The practice of tailoring Bible translations to Muslim sensibilities by replacing phrases such as ‘the Son of God’ and ‘God the Father’ has been the source of much controversy. In a comment posted on the blog of Dr. Gene Veith (Provost at Patrick Henry College and Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary), David Harriman writes:
For 18 years I served as director of development/director of advancement for Frontiers, the ministry which produced this Turkish translation of Matthew. While I believe the workers behind this project have good motivations, I also believe they effectively rendered the text compliant with Islam. While the volume in question thankfully included a properly-translated Greek to Turkish Interlinear, the purpose of the contextualized translation–and the related footnotes–is to cast a specific “Muslim friendly” meaning upon the text itself.
“One example will illustrate the problems with the Turkish translation. At the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:17, “Son” is translated as “representative” in the text. In the footnote to this verse, “Son of God” is defined in several ways, such as “God’s representative,” “the king, Messiah,” and “God’s beloved monarch.” The note incorrectly says the term “is synonymous with the title of Messiah.” Jesus is portrayed only in kingly terms, with no recognition of his divinity or actual Sonship. Needless to say, such explanations have the effect of obscuring the full and true meaning of “Son” and “Son of God,” even if the terms are translated correctly in the footnotes.”
In subsequent correspondence with Dr. Veith, Harriman went on to say:
I work with a lot of former Muslims and they are outraged by this approach to translation. What you have, actually, is the spectacle of Western translators (actually, only a couple of highly-committed advocates, but who are acting with the support of senior WBT/SIL leadership) attempting to tell native speakers of Arabic, Turkish, and other languages what their languages actually mean.
An audio “Stories of the Apostles” volume is in fact far worse than this — Son of God is translated “Caliph of God” — Caliph of course referring to religious/political rulers of Islam who defended and promoted Islam by force; “saints” is replaced with “umma”; Islamic honorifics like “upon him be peace” are used after the mention of Christ’s name (an Islamic prayer for the dead). This audio “Bible” produced by WBT/SIL is still online, BTW.
Harriman’s insightful thoughts are well worth reading in their entirety.