03 September 2009

Good-riddance, TNIV; hello, Son of NIV

by Dan Phillips

In my own reading of the NT, I generally read the Greek text; if I'm preaching from the OT, I consult the Hebrew.

If I want an English translation, I generally use the ESV. If I want a commentary, I use a commentary.

Or the NIV.

A few years back, They unrolled a misbegotten version called Today's New International Version (TNIV). WORLD called it the "stealth Bible," for good reason. It was marketed in sneaky ways.

Though a laundry list of Big Names said glowing things about it, it apparently hasn't caught on, which is a very good thing.

I went through the Proverbs TNIV, and the notes I enter in my beloved BibleWorks contain many tut-tuttings over their renderings. The most frequent is to this effect: "Again, TNIV pluralizes the singulars to fit its agenda." That refers to the translators' fad-driven, politically-correct decision to turn singular verses (i.e. 26:16a — "The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes") into plurals ("Sluggards are wiser in their own eyes"). Without textual warrant, the excuse offered is that a sluggardly woman who is reading will be too stupid to see herself in the verse because the standard English device of "he" is used. We're to picture her snorting "Whew! That ain't me!" and popping another Bon-Bon into her mouth.

This results in many atrocious changes of meaning, such as Psalm 1:1-2, which is transformed into —
Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but who delight in the law of the LORD
and meditate on his law day and night
There is no lack of clarity in the original text. The TNIV paraphrasts simply take it to themselves to "improve" it, by changing it.

Gallons of ink (literal and virtual) were spilled trying to rationalize such changes. Thankfully, it never did catch on with most Bible-believers, and now it has been announced that the TNIV is being round-filed. Notable luminaries such as Ligon Duncan and Al Mohler have responded positively, and more will come. This subluminary also is happy to hear it.

So now the NIV will be updated, and Douglas Moo confirms that the translators are welcoming input and suggestions.

Do I have any suggestions? Oh, I have a few, off the top of my head. They're all serious, in case anyone wonders.
  1. God is not "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named." Call God by His name when the Holy Spirit does. God moved the writers of the Hebrew Old Testament to call Him "Yahweh" over 6800 times. Anyone believing in the plenary, verbal (hel-lo?) inspiration of the Bible should do the same, eschewing the superstitious practice of unbelievers who try to be holier than God by refusing to do what He commanded to be done. (I may have shared this thought previously once or twice... or three or four times, or more.) It's disgraceful that only one-man versions, a Roman Catholic version, or cultic versions honor the text-as-given in that regard, while supposedly VPI-accepting translators persistently don't.
  2. Never, ever pluralize a singular. The men who were carried along by the Holy Spirit (as you and I are not) knew how to use plurals as well as singulars. When they don't, you don't.
  3. Be much more cautious and conservative in dropping conjunctions for the sake of "smoothness." It is true that Hebrew uses the waw conjunction much more frequently than English can easily bear. However, conjunctions reveal the writer's logical progressions. Sometimes they are interpretively significant (as with the kai ["and"] which begins Matthew 17:1, dropped by the TNIV and other versions.) They should only be dropped when absolutely necessary... and even then, I'd wish some note of their presence could be made.
  4. Resist the temptation to substitute commentary for translation. It tempts the pride to "correct" ambiguities in the text, but it is more respectful to the text to leave them there for believer-priests to wrestle with. To select one should-be-beyond-argument example, take Paul's use of "flesh." Every English reader knows that word. What does it mean? The answer to that is interpretive. To render it "sinful nature" as NIV does removes the text's own ambiguity and makes a decision for the reader. Don't.
There. I said "a few." I welcome you to share your own, particularly if you have some training in Hebrew or Greek.

NOTE: KJV-only folks (as opposed to those who simply prefer the KJV) are not invited to this discussion. We know what you think, and frankly, it is one alternative for which I (to speak as kindly as I can) have no respect.

Dan Phillips's signature

120 comments:

Chad V. said...

Perhaps a new translation committee. Seriously, if they butchered the text like that the last time why should we thing they wont do it again? Or is there already a new committee?

Do you know DJP?

DJP said...

Do you know DJP?

As well as anyone does, I suppose.

Aric said...

Well, I don’t read Hebrew or Greek. But it seems to me that if you are translating something, then at the most basic level singular and plurals need to be left alone. How can “He ran to the store” mean the same as “They ran to the store”?

FWIW, I also like the idea of using God’s correct name. It would make the bible easier to read without needing to decipher whether “Lord” is in small caps or not. Of course, that may just be a sign of growing older and needing reading glasses!

donsands said...

"In my own reading of the NT, I generally read the Greek text"

That's such a blessing for you, and for those who are taught by you. The Lord surely does equip His pastors, so they can equip His elect saints for ministry.

I like my ESV now. I had the NKJV for years.
I was a babe in Christ drinking the milk of the Word from the NIV, and even memorized from the NIV.

I hope money isn't the purpose behing making new translations like this. Or any translation really.

DJP said...

Right, Aric. How many new readers have wondered whether they're supposed to shout it when they see "LORD" or "GOD"?

Luke said...

Who is actually on the translation committee or are they all kept in a secret compound near Grand Rapids?

Craig and Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan said...

I have done translation professionally (though only French/German/English, not Biblical translation) and I have a smattering of koine Greek. It's painful to me to read American (usually) Christians talking as if it were possible to "translate" without "interpreting". I know this isn't probably true of anyone reading this blog, but many seem to think that translation is a matter of looking each word up in the Greek/English dictionary and just putting down the English word.

The fact is all translations are interpretations, the ESV no less than the TNIV.

