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The PCA’s Study Committee on Insider Movements has submitted the first part of their report (to be acted upon at the General Assembly in June). This first installment is entitled “Like Father, Like Son: Divine Familial Language in Bible Translation.”

It’s an 89-page PDF. Here is a summary of their conclusion:

Bible translations geared for Islamic contexts should not be driven by concerns that Muslims may recoil from biological terms applied to God or Jesus. That revulsion originates primarily out of religious conviction, not any communicative limitation of the terms themselves. The essentially biological terms (Hebrew, ben and ab; Greek, huios and pater) are divinely given and therefore should be translated into comparable biological terms. Footnotes, parentheticals and other paratextual comments may be used to explain the biblical and theological riches of Scripture, while never subverting the important truths embedded in the biological contours of Scripture’s words.

Not all translation workers share these methodological commitments. Therefore, churches should carefully assess the philosophies and practices of translation workers whom they support. Churches should direct resources toward faithful translation and, if loving attempts at correction fail, away from projects and persons advocating problematic approaches to translation. For the honor of the God who has revealed himself in his Word, churches and agencies involved in translation should collaborate to improve the spread of the Christian message worldwide, ensuring that Bibles oriented towards those in Muslim contexts retain the fullest range of theological meanings resident in the original languages.

The responsibility for faithful translation and worldwide gospel proclamation rests finally in the church of Jesus Christ.

Those interested in this topic should be aware that this November Crossway will publish a new book by D. A. Carson entitled Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed, and the last chapter will look at this specific issue.

Readers may also want to know about a recent interview that Collin Hansen conducted with John Piper on the insider movement in general.

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9 thoughts on “The PCA Study Committee Report on Translating “Son of God” in Muslim Contexts”

  1. Alex says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m not surprised at the outcome of the PCA study committee but the report looks helpful.

  2. Salaam Corniche says:

    Thank you Justin for posting this. It comes two days after the Assemblies of God published their findings and the two reports are “singing from the same songsheet.” [ for the AOG report]
    Their unanimous message: aberrant translation philosophies translate into confusing translations that neither help evangelism in the long term, nor the long-term growth of solid disciples especially in Islamic contexts, regardless of all the justifications that are out there.
    Blessings and Shalom

    PS. I think it would be good if someone were to write a piece on the effect on the prayer life of a believer if you start to gut the essence of Father and Son language in a translation.

  3. John Botkin says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’m appreciative of the conclusion they’ve arrived at.

    However, are you really going to just drop a forthcoming Carson title like that? C’mon, bro–give us a table of contents or something! ;-)

  4. Peter says:

    Thanks. I’m applying with Wycliffe currently to teach overseas in Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. This is really important to me, I want to be confident in the organization and see the insider movement stop!

  5. Bruce says:

    In a quotation in the AOG report (p.38) Ben Aker says:

    “Looking only at filial language regarding the Son of God phrase, and etc., and making such major translational decisions based upon such limited methodology is not quite valid. It falls on its face if the meaning/significance of such terminology is to be determined. One cannot legitimately consider this term and its components in such isolated ways and draw valid translational conclusions. Filial language of Son/Father and Son of God has to be considered in the context of the New Testament and in concert with other names and titles of God and Jesus…. Scholars in the last half of the 20th century reached the conclusion about studying Christology, that an analysis of his names by themselves is an insufficient way to know him. It takes much more than that.”

    One wonders then at the insistence on a literal translation of filial “terms”. As John said (20:31), we understad who Jesus is from everything he wrote about him (the “signs”), not just the filial terms.

  6. steve hays says:

    The “Son of God” title could easily be misinterpreted by 1C pagans. Yet that possibility didn’t prevent NT writers from using the phrase.

    1. Peter says:


    2. Great point. And it was misinterpreted by Arians and even is misinterpreted by Unitarians even today.

      The language needs to be preserved as much as it needs to be explained to people whether they believe it or not.

  7. Bob says:

    Good conclusion

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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