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Andy Schlafly’s Conservative Bible Project

Andy Schlafly is political conservative advocate Phyllis Schlafly’s son. He’s a graduate of Princeton University (major in electrical engineering), and Harvard Law School. Schlafly is founder of the website Conservapedia.com, which boast more than 100 million page views, offers a full-blown conservative viewpoint on politics. Conservapedia.com is sponsoring a new Bible translation called the Conservative Bible Project. The project involves open-source editing, which has been an open source of woe or comic relief, depending on your perspective. The Tennesean.com reports that Gen 1.1 was changed by fans of Stephen Colbert as follows: “In the beginning, Stephen Colbert created the heavens and the earth”! The text was later fixed. Al Gore may have invented the Internet, but Colbert did not create the universe. Elsewhere, someone changed ‘Pharisee’ to ‘liberal’ to show that liberals were responsible for Jesus’ death. Schlafly changed it back to Pharisee but admitted to the Tennesean.com, “The possibility that Pharisees, which is a term that’s not familiar to most of us, could be better translated as liberal is intriguing. But we haven’t gone with that yet.”

Apart from using the best currently available Greek text which tags the long ending of Mark and the story of the woman caught in adultery (Mark 16.9–20 and John 7.53–8.11) as inauthentic, there is very little to commend in this translation. But even in following the critical Nestle-Aland text, the editors often argue that the changes to the text were made with liberal motives.

What is most remarkable about this new translation is not that it lacks almost total credibility (which is true), but that political ideology is so strong that it overrides everything else. New Testament professor Douglas Moo, Wheaton Graduate School, and chairman of the Committee on Bible Translation which oversees the NIV and TNIV, did not mince words about the Conservative Bible Project. “Silly is probably as kind as I could be about it,” Moo told the Tennesean.com. Schlafly responded by saying that the TNIV was motivated by a liberal agenda, especially with regard to gender inclusiveness. This, frankly, is an uninformed argument. Moo wrote the first full-blown exegesis of 1 Tim 2.11–15, published originally in Trinity Journal, taking a conservative position on the role of women in the church. Moo also was for some time a member of the conservative Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. And Zondervan, the publisher of the NIV/TNIV, is one of the more conservative Christian publishers out there.

From all that I can tell, Schlafly is mixing theological ‘liberal’ with political ‘liberal’ in his understanding. His ten rules for a conservative Bible translation show this clearly. But this reveals that he has no clue what a theological liberal is if he’s going to place anyone on the TNIV translation team under the rubric ‘liberal.’

My friend and former intern, Brittany Burnette, pointed out how they translated Mark 2.22: “And no man puts fresh grape juice into old bottles. The fresh juice will burst the bottles, spilling the juice and damaging the bottles. Fresh juice must be put into new bottles.” But without fermentation how could grape juice burst the bottles? The Conservative Bible Project notes that “the Greek word oinos…actually meant ‘fruit of the vine’ and was not fermented.” Although there are some conservative Christians who take this view, it is rather indefensible. See my essay “The Bible and Alcohol” for a discussion.

The agenda of this translation boggles the mind, and gives conservatives (both political and theological) a bad name.

20 Responses to “Andy Schlafly’s Conservative Bible Project”

  1. My friend and former intern, Brittany Burnette, pointed out how they translated Mark 2.22: “And no man puts fresh grape juice into old bottles. The fresh juice will burst the bottles, spilling the juice and damaging the bottles. Fresh juice must be put into new bottles.” But without fermentation how could grape juice burst the bottles? The Conservative Bible Project notes that “the Greek word oinos…actually meant ‘fruit of the vine’ and was not fermented.” Although there are some conservative Christians who take this view, it is rather indefensible. See my essay “The Bible and Alcohol” for a discussion.

    OMG.

