Over the last few months I have been doing some research on a shadowy figure in the world of Bible translation. Today is a good day to reveal his true identity as Dr Wayne Grudleman.
My research about this man has been somewhat complicated by the confusing and sometimes contradictory information about him which has appeared on the Internet, that notoriously unreliable medium. Even the infamous Wikipedia gives completely wrong information. Some of the confusion may be because he seems to use a variety of pseudonyms for the various books he has published, including theological works and collections of poetry, and for the various blogs and other websites he contributes to. Some of these pseudonyms are abbreviated versions of his full name, another one is a “spoonerism” based on it, and at least two others, “Benjamin A. Mann” and “Eddie Torr”, appear to have some symbolic significance.
I was even confused myself when recently I compared “Wayne Grudem” and CJ Mahaney. I now suspect that “Grudem” is a portmanteau pseudonym for Grudleman and Mahaney, perhaps used for works that they authored together, and the “Grudem” photo may be a Photoshop stitch-up of Grudleman’s face and Mahaney’s bald pate!
Indeed the variety of these names, and the spelling errors which are so common on the Internet, have led me and others to wonder if, even apart from the Mahaney link, two or even more different people are being confused here. There is certainly some evidence for this in inconsistent behaviour; for example, how can a man who teaches that a husband has authority over his wife also move house to meet his wife’s needs? Nevertheless, my researches have proved that the same man did both of these things, and indeed today it seems certain that there is just one Dr Wayne Grudleman.
So, what do we know about Dr Grudleman? Many things remain unclear. Very little is known about his early life except for some sources suggesting that he was born in Alaska. He is known to have studied at Harvard and Cambridge. He seems to have spent some time in Illinois, where he studied theology and perhaps also taught it. It appears to have been during this time that his wife became sick. And so for the sake of her health Dr Grudelman and his family moved west. According to different sources they moved to Montana, Arizona or Washington state; probably in fact he has spent time in all of these places.
It was perhaps in Montana that Dr Grudleman became involved with a strange group called something like the Complee Mentare. It is unclear to me whether these people are Native Americans or a religious cult which settled there to escape persecution in Europe and in the north-eastern states. They have a number of unusual customs, especially at their Sunday morning popular gatherings. They have been accused of supporting slavery, and that their women are treated as slaves, but they deny this. They are also fighting a bitter war with another group from which they split quite recently, the Egal Litare, and this war is causing huge casualties among the Complee Mentare. The cause of the conflict seems to be that the Complee Mentare accused the Egal Litare of treating women too well, which was seen as abandoning tribal customs and assimilating with mainstream American culture.
For most purposes the Complee Mentare and the Egal Litare speak standard English. But for religious purposes the former and some of the latter use an obscure language called Biblish. Biblish was once widely spoken, and a Bible translation into it was published as early as 1611, but there are no remaining mother tongue speakers. Many of the Egal Litare have abandoned Biblish completely and use standard English even for religious purposes, but the Complee Mentare consider this to be treachery. One odd feature of Biblish is that it has borrowed many standard English words but often with a meaning different very from the English meaning; for example, the Biblish word “suffer” means “allow”, “helper” means “slave”, and “brother” means “brother or sister”.
One unfortunate consequence of the dispute between the Complee Mentare and the Egal Litare was on Bible translation. A good new translation into Biblish was completed before the two groups finally split, but after the split this was rejected by the Complee Mentare because its translators wanted to revise it to use some English loan words supposed to be features of the Egal Litarian dialect of Biblish. Some years ago a group of Complee Mentarian leaders met with Dr Grudleman at a place called Colorado Springs and produced a Statement accusing the translators of this new version of Egal Litarian sympathies and demanding a new translation in the strict Complee Mentarian dialect of Biblish.
The details of what then happened are obscure, but it seems that Dr Grudleman became the driving force, although not the official leader, in another Biblish Bible translation project. Although some sources claim that Dr Grudleman spent 30 years translating this Bible, others say that the translation was completed in less than five years. The resulting translation is known as the ESV. This is said to stand for “English Standard Version”. But we must remember that this a Biblish name and so does not mean what it would mean in English; in particular, the Biblish word “English” in fact means “Biblish”. So the name should probably be translated something like “Biblish Special Purpose Translation”.
Meanwhile yet another Bible translation has appeared, known as TNIV, in what has been described as a cross between Biblish and English. Although the translators claim to be Complee Mentarian, this version is anathema to Dr Grudleman and many of the Complee Mentare, who have misrepresented this version as Egal Litarian propaganda.
Since the publication of these two new translations one of Dr Grudleman’s main activities has been writing on the Internet. It is hard to track these publications because of the various pseudonyms he has used, and because of conflicting reports about his past activities. Also some of the evidence has disappeared: a few years ago I was personally involved in a discussion group with him (and with his alter ego Benjamin A. Mann) about his theology of male representation, but this discussion has been deleted, perhaps because the arguments in the group showed all too clearly the flaws in this theology.
In particular it has been alleged that Dr Grudleman is the author of a list of hundreds of alleged inaccuracies in the TNIV. The number of these inaccuracies or “changes” has been variously given as 901, 910 and even 3,686! But the real situation seems to be given in Dr Grudleman’s Better Bibles Blog, where there is a list of only eight “comments” on TNIV. Perhaps this is another case of controversy disappearing into the ether. I hope so.
Meanwhile there seem to be some rumours that Dr Grudleman is now trying to act as a peacemaker between the Complee Mentare and the Egal Litare. After all, even the strictest of the Complee Mentare must realise that if they continue to fight they can only destroy themselves. I hope that these rumours are also true.