Archive for February, 2010

either with anger or disbelief. A little while ago, the story of the Conservative Bible Project began floating around the blogosphere, and extra attention followed the founder of the project appearing on the Colbert Report.

We all knew from the beginning that the project was stupid, but there was little actual work to evaluate at that time. Well now there are large portions of the Bible translated, and we may easily compare their “translation” with existing translations. The result is nearly bad enough to make me throw up, and should enrage anyone who loves the Bible. Generally speaking what the Conservative Bible Project has done is create a modern paraphrase of the King James Version with corrections of words that the project deems “liberal” or “feminist” or part of an agenda incompatible with conservatism. This means that the project is full of oddly chosen English figures-of-speech in place of simple and plain sentences, and a number of the notes on the side that reference Greek are simply factually inaccurate. Often the “translators” have simply supplied English synonyms for the English word that would normally be used to translate a particular Greek word with no respect to whether the semantic domain of the original Greek word actually overlaps with that of the chosen synonym. What results from all this is a comically (or at least would be if I wasn’t crying) bad translation of the Bible. Let’s do a little comparison, here is the NET translation of Luke 4:

NET  Luke 4:1 Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he endured temptations from the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were completed, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone.'” 5 Then the devil led him up to a high place and showed him in a flash all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “To you I will grant this whole realm– and the glory that goes along with it, for it has been relinquished to me, and I can give it to anyone I wish. 7 So then, if you will worship me, all this will be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.'” 9 Then the devil brought him to Jerusalem, had him stand on the highest point of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11 and ‘with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” 12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.'” 13 So when the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him until a more opportune time. 14 Then Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the surrounding countryside. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by all. 16 Now Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to tell them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read.”
22 All were speaking well of him, and were amazed at the gracious words coming out of his mouth. They said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” 23 Jesus said to them, “No doubt you will quote to me the proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ and say, ‘What we have heard that you did in Capernaum, do here in your hometown too.'” 24 And he added, “I tell you the truth, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up three and a half years, and there was a great famine over all the land. 26 Yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to a woman who was a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, yet none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, forced him out of the town, and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But he passed through the crowd and went on his way. 31 So he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he began to teach the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. 33 Now in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! Leave us alone, Jesus the Nazarene! Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are– the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him: “Silence! Come out of him!” Then, after the demon threw the man down in their midst, he came out of him without hurting him. 36 They were all amazed and began to say to one another, “What’s happening here? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 So the news about him spread into all areas of the region. 38 After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39 So he stood over her, commanded the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them. 40 As the sun was setting, all those who had any relatives sick with various diseases brought them to Jesus. He placed his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 Demons also came out of many, crying out, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. 42 The next morning Jesus departed and went to a deserted place. Yet the crowds were seeking him, and they came to him and tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But Jesus said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, for that is what I was sent to do.” 44 So he continued to preach in the synagogues of Judea.

Now compare that to the Conservative Bible Project Translation of Luke 4:

He returned to his hometown of Nazareth and customarily went to the synagogue on the Sabbath. He rose to recite the reading. Jesus was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus opened it to the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is with me, because he has chosen me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the sorrowful and to preach freedom for the captives, and restore sight to the blind, to free those who have been subjugated,  to preach in the Lord’s favored year. Jesus closed the book and returned it to the minister, and sat down. But everyone in the synagogue was staring at Him. Jesus then declared, “This scripture was fulfilled by my reading it to you.” The congregation marveled at His eloquent words. But then they murmured, “Isn’t He merely Joseph’s son?” Jesus replied, “You will surely surely [sic] this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself, and perform the works here that we heard you did in Capernaum.’ Jesus continued, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is believed in his hometown.” To tell the truth, there were many widows in Israel during Elijah’s era, when there was a drought for three and a half years and a terrible famine swept the land, yet God sent Elijah to none of the widows, except a woman in the city of Sarepta in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel during Elijah’s time, yet none of them was cured, except Naaman the Syrian. But the congregation in the synagogue became furious at hearing this and they rose to expel him from the city, and took him to the edge of the city cliff in order to throw him off face down. But Jesus slipped through the crowd to continue his work. He arrived at Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught on the Sabbath days. People marveled at His preaching, for His logic was compelling. In the synagogue a man possessed with the devil shouted out in a loud voice, “Leave us alone! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Did you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy Son of God. But Jesus reprimanded him, “Shut up and leave him.” The devil then tossed the possessed man and left him, without hurting him. The crowd was completely amazed, and clamored, “What perfection! With logic and authority He ordered the spirits of the devil to leave, and they did. Jesus quickly became famous throughout the countryside. Next Jesus left the synagogue, and entered Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law had a high fever, and they sought Jesus for her. Jesus stood over her, and ordered the fever to leave, and it did. Immediately she got up and waited on them. By sunset, all the sick with a variety of diseases were brought to Him, and He cured all of them in laying His hands on each one. Meanwhile spirits of the devil rushed out of many people, screaming, “You are Christ the Son of God!” But Jesus ordered them to shut up, because the devil knew He was Christ. At the end of the day, Jesus left for a deserted place, but the people came after Him to be with Him, and kept Him from leaving them. So Jesus said to them, “I must preach the gospel to other towns too; this is my mission. He then preached in the Galilean synagogues.

You probably noticed a number of odd translation choices. The “translator’s” notes are a veritable goldmine of stupidity. Here are my favorite examples:

“much potential for liberal bias here in avoiding freedom words”  in reference to 4:18

“use “son” rather than the unisex “one”” in reference to 4:34

That last is the perfect example of the sort of thing they do. No matter that there is no word for son in the text, we can’t let the liberal feminists insert unisex language! A lot of the comments indicate that they find the force of some words too weak and others too strong, but there is no concern for whether that is what the text actually says. They routinely change words translated as word, command, and rebuke without concern for the original meaning of the text. At one point the comments indicate that the translators seem to think that every instance of the word logos has the same philosophical meaning as it does in John 1:1. This results in some rather odd translations of logos in multiple places. Probably the greatest translation travesty is in verse 4:21 ‘Jesus then declared, “This scripture was fulfilled by my reading it to you.”‘ Honestly, I do not know what to say. I just fume sitting here reading this drivel. It makes me angry. There is absolutely no respect for Luke as an author, nor even for the substance of the text as the Word of God. There is not even respect for Jesus as Lord. It is absolutely an absurd mockery of Bible translation.

The worst part is that it is not as if the tools needed to properly translate the Bible are secret. You don’t need to be in a super secret club to learn Koine. You just have to be willing to put in the time and energy necessary. There is no ivory tower elitism here. Bible translation is certainly interpretation in a sense, but it is also at its basic level a technical exercise. Demanding that would-be translators have certain skill sets is not elitism, it is common sense. The participants in this ridiculous farce may insist that they don’t have the time or the money to learn Greek and Hebrew, to which I reply poppycock! If you have enough time to butcher the text, you have enough time to learn the languages. So, I urge the participants in this futile exercise to repent of their abuse of God’s word. Learn the languages, gather the tools, gain the education, and then translate, but even then do it in dialogue with others who think differently and who think alike. Always remember that what you are handling is the record of our Lord and our community, and always approach the task without a cavalier attitude. Let us pray they cease their activities.

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