05 September 2006

Who's afraid of TNIV?

by Frank Turk

Well, this came up at my blog after I had some e-mails go-round with some other CBA retailers, and I thought I drag it over here to really start the sparks flying. And I'm writing this at 10 AM on Tuesday just after Dan put up his "I ain't got nuttin' yet" post to the beloved Adrian Warnock, so part of this is motivated by the impulse to keep Dan off the top line of the blog.

Well, TNIV: So what?

You know: we don’t intentionally carry TNIV at my bookstore -- because there's better things to do on a daily basis than argue with people who are uninformed on both sides of the argument over the thing.

But just as an example of what's happening in the real world, my wife today was helping a girl who our church sponsors as a missionary to Hungary select a new Bible. She's been using an NIV, but her Dad uses both KJV and NASB, and she was interested in what the differences were.

OK: let me say clearly now that there's really nothing wrong with the NIV. If you understand the method of translation used, the degree to which it was used, and you account for those things as you study, there's really nothing wrong with the NIV. I sell a lot of NIV bibles, and no wonder: it's the best-selling translation in English by far.

That said, what is the method of translation of the NIV? Why doesn't it read like the KJV or even the ESV or NASB? Without producing here a dissertation on translation methods, let me give you the cook's tour.

All translation is an attempt to "get" the meaning from the original language into the grammar and vocabulary of another language. Some people say this effort is 100% futile, and to them we say, "la vostra madre è in modo da il grasso, il suo cappotto della casa è una casa." If they are offended, we say in response, "No kidding? How can you be sure we offended you -- aside from the terrible babelfish translation?"

For the rest of you, the sane people, there is a spectrum of translation methods available which really chart the "kind" of translation you are trying to achieve. A very fair summary of the kinds of translations we may see can be found here at wikipedia. The NIV is a fine example of a Bible which tries to play the middle of the road: it tries to balance formal equivalence with dynamic equivalence in order to render the best translation for the sake of the reader. It doesn’t hardly have the degree of concordance that the NASB or KJV have, but it didn't set out to render the text word-for-word.

And therein lies the rub, as they say.

Translating a yo' mama joke and translating Romans 1:16 are two very different things -- if for no other reason than Rom 1:16 is (by orthodox reckoning) the very word of God written down. You might want to haggle over the issue of the value or quality of the critical text, but if you do then this blog entry isn’t for you: you're far smarter than me.

My point is that if we place a certain value on how the original language was employed (for example, under the sovereignty of God, the very words breathed out by God), then we are going to use a very different approach to translating that content than we would if we were trying to translate the pun "No Jesus, No Peace; Know Jesus, Know Peace".

So seriously: what's wrong with TNIV?

The NIV takes some liberty with the literal source text -- for the sake of communicating idioms or putting some statements into modern day terms. I guess there's not much wrong with that if you understand that it is going on.

But TNIV has a problem in that it seems to make no assumptions about inspiration in applying its translation methodology. Rather than striking a balance between dynamic equivalence and formal equivalence, it veers toward paraphrastic or idiomatic translation which abjectly removes significant meanings from the text and replaces them with other less-precise meanings.

My opinion (as a retailer and a guy who reads a lot of books) is that what happened in the TNIV was not so much a new approach to Bible translation as it was a new vocabulary -- a vocabulary very frankly loaded with a political agenda. For example, when Heb 12:7 renders the reference to God not as "father" but makes God a nondescript "parent" (when the Greek is explicit that it is a loving father who disciplines his son), there has been something more than "the broader thought expressed in the source" being expressed here.

So why should you care?

You should care for these reasons:

[1] We live in an age where language is used as a weapon, and when we surrender the language of a debate we are conceding a large part of the battle. If we are a people who believe in inerrancy, we have to fight the battle for translations which do not take excessive liberty with the inspired text.

[2] We are not KJVO nuts. You might like your NIV, or your HCSB, and I might like my NASB and ESV. If we can appreciate the kinds of translations each of these tools are, we can use them effectively to disciple others and be discipled. However, if we allow all kinds of translations with less-than-transparent methodological goals in mind to set the stage for discipleship, we have to ask ourselves why William Tyndale was willing to die for the sake of replacing the Vulgate with his English translation. Was it merely to update language, or was there a greater need when he found that the Latin did not say what the Hebrew and Greek said? How much more should we, who have the Bible in completely-sufficient translation today, accept a significantly-inferior translation for the sake of "reaching out"?

[3] We cannot let the marketplace means of distributing the Bible become ends in and of themselves. Let's face it: the Bible sells. And if you change the binding on a Bible, you can sell more Bibles because some people will want to trade up or trade over or simply get a second (or third) Bible because it's pretty. But can we allow this reality to allow the church to adopt a consumer mentality toward the Bible so that even the very words of the translation are commoditized? Can it be that the KJV was a standard which lasted 400 years, but the NIV needs an update after only 30 years? Or have we -- the church -- allowed the Bible to become a thing which secular interests now bait us with, as if God's word has changed over time?

If the TNIV were an improvement in some way, I wouldn't even bring it up. But when it is clearly an attempt both to remerchandise the NIV and to make inroads into the crucial doctrinal issues in our day, I think we should think long and hard about whether we can just let this one go by.

Especially, btw, when we are dealing with anti-intellectual pomos onto-modernists who don't think doctrine really matters anyway.








91 comments:

Stephen Dunning said...

We do not stock the TNIV in our bookshop either - mainly because of my concerns over the translation matters you raised.

It is a great thing to have the Bible in English as we think of many parts of the world with little or no Scripture in their native language.

The problem I see often is that we now have too any English translations (off my head: NIV, TNIV, CEV, NCV, NASB, KJV, NKJV, ESV, NLT, GNB,JB, NJB, RSV, NRSV, NEB, REB, NIRV, Message). People who come in wanting a Bible really get confused. I try to minimise the number of versions stocked to about 5 because of this. I wish that when people sit down to produce YAEVB (Yet Another English Version of the Bible) they would direct their energies to the parts of the world without.

Praise God for the English Bible - but how I wish it wasn't so much a marketing exercise as an evangelistic one. I confess to feeling somewhat guilty in selling Bibles for a profit, yet one has to if one is to sell Christian literature and survive.

goodnightsafehome said...

I know the issues are not as always as clear cut as the debaters would like them to be, but I really do believe that when the NIV popularised the dynamic equivalence method, they helped open the door to all kinds of things.

If we put what we perceive to be the correct interpretation of a verse into the very text itself, then we have no means of searching the Scriptures seeing these things are so. The translator's job is to translate what is there in the Greek or Hebrew text. It is the preacher's job to explain the meaning and apply it.

All the TNIV people have done is push the boat out a little further. On what consistent basis can NIV people deny the TNIV the liberties to put what they (the TNIVers) think God meant to say?

Wayne Leman said...

Can it be that the KJV was a standard which lasted 400 years, but the NIV needs an update after only 30 years?

I won't address the issue of language change here. But I do know that the NIV needed updating to be more accurate. For instance, in several verses it translated Greek tis (which means 'anyone') with the word "man". The ESV and HCSB, both of which follow the CSG, accurately translate tis as 'anyone.' That is gender-accurate translation, not gender-neutralization since there was no "man" (male adult) in the verses with tis to start with. There were other places where the NIV CBT had heard other scholars decry some weaker translation in the NIV and they had also found some passages like that themselves, and they needed to update those passages so that they would be more accurate.

From my own POV, the CBT could have made those revisions and still called it the NIV. Many versions, including the KJV, the NIV itself at times, TEV, NET, etc., have undergone revisions of which the public has often not been aware unless they do some word by word comparisons which few people have the patience or time to do.

Stephen Dunning said:

I wish that when people sit down to produce YAEVB (Yet Another English Version of the Bible) they would direct their energies to the parts of the world without.

