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Conservapedia:The Conservative Bible Project

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I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
Revelation 22:18

On Christmas Day of 2008, Andrew Schlafly — sore that the Bible doesn't lend exclusive support to his particular brand of nutjob conservatism — started his most important project to date, and what some most might consider his biggest insult to Christianity yet: Conservapedia's Bible Retranslation Projectimg renamed to Conservative Bible Projectimg.

Andy's Bible has the aim of altering updating the current English translations to make a new conservative Bible — you know, since the King James version is so damn liberal to begin with.

Project outline[edit]

SchlaflyBible.jpg

Despite poor descriptions by Schlafly of the means to be employed to re-translate the Bible, in its execution so far the project does not involve any substantial translation of the original Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek texts, or later translations of these such as the Greek Septuagint or the Latin Vulgate.

Rather, Schlafly has been altering the text of the KJV on a word-for-word and idea-for-idea basis to eradicate words and concepts that he feels threaten his personal concept of Christian Conservatism.

This is probably because, while claiming to have expertise in ancient Greek,[1] Schlafly seems to have a shaky grasp of it and may not even understand what language Jesus was speaking.[2] For those keeping track, a supposed historical Jesus would have spoken Aramaic — while early Christian writers wrote in Greek.

One obvious consequence of his methodology is that Schlafly misapprehends the significance of words and phrases with idiomatic meaning in the Ancient Greek, particularly such as appear in the Pauline letters, and fails to include such meaning in his alterations of the KJV text.

And how is this a good idea, exactly?[edit]

The stated rationale behind the project is that English is changing (or "devolving" according to Schlafly)[3] so rapidly that the words in previous Biblical translations are no longer accurate (this is, somehow, not in conflict with his claim that new "conservative words" have been being added to the English language at a geometric rate).

Schlafly goes on to say that:

If a word inevitably alters its meaning after an approximate number of uses, then the time period for the change in meaning will shorten due to improved technology.

The project also focuses on the fact that several new words have entered the English lexicon since the original translations of the Bible and that these could be useful in adding new bias giving the translation more relevant meaning (naturally, these words include homeschool and conservative).

Presumably this means that by the time the project is completed, it will already be out of date and a new translation will be required to compensate for further devolution.[4]

The roots of the idea seem to lie in Schlafly's Conservapedia entry for Disputed Biblical Translationsimg, started earlier in December 2008.

In this he lamented that recent translations such as the New International Version have fewer direct mentions of Hell, the Devil and the divinity of Jesus Christ than are in the King James Version.

Of course in Schlafly's mind this is all about liberal creep and misappropriation, rather than anything to do with advances in classical scholarship over the past four centuries.

Official conditions for the Conservapedian Bible[edit]

In aid of the project, Andy has listed twelve conditions that must be met by his conservative Bible bastardization version:

Given requirement RationalWiki comments
1. Full use of conservative terms as they develop; modern English translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer".This is probably because these words are not actually synonyms. Webster's dictionary: "Comrade" means "an intimate friend or associate" or "fellow soldier;" "volunteer" means "a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service."

For example, in 1611 the conservative concept of "accountability" had not yet developed, and the King James Version does not use "accountable to God" in translating Romans 3:19; good modern translations do.Uh, right; of course the idea had not developed at that time that one was accountable to God for one's sins, thus was desperately in need of God's grace "bounless generosity"[5]...

2. Conveying evil with its proper liberal language, such as using the term "gamble" rather than "cast lots". For example, the English Standard Version (2001) does not use the word "gamble" anywhere in translating numerous references to the concept in the Bible.The terms "gamble" and "cast lots" are not exactly identical; in 1 Corinthians 25:8 NIV, it is described how the temple musicians determined their duties: by casting lots.

3. Excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story.In other words, Mr. Schlafly has a large problem with the forgiveness shown in that story, so he chooses to ignore it rather than face up to it. This story has been excluded from editions of the Bible before, and church father St. Augustine has been way ahead of everybody on calling it.

Augustine rightly chalked this particular bible revisionism down to "certain persons of little faith, or rather enemies of the true faith" motivated by a distinctly unspiritual concern that their wives would take it as license to sleep around.[6]

4. Avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language.In other words, soft-pedal the places where the writers of the Bible addressed themselves to all people, because women oughtn't to bother their pretty little heads about such matters.

