Arlington Statement on Bible Translation

We affirm that the sixty-six canonical books of the Bible, which were originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, are the written Word of God. As such, they are without error in the original manuscripts, and infallible in all that they affirm. Although the original manuscripts probably no longer exist, the Word of God has been extraordinarily well-preserved in the multitude of copies that we have access to today.

We affirm that because the Bible is God’s own flawless Word, and because God created all human minds as well as language itself, the meaning of God’s Word can be faithfully expressed in every human language through Bible translation.

We affirm that grammatical structures, as well as the semantic range of words or phrases, vary from language to language. Therefore, translators must understand these linguistic differences in order to accurately express God’s truth as clearly as the original-language texts do.

We affirm that the Bible belongs to God, and that “with many counselors there is safety.”1 We therefore encourage translation organizations and Bible societies to make their translations freely available online whenever feasible, so that everyone can benefit from their work and provide helpful feedback for consideration in future revisions.

We affirm that the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit is essential for understanding the Word of God correctly.2 Furthermore, God has made His Church the “pillar and foundation of the truth.”3 Therefore, God has given the Church responsibility to ensure fidelity in the translation of His Word. Both global and local expressions of the Church have valuable, relevant knowledge (such as knowledge of the source or receptor languages or theological knowledge) which is beneficial in producing faithful translations, as believers work humbly together as one body in the unity of the Spirit. Translations should be produced in such a way that they faithfully express God’s self-revelation, honor the local congregations who will use the translation, and maintain the bond of peace in the global Church.

In light of the above affirmations, we propose the following guiding principles to address certain problematic practices in some recent Bible translations.

Article I

Translators should not translate in a way that explicitly or implicitly affirms the theology of other religions at the expense of the meaning, context, and theological implications of the original-language texts.

  • For example, the first words of the Islamic profession of faith (لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا ٱلله “There is no god but Allah/God”) should not be used in any Bible translation, because this is a distinctly Islamic phrase which brings Islamic meaning and connotations that interfere with a faithful understanding of the biblical text. For Muslims, the first half of the Islamic profession of faith naturally calls to mind the second half, namely, “and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah/God.” It also carries with it the Islamic concept of the absolute oneness of God that explicitly denies the Trinity. In contrast, the biblical affirmations of monotheism teach that there is no God besides the LORD—that is, YHWH, the faithful God of Israel, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.4

Article II

Because every person in every culture needs to know God’s truth in all of its fullness, Bible translations should not avoid confronting sin or falsehood that the original-language texts confront, whether among believers or unbelievers.

  • For example, if any Hindus are offended by the prodigal son’s father calling, “Quick! Bring the fattened calf and slaughter it!”,5 translators cannot “fix” this by having the father instead only make a generic call for a feast of celebration and eliminating reference to the calf. To do so would remove important evidence that Jesus did not consider slaughtering cattle to be a sin, which people need to know in order to think biblically.
  • Likewise, even if idol worshippers are offended by Isaiah’s strong polemic against idols in passages such as Isaiah 44:9-20, translators must not soften his tone, because the tone itself is part of its God-breathed message that idolatry is detestable to God.

Article III

The Holy Spirit has created an intricately woven tapestry of truth, containing a number of key terms connected across multiple passages that all contribute to the meaning of the whole. Translators should strive for a high degree of consistency in translating these key terms in order to preserve this interwoven meaning in translation as much as possible.

  • For example, the Greek word κύριος (“Lord”) should not be translated differently based on whether translators determine that it refers to God the Father or God the Son. Rendering κύριος as “Allah/God” for God the Father,6 but as “Master” or “Lord” for Jesus,7 obscures the equality of Jesus with the Father, for the Father and the Son are equally Master, equally Lord, and equally God.
  • Likewise, the term “Son of God”, and the terms “Father” and “Son” when referring to God, should be translated using the same terms that are normally used to express the human father-son relationship. Adding qualifiers to the familial terms (such as in “spiritual son”) or using terms that are not primarily familial (such as “Messiah,” “beloved,” “prince,” or “guardian”) inevitably causes loss of divinely-intended meaning. Terms that directly express the human father-son relationship are necessary for readers to link together key concepts such as Jesus being the only natural heir to God’s kingdom, enjoying a unique relationship to the Father, being the exact image of the Father, and being the firstborn of all creation.8 Such terms are also necessary for readers to understand our adoption as children of God,9 Abraham’s offering up of Isaac,10 the parable of the wicked tenants,11 the father in the parable of the prodigal son,12 and many other important connections in Scripture. Potential misunderstandings can be addressed through Christian teaching or through paratextual material, such as book introductions, footnotes, or a glossary.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we affirm that all Scripture and Scripture-based products should adhere to each of the above principles. To the degree that any do not, we urge that they be revised.