I could not agree more. I work as a translator for Bibleless peoples and I feel grief when another English Bible is produced, sometimes at the cost of several million dollars, when that same money could have been directed to pay the salaries of national translators around the world who desire to help put God's Word into their own languages.

We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to English Bibles.

David Landricombe said...

We do stock the TNIV in our bookshop, unfortunately, but only because customers have specifically asked for it. We do make sure we explain the differences to people though.

I just checked - we have 2 TNIV's on the shelf against 22 NIV's.

That seems about right to me.

H.C. Ross said...

Goodnightsafehome,

I understand your concerns about the dynamic equivalence trend, but once the decision to put the Word in the hands of the laity is made (as the humanists and Reformers so valiantly did, PTL!) I think there are places in Scripture that cry out for such an interpretive approach. Otherwise laypeople would read stuff like the following (Hebrews 12:7, which Turk cited):

"if chastening ye endure, as to sons God beareth Himself to you, for who is a son whom a father doth not chasten?"

... or this (Song 5:4):

"My beloved sent his hand from the net-work, And my bowels were moved for him."

I think we have the potential for a slippery slope here, and I'm grateful for folks like Turk and yourself who keep an eye out for it, but I don't feel like we're anywhere near a crisis yet with something like the TNIV.

To me the bigger problem is getting laypeople to understand that having three Bibles is not the same as just reading ONE of them and doing what it says.

H.C. Ross said...

I was quoting Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1862/1898), BTW.

Peter Kirk said...

Frank, have you actually read the TNIV, or any significant parts of it? It seems that almost certainly you have not, except for a few verses which people have complained about. It seems that you have simply accepted uncritically other people's complaints. It may or may not be significant that those who have complained loudest have mostly been associated with TNIV's commercial rival ESV. I would expect that you as a bookseller would be very wary of what looks like covert advertising.

If you read TNIV and compare it with NIV, you will find that there is no significant difference between their translation philosophies. Indeed there are rather few differences between the actual translations, and (from studies done for the Better Bibles Blog) most of those changes have actually been towards more literal renderings.

You imply that TNIV has changed "father" in Hebrews 12:7 NIV to "parent". In fact it has not. In this verse TNIV has changed "sons" to "children", the same rendering of the same Greek word as in Matthew 5:9 KJV (and TNIV). Anyway, "father" here is not a reference to God, as translations make clear by not using a capital letter. Please get your facts right.

And then as for "clearly an attempt ... to make inroads into the crucial doctrinal issues in our day", the best thing I can say about this is that it is a lie. It looks like a deliberate barefaced lie intended to libel your Christian brothers and sisters, most of whom have a doctrinal position very similar to yours, who have laboured for years to present the inspired text of the Bible in a form suitable for today's audience. Please retract this unwarranted slur.

Peter Kirk said...

For more on the translation philosophy of TNIV, see this article. Note how the translation committee places it at the same point of balance as NIV.

Kim said...

I have always found it quite striking to see how many different versions of the bible exist out there, and yet many people still seem to be biblically illiterate.

centuri0n said...

Peter:

I enjoy it when a diverse group of objectors which include people from across the spectrum from MacArthur and Piper to Neil Anderson and James Dobson is called "uncritical".

The whole of their objections, and the complete list of these objectors, can be found here, including the 110 signatories.

There's more to say on this subject, and to your post. I'm of to work, and I'll get back to you later today.

Somebody in this meta already said that it's an embarassment when a new translation in English appears. Do you know why so many surface? It's profitable to own the rights to a translation of the Bible in English. Zondervan now owns 2, and is seeking to replace the NIV with TNIV by refusing to renew the rights of other publishers to to use NIV (for example, in Bible Promise books). I wonder: is that a ministry-motivated effort? I am really jaded to see that as strictly driven by a buck?

More later. This is important stuff.

centuri0n said...

Wayne: a deleted your duplicate post.

I'll get back to you, also. :-)

Peter Kirk said...

I should clarify that apparently in Hebrews 12:7 the original NT only release of TNIV did use "parents":

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For
what children are not disciplined by their parents?


But this was changed later, probably when the OT was released. The current text is:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

Apparently the translators have realised that there was a valid criticism here and have corrected the translation accordingly.

Peter Kirk said...

Centuri0n, I don't seek to defend Zondervan and their commercial methods. I consider it sad when Bible translations are controlled by ultimately secular companies. But that is what happens when a country is controlled by the profit motive to the extent that yours, or even mine, is. At least here in the UK it is impossible for commercial companies to take over charities.

But I do want to defend the TNIV translation as good and valid, and as a necessary update to NIV, to reflect the change in gender-related language. NIV had become particularly misleading in its use of phrases like "any man", e.g. 1 Corinthians 3:12 NIV, which most current English readers understand as gender specific but which usually reflects a Greek text and a meaning which is entirely gender generic. I don't think this was good English even in the 1970's, but it certainly isn't now. So something needed to be done.

I would have preferred to see TNIV marketed as a new edition of NIV, and the old edition phased out, but IBS and Zondervan were unable to do that because in 1997 they were made to promise not to withdraw the current NIV. And yes, commercial interests may have had something to do with it as well - commercial interests driven by the way many bookstores are boycotting TNIV. So you can hardly complain of Zondervan's commercial manipulation of the Bible market when your own store is doing the same.

I did not in fact call "uncritical" the complaints "from MacArthur and Piper to Neil Anderson and James Dobson", but only your complaints. But I do wonder how many of these complainers have actually read much of TNIV, and have not simply accepted at face value the rhetoric from CBMW and World Magazine. You all need to do your research and find out if TNIV is really as bad as you have heard.

SFB said...

Forgive me ahead of time if I sound as though I am trying to foster a debate over "inspired translations" (I am not)...

Doesn't it seem odd that there are translations (like Wycliffe, Tyndale, and later the KJV work) that were so dear and precious to their translators that they, as was noted before, were willing to be killed for their positions re: the Bible in English?

Where is the Wycliffe or the Tyndale being tied to a stake and charged with sedition and heresy for their work on the NIV or TNIV or any of the other translations that the PUBLISHERS saw as necessary? At least in the time of the older classic translations, they were made because of a real pressing need. Biblical illiteracy and failure to study doesn't excuse people from being able to understand the Bible. (I even understood the YLT verses that were quoted, and I am no scholar; I was just raised hearing and reading the KJV.)

geekforgreek said...

My concern is with passages such as Psalm 8:4 which has the phrase "son of man" altered although the psalm is quoted in Hebrews 2:6

I hope the TNIV publishers have changed such instances, but if not I'm afraid it is a clear indictment of the authority of scripture by ignoring what the canon has to say about the canon.

David said...

Several pieces of raw meat for the fray.

1. The KJV was changed significantly over it's 400 year reign. It did not get a rename untill recently, but it has had thousands (hundreds of thousands) of changes. Simply because it did not get a name change doesnt change the facts.

2. Motivation always matters. It provides the basis for understanding how the translators ended up at a certain point.

3. If the The New NIV folks were so concerned about profit, how come they sent me one for free? I suppose it might of been a marketing ploy (upgrade to the leather seats and all that) but I and alot of others did get a free one mailed to them.

4. Mark Roberts series on the new NIV is excellent - go read it now, before you post on the subject. Apostate denomination or not, Pastor Roberts is a Godly, insiteful blogger.

5. Is it Zondrvans fault that Christians are a vain, ego driven lot? Are they leading or simply providing what the masses want? Is it the bakerys fault for making donuts, or yours for eating 20 at a time

more later - time to take the kids to school

Peter Kirk said...

The KJV translators were not accused of heresy but were sponsored by a king. Does that make their translation of less value than Tyndale's?

Fortunately alleged heretics no longer have to fear for their lives in western countries today. Otherwise I guess the TNIV translators would be in hiding for fear that charges would be laid against them.

Geek, I think you need to understand Hebrews 2:6 properly. This is not a reference to Jesus, but to humanity. Hence the small letters in most Bible versions. See this explanation of TNIV's rendering of Hebrews 2:6, also this one on Hebrews 12:7 (which uses the old TNIV text).

