The SIL controversy: Are Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL being subversive?

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By Spencer D Gear

In January–February 2012, there was an eruption in certain quarters about the translations of Father, Son and Son of God, that Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT) and Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) are using for translations in countries that are mostly Muslim. I was alerted to this issue by a retired pastor friend who sent a group email to others and me  and he stated that this new Bible translation is “ABSOLUTELY SHOCKING!” (his emphasis)

He asked who had the right to change a biblical text for political correctness. He gave Revelation 22:18-19 for support (See Appendix A, below, for an interpretation that these verses do not apply to the entire Bible, but only to the Book of Revelation). These verses state:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book (ESV).

My pastor friend who wanted to apply these verses to all of Scripture, also used Psalm 12:1, 6-7 to support his claims of what happens when Scripture is changed, as SIL is alleged to be doing. He wanted to challenge SIL and stated that what it was doing was ‘blasphemous’ and he hopes that there is sufficient protest to cause the publishers to cease publication.

Why the kafuffle?

This pastor friend sent me a link to the article by Jihad Watch, 29 January 2012: ‘Report: American Bible translators bowdlerize scriptures to avoid offending Muslims: no “Father” and “Son”‘.

What are the issues? It was over WBT, SIL, and Frontiers for allegedly removing the words, Father, Son and Son of God, and replacing with different words in a translation for the Muslim world. Jihad Watch quoted an article from Yahoo! Contributor Network, ‘“Father” and “Son” ousted from the Trinity in New Bible Translations‘. This article claimed that

Concerned Christian missionaries, Bible translators, pastors, and national church leaders have come together with a public petition to stop these organizations. They claim a public petition is their last recourse because meetings with these organizations’ leaders, staff resignations over this issue and criticism and appeals from native national Christians concerned about the translations have failed to persuade these agencies to retain “Father” and “Son” in the text of all their translations.

Biblical Missiology, a ministry of Boulder, Colorado-based Horizon International, is sponsoring the petition.

The Petition

Based on the reactionary statements by my pastor friend, ‘absolutely shocking’ and ‘blasphemous’, I read no further and proceeded to sign my name to this public petition sponsored by Horizons International, Colorado, USA on its homepage.[1] Based on my further research, I emailed Horizons International and asked them to remove my name and address from the Petition as I am not convinced that the Horizons’ Petition is what I want to support, as I explain below.

Within 24-hours of asking for my name to be removed from the Petition, I have received 4 different email responses from around the world, from those associated with Horizons International and Biblical Missiology, including one from a pastor in the Arabic-speaking world. All of them opposed the WBT and SIL translations regarding God, Son, and Son of God in Muslim countries. These were some of their emphases:

  1. Native believers in Turkey and the Arab world ‘completely disagree’ with the Wycliffe translations.
  2. Former Muslims want the literal translation of Father and Son of God.
  3. ‘Wycliffe consistently refuses to address’ this issue.
  4. The claim that the NT Greek, huios (Son), should not be translated as ibn Allah (son of God), is ‘strange’ and is certainly not based on linguistics.
  5. All Christians want to communicate the clear meaning of the Bible, but what concerns us is the removing the words Son and Father from the biblical text as these are critical words to describe the nature of God and Christ.
  6. There should be no replacement words for Father and Son, such as Messiah, the one and only, the beloved of God, etc., that SIL is using.
  7. ‘The whole plan of salvation is at stake’ with the SIL translations.[2]
  8. God as Father is a most attractive attribute of God for Muslims.
  9. I have evidence of hundreds of Muslims who have become Christians, who have been attracted to the Fatherhood of God, rather than the stern image of Allah from Islam.
  10. The humble God who loves people enough to sacrifice his only Son drew many Muslims to Christ.
  11. One survey of 100 Muslim converts to Christ found that 85% said that the fatherhood of God drew them to Christ.
  12. No commentaries can explain adequately the nature of the Trinity and the Father-Son relationship. The matter is spiritual and has to be revealed to people.[3]
  13. Please don’t deny Muslims the translation of the intimate attributes of God and Jesus.
  14. Please do not be fooled by the words WBT-SIL has claimed.
  15. WBT state they are committed to accuracy, but then they remove Father and Son from the Middle Eastern Bible. This brings confusion. National churches are angry about what WBT are doing.
  16. It is a ‘shame’ that American Christianity is giving up on this doctrine of the Father and the Son.
  17. We, Horizons International/Biblical Missiology, are ‘legitimate’ and have found ‘many unfaithful translations’.[4]
  18. They want the Petition against WBT’s translations of Father and Son to cause WBT to think twice before eliminating Father and Son from translations.
  19. The issues are complex and translations shouldn’t be a commentary. In their view, they consider that Father should still be Father and Son to be Son as all cultures understand the Father-Son relationship.
  20. They can give further explanations in footnotes.
  21. The Pakistan Bible Society has severed relationships with WBT/SIL. The Presbyterian Church of Pakistan has objected to what WBT is doing.
  22. Before SIL makes changes to the current Bible translation it should ‘take into confidence all major Christian denominations and church leaders’.
  23. Church leaders in countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Turkey and Malaysia have called for an end to the WBT translations of Father and Son, ‘but to no avail’.
  24. Those who speak Arabic, Turkish, Urdu, Bengali and other majority-Muslim languages reject the Wycliffe rationale for removing and redefining Father, Son, and Son of God.
  25. If the Holy Spirit does not apply the message to the person, passion for lexical work and exegesis will come to naught.[5]
  26. An underlying presupposition in this debate is that the problem with Muslims is ‘informational’, that by ‘massaging’ the message going to them, they will be more ready to come to the Lord. Historically, this involved the great divide between Augustine and Pelagius. This person wanted to place the blame with the assumption that a human being has an ability of choose Christ and correct information will help to guarantee that kind of result.[6]
  27. As for dynamic equivalence vs formal equivalence (literal), that is found in above-ground structures, but the stuff below the ground involves the doctrines of ability or inability (of a person to choose salvation or not to choose salvation in Christ). This person stated that it is always good to examine the foundation.[7]
  28. WBT dismisses the view that the disagreement is based on WBT presuppositions.[8]
  29. I, a person living in the Arabic world, have no problem using Allah for the God of the OT and NT as it is not disputed by Arabic Christians because Allah was used for God before Islam commenced.
  30. There is a long list of Turkish pastors (former Muslims) who have spoken out against the WBT-SIL translation into Turkish. There is no need to change it in 2012.
  31. What do you think Muslims could say when they note that Bible translations Christians have used for centuries with Son of God and Father are suddenly being changed?[9]

There are certainly some valid concerns expressed here

These include:

1. Since God, Son, and Son of God have been used in Arabic and other Middle Eastern translations for centuries, why change to dynamic equivalence now?

