I have argued elsewhere that amateur Bible versions – by that I mean, people using the Strong’s concordance to redo the Bible through paraphrasing – is a wellspring of confusion and dishonoring to God’s Word. Here is one more reason why:
This Conservative Bible is so aberrant that for me to go through every chapter would be a poor use of my time. Let me say that, every principle that they follow and every chapter that I have read: show a fundamental lack of trust in divine revelation; no sense at all for the original languages; and no self-awareness of the cultural prejudices they bring to the table. But if I don’t like it, I guess that they are pointing at people like me when they assert: “liberals will oppose this effort, but they will have to read the Bible to criticize this, and that will open their minds.” (Which would lead to cognitive dissonance along the lines of: Gary claims to love the Bible. Gary opposes the CBP, but this cannot possibly be based on fact. Thus Gary has a closed mind or doesn’t really love the Bible.)
The CBP, by the way, is part and parcel of the Conservapedia, which we will describe below, and which is based on the same foundation: if you don’t like us, you’re a socialist. Or worse.
In the Gospel according to CBP, Jesus’ parables did not have references to servants but to contractually-hired workers, using of course 21st century free market principles. Jesus probably wrote Hebrews before ascending to heaven (but to do this the CBP has to cut off the second part of ch. 13). “The Gospel of Mark was the fearless work of the outsider Gentile eyewitness Mark, whose mother Salome was among the first to see the empty tomb after the Resurrection; liberal denial conceals this history to discourage conversion by Gentiles to Christianity.” (I can cover one eye and still find at least four mistakes in that sentence). Paul was a “movement conservative” (Republican or Libertarian or both, I’m not sure). The title “Son of man” – despite being perhaps 2500 years old and Jesus’ most distinctive self-designation! – is a “liberal distortion to downplay the deity of Jesus”. Philemon is no longer Paul’s fellow-laborer (“misleading today, and falsely connotes socialism”) but “fellow volunteer”.
Only a person who has yet to read Acts and the Pauline epistles could label Paul a “volunteer”. I know I got drafted, anyway!
I flipped through the final chapters of Revelation. Rev 18:2 says, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great!” The paraphraser says “The use of the aorist tense, repeated, suggests that the city will fall twice.” This is a total misunderstanding both of Greek and of linguistics. Rev 18:23 is accurately rendered by the KJV among other versions: “by thy sorceries were all nations deceived”. Not so! says the CBP rewriter: “all ethnic groups were deceived by means of your drugs of abuse!” He/she then suggests an alternative rendering, which might include a reference to liberal Kool-Aid: “Everyone drank your cyanide-laced children’s drink!” The “kings of the earth” of 21:24 are now the politically-correct “the heads-of-state of the earth.” The Greek of 22:15 literally states that “dogs and sorcerers” remain outside of the New Jerusalem, but not in the CBP’s “homosexuals, and drug dealers”. Their marginal explanation: “‘dogs’ are not sinners – the original meaning is ‘homosexuals’, but the Greek term is mistranslated to conceal the criticism of homosexuality in nearly all English versions.” In fact, kúnes/κύνες does mean “dog”, period, as the standard lexicon confirms. It is possible that it refers to homosexuals, but this is hardly the obvious rendering, nor are all the Bible translations except for the CBP engaged in a coverup. Bizarrely enough, Phil 3:2 CBP says the same thing: “Beware of dogs” says Paul, in plain language – a “dog” was a despised invididual. Nope! “Watch out for men who behave like homosexuals” in CBP, with the explanation: “The Greek term clearly meant ‘homosexuals’ here, and translating the term as ‘dogs’ makes no sense in this context”. So, basically, the false teachers in view are Gay-latians. Despite the fact that one’s first, second and third choice for translating “dogs” would be, well, “dogs”. Even the dynamic version the NLT has “dogs”.
Homosexuality comes up a lot in the CBP, for example in 1 Corinthians 6:10. To this point, the CBP translation note here wins my blue ribbon for outlandishness. Whereas Paul puts his hope solely to the supernatural work of God in transforming lives, the CBP paraphraser comments: “Paul endorses the equivalent of conversion therapy here.” Which, according to the the sister project the Conservapedia, might involve learning to play baseball. Or boxing. Or chess. It came as news to me that “Virtually no homosexuality exists among chess players.” Because, I am going to guess, chess maketh a man more logical, thus manlier? Conservapedia does not list hockey as a cure for homosexuality, and I am bitterly disappointed: because I could, literally, then accuse them of post hockey ergo propter hockey. Contra Paul’s bold statement in 1 Cor 6:10, conversion to Christ and regular church attendance, I quote, “can help” (emphasis added).
The CBP is presented in three columns: the King James/Proposed or Completed CBP/translation notes. This is no random choice: the CBP appears to be a paraphrase of the KJV with a few thoughts from the Strong’s concordance thrown in, plus of course, the addition of more conservative politics.
Their method is to use the “best of the public” – which is French for, anyone and their uncle can redo the Bible, they don’t need any training at all! In fact, a random group of ordinary people is more reliable than trained experts! One example they offer is that, just as health experts denied that COVID-19 was man-made (it was not, as experts trained in genetics have conclusively proven) so we cannot trust language experts to translate the Bible. Only in America! – which has a history of looking down on expertise – could a lack of knowledge of Hebrew and Greek be ranked as a qualification for translating books written in those languages.