DJP said...

Frank --

1. You are such a punk.

2. ...let me say clearly now that there's really nothing wrong with the NIV. If you understand the method of translation used, the degree to which it was used, and you account for those things as you study, there's really nothing wrong with the NIV. I sell a lot of NIV bibles, and no wonder: it's the best-selling translation in English by far.

So...
a. Forty million retail customers can't be wrong?
b. "If you understand the method of translation used" -- is that a little like, "Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?" And on that same note...
c. Is it okay if I understand the method of translation used, and still don't think much of the NIV?

3. Don't you be talking about my mother.

4. I'd like the NIV better if it were called the "New International Targum."

5. The TNIV's is a "vocabulary very frankly loaded with a political agenda." True that; and a rotten one, and a fad, to boot.

5. In addition to your very appropos criticisms of the TNIV, it is a sneaky and ill-begotten trainwreck. And I'd have you note what sorts will tend to defend it.

Not that I have an opinion.

Dan

Habitans in Sicco said...

My Italian is rusty, so I put your post through Google's Italian-to-English translator. Voila:

"Your mother is so as to the fat person, its coat of the house is one house."

I couldn't tell: was that supposed to be an insult?

Trinian said...

I'd just like to take the opportunity to encourage people to take the time to learn the original languages. Not to appear more intelligent, or to know "The True Truth", or to impress your friends at a party - but to increase your knowledge and love for God.
In my small experience, most translations do an adequate job - they really do. I've yet to find some stunning new truth from the greek which turns everything on its head and opens the pathways to salvation and blessing that wasn't already laid out quite well in the English.
However, there is SO MUCH in the text that no English translation can properly bring across. If you've ever studied another language, you probably know exactly what I'm talking about. Seeing all the marvelous stuff teeming behind the surface of the text has given me an even greater love for the wonderful gift that God has given us in His Word.
But the greatest benefit that studying these languages has given me (so far) is a basis on which to trust my English translations. That's mainly what it boils down to for me is trusting my Bible. When I'm reading my Bible, I need to trust that what it says there is reasonably accurate and complete - and testing the version against Greek (and hopefully, eventually, Hebrew) gives me a basis for that trust.
There's so much more I could say, but this is getting far too long. I just want to give encouragement - it has been an amazing enrichment to my study and love of God.

centuri0n said...

Peter --

The Hebrews 12 issue hasn't gone away. Let me show you what I mean.

Here's the NIV for vv. 7-11:

"7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

Here's TNIV:

"7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate children at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had parents who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 Our parents disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

Now let's be serious: just because they tweaked the one verse where there was a lightning rod from criticism, have we resolved the problem of the actual text -- which is that God has a fatherly right to chastize us and not merely some vague parental right?

More later.

centuri0n said...

Habitans:

The italian is the babelfish translation of the retort, "Your mother is so fat, her house coat is a house."

Steve said...

David said, "If the The New NIV folks were so concerned about profit, how come they sent me one for free? I suppose it might of been a marketing ploy (upgrade to the leather seats and all that) but I and alot of others did get a free one mailed to them."

David, you can rest assured that your free TNIV was not sent to you for purely magnanimous reasons, but with the hope the freebie would help sparks sales of the TNIV.

Very telling is what one of Zondervan's former senior marketing director, Greg Stielstra, wrote in his book PyroMarketing in connection with Rick Warren's book The Purpose-Driven Life: "A mass marketing approach would reason that the best prospects for The Purpose-Driven Life were people who hadn't yet bought it. But Zondervan's research suggested something dramatically different. The best prospect for The Purpose-Driven Life was the person who already owned a copy. Not only would they willingly recommend it to strangers, but also about half of them were willing to buy between one and ten more! Customer evangelists had gone beyond simply telling others about the book; they were actually buying and distributing additional copies! The key to igniting new prospects for The Purpose-Driven life was not tossing matches on new markets; it was fanning the flames of existing customer evangelists."

So...those free TNIVs that were given out were most likely distributed to help ignite customer evangelists who would, in turn, buy other copies and recommend the TNIV to others.

Simple rule of a for-profit corporation: No one can afford to give away a product for a loss unless that loss is made up elsewhere.

One EXTREMELY important point here: Any marketing decision made by the marketing gurus at Zondervan should NOT be taken to reflect the attitude or motivation of everyone at Zondervan!!!! There are some good people in the company, and readers of this blog shouldn't be quick to apply guilt by association here.

If you want to see purer motives in action in regard to Bibles, just look at Tyndale House and what Ken Taylor, the publisher, did with The Living Bible. Much as some of us criticize that particular product, we cannot help but respect that Ken Taylor took absolutely no royalties, and turned every penny of gain from The Living Bible over to missions work--many millions of dollars.

8:45 AM, September 06, 2006

Chip said...

I was once in a bookstore where a lady approached the counter in search of the TNIV and asked the clerk for "the new, non-sexist Bible."

The implications of her request seemed plain to me. She wanted God's Word to conform to her predetermined worldview rather than conform her worldview to God's Word.

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

So what is a lay person with no skill at learning ancient languages to do? Really, foot notes would help, right? Or side by side translations?

Interesting that in this day and age of so many translations, we have a resurgance of the Biblical inerrancy philosoply, yet we don't really have any of the ORIGINAL texts to compare our translations to.

But we do have lots of ancient texts that have variations. Are these variations just sloppiness or are they also a political adgenda of the copiers and ancient translators?

Even if we were able to have the exact original text and take an exact literal reading of it, we might miss the actual meaning of the words, as the Pharasees missed the Christ, even though they knew the scriptures.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

If we are going to recognize the concerns of the 110 signers of a statement of concern, many of which know little about Greek and translation theory, we should be willing to listen to those who do and find the translation to be of no concern at all. Three of the best NT scholars evangelicalism has to offer have found the TNIV to be a good and accurate translation. Darrell Bock , Craig Blomberg, and DA Carson have all given careful reviews of the text and have found it a reliable translation.

I've been using the TNIV for the last year (along with the NIV) and I have found that the TNIV is a much needed update. The gender stuff is not that noticeable unless you are not used to it. Certain contexts, like on a college campus, it makes perfect sense. In others, like a long time RSV or KJV reader it is archaic.

As far as the politics and the regard for inspiration theory of the translators have, I think attributing a sinister agenda and a lack of theological care to their methods serves to stir up dissension.

Steve said...

Adam O said: "Three of the best NT scholars evangelicalism has to offer have found the TNIV to be a good and accurate translation."

Are you aware that theologian Wayne Grudem has very competently responded to Blomberg, Bock, and Carson (as well as Bradley and Waltke) in an excellent article in Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Fall 2002 issue? The title is "Are the Criticisms of the TNIV Bible Really Justified?" The article is long, but Grudem does a superb job of demonstrating problems with Blomberg, Bock, and Carson's affirmations of the TNIV.

Sojourner said...

Frank or Dan or both,

Have you guys found a scholarly critique of the HCSB? The ESV seems to have gotten all the attention, and I'd like to find a good review of the former. Any suggestions? (Hopefully not too far off topic.)

DJP said...

Here's your scholarly review:

I like parts of it a whole lot; other parts make my brain itch.

(c;

(Or, in other words, not yet.)

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Steve:

I read Grudem's article and I cannot agree with your assesment that it was "superb."

Much of my mind was changed on this issue by a debate (available on CBMW's website) between Mark Strauss and Wayne Grudem where Strauss effectively dismantled Grudem's arguments (which was no small task, I assure you). I don't know why they put it on their website, it doesn't do them any favors.

SolaMeanie said...

I think one salient question is "what is the motivation and reason for those making the changes to the text?"

Is it really because such "gender" terms etc. are more accurate, or is it because of political correctness and a desire to push an agenda in a subtle fashion? If the MEANING of a word or passage is changed, that is not translation or even a paraphrase. It smacks more of propaganda.

