My special friend Ali Bey and the Kitabı Mukkades

The story of the Kitabı Mukaddes is a great adventure story with lots of twists, turns and intrigues. The original Turkish Bibles would have been written in the beautiful Arabic script of the Ottoman Period. Two names that come from that period as far as translators go are Bobovious and Shipman. Shipman’s New Testament translation (NT) still does exist but only in the world of antiques which is sad really. The great scientist Sir Robert Boyle was a person who helped Shipman translate the New Testament into Turkish but alas this version never really made it into the public domain.

The whole Bible however did make it into the sphere of the public domain. Bobovious who was also known as Ali Bey translated and created a beautiful Bible. In the translation and creation of this Bible, I do not want to start from the translation but from the translator. According to the Wikipaedeia Ali bey was taken prisoner by the Tartars and sold to the Sultan. He then became a Muslim and worked for the pasha.

Although the general plot is correct I think wikipaedeia needs to be changes a little bit because it misses the ‘soul of Ali Bey’. It needs to be stated that when any and every child was brought into the service of the sultan ‘they became Muslims’.

As far as his public life goes ‘he was a Muslim’ and he was a good Muslim. However if you are taken as a slave into government perhaps your not going to sell your soul completely to your masters. This was the case with Ali Bey and in the latter days of his life he professed he was a Christian (in private). You can’t really blame him! He also confided that he wanted to come to England and live his final days as a Christian (in private).

It doesn’t surprise me that he did a good job of translating the Bible or to have introduced the Psalms the Psalms into the Ottoman court. From my point of view this man was a genius and he needs to be looked at as one of the great saints of Turkish Christendom.

I have heard it said in some circles that the Old Turkish Bible carries with it the baggage from the Ottoman past and we need a new start for the 21st century.

I’ve certainlt seen signs of this as Ali Bey’s translation has been dumped ignomoniously and the new translation has been taken with arms open wide. I as a theologian do not agree with this route. Also in the new translation there has been a paradigm shift. The word ‘Allah’ has been replaced with ‘Tanrı’. I don’t think there was any need for this as in the book of job in the Hebrew we have ‘eloah’ the singular form of elohim. Al- el- is the root part of the word God.

The late professor Gunton once said to me that it is good to draw from the old and the new. He is certainly right. When we are making theological judgements we need to check with different translations so that it can aid us in getting closer to the Greek and the Hebrew which are the original languages of the Bible.

It is good to have dynamic equivalence in a translation. As Ali Şimşek once said that the new turkish translation is closer to th NIV (I was a teenager at the time at a Turkish Bible retreat in Germany). However my point of view is that dynamic equivalence is prone to making serious theological errors. Bible societies are you listening? Wake up to common sense!

The story of Ali Bey certainly didn’t stop in the seventeenth century.

In the 19th century there was a man of God who spent seven years in a Turkish Jail. This man learned good Turkish and gave Ali Bey’s translation new life by putting it into the latin script. It went through six revisions.

Why am I fighting for the Kitabı Mukkades? It is certainly not for any old loyalty. For example the same way some Christians fighting for the 1611 King James version (although I respect their point of view don’t agree with it).

I’m fighting for God’s truth. I have a right to compare the Hebrew, greek alongside my Turkish translations! Don’t rob me of the only spiritual tools I have!

Let the younger generations of Turkish Christian theologians find their way by having as many translations as are needed and more.

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