Can we call God Allah?

Posted by Simon Cross  ·  26 visitor comments

A row has broken out over a new Bible translation, which uses Islamic names for Jesus, the prophets, and for God.

The translation, which is under development for Biblica, is called the Holy Injil. It is intended to be easily understood and read by Muslims.

It has been pioneered by Dr Viggo Olsen, a missionary who also translated the Bible into Bengali during the 1980s.

Dr Olsen, 85, has deliberately chosen to use Arabic terms for Jesus, God and other characters in Bible stories, because Muslims find the story of Jesus fascinating, but are often put off by the language of contemporary Bible translations.

But his ideas have not been universally well received, with some critics complaining that he was using ‘false’ Islamic names for God.

Examples of the changes he makes in his translations include the name ‘Isa al-Massih’ for ‘Jesus the Messiah’; ‘Allah’ for ‘God’; ‘Ibrahim’ for ‘Abraham’ and ‘The Prophet Yahya’ for ‘John the Baptist’.

Some people complain that using the name ‘Allah’ to appeal to Muslims is the same as using ‘Krishna’ to appeal to Hindus.

But Dr Olsen, who served in Asia for more than 30 years, and who was compared to another famous Medical Missionary – Dr David Livingston, by the New York Times, isn’t shaken by this.

He said: “There are more than 3,000 Muslim people groups, with many English speakers in them, so this Muslim-friendly New Testament we’re working on has the possibility of blessing every Muslim group in the world. That may sound like an impossible dream, but God makes the impossible possible.”

Make up your own mind:

Matthew 2:1–5

Now when 'Isa was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he asked them where al-Masih would be born. They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written through the prophet... (Copyright 2011 Ramah Books)

John 1:1-9

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Allah, and the Word was Allah. The same was in the beginning with Allah. All things were made through him. Without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn't overcome it. There came a man, sent from Allah, whose name was Yahya. The same came as a witness, that he might testify about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but was sent that he might testify about the light. The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world. (Copyright 2011 Ramah Books)

What do you think – is it ok to use the name ‘Allah’ for God? Is ‘Isa’ alright as a replacement for Jesus? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section…

16th July

July 16th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross

Thumbs Down0
Thumbs Up0

Did you find this article useful?

26 Visitor Comments

Join in the Eden community and comment on this article

Oluwatoyin Adelakun-Adeyemo

Oluwatoyin Adelakun-Adeyemo

Posts: 1

I think this is very ver interesting indeed God works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform. If this version actually makes the bible more accessible to muslims, I think God can use it in ways we cannot imagine. If God to use a practicing sinner in the person of Rahab for hs purposes, how much this especially if the oly changes are substituting english names for their Arabic ones. remember, God's words cannot be changes. Faith come by hearing and hearing by the word of God. If this work is not of God, it will surely die... so let see how it does...

Monday, 16th July 2012 at 11:51AM

Reply to this comment

1Thumbs Down
1Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

GIDEON'S-SWORD

GIDEON'S-SWORD

Posts: 1

AND WHAT DO WE DO IF WE WANT TO REACH THE PEOPLE OF THE SATANIST CHURCH??? WHO IS THE GOD THEY WORSHIP AND WHAT IS THE NAME YOU WOULD USE THEN??? THERE HAS TO BE SOME POINT WHERE THIS STOPS. ALLAH WAS AND STILL IS A CHUNK OF STONE,,,NOT GOD. YOU CAN COLOR AND FLAVOR A >TURD< ANY WAY YOU LIKE,,,,IT IS STILL A LUMP OF !"£$%^

Monday, 16th July 2012 at 12:11PM

Reply to this comment

4Thumbs Down
2Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Vic Smith

Vic Smith

Posts: 1

Why should we believe that the English name for Jesus is the correct one? The original Biblical name for Jesus is 'Yesu' or 'Iesu' - there was no 'J' sound in the original. 'Isa' is actually closer to the original. But does this matter? I could have chosen to post this using a different name but I would still be the same person. When Muslims use the name 'Isa' they are talking about the same person as the English call 'Jesus' but they do not have an understanding of His divinity. Let us all hope that this new version of the Bible will give it to them! The situation with the name 'Allah' is more complicated but Muslims use this name for the One True God (the God of Ibrahim, sorry, Abraham) who has many names. They may have a less than perfect knowledge of God and how to reach Him but this is the God (the only God) they have in mind.