We rightly chide the Jehovah's Witnesses for the pathetic Watchtower New World Translation, a classic being their handling of John 1:1. While some of these newer "orthodox" translations might not go that far, some of them play awfully fast and loose with words.

I prefer NASB for a reason, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the KJV and other reputable translations. However, I look with great askance at new translations that change wording for political and sociological reasons.

centuri0n said...

HCSB: It's the SBC NIV. The SBC has wanted to use the NIV for a decade in Sunday school material, and they do (or did) -- and paid royalties to Zondervan. When they realized that they could save a ton of money by getting their own "optimal" translation -- in spite of the cost to get it finished -- they chose to mint the HCSB. I am sure Holman has a different story to tell, but it's ironic, don't you think, that immediately upon the release of the HCSB, many (if not most) high-profile SBC pastors switched their pulpit to HCSB? And how Lifeway Sunday school now uses it almost exclusively ("almost" becuase it still uss the KJV as well)?

It's utterly sordid. One of the ugliest aspects of being in Christian publishing by a long shot.

Sojourner said...

Frank,

Yes, I know it seems that it was all about the Benjamins, but that still doesn't make it a shoddy translation...except for Ephesians 2:2 that states that we previously "walked according to this worldly age, according to the ruler of the atmospheric domain". Atmospheric domain? Are you kidding me? Accurate? Maybe. Sound utterly ridiculous? Positively.

I'm trying to give it a chance. It may still be pretty good. Maybe. Perhaps. Just waiting for a decent critique from someone besides me.

DJP said...

So... what am I? Chopped livah?

(Thump, thump) Is this thing working?

H.C. Ross said...

Now's probably a good time to rehash the worthwhile point that there are still thousands of people groups on our planet without A VERSE of God's Word in their own language.

H.C. Ross said...

Here's a nifty 3-D pie chart that reveals the translation challenge worldwide, courtesy of Wycliffe:

http://www.wycliffe.org/wbt-usa/trangoal.htm

donsands said...

There's nothing more important than the truth of God's Holy Word.

I appreciate this post. And I appreciate the comments. We need to be fearful in keeping God's Word pure.

There are so many in the Church today, who would say, "Version smersion! Let's just love one another.

Thanks again for the good post.

Sojourner said...

Dan,

I was too embarrassed to address you directly twice in one day. It's one of the drawbacks of being a fanboy. If I had the courage, I would tell you that it gives me the same feeling, which is why I quoted the 'atmospheric domain' verse.

Even So... said...

It all comes down to

WHY?


We wanted to because...the "why" gives you your focus as to intent...

What I want to hear is the TNIV folk state that they did this, not to ease sensibilites, but to glorify God with a more accurate rendering, and then defend that...

why?........

Taliesin said...

Sojourner,

You might want to look at this (a PDF file) from the Shepherd's conference. It is a "shotgun" look at various translations (the author's metaphor) but the HCSB ranked high.

That said, I don't particularly care for it. I've been using the ESV recently but I'm thinking about switching back to the NASB.

I'm no fan of the NIV, or Zondervan, so I'm not going to use the TNIV. But from a marketing standpoint I wonder if the TNIV's closest cousin isn't "New Coke"?

Peter Kirk said...

Centuri0n, what exactly is the difference between a fatherly right and a parental right, when held by a father?

Steve, if Grudem's response to Blomberg, Bock, Carson, Bradley and Waltke shows the same level of competence at the Greek language as some of his other work, it is not worth the paper it is printed on.

Solameanie, I also "look with great askance at new translations that change wording for political and sociological reasons." But this is not true of TNIV, the changes were made to preserve accuracy as the English language changes.

Sojourner, for a review of HCSB see This Lamp. But I consider that the story behind ESV is even more sordid than that behind HCSB.

"Even so" says, "What I want to hear is the TNIV folk state that they did this, not to ease sensibilites, but to glorify God with a more accurate rendering, and then defend that... If you are sincere in this desire, try looking at the TNIV website, which explains its translation philosophy and defends many TNIV readings.

centuri0n said...

Peter Kirk:

The simple, direct answer to your question is "the difference between a man and a woman; the difference between a husband and a wife; the difference between a father and a mother."

For example, God is never called the mother of Christ, is He? Now, why do you think that is? Is it because the Jews were sexists or merely culturally patriarchical (is thata word?), or is it because God positions Himself as King and Father which have a specific meaning in the order of things?

It's fine, I guess, to say that "parents have equal rights to discipline children", but what Heb 12 is talking about here is not right but authority and responsibility to discipline. To say that a father ought to discipline his children (which is what the text here says) is saying something about the order of things specifically in the case in which God is our Father.

If you'd rather have a watered down theology of family because God is only a "parent" and not a "father", I guess it doesn't matter how we translate Heb 12. On the other hand, if gender roles in marriage and family matter, then perhaps Heb 12 ought to be translated with a little more rigor.

There are a lot of very seemingly-rational reasons why the "gender inclusive" language is a good idea -- but the trap I see (and maybe it's just me) in this argument is that gender-inclusive is the default setting for translation rather than a choice requiring discernment.

TNIV does not exercise that kind of discernment. Sorry. We can find other examples if you want, but it goes too far in levelling the message of Scripture.

I have a paper by Strauss someone forwarded to me re: the arguments against TNIV's methodology, and it'll be my next big thing. It deserves a very clear response, and it'll get that from me.

Steve said...

Peter Kirk, quoting someone else, said, "Solameanie, I also 'look with great askance at new translations that change wording for political and sociological reasons.' But this is not true of TNIV, the changes were made to preserve accuracy as the English language changes."

Peter, for you to say the changes "were made to preserve accuracy" is quite a stretch when, for example, the third person masculine pronoun suffix in the Hebrew text of Psalm 34:20--"He protects all HIS bones, not one of them will be broken"--was altered in the TNIV to read, "He protects all THEIR bones."

Is that what you call a change to preserve accuracy?

Moreover, take a careful look at this key claim in the preface of the TNIV: "While a basic core of the English language remains relatively stable, many diverse and complex CULTURAL forces continue to bring about subtle shifts in the meanings and/or connotations of even old, well-established words and phrases."

What's deceptive here is that Zondervan claims that there have been subtle shifts in MEANING. This justification is used to explain why the TNIV translation committee took original Hebrew and Greek terms that were clearly male-oriented and neutralized them. Is such justified? No. The male-oriented words in English today (he, his, etc.) have NOT changed in meaning. There is no new or evolving substitute in the English language for "he" or "his" that has outdated those terms. So what prompted the International Bible Society to strip originally male-oriented Hebrew and Greek terms of their male orientation in the TNIV? Was it linguistic pressure? Not possible, since the actual words for Father, he, his, him, etc. are still the same. That leaves only one possibility: cultural pressure.

There is no reason to alter Hebrew and Greek text that possesses male-oriented meaning because the equivalent English terms used today have NOT changed in meaning. The word "their," no matter how you translate it, does NOT mean "he." Nor is it evolving in that direction. Sure, careless writers may substitute "he" with "their," but in terms of actual meaning of those two words, that is not happening.

Taliesin said...

If you'd rather have a watered down theology of family because God is only a "parent" and not a "father", I guess it doesn't matter how we translate Heb 12.

That, in a specific situation and more generally whether or not there are differences in roles for the genders, seems to me to be at the heart of the debate. Peter and many others supporting the TNIV are on record as seeing no distinction in roles for gender. Therefore, gender neutral language is not going to be an issue for them.

Lance Roberts said...

I like what James Jordan calls the NIV, the "New International Paraphrase".

There are many, many mistranslations in the NIV (you can find pages all over the internet) that make it clearly just a commentary, not a translation.

~Mark said...

I enjoy usnig the NIV for devotional reading, but turn to the NASB for serious study.
The bummer is that when you tell someone that the Bible contains the Word of God, they say "Which Bible"?

centuri0n said...

