C. S[tirling]. Bartholomew has referred to a critically important topic for Bible translation today, in the Share section of this blog. Feel free to read the article to which Stirling linked to see how intensely the issue of translation of divine familiar terms is discussed. There is a great deal of misunderstanding in that article and in the comments on it. I hope that the following statement from SIL, one of the Bible translation organizations mentioned in the article, can help clarify that the translations referred to do *not* take away the belief of Trinitarians (I am one) that God has revealed himself as Father and Son (as well as Holy Spirit). Intense discussions have been occurring among Bible translation organizations about how to translate the Fathership of God and the Sonship of the second person of the Trinity without at the same time communicating the idea that the Father must have had sexual intercourse with Mary to produce the Son. Such as idea is scandalous to intensely monotheistic Muslims (and Jews, and should be to monotheistic Christians, as well) and results in rejection of Christianity, unless there is adequate communication that while God has revealed himself as having a Father and Son relationship within the Trinity, this does not mean that God had sex with Mary. This, of course, is not an accurate understanding that should come from communicating biblical truth about the Fatherhood and Sonship of God.
This is not an issue of political correctness nor of accommodation to any other religion, including Islam. Instead, it is a matter of accuracy in translation when literal translation does not communicate the original biblical meaning accurately.
Ask yourself the difficult question: How might you translate the Fatherhood and Sonship of God without readers of your translation of the Bible understanding that to mean that God has sex with the mother of Jesus? This issue has confronted Christian-Muslim interaction for centuries.
Following is the article from SIL and I do have permission to share it with you all:
SIL International Statement of Best Practices for Bible Translation of Divine Familial Terms
Translation of the familial terms of God in Scripture has unfortunately generated considerable controversy. We want to clearly state our position on this important subject.
In SIL, we strongly affirm the eternal deity of Jesus Christ and require that it be preserved in all translations. Scripture translations must promote understanding of the term ‘the Son of God’ in all its richness, including Jesus’ relationship as Son with God the Father.
Without reservation, SIL’s Scripture translation practice is to use wording which accurately communicates to the intended audience the relationship of Father by which God chose to describe Himself in relationship to His Son, Jesus Christ, in the original languages of Scripture.
There are some cases in which it can be shown that a word-for-word translation of these familial terms would communicate an incorrect meaning (i.e. that God had physical, sexual relations with Mary, mother of Jesus; not only does this communicate obvious wrong meaning, but can also give readers the impression that the translation is corrupt). In these situations, the translations convey the accurate meaning by using terms that clearly have familial meaning but do not imply a procreative relationship. Where necessary, Scripture translations should include an explanation of the meaning of divine familial terms. This may be in an introduction, in one or more footnotes, or as a glossary entry, as seems appropriate to the situation.
Bible translation is complex work carried out by translation teams of highly skilled and dedicated people. In SIL, all personnel subscribe to a statement of faith which affirms the Trinity, Christ’s deity, and the inspiration of Scripture. SIL is committed to translating the Scriptures in the best way possible to preserve and not distort these truths. Respecting well-established Bible translation principles and practices, translation decisions are always made in consultation with other partners and the host communities, in order to achieve the best possible translation of God’s Word.
UPDATE (February 6, 2012)
6 February 2012) In light of a number of questions raised about our Best Practices Statement on the translation of Divine Familial Terms, we recognize it is important to have a fuller dialogue with our many partners globally and benefit from their input to our approach in Scripture translation related to this issue. Since questions about our commitment to these translation principles have been raised, we will proactively engage to understand the concerns, clarify misunderstandings, and where indicated, adjust practice.
Therefore, SIL announces that as of today, February 6, 2012, in situations where we are involved and partnering with others in translation, and have the responsibility to do so, we will put on hold our approval of publication of translated Scripture around which this criticism is focused.
We expect this dialogue with partners, and the corresponding hold period, to commence immediately and run for an extended period.
Related links of interest
SIL International is a faith-based nonprofit organization committed to serving language communities worldwide as they build capacity for sustainable language development. SIL does this primarily through research, translation, training and materials development. SIL facilitates the translation of Scripture in contexts where such activity is within the scope of SIL’s working agreements and where translation of Scripture texts has been identified as a needed resource for spiritual development. The translation goals for each language are decided in close interaction with communities and partner agencies, thus Scripture translation is not always included in SIL’s language development services. http://www.sil.org/sil/