Subbing "The Son of God" part 2

(continued from Friday: a response to Collin Hansen's Article in Christianity Today, "The Son and the Crescent")

I admit that I am a novice to the issue of evangelism and the Muslim people. I yield to our missionaries and translators in this and I take seriously what they have to say. Yet in my study of Islam it appears that removing misunderstanding of the Biblical text is not a translation issue, but an authority issue. The Muslim people believe the Bible to be a revelation of Allah, but one that has been severely corrupted. The Quran appreciates the Bible, but according to Allah, the Quran is the correcting revelation that supersedes it. This being the case, the “Son of God” language contained in the New Testament is a tertiary issue at best. If the Quran is the final revelation then it is important to engage the Jesus of the Quran before we compromise the Jesus of the Bible.  The Jesus of the Quran is worlds apart from the Jesus of Scripture. They are not the same person.  I will speak to this as well.  For now, we should recognize that subbing "The Son of God" does nothing to remove Muslim skepticism that the Bible is a corrupted document or to correct their misguided understanding of Jesus.  In fact, subbing "The Son of God" may actually serve to reinforce Muslim criticism that the Biblical text has been compromised.

From conversations I have had with Muslims, another paraphrase of the text only reinforces their rejection of the Bible as a true and authoritative revelation from God. Muslims do not translate the Quran. It is read, studied, and memorized in its original language. Muslims equate translating the text to changing it. Over time, they believe that the frequent translations of the Bible have distorted its true meaning.  Substituting “Son of God” or paraphrasing it when any elementary reading of the Greek can see that it plainly and unmistakably says “Son of God” is dishonest, misleading, and affirms the Muslim critique. Any astute Muslim could read about this highly publicized issue, or do a minor bit of homework on the translation and tell that we are at it again. The intent and immediate result may be noble here, but I detect that in the end changing the translation may do far more harm than good.

It may be more beneficial, for the sake of missions, to compare the Jesus of the Bible with the Jesus of the Quran and Hadith. A cursory reading of the documents will help one to see that this is not the same man. In Phil Parshall’s book, The Cross and the Crescent, Kenneth Cragg offers a summary of the comparison of the Jesus in the texts,

“Consider the Quranic Jesus alongside the New Testament. How sadly attenuated is this Christian prophet as Islam knows Him! Where are the stirring words, the deep insights, the gracious deeds, the compelling qualities of Him Who was called the Master? The mystery of His self-consciousness as the Messiah is unsuspected: the tender, searching intimacy of His relation to his disciples undiscovered. Where is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ in this abridgment? Where are the words from the cross in a Jesus for whom Judas suffered? Where is the triumph of the Resurrection from a grave which was not occupied? We have in the QurYan neither Galilee, nor Gethsemane; neither Nazareth nor Olivet. Even Bethlehem is unknown by name, and the story of its greatest night is remote and strange. Is the Sermon on the Mount to be left to silence in the Muslim’s world? Must the story of the Good Samaritan never be told there; the simple, human narrative of the prodigal son never mirror there the essence of waywardness and forgiveness? Is ‘Come unto Me all ye that are weary . . and I will give you rest’ an invitation that need not be heard, and is Jesus’ taking bread and giving thanks as negligible tale? Should not all mankind be initiated into the meaning of the question: ‘Will ye also go away (Cragg 1964, 261-262)?”

The Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus of the Quran and Hadith are not the same.  If we offer the Muslims a translation of the Bible in which Jesus is not the Son of God, we return to square one.  Subbing "The Son of God" may render a more palatable Jesus, but He is still not the Biblical Jesus.  To substitute or paraphrase “Son of God” only serves to foster this glaring theological identity crisis and to reinforce Muslim skepticism that we have corrupted the Biblical text.

(To be continued on Tuesday)


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