On the "sordid" ESV history:

I had an extended discussion via serve-list with Dr. Theodore Letis about the "sordid" ESV history as he was a primary opponent of the ESV. However, his objection is that its base English text is the somewhat-loose RSV, and that the whole project was a bit of a car wreck because it was using the critical text for Greek rather than the Textus receptus.

Unless you're willing to go a little saucer-eyed over the RSV, and unless you're willing to become an advocate of the "ecclesiastical text" (gosh, what a line of posts that would become), you can't really have a lot to say against the ESV's history as "sordid".

Stephen Dunning said...

One other problem I have with the TNIV is that it effectively means that there are 2 different NIVs around. I suspect many people have bought a TNIV without realising it was different. This addsto the confusion.

In the UK, the TNIV generally has nicer bindings than the NIV, which attracts people!

Libbie said...

Peter and many others supporting the TNIV are on record as seeing no distinction in roles for gender. Therefore, gender neutral language is not going to be an issue for them.

Taliesin, I take your point, but I would disagree that it's not an issue for them. I would say the conclusions they come to are certainly influenced by it being part of the issue for them.

R. Mansfield said...

Taliesin said, "Peter and many others supporting the TNIV are on record as seeing no distinction in roles for gender. Therefore, gender neutral language is not going to be an issue for them."

Nice generalization. I dont' think you can write off supporters of the TNIV that easily. I don't have a poll for the entire TNIV translation committee, but I do know that Douglas Moo and Bruce Waltke are complementarians, as are many of its supporters including D. A. Carson and Craig Keener.

I'll have you know that I am a Southern Baptist and a complementarian (which means that I DO see distinction in roles for gender), but I also support the TNIV. Of course, "gender neutral" is pretty much a pejorative slur, and not a designation I would use. But to me, gender-inclusiveness or gender-accuracy is about translating the meaning of the original languages as the writers intended. Is it always a clear science? No. There are places where I look at a particular rendering, and I think to myself, I wouldn't have done it that way. But overall, I support the concept because I see it as a means of accurate translation and clearly communicating the message of God's word.

Every recent translation on the market today is more gender inclusive than Bible versions of a previous generation--and that includes the HCSB (which I teach from on Sunday mornings) and the ESV.

But no, this is not an egalitarian/complementarian debate. It's just not that easy.

Blessings upon you all this day.

Taliesin said...

Libbie:

Point taken.

R Mansfield:

I know it is a generalization. I even avoided "most" and used "many" others. However, in my own experience (another qualifier), most outspoken proponents of the TNIV are egalitarians. Likewise, most outspoken opponents are complementarian. Therefore, it is hard not to see the debate falling along these lines.

The question is whether the issue it big enough to be worth the "fight". I, for one, am not arguing about the translators intent. My concern is about unintended consequences.

For example, the Bible, plainly, IMO, teaches that Adam is the representative for the whole race. One historic evidence of this is that "man" has stood as a word that can refer to the whole race. Mankind is clearly a reference to the whole race. Losing this representative terminology tends to downplay the Biblical stress on representation as a whole.

Should the TNIV become the translation of choice, I don't believe the concept will be lost. But I think the purpose of Bible translation should be to communicate Scriptural ideas as clearly as possible.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

RE: R Mansfield: Exactly. The fact that many of the scholars on the translation team were complementarians as are their defenders reveals an interesting caveate the "political" charges against the TNIV. Those who are making the charges are the ones who have a poltical ax to grind, because they are motivated by a fear of feminism and politcal correctness, or worse, the belief that that masculine pronouns have some hint of male headship. If the TNIV was truly a politically correct feminist Bible wouldn't it translate such hotly contested words like "head" as "source?"

No. This is clearly not the case as in all of their examination of Most-Requested Passage Explanations none of them appeal to the sensibilities of the culture. For example, in Psalm 34:20 the TNIV translators appeal to traditional methods of exegesis to render the passage "gender-accurate" (something much different than "gender-inclusive"). The same could be said about the Adam/human being controversy.

Lance Roberts said...

Modern man, steeped in feminism, wants to rid the world of the Father, and any trace of the God-proclaimed order of authority.

The TNIV caters to that rebellion.

-------------------

The problem with most modern translations is that they are based on corrupted texts.

donsands said...

lance,

What do you mean by corrupt texts? If you don't mind me asking.

Peter Kirk said...

True, God is never called the mother of Christ. But do you seriously believe that male gender is an attribute of God? I don't, and I don't think this is an orthodox belief. Note that both male and female humans are made in his image. Also there are many place in the Bible where God is likened to a mother, such as Isaiah 49:15.

Personally, I do not agree that "gender roles in marriage and family matter". At least, for me they are not theologically significant. In Christ gender roles, except for the most biological ones, have been done away with, for "There is ... neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28 TNIV). But then that is my personal theology, not that of the majority of the TNIV translation team who are complementarians.

Meanwhile my take on the "sordid" history of ESV is quite different from that of Dr Letis. It is to do with the way that ESV arose out of the Colorado Springs Guidelines controversy. But there is no room here to go into that.

Steve, Psalm 34:20 TNIV is an accurate translation of the Hebrew text, which refers to righteous people in general, male and female, and not originally to Christ, although perhaps applied to Christ in the New Testament. See this article.

But, Steve, you claim: "The male-oriented words in English today (he, his, etc.) have NOT changed in meaning. There is no new or evolving substitute in the English language for "he" or "his" that has outdated those terms." But this is not true. English has changed over the last 40 years. And there is an evolving substitute, although not in fact a new one at all: the singular "they". You may not like it, but it is certainly in increasingly wide use. The TNIV translators are responding to language change which results from cultural pressure, but they are not responding directly to cultural pressure, and they are certainly not applying that pressure as sometimes alleged.

Daniel said...

Peter said: do you seriously believe that male gender is an attribute of God? I don't, and I don't think this is an orthodox belief.

I was wondering when the cat would come out this bag.

It is sadly amusing to see a person shoot down men like Grudem, etc. while all the while promoting/defending a translation or translation philosophy - only to discover at the bottom line what is really "driving their boat" is not their love of truth, so much as a gut feeling that amounts to an unqualified opinion about what is orthodox.

I hate it when I see my own opionions resting on personal bias rather than a sound principle, I expect you will feel the same now that you have exposed this root.

SolaMeanie said...

Why this issue is so important?

Look back through Scripture at the attitude God displays toward those who alter His Word, or speak words that He has not spoken. This applies to both His actual speech at the time of the event, as well as the written Word.

For us to change anything in Scripture to reflect "cultural sensibilities" is very, very dangerous. Will God not say . . . "this is a word that I have not spoken?"

Daniel said...

Addendum: No one imagines that God is a biological male and that Adam was created in a biological image of God. Scripture says that God is a Spirit, and no one questions that. But God created mankind male first, then female - and God gave authority to the one gender over the other.

We can speculate all we want as to why God did that - and there may be some heat in all the smoke and light - but the bottom line is that God describes himself in male terms - and we do well to connect the dots.

All of creation reflects God's glory - and not just random glory. We were made men and woman because doing so reflects God's glory in a way that would be lessened if there were only one sex, and lessened if there were more than two sexes.

To ignore that God refers to Himself as masculine to a creation that he has made both masculine and feminine into which he has given authority to the masculine is, well, willfully ignorant.

Just wanted to add that in case some "kook" thought I was saying God was biologically male.

LeeC said...

God has defined Himself as he wishes to be defined.
Anyone who dares to redefine Him is on scary ground.

I am the head of my household. Not because I desire it, in fact in my flesh I would much rather abdicate that responsibility. But GOD has said that I am the one accountable because I am the man, husband and father whether I like it or not.

I can choose not to fullfill my responsibility, but that does not change that God will hold me accountable for it.

I find it highly disturbing how easily some dismiss this due to cultural influence. I fear God too much to do so.

H.C. Ross said...

