Bobovious’Faith

The story of the Kitabı Mukaddes is a great adventure story with lots of twists, turns and intrigues. In the 17th century the original Turkish bibles were written in the Arabic script. Two names that come come up from this period are Bobovious and Shipman. Shipman’s new testament translation still does exist but only in the world of antiques which is really a sad state of affairs. The great scientist and protestant Christian Sir Robert Doyle was the person who was the financier of this great epic translation. Unfortunately this version didn’t make such an impact in the public domain.

The whole Bible however did make it into the public domain. Bobovious who was 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 wikipaedia ALi Bey was taken prisoner by the Tatar Turks and sold to the Sultan. Bobovious then became a Muslim and took on board the name ALi Bey.

Although the general plot of the wikipaedia is correct it misses ‘the soul of Ali Bey’. It needs to be stated that when any içoğlan child… was taken into service of the House of Osman he became a Muslim. The child never had a choice! Ali bey didn’t have a choice! So in public and on the surface Ali bey was indeed a good Muslim and worked hard for the pasha. On the other hand if you are taken and made a slave which is what Ali was, then I don’t think he would sell his soul completely to the masters. This was the case with Ali bey and in his latter days of his life he professed that he was indeed a Christian (in private). You can’t really blame the man! He also confided that he wanted to come to England and live his final days as a Christian (confided in private).

We find this information in The republic of Letters and the Levant page 187 : In the chapter of Albertus Bobovius Appeal to Isaac Basire he writes

“It is highly to be deplored that he (Bobovius) was prematurely snatched away by death before he could return to the Christian faith, which he intended to do wholeheartedly, longing to be able to earn his bread in some honest way in England among Christians and so be removed from the power of the infidels.”

On page 194
“He then privately, professed himself a Christian in voto and
Is said, still perseveres the same.”

So then it doesn’t surprise me that he did a good job of translating the Bible or to have introduced the Genevan melodies of the Psalms into the Ottoman court. This man from my point of view was a genius at work and he needs to be looked at as one of the great saints of Turkish Christendom.

I’ve heard it said in some circles that the old Turkish Bible carries the baggage of the old Ottoman past and we needed a new start for the twenty first century.

I’ve certainly seen the signs for this as Ali beys translation has been ignominiously dumped in favour of the new translation. I don’t agree with this route as it is a political move. It could also be seen as a theological move as this translation has favoured Tanrı instead of Allah.

The late professor Gunton once said to me when I was a student that we should draw from the old and the new. I have to say that he was certainly right! When making theological judgments we need to check with different translations so that it can help us to get closer to the Greek and Hebrew. There is an old saying that says two heads are better than one. When making judgments about the bible we certainly need to listen to the invisible church of believers past and present. For example this is why Calvin is still important today in Christian circles.

It is good to have dynamic equivalence in a translation but it can also lead us into the wrong direction! Bible Societies and all those who use the new Turkish translation ought to make an effort to put Ali Beys translation onto the internet as well!

The story of Ali bey did not stop in the seventeenth century. There was a man in the nineteenth century who spent seven years in a Turkish Jail. This man breathed life into Ali beys translation by putting it into the Latin script. It went through six revisions.

Why am I fighting for the Kitabı Mukaddes? It is not for any old misplaced loyalties such as for example fighting for the old king James version (although it is an excellent translation!). I’m fighting for God’s truth. I have a right to compare the Hebew and Greek alongside my Turkish translations. Don’t rob me of the only spiritual tools I have!

Let the younger Turkish Christian theological generations find their way by having as many translations of their mother tongue as are needed.

Bibliography
The republic of Letters and the Levant page 187,194

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