Conservative Bible Project: Blasphemy

Filed in Religion, Social IssuesTags: Christianity, Media Bias, Pop Culture

The Tennessean profiles the Conservative Bible Project (CBP), founded by Andy Schafly (H/T: Lucianne). The self-described purpose of the CBP is to rectify three sources of Biblical translation errors. To wit:

  • lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ
  • lack of precision in modern language
  • translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one.

A Faulty Agenda, a Faulty Basis, and a Faulty Starting Point

The project claims that ancient language experts and english linguists have addressed the first two sources of error, but asserts:

...the third -- and largest -- source of translation error requires conservative principles to reduce and eliminate

And, in order to reduce and eliminate this third source of translation error, the CBP proposes the following guidelines for a Conservative Bible:

  1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
  2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
  3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level
  4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms to capture better the original intent; Defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words that have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
  5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots"; using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census
  6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
  7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
  8. Exclude Later-Inserted Inauthentic Passages: excluding the interpolated passages that liberals commonly put their own spin on, such as the adulteress story
  9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
  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."

It is these guidelines that induce me to declare the project to be blasphemous. I am a conservative, and adhere to conservative ideals. However, the purpose of the Word of God is not to promote conservatism versus liberalism, but rather to glorify God and to provide God's plan for the salvation of mankind through Jesus Christ. Period. End of story. Any other agenda is non-scriptural.

In the course of this discussion, I will show how I believe the CBP to pervert the true meaning of Scripture in the advancement of their agenda.

The CBP proposes to create this more-perfect Conservative Bible by starting with the King James Version. This decision is based not on any perceived authenticity of the translation but rather due to the KJV being in the public domain:

In the United States and much of the world, the immensely popular and respected King James Version (KJV) is freely available and in the public domain. It could be used as the baseline for developing a conservative translation without requiring a license or any fees. Where the KJV is known to be deficient due to discovery of more authentic sources, exceptions can be made that use either more modern public domain translations as a baseline, or by using the original Greek or Hebrew.

For a project that is ostensibly concerned with correcting Biblical translation errors, including linguistic errors and archaic terminology, why would they choose a four hundred year old translation as their basis? Using the KJV actually re-introduces sources of translational error that they claim has been addressed by modern linguistics.

Why not use a more modern translation such as the NIV or ESV? The NIV was written only 30 years ago, and its translation team went to great effort to modernize the translation while remaining true to the original manuscripts.

The CBP has an explanation (of sorts) for excluding the NIV:

The committee in charge of updating the bestselling version, the NIV, is dominated by professors and higher-educated participants who can be expected to be liberal and feminist in outlook. As a result, the revision and replacement of the NIV will be influenced more by political correctness and other liberal distortions than by genuine examination of the oldest manuscripts. As a result of these political influences, it becomes desirable to develop a conservative translation that can serve, at a minimum, as a bulwark against the liberal manipulation of meaning in future versions.

Of course, the CBP seemingly fails to recognize that those "professors and higher-educated participants" are bona fide Biblical scholars and linguistic experts - whose expertise is clearly and evidently lacking in the project's resulting Conservative Bible, as I will demonstrate.

Having rationalized their exclusion of the NIV, why then do the CBP members not choose to write their translation from the best available source: the manuscripts themselves? Perhaps it is because they have eschewed the expertise needed to read, understand, and translate those manuscripts, in their rejection of "professors and higher-educated participants"?

As Ed Morrissey writes (H/T: Enlightened Redneck):

However, if one believes the Bible to be the Word of God written for His purposes, which I do, then the idea of recalibrating the language to suit partisan political purposes in this age is pretty offensive — just as offensive as they see the “liberal bias” in existing translations. If they question the authenticity of the current translations, then the only legitimate process would be to work from the original sources and retranslate. And not just retranslate with political biases in mind, but to retranslate using proper linguistic processes and correct terminology.

I believe both the translation guidelines and the source text to be critically flawed. Therefore, I believe the project to be doomed from the start.

Watering Down Scriptural Meaning

Take, for example, the first two verses of Matthew:

Verse King James Version Proposed Conservative Translation Analysis
1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. The ancestry of Jesus Christ, descendant of David, descendant of Abraham: "Descendant" is more accurate than "son."
2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; Abraham was the father of Isaac, who was the father of Jacob, who was the father of Judah and his brothers, The passive "was the father" emphasizes the ancestry.

I am no Biblical scholar, but even I can recognize the sophistry at work here. The Bible uses incredibly rich, symbolic language with multi-layered meaning. The Conservative Bible would obliterate much of the beauty and internal cohesiveness of Scripture, in the name of advancing a conservative agenda.

Take Matthew 1:1 - the Conservative Bible would replace Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham with Jesus Christ, descendant of David, descendant of Abraham, using the reasoning that descendant is more "accurate" than son.

