Lost in translation

In an era when Christian belief is on the wane and even clergy can seem vague about who their Boss is, ordinary mortals might wonder how theologians are spending their time. A group of 50 German experts has recently enlightened us on this point by producing a new translation of the Bible.
Bibel in gerechter Sprache (The Bible in a More Just Language) is the work, mainly, of women scholars who continue the now decades-long trend of making the Scriptures more pleasing to the ears of feminists, Jews and "marginalised groups" such as homosexuals.
 Now, it does seem that the Anglos got there first with the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and similar efforts, so the snippets from the Saxon ladies' Revised Politically Correct Version that have been quoted in the press have a familiar ring.
 For example: "Our Father in heaven" has become "our Mother and Father who are in heaven". It is not clear whether this is meant to signify one androgynous being or an extra person in the Trinity. One report says the Lord's Prayer begins, "Our mother…" In any case, it's a radical departure from Christian tradition that prepares the way for everything else.
If God is not simply "Father", neither is Christ "Son". He is the "child" of God. What have they done, you wonder, with Christ's declaration: "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no-one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom it is the Son's good pleasure to reveal him." "No-one knows the parents except the child…"? Perhaps. Would it mean anything? No. Not unless you knew the original text, and then, why not use it anyway?
In this socially inclusive Bible God cannot be "Lord", which is too hierarchical. S/he is not even "God" a lot of the time, but "the Living", the "Eternal" or the "Holy" one -- each attribute in the German accompanied by a feminine article. Divinity follows patriarchy out the door of the new "inclusive" temple built by human hands.
Where this leaves Jesus is all too clear. In the Sermon on the Mount he no longer speaks with divine authority saying, "You have heard it said… but I say to you…" Instead, he says, "I interpret this today to mean…" You know: "It's only my opinion that you should love your enemies and you're all entitled to yours…" If this is meant to attract the village atheist to Jesus it seems a faint hope. It's more likely to confirm him in the view that Christians don't believe in God either.
What is needed to put God in his proper place is even more necessary for mere men. Correction, "people". Sons become daughters at least some of the time for the sake of balance. One can only imagine the parable of the prodigal daughter whose mother (a wealthy divorcee?) gave her half the estate in advance and who returned home begging to be taken back as -- what? Surely we cannot have servants in a non-hierarchical, inclusive, biblical universe? Come to think of it, can we even have a delinquent daughter? Is a woman capable of sin? Is anyone?
Men are, evidently. What we do know is that there is still a devil in the Bibel, and "he" is masculine. "Couldn't they find a way to refer to the devil as a white man of European descent?" complains one blogger. That should be "white heterosexual male of European descent," corrects another. Clearly the girls have got their point across about the forces of social exclusion.
And yet they do not mean to be nasty to anyone. Their pious intention is to be "more just" to some people. More just than whom, though? More than everyone else who has translated the Bible right back to the Apostles and Evangelists. More just than Jesus himself, who called God his Father and himself the Son and insisted so much upon it that he was put to death for it.
Sorry, this is not a translation of the Bible that does justice to anyone. It is not the Bible at all. It is even less like the Bible than Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code is like Holy Blood and Holy Grail, since both the latter at least have the same kooky "theology".
If we are going to have books that plagiarise the Bible rather than translate it, my choice would be another German effort. Last December, Martin Dreyer, pastor and founder of the sect Jesus Freaks, published the Volksbibel (The People's Bible). In it, Jesus "returns" instead of "rises" from the dead, and multiplies "hamburgers" instead of loaves and fishes. In the parable of the prodigal son, the younger son squanders his inheritance at dance clubs and ends up "cleaning bathrooms at McDonalds."
It's still not the Bible, but at least you know you are not meant to take it seriously.
Carolyn Moynihan is Deputy Editor of MercatorNet.


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