To claim that the ESV is a translation but the TNIV is a commentary is either misinformed about the nature of language and translation or it is sheer hyperbole.

DJP said...

Or you could be mistaken. You forgot that option, Jonathan.

Yes, translation necessarily involves a degree of interpretation. But one tries to minimize it if one is trying to translate rather than paraphrase. Admittedly, that line isn't as clear as one might wish, but there's a significant difference.

The TNIV feels free to paraphrase interpretively to a greater degree than the ESV does. I'm saying they should try to binge less, alert the reader when there are significant options, or leave it as ambiguous as the original text does.

geekforgreek said...

I am hoping Dr. Bruce Waltke will be involved in the translation process and my greatest request is that they fix the Psalm titles so that we have superscripts and postscripts with the correct Psalm!

DJP said...

That would be a pretty revolutionary change.

Waltke worked on the TNIV and loved it; I found his defenses of it in the Dallas chapel series pretty puzzling and disheartening, as the post I linked to explains.

Sir Aaron said...

I have a NIV study Bible, which I prefer, although I haven't really had an ESV on a regular basis. However, I usually try to memorize from the NASB. My study Bible also contains cross references and transcript notes if there are different renderings of a passage. I find the original NIV to be easier for me to read. When I study, I look at many versions. However, I may change to the ESV just so i can be cool like my other reformed friends.

To Jonathon: I see your point, but there is a huge line between interpretation of the kind you are talking about and the type of interpretation that changes clearly singular passages to more nebulous plural. I generally am
not critical of translations becuase it is so tough, but this looks wrong to me.

Stefan said...

Jonathan:

You're quite right that all translations necessarily involve a degree of interpretation, but the ESV and NIV (for example) come out of two completely different translation philosophies.

There are three major philosophies in biblical translation and interpretation: "essentially literal," "dynamic equivalence," and "paraphrase." They represent varying degrees of a tradeoff between faithfulness to the text in the source language, and rendering ideas idiomatically in the destination language.

"Essentially literal" translations attempt to stay as close to the original language's word forms, sentence structure, etc., while still making sense in English. Geneva, KJV, ESV are examples.

"Dynamic equivalance" translations attempt to convey the sense of a sentence, without necessarily using equivalent words. NIV is an example. They tend to flow more naturally in English, but at the expense of preserving the original Hebrew and Greek.

"Paraphrases" attempt to convey the sense of an entire paragraph or block, without necessarily using equivalent words or even sentences. The Message is an example. These are much more idiomatic and colloquial, but the furthest removed from the source texts.

Jim Crigler said...

I know you didn't want KJV-only folks here, and I'm not one: My family variously use NKJV, ESV, HCSB (someone called the last the “Hard-Core Southern Baptist” Bible). But Doug Wilson once pointed out that modern English has a problem that the good folks of 1611 didn't have: Nowadays, “you” is grammatically plural, but is also used for singular. So all the folks who poo-poo the KJV because of “thee” (objective) and “thou” (nominative) have the problem of wrestling with whether a particular usage of “you” is singular or plural. (As a Southerner, I have a solution, but that gets poo-poo'd by people with regional superiority complexes, too.)

DJP said...

I agree, Jim. Every language I know anything about has singular and plural second-person pronouns, with only one exception: and we're writing in it now.

Hendriksen in his commentaries' translations dealt with it by adding spaces in plurals (i.e. you vs. y o u). That would never catch on, but it gets an A for effort.

Frank Turk said...

Well, I for one call this a victory for the text and those who seek to honor the text.

HOWEVER, I am also one who thinks that we're missing the boat here as the announcement was clear that the text being scrapped is the NIV text, and the TNIV is going to be the base translation for the new NIV.

BTW, I told this to my wife, and she said, "So what are they going to call it? NIVF?"

NIVF?

"Well, we had the New Int'l Version, and then Today's NIV -- what we need is the New Int'l Version of the Future."

Which is why I married her.

Kim said...

No Hebrew and no Greek training, and nothing significant to add to the dialogue.

But I LOVED this:

Without textual warrant, the excuse offered is that a sluggardly woman who is reading will be too stupid to see herself in the verse because the standard English device of "he" is used. We're to picture her snorting "Whew! That ain't me!" and popping another Bon-Bon into her mouth.

That gave me laugh.

Craig and Heather said...

I'm not Southern, but "Y'all" works for me.



Heather

Frank Turk said...

The language I speak in has singular and plural second person.

"you" = you personal

"You-all" or "Y'all" = you plural

Just because some snotty New Englanders can't get with the program, that doesn't mean we have a shabby little language.

NoLongerBlind said...

Or, there's always the option of "Jersey-speak", aka Joisey tawk:

You - singular

Yuse guys - plural (gender neutral)

Mesa Mike said...

What was the rationale for Heb. 11:11 where the NIV substitutes Abraham for Sarah?

At least the TNIV put it back the right way.

But, whatever they do for the NIVng, I think I'll stick with my ESV.

bugblaster said...

I'm partial to "youse guys"

Steve Hills said...

DJP said: Right, Aric. How many new readers have wondered whether they're supposed to shout it when they see 'LORD" or "GOD"?

Seriously, when I was a brand spanking new Christian and started reading through the OT, I thought the translators wrote "Lord" as "LORD" to really emphasize it!

Dan, I'm with you on rendering God's name accurately in the OT, especially since the OT itself does it.

Solameanie said...

There's always The Living Bible. (Joel runs hastily for the exit).

Seriously, the news story I saw about this yesterday had a quote saying, "We're going to get it right this time." I'm trying to be inspired with confidence, but it isn't easy.

