Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On the Word of God; whose word?

Tapu Misa often writes a worthwhile op-ed in the Herald, most usually Monday. This week her topic was the “re-writing” of the Bible by “a Conservative American organisation”.

I am not going to quote any of her commentary here simply because it would become the cause celebre and detract from the purpose of this piece.

I tracked down the website of conservapedia and their “Conservative Bible Project”.

The following is direct from their website –
Conservative Bible Project

Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations. There are three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning are, in increasing amount:
• lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ
• lack of precision in modern language
• translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.
Experts in ancient languages are helpful in reducing the first type of error above, which is a vanishing source of error as scholarship advances understanding. English language linguists are helpful in reducing the second type of error, which also decreases due to an increasing vocabulary. But the third -- and largest -- source of translation error requires conservative principles to reduce and eliminate.[1]
As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:[2]
1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[3]
4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms to capture better the original intent;[4] Defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words that have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots";[5] using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census
6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
8. Exclude Later-Inserted Inauthentic Passages: excluding the interpolated passages that liberals commonly put their own spin on, such as the adulteress story
9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."

Thus, a project has begun among members of Conservapedia to translate the Bible in accordance with these principles. The translated Bible can be found here.

At the same time, there is a new lexicon presented which includes such novelties as “doubting Thomas” (without at all recognising its Biblical derivation), Death Tax, and Old Glory.

In the same vein, there were other tags listed by Google including one from Guardian with other re-writes of the Bible that are in the works.

The Guardian report is from 1991, and reveals that Vatican scholars are in the process of re-writing the Bible to bring into the accounts of the New Testament the writings of “The Dead Sea Scrolls”.

I am not going to even attempt to critique what has been done, is being done, with the Word of God. If, as I am so authoritatively informed by TF, the Word is the immutable command of God then what are these people doing? What validity, better or worse, will this version have over KJV, or NIV, Maori or Samoan translations, or any of the many other existing translations?

Or, as I have tried to argue previously, is it merely a case “one man’s word” in terms of which version of “the truth” you might happen to choose?

1 comment:

T. F. Stern said...

I caught a brief moment of folks trying to explain the purpose of this new "so called conservative" Bible and had the same feeling you had; "to what purpose does it serve?"

As for clarification on the use of the King James Version of the Bible, which is the standard which I go by; there have been slight modifications made by the Prophet Joseph Smith to clarify certain passages and they are noted (JST) should you care to visit lds.org and read the scriptures which are available to anyone at no charge.