2. Since Allah was used for God before the entrance of Islam, it is valid to continue such use in modern translations.

3. The Father and Son relationship in the Trinity and its familial relationship, attract Muslims to Christianity when compared with the strict kind of monotheism of the Allah of Islam.

4. There is a mystery in the nature of the Trinity.

5. The Petition against the WBT-SIL translation of God, Son, and Son of God, has gotten a response from WBT-SIL and they have put a moratorium on all such translations which some linguistic experts examine the issue.

6. How does one determine if a translation is correct or incorrect?

7. Presuppositions are important in any kind of writing or translating.

8. When Christians change translations that are centuries old, Muslims could be suspicious about what they are doing.

In this article, I examine some of these matters.

Here is another opposing article against the WBT position, ‘Wycliffe Bible Translators accused of downgrading Jesus “for Muslim sensitivities”‘, which states: ‘There is absolutely no question of Wycliffe Bible Translators being engaged in some subversive activity to undermine the Christian faith in order to make Scripture somehow more palatable to Muslims’.

Subversive? Questionable, maybe! But this evangelical organisation (Wycliffe/SIL) that works closely with local churches when engaging in Bible translation in a new language group, could not be charged with being subversive as, to my knowledge, they are openly discussing translational issues with local churches. However, where these SIL translators are working is, and should remain, a secret for their own security.

After investigation, my conclusions are that WBT and SIL are not being subversive, undermining the Christian faith and being blasphemous, to make the Bible palatable for Muslims. What then are the issues?

My response

The main issues in this controversy seem to be:

(1) Are Wycliffe and SIL orthodox mission organisations? And

(2) How does a translator communicate the meaning of “son of God” in a new culture, especially a Muslim culture, where “son of God” would have a meaning quite different to what the Greek text states?

(3) Explaining to people in the receptor language that it is not the translation that is inspired of God, but the original documents.

Let’s be fair in our analysis of what is happening, by looking at these three issues:

(1) We know that WBT and SIL are orthodox evangelical organisations and from their statement of belief, they are clearly Trinitarian, stating in, Our Doctrine, that ‘we believe in one God, who exists eternally in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’. Also, their view of Jesus, the Son, is orthodox as this statement from ‘Our Doctrine’ indicates:

We believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, is fully God and fully human; He demonstrated God’s love for sinners by suffering the penalty of death in their place, rose bodily from the dead and ascended to heaven where He intercedes for His people.

(2) When translators translate for a new culture, they want to convey the meaning, say, from the Greek NT to the new culture. This is a translational issue. ‘Son of God’ (huios tou theou) for the Muslims has a different understanding to what I understand, as I have been raised in orthodox, evangelical Christianity.  Since I’m an expository preacher, when a term such as Father, Son or Son of God appears in a text, I expound what it means after I’ve obtained the meaning from my Greek exegesis (grammar) and use of using Arndt & Gingrich Greek lexicon (1957) and the word studies of Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (10 vols, Kittel & Friedrich 1964-1976), Colin Brown’s New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (3 vols, 1975-1978).

Bible translators don’t have the luxury of using more detailed exposition when translating. How do they communicate that message in a translation? Many of them translate meaning-for-meaning as is done in the NIV and NLT (New Living Translation). This type of linguistic translation makes sense to me in a new culture. In fact, I’m finding that new and older Christians love the NLT because it explains the meaning so simply.

I was experiencing this kind of translational problem in writing my PhD dissertation the day prior to writing this article, when I came across the German word, Sachkritik, that was used in an English volume (Thiselton 1980:266). I knew that it meant content-criticism but I was unsure what that meant exactly, so I went searching for its fuller meaning in order to better understand the dimensions of this word’s meaning. I found this, thanks to Tom (N T) Wright’s excellent work on the historical Jesus. Here is what I discovered:

Sachkritik is the criticism of a writer by an interpreter, using the inner logic of the interpreter’s own ideas. Wright (1992:56 n 21) explained that an example would be when Bultmann relativised Romans 9-11 based on the assessment that if Paul had thought through his ideas properly he would not have stated it that way. Others accused Bultmann of not following his own Sachkritik to its logical conclusions by still holding onto belief in the historicity of the cross when Bultmann maintained that most of the Gospels had to be demythologised and could not be trusted. In Sachkritik, the critic understands the thoughts of an author better than the author himself or herself (Wright 1992:101 n 35).

It is obligatory that interpreters of ancient texts allow the texts to speak for themselves, even if the interpreter is in disagreement with the texts’ statements. Sound methodology does not presume that a contemporary writer has a better understanding than the ancient author or another contemporary author, on what that author wanted to state.

Now, try putting that information into a small sentence to communicate with the people in the pew in Australia! It would be difficult enough for Aussies. Imagine how to do that for people in Syria or Rwanda. Because I read and have taught NT Greek, I know the difficulties of translating from one language to another.

I think that this is the kind of issue that SIL translators run into when trying to translate the Greek NT into a native language, wherever that might be in the world. How would I explain to an English speaker the meaning of Sachkritik with the simple translation of “content-criticism”. That’s not good enough in explaining what it really means. A simple explanation could be something like, “imposing the interpreter’s ideas on the text”. Since I’m examining J. D. Crossan’s historical Jesus in my dissertation, this is exactly what he does in rejecting physical miracles in the Gospels. He claimed that ‘miracles are not changes in the physical world so much as changes in the social world, and it is society that dictates, in any case, how we see, use, and explain that physical world’ (1994:82).

He’s saying that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John could not get it correct, but he can in his late twentieth-century publications by imposing his postmodern interpretation on the text.

(3) In considering the issue of dynamic equivalence translations of Father, Son, and Son of God, especially when sharing Christ with groups such as Muslims, I’m of the view that this issue of accuracy of meaning relates to what exactly is the meaning of ‘all Scripture’ in the verse, ‘all Scripture is breathed out by God’ (2 Tim. 3:16-17 ESV). In context, ‘all Scripture’ here refers to the OT, as the NT had not yet been compiled.

Is it a translation that is “breathed out by God” or is it the original biblical writing? Too many preachers and Christians make it refer to translations when in reality, only the original documents (known as the autographa), whether in Hebrew or Greek, are God-breathed. (See Greg Bahnsen’s article, ‘The inerrancy of the autographa’.)

It is not in any translation, but it is in the original Greek of the NT and the Hebrew of the OT, from which there are translational issues in whatever language one uses. We should not have to argue that a translation is the inerrant Scripture that is ‘breathed out by God’. It is not.

A brother in Christ who is in an Arabic-speaking nation witnessing to Muslims shared with me what is happening to him when he is witnessing for Christ on the streets with Muslims. He is concerned when Muslims compare translation with translation of the Bible in Arabic and say to him that the ‘the Bible is corrupted’. They use the SIL change of Father, Son, and Son of God to demonstrate to him that the Bible has changed and they have proof.  My brother in Christ said that these Muslims are correct when they compare a literal Arabic translation with a dynamic equivalence translation. They see two different meanings for a word or concept.

