There are phrases in some bible translations which are sometimes referred by American Christians as "biblical terms". I "wonder" should our perspective be to hold these terms as "biblical terms" or should it be "in another culture they have an idiom…" (or in an older stage in our own culture, or in another culture that also used English). My point is that it seems that we intentionally or unintentionally elevate the language of the Bible without focusing on the culture in which the events and letters are sent. It seems that by taking this approach we decontextualize the original message. One inadvertent result of removing the cultural context is that it allows us to recontextualize the text in our own mental framework. Instead of looking at the message as it was conveyed from party "A" to party "B"along with the cultural abnormalities of the methodology used to convey that message.
My example is comes from sitting in church and hearing the preacher reference the following verse while explaining the phrase "he fell asleep".
And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. - Acts 7:60
Similarity by not understanding the context of the common culture in which the stories were generated it allows an errant contextual vacuum to form in our understanding of the original text. In the following verse what does "Son of Man" mean?
And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." - Acts 7:56
In recent time there has been a lively discussion over several issues in the translation of the Bible between various denominational and church leaders and those conducting the translation. I am not aware of all the issues, nor all the details. However, my financial supporters and friends are very interested in this discussion. Many of them are coming to the conversation late in the discussion. They do not always start to observe the discussion from the beginning of the discussion. They usually get introduced in the middle, and they do not know enough of the context of the discussion to make heads or tails of the discussion.
In the end I lose credibility with my supporters if they are confused and their confusion goes unaddressed. So, I have a vested interest in explaining this conversation to my supporters and friends.Here is an example from 15 February 2012 (14:21CST) of the question I have had and the type of response I have given:
Hugh, I recognize you are not a spokesperson for Wycliffe but there is a lot of “buzz” right now of WBT ad SIL creating Bible versions that are less offensive to Muslims by taking out references to Jesus being the Son of God and to God as the Father. Do you know of this and what is your understanding of it?
Yes. I know a little bit about it. The issue has been brewing for the last 6-7 months. But I don’t know very much about the issue because I do not deal with that part of the world. I do work in External Communications. So my boss works with the people who are crafting the responses. There are several issues going on at the same time.
Wycliffe as a corporation, and as a partner of the evangelical church has not been proactive in communicating the challenges in translation to the churches.
The church has had an attitude of “support and forget”: until someone gets offended and then doesn’t know all the facts and comes at the issue with a particular theological (denominational) view.
To complicate the matter. SIL has been dragged into this media firestorm but has traditionally been silent on translation around the world and left that discussion to Wycliffe. But now SIL has had to respond. So this is new and virgin territory. SIL has said more on Bible translation in the last 6 months than it has in the last 15 years.
Neither Wycliffe nor SIL has taken the lead on explaining to onlookers to the discussion, what the whole discussion on a time line looks like or what the facts are. There are two sides in this discussion and both NGOs would do well to present the objections and the replies in a manner where onlookers could get all the facts. I do not even have a good grasp on this. But there is a lot of fear on the part of the NGOs that if they do this that they will reveal too much, because this is not an area of the world that either company publicizes that it works in. I think there are only like 9 translations in question. The only thing I have read about the issue was here: http://www.wycliffe.net/stories/tabid/67/Default.aspx?id=2408
My question has been if you use the analogy that Jesus is socially the “son” of God, rather than being sired through sexual intercourse with (the virgin) Mary, then how is the zygote formed? I have always believed in a virgin birth (No intercourse), but I also believe that the sperm must have been from God and the egg from Mary.
At any rate the controversy has pitted the churches against the Mission and churches are pulling their support for missionaries.
However, I need to do it understanding the issues they can see and read about. I am not a spokesman for any company. But, as this discussion has turned into a media war, it has increasingly become hard to tell what WycliffeUSA has or has not said when. Content at the same URL can change through time. WycliffeUSA, Wycliffe Global Alliance and SIL International do not use two things consistently in their communications strategy which would make communications clearer to viewers. (Examples in footnotes
WycliffeUSA Page without a date published on it.
SIL Uses month and year but no specific day.
Translations with the same dates but posted later.
Wycliffe Global Alliance
Wycliffe Global Alliance has no date posted, date.
Wycliffe Global Alliance has a date someone else posted on an item which is republished with permission.
Wycliffe Canada does have a date something was published!
Wycliffe Canada has the date something was published.
). These two issues are:
Update Notices with Dates/time stamps.
It is common practice when issuing a statement online to provide a date on which the content was posted. It is also common practice to show when content has been updated or altered and to tell what has been altered, often it is in response to something left in a comment (in the blogging and columnist worlds).
(I do not necessarily espouse the views of the following post but I use them to present visually what is socially a common practice.)
It has been claimed that WycliffeUSA has altered their FAQ in a manner which would lead current viewers to think this is always been the way the data has been presented, and therefore always the way the story has been told. If there has been some change then this change should be clearly expressed. (And there are functional, well designed, and tactful ways to express this change without spending lots of page space or focus to the reader in the process of doing so.) However, it is this lack of date giving which makes a time oriented anthology of communication so valuable.
[Update: 5 March 2012: As the following image shows, it would appear that Wycliffe does have an update notice for each item on their FAQ sheet, but it still remains unclear what the content was updated from, or alternatively if the FAQ element was added at this later date as the FAQ page itself has no date published.]
WycliffeUSA Update Notices as of 5 March 2012
If you know of another Publicly available and verifiable resources, event or discussion with a date relevant to the Son of God discussion leave a note in the comments and I will consider adding it to the time line. After I add it to the time line I will delete the comment. The timeline created is This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Another timeline format is also in the works and is appearing here.
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