This is really off-topic for GM/BM, but I just can’t resist
mocking the astonishing stupidity of the Conservapedia folks.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Andy Schafly and his pals are
working on a “new translation” of the bible. They say that they need to do this
in order to remove liberal bias, which is “the single biggest distortion in modern
Bible translations”. You see, “translation bias in converting the original language
to the modern one” is the largest source of what they call translation errors, and it
“requires conservative principles to reduce and eliminate”.
Plenty of people have mocked the foolishness of this. So many, in fact, that
I can’t decide which one to link to! But what’s been left out of all of the mockings
that I’ve seen so far is one incredibly important point.
What the “Conservative Bible Project” is doing is not translating
the bible. It is rewriting the bible to make it say what they want it to
say, without regard for what it actually says. These people, who insist
that every word of their holy texts must be taken as absolute literal truth
without interpretation — are rewriting their bibles to make it say
what they want it to say.
You might think that I’m just exaggerating, since I’m a flaky liberal
reconstructionist jew. But I’m really not. If you look at their explanation of
what they’re doing, it’s not translating. Translating is going to
the original text, which is written in some language X, and trying to
convert it to language Y without loss of meaning. They don’t even
pretend that they’re going back to the original sources. They’re
taking existing translations of the original text into english,
and then re-writing them whenever they don’t like what they say. They describe
looking back to at the original text as a last resort “exception” (their word!)
to their “translation” process.
What are they doing? They’re taking the King James Version of the bible. Then
they’re going to go through it, and whenever they find something that they don’t like,
because it doesn’t match their conservative principles, they’re just going to change it.
Not because analyzing the original text shows that there was a translation error. They
don’t even pretend to care about that. They’re just combing through it and
changing anything that, from their perspective, must be wrong because it looks
A few examples, to get the unreality of this across:
- One of their goals is “identify pro-liberal terms used in existing bible
translations, such as “government”, and suggest more accurate substitutes”.
So any verse in the bible that mentions “government” is, automatically,
incorrect, because the word “government” is pro-liberal. There’s no discussion
of whether “government” is an accurate translation of the original greek or
hebrew; it must be wrong, because according to their supposedly
“conservative” philosophy, government is always bad, and so any passage in the
the text which says anything that might be remotely positive about government
is, necessarily, wrong.
- One example they give of a “liberal falsehood” is a verse from the new
testament: “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they
are doing.””. That, they say, must be removed from the bible.
Because, you see, that quote only appears in one book of the new testament,
and it’s just obviously wrong. Why is it obviously wrong? If you want to contribute to the Conservative Bible Project, you’re not allowed to ask that question.
It just is wrong, because they don’t like it.
- In their early efforts at translation, they’re trying to get rid of the
word “Pharisees”. “Pharisees” is a very specific term; it means a specific
group of people. It’s not a generic term for “bad people”, or “liberal
people”, or anything like that. They were a group that was distinguished by,
among other things, believing in (gasp!) the literal interpretation
of the book of Exodus. They were also the grouping that included most of the
high priests of the second temple. The conservapedia folks have been
suggesting replacing “Pharisee” with “self-selected elite”, “intellectual”, or
(cutting to the chase) “liberals”. As a “translation”, that’s absolute
garbage. It completely ignores the meaning of the original text, in order to
create the appearance that their political beliefs have some sort of divine
support, even though the original text can’t support that interpretation.
It’s astonishingly brazen on so many levels. But the one that kills me is that
there is no way that you can call what they’re doing a “translation”. They’re not
translating. They can’t read, write, speak, or comprehend the languages that they
claim to be “translating”. They’re not even looking at the original texts that
they say they’re translating. So why, on earth, are people referring to this as
a conservative translation? It doesn’t even deserve the miniscule amount
of credibility that comes from using the word!