Monday, 16th July 2012 at 12:43PM

Reply to this comment

2Thumbs Down
4Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Paul Charlton

Paul Charlton

Posts: 1

An incorrect translation - surely the purpose of translating is to render faithfully what was said in the original text This is crazy He should,d be ashamed of his unprofessional stance

Monday, 16th July 2012 at 2:08PM

Reply to this comment

3Thumbs Down
1Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Teresa Berrsley

Teresa Berrsley

Posts: 1

I am with Gideon, this is so wrong, Gods name is NOT allah. muslims have been praying to allah for years and where has it got them??? How will they call on the name of the Lord when it is the name of a false God??? I think this man ought to repent and ask God for His forgiveness, so will christians be called something different too? no we are not muslims never will be, yes they need reaching but not by watering down the name of God to there level, perhaps soemone should ask a muslim to change allahs name to fred or eric so we can understand! after 9-11 we all know how they would reply to that

Monday, 16th July 2012 at 4:24PM

Reply to this comment

2Thumbs Down
1Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Arlene Hiles

Arlene Hiles

Posts: 1

I am inclinned to agree more with the comments Vic Smith made. I think what is important is the fact that one realizes that there is a God or creater out there, and this is one God and a true God, but also feel sure that God is not that bothered as to how one addresses him, be it Allah, Great Spirit, God etc, as long as He knows the person referes to Him. It is not worshipping a different God to use a different name for God, as the person is still believing in one God and the only creater of all living things. Someone refered to a stone. Okay so Mohammed used a stone, but also the ten commandments were written on stone, being two tablets for people to view. No one says they worship those tablets. So what is wrong with prohpetic words been written on a stone called Mecca I think or something like that, for people to observe that are also from God to the minds of Muslims. Like Vic said, if one posted this message using a different name, eg nick name one would still be the same person. However one also respects that people have different views on the matter, and so not saying they are wrong or right in how they view things etc. One is judged according to one's own conscience it says somewhere in the scriputures, so if in your heart how you worship God feels right in your soul, then it is right in the eyes of God, who looks at the heart and the intentions of one. This is what God will be interested in one day when you stand before Him. Is what love and beauty is in your heart for Him and mankind, his creations, and how you lived your life, rather than what religion you followed. If God meant us all to be carbon copies of each other, we would have all been made to look the same, and there would not be different cultures etc. A good cake needs a few ingrediants. All roads lead to Rome. I like to think of myself as a christian with a open mind. Amen.

Monday, 16th July 2012 at 5:50PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
3Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Phil Roberts

Phil Roberts

Posts: 1

and nobody seems to mind the "thus it is written" and "King, behold, wise men" which sounds very old fashioned. Seems a shame not to have used modern English to go with this modern version

Monday, 16th July 2012 at 6:04PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
1Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Vernon Stanbridge

Vernon Stanbridge

Posts: 1

No, we definately cannot use Allah for God. Allah means 'moon god' and was one of the many gods revered by some Arabs before Islam came into being. We cannot, and must not compromise the Word of God, the Bible. It will not help anyone to find God in Jesus Christ, least of all Muslims. Remember, the cross is central to the Christian faith, no other religion has this as the only way of salvation. Unless we respond to the Gospel and repent of our sins and put our trust in Jesus who died on the cross for our sins, no one can be saved. Also, the Bible was translated from the Hebrew language originally and so the true names of God existed long before the name Allah was even thought of. A warning: be careful not to be deceived in these the last days!

Tuesday, 17th July 2012 at 12:00AM

Reply to this comment

1Thumbs Down
3Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Ian Matthews

Ian Matthews

Posts: 8

I have Arabic-speaking friends - Allah is commonly used to refer to God (as indeed we use 'God' to refer to Him - it is still an English word used to represent Him). Isa is just the Arabic version of Yeshua, just as Jesus can be seen as the English equivalent. If people are going to get precious about using the right names, we better stick of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek!

Tuesday, 17th July 2012 at 11:01AM

Reply to this comment

1Thumbs Down
4Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

bismillahirrahmanirrahim

bismillahirrahmanirrahim

Posts: 1

IT IS NOT ABOUT THE WHAT NAME SHOULD BE GIVEN TO GOD BUT IT IS ABOUT LANGUAGES..FOR EXAMPLE GERMANS NAME FOR GO IS GOTT AN FOR SPANISH ISDIOS.SO IT DOES NOT MATTER AS WE ALL BELIEVE IN ONE AND ONLY GOD,ALLAH,GOTT AND DIOS AND SO MANY NAMES HE IS CALLED IN SO MANY DIFFERENT LANGUAGES.

Saturday, 21st July 2012 at 12:05AM

Reply to this comment

1Thumbs Down
2Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Lyn Myers

Lyn Myers

Posts: 5

I don't agree with the names being changed to suit the Muslim translation.

Saturday, 21st July 2012 at 4:36PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
1Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Rick Vincent

Rick Vincent

Posts: 1

Jesus is Jesus, Allah is not th name of the Father it's Jehovah

Saturday, 21st July 2012 at 4:40PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

John Hillman

John Hillman

Posts: 4

Yahweh actually

Tuesday, 21st August 2012 at 7:23PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Helen

Helen

Posts: 2

I'm quite happy for Jesus to be referred to as Isa because this is how Muslims know Him but we cannot call God Allah - you only have to speak to a Muslim about Allah to find out that he is very different from God.

Saturday, 21st July 2012 at 5:59PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Helen

Helen

Posts: 2

I'm quite happy for Jesus to be referred to as Isa because this is how Muslims know Him but we cannot call God Allah - you only have to speak to a Muslim about Allah to find out that he is very different from God.

