One of the largest Bible translators in the world is undergoing an independent review after critics claimed language in some of their translations intended for Muslim countries misses the essential Christian idea of Trinity: the father, son and the holy spirit or ghost.
Critics argue that using words like "Messiah" instead of "Son" and "Lord" instead of "Father" badly distorts the doctrine, in which God is said to be one being in three persons.
"If you remove `son,' you have to remove `father,' and if you remove those, the whole thread of the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation is unraveled," said the Rev. Georges Houssney, the president of Horizons International, a Christian organization that works extensively with Muslims and himself a translator of the Bible into Arabic.
Orlando, Fla.-based Wycliffe Bible Translators argues the translations have never been about avoiding controversy, but choosing words that most accurately reflect the Gospels: Some concepts relating God to family members don't make sense in some cultures, so the language needs to reflect that.
"People are saying we're trying to do translation work that's not offensive to Muslims, and that's just not true," Wycliffe CEO Bob Creson said. "We are committed to the accurate translation of God's word. That is our highest value."
Creson said that in some cases, what are known to scholars as the "divine familial terms" — God the Father and the Son of God — don't make sense in translation in some cultures. Islamic teaching, for example, rejects the notion that God could be involved in a relationship similar to a human family, and Creson argues that people in such cultures might be immediately put off by those terms.