Monday, October 5, 2009

Conservative Bible Project

For many Christians, the Bible represents the literal word of God as expressed by the authors over time. Indeed, many Christians use the Bible as evidence of God's existence, particularly when making the case that Jesus actually rose from the dead after the Crucifixion.

Now some conservatives, arguing that modern translations of the Bible reflect a liberal bias that distorts the message, have begun work to translate the Bible yet again into a new modern version. The Conservative Bible Project, hosted at Conservapedia, seeks to reconstruct the Word of God in a more conservative version reflecting the value of free markets using concise conservative language, and without a liberal bias or political correctness.

This raises a host of questions, beginning with whether or not the translations with a liberal bias reflect the true Word. If these are suspect, how can readers know whether any version can be taken literally?

It also begs the question of whether the Conservative Bible Project authors believe that God has spoken to them, and works through them to translate the Bible yet again to reflect his true account of Christianity.

For non-believers, this reinforces the idea that the Bible is not the Word of God, but the machinations of man and a reflection of his efforts to persuade or manipulate and control others, that they conform to preferred norms.


  1. There's a presumption you're making that I think is false both for "liberal" and "conservative" Bible translators, i.e., that they will not be true to their own understand of the text. I would think the opposite. Most anyone who would bother to retranslate the text from the original languages would not be doing so alone and the group doing so would include scholars in the original languages.

    It is possible that they would show bias, but it doesn't automatically follow. Just the social psychology of it alone doesn't really allow for it. Their finished work will be judged by critics pro and con. The process for arriving at any controversial choice would be documented and open to scrutiny for the entire life of the new translation.

    The truth is, there is very little substantial variation between the translations because there are so many documents to refer to. There's a mountain of evidence to support that the English translations today are true to the meaning of the oldest and most reliable documents (just using standard rules of textual criticism). Notes where scholars argue one way or another are included as footnotes in most of the Bibles.

    Many English Bibles, I think all study Bibles, include the processes and people used to make that translation in the front of the Bible. The process is completely open, it has to be, because the Bible is so public and so prevalent, whether true or false.

  2. Frankly, I think you make a false assumption that the leaders of this project care anything about being true to the original texts. This project is not about putting together a more rigorous translation. It is about making the Bible say what they think it should say.

    Participants in the Conservative Bible Project, and in Conservapedia more broadly, do not document their processes for outside scrutiny. Nor do they engage experts in the original languages--in fact, they clearly state that they simply intend to rewrite the King James Version.

    They will indeed be true to their own understanding of the text--and that's the problem. Do you think that God inspires this effort? If so, why would He inspire conflicting versions of the Bible. If not, how are we to know which ones he blesses?

  3. I don't know these groups in particular, but I'm describing major and popular translations like NIV and NASB. The Bible is so popular and so widely available that there's translations for kids and one called The Adventure Bible. I have an audiobook called The Gospel as Told by John that is the gospel of John told in stories, I think for teens.

    If there is a group that is interested in significantly skewing a translation, it'll be well known and never accepted by the general Christian public and scoffed at by the scholars.

  4. More and more, these folks represent the "general Christian public." And to the extent they don't it is an effort to shift the understanding of what it means to be Christian.