We as signers commit to following these principles in all our Bible translation work, and we call on all translators and translation organizations to do the same.

If you are a Bible translator who commits to following these principles, or you would like Bible translators to follow the principles in this statement, please sign below.

Initial Signers

see all 1397 Signers >
Bibles International
Tyndale Bible Translators
Horizons International
All-Nations Bible Translation
i2 Ministries
Radius International
Fikret Böcek

Lead Old Testament Translator on the Turkish Standard Version; Pastor of the Protestant Church of Smyrna, Turkey

Georges Houssney

Lead translator on the Arabic “Ketab El Hayat” translation, Founder and President of Horizons International

Femi Cakolli

Chief Editor of the Albanian Gheg New Testament, President of the Kosovo Protestant Evangelical Church, and Muslim-background pastor

William D. Barrick

Translator on the ESV and NET; consultant on the Standard Bengali Common Language Bible, the Muslim Bengali Common Language Bible, Chakma New Testament and Tripura New Testament

İhsan Özbek

Former chairman of the Turkish Evangelical Alliance, Muslim-background pastor

Emir Caner

President of Truett McConnell University, Muslim-background Christian, and Professor of History and Christian Studies

Edward Ayub

Moderator, Presbyterian Church of Bangladesh; Muslim-background church planter

Daniel L. Akin

President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Professor of Preaching and Theology, and Ed Young, Sr. Chair of Preaching

James D. Price

Executive Editor of the Old Testament for the New King James Version, translator and Historical Books Editor for the Holman Christian Standard Bible

Wayne Grudem

Former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, Distinguished Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary

Tom Schreiner

Co-Chair of the CSB Translation Oversight Committee; James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Professor of Biblical Theology, & Associate Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Richard Shumack

Academic Director of the Understanding and Answering Islam Program at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam at the Melbourne School of Theology

The Protestant Church of Smyrna, Turkey
Kurtuluş Churches, Turkey
Iran Alive
Salaam Ministries
Sastra Hidup Indonesia (SHI)
Biblical Missiology
Emmanuel Presbyterian Church
Professionals Global
Propempo International
Carolina College of Biblical Studies
Pfander Centre of Apologetics
Shouts of Joy Ministries
Wellspring at the Cross
i43 Ministry
C. John “Jack” Collins

Translator on the ESV and HCSB, Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary

Weam Iskander

Minister in Egypt, former translation & production manager for Biblica, Middle East and North Africa region

Noah Lee

Translation Consultant, Global Bible Translators, specializing in translations for Turkic groups in Central Asia and in Old Testament translation

Micah Carter

Translation Coordinator for the CSB; Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Ripley, MS; Adjunct Professor of Christian Theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Leland Ryken

Literary stylist for the ESV, Professor of English Emeritus at Wheaton College

Sudhakar Mondithoka

Principal/Director of the Hyderabad Institute of Theology and Apologetics, and Faculty in Apologetics and Religions

David Garner

Academic Dean, Vice President of Global Ministries, and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary

Andy Bannister

Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity

Leslie Holmes

Moderator of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

Hormoz Shariat

President & Founder of Iran Alive, Muslim-background Christian

Fred Farrokh

Ordained missionary with Elim Fellowship, Muslim-background Christian

Arkan Al Amin

Bible translator into Lebanese Arabic

Jack Sara

President of Bethlehem Bible College; WEA-MENA Coordinator

Joel Martin

President, All Nations Bible Translation

Rich Mattocks

President, Tyndale Bible Translators

Hershael York

Dean, School of Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Senior Pastor of the Buck Run Baptist Church, Frankfort, KY

Ant Greenham

Associate Professor of Missions and Islamic Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Co-editor of “Muslim Conversions to Christ” book

Timothy Jang

Translation Consultant, Global Bible Translators

Don McCurry

President and founder, Ministries to Muslims; Founder of The Zwemer Institute of Muslim Studies

Jay Smith

Apologist of Christianity and Polemicist of Islam for 40 years, Director of the Pfander Centre of Apologetics

