The ‘Muslim Idiom Translation’ Controversy

The term ‘Muslim Idiom Translation’ refers to a policy of using expressions that are associated with Islam rather than with Christianity while translating the Bible. It is favored by some missionary translators in Muslim contexts, but it has led to controversies. Recent discussions have focused on the translation of the Greek word υἱος (“Son”) when it refers to Christ. Some versions prepared for evangelistic use in cultures dominated by Islam have avoided literal translations of this word, because the translators believed that people in these cultures would be more willing to accept the message of the Bible if it did not call Jesus Christ the Son of God. But I and others have argued that accurate, literal translations of υἱος, πατηρ, μονογενης, αδελφος, and other biological kinship terms are necessary for conveying biblical concepts central to New Testament theology. In chapter 6 of my book Against the Theory of Dynamic Equivalence, I discussed the suppression of “Son of God” as an example of what the “criterion of acceptability” in dynamic equivalence theory has led to in practice. Here I make available some other articles and documents that describe, advocate, or criticize the “Muslim Idiom Translation” method in greater detail. The most adequate discussion of the subject that I am aware of is to be found in the recently-published report of the PCA Committee on Insider Movements: Like Father, Like Son: Divine Familial Language in Bible Translation. —M.D.M.