Translating “Son of God”

The debate surrounding translation of the phrase “Son of God” for certain contexts of Muslim culture has alarmed parts of the church. Last week, 30 Bible scholars, translation consultants, missiologists, and Muslim-culture experts met to clarify translation guidelines. They produced a technical document to guide translators, and added the following statement to Wycliffe Bible Translators, Inc. Statement on Doctrinal Beliefs and Translation Standards:

In particular regard to Bible translations done for Muslim contexts we affirm that in the majority of cases a literal translation of “Son of God” will be the preferred translation. In certain circumstances, specifically where it has been demonstrated that a literal translation of “Son of God” would communicate wrong meaning, an alternative form with equivalent meaning may be used. The alternative form must maintain the concept of “sonship”. All translations for Muslim audiences should include an explanation of the meaning of the phrase “ho huios tou theou” (the Son of God) when it refers to Jesus Christ. This may be in a preface, in one or more footnotes, or as a glossary entry, as seems appropriate to the situation.

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