Phil Kamibayashiyama

Director, Bob Jones Memorial Bible College, Philippines

Joshua Lingel

President of i2 Ministries, Founder of Mission Muslim World University

Bill F. Korver

President, Carolina College of Biblical Studies

Frank Carmical

Translator on the Holman Christian Standard Bible

Anna Beth Wivell

Translation Consultant, Bibles International

Pierre Rashad Houssney

Executive Director, Horizons International

Robin Holmes

Former Bible translator in Chad

Ryan Pennington

Translation Consultant, Bibles International

Lee Dawd

Translator

Mark Brink

Assemblies of God missionary and minister

Phil D

Regional Director, Mission to the World (Presbyterian Church in America) – Asia

Jim Bennett

Assemblies of God missionary and minister

Andi Wu

Senior Vice President of Research at Cherith Analytics, former Senior Vice President of Linguistic Research at Global Bible Initiative

John Span

Senior Lecturer with Mukhanyo Theological College in South Africa, cross-cultural worker in West and North Africa

Mark Durie

Linguist, Anglican pastor, Director of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness, Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Senior Research Fellow of the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam

David Cross

Founder and Operations Director of Professionals Global, Senior Pastor of Riverwood Community Church, and Adjunct Professor of Linguistics at Johnson University

Bill Nikides

Director, Catalysis (Reformed Evangelistic Fellowship); church planter in Bangladesh, Turkey, and the Arabic world; member of the PCA committee evaluating Muslim Idiom Translations

Dave Echols

Ordained Minister with the Christian and Missionary Alliance serving in Intercultural Ministry, four decades of experience working among Urdu speakers in South Asia and the US

Barbara Yandell

Founder and President of Hope for the Nations, ordained minister in the Reformed Church of America, Chairperson of Legacy Ministries

Wave Nunnally

Professor of Early Judaism and Christian Origins at Evangel University

Donald Lowe

Linguist and church planter in Southeast Asia with World Team

Jerry Fowler

Language Consultant and Bible Teacher, Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Jos M. Strengholt

Anglican priest and missiologist in the Netherlands; former priest in Heliopolis, Egypt

Troy Manning

Chief Language Consultant, Bibles International

Drew Curley

Director of the Master of Arts in Bible Translation Program at Carolina College of Biblical Studies

David Talley

Professor of Old Testament at Biola University, Pastor of Cornerstone Church Long Beach

Roger Dixon

Former Pioneers church-planter in Indonesia, ordained minister in the United Methodist Church

Steve Parker

Field researcher, consultant, and professor of linguistics

David Meade

Founder and Director, Propempo International

Isaiah Peterson

Translation Consultant with BI

Mark Tatlock

President and Chairman, The Master’s Academy International

Helmut & Angelika Mehringer

Former missionaries in Indonesia

Pascal Buttkewitz

Linguist, German Evangelical Mission

Isaak Ersen

German Evangelical Mission

Noah Karp

Managing Editor, Biblical Missiology

Caleb Wagner

Scripture Use Consultant, Bibles International

Sungjae Rhee

Exegetical assistant, Global Bible Translators

James Hamilton

Professor of Biblical Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Walter Meier III

Professor of Exegetical Theology, Concordia Theological Seminary

Matthew Aaron Bennett

Assistant Professor of Missions and Theology at Cedarville University

Joel Arnold

Professor, Bob Jones Memorial Bible College, Philippines

James Cha

President of i43 Ministry, Presbyterian minister and missionary

Mary Susan Meyer

Horizons International, 50 years in ministry to Muslims

Don McKeon

Retired Linguistics and ESL faculty at Virginia Tech

Michael G. Wechsler

Professor of Bible

Mike Tisdell

Writer for Biblical Missiology

Craig Noll

Linguist, editor (retired), Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Edward Chau

Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Horizons International Asia

Dejan Aždajić

Giessen School of Theology

Douglas & Joie Pirkey

Shout for Joy Ministries

Gerald (Jerry) Jones

Chief Operating Officer, 100Fold

Jeff Morton

Missiologist and former pastor

David Hall

Senior Pastor, Midway Presbyterian Church in Powder Springs, GA

Scott Seaton

Pastor, Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Arlington, VA

Harry Reeder

Senior Pastor, Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, AL

John Talley

Senior Pastor, Calvary Bible Church, Derry NH

Joe Everett

Pastor, The Village Baptist Church, Kennebunkport, ME

Seth & Lauren Vitrano-Wilson

Linguists, Horizons International

Kraig Meyer

Horizons International, author of Sharing the Gospel with Muslims

Christopher Flint

Former cross-cultural worker in Indonesia

Lincoln Loo

Horizons International Asia

Bethany B.