He wrote of a situation where he was in a situation among a group of Muslims and was trying to defend the Scriptures when the Muslims claimed a ‘corrupted’ Bible comparing literal versus dynamic equivalence Arabic translations. The Muslims were showing him verses from another translation that contradicted what he was preaching. He concluded that the Muslims were correct because Western translators had changed the scriptures in a well-meaning attempt to contextualise. His conclusion was that these translators had sinned against Muslims by damaging the reputation of the Word of God and that they should be ashamed for doing it.

But wait a minute! Is this brother being accurate with what he is saying to the Muslims about different Arabic translations? I don’t think he is, as the objections by the Muslims should lead to a discussion about translational models, especially dynamic equivalence and formal (literal) equivalence. Also, as I’ve indicated above, it is not the translation that is ‘breathed out by God’. That only applies to the original documents.

As an example, I face a similar problem with the New International Version’s translation of the Greek, hilasmos, in places like 1 John 2:2; 4:10, as ‘atoning sacrifice’ for our sins, when I understand that it means ‘propitiation’ (see ESV). The New Living Translation uses “the sacrifice that atones“, but this is inadequate if it means ‘appeasing the wrath of God’.[10] In commenting on 1 John 2:2 and noting the different translations of hilasmos as ‘propitiation’ (KJV, NKJV, RV, ASV, NASB, Moffatt), ‘expiation’ (RSV[11]), ‘atoning sacrifice’ (MLB, NIV), and ‘remedy for the defilement of our sins’ (NEB), Simon Kistemaker (1986:252-255) notes that

God initiated his love to a sinful world by giving his Son to cover sin and remove guilt…. With his atoning sacrifice, Christ removes sin and guilt…. Hilasmos … describes an action performed by Jesus Christ that appeases God the Father. A noun with a –mos ending denotes action; a noun with a –ma ending indicates the result of that action.

However, another evangelical, exegetical commentators, such as R. C. H. Lenski (1966:399-401), prefer the translation of ‘expiation’ to ‘propitiation’, particularly when compared with the only other NT appearance is in 1 John 4:10.[12] The Link & Brown (1978:162-163) word study states that

words of the hilaskomai word-ground fit in naturally with the terminology of blood, cleansing, and sin (1 Jn. 1:7ff) and come naturally to anyone familiar with this area of the thought-world of the LXX…. Atonement is not regarded as something that man does to God, but rather as the expression of God’s love to men (1 Jn. 4:10).

So, it is not clear whether an expiation or propitiation meaning should be used in 1 John 2:2; 4:10. If I were preaching on this, I would give the issues for either translation and if I were uncertain (as I now am) I would tell the people this conclusion.

I am of the view that the fuller explanation of what the word means should not be left to translators, as they require the use of minimal words. It should be done by biblical expositors (preachers) of whom there are not many in my part of the world. I find few pastors locally who have a fair understanding of NT Greek or OT Hebrew. My local pastor does know his Greek reasonably well.

From this brother in a Arabic-speaking country who is witnessing for Christ to Muslims who are saying that “the Bible is corrupted”, I am persuaded that any pastor, evangelist or translator must get back to saying something like, ‘It is the Bible in the original documents that is inspired Scripture and not any Arabic/English translation. Let’s see what that word means in the Hebrew or Greek’. However, when on the streets it is not possible to engage in the kind of discussion needed to understand the nuances of a Greek or Hebrew word.

Equivalence translations

I’ve given this extensive explanation as it is what I’ve been working on in my dissertation and it is relevant to the Wycliffe and SIL controversy. I have deep sympathies for what the SIL translators want to do to convey accurate meaning in the Muslim world. A word-for-word translation of, for example, “Son of God”, doesn’t communicate the meaning of the Greek text to Muslims. By using a different kind of translation to convey this meaning, is not engaging in compromise, but is engaging in necessary dynamic equivalence translation principles. A more literal, word-for-word, translation is known as formal equivalence.

The Simply Bible website explains dynamic equivalence:

Translation is not accomplished by merely substituting words in a word-for-word equivalence. More often than not, this will not produce the force (or dynamic) of meaning. The translator will therefore modify the form of words so as to achieve the same force of meaning. The jargon for “the same force of meaning” is “dynamic equivalence”.

Strict formal equivalence means

translates word-by-word, matching each Hebrew or Greek word with one or more English words. Strict formal equivalence would produce very difficult English.

For an explanation of the differences between formal and dynamic equivalence, see the article by Vanessa Leonardi.

This is how a literal, Greek-to-English translation of John 3:16 reads in English, “Thus for he loved the God the world so that the son the only begotten he gave that all the believing into him not he/she may not perish but he may have life eternal”. That is word-for-word and in English that would not be acceptable as a translation. It does not make grammatical sense in my native language of English.

This is how the dynamic equivalence of the New International Version translates it: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This is how the dynamic equivalence of the New Living Translation translates it: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Even though these two translations do not give literal word-for-word as I gave with my unintelligible literal translation from Greek to English of John 3:16, the NIV and NLT do not violate translational, linguistic requirements for a meaning-for-meaning translation. Surely you want your Egyptian people to understand the meaning of the OT and NT. Dynamic equivalence is a linguistic valid means of accomplishing that. I do it when I preach an expository sermon. Why should not an Arabic translation allow dynamic equivalence. Do you object to dynamic equivalence? If so, I’d be pleased if you would tell me why dynamic equivalence, as opposed to formal equivalence, is not a valid means of translating from one language to another.

Some further aspects to consider

A person who is opposed to the Wycliffe, SIL, Frontiers translation, wrote to me, ‘Are you really of the opinion that “khalifatullah” (caliph of God) is an acceptable translation of “Son of God” in Arabic? Isn’t that worthy of protest?’

My response was “Yes” and “No”. I also shared the following, which are some further things I keep in mind:

1. SIL has suspended printing the very few translations with controversial renderings while the dialogue progresses with competent and responsible translation consultants and biblical scholars. That seems to show integrity and wisdom on behalf of Wycliffe, SIL and Frontiers.

2. I read, translate and have taught NT Greek. I know from practical translation experience that strict agreement in the receptor language (RL) of every occurrence of the same term in the source language (SL) has been repeatedly shown to be problematic and could introduce zero meaning, or wrong meaning (error). Even the KJV didn’t do it, often translating the Hebrew “sons of Israel” as “children of Israel” (about 140 times) because the translators knew the term in certain passages referred to the collective group, and not just the males.