Daniel said...

I would like every word inspired by the Holy Spirit to be in red letters...

All pith aside, the more granularly precise a literal translation is, the more likely I am to give it a look. If in the original language a text is ambiguous, I would rather have the ambiguity carried over into the translation, than interpretted out of it. If a text uses an uncertain idiom, I say translate it "as is" with notes in the margin about what it might mean, rather than inject what you (presently) think it means into the text.

The plural second person pronouns would have been another point, and again the way God's name is presented - but these were points others have already made.

Stan McCullars said...

As a supporter of the TNIV I agree with the following suggestions made by Dan:

1. God is not "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."

ALL translations should adopt this immediately. There is simply no excuse to deliberately mistranslate it.

2. Never, ever pluralize a singular.

I would make an exception for the third person plural pronoun used to refer to a singlular noun referring to a person of either sex. For example, "The one who jumps in a fire might burn their hair." I realize this might rub some the wrong way but it has been in use for centuries and is today used with great regularity in many circles. In fact, I haven't seen it used in the work environment (at least not where I have worked) in maybe twenty years.

When used, such pronouns could be marked with an asterisk noting they are referring to a singular noun similar to what the NASB does In places where the English language would describe past action with a past-tense verb, the Greek uses the present tense for special vividness.

3. Be much more cautious and conservative in dropping conjunctions for the sake of "smoothness."

I'm not familiar with how the Greek/Hebrew use such conjunctions so I defer to Dan.

4. Resist the temptation to substitute commentary for translation.

I agree completely that "sinful nature" was a poor choice for "flesh" when "flesh" could have been used with a footnote describing how it was used in the Greek. Without a footnote I'm not sure how clear "flesh" would be to many new or non Christians.

I will not go beyond that except to quote D.A. Carson from a paper he wrote a few years ago for which the link is now dead (or at least I can't find it this morning):

In quieter moments, one wonders if any conceivable damage that could be done by the NIV or TNIV could be any worse than the division, bitterness, and strife stirred up by those who have made this a dividing issue.

Aaron said...

Well what about The American Satnderd Version? God's name is translated as JEhovah in The Old Testment.

DJP said...

"Jehovah" is almost certainly the wrong vocalization of the consonants, but it has going for it that it is an actual name, rather than a title.

No good reason not to use "Yahweh"; or if a stickler wants to insist that we're unsure of the vowels — which equally could be said of ALL names in the OT — then use YHWH.

Terry Rayburn said...

Whew! It's a good thing I read the post to the end, because I was going to say, "Stop translating 'flesh' as 'sinful nature'."

By the way, the earliest versions of ESV also did that. Thankfully, they changed it.

By the way, again, readers often don't realize how many mini-revisions are made in newer translations with new printings. Compare an original NKJV to a newer one and you'll be amazed.

As a drooling infant of a Greek student whom people like Dan would ridicule if they weren't such nice guys, I find it...

...helpful to primarily use NASB, because I know it tries it's best to do English-word-for-Greek-word, which helps me in studying the Greek.

I would think it would be frustrating for a real Greek guy to muddle through a more interpretive translation like NIV (or even ESV) and constantly see the red dashboard light of *interpretation alert!* *interpretation alert!* before their eyes (to which the average reader would be oblivious).

It's fine for the Greek guy who actually DID the translation, since his own interpretations are fine with him.

Terry Rayburn said...

donsands wrote

"I hope money isn't the purpose behing making new translations like this."

I'm sure it's the farthest thing from Zondervan's... er, HarperRowCollins'... er, Rupert Murdoch's mind.

Gilbert said...

I lay my cards on the table: none. I'm not a Greek scholar, never studied Greek, you get the idea.

A lot of people here seem to be hung up on the "you" issue, but I think that is far, far less important than the "gender-neutral" issue. At our Bible study last night, our pastor sent out a warning that indeed, the GN changes will not only continue, but possibly get worse. He printed out an article off the Web about it, but I didn't catch the URL; if anyone has seen it, if possible, please post it here.

Anyway...I'm not amused.

Terry Rayburn said...

How about those present-tense verbs in NT narratives that are always translated in the past tense?

Even the NASB compromises here (with asterisks).

For example, Mark tells a past event in a present-tense way, like, "Jesus goes over to the well and he says this or that, and John walks up and he says this or that."

Guess the translators thought it sounded like some gum-chewing Californian lingo :)

But I would like to see that in a good literal translation.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Daniel: "I would like every word inspired by the Holy Spirit to be in red letters..."

I think Tony Campolo and the rest of the "Red-Letter Christians" would appreciate that suggestion ....

Mesa Mike said...

A Red Letter Reductionist's Bible might be nice, but it wouldn't be thick enough to to thump people over the head with.

bugblaster said...

Yes I agree with Terry Rayburn. My greek prof in my single year of intro greek called it the historical present tense, and said it added a heightened sense of "being there" to the narrative. The KJV left it in the present tense.

James Kubecki said...

Instead of spacing out the second person plural ("y o u" - see DJP, above), I'd propose using "you2."

Usage example:

Hey! You! You2! Lookuphere, loouphere, lookuphere!

(I was going to propose using a superscript but for some reason, blogger doesn't allow "super" as one of the HTML tags you can use in a comment...)

stratagem said...

Being the village idiot, I have only a few brief points to make, none of them in Greek:

1) English has not only "y'all," but also "youse guys," and (in Pittsburgh at least) "y'uns" and "we'uns."