International linguist

James Wittenberger

Bibles International

Mark Wuerffel

JAARS

Noah Bendele

Cross-cultural worker in North Africa

Carol Ghattas

Author and Speaker

Ashley Dykstra

Director of Member Care, Horizons International

Daniel Maley

Communications Coordinator, Horizons International

Ashlee Quosigk

Visiting scholar, Department of Religion, University of Georgia

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Signers

Presbyterian Church of Pakistan
Biblical Theological Seminary of Jordan

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Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Faisalbad, Pakistan
Living Oasis Ministries
Islamecom ministry among Muslims, Italy
Philadelphia Baptist Church, Beirut
Altaf Khan

Moderator, Presbyterian Church of Pakistan; Senior Pastor, Presbyterian Church Nawabanwala Faisalabad; Teacher at Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Faisalbad

Timothy Mang

Lead OT Translator, Falam Common Language Bible; Director, Bibles International Myanmar Society; Director, Biblical School of Theology, Yangon, Myanmar; Senior Pastor, Biblical Missionary Baptist Church

Imad Shehadeh

Founder, President, and Senior Professor of Theology, Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary

J. Mack Stiles

Pastor, Erbil International Baptist Church in Erbil, Iraq

Patrick Odle

President, Baptist Mid-Missions

Stuart McAllister

Global Support Specialist, Ravi Zacharias International Ministry; Former General Secretary of the European Evangelical Alliance

Timothy L. Fink

Director, Bibles International, the Bible Society of Baptist Mid-Missions

Thomas Requadt

Bible translator, WorldVenture, West Africa

Anees Zaka

Founder & Director of Church Without Walls, and Founder & President of Biblical Institute for Islamic Studies

Roy Frink

Director, International Discipleship Literature

Daniel Case

Bible translator for the Chatino people of Oaxaca, Mexico, Fellowship International Mission

Joel Wagner

Translation Consultant, Bibles International, Southeast Asia

Robert Lundberg, Jr

Director, The Real Issue Apologetics Ministry

John Tela

Senior Pastor, Matunda Christian Centre, Kenya

Andrew Case

Translation consultant, Betheden Ministries; Host of “Working for the Word” podcast

Ken Fielder

President, WorldView Ministries (dedicated to Bible translation among unreached people groups)

Bassam Michael Madany

Director, Middle East Resources

A. W. Merrell

Vice President for Convention Relations (retired), Southern Baptist Convention

Christine Parker

Translation Consultant, Bibles International

Michael Johnson

Senior Editor of the World English Bible, Director of EBible.org

Sonya Paoli

Bible translation advisor for the Yamap people, Papua New Guinea, Wycliffe Bible Translators

Eve Droma

Bible translator, Ripe for Harvest

David King

Former New Testament & Greek professor, Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Beirut; Former Director of Middle East Evangelism Ministry

E.D. Burns

Director, Master of Arts in Global Leadership Studies, Western Seminary; Assistant Professor of Missiology & Spirituality, Asia Biblical Theological Seminary of Cornerstone University

Francesco Maggio

Founder, Islamecom; Founder, META Onlus; Former general director for Italy of Arab World Ministries; Former general director for Italy for Operation Transit

Renod Bejjani

President and Co-Founder, iHOPE Ministries

David Byle

Evangelist, Operation Mobilisation, Germany and Turkey

Grace Foundation/Grace Presbyterian Church of Pakistan
Rruga e Paqes (Way of Peace), Tirana
Ekklesia Emmanuel Kulim
Evangelisch Arabische gemeente, Amsterdam
Mavi Kilise – Blue Church
Vision für Asien e.V.