    Any good Jew (in fact, any Jew, good or bad) will tell you that the reason the disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane was NOT because they had drunk several cups of grape juice at Jesus’ last Passover meal. :D

  2. The combining of “conservative” and “translation” creates an oxymoron because by definition any translation with an agenda, liberal, conservative, or other, is simply not a translation. Translations are supposed to represent the original text as closely as possible given the differences in language. Taking the Bible and translating the language to support your agenda rather than accurately translating the authors intent is damnable idolatry (you are placing your beliefs in the conservative cause above God’s Word). I’m reminded of the quote that God created man in His image and man returned the favor.

  3. “The agenda of this translation boggles the mind”
    That’s for sure. After reading the article on conservapedia, I’m convinced that Schlafly’s translation philosophy is influenced more by McCarthy than by anyone else. Those who love the Scriptures should be appalled that his predilection for 21st century American political conservatism (which is an ill-defined concept anyway) completely overshadows what ought to be a humble, honoring, careful, scholarly, contextually accurate handling of God’s Word.

    Unfortunately, I’m afraid that some evangelical Christians today (another ill-defined concept) are more than willing to play fast and loose with the Scriptures, so that even if you could convince them that this translation has some major problems, it wouldn’t be a big deal. They might even see it as an ends-justify-the-means situation. If this translation comes up in discussion with our believing friends, our main job might be to instill in them a greater respect for God’s Word itself, and not to waste much time with the secondary issue of political motivations.

    Before I go, I can’t resist commenting on some of Schlafly’s guidelines.

    3 – “Not Dumbed Down”

    Schlafly bemoans the fact (?) that the NIV is written at a 7th grade level. He should be more concerned that the text is translated properly, and is neither unnecessarily complicated nor simplified.

    And something tells me that he is not at all concerned at how accessible his translation is to those image bearers who are less educated. After all, they tend to be liberal.

    4 – “Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms”

    What was that in the first point about avoiding bias? Oh, silly me! That was to avoid *Liberal* Bias.

    7 – “Express Free Market Parables”

    How about “Express Anachronism”?

    10 – “Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than ‘Jehovah’ or ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Lord God.'”

    Yeah, getting God’s Name right is actually a conservative/liberal issue. And didn’t he say something earlier about not dumbing it down?

  4. Apalling. Idolotry. Misguided. America as God’s chosen people. Ludicrous. I’m running out of adjectives. Trusting in the arm of the flesh. Grievous. “heavy sigh….” I think the last election is a wake-up call not to redouble our political efforts but a rebuke to believers for…. well…..not believing God. “Jesus Christ did not come to earth so that we could subordinate his eternal kingdom to any human cause.” – Ray Ortlund, Jr. (from When God Comes To Church, p.74)

  5. jigawatt,

    Actually, it sounds like he wants to get God’s name consistently wrong, as a matter of principle.

    I like Dan Philips’ Undisciplined rant about “Yahweh/LORD”.

  6. Jugulum,

    Yeah, I should have said that more better. I have always advocated using God’s proper name where it occurs in the original instead of the often confusing combinations of “Lord” and “God” with caps and/or without. DJP is right-on.

  7. Jugulum:

    Dan Philips is right, IMO. The only way to be consistent with translating YHWH and combinations that use it is to pronounce YHWH as God’s name. Using adonai or LORD in caps results in problems and actually makes nonsense of some verses.

    Re: the pronunciation “Yah-weh,” Josephus The Wars of the Jews, Book V. Chapter 5, section 7 writes: “A mitre also of fine linen encompassed his head, which was tied by a blue ribbon, about which there was another golden crown, in which was engraven the sacred name [of God]: it consists of four vowels.”

    If the letters YHWH were pronounced as vowels, wouldn’t it be something like “I-ah-oo-ah” or “I-ah-oo-eh”? I.e., 4 syllables (or perhaps 3, depending on the final he) instead of 2?

    Some interesting discussion of the possible pronunciations:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahweh

    (This article says that Josephus’ statement about 4 vowels was a nod to the Greek, i.e.,: “Josephus’s description of vowels
    Josephus in Jewish Wars, chapter V, verse 235, wrote “τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα*ταῦτα δ’ ἐστὶ φωνήεντα τέσσαρα” (“…[engraved with] the holy letters; and they are four vowels”), presumably because Hebrew yod and waw, even if consonantal, would have to be transcribed into the Greek of the time as vowels.”)