2) I'm sure Zondervan and the Company that owns them is not simply doing this for money. Considering that it is the same Company that publishes The Satanic Bible by Anton LeVey, I just can't see that, can you? /sarcasm.

3) I'm sure the new Translation will conform nicely to my primo theologian, NT Wrong, whose seminal work "The Nude Perspective on Paul" is among my favorites. I can't remember the main premise of the work, other than it being something about how you shouldn't write theology except when fully clothed.

You don't have to thank me for my substantive contribution to this meta. No, really you don't.

greglong said...

I completely agree with your assessment of the TNIV, Dan.

I'm not as down on the NIV as you are, however. At one time I was an assistant pastor at a church that used the NKJV (which I love and appreciate as well). Then I moved to a church that used the NIV. A couple of times I reused a sermon that I had preached at the previous church (not very often, though...and admit it, you've done it before too!). I noticed that the original sermon had a whole lot of phrases like, "What Paul is saying here is..." or "this phrase means..." or "in other words,..." based on my study of the Greek.

But when I reworked the sermon for the NIV, I took out a good majority of those explanatory phrases because they were unneeded--the NIV already said it! The people could read it right there in their own Bibles!

I like the ESV, but still prefer the NIV. ESV is just too clunky in places ("recline at table"???).

I guess you'll have to revoke my "young, restless, and Reformed" card.

troutdude said...

Ahem. **tongue now firmly situated in cheek** The NIV is God's preserved text in the English language. Leave it alone, or bring down God's curse!

Craig and Heather said...

You don't have to thank me for my substantive contribution to this meta. No, really you don't.

Don't you mean "y'all",?

Or were you only speaking to Dan, thereby snubbing the rest of the readers?

H

Chad V. said...

The TNIV is going to be the basis for the new NIV? Hoo-boy!

JackW said...

QFE 2 SIT will NIV2010 SPK online chat OOTD?

OJ MGB

Bobby Grow said...

I agree. If the NIV would get rid of the interpretive "sin nature" for its literal "translation," flesh, it would become (in my view) one of the best translations out there (at least of the ones that are "dynamic" in their philosophy).

donsands said...

You know, I mean thou wot, what doth thou thinkest of "thou all", or "thee all", or "thy all"? I trow not.

Mesa Mike said...

Wot thee not that "ye" is the second person plural pronoun?

DJP said...

Wot?

David said...

Let's see.

We have a number of easy-to-read (if extremely dynamic) translations which manage to get the point across to someone with limited reading skills. We have a number of pretty literal, word-order-preserving translations with varying levels of readability and literary accuracy. We have the old standby that every major literary work prior to, say, 1970 uses to reference what God said. We have available interlinear Bibles that put all of the above next to the Greek translated word-by-word in case you want to check the accuracy. We have seminaries that teach Greek so the diligent can read it themselves.

Oh, and you can get this all online if you want.

MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE!!!!

Mike Riccardi said...

Would "wot" be the strong verb past tense of the verb "to wit," meaning essentially, to know? I've never heard that, but that'd be cool.

donsands said...

"Wot thee not that "ye" is the second person plural pronoun?"

My grammer stinketh, albeit, "mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not".
Well, not really.

Barbara said...

(As a Southerner, I have a solution, but that gets poo-poo'd by people with regional superiority complexes, too.)

So, a general call for repentance could be translated into colloquial Southernese as, "Y'all behave" (pronounced, "yaw BEE-hayv"), as opposed to a singular call to an individual, which would say, in effect, "You need to quit."

Mmm-hmm. The cultural moralism of the Bible Belt makes for a fine translation language. I oughta know.

;)

Craig and Heather said...

“…knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:20-21 (ESV, so I won’t get in trouble here right away)

I first encountered the preceding passage when I wandered onto the site of a KJV-only sort who was promoting an entire lifestyle based on the instructions to “come out of [Babylon]”. And he was using the “private interpretation” verse to support his specific translation/obedient Christians must be farmers stance.

I won’t bore anyone with the details of how that guy’s site messed me up for weeks, worrying whether my trusty NASB was a pack of lies—or how my (according to him) lifestyle of disobedience meant that I was just a false convert. But I did learn something that I think might be relevant to the point of discussion.

The above verses were written by the same man who, when asked by Jesus “Who do you say I am?” said:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus informed him that “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” Matthew 16:15-17

When I read that, I believe God did the equivalent of taking my face in His hands and saying “You didn’t find Me in your Bible. I showed Myself to you and am certainly capable of handling any errors (deliberate or otherwise) that imperfect men may have made in their translation process.

I definitely believe that accuracy in translation is important, and certain versions do seem to be less precise than others. But I can see how the desire for purity can become a distraction—or even border on idolatry for those who have developed a KingJamesivitis-like condition concerning certain translations.

Just my dollar and a half worth of non-scholarly commentary.

Heather

Chris Cookston said...

Honestly, I don't see what all the fuss it about. There is no perfect English translation. All of them have strengths and weaknesses.

I could go on about the inaccuracies of the KJV but I won't.

In my mind, the motive of the translator is a key. If he is trying to communicate the authorial intent, great. If he is caving to man's opinions (e.g., that which is politically correct)...so sad.

stratagem said...

To thee-all I say, BRING BACK the THORN rightly as a letter of thine English tongue! Away with "y" and YE shall sully not thine translations straightaway with modern follies.

Mesa Mike said...

Sounds like some of y'all (oops) are hankerin' to bring back the Geneva translation.

Phil said...

Out of curiosity Dan are you sad that the English language lost the use of the familiar/non familiar 'thee' vs 'you' that other languages have?

DJP said...