5. Not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the English translation that supplanted the KJV in popularity is written at only the 7th grade level. (Footnote: This refers to the NIV.)This is very rich coming from Mr. Schlafly, who is not a shining example of halfway intelligent or even correct prose style, and who (more importantly, perhaps) employs a battery of even worse writers on his blog without comment.

Specific example of what he meant may include:

In addition, isn't the purpose of language to convey ideas? As a result, wouldn't making the Bible easier to read help spread the message? Apparently Schlafly does not like the idea of spreading the word around.

6. Explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning.It is a bit of a stretch to assume that every parable in the Bible supported a free market, given that the early disciples practiced religious communism, complete with a "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" method of distribution.[7]

7. Including notes that credit the young ages and open-mindedness of the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels.This one is more wishful thinking than anything else; it is not even agreed who wrote those two Gospels, let alone exactly when they lived and whether or not they were eyewitnesses to Jesus's death. Besides, including this would more serve Mr. Schlafly's personal agenda of Open-Mindedness, etc., than any conservative agenda.

8. Use modern political terminology, such as "register" for a census rather than "enroll".That well-known liberal translation, the NIV, follows this phrasing in Luke 2:1. But what this one has to do with conservatism, we cannot tell.

9. Not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell.There are splinter sects that adhere to the doctrine of annihilationism, such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists. The Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation of the Bible has been accused of a false alteration of Matthew 25:46 from "eternal punishment" to "everlasting cutting-off."[8] However, these groups could hardly be described as "liberal," being more on the cult end of things.

10. Dealing with liberal or random dilution of the meaning of biblical terms, like the term "word" in the first verse of the Gospel of John.Even liberals know what the "Word of God" refers to.

11. Use a concise and dignifying style, such as use of "who" rather than "that" when referring to people and also use glorifying language for the remarkable achievements.When speaking of new translations of the Bible, one should stick to translations and not complete poetic reimaginings, especially when one insists that the whole Bible is literally true.

12. Recognizing that Christianity introduced powerful new concepts that even the Greek and Hebrew were inadequate to express, but modern conservative language can express well.The early Christians who wrote in Greek and Hebrew would be surprised to learn that it is necessary to use English, and a particular set of buzzwords made for it by people of a certain political persuasion, to express the concepts of their religion.

The gospel according to Andy[edit]

Select passages[edit]

Examples of Conservapedian "restoration of the Bible's original intent" include:

  • Replacing rich with miserly.
Presumably this is because some wealthy Christians are uncomfortable with Jesus's quote about a rich man and an eye of a needle.
  • Replacing kill with murder.
This is a common dispute with the commandment "thou shall not kill." Biblical Hebrew has several words that could be used for "kill," and the word used in the commandment (ratsach) is never used when referring to killing in war. Therefore translating the commandment as "thou shall not murder" is arguably closer to the original intent; but Schlafly's reason is probably to justify capital punishment, torture, and war mongering. But not abortion for some reason.
  • Replace liberal with generous.
Due to Andy's hatred of "evil libruls", even using the word in a non political way, such as "give your cake a liberal sprinkling of icing sugar" is wrong. We wonder how words containing word roots of "liberal" ("liberate", "liberty") are addressed.
  • Replace grace with boundless generosity.
The official reason given is that "Grace" is a girl's name,[9] presumably leaving "faith", "hope", and "charity" yet to be reworded. In addition, If "liberal" can be replaced with "generous", would the word "grace", by syllogism, mean "boundless liberality" back then?
  • Replace Pharisees with elites.
Covering up the rather embarrassing error of the original Evangelists, who confused the less rigid Perushim ("Pharisees") with the stricter Seduqim ("Sadducees") - possibly because Pharisees rivalled early Christians for mass support. As a bonus, it throws in a boilerplate modern conservative term of abuse against contemporary opponents, transforming a politico-religious dispute in 1st century Palestine into Jesus castigating those snooty latte-sippers. After all Conservative elites can't possibly be bad can they?

Is this real life? Is this just fantasy?[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Poe's law

An alternative explanation is that the Bible Retranslation Project is just the sort of thing that happens when Internet kooks have too much wine and chocolate at Christmas, or when megalomaniacs stray further and further beyond the curtain of sanity.

