most Western Evangelicals miss the messianic implications of the term Son of God and will quickly see any changing of the term as heresy. I’m thankful for folks like NT Wright who are pointing the way back to a first century usage of Son of God. Perhaps CT could have had him write an article first before publishing this piece on the Muslim scripture translations.

Greeting

It is a wonderfull work concerning mission of Reach the unreanch

Congratulation and Courage for the End Work

be bless

I studied Arabic for three quarters, but I never got really deep into the language.  I met a Moroccan who was doing contextual evangelism who had been from a Islamic background.  He would point out that the Koranic statement was that God had no walad—which refers to a biological son, he argued from a sexual union.  The Christian confession, he said, is that Jesus is the Ibn Allah, Son of God. 

I agree that translators should use a contextually appropriate word for ‘Son of God.’  On the other hand, if “Beloved of God” does not even mean “Son of God” in a language, translators definitely should not distort or water down the Gospel in these languages.  The Bible says, “they stumbled at that stumbling stone.”  Some people stumble when they encounter the message about Christ.  We should present the Gospel in a way so that they do not stumble because of some unnecessarily offensive aspect of our presentation. But we shouldn’t distort the truth to keep them from stumbling when they encounter Christ.

‘Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.’ John 8:58-59

‘This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.’ John 5:18

Nothing new here, really. It was offensive even to Jesus’ own audience.

in a few days ill prolly be viewing this blog from my kindle fire.

The following are relevant points when dealing with the subject of Bible translations into Islamic languages,we must deal with the following subects:

1. Need for knowledge of the history of Islamic thought and doctrines, including the Qur’an and Hadith.
2. Issues that have been used in the arsenal of Muslims: the Trinity, the Fatherhood of God, and the Sonship of the Messiah.
3. No matter how hard we work at “Muslim-friendly translations” such versions will never convince Muslims. They have decided, a priori, that the original text of the Bible has been corrupted; and anyhow, the Qur’an abrogates all previous revelations.
4. The primary cause for the Muslims’rejection of the Gospel is the shallow doctrine of the Fall. Man is simply ignorant; give him the Revelation from Allah, and he possesses the capacity to fulfill its demands, and make it to Paradise.
5. In the discussions about Bible translations, the role of the church in preaching and expounding the Gospel has been left out. The Bible was never meant to be the sole means for missions. “It pleases God, through the foolishness of the preaching (the kerygmata) to save them that believe” (I Cor. 1) No Bible translation can replace the work of missionaries. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the preaching of Christ.” (Romans 10:17

I have been working on an abridged prophet series for Muslim readers in Urdu language since 2000 and now its my 11th year here.. SON OF GOD has been a big obstacle because Quran clearly says

لم یلد و لم یولد

I AM INTERESTED IN TRANSLATING BOOKS PERAINING TO EVANGELISM FROM ENGLISH TO TAMIL AS A SERVICE TO THE EXPANSION OF HIS KINGDOM - CAN YOU MAKE USE OF MY SERVICES?
M JOHN PETER DEVADOSS
THE LORDS
2-3-5 CHELLIAH NAGAR
III STREET
ANAIYUR ROAD
KOODAL NAGAR, MADURAI 625018
TAMILNADU, INDIA

Dear Friends,

Why do you dear to remove the name “Father”, “Son” and “Son of God” from the bible? Do you think that those who don’t accept the offer of salvation will come to the grace of God because you compromised the truth of God revealed?

I would ask you to stop your devilish activity and obey the word of God. We know that you have been amending the word of God for the sake of allowing unnatural marriage and other social reasons. Now you have come to remove Father and Son from the bible.

In the Name of Jesus! In the Name of Jesus! In the Name of Jesus!

I noticed something too about this topic on another blog.Amazingly, your linear perspective onto it is diametrically opposite to what I just read before. May I post part of this on my page if I post a mention of the this site?

I will never buy, support or encourage another person to use any of your translations.  You are not helping anyone by perverting the straight out translation. You are using a lot of complicated descriptions of why you are doing what you are doing. If you cannot explain what and why you are doing in common language, like Jesus did, you are not doing any favors. May all Christians who love Jesus Christ learn what you are doing and stop supporting you. It is CRAZY to change one jot or tittle of His word. Don’t you know that?

Vern
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this well reasoned article. There is such a firestorm of controversy over this issue and it’s totally unnecessary. You’ve clearly explained the issue here. I hope that many people will read this and gain a better understanding.

Philippians 1:15-18, “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;  the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.”

As the Archbishop of Canterbury wisely said at Cairo University - “we call Jesus the Son of God because He called God Father”.