I don't have any feeling about that. It's a nicety in modern Spanish, though often overlooked.

The singular/plural pronouns are, however, useful. That's a funny thing — usually when people "diss" the KJV, they say "...with all its 'thee's' and 'thou's." But that's the aspect of the KJV that I mind least!

Except it isn't remotely modern English.

Jmv7000 said...

Terry and Bug,

The problem is simply this, The Greek verb does not primarily deal with tense like the English verb. It mainly seeks to convey information on the action. It communicates the kind of action primarily.

For example, the aorist, often translated with an "ed." "He walked," (in the aoris) would not primarily seek to announce he walked in the past tense, but simply indicates the action occurred without the desire to comment on beginning, duration, end or completion of the action.

Tense is primary in English (usually) but not the Greek.

stratagem said...

I am definitely Geneva Translation Only (GTO). Cain't stand them modern translations like the 1611. Besides, Dan didn't say we GTOs couldn't comment.

David said...

*sound of brain cracking from seeing "thee" "thou" and "diss" in the same sentence*

Tim Bushong said...

Greg Long said:

"But when I reworked the sermon for the NIV, I took out a good majority of those explanatory phrases because they were unneeded--the NIV already said it! The people could read it right there in their own Bibles!"

I'm coming right out of my chair (shouting "Yes! Yes! So True!!!")! And I thought I was the only one (in reformed circs anyway) who thought this...

I use NASB for study, but for public reading and preaching- I am so with you here.

Don't tell anyone, but I think that the ESV is... stiff and weird-sounding.
IOW, not good English.

That's just my 2c, but it comes on the heels of many MANY disparaging statements like "Phew- NIV dynamic equivalance- yuk!"

Craig and Heather said...

I read once on a KJVOnly page that the NIV is a demonically inspired text. I fearfully avoided our copy for a long time afterward.

There does appear to be a variety of favorite versions here. And it also seems that each version can serve a legitimate purpose. I'm comfy with my old NASB, hubby likes his newer ESV. We both seem to retain KJV wording best when memorizing. NIV works well when reading to children or in a mixed group where not all are highly educated...

It is a relief that those here who are adamantly set on a particular translation have not used the argument:

"Well, the (insert favorite version) was good enough for the Apostle Paul, so it's good enough for me!"

H

lee n. field said...

Haven't use the NIV in years. The "flesh" = "sinful nature" thing, chopping long complex sentences into many short declatative sentences, and putting "sinner" in quotes often in the New Testament (as though they weren't, you know, sinners), were the causes of my discontent.

I grew up on the RSV, and I've pretty much settled on the ESV lately, being on my third readthrough now. And trying, in my "abundant free time" to revive some long, long neglected Koine skills.

ESV does some "gender neutral" rendering as well, but not in a way that clubs you over the head with PC-ness.

So, what would it take to raise up a generation that could read the Greek and Hebrew for themselves?

"(As a Southerner, I have a solution, but that gets poo-poo'd by people with regional superiority complexes, too.)"

English needs a second person plural, and "yall" would serve just fine.

"Jehovah" is almost certainly the wrong vocalization of the consonants, but it has going for it that it is an actual name, rather than a title.

Or, consider "Jehovah" as just an anglicized rendering of Yahweh. Some of the "sacred name" types complain about "Jesus" (as though Iesous, all we have in the NT, isn't itself a Greek version of Jesus' Aramaic given name.

BTW, "y-all", consider also that the New Testament itself makes use of a translation (the Septuagint) in it's text.

The Seeking Disciple said...

Excellent post. You hit the nail on the head many times here and all with good humor. I applaud you for this.

Man of the West said...

If they use "Yahweh", I'll be surprised. If they say "immerse" instead of "baptize," I'll eat my hat. If they do both, I'll eat my hat in great surprise and buy a copy.

DJP said...

Yeah, I didn't go completely nuts and hope they'd actually translate βαπτίζω (immerse) or μαθητής (student) or... yeah, let's not go nuts.

David H. Willis said...

Great post and a most interesting discussion too.

"Man of the West",

Thanks for the laugh!

-Man of the South

Joshua Bovis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joshua Bovis said...

3. Be much more cautious and conservative in dropping conjunctions for the sake of "smoothness."

1. Conjunctions! Arrrghhhhhh! Put em back in! All of em! The 'therefore' is there for a reason!

2. Also get rid of 'Words of Christ in red letter. It is bad for one's eyes and bad for one's exegesis

3. Get rid of the subtitles - they are often wrong.

4. Correct the break up of paragraphs (this links back to the first point - if the did not remove the conjunctions people would see that this paragraph is not a new section).

Nice topic DJP - but can I just say that I think we are very blessed in the English speaking world (yes we do speak English in Australia ;) )to have a choice of translations in our language when there are people in the world who still do not have the Scriptures in their own mother tongue.

p.s I use the Greek NT, ESV, NIV (because the church I am at uses it), sadly my Hebrew is תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ.

p.p.s It would not surprise me if in a couple of years Crossways brings out the NESV - hahaha!

Michael Russell and Vicki Fox Productions said...

In addition to your suggestions to the translators, I would add the following. These are based on practices in the software industry when picking words and phrases for internationalization.

Retain the granularity. Suppose the source document only used three words. Then every translation must use as a minimum three distinct words.

This rule would address my biggest frustration with English translations. For example, the many different Greek words (philio, agapeo, etc) that are all translated into one English word (love). Instead, philio would be translated into something else, such as "brotherly love".

One to one mapping is not necessary. That is, the translation is not limited to mapping one Greek word to one English word. It it takes two English words to capture the meaning, then use two words instead of forcing one.