,

Betheden Ministries
WorldView Ministries
Frontier Dispatch
eBible.org
Hope Builders Ministries
Global Commission Partners
Spirit of Martyrdom International
Reaching Africa’s Unreached
One Truth Project
Christian Emergency Alliance

,

Friend Makers International
Muammer Karakaya

Pastor, Kayseri Protestan Kilises, Turkey

David John

Evangelist & Church Planter, Operation Mobilization, Middle East; Former Insider Movement Advocate

Stefan Felber

Lecturer of Old Testament, Theologisches Seminar St. Chrischona; author of “Kommunikative Bibelübersetzung” (Communicative Bible translation), editor of “Zwischen Babel und Jerusalem” (Between Babel and Jerusalem)

John Elias
Director, The Bridges Option
Ibrahim Resho

Kurdish translator, Horizons International, Beirut

Alex Kocman

Director of Advancement, Mobilization, and Communications, ABWE International

Javed Dean
Host and Producer, Nia Jeevan in Christ TV Ministry
Amy Ohler

Filipus Program Director, Kurtuluş Church, Ankara, Turkey

Bruce A. McDowell

President, Santiago Theological Seminary, Dominican Republic

Paul Murdoch

Chairman Emeritus, International Institute for Religious Freedom; Chairman, Arbeitskreis Religionsfreiheit (AKREF), German Evangelical Alliance; Academic Dean, Communio Messianica

John Brand

Principal, Edinburgh Bible College; former Director for UK and Europe of Africa Inland Mission International; Pastor, Grace Community Church, Broxburn

David Peterson

Professor of New Testament, Moore Theological College in Sydney; Former Principal of Oak Hill Theological College, London

Gary R. Corwin

Missiologist, retired from SIM (Serving in Mission) and as editor/columnist for Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ)

Brian Wagner

Chair of the Graduate Ministry Department, Veritas Baptist College

Alan Poyner-Levison

Director, Beit Shalom Ministries

Günther Juncker

Professor of New Testament & Greek, Toccoa Falls College

John Battle

Professor of New Testament and Theology, Western Reformed Seminary

Josaphat Tam

Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, Evangel Seminary, Hong Kong

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Frequently Asked Questions

We are a diverse group of translators and translation organizations, theologians, Greek and Hebrew scholars, missiologists, church leaders and ministries. We adhere to various translation philosophies, ranging from strong advocates of “meaning-based translation” to strong advocates of more “literal” translation approaches, with many in between, but we come together to promote these principles of translation, which we believe provide proper limits to contextualization in Bible translation in some key areas. See here for a list of the initial signing organizations and individuals.
Many, many translators around the world are doing excellent work to God’s glory! There are certain movements within missions and translation theory, however, that we believe cross the line into unhealthy accommodation of unbiblical ideas. This statement attempts to address what we believe are the most important issues that arise from those movements. We hope that this statement increases appreciation among Christians for the beautiful theological truths that are at stake in these issues, promotes biblically sound translation principles, encourages those involved in faithful translation to continue, and helps church leaders, laypeople, and those aspiring to work in Bible translation to know which organizations and translators agree to follow these principles.
The draft that became the basis of the Arlington Statement was developed at a meeting of several Bible translators, linguists and other scholars in Arlington, Texas in October 2019.
Significant controversy arose in 2011 and 2012 over one particular issue mentioned as an example in this document, namely the translation of “Son of God” and “Father.” In response, a group of organizations called on the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) to produce guidelines for the translation of these terms. These guidelines did tighten previous policies for those organizations. However:  

  • The WEA was not asked to address any other issues, such as the inclusion of the Islamic statement of faith, the translation of kyrios “Lord,” or any other significant issues arising from some translations among Muslims and other religious contexts.
  • The WEA ruling on Father-Son terms does not apply to the majority of Bible translation organizations, but only to those that requested their input.
  • The WEA guidelines on Father and Son allow certain problematic renderings for the phrase “Son of God,” such as “spiritual Son of God” or “son who comes from God,” that obscure the full meaning of these terms. Such renderings also give credence to Muslims’ accusations that Christians have “corrupted” the Bible.
Therefore, we believe that it is helpful to have a broader set of principles that address the many issues that the WEA was not asked to give guidelines for, as well as a few areas where we believe tighter guidelines are beneficial.
In some “Religious Idiom Translations,” as they are called, translators will change the wording of Scripture to conform to wording from other religious contexts. In doing so, they often incorporate elements of those worldviews that are not in agreement with the biblical text and undermine the truth of God’s Word.  

For example, several Bible translations have included the first part of the Islamic statement of faith, “There is no god but Allah/God,” known as the Shahada, as part of the Bible. But the Bible does not contain any such statement. What the Bible does say is things like, “For who is God, but the LORD?” (that is, YHWH—Psalm 18:31) and “there is no one like you, LORD, and there is no God besides you” (1 Chronicles 17:20). Moreover, just as Christians who hear “For God so loved the world...” know how to fill in the rest, Muslims hearing the first part of the Shahada will naturally recall the second part in their minds: “and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah/God.”  

