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By David Waters
In the beginning was the Wiki, and the Wiki was with
God Jehovah Christ Allah, and the Wiki was God — or whatever anyone with online access wanted it to be. The Wiki beget Wikipedia which beget Conversapedia which now begets the The Conservative Bible Project, an effort by the son of Christian Right hero Phyllis Schlafly to cleanse “liberal bias” from modern translations of the Holy Bible and create “a fully conservative Bible.”
“Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations,” Scott Schlafly says on the project’s Web site. Here’s one of his examples: “The earliest, most authentic manuscripts lack this verse set forth at Luke 23:34:: Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ Is this a liberal corruption of the original? This does not appear in any other Gospel, and the simple fact is that some of the persecutors of Jesus did know what they were doing. This quotation is a favorite of liberals but should not appear in a conservative Bible.”
“Excluding Later Inserted Liberal Passages” is one of the Conservative Bible Project’s 10 guidelines. Another: “Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning.” Did you not realize the Parable of the Talents was actually Jesus’ advice to the wise investor?
It’s a lot more complicated than that, of course. The book we know as the Holy Bible was written, edited, compiled and translated by countless people from countless documents over centuries — a sort of pre-Internet Wiki process, but one that was undertaken and approved by religious authorities. Is it dangerous to open the Bible or other sacred texts to interpretation and revision by anyone and everyone? Or is this no different than what conservative- and liberal-minded people have been doing for thousands of years in their own minds? Reading the Bible through the lenses of their own personal, political, cultural and social biases.
Most major versions of the Bible (King James, Revised Standard, New International, New American, and so forth) are diligently and painstakingly compiled by panels of hundreds of biblical scholars who spend years transliterating the text from ancient Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and translating that into modern languages. But they all bring their own personal, political and theological biases to the process. Isn’t that one reason evangelicals tend to prefer the NIV and mainline Christians the NRSV?
Academic committees aren’t the only respected Bible translators. Great writers and thinkers such as Thomas Jefferson, Leo Tolstoy and Reynolds Price, and great scholars such as Clarence Jordan and Eugene Peterson, to name a few, have created their own versions of the New Testament, for example. Christianity somehow survived.
I suspect it will survive WikiWorld. Translating the Holy Bible is a monumental task and a solemn responsibility, not to be taken lightly, not even on the World Wide Web. I doubt very many conservatives or liberals are interested in meddling with the theologically and linguistically vetted Word of God, regardless of their personal understanding of those words.
And so far, nearly all of spaces for “proposed conservative translation” on Conservapedia’s Bible project site are empty. And the relatively few suggested revisions are, well, conservative. For example, it is recommended that this King James Version of John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Be changed to this:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that who believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Whosoever beliefeth? Sounds just like a liberal.