Consistent mapping across usage. In practice, you will find various published tables of word/phrase mappings used in software internationalization. The Greek word "agape" would always be mapped to the same English phrase.

Make explicit grammar tense. Languages have various ways to represent tense. In software internationalization, the practice is to not depend upon the implicit rules (word endings, context, etc), but to make it explicit through the use of tense terms.

Transliterate when necessary. Sometimes a good translation is not available. For your rule about "Yahweh", I would suggest just using "YHWH". The reason is we do not know the vowels associated with YHWH. As the Rabbi teaching the Aleph-Bet language course said, "We don't know how to pronounce the name and it would be improper to make any guess, such as Yahweh ..."

CharlieontheT said...

I've read about two-third of these comments and seen maybe one that was relevant to the posited question.

But lots of entertaining fun =) which is actually what I could use after hearing this business. Oy vey.

Oh yeah and not that I have any vested interest, but seriously the Complete Jewish Bible is a really, really, REALLY good dynamic equivalency translation.

Or if you're an opinionated seminary professor who has made a fortune off an unhelpful book for choosing a translation, then FUNCTIONAL equivalent ;)

Stan McCullars said...

Michael Russell and Vicki Fox Productions:
Suppose the source document only used three words. Then every translation must use as a minimum three distinct words.

That's not how translation works.

Mark B. Hanson said...

In my time in Texas, I came to think that "y'all" was singular (since they usually used it to refer to just me - "Where y'all from?"), and "all y'all" was the plural.

Did I err?

Craig and Heather said...

In my time in Texas, I came to think that "y'all" was singular (since they usually used it to refer to just me - "Where y'all from?"), and "all y'all" was the plural.

Did I err?


Well, I understand Texans are pretty pleased to be able to lay claim to "bigger" things. Perhaps they've even developed bigger pronouns?

H

stratagem said...

I am not anti-NIV, but seriously it does creep me out just a bit that the same company also publishes the Satanic Bible. Personally I would have a big problem with that, if I were them.

Craig and Heather said...

I am not anti-NIV, but seriously it does creep me out just a bit that the same company also publishes the Satanic Bible. Personally I would have a big problem with that, if I were them.
Is the NIV the only version that company produces?

Maybe that is where that KJVO guy got the idea it is a tainted translation...

stratagem said...

Heather, once again, I am not saying that there's anything wrong with the NIV. I am saying that if a Company also produces the SB, it is a reflection of their motives that makes me less than fully trusting of them.
I remember when Z. was bought out many many moons ago, and I kind of wondered if, with new ownership, it would just become a business with no other spiritual motivation. I guess that was a prescient thought at the time.

Craig and Heather said...

Stratagem,

I wasn't thinking you were specifically picking on NIV. And I do understand what you mean. No issues with what you've said, honest!

I was seriously wondering whether it is the only version printed by the aforementioned company...and whether that somehow cemented the concept into the one guy's head of it being an evil translation.

I wish it was a joke, but the guy I mentioned (I can't remember where) seriously argued that it was "of the devil" and I wonder if his reasoning was simply "guilt by association. I literally was scared into avoiding our NIV....

Sorry to not be more clear about my line of thought.

H

Jmv7000 said...

I don't want to disappoint anyone, but working in the book industry, let me help you out.

Publishers. . . "Christian" publishers, print books (that includes Bibles) for the purpose of MAKING MONEY.

Bottom line.

Craig and Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig and Heather said...

Thanks, Jmv7000.

I've often wondered at the garbage that some publishers pass off as Christian literature. It isn't at all surprising to note that money is the motivator and goes a long way to explain the lack of discretion concerning content.
I personally wouldn't go so far as to say that a certain Bible translation is suspect due to it's being printed by a particular publisher---but I have been aware of Christians deciding to boycott over such things. I suppose that enters the realm of conscience in a similar manner as
eating meat sacrificed to idols.

H

jsaras said...

I agree with all that you have said. Although there will never be a perfect translation ito English, the Holman CSB(or HCSB) is one of the best I've encountered. It retains all the correct genders, theological terms, etc., it's as literal the ESV and it's good modern English.

One could argue that it's even more literal than the NASB or ESV because of the extensive footnotes that give alternate or literal renderings of many passages. You can get a glimpse of the translation process as a result.

It is NOT a Southern Baptist translation. That statement has no basis in fact.

Jmv7000 said...

Heather,

Your right, I think to not use a version or book because XYZ publishes it is a logical fallacy.

And, at the end of the day, we understand the publishers need to put food on the table. . .

stratagem said...

Jmv7000: Naturally that is true. However I'd have a problem with working in the Christian publishing industry, if my parent firm were also publishing heretical garbage, that's all. Probably good that I don't work in that or I'd prolly get fired fairly qucikly.

stratagem said...

"And, at the end of the day, we understand the publishers need to put food on the table. . ."

At the cost of publishing heresies, even? Talk about a logical fallacy...

Craig and Heather said...

However I'd have a problem with working in the Christian publishing industry, if my parent firm were also publishing heretical garbage, that's all. Probably good that I don't work in that or I'd prolly get fired fairly qucikly.

In order to be consistent, that logic would need to be extended to other areas such as the movie industry, packaged food items and personal products. A lot of smaller companies have been assimilated by larger distributors and have connections that I would not support.

If the publisher of NIV has, in effect, "sacrificed to idols", does this issue not fall into the realm of "if your conscience burns over it, than don't do it"? And similarly..."if your conscience is clean over something that another person cannot allow himself to do, then (out of concern for his well-being) don't wave your freedom in his face"?