But solameanie, what proponents on both sides are arguing is not that their favored version is better-suited to contemporary sensibilities, but that it better reflects what the original authors meant.

And folks, it is often true that a more dynamic translation is more faithful to the original meaning FOR TODAY'S READER than a more formal translation. In other words, sometimes the NIV is better at communicating what John or Paul or Peter meant TO TODAY'S READER than the NASB -- simply because the NASB communicates the wrong idea, its syntax and grammar being too wooden and close to the form of the original Greek or Hebrew (ie, a foreign language with foreign syntax and grammar, etc).

Formal translations are not necessarily more 'holy' than dynamic ones.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Daniel:

You said,

"To ignore that God refers to Himself as masculine to a creation that he has made both masculine and feminine into which he has given authority to the masculine is, well, willfully ignorant"

No one who translated the TNIV or supports it does this. I think you extrapolate to things without warrant when you say what's really "driving their boat" is some agenda to de-father God when someone simply says that maleness is not a divine attribute. We are made in God's image but He (look an egalitarian referred to God as male!) is not made in ours.

H.C. Ross said...

BTW, if I'm not mistaken, there are no purely dynamically translated or purely formally translated versions on the popular market. I'm not even sure either one is conceptually possible. The former would look like a morphology guide and the latter would look like one long sermon on biblical themes.

In other words, what we're talking about with any Bible is the ratio of formal-to-dynamic method used, at least in the case of all popular Bibles. NASB would be closer to the formal end of the continuum (but still have an element of dynamic translation to it) and the NIV or TNIV would be closer to the dynamic end (but still have a great deal of formal translation to it).

Anyway, just to repeat something I believe Turk mentioned himself.

Steve said...

Peter, in your defense of the TNIV translation of Psalm 34:20 you cited an article, but take a look at what the article itself says. It blatantly admits that the word translated “his,” in the original Hebrew text of Psalm 34:20, is a masculine singular. Then it goes on to rationalize the TNIV use of “their” by appealing to the fact that in Hebrew, “many words are rather arbitrarily assigned grammatical gender.” But we’re still left with the undeniable fact that God inspired Psalm 34:20 to be written with the masculine singular “his,” and an honest Bible translator will preserve that fact.

Why did the TNIV translators opt to take what is clearly a masculine singular and translate it into the generic plural “their”? Was it because some people find the word “his” offensive?

Consider what your own Darrell Bock admits about Psalm 34:20 in an article on Bible.org—“It is true, however, that the maintaining of the singular more clearly preserves the example and more explicitly parallels the connection to the passage’s later use in John 19. As such, it might be better here to render ‘his.’” (see “Do Gender Sensitive Translations Distort Scripture? Not Necessarily”). By the way, I find Bock’s use of “Not Necessarily” in his article title rather amusing. Why couldn’t he just flat-out say no, gender-sensitive translations don’t distort Scripture?

Even Carson has admitted that when a singular is translated as a plural, “you lose the individual reference” (Inclusive Language Debate, p. 106). He states, “I agree that switching persons is at least potentially misleading” (Ibid., p. 119).

The fact is, in any language classroom, when you are given an assignment to translate a text, if you start with a masculine singular and you translate it into an indefinite plural, you would be graded as having done incorrect translation work.

As for your comments about the changes in the English language, let’s be honest. The use of “their” and “they” has become more accepted because some people believe that words such as he, him, mankind, etc., are offensive. What we are witnessing here is not the change of language as a result of natural linguistic evolution, but forced cultural pressures. I’m a longtime veteran in the publishing business and every author or editor I’ve met who has gone to special or unnatural lengths to make a body of text gender-sensitive has done it for one reason: He is afraid of offending someone.

Even So... said...

What's the difference in mindset between the TNIV gender inclusive language and the PCUSA changing the names of the Trinity to several different forms?

Someone had to go there...

Sharon said...

Steve:
As for your comments about the changes in the English language, let’s be honest. The use of “their” and “they” has become more accepted because some people believe that words such as he, him, mankind, etc., are offensive.

Exactly! I still use the once-readily accepted "Someone forgot to bring his jacket," and people look at me as if I crawled from under a rock. No matter. It's the proper use of English, and I'll stick with it!

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Steve,

Gramatical gender does not imply biological gender. Mark Strauss illustrates this perfectly when he says, "I live in the town of El Cajon . El cajon is Spanish; it means 'the box. 'That is a masculine term. That's because boxes are inherently male, right? Obviously not. I live right next to the town of La Mesa . La mesa is a Spanish word that means 'the table. 'It's feminine in gender. That's because tables are inherently feminine, right? Of course not. This is purely grammatical gender. It has nothing to do with sexual distinction. In Spanish the word for 'person' is la persona. That is a feminine word. Does that mean that persons are inherently female or feminine? Of course not."

And don't forget that the Bock article you mention says after the sentence you cite, "But the other rendering is not as wrong as some suggest. The plural opts to make explicit the connection to the group of righteous. The ultimate allusion to Christ, though less obvious, also fits this “broader” rendering properly understood."

Again I don't know why it is so troubling to recognize that the culture is increasingly using singular plurals and to make the proper adjustments for the sake of accuracy. The reason, it seems, people are scared is because the world is somehow setting the agenda. But this isn't worrisome. Strauss makes a pertinent illustration as to how irrational this fear is:

"What if I came into this room and I said, "Hi, I want to tell you, I'm gay"? If I said, "I'm gay," you might wonder how my wife could be "with child" if I'm gay. But when a ripple went through the audience, I would say, "Oh, wait a minute, let me clarify, what I mean is I'm happy, I'm carefree, I'm easy-going." You would probably come up to me later and say, "You should not say that. That's not contemporary English." And I might respond, "I'm not going to let the homosexual agenda change the way I speak. So, I'm going to use the word gay if I want to use the word gay. If it was good enough for the Apostle Paul, if it was good enough for the King James Version, which uses the word gay in James, it's
good enough for me." As you well know, that is a terrible argument. The goal of Bible translation is to reproduce the meaning of the text in accurate, clear, and contemporary English." (from here)

troutdude said...

I consider it a part of routine doctrinal grounding to instruct new believers on the various translations and their underlying philosophical assumptions. TNIV is less than NIV for sure. But dynamic equivalence has its place. Still... what really bugs me is the overt way NavPress made The Message out to be a translation when it is really a wild (and IMHO) unreliable paraphrase! There's your marketing conspiracy!

SolaMeanie said...

H.C.

I understand what you are saying here, but are we sure that what you describe is actually what is happening with some of these translations? I note you say the NIV translates with what the author meant. Words mean things and ideas have consequences. The original Greek words were used for a reason to convey certain thoughts and ideas.

I realize that Greek has colors to it in some cases i.e. the four words for love..phileo, agapao, storge and eros. Each one means a different aspect of love. In English, it is necessary to explain at times what kind of love is being referenced.

That is not what I mean here. We need to be sure that "thoughts" being conveyed in translation are actually the meanings intended by the biblical authors. I think you are on much firmer ground with precise, accurate translation. I don't mind a liner note with alternate renderings or even a brief comment about disputed meanings, however translate the TEXT as it is.

Oddly enough and in keeping with what Frank was writing, I passed over the Apostle Paul's remark about peddling the word of God not too long ago. Gave me goose bumps.

Steve said...

Adam said: "Again I don't know why it is so troubling to recognize that the culture is increasingly using singular plurals and to make the proper adjustments for the sake of accuracy."

At heart, you are making the argument that cultural usage should dictate how the Bible is translated. You haven't addressed the resolute fact that the Hebrew "his" appears in the masculine singular form in Psalm 34:20, and that a careful translator would remain true to that. Now, pastors who want to preach on Psalm 34:20 or readers who look at the passage will be able to figure out, with a look at the context, the plural application (the group of righteous). The NIV as it is worded right now is so abundantly clear that the TNIV really offers nothing more. Instead, it actually OBSCURES the content of the original text. When it comes to the Bible, God's Word, a translated text should accurately represent what the original language said.

