Don’t get me wrong: “rewriting” the Bible has a long and illustrious heritage. Chronicles retelling the story in the Former Prophets (or Deuteronomistic History, if you prefer). One Gospel retelling the story found in another. Midrashes and commentaries and Diatessarons and Targums and all sorts of other things. The only thing that bothers me is when people set about to rewrite the Bible but call it translation, or deny that rewriting the Bible is what they are really doing.
So on to the news, reported by both Ann Fontaine and Deirdre Good, that there is a Conservative Bible Project underway to “translate” the Bible in a more conservative way that will prevent liberal “misinterpretations” or “misconstruals”. Or, to put it another way, the plan is to replace what the text says, which is open to other interpretations than their own, with a rendering that will say what they think the text means and really ought to have said. These “translators”, if they are serious, are exalting themselves above the Bible and, from the perspective of conservative Christianity, above God. How that shores up a conservative understanding of the Bible is hard to fathom.
I have to add that the jury is still out as to whether Conservapedia (the site that features this translation project) is an authentic conservative phenomenon, or a parody along the lines of The Colbert Report. Had I not in the past found more than once that my attempt to parody some extreme group simply resembled an even more extreme but equally real group, I would be certain it was parody.
One of the concerns that is expressed by the proponents of this project is the “emasculation” of the Bible. The irony is that the Bible itself speaks in favor of emasculation at a crucial moment (Galatians 5:12).Finally, it must be noted that the “Conservapedia Version” isn’t what it claims to be in another important sense. It is not a translation. A translation involves rendering a text in one language into another, not rewriting existing translations so as to make them say what you want them to, without any knowledge of the languages in which the underlying texts are written.
So is the “Conservapedia Version” of the Bible a really funny parody or a really deceitful pseudoconservative pseudotranslation that leaves its users with a pseudobible? I’ll let the reader decide. I’m still not entirely sure, although if you read it as parody, it is actually quite hilarious, and laughter is probably a more constructive reaction than frustration and despair. But either way, I’m grateful for this illustration of the fact that “conservative” and “Bible-believing” are not the same thing, despite what you’ll often hear. The Bible, it turns out, is far from conservative enough for most of those who choose to wear that label.
On a tangentially-related note, if anyone reading this wants to start working on Hebrew, or teaches Hebrew to others, Boulders 2 Bits offers a good place to start, in a parody of Abbott and Costello’s famous skit “Who’s On First?” For Hebrew, of course, we might call it “Hu is He?”