3. Think of translations that always translate the highly diverse meanings of the Greek, sarx as “flesh”, even in passages where it means “humanity” in some contexts, or “human nature” in others. An example would be, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6 ESV). The New Living Translation has correctly translated the meaning as, “All people will see the salvation sent from God”. This kind of translational difficulty has proven to be confusing to today’s generation that was not raised in the church to learn this highly artificial sense of English “flesh”—which, if we are honest, does not have the same extended or figurative senses that the Greek has.

4. “Kingdom of God” is another term that highlights different aspects of the kingdom in different contexts. Sometimes the focus is on God’s ultimate sovereignty, or on God’s people on earth, or on God’s authority on earth, or on God’s influence, or on God’s salvation for His people, etc. I once read some research that there were over 30 senses of understanding the phrase “kingdom of God”. All you need to do is read the Greek word studies of basileia (kingdom) in Colin Brown’s (ed) New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology[13] to understand the diversity of meaning of “king” and “kingdom”. What do we do in languages where the people have no kings or kingdoms? Always using a single rendering for the “kingdom of God” in all contexts can skew the focus and obscure the point of the passage.

5. It is somewhat misleading to ask something like, “What has SIL done in this particular translation?” SIL has not done anything. Individual SIL translators discussing things with local translators trying to follow recognised and accepted translation principles, have explored what might be the best rendering in that passage in that language. The checks and balances of accountability through the external checking processes that SIL uses, have said “let’s not publish this yet; we still need to think about this; and we need to think about the implications”.

6. In all of this controversy I have not seen any indication that any translation wants a single alternate rendering to always be used for all occurrences of “Son of God”. Therefore, it is highly misleading to assume or imply that khalifatullah is an across-the-board replacement for “Son of God”, as the person who contacted me seemed to be suggesting.

7. I have spoken with a friend who knows a little Arabic and he told me that khalifatullah is actually more likely a candidate for “Christ” or “Messiah”, than for “Son of God”. If this is so, it seems like a reasonable possibility to consider for “the anointed one”, “the chosen one”, “the special one”, “the one designated from long ago”. Does this person know his facts are correct about the translation of khalifatullah that Wycliffe/SIL is using?

8. I won’t second guess a translation team without having all the facts. That would be both irresponsible and unfair.

9. I have asked for my name to be removed from the petition instigated by Horizons International. They would not do that for me, even though this organisation was the one that instigated the petition. I was directed to and asked them to do this, because the issues are bigger than this attempt to denigrate Wycliffe/SIL/Frontiers.

10. When translating from a SL to a RL, it can be so difficult when trying to gain the best meaning in the RL. I’m willing to give some space for this thing to play itself out, and trust that the translation consultants involved with Wycliffe & SIL will give wise guidance and counsel to the very few teams even considering contextualised options on this issue. And I am willing to pray for that wisdom on their behalf.

11. I continue to find that it is irresponsible to paint all translators and those that support them with the same broad brush. It is detrimental to the kingdom (in several senses of the word).

Should Allah be used for Jehovah God?

I have addressed this topic in my article, ‘Is the God of Islam the same God as Elohim of the Christian Scriptures?

There are a few other issues that need examination.

I made the following statement to the Arabic pastor who contacted me: ‘I do not agree with the Hebrew and Greek words from OT and NT for God being translated as Allah, because the Muslim concept of Allah, a Unitarian god, is not the Trinitarian Lord God Almighty whom I worship’. Is this short-sighted of me to conclude that Allah does not coincide with Jehovah/Yahweh?

On 10th February 2012, I received an email from this pastor who wrote: ‘In all Arab Bibles, Allah is the word for God. This is not disputed by Arab Christians. It was actually the Arabic-Christian word for God even before Islam came into existence’.

Origin of Allah

So, is it appropriate for the Christian to speak of Allah as equivalent to the Almighty God of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures? This is what a research investigation found. I am particularly indebted, but not exclusively so, to Robert Morey’s, Islam Unveiled (1991:45f) for alerting me to the following information that exposes the origin of Allah as coming from the ‘cult of the moon-god’ (although this is questioned by others sources). These are but a few references to demonstrate this point:

1. The word, Allah, is from the Arabic, al-ilah, where ‘al’ is the definite article, ‘the’, and ‘ilah’ is the Arabic word for ‘god’. There is no Allah in OT Hebrew or NT Greek, so Allah refers to an Arabian deity (Morey (1991:45-46).

2. A well-known Scottish Middle Eastern scholar, H A R Gibb[14], stated:

From the Koran itself it is clear that monotheistic ideas were familiar in Western Arabia. The existence of a supreme God, Allah, is assumed as an axiom common to Mohammed and his opponents. The Koran never argues the point; what it does argue is that He is the one and only God. La ildha illcfllah “there is no god but Allah”. But it is more doubtful whether this is to be regarded as the direct deposit of Christian or Jewish teaching (Gibb 1962:38).

3. The ‘Answering Islam‘ website states: ‘Some people argue that Allah is the moon-god[15] of the pagan Arabs before the advent of Islam. Whatever the merits of this theory, there is a clear consensus: the name “Allah” is not unfamiliar to the Arabs. Muhammad was not bringing a message about a new and so far unknown God’.

4. Dr Arthur Jeffery, a leading Western professor of Semitic languages at Columbia University (USA) wrote, ‘The name Allah, as the Quran itself is witness, was well known in pre-Islamic Arabia. Indeed, both it and its feminine form, Allat, are found not infrequently among the theophorous names in inscriptions from North Africa’ (Jeffery 1958:85).

5. According to Hastings’ Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Allah is a pre-Islamic name that corresponds to the Babylonian Bel (Hastings, 1908:326)

6. The Encyclopedia of Islam stated that ‘the Arabs, before the time of Mohammed, accepted and worshipped, after a fashion, a supreme god called allah’ (Houtsma 1913:302).

Are you getting the picture? The name of allah was not new to Islam through Muhammad’s prophecies from AD 622, the year in which Muhammad went from Mecca to Medina. See ‘a brief history of Islam‘.

What are the differences between Allah and Jehovah?

Ergun M Caner & Emir F Caner are former Muslims who have come to know Christ as Lord and Saviour and were disowned & disowned by their father because they became Christian (Caner & Caner 2002:15). They are ‘former insiders who are now Christians’ and have written, Unveiling Islam (2002) and state that

orthodox, biblical Christianity assumes the existence of truth. Truth implies the existence of error, and mutually exclusive claims of truth cannot both be correct. Such is the case with Islam and Christianity. Either Islam is correct in the assumption that “there is only One God, Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet,”[16] or Christianity is correct when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).[17] They cannot both be correct (2002:16).

They tell of the memorial service held in a baseball stadium a few days after the bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. Oprah Winfrey, the American talk show host was there, as was a Christian minister who began, ‘We pray in the name of our God-the God of Christianity, Judaism and Islam’ (Caner & Caner 2002:102). Is Allah the God of Christianity, Judaism and Islam? Is Jehovah/Yahweh the God of Islam, Christianity and Judaism?

