The Bible is filled with liberal bias. Did you know this? Even the King James Version. That’s why a bunch of anonymous right-wingers are producing a new translation designed to cut out all that liberal stuff.
I wrote about this misguided project before and hoped it would fade away, but an article at the Huffington Post reminded me that the Conservative Bible Project is still going great guns. From a work site on the Wikipedia-like Conservapedia, a group of mostly unknown folk (it’s a closed site, and you have to be invited to join) claim to be excising liberal bias from the Bible and producing an unbiased translation fit for conservative use. The only participant’s name I could find is Andy Schlafly, who owns Conservapedia and is the son of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly: you know him as a Hebrew and Greek scholar, right?
The site claims that there’s a problem with a lack of precision in both the original languages of the Bible and in the English language, as well as an ongoing change in the meaning of words, so they’ve come to save the day by redoing the Bible with appropriate precision using “powerful conservative words.”
An example? Even the KJV has liberal bias, it says, because it includes passages like “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34a), which is described as “a favorite of liberals.” The phrase does not appear in all manuscripts (which is usually footnoted in modern translations), but the CBP guys assume it has to be spurious because “some of the persecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing.” No mercy there.
Participants have already “translated” the New Testament, and have started on the Old Testament. A quick look at their proposals for Matthew show that the proposed translation and the arguments for it are sometimes hopelessly confused, or show a basic lack of understanding of the original languages. That is to be expected when “translators” are chosen for their ideology rather than their scholarship.
Nevertheless, the page touts the advantages of the Conservative Bible Project as follows:
-participants learn enormously from the process
-liberal bias – and lack of authenticity – become easier to recognize and address
-by translating online, this utilizes the growing online resources that improve accuracy
-supported by conservative principles, the project can be bolder in uprooting and excluding liberal distortions
-the project can adapt quickly to future threats from liberals to biblical integrity
-access is free and immediate to the growing internet audience, for their benefit
-the ensuing debate would flesh out — and stop — the infiltration of churches by liberals pretending to be Christian, much as a vote by legislators exposes the liberals
-this would bring the Bible to a new audience of political types, for their benefit; Bible courses in college. Politics Departments would be welcome
-this would debunk the pervasive and hurtful myth that Jesus would be a political liberal today
-an unbiased and truthful Bible is of immeasurable value to society
The over-the-top conservative bias of this site would be funny if its backers weren’t so serious, if this were not a reflection of the hazardous mix of right-wing politics and religion that’s become so endemic these days.
The truth is, any translation is an interpretation: you can’t avoid it. There are times when words have multiple meanings or syntax offers differing possibilities, and the translator has to make a decision about what is best.
The notion, however, that a group of apparently amateur translators with an unabashed conservative bias can produce a better Bible translation is absolutely ludicrous.
Ludicrous, I say. And dangerous, if you care about how the Christian faith is taught and perceived.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.