With disappointment, we read Roger Dixon’s article, “Identity Theft” (April 2007), in which Dixon takes the Indonesian Bible Society (IBS) to task for producing an inaccurate translation of the New Testament.
With disappointment, we read Roger Dixon’s article, “Identity Theft” (April 2007), in which Dixon takes the Indonesian Bible Society (IBS) to task for producing an inaccurate translation of the New Testament. He would lead us to believe that this New Testament has as its goal the presentation of a particular theological agenda. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the early 1990s, the IBS, a member of the United Bible Societies, began revising a 100-year-old translation of the Bible into modern Indonesian. The goal was to produce a New Testament translation in contemporary language which communicated as clearly and accurately as possible the gospel message for the majority of Indonesian people without losing the unique qualities of the original translation. Since effective communication is dependent upon what is understood by the recipient as well as what is intended by the communicator, the translation was extensively field tested. All persons working on this project were evangelical conservatives. The team of reviser-translators, native speakers of Indonesian, fulfilled the credentials of the Bible Society. Every verse was cross-checked against the Greek original by godly men with graduate degrees in theology. Significant portions were again checked by a resident ThD in New Testament studies for theological and linguistic accuracy. As a final step, every verse was read in committee and approved by the theological consultant from the IBS. As a result of this due diligence, the revision of the 1912 New Testament is a highly reliable translation which offers ready comprehension to contemporary readers. This excellent translation is also strongly endorsed by the IBS for comparative use in local dialect translation by our teams across the country.
—Rev. M.K. Sembiring, IBS consultant to the translation team; and Rev. R.M. Grady, coordinator of Theological Readers for the 1912 Bible Translation Team, OC Int’l.
(Editor’s note: For the other side, see Rick Brown’s latest article on the translation of “Son of God” in this issue.)
In response to the article “Identity Theft” (April 2007), we find it unfortunate that neither the author nor the editorial staff of EMQ confirmed the accuracy of the allegations contained in the article. Indeed, the numerous innuendos and partial facts in the article amount to slander against fellow workers. Disappointment marks our view of the editorial process, since the author’s departure from even-handed discussion of debatable opinions is un-praiseworthy among brothers and sisters. It should be noted that numerous people working in a wide variety of Indonesian contexts have expressed great satisfaction with the translation mentioned, both in terms of its linguistic style as well as its faithfulness to evangelical theology. For example, while the article would lead us to believe that through the rendering of kurios Christ’s identity is minimized and thus stolen, the author neglects to give the reader complete information. Unlike English and several other languages, Indonesian does not contain one word that can express both the human and divine dimensions of “lord/Lord.” Thus, any Indonesian translation requires the use of at least two words in addressing or referring to Jesus. In the translation in question, the two words chosen are “master” (Matt. 8:6) and “divine master” (Luke 24:34, Acts 8:16, Phil. 2:11), leading to a very solid Christology. We affirm the reliability of this translation, and while we recognize that not all workers will make use of it, we rejoice that it is available and is already leading many readers of Indonesian to a deep knowledge of Christ, our Savior and Lord. (For further study, please refer to the articles below.)
—Dr. Nus Reimas, general chairman of Fellowship of Indonesian Evangelical Churches and Institutions (PGLII); Dr. Bambang Widjaja, president of Indonesian Theological Institute (INTI); Rev. Paul Paksoal, head of the Commission on Missions, Fellowship of Indonesian Evangelical Churches and Institutions (PGLII) and general chairman of Gospel Tabernacle Church of Indonesia (GKII); Rev. Yerry Tawalujan, member of the Commission on Missions, PGLII; Dr. Rick Love, international director of Frontiers; Rev. Don Dent, regional leader for the Pacific Rim Region, International Mission Board; Dr. Jonathan E. Culver, Fuller Theological Seminary, OC International; Dr. John Ellenberger, Christian & Missionary Alliance, Bible translator and professor of missiology; M. Paul*, Bible translation consultant, Wycliffe Bible Translators; D. Frederick*, translation consultant, Wycliffe Bible Translators; Nic Scalapuchi*, Navigators; and Dr. Warren Reeve, pastor of the Bandung International Church and lead facilitator of the Missional International Church Network
For Further Reading
Greenlee, J. Harold. 1950. “Kurios ‘Lord.’” The Bible Translator. 1(3):106-108. Accessed June 12, 2007 from http://rosetta.reltech.org/Ebind/docs/TC/TBT/1950/03/TBT195003.html
Nida, Eugene A. 1950. “Kurios ‘Lord.’” The Bible Translator. 1(3):108-109. Accessed June 12, 2007 from http://rosetta.reltech.org/Ebind/docs/TC/TBT/1950/03/TBT195003.html?