Let’s face it that is what a son would do.

If we do not call Jesus the Son of God, what do we say when someone asks why Jesus calls God father?

We may be storing up more theological problems for ourselves if we do not acknowledge the Father’s Son as well as the Son’s Father.

Remember the tower of babel? God confused the languages because the people were trying to set themselves higher than God. God. God did this incredible thing that no one else could ever copy or re-create. Remember the ark of the covenant? God said DO NOT TOUCH it. The ark faltered as it was being carried and the well meaning person who went to steady it was immediately killed. Obedience to Gods standard of life is more important than our ‘well meaning’ saves. Over and over God shows us and warns us and disciplines us because He loves us. It seems again that His words fall on deaf ears. God wants more than any of us combined to save people through the death and ressurection of His Son Jesus THE Christ. Remember Gods Holy Spirit? He is active and moving and breathing and is more than capable of moving hearts towards God, Our Savior! God stays the same and never changes therefore His Word stands. God calls those near who He wants to hear and no language barrier can stop Him. Oh Us of little faith! Ask forgiveness now, repent of ALMOST falling into the trap of Satan.Repent of ALMOST eating the forbidden fruit. Do not put yourself in danger of being bannished from “the garden”, eternal life! turn back and stand firm. Jesus Christ is the son of God! He was and is and is to come! Do not be like Sarah who tried to ‘HELP’ God bear her a son. Do not lead this or any nation into the ‘arms of Hagar, into the barren desert,’ cancelling out blessings that God intended for them. That is blood you do not want on your hands. Please reconsider telling God His living word is incompetent,and that YOU do not believe He is MIGHTY TO SAVE.

Please try to understand NO ONE IS REMOVING THE SON AND THE GOD. We are just trying to interprete them because NON SEMITIC and some SEMITIC cultures have different understanding of this term.

I think debating here on this site is not enough. We can sit together like a conference etc. and talk to each other. Please do pray for all those who are struggling to share the GOOD NEWS of our LORD to gentiles.

Do you think that Syria spying on dissidents?

I would like to change the topic.
I have a question about the translation in Arabic of the word ‘God’.Is it translated ‘Allah’?

An interesting anecdote. A CofE vicar, who is an Arab, was asked by his little daughter who had just returned from school if he was a Muslim.“No, Why do you ask?” he said. “Because they were talking about Muslims/Islam at school today and they said that they worship Allah, but when you pray you say Allah”. Her father told her that Allah is the name for God in Arabic and is used by Christians and Muslims.

Muslims have turned ‘Allah’ into a proper name just as YHWH is God’s proper name in the Old Testament.

The Muslim concept of Allah is very different from that of the Christian God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

@Raymond Stein. Yess God is translated as Allah in Arabic.

@Phil…........ Not only Muslims but Arab Christians also use Allah when they refer DIVINE BEING. Its a common tradition and common heritage of Arab Christians and Muslims.

@ Phil
Phill what did Jesus mean when He called God as His father?

I guess there have been many theological tomes written on the subject. But a good place to start might be the parable of the Prodigal Son.

Of course there is an analogy of a ‘perfect father’ - but where does the analogy end? What male characteristics does God have, if any (e.g Hairy chest? male genitalia etc. obviously not).

In the case of the idea of a father, in this day and age, compared with a father in the time of Jesus there are major differences.- I can’t go into them all on a blog.

If we are to change the words meaning Son or Father for Muslims - because it might offend them, should we do the same for those in society who have had abusive fathers or who have ‘fathers’ who have abandoned them before birth, and have proceeded to sire many children with multiple women abandoning each in turn? They may find the idea of a ‘father’ offensive in the light of experience.

Similarly the idea of a son might be offensive to those parents who have been abused by their sons.

I think the offence has to be faced but explained. After all the Koran accepts the Virgin birth of Jesus.

For Muslims the starting place I would suggest is Luke’s Gospel since Jesus is mostly referred to as the Son of Man in this Gospel.

The Home of Translators said:

“Please try to understand NO ONE IS REMOVING THE SON AND THE GOD. We are just trying to interprete them because NON SEMITIC and some SEMITIC cultures have different understanding of this term.”

The problem with this claim is twofold.

First, these new versions of the bible that “interpret” the name “Son of God” are being produced in both Semitic and non-Semitic languages. The common factor is their Muslim context, not the linguistic group.

