Do Wycliffe and SIL translate Scripture to avoid offending Muslims?
Joseph of Arimathea removing the body of Jesus from the cross. (Mural detail, Nubian church at Faras, Sudan - circa 6th century.)
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth that the cross (“Christ crucified”) is an offense: “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23). When writing to the Galatian churches to counter the wrong-headed view that circumcision is necessary for salvation, he added that, if one accepts circumcision as a mark of true faith, then “in that case the offense of the cross has been abolished” (Gal 5:11).
In other words, the true offense (causing rejection of the truth as truth) has been replaced by a destructive counterfeit one (causing rejection of a false gospel at best, or acceptance of an enslaving lie at worst).
Paul was not squeamish about the Gospel causing offense in some. What he was concerned about, however, was the actual source of the offense: Was it the cross of Christ or some skewed caricature of the Gospel?
These concerns are relevant in our day as well, including the area of Bible translation.
Is it true that Wycliffe and SIL have become squeamish about “offending” some of the communities they serve—particularly in areas where local majority religions have a wide following—and, as a result, have watered down the message of Scripture?
While reviewing the SIL International Statement of Best Practices for Bible Translation of Divine Familial Terms, Steve Taylor of the World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) has expounded thoughtfully on the allegation that, somehow, Wycliffe and SIL have compromised the truth of the Gospel through their translation of key biblical terms in such communities.
Wycliffe and SIL have both made it very clear that the Word of God cannot be tampered with or translated in a way that would remove the offense many find in the message of Scripture--in the offense of the cross, the conviction of sin, etc. The “offense” they are seeking to avoid is that which would be caused by inaccurate, unclear translation that would mislead and result in needless offense or erroneous conclusions. Such impact was never part of the intent of the original Scriptures.
Read Taylor’s thoughts about the SIL Statement.
Photo: Craig Combs