All this betokens a shocking lack of humility before the Word of God. It is the same idea that lies behind Wikipedia (which according to CBP is run by leftists, written by teenagers and the unemployed, and favors Communism and Nazism – a tricky combination), which sometimes yields helpful articles but fails when it gives amateurs the same authority as experts. My refutation of this methodology is, If you were designing a suspension bridge, one which tens of thousands would cross daily, would you bring together engineering experts, or would you issue a general call to good-hearted people over the internet to put together a design?
I suppose the CBP people might retort: Hey, geneticists denied that COVID-19 was man-made! Thus we should not trust so-called experts who say we need to build a bridge on concrete posts rather than – as opposed to a guy on Wikipedia – on cardboard. Thus we have owned the Libs! Exact. Same. Logic.
Andrew Schlafly, son of anti-feminst icon Phyllis, is identified with the CBP and with Conservapedia. He has not given evidence that he knows the original language nor the principles of linguistics. The “translators” of the project are not translators at all, and in a few instances I have found, not even people who know their English Bibles well.
Their goal is to produce a CONSERVATIVE BIBLE. And by “conservative” they do not mean “as opposed to theologically liberal” (because we already have the ESV, NASB, NIV, NLT, etc., etc., which were produced by evangelicals) but rather: American-far-right-politically-conservative. It is described HERE. Two eye-catching examples are, they claim to be able to detect what passages were inserted into the New Testament. How, by looking at the history of ancient manuscripts? Not at all! The rule is: if the Libs like them, that’s a sign we must remove them from the Bible! And political conservatives will feel they know how to translate the Bible. Just because. That means, so long to the “liberal” statement of Christ, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” in Luke 23:34; adios to the story of the woman taken in adultery in John 8. Nope, they aren’t the Bible, since the Progs like them! And, oh, there is reasonable doubt in the ancient manuscripts. “Easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom”? Never fear, rich men, Jesus no longer said that. Because “rich man” (which it actually does say in the Greek!) doesn’t really mean “rich man”. Paul did not warn about “fables and endless genealogies”, but in the CBP he tells Timothy to “Debunk junk science and revisionism, as these engender pointless speculation” (for example, they mention the “myth” of global warming). Paul did not say we should pray without doubting, but “without censorship” (1 Tim 2:8, it does not mean that). “Ungodly” according to CBP means “atheist” (it does not!). James 1:3 does not mean “the testing of your faith works patience” but “stamina”. CBP even attempts to eliminate “monarchy-centric language” such as “kingdom of God”, a move which totally undoes the message of Jesus.
If you are politically very conservative and don’t want to read a Bible that ever disagrees with your politics, this is for you – but you’ll be skating on thin ice spiritually. In fact, no person who reads the Bible and doesn’t feel push-back is not really reading it as God gave it.
Pound for pound, the Conservative Bible contains a much higher frequency of error than the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation. The NWT’s errors are worse qualitatively; the CBP quantitatively.
Here are links to two reviews of the CBP that – while harsher in tone than I like – struck me as being absolutely fair in their critique.
In his article “How Stupid is the Conservative Bible Project?” John W. Martens writes: “I went to check out the CBP and sat, mouth gaping, as I surveyed the site. I, initially, did not believe it was serious, but some sort of Onion type satire. But, unfortunately, I believe the promulgators of this translation are deadly serious. Nevertheless, it is still a joke, even if unintended.”
Here is a briefer and even more sharply-worded article that says the CBP belongs in Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
If Marxists tried to rewrite the Bible, the CBP would hit the roof. But Schlafly justifies their work on the assumption that the Libs already have rewritten the Bible! For 2000 years! Even in the KJV! And the CBP is only now catching up with them, and throwing their weight in the other direction. This is tribalism at its most obvious – the Left has their truth, the Conservatives have theirs, and it’s not a question of finding what the truth really is, but of jumping on the opposite side of the see-saw to try to balance it out. It is post-modernism, despite the fact that according to Schlafly, only liberals can be post-modern.
Let’s just all read THE BIBLE, and if it offends us, so be it! And when we need someone to handle a highly-technical field – translation, linguistics, bridge-building, rocket science – sincerity is not the main job qualification. Let’s call in sincere people who are also highly-trained.
Additional note: some people I have run across are stating that the CBP and the Conservapedia are actually satires. I am sad to say, they are not. Speaking of the Conservapedia, I just ran across a cute example: “Do Liberal Teachings Cause Mental Illness?” by Schlafly. You bet they do! he replies. Since all liberals constantly lie, it messes their brains up. One example of a lie? This notion that girls can be as good as boy at mathematics! Liberals teach this even though they know it’s not true, and the next thing you know they are taking drugs or committing suicide. Oh, and liberals are more obese than conservatives, because, of course they are.
“The Conservative Bible Project (CBP) – Oh, Please, No!”, by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica
What a bizarre project. I doubt it will get many readers, as whacko ultra-Conservatives tend to be KJV onlyists, and won’t take kindly to the changes. How strange that the project criticizes and changes the phrase “Son of Man”, yet the page in the Conservapedia (surely it should be “Conservapaedia”, if they want to be conservative!) on “Best of the public” refers specifically to “Jesus’s enigmatic, repeated reference to himself as the ‘Son of Man’”.
I’m currently reading “The Great Bridge” by David McCullough. The narrative provides lots of historical examples of what happened when someone tries to build a suspension bridge without expertise. But of course, the internet has made us all “experts.” There must be a YouTube video somewhere on do-it-yourself bible translation…
I did not think I could be any more disappointed and appalled by the assertions and actions of a significant group of evangelicals…..I was wrong