Mau de Katt of Slacktivist made a comparison to the LOLCat Bible, noting that:[10]

Frankly, the LOLCat Bible seems to be to be a more accurate translation than the abomination that they propose!! And to those Conservapedia folks I say:

18 Da BirdKat say: if pplz adz stuff to teh profetzi of book, Ceiling Cat make them sicz, leik sayed in book.
19 And if pplz photoshpz the Heliez Bibul, the Ceiling Cat takes pplz's cheezburger away, k?
20 BRB
21 Da grase of Lord Jebus Crist be wit u kittehs fer evr n evr Amen. Fer rlz. kthxbai! (Hai tis end! Srsly! No lai!)
(Rev 22:18-21)

Examples of Conservapedia's exegesis of the New Testament[edit]

  • On the Logos/John 1:1[11]
  • On the Epistle to the Hebrews[12]

Progress (or lack thereof)[edit]

Unsurprisingly, the project was met with skepticism and criticism from some Conservapedia editors, which was dismissed contemptuously by Schlafly. The article's talk page makes for some interesting reading, particularly a series of posts in which Andy, responding to comments that his "translations" contradicted accepted Biblical and linguistic scholarship, entirely debunked the concept of expertise.

The "experts" also say that global warming is a crisis and that more government spending is needed. God gave us all the ability to think for ourselves. Let's use it."[13]

Sure Andy, those "experts" talking about global warming are exactly the same people as the ones who translate ancient Greek and Hebrew.

Subsequent comments by Andy continued to emphasize "thinking for yourself" (a euphemism for agreeing uncritically with Schlafly) as a more reliable method of translation than actual knowledge or study of ancient languages.[14] They also showcased his delusions of grandeur swelling to absurd proportions and his tenuous grip on reality faltering.

The efficiency of the learning from this project is far greater than in any other medium, much higher than reading a book, attending a seminar, watching television, discussing with people, etc. In merely a few spare minutes or hours, the participants in this project have learned more than they could have after spending 10x or 100x many hours in any other medium.[15]

Both the discussion and the project itself initially fizzled out during early January 2009. Schlafly's biggest supporters on the talk page had been parodists (Bugler and RodWeathers), who have subsequently been exposed and left the site. The other major contributor has been DeniseM, an editor with a good knowledge of Hebrew, Greek and other languages, who has made a start on translating the Book of Esther.[16]

Andy seemed to have largely lost interest in the project, probably due to his short attention span and the many other subjects demanding his "insights". Quite possibly he also realized that he was out of his depth, when confronted with questions like "how do people here render ויהי בימי אחשורוש הוא אחשורוש המלך מהדו ועד כוש שבע ועשרים ומאה מדינה?" and "How do people want to transliterate אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ?" from DeniseM.[17]

The translation of the New Testament was completed on April 23, 2010 by the best of the public.[18] However, when Andy's interpretation of the scriptures is questioned using the Conservative Bible [19] Andy will make improvements in order to rectify the matter.[20][21]

Improvements are also made whenever his next insight[22] requires Biblical verification[23] or pet theories lunacies require Biblical proof, for example[24] disproving relativity.[25] Anyone else doing the same is reverted and blocked for vandalism.[26]

Summer resurgence[edit]

By August 2009 DeniseM and her awkward scholarly questions had disappeared and the concept was resurrected. Andy realised there was no translation of the bible which met his definition of a conservative translation, so he set himself the lofty task of creating his own.

The prevailing logic of the reinvigorated exercise is that when the King James Version was first printed in 1611 they did not have access to his "powerful" list of new conservative words that Schlafly spent the first half of the year compiling, which they would have surely used to express the bible's conservative and free market ideas. The only problem was that without being well versed in Hebrew or Koine Greek the Conservapedians could not do a proper translation.

As a result, Schlafly and a small but committed cadre of parodists now have the stated goal of "translating" - more accurately, rewording - six verses of the KJV each day, which will enable Mark's Gospel (the shortest of the four) to be made fully conservative within four months. The talk page is full of optimism, and includes such revolutionary insights as improving on "Holy Spirit" with "Divine Force".

Bits of other books of the New Testament have also been attempted here and there, including half of the letter to Philemon - finally, someone has opened their eyes to the obvious socialism in Philemon verse 1[27] and removed it. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, this translation stops just short of the phrase "mine own bowels".

Right wing criticism[edit]

Given how Conservapedia hangs on to every word of Joseph Farah's WorldNetDaily as newsworthy, it must have come as quite a surprise when somebody who is, theoretically, Schlafly's target market lashed out at the project.[28] Farah described the project as "incredibly stupid and misguided", "nutty", a "trivialization and politicization of the Scriptures" and a "profoundly dangerous practice spiritually". He also had a dig by referring to the authors, Andrew Schlafly and TerryH, as "conservatives" (using the inverted commas).