This sophmoric reasoning completely ignores the cultural significance of Jesus Christ being called the son of David, the son of Abraham. It completely ignores the Biblical symbolism of Jesus' self-reference as the Son of God and Son of Man. Further, it gives no justification from the original text to explain why descendant is "more accurate" than son.

Next, take Matthew 1:2 - the Conservative Bible would replace begat with was the father of, this time using the reasoning that "the passive 'was the father' emphasizes ancestry.

Once again, this so-called reasoning completely ignores (and explicitly undermines) the Biblical significance of the masculine lineage of Jesus Christ, that connects him with both the one man, Adam, through whom sin entered the world, and Abraham, through whose seed God promised the Messiah would come.

Agenda-Driven Translation Blasphemy

But the CBP doesn't just stop at sophmoric perversion of the beauty and depth of Scriptural language. Rather, it presses on, ironically doing precisely that which the CBP accuse the "professors and higher-educated participants" in the NIV translation team of doing: adulterating scripture in order to promote an ideological agenda.

The first example is given in the Tennessean article, from Matthew 2:22:

Verse King James Version Proposed Conservative Translation Analysis
22 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles. "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." The Greek word ασκοσ, translated "wine," actually meant "fruit of the vine" and was not fermented, as it commonly is today. Repeated references in the Book of Proverbs tell their readers specifically to avoid fermented grape juice. Furthermore, at least five methods of preservation were known to the ancients, methods that avoided fermentation, long before Louis Pasteur would invent his pressure-cooking method.

The obvious agenda here is the removal of an obvious reference to alcoholic wine. The explanation given is neither textually accurate nor correct from an enological point of view.

First, askos (Greek: ασκοσ - a leathern (or skin) bag used as a bottle) refers to a leathered animal skin (i.e. wineskin), and in this context Jesus was clearly referencing this usage: a wineskin. The wineskins were animal (usually goat) skins sewn together for the purpose of short-term storage and and fermentation of wine. Fermentation involves the consumption of yeast and sugar in order to produce ethanol - the by-product of which is carbon dioxide gas. It is this carbon dioxide off-gassing that caused the wineskins to expand. Without fermentation, the wineskins would have had no reason to burst.

New wineskins were used for new wine, because the unused wineskins would still be supple enough to expand to accomodate the carbon dioxide off-gassing. If new wine were placed in old (i.e. used) wineskins, the wineskins would have already once been expanded, and would lack the necessary elasticity to accomodate further expansion. Thus, when the new wine fermented, the carbon dioxide would over-pressurize the old wineskins and cause them to burst.

This extra-scriptural translation also obscures the point of Jesus' statement. Use of the more modern askos definition of earthenware jar (which, coincidentally derives its name due to its shape's similarity to the earlier animal skin vessel) makes no sense in this context. Jesus is implying that the Pharisees have already been expanded and hardened by their ritualistic view of Judaism, and were no longer acceptable vessels for his new wine; rather, only new vessels (the sinners with whom he was eating) were suitable for his new wine. Substitution of an earthenware vessel (a "bottle") here renders this understanding meaningless, since such a vessel is never capable of expansion caused by the fermentation of the new wine.

Conclusion: Flee From Evil

These are but a sampling of the resulting translation work of the Conservative Bible. This agenda-driven translation produces factual errors and adulterates scripture. This result is, in fact, blasphemous, and Christians should have nothing to do with the Conservative Bible Project.

I do not believe my words to be too harsh. Any attempt to pervert or adulterate the Holy Word of God, for any reason whatsoever, commits the same sin of pride that befell Lucifer, by placing the wisdom of man above the perfect, omniscient wisdom of God, or, as Gawain's Ghosts calls it: conceptual idolatry. Such an act truly is evil.

Others will - rightly so - bemoan the political impact and fallout from the Conservative Bible Project. Personally, I am more concerned with the eternal impact:

18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Revelation 22:18-19 (NIV)

The Anchoress nailed this one a couple weeks ago.

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2 Responses to “Conservative Bible Project: Blasphemy”
  1. Melanie says:

    Excellent points! I do not want anyone (regardless of political agenda or affiliation translating Scripture that is inconsistent with the meaning God intended. We are in a time when motivation and agenda must be examined at every point- no conservative is right 100% of the time (though pretty close!)and even though I agree withe conservative priniciples, the Bible should influence those principles, not the other way around!

  2. Chip Bennett says:

    Even if a conservative is right 100% of the time about socio-political issues, nobody trumps God on His Word. No agenda – political, social, or any other – should ever be used as a lens through which to interpret God’s Word.

    Anyone who dares to use such a lens to interpret God’s Word will have far more than indignant believers to deal with!