In my Nov. 22 Pulpit column at Gazette.com, I write about the Conservative Bible Project that’s being created wiki-style at www.conservapedia.com, a right wing conservative Christian Web site that’s gotten tens of millions of hits since its founding byNew Jersey resident Andrew Schlafly in 2006.
The project basically entails changing the King James Version of the Bible to reflect today’s right-wing Christian conservatism. This is done through a wiki program in which online viewers can change Bible passages. But it’s not quite so democratic as it seems. Schlafly and Terry Hurlbut, both from New Jersey, decide what changes are displayed in the wiki conservative Bible. The most controversial edits of the Bible by the team are the elimination of some of the passages in which Jesus expresses forgiveness.
Below are edited excerpts of parts of my phone interviews with these gentlemen.
ANDY SCHLAFLY, 48, IS A NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY AND CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN. HE HAS NO FORMAL TRAINING IN GREEK OR HEBREW TRANSLATION, THOUGH HE SAYS HE HAS STUDIED “THE GREEK BIBLE.”
MARK BARNA: “You said you got the idea for your wiki-style Conservapedia.com from Wikipedia?”
SCHLAFLY: “Wikipedia is bias. They are completely intolerant of anything that is critical or reveals a flaw in evolution. That fact that everything is BCE or CE is another example (of Christian bashing). There’s a lot of anti-American bias on Wikipedia.”
“Wikipeda becomes mob rule, dominated by liberals.”
BARNA: “What’s wrong with modern Bible translations?”
SCHLAFLY: “They have a lot of pervasive and pernicious liberalization. About 90 percent of (biblical) scholars are liberal.”
BARNA: “And you say liberals add allusions to socialism, anti-Americanism, gender-neutral language and is anti-capitalism. Yet you also say ‘liberals’ highlight the passages in the Bible about forgiveness, such as Jesus forgiving people as he hung on the cross, and his forgiving the adulteress whom the mob wanted to stone. What is so wrong with forgiveness?”
SCHLAFLY: “It suggests (in the scenes) forgiveness without repentance. It opens the door and promotes sin. Opens the door to atheism…waters down hell, denies hell, opens the door to the growth of atheism…Jesus talked more about hell than heaven… .”
“Forgiving adulteress woman … The basic error is it teaches people can do what they want and they will be forgiven even if they don’t repent. (The forgiveness scene of the adulterous) is historical nonsense. They didn’t stone women. They strangled them. Liberals love it because they use it to argue against capital punishment.”
BARNA: “You reject those passages as well because you follow what modern scholars have learned — that neither of those forgiveness scenes are in early Bible manuscripts.
SCHLAFLY: “We respect the original intent (of Bible authors). We are pealing away the political bias. We are purifying the Bible.”
TERRY HURLBUT, 51, IS THE CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER AND CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEE TRANSLATIONS AT THE CONSERVATIVE BIBLE PROJECT. HURLBUT STUDIED LATIN IN HIGH SCHOOL, HE SAID, AND GREEK FOR A YEAR AT A CHURCH. HE LIVES IN NEW JERSEY AND IS A CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVE. HE SAYS HE’S THE CHIEF TRANSLATOR OF GENESIS, REVELATION, MATTHEW, MARK, JUDE AND OTHER BOOKS IN THE CONSERVATIVE BIBLE.
BARNA: What qualifies you to translate the Bible?
HURLBUT: [Hurlbut states the above and adds he's studied the Bible on his own for 19 years.] “I have enough facility in ancient Hebrew to understand its grammatical constructs. I will match my personal qualifications against 98 percent of critics I’ve seen.”
BARNA: “Some say you are flavoring your Bible translation with conservative bias.”
HURLBUT: “We derive our value system from the Bible. We are not the ones trying to put something into the Bible. We see this was done in the New International Version. We derive our values from the Bible and are trying to elucidate them — find what the original scribes saw and felt.”
BARNA: “You say liberals use the money changer scene to argue that Jesus was against capitalism.”
HURLBUT: “I deny that he was making a statement against commercialism. This is not against capitalism…. . Also, no socialism. In Acts 4 and 5, the apostles set up a communal economy … but it’s not socialism. They were anticipating getting scattered. It was a temporary arrangement, entirely voluntary and did not involve the government at all. The people citing that’s socialism, they take their ideological scissors and cut things out of the Bible all the time. They have misconstrued the circumstances under which this communal arrangement was made.”
BARNA: “You’ve translated Revelation where there is language about the Antichrist. Is President Barack Obama the Antichrist?”
HURLBUT: “I am not prepared to say that… . Obama is someone who accepts things close to divine honors, but whether he is the beast from the sea … the false prophet will have to be out of Jewish extraction. I don’t deny Barack Obama could be The One…. [Hurlbut begins to ramble] Those of us who genuinely believe in Christ … will suddenly disappear … one minute will be driving in a car, the next minute the (car) will be driver-less.”
BARNA: “You discount the scenes of Jesus forgiving the adulterous and the multitude from the cross.”
HURLBUT: “This is something Jesus did not mean to say, that adultery was not a serious offense… . If we want the Bible, we want something that is accurate. [Hurlbut goes on to impugn Jesus' words, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."] When they say they don’t know what they are doing, someone might use that to mean they literally do not know why they set up a man to be executed.”
SAMPLE TRANSLATION COMPARISONS, REVELATION, CHAPTER 3: 1-2:
KING JAMES BIBLE: “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead. Be watchful and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die.”
CONSERVATIVE BIBLE: “I know your deeds, you have a reputation for being alive and you are dead. Get with the program, strengthen what you have left and is about to die. I have not found your works satisfactory before God.”