Here is a list of contrasts that Caner & Caner (2002:102-119)[18] present of the differences between Allah and the Judeo-Christian God (Elohim/Jehovah/Yahweh)

The nature of Allah

The nature of Jehovah

1. ‘Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian; but he was an upright man who had surrendered (to Allah), and he was not of the idolaters’ (Surah 3:67) 1. Abraham was the founding father of the Jewish nation, Israel (see Ex. 2:24-25; 32:28; Acts 7:2-8).
2. Is Allah the Triune God? If he isn’t, we are not referring to the same God. Surah 112states,’1 Say: He is Allah, the One!2 Allah, the eternally Besought of all!3 He begetteth not nor was begotten.4 And there is none comparable unto Him. 2. The Trinity[19]. God is one (Deut. 6:4, Isa. 44:6, Rom. 3:30, 1 Cor. 8:6, Eph. 4:6, 1 Tim. 1:17). God Trinity (Matt. 28:19, 1 Cor. 12:3-6): the Father is God (Rom. 8:15, Gal. 4:6, 2 Cor. 6:18, Eph. 4:6; 5:19-20, 1 John 3:1); Jesus is God (John 1:1-4; 5:18; 20:28-31, Col. 2:9, Hebrews 1:8; the Holy Spirit is God(John 15:26, Acts 5:3-4, 1 Cor. 2:10-11, 1 Cor. 12:4-6).
3. Allah has no son (see Surah 19:88-92). 3. There are a number of New Testament verses that affirm that God has a Son, Jesus Christ. See: Matt. 1:18-20, Luke 1:34-35, John 3:16, Gal. 4:4-5,
4. Allah is not the vicarious Redeemer[20], the atoning Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.[21] ‘Al-Ghaffar, the Pardoner (71:10). As “Pardoner,” Allah conceals and overlooks sins. He turns in forgiveness to whomever repents, even to someone who has committed deep sin (shirk). But Allah only conceals sin. Islam does not have the concept of cleansing from guilt’ (Caner & Caner 2002:112). See Surah 4:99-100 for Allah, the Pardoner. 4. God the Redeemer (See Isa. 44:6; 49:7, Col. 1:14, Titus 2:14, Heb. 9:11-12). By redemption, we mean that sinners are in bondage to sin and to Satan and someone needs to redeem them from bondage & the idea of ‘ransom’ is in view, the ransom being the price paid to redeem someone from captivity. Jesus said, ‘For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). Paying the ransom for redemption is not assigned to the work of Allah.

Therefore, it is promoting falsehood to state that the nature of the Muslim God, Allah, is same as the nature of the Judeo-Christian God, Yahweh. We are speaking of two different views of God.

However, it is quite common for English-speaking people to enter a gathering where there are two people of the same first name in the group but nobody with confuse them by saying they have the same identity. John Smith is a different person from John Jackson (both names are my invention), but they both have the same first name in a group of friends, ‘John’. I appreciate that there are greater fundamental differences between the deities of Allah and Jehovah and my view would be to find a translational equivalent for Jehovah God in a Bible translation that is different from the translation of Allah in that language. Why? To avoid issues like that involved in the Wycliffe-SIL controversy.

There is a further essential doctrine that Wycliffe-SIL must not confuse in its translations and that is the nature of the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (see comparison above).

See, ‘The true origin of Allah: The archaeological records speak‘.

What are SIL translators and administrators saying about this?

I wrote to an SIL translator whom I know, who is translating in a native language, and he said that there were only 1-2 translators that he knew of who were trying to communicate the meaning of ‘Son of God’ to an almost 100% Muslim community in language that some English speakers find objectionable. My friend wrote:

I am not aware of any issues with ‘Father’, and the actual controversy is relating to translation of the term ‘Son of God’.

To put things in perspective, this controversy is only relevant to a very small group of translators working in nearly 100% Muslim groups trying to find innovative ways to break through some of the stumbling blocks that prevent many Muslims from even considering the message of the Injil (gospel). Even in those situations, most Bible translators err on the conservative and safe side of a faithful and literal rendering of the original text. Only a few are even considering other possibilities. Even fewer are actually arguing for other renderings, and these are the squeaky wheels that are the source of the public controversy (but the Jihad Watch stuff is badly and inaccurately misrepresenting the issues, and it shouldn’t be propagated). I have only actually heard of one or two individuals who think some alternate renderings might be a good idea.

A core part of AuSIL’s[22] identity is deliberate partnering with churches. Where we work in AuSIL,… this controversy is NOT a relevant issue; we follow the original text relating to translating the term ‘the Son of God’; and we preserve the familial father-son relationship as a high-level recurring metaphor theme throughout the whole of Scripture, and in accord with established principles of translating any recurring metaphor theme—regardless of how unfamiliar it might be (e.g. grapevines, Lamb of God, shepherd, high priest, king, etc.). We accept that some aspects of the gospel will, by their very nature be ‘stumbling blocks’ to different social groups (Paul wrote a bit about that). Many (I think most, nearly all) mainstream translators and consultants do not support the suggested innovations for technical reasons, and the debate is vigorous and on-going, but not directly impacting us in AuSIL. It would be grossly irresponsible and an unwarranted generalisation to paint all Bible translators and those who support them with the same brush.

I emailed Barry Borneman, CEO of Wycliffe Australia, and he has given me permission to share my translator friend’s response and Barry’s own response to the controversy. Barry wrote:

Thank you for taking the time to write and send your concerns surrounding translation in a Muslim context. Since the petition has been circulating we have been getting many enquiries from long-time supporters of Wycliffe and the Bible translation movement. We definitely appreciate the enquiries rather than simple acceptance of the claim in the petition.

The accusation would also concern me and I can assure you that you do not need to be disappointed. Wycliffe is not translating ‘a Muslim friendly’ Bible by omitting key family relational terms to describe the relationship between the father and Jesus.

For a Wycliffe Global Alliance response to this accusation I suggest you read an article by Susan Van Wynen entitled The Wycliffe Global Alliance Speaks to Issues of Contextualization at

Susan is writing on behalf of the Wycliffe worldwide Bible translation movement though the article is written into primarily into a USA audience. In the article Wycliffe affirms the following:

The Wycliffe Global Alliance organisations and their personnel are not omitting or removing the familial terms, translated in English as “Son of God” or “Father,” from any Scripture translation. Erroneous information and rumours on the internet have recently raised questions concerning this issue.

Wycliffe never has and never will be involved in a translation which does not translate these terms. To say that we are removing any familial terms from the Bible is simply not true. Wycliffe continues to be faithful to accurate and clear translation of Scripture. The eternal deity of Jesus Christ and the understanding of Jesus’ relationship with God the Father must be preserved in every translation.