Further, your example using the word gay is both revealing and problematic. It's revealing because, by your use of that example, you are admitting that we should allow language to be taken hostage even by the homosexual agenda and adjust ourselves accordingly (thus indirectly supporting the point some of us have been making all along--it's cultural pressure that made the TNIV what it is). More importantly, it's problematic because it's a straw-man argument. You've chosen a word that's become loaded with baggage to the point misunderstanding is genuinely possible. But the words he and his are, in no way whatsoever, analogous in terms of potential for misinterpretation. They are still very much the norm in the generic sense in the vast majority of periodicals and books publisherd today. When read in context, he and his are still more than clearly understood.

The person who reads "his" in Psalm 34:20 is NOT going to be thrown for a loop and misinterpret the text. Sorry, but that's just not possible. There will be no awkward pause on the part of the reader because he is unable to ascertain the meaning--nothing at all like your example using the word gay.

Peter Kirk said...

Daniel, if you seriously believe that maleness is an attribute of God, this is a clear example of what you say, "I see my own opionions resting on personal bias rather than a sound principle". At least you realised this and backed down in your addendum.

"God gave authority to the one gender over the other". Where and when?

"God describes himself in male terms", and also in female terms.

Steve wrote, "God inspired Psalm 34:20 to be written with the masculine singular “his,” and an honest Bible translator will preserve that fact." No, he inspired it with a masculine singular word in Hebrew, along with all kinds of other formal features of the Hebrew language. An honest Bible translator will recognise and as far as possible separate what is part of the Hebrew language from what is part of the Bible message, and preserve the latter while replacing the former with appropriate features of the target language. The masculine singular in Hebrew can be used with gender generic meaning. But in English, at least for many speakers, "he" is not understood as gender generic, and it is a translation inaccuracy to use it in a place like this. Thus "they" was chosen entirely for accuracy, for accurate understanding by the target audience of TNIV, 18-35-year-olds.

Even if certain forms are used to avoid offending people, does that make it wrong? Surely it is wrong to be needlessly offensive. Somehow you have turned this upside down to make it wrong to avoid giving offence!

Steve, as for your comments to Adam about "But the words he and his are, in no way whatsoever, analogous in terms of potential for misinterpretation", I can only wonder what planet you live on. Generic "he" and "his" have been regularly misunderstood (and sometimes taken as offensive) for decades in many parts of the English speaking world. There have even been entire heretical doctrines built on this misunderstanding.

centuri0n said...

Peter Kirk:

I have just read your justification of the translation of the male term "father" into the genderless word "parent", and I think you are kidding.

Let's face it: your argument is, "because God the Father does not have physical, sexual gender, when the Bible uses 'maleness' to describe him it is excessively anthropomorphic and we should not be so narrow-minded." I assume, because you are a really bright guy, that you would apply this to all (and your quick pass on this is even funnier than your assessment of the 'maleness' of the term 'father') the references to God as female -- like God is a mother eagle, and God is a ... um ... let's see: God is never called a "queen", and God is never called a "sister", and God is never called a "maid", and God is never called a "woman". Well, it's your point: you should substantiate it.

Anyway, to get back on-point, let's assume that God is only speaking metaphorocally when He calls Himself "father" and not "parent" (because, of course, the Greeks didn't have a word for "parents" like "goneus" or something). isn;t it part of the the translation paradigm to covey the full force of the metaphor?

What's being communicated here is not explicitly gender-related but related to the order of thing God has ordained. That is: the highest authority in the house belongs to the father. In the same way a father disciplines his son, thus God disciplines us.

That's entirely lost in the TNIV version of Heb 12 -- in spite of God not having any reproductive organs.

Your view here is provisional at best -- that is, it'll do until you find another argument which seems better. The problem is that is pretty studiously avoids the point.

Taliesin said...

Adam,

Your link to the adam/human being controversy only serves to underscore my point.Adam (the man) was the representative for the entire species. We might argue about why God did it that way, but it is the way it was done. Jesus is not the second Adam and Eve, He is the second Adam; the new representative.

Using "man" or "mankind" to refer to the race is a reflection of the Biblical order. That point gets muddied when we choose to use other terminology.

I recognize on college campus' he, his, she, hers, mankind, etc. may be out of fashion, but out here in the corn fields, they are still perfectly acceptable and well understood terms. From where I sit this does not look like making the language more understandable; it looks like an attempt to change the language.

Taliesin said...

One more point on the debate, specifically around the singular "they". Has anyone else ever wished that Englished had retained a distinction between the singular and plural second person personal pronoun. Admittedly, around here we have partially solved the problem, though y'all look down your (singular or plural?) collective (must be plural in this case) noses at us. Why would we embrace a change that does the same to the third person personal pronoun?

This struck me looking at this link. Having a plural versus a singular pronoun in this verse, which downplays the personal decision aspect, is far more confusing than have a masculine versus a feminine pronoun. If you must play these kinds of games, at least use the "s/he" and leave the plurals out of this.

H.C. Ross said...

What I read here are a lot of needlessly reactionary complaints about the new-fangled directions English is going, and a wistful longing for the 'good ol' days' when 'he' could mean a he or she, etc. etc.

I'm sorry, but the use of 'they' is not a satanic ploy to bring us all into submission to Gaia worship. Language evolves. If it didn't, we'd all be able to pick up the Canterbury Tales or the original script of Macbeth and not need the Cliff's Notes to know what's going on in them. Is there really a pagan private interest agenda behind every cultural change that takes place?

As long as people have aged, people have complained about the contemporary scene and longed for the good old days. The TNIV leaves its readers in no confusion, AT ALL about the fact that God is a 'He', whatever that means (only he knows). Here's the TNIV of John 3:16:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

To cast doubt on the integrity and motives of the TNIV translators, and deny that they want to make the Word of God clear to people today, strikes me as unduly factious and high-minded.

I'm sure there are well over a million issues like this that we could bring up and begin arguing over, all day long, but to what end?

Sure, the enemy is out to deceive millions, but I highly, highly doubt he's going to use the TNIV as one of his big guns to do it. C'mon.

Peter Kirk said...

Centuri0n, you claim that the concept of the father as the one with responsibility for discipline in the family is "entirely lost in the TNIV version of Heb 12". But has you actually read this text? Let me remind you of verse 7 in TNIV:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

This is a clear statement of the responsibility of fathers to discipline their children. Whether this responsibility is held jointly with mothers is another matter which I won't go into here.

Hebrews 11:23 shows us that the Greek pateres, the plural of pater "father", can mean "parents", for Moses of course had only one father, plus one mother. Similarly in 12:9, the same word can reasonably be translated "parents", especially as if the meaning was strictly "father" one would expect a singular noun here: each of us had a father. The TNIV translation here is certainly exegetically defensible.

Taliesin, you make a good point with:

I recognize on college campus' he, his, she, hers, mankind, etc. may be out of fashion, but out here in the corn fields, they are still perfectly acceptable and well understood terms. From where I sit this does not look like making the language more understandable; it looks like an attempt to change the language.

Indeed, it all depends on your point of view. If you were sitting on a college campus, you would recognise that these words are unacceptable and misunderstood, and you would view the alternative view as an attempt to change the language back to something obsolete. But we should try to get beyond such local viewpoints.

centuri0n said...

Peter: You are, again, ignoring the rest of that passage. The issue of "Father" is the metaphor the writer used all the way through the Greek in this pssage, yet only Heb 12:7 has been corrected to reflect this matter.

Why was Heb 12:7 correted but the balance of the metaphor left uncorrected? It's odd, don't you think, that the only verse from the original TNIV NT in this passage which was specifically cited was "unupdated" but the rest was left as-is?

If, in fact, Heb 12:7 is rightly translated as "father", and the singular in 12:9 is rightly translated "father" (because it refers to God the Father), to then try to liberate the plural "pateras" from the grip of sexism is demonstrating the utter lack of understanding of the metaphor itself in the context of biblical models of household and authority.