  8. And when I try reading miscellaneous Psalms with “Yahweh” instead of “LORD”, it makes a huge difference in the emotional impact.

  9. Jugulum:

    Absolutely. In fact, some of them don’t even make good sense if you say “the LORD,” IIRC. They require using a personal name, not a title.

  10. So now that Luther brought the Bible to the individual, Schlafly is going to have each individual translate their own (doctrine: the translator-hood of the believer). And then change it to read his own tendentious preferences.

    Sad news. They may as well ignore the Greek, Heb. and Aram. altogether and just write it how they want it. It’ll preach better anyhow.

  11. Amen and amen. Thanks for your perspective on this, Dan Wallace. I find it refreshing that, for once, almost all sensible conservatives and liberals are united in speaking out against this misbegotten Conservative Bible Project. The CBP is truly a travesty.

  12. Daniel B. Wallace October 19, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Folks, thanks for your comments. It’s obvious to me that the readership of Parchment & Pen would not put up with the nonsense represented by the Conservative Bible Project.

    And j, I loved your sarcastic line about the “translator-hood of the believer.” Classic–and I’m going to use it.

    dbw

  13. Pharisees = Liberals???? It seems that it would be more accurate to say the Pharisees would be closer to today’s “conservatives.” Now, the Sadducees could have been “liberals”. Regardless, conservatives and liberals non-believers will share the same eternal fate unless they become disciples of Jesus. That fact should remind the church of its mandate to make disciples of our governing authorities (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

  14. I have to say that I was dumbfounded when I heard about the Conservapedia Bible project.

    It’s just… silly is a very good word to describe it.

    I blame Tyndale. :)

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy November 19, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    This reminds me of the intermediate stage of the French Revolution, before the flat-out Dechristianizing Campaigns.

    The ever-changing banana republic of Revolutionary factions originally started their own national Church (a heresy called “Gallicanism” in Catholic theology — guess why?), using “juring” clerics who’d sworn an oath of alliegance to the Revolution in lieu of recognizing the King’s Divine Right. As things kept unravelling, there was a phase where the Revolution tried to rewrite the liturgy and the Bible into propaganda for the Revolution. I remember one Revolutionary translation of the “Our Father” where “Give us this day our daily bread” is followed by “despite the conspiracy of (insert name of British prime minister, various Royalists, and every Enemy of the Revolution du Jour)”. THAT’s what this “Conservapedia Bible Project” reminds me of.

    (About a year later La Revolution just abolished Christianity entirely, for (depending on faction) radical Atheism, mystical neo-Paganism, or the invented-for-the-occasion Cult of Reason and Cult of The Supreme Being. As the Star Trek tag line would later put it, “We’ve Evolved Beyond All That”.)

  16. What’s particularly interesting about ‘wine vs grape juice’ question is that Schlafly’s family makes money selling alcohol. Do they agree or disagree with the consumption of alcohol?

  17. I joined the Conservapedia, objected to bad translation, & promptly got booted out just for disagreeing with the grand poo bah by a senior editor who seemed to be a sycophant. What I saw of the translation was Alice in Wonderland translation. Garbage.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  3. Lenski redux… or Andy Writes Another Letter « We couldn’t make this up… - June 30, 2010

    […] At no point did they revert back to the original Greek (or should that be Aramaic?) documents, even though Terry Hurlbut tried gamely for a bit, armed with an English / Greek pocket dictionary and Google Translate, but even he fell away. Despite all this, and the legion flaws contained in Andy’s “translation” he went forth to proclaim the Good News. Well, he appeared on the Colbert Report, and didn’t quite get the fact that he was the butt of their joke. Hint: Andy, people are laughing AT you, not with you. Still, now he’s going after his detractors… hopefully not one at a time, because I think the universe will end before he gets done. First on his list is Prof. Douglas Moo, who is currently involved in a new translation of the NIV and TNIV, who dared call Andy’s project “silly.” […]

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