Wycliffe personnel from nations around the world are committed to working alongside language communities and other partners to translate God’s Word with great care from the original languages of Scripture into the languages of the world’s people so that all may know the redeeming love and glory of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Like you, I love the work of Wycliffe Bible translation and have committed my last 32 years to serving in the Bible translation movement. You can be assured Wycliffe Australia takes its commitment to the Word of God and the authority of the Scriptures very seriously.

If you are wanting an in depth assessment of the issue you may want to go to Translation into a local language and culture is a specialized and difficult task and in all cases we aim for accuracy to the original meaning and clarity of language. This has not changed since Wycliffe first started translating and remains our objective today.

However, my SIL translator friend emailed me on 7 February 2012, with the news that, since this controversy has erupted, Wycliffe-SIL ‘has just put a moratorium on publishing scriptures with the alternate phrasings to “the Son of God” under debate in the very few cases where it is relevant, while the translation experts take the time to sort things out and try to get on the same page on this. Pray for them’.

This report from the Christian Post stated:

Wycliffe Bible Translators denied allegations that it removed the terms “father” and “son” from Bible translations meant for Muslim countries and said any problematic texts are no longer being distributed.

Russ Hersman, senior vice president of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, told The Christian Post that many of the works that critics like the organization Bible Missiology have pointed to as changing familial terms for God and Jesus have either done no such thing or have already been pulled from circulation.

“[Lives of the Prophets] was an audio drama that originally substituted inadequate familial terms in the mid-1990s. Since that time, the translation has been removed from circulation and will not be re-released until it has been corrected and revised,” said Hersman (Gryboski 2012).

It’s sad that this has to happen because the concept of translating meaning-for-meaning of, say, ‘Son of God’, is necessary to convey accuracy to people who have a very different understanding of the literal ‘son of God’ language.

I’m supportive of Wycliffe and SIL on this one. They are trying to communicate the meaning of a word or phrase from the biblical languages and people seem to be confusing WBTs beliefs with a method of translation. Here’s an article that helps to explain some of the issues in “The Son of God in the Bible and Qur’an“.

Some issues with older translations

Consider some of the challenges we face with accepting the translation of the KJV. The Greek, katargew, is found 27 times in the Textus Receptus NT from which the KJV is translated (The KJV is actually a revision and not an original translation), but it has translated katargew in 18 different ways, including abolish, cease, cumber, deliver, destroy, do away, become (make) of no (none, without) effect, fail, loose, bring (come) to naught, put away (down), vanish away, make void.

Also in the KJV, one English word is used to translate several Greek or Hebrew words. So variations of different meaning that are important for a correct understanding of the meaning of a passage, are not made clear. Take the word, ‘trouble’. The KJV has used this one word to translate about a dozen different Greek words. The word, ‘bring’, is used to translate 39 Hebrew words. The KJV uses the one word, ‘destroy’, to translate 49 Hebrew words (I obtained this information from Metzger 2001:74-75).

I recommend Metzger (1992) for a scholarly understanding concerning the textual issues in Scripture. This evangelical scholar with an international reputation takes a different view to those who oppose dynamic equivalence. I am closer to Metzger’s understanding. Metzger is now in the presence of the Lord whom he served so faithfully in this difficult area.[23]

An SIL translator provided me with this comparison of English with Indonesian languages and the translations that SIL have made:

To get down to actual evidence in English-Indonesian, *anak = “offspring, child” unmarked for gender [a very stable etymon across 1,200 languages]; gender is known from the name (e.g. John, Susan) or from gendered activities (e.g. weaving, building). In a few verses we also specify the gender, but that is a highly marked construction, and only on first mention in a discourse (for example in John 1:1-18, the male gender is only mentioned once—but it is there; more than that would be heavy, unnatural, and unnecessary, John wouldn’t have written it more often if he had been writing in these languages).

Just as English sibling terms mark gender but not relative age (sister/brother), English-Indonesian sibling terms mark relative age, but not gender (elder sibling/younger sibling). So there is an inherent mismatch with the Greek semantics, but when we do community testing, all the necessary information is there.

(Note that these examples below are all recent/current Wycliffe translations in a Muslim dominated country. ISO codes are provided for language identity.)

Amarasi     [aaz]:   Uisneno In Anah = God’s Child/Son

Buru           [mhs]:  Oplahtala nake Anat = God’s Child/Son

Dhao          [nfa]:   Ana Ama Lamatua = Child/Son of Father Lord/Father God

Helong       [heg]:  Ama Lamtua Allah Ana  = Father Lord God’s Child/Son

Kupang      [mkn]: Tuhan Allah pung Ana  = God’s Child/Son

Tetun        [tet]: Na’i Maromak Oan = [honorific: Lord/Master] God’s Child/Son

All of these languages are as close to the literal Gk ho huios tou theou as the semantics of the languages allow without over-translating, skewing the focus, and forcing things to be badly unnatural.

I also find it a bit hard to accept the accusation that “Wycliffe consistently refuses to address…”[24], particularly since they are addressing it publicly, have been addressing it for over a year, and are spending good money to get some of the best translation consultants in the business together to talk about it – which is an on-going dialogue.

How could Wycliffe and SIL fix this controversy?

I am not a translation authority with the experience of WBT and SIL translators, but I’m simply a committed Christian who exegetes and translates the Greek NT into ordinary English for my study and preaching. I would make 4 simple recommendations:

  1. Continue the dynamic equivalence translational philosophy of translating meaning-for-meaning. It’s the best way of translation for any culture if we want to understand the meaning of the original biblical languages. BUT …
  1. With each of these controversial items of translation, use a footnote that states something such as, ‘The original was “Son of God”, but this means […]’. Make sure to give the bibliographical references that cause SIL to make this translation.
  1. When WBT or SIL translators or representatives speak at local churches, convey the understanding from points #1 and #2. However, there will always be those in local churches who will not accept dynamic equivalence as a valid method of translation. This is especially so among congregations that have been taught the supremacy of the Textus Receptus, and by extension, the KJV as the best translation. When I receive this opposition, I give them a word-for-word literal translation in English of John 3:16, directly from Greek to English (see above). Then I ask, ‘Do you know of any English translation that gives this kind of literal translation?’ The answer is obviously, ‘No’. Then I exhort, ‘Then please give the Bible translators the liberty to convey the meaning of the Greek text in an English text that is meaningful, just like you expect from English translations of John 3:16. Meaning-for-meaning translation from one language (source language) to another language (receptor language) represents the sanest way to do Bible translation. Give that same liberty to WBT and SIL that we give to the translators of the known English translations of the KJV, Douay-Rheims, NKJV, NIV, ESV, NASB, NAB, NJB, REB, NRSV and NLT’.
  1. However, I believe that Wycliffe-SIL must continue to promote this theology: The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity must NOT be compromised by any translator. Here is a sample of articles that promote the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity that Wycliffe-SIL must continue to promote in their dynamic equivalence translations:

I consider this to be a reasonably simple response that could begin to solve some of the current controversy.

