I’m pretty content to let bad theology continue to exist. I am a strong believer that I don’t have the corner on all theology or understanding and seek to learn from others. But there are a few things that I will go to the mat to speak out against.
There is now a group of people at www.conservapedia.com that are trying to create a conservative translation of the Bible. their webpage begins with the line “Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations”. Let me try and explain why this is so twisted and why this is so misguided.
First: it’s not as though this is the first time someone has put out a Bible meant to be read from a particular perspective. Every study Bible out there has a particular bias that comes out in the notes that they add around the text. There are women’s study Bibles, men’s study Bibles, Bibles for your soldier, Bibles for your athlete , Bibles for kids and Bibles for your grandmother. There’s even a Poverty and Justice Bible that highlights passages that they deem important. This practice is not new, it’s called hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the process of understanding the lens with which we read the Bible. If you’re reading it from a military perspective, you’ll find the pro-military passages. If you’re reading if from a pacifist perspective, you’ll find the pro-peace passages.
In the conservative vein there have been many Bibles that have been produced with a conservative slant. There’s even the American Patriots Bible, that is as conservative as you can get. What’s more, let’s look at existing translations. The New International Version is owned by Zondervan. That’s right, one company owns the exclusive rights to an entire translation. Who owns Zondervan? Rupert Murdoch. Rupert Murdoch is the conservative stalwart that also owns things like Fox News. If there was anyone in a position to effect the Bible with a Conservative agenda, it would be him.
For all of this Conservative perspective, there is yet another kind of Conservative exclusivist perspective on the Bible. There is a massive movement that sees the King James Bible as the only inspired version of the Bible. This tradition has led to people attacking other English translations, some using the phrase “the New International PerVersion” to describe the NIV, for example. This tradition is really hard line in it’s beliefs, even calling into question the original languages. Which has led to such incredible statements as, “you really need to stay away from that Hebrew and Greek stuff, it will really mess you up. If the King James was good enough for Jesus it was good enough for me.” Jesus lives from 0-33 AD. The King James was written in 1611 AD. You do the math.
The really big deal here is that the conservapedia group is not simply offering a new hermeneutic, or a way to interpret the Bible, they’re openly saying that the Bible is wrong. While they do give some lip service to the idea that the original language can be taken in a variety of ways, they are explicitly trying to narrow the interpretation around Republican catchprases. For example; one of the stated goals is even to weed out references to Socialism. 1) The idea of Socialism didn’t come into existence until 1900 years after Jesus lived. 2) The term “socialism” as a political weapon only has come about after the election of Obama. To try and weed out something that wasn’t there in the Biblical text simply because it it currently politically handy, is both unbelievably inappropriate and offensive to God. It is one thing to interpret the Biblical text for your particular goals or ends (which is still wrong, by the way) but it is even more offensive to then try to write that agenda back into the Biblical text itself.
For this group to pretend like all versions of the Bible are somehow all a secret Liberal Plot to turn everyone into atheists is not only flat out wrong but shows how ignorant of the Biblical tradition this group really is. What’s more, to pretend like this particular group of “conservatives” is the only version of conservatives that have ever existed is ridiculous. What does this group do with the King James only group? What does this group do with real conservatives like the Amish who make the conservapedia version of “conservative” look like the decadence of Rome?
The Second big thing is the quality of the translation. The webpage makes reference to issues that surround the process of translating from the original language to English. When you actually go to the page where the “work” of translating is being done, their primary text isn’t Greek, Hebrew or even Latin, it’s the King James. This simple fact means that they are not actually translating the Bible; they are paraphrasing another English translation of the Bible. Again, there are many other paraphrases of the Bible out there, and no, I don’t put much stock in them either. On top of the fact that this is simply a re-writing of the English, rather than an actual translation, it must also be noted that this is being done online, open to the general public. All other real translations are done by people who actually know something about the original languages. They have a grasp of the issues regarding the original manuscripts. They are people who have devoted their lives to scholarship and understanding of the text. They are not some angry guy sitting at a computer with too much time. (Although, now that I think about it, I might actually fall into that category…but that’s another story)
One of the Biggest themes in the Bible (at least the ones that I read) is following God and conforming your life to his way of being. This project is a blatant attempt to try to conform God to our way of being. In John 8:31-32 says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth is that Conservapedia has not grasped the first part of this commandment from Jesus and followed the teachings of Jesus. They are attempting to put their teachings onto Jesus. For that, they will surely miss the truth.