Heather

stratagem said...

Heather

True - but isn't that exactly what I've said? That is, what "I" myself would do?

All companies do wrong things, at times, but if they start promoting the outright denial and denigration of the Word of God, don't you think that's kind of a special case... at least for a Christian?

That "the publishers have to put bread on the table" is no excuse for promoting heresies: Following that "logic," one could say that the first century Christians just "had to keep from being thrown to the lions," so denial of the Lord was excusable. (I realize that you weren't the one who said that).

Jmv7000 said...

Strat,

Let me help you out here because I most CERTAINLY did not mean what you think I meant. . .

All I meant was it isn't wrong for publishers to work to make money. plain and simple. No more, no less. Your line of thought, that you think I meant, is not what I meant. I could have been more clear, and probably should, so forgive me for being vague and aloof.

DJP said...

Is it still OK for me to be vague and aloof?

Jmv7000 said...

Absolutely!!!! In fact, I usually enjoy it so much more. Just be careful when someone puts [logic] words in your mouth! ! ! :)

Craig and Heather said...

Stratagem,


I gotcha. Just had to clarify your meaning. It is amazing how many people will demand that "their" conscience be what dictates everyone else's behavior.

Personally, I wouldn't knowingly continue to support a company that was openly opposed to God's Word. However, I would not likely search through my shelves with the intention of tossing all previously purchased books which published by a certain company.

To be honest, I've been pretty disgusted in general with what I see advertised by supposedly Christian groups so I have avoided buying in general. Sad, because our family enjoys good books

As far as "bread on the table" goes, perhaps there actually are very few Christians still involved in the publishing companies that have been eaten up by secular ones....I honestly don't know. Guess you guys can discuss that one.

With that, I shall now place my hand over my mouth and go about my day ;O)

H

BrettR said...

Could they add a sharpie so that I can blacken out the phrases and words that don't line up with my rigid reformed philosophies?

Seriously though, if TeamNIV could get a do-over on John, I would like that very much. I know I am too dumb to figure things out for myself, but just bring the words. Please?

stratagem said...

Heather / Jmv7000: OK, fair enough. Sounds like we are all on the same page, then.

JMS said...

I'm just curious as to why you are so adamant on the singular/plural preservation? Speaking in singular or plural is a linguistic convention that many times is more like idiom than literal referent. Did Jesus's hearers really hear "Let any MAN take up HIS cross..." or did they hear "let anyone take up THEIR cross..."??

Dogged insistence on avoiding the generic plural is simply a personal preference that cannot be defended on theological or even linguistic grounds.

DJP said...

That simply is not true. Anyone who knows Greek or Hebrew knows that the writers were equally capable of using singulars or plurals. If we're going to take a cavalier attitude towards the words the Holy Spirit moved these men to use (Proverbs 30:5; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21), then there is no reason not to do the same with tenses, moods and yet grosser data.

Further, the only reason to avoid the singular (i.e. "but his delight is in the law of Yahweh") is politically-correct fad-ism. Imposing a hostile grid on the text of Scripture is not an act of translation; it's an act of violence.

Jon said...

I've heard nothing good about the TNIV from pastors that I trust and good from pastors I don't trust. If Rob Bell "luuuuuvs" the TNIV then that's enough for me to stay away from it. I have it on my iPod Touch because it was free and I was curious. I trust those that have done the study and deemed it "bad news".

The Bible I most read until I switched to my NASB MacArthur Study Bible was the ESV. I compare the ESV and NASB quite a bit and I've always found the NASB to be more readable.

That's my highly thought out and intellectual two cents to the discussion. Other than...

Only the Truly Reformed use the Authorized 1995 NASB Edition!!!

ryangeer said...

Imposing a hostile grid on the text of Scripture is not an act of translation; it's an act of violence.

The best statement in this whole discussion.

DJP said...

JonI compare the ESV and NASB quite a bit and I've always found the NASB to be more readable

Do you know how many eyebrows you raised with that statement?

(c;

Craig and Heather said...

Only the Truly Reformed use the Authorized 1995 NASB Edition!!!

Well, there you go!


Jon — I compare the ESV and NASB quite a bit and I've always found the NASB to be more readable

Do you know how many eyebrows you raised with that statement?


I tend to get lost with ESV, too actually. Don't know if that means my NASB is actually easier to read or just that it is what I'm used to.

My husband seems to think his switch to ESV clarifies several concepts that tend to be difficult to see in some of the other translations.

Heather

donsands said...

The sad part for me when I went ESV, was that I had to set my NKJ, with all my notes on the shelf. Yep, I write in my Bible. I know some would say I'm added to the Word, as I realize many regard writing in the Holy Bible as wrong.

And I still have my King James Open Bible with many notes as well.

What an incredible God we have who would grant us His truth, which is His Word in such abundance. Satan hates it I'm sure, and he will perpetually strive with all his wisdom to thwart and hinder the Word going forth.

Have a blessed holiday and Lord's Day.

Mesa Mike said...

Get the ESVSB. The Truly Reformed and Authorized notes are already written in for you.

CD-Host said...

As an aside Avon (who does publish the Satanic bible) also publishes the Catherine Marshall's Illustrated Children's Story Bible.

Stan McCullars said...