Saturday, 21st July 2012 at 6:02PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
1Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Dawn Middleton

Dawn Middleton

Posts: 1

The many different translations of the Bible makes the the word of God accessible to everyone..Lets not get precious about keeping Jesus to ourselves. I find it fascinating and helpful to to explore religion and my relationship with God from different perspectives ...

Saturday, 21st July 2012 at 6:37PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

John Biggam

John Biggam

Posts: 1

Anything that assists in bringing people to Christ must be good. I am tempted to say "What's in a name?". Do Eastern Christians not call God Allah anyway.

Saturday, 21st July 2012 at 9:12PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

John Hillman

John Hillman

Posts: 4

We have had to develop names and descriptions for the Chinese over the years, as they already had a king of heaven, and numerous other titles have been problematic. The title God for instance, they have many gods depending on the peoples group and belief system. I am happy with Isa but not sure about Allah, would prefer the Supreme of Sovereign God.

Tuesday, 21st August 2012 at 7:27PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

John Hillman

John Hillman

Posts: 4

1 John v 1 would make interesting reading for any muslim: In the begining was Isa the word, and Isa the word was with God, and Isa the word was God. There goes the fact that according to the Prophet Muhammad Jesus was a prophet! Jesus is now God.

Tuesday, 21st August 2012 at 7:43PM

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Jonathan Bush

Jonathan Bush

Posts: 18

In principle, it is a god idea, in the same way as it is to translate the Bible into dialects understandable by different ethnic groups or tribes. I don't know where I would be in someone hadn't translated the Bible into English. BUT, in this case, I believe, on balance, that it is a mistake. The problem is that the names are already known words, with known meanings and connotations. To a Muslim, "Isa" is a prophet, but not the Son of God. The "Allah" describes in Muslim writings in not consistent with the God, Elohim, YHVH of the Bible. So, I believe that to use these names would be to confuse, not enlighten.

Saturday, 21st July 2012 at 11:34PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Jonathan Bush

Jonathan Bush

Posts: 18

[sigh] "a good idea" is what I meant to say

Saturday, 21st July 2012 at 11:35PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Graham

Graham

Posts: 2

The names in English Bibles are anglicized, we don't use their 'real' names we pronounce our words differently. So Isa for Jesus seems reasonable, I know in in Romanian it's Isus, and if Allah merely means 'God' then it's fine but it is a name 'of' God then it's not. I wouldn't expect a Greek Bible to use Zeus for God.

Saturday, 21st July 2012 at 11:53PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Tom. Nabogi

Tom. Nabogi

Posts: 3

dont think it is right....allah means the unknown god....as paul said in his letters...I know in whom I believe..i.e . The Lord , God, JEHOVAH...there is no place for compromise...

Monday, 23rd July 2012 at 12:39PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

hawk

hawk

Posts: 3

God and allah are not the same. God sent his only Son "JESUS" allah aparently says jesus was a good man????????

Tuesday, 21st August 2012 at 4:11PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

hawk

hawk

Posts: 3

out of curiostiy how do people who say they are the same view the number of Christians murdered in the name ofallah.Does God agree with the killing of His people??

Tuesday, 21st August 2012 at 4:17PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

John Hillman

John Hillman

Posts: 4

Surely we should ask muslims who have converted to christianity, who it was they saw that lead them to the truth, was it Isa - Jesus the prophet, Isa al-Masih - Jesus the Messiah, God, The Holy Spirit, who? What do they call him? Messianic Jews have their name for Jesus. Abraham was still father to the Arab nation as well so he is acceptable.

Tuesday, 21st August 2012 at 7:51PM

Reply to this comment

0Thumbs Down
0Thumbs Up

Did you find this comment useful?

Leave A Comment

Leave your comments or suggestions in regards to this article.

Most Popular Articles
Advent Reflection: 3rd December - Cathy Madavan
Posted on Saturday 3rd of December
Advent Reflection: 2nd December - Gemma Willis
Posted on Friday 2nd of December
Advent Reflection: 1st December - Andy Robb
Posted on Thursday 1st of December
An Updated Guide to Advent Studies
Posted on Tuesday 22nd of November
What Are Eden Bundles?
Posted on Friday 11th of November
Advent Reflection: 3rd December - Cathy Madavan
Posted on Saturday 3rd of December
Advent Reflection: 2nd December - Gemma Willis
Posted on Friday 2nd of December
Advent Reflection: 1st December - Andy Robb
Posted on Thursday 1st of December
An Updated Guide to Advent Studies
Posted on Tuesday 22nd of November
What Are Eden Bundles?
Posted on Friday 11th of November
What Are Eden Bundles?
Posted on Friday 11th of November
Creating an all age, fun, and messy church
Posted on Wednesday 28th of March

Updates from the live @Edencouk twitter feed!

Twitter Seperator
Don't forget to follow us @edencouk
Recent Article Comments
No Comments.

Nia Wright has made 0 posts.

34 useful comments

A Reader has made 0 posts.

16 useful comments

Les Ellison has made 54 posts.

10 useful comments

Lyn Myers has made 5 posts.

8 useful comments

James Warwood has made 4 posts.

8 useful comments

Last updated: 24 mins ago