Appendix A

The NIV translates ‘this book’ (Rev. 22:18 ESV) as ‘this scroll, which more accurately conveys the meaning of the Greek, tou bibliou. There was no understanding of twenty-first century books in the first century when the Book of Revelation was written. The verses of Revelation 22:18-19 are not referring to the entire Bible, as the whole New Testament had not been collected into the canon of Scripture at the time the Apocalypse was written, which is estimated to be about the years AD 81-96 (Ladd 1972:8)[25].

These two verses apply to the Book of Revelation. It’s sad when a pastor doesn’t know that these two verses were written to apply directly and only to the Apocalypse. Alan F. Johnson’s (1981:602-603) commentary makes it clear that these two verses only apply to the Book of Revelation:

These verses should not be taken as a warning against adding anything to the Bible. Early interpreters understood them as a warning to false prophets not to alter the sense of John’s prophecy—i.e., Revelation (so Irenaeus Contra Haereses[26] 5.30.1[27])…. Verses 18-19 are a strong warning against any one who would tamper with the contents of ‘this book’ (Rev), either textually or in its moral and theological teaching (cf. 1 Cor. 16:22).

Kaiser et al’s (1996:783-784) comments are responsible:

1. There is no certainty that the Book of Revelation was the last book of the whole Bible to be written. Some date Revelation as early as AD 68 and books such as 2 Peter, Jude, Gospel of John and the Epistles of John were later still.[28]

2. When John wrote, the Jews had not concluded discussion of ‘their own canonical issues’. While there was discussion by them, AD 70-90, and some discussions at the rabbinic centre of Jamnia, there is no evidence that the shape of the Jewish canon changed as a result of these deliberations.

3. The Book of Revelation was written before there was any sense of a NT canon. No evidence is available that suggests that John had seen another written Gospel (besides his own) and it was two centuries before a fixed selection of books was considered for inclusion in the canon.

4. While the Apocalypse is the last book in English translations of Scripture, in the first three centuries of the church, there was a shifting of the placing of Revelation, some rejecting it entirely, while some put 1-2 Clement after Revelation. Others put it earlier in the list that was to become the NT canon. ‘There is no reason to think that this verse would have come almost at the end of the Bible for most Christians until the fourth century’ (Kaiser et al. 1996:783).

Kaiser et al (1996:783) concluded that John’s curse at the end of the Book of Revelation

stands as a warning. Its true literal sense applies only to his own book, Revelation, but given that similar concerns were shared by Paul[29] and others it is reasonable to argue that none of the writers of Scripture would have agreed to tampering with their works.

George Ladd (1972:295) stated that the form of the warning of these verses comes from Deut. 4:2 and is not meant to apply to the whole Bible, but was John’s way of authenticating the prophecy of Revelation. John is not concerned about mechanical errors in transmission or mistakes in interpretation, but is referring to ‘deliberate distortions and perversions of it’.

One of the most prominent NT Greek language grammarians and exegetes of the twentieth century was A. T. Robertson. He wrote of Rev. 22:18,

This warning is directed against perversions of this book, not about the New Testament or the Bible as a whole, though it may be true there also. Surely no warning was more needed when we consider the treatment accorded the Apocalypse, so that Dr. Robert South said that the Apocalypse either found one crazy or left him so (Robertson1933:487)

Robert Mounce’s (1977:395-396) commentary on Revelation contends that the severe warning against adding to or taking away from ‘the book’ applies to John’s prophetic message. It was address to future scribes who could tamper with the text and to members of the 7 churches to which the Book of Revelation was addressed, where the book would have been read aloud. ‘The warning is against wilful distortion of the message. I tis not unlike Paul’s stern words in Galatians 1:6, 7 to those who would pervert the gospel’ (1977:395).

Conservative, dispensationalist commentator, Robert Thomas, observed that it ‘is true that this warning [Rev. 22:18-19] applies specifically to the book of Revelation only, but by extension it entails the termination of the gift of prophecy and the NT canon also’ (1995:518). Thomas is a cessationist with regard to the gifts of the Spirit and the view that this applies to ‘the termination of the gift of prophecy’ is controversial, to say the least. I take an opposing view. See my articles:

  1. Does the superiority of New Testament revelation exclude the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit? Is cessationism biblical?
  2. The gift of prophecy as non-binding revelation;
  3. Can cessationism be supported by Scripture and church history?
  4. Cessationism through church history;
  5. St. Augustine: The man who dared to change his mind about divine healing.

For the above reasons, it is appropriate to conclude that Rev. 22:18-19 was written to apply to the prophecy of the Book of Revelation and not to the entire Bible or full NT.


Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (rev edn). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (Limited edn licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Brown, C (ed) 1975. The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 1. Exeter, Devon, UK: The Paternoster Press.

Bruce, F F 1970. The Epistles of John: A Verse by Verse Exposition. London/Glasgow: Pickering & Inglis.

Caner, E M & Caner E F 2002. Unveiling Islam. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

Crossan, J D 1994a. Jesus: A revolutionary biography. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Gentry Jr, K L 1989. Before Jerusalem fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (e-book). Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics. Available at: (Accessed 11 February 2012).

Gibb, H A R 1962. Mohammedanism: An historical study (2nd edn). New York: Oxford University Press (A Galaxy Book). Available at: (Accessed 11 February 2012).

Gregg, S (ed) 1997. Revelation: Four views (a parallel commentary). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Grudem, W 1999. Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith (ed by J Purswell). Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Gryboski M 2012. Wycliffe reaffirms it did not delete ‘Father,’ ‘Son,’ from

Bible translations. Christian Post, 7 February. Available at: (Accessed 13 February 2012).

Hastings, J (ed) 1908. Encyclopedia of religion & ethics, vol 1. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, available at: (Accessed 11 February 2012).

Houtsma, M T (ed) 1913. The encyclopedia of Islam, vol 1. Leiden: E J Brill.

Jeffery, A (ed) 1958. Islam: Muhammad and his religion. New York: The Liberal Arts Press. Available at: (Accessed 11 February 2012).

Johnson, A F 1982. Revelation, in Gaebelein, F E (gen ed), The expositor’s Bible commentary, vol 12, 397-603. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Kaiser Jr, W C, Davids, P H, Bruce, F F & Brauch, M T 1996. Hard sayings of the Bible. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Kistemaker, S J 1986. New Testament commentary: Exposition of James, epistles of John, Peter, and Jude. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Kittel, G (ed) 1964. Theological dictionary of the New Testament, vol 1. Tr and ed by G W Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Ladd, G E 1972. A commentary on the Revelation of John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Lenski, R C H 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (2nd print). Originally assigned to Augsburg Publishing House.