Second, the no demonstrable basis for the linguistic claim that the word for “son” always indicates a biological descendant and examples can be shown where the term “son” clearly does not convey a biological relationship. For example, Muslims universally know that “Zayd son of Mohammad” is Mohammad’s adopted son. The word “son” as used in any of the Muslim contexts does not cause Muslims to misunderstand the relationship of Zayd to Mohammad. While it is true that a misunderstanding regarding what Christians believe about Jesus’ relationship to God is common when speaking specifically about “Jesus the son of God;” it can be demonstrated that this misunderstanding arises because of what Muslims are taught specifically about Jesus and not because of a more general misunderstanding of the word “son.” In other words, this misunderstanding is based in the theology and teaching of Islam and not a linguistic misunderstanding of the term “son.”

Just because Muslims have been taught untruths about Jesus - it does not mean we should perpetuate the error.

If you are going to have a special Bible for Muslims - what are you going to have for Christians in the same country - a Christian Bible? For the Jews a Jewish New Testament the Hindus a Hindu Bible and how about one for Atheists all translated so as not to offend.

Muslims believe that Christians and Jews have perverted the scriptures from what God told them anyway - you will stand a good chance of confirming their suspicions!!!

Perhaps you should talk to educated Muslims who have converted to Christianity for an opinion.

@ Phil Bhai !
Educated Muslims are not Problem at all…...... Problem are those who are not educated, or less educated.

The article on the following link might be helpful

http://www.maghrebchristians.com/2012/03/23/missions-leader-on-thousands-of-new-church-plants-in-muslim-areas/

 

It is so sad that Prof. Poythress seems to have been pressured into reneging on his respectful treatment of those with whom he disagrees.

Anyway, I’ve noted in a lot of this discussion (in various spaces) that there is insistence that literal translations of huios tou theou do not convey a strong sexual meaning. This is, of course, key. Most of the reasoning, however, is prima facie fallacious. It is things like, “Native speakers tell me…” or “I’m a native speaker…” or “I know this language…”

However, there is a deeper problem with people trying to make this point (i.e., that there is no strong sexual meaning). They often indicate that they don’t really care whether it does or doesn’t. “Even if it did mean that to people…” If it doesn’t matter, what is the point in bringing it up?

So here is my challenge: If it were demonstrated that a substantial proportion of hearers/readers found the phrase unavoidably conveyed a strongly sexual meaning—not that it does, but _if_ this could be demonstrated—would that make any difference to how it should be translated in your opinion? If someone’s answer is, “No, in the end it wouldn’t matter how the receptor audience understands it, it still must be translated literally,” then it is disingenuous to keep appealing to “Native speakers tell me it doesn’t mean that,” or “I know that language, and it doesn’t mean that”. In fact your opinion on how it should be rendered has nothing to do with how people in the receptor group understand it.

Augustus Earl McTavish,

Shouldn’t those proposing these new MIT’s first provide non anecdotal evidence in support of their claims?

Shouldn’t we require that objective evidence be presented by those claiming that familial terms in some languages so strongly convey sexual meaning that we need to abandon traditional translation practices for these terms before we choose to produce translations of the bible that abandon traditional translation practices for these terms?

Shouldn’t the burden of proof be placed on those wanting use non-familial langauge in translations to represent familial langauge in the original text?

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When I open your RSS feed it puts up a whole lot of strange characters, is the deal on my end?

What I don’t understand here is the motive. Are we intended to translate the Bible to Muslims so that they may enjoy reading it or bring them to Christianity? If the later is the main objective, then how can we reconcile the two different terms when a converted Muslim asks about the difference b/n “Beloved of God” and “Son of God”?

I have another question to the translators, why translating the Bible to Muslims in English, struggling to find appropriate words in Arabic? Why not the Bible in Arab language was not enough to reach the Muslims? Why not those who could read and write English use the English Bible as it is? Unless there is a hidden agenda while doing this. I am assuming, someday, we will have Mohamed as one of the prophets in the Bible, with justification of the translation.

I think it will be best for the translators to look back at their objectives when planning to translate the Bible to Muslims. The issue is being spread to other Nations, replicating the idea of translating using the same mechanisms. If it doesn’t glorify the Lord, I advise them to STOP IT IMMEDIATELY

Shimeles - you are so right - the purpose of translation is all important. If we take into account the fact that we may have to contradict the presuppositions of another religion or none - continually giving in to their misconceptions - we will have no chance of spreading the truth of the Gospel and we may end up incorporating their misconceptions into a ‘new version’ of Christianity.