Jon,
I've heard nothing good about the TNIV from pastors that I trust

I'm not saying that you have to, or that I do, trust all of the following, but surely you trust at least one of the following:

D.A. Carson
Darrell Bock
John R. W. Stott
Tremper Longman III
Craig Blomberg
Roger Nicole
Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
Timothy George
Craig S. Keener
Philip Yancey
John R. Kohlenberger III
John Ortberg
Bill Hybels
Lee Strobel
Alec Hill
Erwin McManus
Warren Wiersbe

As for the bed-wetting heretic Rob Bell, having a nutcase love a particular translation doesn't taint the translation.

Satan quoted Scripture. I presume it was from the Septuagint. That didn't stop Jesus and the Apostles from using it.

We really need more charity in the discussion of Bible translation.

DJP said...

Except about the TNIV, true.

:^P

Andrew said...

I know I'm late to this meta, but how about consistently rendering "doulos" as "slave"?

DJP said...

Yep.

CSB does.

Jon said...

Stan - I'm familiar with several of those guys, but with all the translations available to us and the positive reviews by heretics like Rob Bell is enough reason for me to never bother. HSAT, I really haven't investigated the problems of the TNIV myself, but only checked a few verses here and there.

Dan - The ESV has deluded the minds of all those who read it! They need to spend time reflecting in the repentance corner and then start using the Authorized 1995 NASB Version!

And kinda off topic, I want to pick on the ESV Study Bible for a second. I don't mind the study notes on the different eschatology views, but when it comes to creation it's horrible! Anybody else think so?

gospelandgrace said...

Dan,

HCSB not only gets "doulos" correct but has a consistent use of "Yahweh" as well. I also understand that the forthcoming second edition (early 2010) will use Yahweh even more than the current edition.

I used the NIV from its inception until the TNIV "scandal". I replaced it with the HCSB though I consult the NASB update and the NET (especially for the notes).

I am truly concerned that as Frank pointed out that Dr. Moo and Biblica have stated that the revision will be based on the TNIV text not the current (1984) NIV. Like Dr. Mohler I pray that this will be an accurate, useful translation; but for me personally I am highly, highly skeptical. As Ronald Reagan used to say "Trust but verify".

DJP said...

GaG, the CSB is an odd, mixed bundle. It seems to weave in and out between FE and DE. Sometimes it's absolutely brilliant. It has some independent, spot-on renderings that are tantalizing. But then again it has some maddening inconsistencies that make no sense whatever. For instance, the same word christos in the NT will be presented by both Christ and Messiah, within just a few verses of each other.

Its handling of Yahweh is no more sane, in my mind. I wrote at some length on that, and on what you mention, HERE. Check it out.

Tim Brown said...

I have one idea. For *once* can they please write John 3:16 so that it is closer to saying "the believing ones" instead of *whosoever believes*?

I don't understand why there are no translations that do this. Or is there one?

Jmv7000 said...

Tim

Is that the right idea of "pas ho pisteuwn" ??? Or an assertion you heard preached?

Stan McCullars said...

I believe (no pun intended) that "pisteuwn" (πιστευων) is a verb.

Jmv7000 said...

Sure, but in this verse it we would parse it as a participle which means it can either be verbal, adjectival, or substantive (acting like a noun). . .

gospelandgrace said...

Dan,

Well I do agree. I read an interview with the General Editor (Dr. Blum) that indicates some of those inconsistencies with Christ vs. Messiah and Yahweh were to be corrected in the second edition update.
I have seen some of the changes coming and would have to agree on the mix of Formal and Dynamic Equivalence. It moves in both directions with some of the changes.
I have looked at the ESV but would have to agree with an earlier post that I think the NASB update reads more smoothly.

Mike Riccardi said...

Pisteuwn is a participle, and I guess if you were to be as literal as you could be it'd read, "all the believing in Him..." When we have substantive participles in English, we often add "ones" or "people" to make it sound less awkward. But not always (e.g., "Only the good die young.").

What I'd be surprised to see in a rendering of John 3:16 is the proper understanding of outws, which is "in this way."

So what have we got now?

"For God loved the world in this way: He gave His unique Son so that all the believing in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."

Mike Riccardi said...

Sorry... I meant to say: "When we have substantive adjectives in English..." Not necessarily participles.

Although participles can be adjectival, as pisteuwn is.

jsaras said...

The HCSB rendering of John 3:16 "For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life."

paulwilkinson said...

I'm approx. comment #117 and I may have missed one or two, but I'm not seeing a lot of direct response to the very first comment:

Perhaps a new translation committee. Seriously, if they butchered the text like that the last time why should we think they won't do it again?

From the scant information I've seen on the CBT, one of the surprising things was how little they actually meet together. My mental image was a group of experts in a conference room going over the thing chapter by chapter, verse by verse, line by line.

Not, "Okay, we'll see y'all back in a month's time. Last one out get the lights."

Jacob said...

So, HCSB 2010 tagline, then: "Same Bible, more Yahweh"?

I enjoy the ESV for reading/praying through the Psalms. I find the ESV rendering of the Psalms much more "readable" than the NASB, although I like to refer to the NASB when questions arise in other books of the Bible. I also have the ol' Young's Literal Translation for extended word reference (not sure what you all [haha] think about the YLT?). For online use, BibleGateway is very handy for switching between versions, and I have ESV and NASB on my iPod touch thanks to the fantastic BibleTouch apps from CrossComm.

Andrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

I've spent time in Memphis, where y'all is singular and all y'all is plural. Posessive: Y'all's and all y'all's

The thorn.. Isn't that the archaic letter representing the "th" sound? Before its demise it began to look like "y", which is why 16th century books have "y" with a superscript "e" as an abbreviation for "the", and "y" with a superscript "t" as an abbreviation for "that." But I don't think that's any relation to the word "ye" meaning "you."