That's what you have to get past. There's no question that you can translate "pateras" as either "parents" (meaning: parents generically) or "fathers" (meaning: a group in which each one is a father) -- but here the metaphor is plainly about fatherhood and fathership.

The last nail in the coffin here is the use of "nothos" in 12:8. In this case, one must appreciate the forthright translation in the KJV as "bastards" -- because, again, what is being discussed here is not generic parenthood but specifically legitimacy as belonging to a father who owns up to you and your mother.

The metaphor in its complete form is about the way a father validates the family membership of a son (if you want to say "child", I also have a beef there, but let's finish this part firt). It is not about generic parenting but about how a legitimate family works -- we are either inside God's legitimate family, or we are "nothos".

That sense is completely lost in TNIV. If you want to fall back on Mark Strauss' "something is always lost in translation", it's interesting that almost no other translation in English loses the force of this metaphor. What TNIV loses here is substantial.

I'm going on vacation now, so if you want to do this, think about it for a week and then come back, and the DebateBlog offer stands.

Taliesin said...

If you were sitting on a college campus, you would recognise that these words are unacceptable and misunderstood, and you would view the alternative view as an attempt to change the language back to something obsolete.

I said out of fashion which is unacceptable, but not misunderstood. At colleges across the US (and, I assume, Europe) they are using language as the engine of social change.

Postman was right that much of modern society more closely resembles Huxley's Brave New World than Orwell's 1984, but Orwell was right about the control of language to control thought.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Steve said: "At heart, you are making the argument that cultural usage should dictate how the Bible is translated."
Steve, I hope you realize that I am not committing any crime here. EVERY translation takes into account cultural usage in its rendering of the original languages into receptor languages. Why? Because language is a cultural phenomenon and it is always in flux. That's what I was trying to illustrate with the Strauss quote with the word "gay." That's why people would rather read the NIV than the KJV. The so-called "vulgar tongue" (Wycliffe's description) changes from culture to culture from time to time. Now I want to say something here that could be read as GBA, so let me be clear: charging me with "making the argument that cultural usage should dictate how the Bible is translated" is the same charge that KJV-Only advocates make against their detractors. I'm not saying that you are a KJV-Only advocate or support their arguments, but I am saying that your approach to this issue is similar. It's illogical for them as it is for you.

I'm not sure why you say I haven't addressed the masculine singular issue in Psalm 34:20. I have. You say that from a masculine singular it follows that it should be translated to refer to capture biological maleness. I say it does not. The TNIV translators recognize the universal fact that "The Hebrew of the OT has GRAMMATICAL gender whereas English has only NATURAL gender." Grammatical gender is like the kind I pointed out with the Strauss quote (La Mesa, El Cajon)—it is irrelevant to the "maleness" of "femaleness" of the word. The masculine singular is used as a generic to include men and women, so it is not inaccurate to use the generic plural "they" to capture the intended meaning of both sexes being protected by God.

I realize you think it is bunk that masculine language is not seen as generic anymore, and to an extent I can agree with you. But in some places it is, and as a person that fits into the 18-35 demographic it makes perfect sense to speak in terms of singular generic plurals. Again, I can see how people who have stuck with the NAS or RSV styles object to this and I think you could make the argument that it doesn't take much brain power to figure out that a generic masculine (he) is referring to, but I don't think that from that you can libel the translation team of the TNIV as capitulating to the spirit of times and producing a translation that is harmful to the Word or the church.

Chris Hill said...

Wonderful and insightful comments on the TNIV. I have nothing to add to the discussion at this time, except that I fully agree.

Well... I actually do have one thought, that being in regards to language. For centuries, the bible itself was seen as the foundation for language. Even words we use today (one example: "talents") come from the bible itself. The problem with "translations" such as the TNIV is that instead of using the words of God to help shape our language, we are trying to use our language to shape the words of God. This is a fatal error, in my mind, and will have long term negative effects if it lasts.

Chris Hill said...

After reading some of the other posts here, I realized that I pretty much restated what others have said. Thus I have added no new insights, just as I originally thought. Regardless, to use cultural (not technical) linguistic changes of the last 30 years to re-translate the bible shows disregard for the power of God's Scripture, and says that culture has more power than the mouth of God.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Chris Hill: "culture has more power than the mouth of God"

No. That doesn't make any sense. Their isn't a language that is more worthy of translation than another. All that I'm hearing is that English of 40 years ago is better than today's; God likes it better, so change is bad. How it follows that "culture has more power than the mouth of God" from attempting to render words from the source (Greek and Hebrew) to the target (Today's English) remains to be seen.

Chris Hill said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris Hill said...

Adam: "Their isn't a language that is more worthy of translation than another. All that I'm hearing is that English of 40 years ago is better than today's; God likes it better, so change is bad."

Perhaps I was unclear. My point was that there have been cultural (read: political, agenda driven, etc.) changes to the English language in recent years. To alter a translation to fit these cultural changes in language (I distinguish this from a technical change, which would be a change in language that betters communication and meaning, rather than one that serves political means) is wrong.

The primary difference you and I have, Adam, is that you believe there are no "right" or "wrong" changes to a language - that it is constantly dynamic and there is nothing wrong with this, where I believe some changes in language are good and some are bad - that a language can be dynamic, but it is bad if it becomes too much so, and some of those changes are bad (please forgive me if I've mischaracterized your beliefs - I'm only going from what I've read).

The changes which the TNIV seeks to entertain I believe to be bad changes in language - changes that come as a result of political agendas and the dumbing down of the English language itself.

Thus, to change Scriptural texts to fit purely culturally influenced linguistic changes does say that cultural has more power than the words of God, since the words of God are not being translated into the language, but are rather being translated to try to fit the culture, regardless if aspects of that culture are good or bad.

Peter Kirk said...

I can't speak for Adam, but I certainly "believe there are no "right" or "wrong" changes to a language - that it is constantly dynamic and there is nothing wrong with this". See my post about what is acceptable English at the Better Bibles Blog.

Chris Hill said...

Peter,

Then that is where you and I, at least, disagree. I don't think we could ever come to any mutual agreement on the TNIV with such different understandings of language. That is the crux, here.

goodnightsafehome said...

Words like sin etc., will soon be so politically incorrect and will begin to drop out of the langauge. What will happen then? Do we replace them with the world's equivalent, like "messed up" or "wee misunderstanding" etc., if there is one? Or do we stick to our guns and use God's own strict erminology?

If these words are being dropped in our sinful English speaking world, then surely the battle is on either to maintain them or even to reintroduce them. It may *gunk* a student in the University to be told that his generation are dumbing down the langauge, but just view it as the opening shot in the battle for his soul. If he wilts under the first mild criticism, wait until you get the big guns of the law of God pointing in his direction.

While some of our modern translators are busy scratching their heads, the rest of us are just letting God take care of His own work, pleading Isaiah 55:11 and 1 Corinthians 15:58 in prayer.

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Chris:

I think you have characterized my position rightly. Langauge is dynamic and constantly in flux. The translators of the King James Bible knew this as any good translator should in that they sought to make the Greek and Hebrew texts understandable to "vulgar tongue."

Peter Kirk said...

Chris, I found your comment:

I don't think we could ever come to any mutual agreement on the TNIV with such different understandings of language. That is the crux, here.

so profound and revealing that I wrote a whole long post about it on the Better Bibles Blog.

Chris Hill said...

I responded on your blog.

BILL said...

The Never Inspired Version

Wayne Eddie Torr Leman said...

I have followed the comments here about the TNIV with interest, as I always do. I especially appreciate the comments that come from people who can actually read the Bible in its original languages. Some of us have recently started a blog which is entirely devoted to trying to tell the truth about the TNIV. You all are invited to visit and comment there.

Let's make sure that our claims either for or against the TNIV are based on facts, not speculation or second-hand information which we may not had adequately researched to see if it is true or not.