Response by Roger Dixon
The writers of the above two letters have misunderstood some of the purpose of my article. I did not criticize the credentials of the translators. I simply disagreed with their work in one area. Criticizing a job is not slander. They are asking me to be even-handed and I am asking them to change their translation. The Indonesian version is just one example of a translation which is not faithful to the Greek text. By their own admission, they chose a word for Lord that has an essentially human meaning to replace one that has an import of divinity. How could a reader from another worldview impute divinity to a word with only secular meaning? That is not “solid Christology.” The divinity of Jesus is the essence of the gospel.
My purpose was to imply that “dynamic equivalency” Hindu/Buddhist/Muslim “friendly” translations are not always as faithful to the Greek text as they should be. They manipulate the text. One writer denies having a particular theological agenda. Bible translation always undergirds theological agenda. You cannot have one without the other. This writer also says that this translation is “strongly endorsed by the Indonesian Bible Society,” but does not mention that it is only available by special order. Indonesian churches were already doing effective ministry to millions of Muslim background believers with many other Bibles. Many Indonesians have expressed dismay at this translation and I have received letters from all over the world indicating a concern about other similar “religion friendly” translations. This is a major missiological issue that should come before the entire Church.
I was grateful when I heard that EMQ had published “Identity Theft” by Roger Dixon (April 2007). The article is the beginning of a much needed response to an extensive program of Bible translation that is built upon, and serves a new, radical missiology for Muslims.
The impetus for these experiments in new translations was Rick Brown’s 2000 article on the titles of Christ in the International Journal of Frontier Missions (http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/17_1_PDFs/Son_of_God.pdf). It is a well written and carefully thought out article, but it is neither a complete treatment, nor an ironclad argument for replacing “Son of God” with some other title in translations. However, it was seized upon by translators and C5 practitioners, who began to produce and support translation projects based on the agenda spelled out in Brown’s article. Those translations are now coming out, and many thoughtful missionaries are beginning to raise legitimate concerns about the use of such translations. While those with convictions different from C5/Insider movements have been slow to respond, they are now beginning to do so because they can finally see clearly the theological implications and the practical results. Dixon’s article explores some of those implications and results.
About a year and a half ago I wrote a preliminary draft comparing the treatment of Christological passages in the four major, readily-available Arabic translations of the Bible. The major purpose of the article was to help workers choose a translation for evangelism and discipleship. While none of these translations fully embody the translation agenda outlined by Brown, those issues did come out in part. A draft sent to fellow workers for comment was vehemently attacked by a local translator, who claimed that disagreement on the issue of translation of “Son of God” was an “attack on his ministry,” making further discussion all but impossible.
I applaud EMQ’s decision to publish the article and would hope that EMQ will continue to host the public “conversation” on this important topic.
—Basheer Abdulfadi, tentmaker working in the Arabian Peninsula
From the EMQ Editorial Team and EMIS Advisory Committee:
In the past, EMQ has regularly published articles on both sides of various debates, notably the debate on contextualization in Muslim settings. Typically, we have given space for response on both sides with the initial publication of an article. We realize that, given the specific nature of the issues involved, a response to accompany the article in its initial printed version would have been appropriate. We apologize for this oversight and remind our readers that publication of articles in EMQ does not constitute endorsement of the views or opinions expressed by the authors.
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