Translators who include this phrase say that the Shahada is the “natural” way to affirm monotheism in these languages—but they are not affirming the same monotheism as the Bible, since biblical monotheism is centered on God’s revelation of Himself as the LORD, the faithful God of Israel, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Surprisingly, several Bible translations include more instances of the first part of the Shahada than the Qur’an itself does.  

Another example in Muslim contexts is the inclusion of the Bismillah, the first words of the Qur’an, meaning “in the name of Allah/God.” Whereas the Bible often describes prophets as speaking “in the name of the LORD” (YHWH, the one true God), it never uses the phrase “in the name of” followed by a general term for God, such as Elohim in Hebrew or Theos in Greek. While “Allah” is a natural and proper translation in Arabic for “God” (that is, Elohim or Theos), which Christian Arabs have used for centuries before Islam, it cannot be used as a substitute for the name YHWH, because YHWH and “Allah” have different connotations and theological implications. So there is no justification for including “in the name of Allah” in a Bible translation, and including it gives the false impression that God has revealed His name as “Allah,” which reinforces an Islamic worldview.  

For these reasons—and because of other similar examples in Muslim, animist, and other contexts—translators should not translate in a way that explicitly or implicitly affirms the theology of other religions at the expense of the meaning, context, and theological implications of the original language texts.
Undermining the theological cohesion of Scripture in the translation of key terms There is a natural human tendency to want to avoid confrontation, which spills over into Bible translation at times. For example, in the story of the prodigal Son, the idea that Jesus considered the slaughter of cattle to be a lawful and good way to celebrate causes offense to Hindus. However, to change this detail in Hindu contexts by translating something like, “Quick! Let’s have a feast,” leaving out the part about killing the calf, is to remove important evidence that Jesus did not consider killing cows to be a sin, which people need to know in order to think biblically. Moreover, the entire system of temple worship in the Law of Moses involves animal sacrifice, including the divinely commanded sacrifice of cattle, a system which finds its fulfillment in the one great atoning sacrifice of Christ. In other words, there is no way this topic can simply be avoided, nor should it be.  

Whether Hinduism, Buddhism, animism, nationalism, or any other way of thinking is culturally dominant, translators must be faithful to God’s Word, and not shirk from giving all people the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), even when it is difficult or offensive.
Several examples could be given of the importance of maintaining the theological unity and cohesion of the Bible by careful and reverent treatment of key terms, but we focus on two main areas: a) The translation of “Lord” in the New Testament, and b) the translation of Father and Son (or “Divine Familial Terms”).  

a) Kyrios “Lord,” the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ  
The Greek term kyrios (“Lord”) is used by the New Testament authors in two main related ways:  

1) to refer to Jesus, God the Father, or the Holy Spirit as “Lord” in general, variously indicating ownership, sovereignty, allegiance, or respect1  

2) to represent the Hebrew YHWH, the name of God, in quotes or allusions to the Old Testament (see Exodus 3:13-15).  

By using the same term for both Jesus and YHWH (Yahweh/Jehovah, the God of Israel) the New Testament authors, through the Holy Spirit, affirm the beautiful truth that Jesus is in fact YHWH, the “Lord” of the Old Testament. Moreover, by applying this single term to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the New Testament affirms that all three are One Lord, namely, the LORD, YHWH (see for example Philippians 2:9-11, 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, as well as Ephesians 4:4-6 and 1 Corinthians 8:6 in light of Deuteronomy 6:4).  

Sadly, several translators advocate differentiating between kyrios when they believe it refers to God the Father versus Jesus in translations for Muslim audiences. They say this will avoid “confusing” Muslims with the idea that Jesus and the Father are both God, and yet one. But the “confusion” they are avoiding is the very heart of the Trinity. The use of kyrios for YHWH as well as to refer to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit may be confusing to those who are grappling with the doctrine of the Trinity, but the New Testament’s use of this term points to deep and beautiful truth given us by the Holy Spirit, to be embraced and not translated away.  