Link, H-G & Brown, C 1978. hilaskomai. In Brown, C (ed), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 3, 148-166. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Marshall, I H 1978. The Epistles of John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Metzger, B M 1992. The text of the New Testament: Its transmission, corruption, and restoration (3rd edn). New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Metzger, B M 2001. The Bible in translation: Ancient and English versions. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Morey, R A 1991. Islam unveiled: The true desert storm. Shermans Dale, PA: The Scholars Press.

Robertson, A T 1933. Word studies in the New Testament: The general epistles and the Revelation of John, vol 6. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Robinson, J A T 1976. Redating the New Testament. London: SCM Press Ltd.

Thiselton, A C 1980. The two horizons: New Testament hermeneutics and philosophical description with special reference to Heidegger, Bultmann,

Gadamer and Wittgenstein. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.

Thomas, R L 1995. Revelation 8-22: An exegetical commentary. Chicago: Moody Press.

Wright, N T 1992. The New Testament and the people of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. (Series in Christian origins and the question of God, vol 1).


[1] See ‘Sign This Petition’ on the Horizons International website, ‘Lost In Translation: Keep “Father” & “Son” in the Bible’, available at: (Accessed 6 March 2012). Horizons International uses to organize its petition, as was indicated to me in an email from Horizons International. Therefore, any changes to this Petition that I wanted to make, had to be arranged through

[2] I explained to this person that I am not convinced the whole plan of salvation is at stake because of dynamic equivalence translations of Father, Son, and Son of God, these are attempts to communicate meaning-for-meaning from one language to another.

[3] However, this person provided me with a link to his explanation of the Trinity. I ask: If the matter is spiritual and needs to be revealed, what is the practical purpose of teaching on the Trinity? Is it essential or unnecessary?

[4] I encouraged them to use the same principles with the KJV (see examples in this article).

[5] There is no need for this dichotomy. The Holy Spirit can and does apply lexical and exegetical work. The Holy Spirit’s critical ministry is not a replacement for exegesis.

[6] This is the underlying presupposition of this person’s view of the doctrine of salvation. The person obviously prefers a Calvinistic view over that of Arminianism, or irresistible grace vs free grace.

[7] I agree with this view that presuppositions are foundational and must be uncovered, but this person is promoting his Calvinistic views as the correct ones. ‘Choose today whom you will serve’ (Joshua 24:15 NLT) is not among his presuppositions.

[8] He is referring to informational presuppositions.

[9] See the brief discussion of this theology below.

[10] However, leading evangelical scholar, F. F. Bruce (1970:50), stated that the translation of the Greek, hilasmos, as ‘”propitiation” or “atonement” will do well enough, if we use either word in its biblical sense – not as something which men must do to placate God, but something which God has provided in His grace to bring men into His presence with the assurance that they are accepted by Him, since He has removed the barrier that kept them at a distance’. Another evangelical scholar, I. Howard Marshall (1978:118), shows that the word group that includes hilasmos in the OT (presumably referring to the Septuagint Greek translation), communicated ‘the idea of placating the wrath of God or some other injured party’ and that the meaning in 1 John 2:2 was ‘that Jesus propitiates God with respect to our sins. There can be no real doubt that this is the meaning’.

[11] The NRSV uses ‘atoning sacrifice’ instead of ‘expiation’ in 1 John 2:2.

[12] Lenski (1966:400) stated that ‘in his love God commissioned his Son as expiation regarding our sins. The thought is not that this expiation propitiated, placated God, for he was full of infinite love when he sent his Son; we needed expiation, needed it “regarding our sins,” need it regarding them every day when we still sin. The fact that this expiation was brought about by “the blood of Jesus, God’s Son,” we know from 1:7’. What does expiation mean? It refers to a removal or covering for sin, hence the ‘atoning sacrifice’ translation of the NIV & NLT.

[13] vol. 2, p. 372ff (1976. Exeter: The Paternoster Press)

[14] This article stated that he was an historian on Orientalism. See: (Accessed 11 February 2012).

[15] That’s the title of one of the chapters in Morey (1991:45f).

[16] This is a constructed sentence obtained by combining these verses which are from the Qur’an, Muhammad 47:19 and al-Fath 48:29.

[17] This translation is from the New King James Version of the Bible.

[18] This chapter is titled, ‘Allah: Names of Terror, Names of Glory’.

[19] Briefly, the Trinity of God is ‘the doctrine that God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God’ (Grudem 1999:494). Some information also was obtained from ‘Theology 101 Notes: Doctrine of God‘ (Accessed 12 February 2012).This is a brief explanation of the Trinity, a word not found in the Bible, but its teaching is there.

[20] A Redeemer is one who provides redemption, which means ‘the act of buying back sinners out of their bondage to sin and to Satan through the payment of a ransom’ (Grudem 1999:492).

[21] This is from Caner & Caner (2002:108).

[22] He is referring to SIL Australia.

[23] Christianity Today reported on 15 February 2007 that Bruce Metzger died of natural causes at the age of 93. See: (Accessed 10 February 2012).

[24] This was the statement in an email I received from pastor of a church in the Arabic world.

[25] Robinson (1996:252) dates to the years AD 68-70, while Crossan (1991:431) is in agreement with Ladd, dating Revelation ‘toward the end of the first century C.E.’.

[26] Meaning “Against Heresies”.

[27] Johnson wrongly cited Against Heresies 30.2 when it is Book 5.30.1, which states, ‘There shall be no light punishment [inflicted] upon him who either adds or subtracts anything from the Scripture [at this point the footnote reference is to Rev. 22:19] under that such a person must necessarily fall’. Interestingly, Irenaeus applies these verses to ‘the Scripture’ and not just to the Book of Revelation.

[28] Robinson (1976:252) dates the Book of Revelation to ‘late 68 or early 70’. Gregg (1997:15) stated that most modern scholars place the Book’s dating in the time of the Emperor Domitian, about AD 96, but there are many preterist evangelicals who date it during the time of the reign of Nero, thus predating the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. ‘Among the well-known scholars who have held to the early date of Revelation have been Jay Adams, Adam Clarke, Alfred Edersheim, J. B. Lightfoot, John A. T. Robinson, Philip Schaff, and many others. The early date was the prevalent theory among Bible scholars of the nineteenth century. Dr. Kenneth Gentry lists over 130 notable scholars and commentators who favored the early dating of Revelation (Gregg 1997:15). Gentry (1989), which was Gentry’s doctoral dissertation, ‘gives ‘one sustained defense for the early date of Revelation’ (Gregg 1997:46 n7). On Gentry’s website he labels his view as postmillennial, reconstructionist, partial preterist. Available at: (Accessed 11 February 2012).

[29] See 1 Cor. 16:22 for an example of Paul’s ‘curse’.


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 May 2016.