Schlafly's response was to call Farah's comments "over the top",[29] and TerryH went one step further and drafted a long, rambling screed defending their actions. Armed with a pocket Greek dictionary and Google Translate, Terry concludes his reply by stating, "truth is truth and error is error. And in my determination not to let error stand, I yield to no man, no matter what his reputation or standing in anything that might be called 'the conservative movement.'"[30]

Additionally, Chick Publications raised concerns about the CBP's habit of removing verses from the translated Bible. In conclusion, their article asked the questions:

Do you think it's important when 12 verses remove everything that happened to Jesus after His burial? Do you think it's important if one missing word makes Jesus look like a liar? Do you think it's important when one missing word ("God") removes the doctrine of the Incarnation (God becoming a man) in a verse? Do you think it's important if the only verse countering infant baptism is removed?[31]

Creation Ministries, extensively cited as an authoritative source in numerous Conservapedia articles ranging from Creationism to Evolution, harshly criticizes the CBP:

Forcing the Bible to conform to a certain political agenda, no matter if one happens to agree with that agenda, is a perversion of the Word of God and should therefore be opposed by Christians as much as ‘politically correct’ Bibles.[32]

Highlights[edit]

As of May 2010 the entire Gospels are finished (behind the stated goal of having it done before Easter[33]). The project isn't so much a 'translation' as a anachronistic dumbing down of the King James Version (which is conveniently not copyrighted) with the occasional conservative twist. The KJV verses are put right beside the "Proposed Conservative Translation". The contrast between the archaic literary prose of the KJV and the artless, agenda-ridden language of the Conservative Bible is stunning. For example, the KJV of Luke 11:53-4 reads:

And as he [Jesus] said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.

The Conservative Bible "translation" (done by Andy himself) reads:

As Jesus told them off, the scribes and Pharisees furiously interrogated Him about everything, plotting and seeking to quote Him for a politically incorrect remark to use against Him.[34]

In addition to trying to interject the modern concept of political correctness into the Bible Andy has his Lord and Saviour telling people off.

Or take Luke 12:43-4. KJV:

Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.

Conservative Bible:

Blessed is that manager, whose employer finds working so diligently Truly I tell you, he will promote that manager to run all of his affairs.[35]

In addition, Andy:

  • has Jesus saying "Listen up". [36]
  • considers using the word "bimbo" in his Bible and ponders if the Greek word he is "translating" ever meant that. [37]
  • has Jesus complaining about "burdensome regulations". [38]

While many groups in the past have tried to rewrite the Bible to fit their agenda none has ever been this obvious about it, while simultaneously reducing the book's quality to just below a Dan Brown novel. Heathens would have trouble topping this heresy.

Views from the blogosphere[edit]

In late September and early October 2009, the project attracted more widespread attention on the internet, initially from religious or conservative bloggers, before being picked up by others, and even columnists from some major journals.

Examples of websites and blogs criticising or ridiculing the project[edit]

  • The Church of Jesus Christ: "This man has no real clue about Bible translations or relating the truth. No Gossip? Hardly. The Bible, for the first time, open to the public for translation? Hardly. The ‘public’ has been translating the Bible for a very, very long time. And economic parables? Really?"
  • Episcopal Cafe, 29th Sept. - "a site that believes the Bible is too liberal"
  • Beliefnet, 1st Oct. - "insane hubris"
  • Catholic and Enjoying It!, 1st Oct. - "delectable insanity"
  • Dr. Claude Mariottini (Professor of Old Testament), 2nd Oct. - "such a translation will violate every hermeneutical principle used by Bible translators"
  • Time, 5th Oct. - "This is insane"
  • Dr. James McGrath, associate professor of religion at Butler University. "is the “Conservapedia Version” of the Bible a really funny parody or a really deceitful pseudoconservative pseudotranslation that leaves its users with a pseudobible?"
  • Harper's, 5th Oct, From the Department of Self-Parody
  • The Huffington Post, 5th Oct.
  • PZ Myers, 5th Oct.
  • The Vanity Press, 5th Oct. (blog defunct) - "To describe them as 'later-inserted liberal passages' is to imply that 'liberalism' is not a modern political philosophy but a conspiracy that has been around since before Jerome -- one that the editors of Conservapedia will now eradicate."
  • The New Republic's "The Plank", 6th Oct.
  • Little Green Footballs, 6th Oct. "You couldn’t write comedy like this."
  • Dispatches From The Culture Wars 6th Oct. "Okay, this is so stupid that it seems like it must be a joke."
  • The Thomas Society Blog, 7th Oct. "This is such an abuse of God’s word it makes me want to vomit."
  • Slacktivist, 7th Oct. "It's ridiculous and extreme and brazenly blasphemous and colossally illiterate"
  • Right Wing Radicals, 31st Oct. "Sounds to me like these idiots thought Jesus had some speeches and movements against modern-day liberals even though he died 1900 years before they existed."
  • Too many more to list.