While clearly having different motivations, the translation choices for kyrios seen in some Muslim Idiom Translations ironically mirror the choices made by Jehovah’s Witness translators in their “New World Translation” (NWT). The NWT translators, who deny the Trinity and the full divinity of Christ, translate kyrios as “Jehovah” when they believe it refers to God the Father, but “Lord” when it refers to Jesus—even when the New Testament author is clearly quoting a Hebrew passage with “YHWH.” Muslim readers are already predisposed to think of Jesus as less than fully God; removing the clear Trinitarian implications of the New Testament’s use of kyrios in a way that mirrors the translation choices of an anti-Trinitarian group does not serve God’s purposes for them, but instead adds further barriers to them understanding and embracing the beautiful Trinitarian truths that God has given us in Scripture. Whether intentionally or not, differentiating between the Father and Jesus when translating kyrios undermines the Trinity as well as the divinity of Christ.  

For this reason, the Greek word kyrios (“Lord”) should not be translated differently based on whether translators believe it refers to God the Father or God the Son.  

b) Father, Son, and Son of God  

Muslims have been taught that Christians believe Jesus is the “Son of God” by sexual procreation with Mary. This could not be further from what Christians actually believe. Yet rather than simply explaining the truth to Muslims, some translators have felt it necessary to modify the biblical text in order to avoid misunderstanding. In some more extreme cases, the phrase has been changed entirely, for example, by calling Jesus the “Royal King” or simply “Messiah.” More subtly, divine Father-Son terms are sometimes modified in an attempt to avoid the idea of sexual procreation—for example, by calling Jesus the “spiritual Son of God” or “the son who comes from God.”  

However, even these less drastic modifications can still do damage to the biblical witness that Jesus truly is the “Son of God” (a precious truth that Satan attacked; Matthew 4:3-6). Clearly we must be careful to teach people what these phrases mean and refute the lies they have been taught, but any modification that successfully blocks the misinterpretation of sexual procreation will also block true and essential meaning inherent to normal, biological father-son terms, such as Jesus being the natural heir to God’s kingdom (Hebrews 1:2), the firstborn (Colossians 1:15, Romans 8:29), and the exact image of the Father (Hebrews 1:3, John 14:9, Colossians 1:15). Furthermore, the entire theme of believers’ adoption as children of God (see John 1:12-13, Romans 8:14-29, Galatians 4:1-7, etc.) relies on normal human father-son language being used for both Jesus’s relationship to the Father and our relationship to the Father. For these reasons, local churches have in many instances strongly opposed translations that modify or remove the divine Father-Son relationship, as well as other issues in Religious Idiom Translations.  

A lack of normal Father-Son language also hinders the understanding of passages such as the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-44), Abraham’s offering of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18), Jesus’ teaching about whose son the Messiah is (Matthew 22:41-46), or the character of the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), among many others.  

We should remember that the same misunderstanding about Jesus being the “Son of God” via sexual divine-human procreation which so offends Muslims (and us even more!) would have been extremely likely to occur among pagan Greeks in apostolic times. A Greek person reading the original, God-breathed New Testament could easily have misunderstood the idea of “Father” and “Son of God” as relating to the same kind of relationship that Zeus had with demigods such as Dionysus or Heracles by sleeping with their mortal mothers. Yet God, in His wisdom, breathed out these simple phrases with no modifiers or qualifications—clearly He decided that the normal way to describe a father-son relationship was the best way to communicate His intended meaning, despite those misunderstandings.  

For these reasons, the term “Son of God”, and the terms “Father” and “Son” when referring to God, should be translated using the same terms that are normally used to express the human father-son relationship.  

Further detail on these issues can be found in this in-depth document, this set of Claims and Responses, and this brief FAQ for translators.
1 The same usage as a title of respect or ownership sometimes applies to other people besides Jesus, such as Caesar in Acts 25:26. It is critical that the word chosen to translate kyrios as a title for Jesus and a representation of YHWH also be a word that can apply to other human “lords” or “masters,” so that the beautiful truth of Jesus’ full humanity can be maintained as it is in the Greek.
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We believe that the Bible is the only infallible authority for faith and practice, including the practice of Bible translation, and we believe that the Bible’s teaching on inspiration, language, and the flawlessness of God’s Word lead to the principles given in this statement. We also believe that we are fallible human beings, and that the authority and truth of the Arlington Statement is contingent upon it being a faithful application of biblical teaching. We therefore encourage anyone who disagrees with the statement to share with us why they disagree based on biblical teaching, and we pray that the Lord will lead us and them to greater faithfulness and right thinking before God, so we may all “correctly handle the word of truth.”