The early Christians had to counteract many misconceptions e.g that the communion/eucharist was some kind of human sacrifice - but they did not tone down “This is my body… and this is my blood” in respect for this misunderstanding - no they explained it.  The Greeks misunderstood Paul in Athens when he talked about the resurrection - thinking that he was talking about a Goddess. The gospel was to the Jews a stumbling block - because they could not see beyond the law - but Paul insisted that the law was unable to offer salvation - this mightily offended the Jews - I suppose today some would suggest we should translate it in some other way - so as not to offend.

The expectation of most Muslims is that they will find Christianity different from Islam - don’t let us disillusion them.

I will comment later.

I am Muslim convert from Manipur and working among my own community in Manipur and neighbour states of North East India. Never never think that you can win a Muslim for Christ by means of compromised contextualiztion with biblical terms such as “Son of God”. I don’t need to teach you how a Muslim think about Bible and its truth, if you really are working among the Muslims. If you believe that Bible is the Word of God, you have no right to change its words in order to satisfy a person who does not believe or understand it. If you are really a born again Christian, you must believe that the Word of God (Bible) is the power of God that can change a person no matter who he is or what he thinks. What you have to do is simply present the truth of the Gospel to Muslims and God will work in the life of the person. Devil has already created enough problems and you have no right to support him in his mission.

Hi Peacemaker,
Amen - well said - no amount of watering down of the Gospel must be allowed.

I receive news of many Muslims converts to Christianity and how many are persecuted for their faith. I am certain none of them would want the word of God compromised as is being suggested by some who contribute to this blogg. It is the truth of Jesus Christ which has set us all free. This must not be compromised.

Blessings upon you- the Lord be with you.

The translator promised to respond on April 24, and, today is May 10. There was no comment posted since then and would like to ask the translator if he/she agree to the points raised above, myself, Peacemaker and Phil. I have attended one meeting with similar case here in Ethiopia and converted Muslims strictly opposing the idea, arguing this might affect their ministry to Muslims, Peacemaker was also saying the same. However, the translators were strongly opposing these views and vowed to proceed on what they are planning to do. I questioned myself if there is anything going on behind the curtain that led these peoples are devoted to their work and didn’t give a sign of giving up the matter. They are determined to pay any price to materialize their work, and, I think there is nothing that would stop them from continuing. I am not sure, but I suspect the same move is going on in every Country and the subject is Globally coordinated - May be the host of this web-page.
We can do more thing, besides confronting them in medias like this page and others - Let’s Pray for the sake of Millions of Muslims across the Globe so that they may not be challenged from being converted as the result of this Translation.
Let the Almighty Lord intervene to stop this movement! AMEN

Shimeles - The silence is truly deafening.
Muslims believe that Jesus(Isa) was born by virgin birth - The Koran relates this a number of times.What they don’t believe is that the birth was the result of Mary having a sexual encounter with God. In contrast the Greek gods were said to have had such encounters with humans.

Christians do not believe that either. It was by the work of the Holy Spirit that Mary became pregnant and Jesus was created in her just as the Holy Spirit of God was there at creation. So just as God is father of all creation by the action of the Holy Spirit so he is also father of Jesus by the action of the Holy Spirit. If God is the father of Jesus then Jesus is his Son.Jesus called Him father and we are also expected to e.g. Our Father who art in heaven…. indeed if we are sons of God how much more is Jesus the Son of God?

If you destroy or dilute the sonship of Christ you also destroy or dilute the fatherhood of God( incidentally Muslims do not believe in the fatherhood of God). If you destroy the fatherhood of God then you weaken all that goes with it - such as His love for his Children etc.

Further my last post: In relation to the ‘creation’ of Jesus in Mary - I meant Jesus the physical man .He was of course always part of the trinity which leads to another thought which follows.

Another very important question in relation to the translation of Son of God is how does this translation relates to the doctrine of the Trinity ( Muslims find the Trinity offensive and accuse Christians of being polytheists).

Christian theology and practice is ‘shot through and through’ with the Trinity. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit etc. We can say ‘God is Love’ because God is a community of Father Son and Holy Spirit. Otherwise when there was no creation, if God were a sole entity how could he be love - since every lover must have a beloved.

I think if the sonship of Christ is diminished then we are in danger of diminishing the Trinity and therefore the fact that God is Love.

It is not easy to have a Theological discussion on a blog however.

Please don’t attempt to water down the gospel it is the power of God unto salvation.Our path will be to continue unawavering in prayers till when God will open there eyes of understanding.

Please send me full info aabout unreachedMuslim groups.

Thank you.

Betsy

simply dropping by to say hi

Really informative article. Cool.

Jack Van Impe has been exposing SIL, Frontier and Wycliff on his weekly TV Programs for the past 3 years for their unbiblical rewriting of the Bible Translations for Muslims.

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