Examples of blogs defending the project[edit]

  • NewsBusters, 5th Oct. - "legitimate theologically conservative concerns", but lukewarm support at best ("this writer personally disagrees with and finds huge dangers in an explicitly "conservative" interpretation of holy writ").

Examples of Andy defending his project[edit]

  • On October 6, 2009, Andy went on Colmes' radio show, where he "debates" (disputes) whether Aramaic was the original Biblical language (RationalWiki transcript).[39]
  • On October 7, 2009, he pulled a similar stunt on the Dave Ross Show.[40]
  • On December 8, 2009, Andy appeared on the Colbert Report,[41] where he not only defended his project, but also coined his 'Best of the Public' phrase.

See also[edit]

External Links[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. Andy refers to having studied Ancient Greekimg, but neglects to give details.
  2. "Often this term was used by Jesus (assuming he spoke Greek)".img
  3. See his article on devolution of language.
  4. Without realizing it, Andy's whole rationale for the Conservapedian Bible is his argument that the translations that stand the best chance of making it to the next generation are the ones that manage to adapt most successfully to their environment.
  5. This is one of the suggestions by Schlafly, to replace the word "grace" with "bounless generosity"
  6. [8], page 10
  7. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%202:44-47&version=9
  8. 1666 pages...mark of the beast?
  9. Quick, someone name their daughters to be "Boundless Generosity" (At least it is better than Stewart Francis, who said "We have a daughter who we named after my mom. In fact, Passive-Aggressive Psycho turns 5 tomorrow.")
  10. http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2009/01/mrs-cameron-doesnt-approve-of-hattie-durhams-behavior-here-and-she-doesnt-want-viewers-to-approve-of-it-eitherthat-disappro.html?cid=145508128#comment-145506588
  11. http://www.conservapedia.com/Essay:_Biblical_Exegesis_the_wiki_way
  12. http://www.conservapedia.com/Epistle_to_the_Hebrews_(Translated)
  13. Comment here.img
  14. E.g. see theseimg comments.img
  15. Comment here.img See also this comment.img
  16. See this section.
  17. DeniseM's comments hereimg and here.img
  18. [1]img
  19. [2]img
  20. [http://www.conservapedia.com/index.php?title=Matthew_10-19_(Translated)&diff=prev&oldid=828133img
  21. http://www.conservapedia.com/index.php?title=Matthew_10-19_(Translated)&diff=prev&oldid=828134img]
  22. [3]img
  23. [4]img
  24. [5]img
  25. [6]img
  26. [7]img]
  27. Biblegateway - Philemon, 1:1 "Philemon our dearly beloved comrade fellow labourer". The NIV dares to even say "fellow worker". The damn Viet Cong are everywhere!
  28. Farah's ramblings - October 22 2009
  29. Andy's response to Farah's articleimg
  30. TerryH's Reply to Joseph Farahimg
  31. How to speed-test a new Bible version
  32. Politicizing Scripture:Should Christians welcome a ‘conservative Bible translation’? Lita Cosner, 24 December 2009.
  33. Easterimg
  34. Luke 11:53-4 Conservative Bibleimg
  35. Luke 12:43-4 Conservative Bibleimg
  36. Jesus: "Listen up"img
  37. Consideration of 'bimbo'img
  38. "burdensome regulations"img
  39. http://ak.podcast.foxnewsradio.com/talk/ACSCLIP/100609_colmes_biblefull.mp3
  40. http://icestream.bonnint.net/seattle/kiro/2009/10/p_Dave_Ross_Show_20091007_11am.mp3
  41. http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/258144/december-08-2009/andy-schlafly