Thinking Out Loud

September 2, 2011

CT Comments on Bible Translation Long on Emotion, Short on Rationality

When the piece says “A Christianity Today Editorial,” you know that it was the joint product of the editorial staff, not one rogue writer.  It also means, “this is serious.” In this case, it’s a thoughtful piece that explains the balance that one finds in the 2011 edition of the New International Version (NIV) and the total hypocrisy of the SBC in proposing to ban the translation from its churches, while its bookstore chain is ringing copy after copy after copy through its cash registers.

However, over in the comments section, here’s some of the venom and misinformation that’s out there [with some responses from myself]:

  • Translations, like NIV2011, that distort the original language to facilitate a theological agenda that is contrary to God’s Word should not be promoted, encouraged, or tolerated in the church.  [actually, the Committee on Bible Translation represents scholars from various churches]
  • Well, this article is deceptive with it’s generalizations rather than specifics with its closing statements … [no actually the closing paragraph is fairly specific, the SBC as a whole is talking one thing and doing another]
  • Bible sales have gone up, but what is the major translation that has flooded the market? NOT the NIV spoken of in this article, but the NKJV & the ESV [actually some people in the publishing industry would care to differ with your interpretation of the ESV stats — if you have any — and the NKJV is fairly flat right now as well]
  • I am even more concerned that there seems to be no author credited for this editorial.  [see my comment in the introduction…don’t you just hate it when there’s no individual to attack?…]
  • The dissatisfaction with this latest, “gender-accurate” translation of the NIV is widespread, crossing denominational lines.  [uh, actually it’s relatively limited to the SBC]
  • I will not use the NIV 2011 version in our ministries and I’m afraid the NIV folks have lost many people like myself. Simply put, they have lost my trust.  [but did you actually read a single chapter of it?]
  • The NLT and NCV never made themselves out to be anything but paraphrases with a more gender inclusive nature. [first of all, there’s no such word in linguistics as ‘paraphrase;’ secondly, with 128 translators — not paraphrasers — the NLT is the most translated Bible on the market.]
  • …As a pastor, I will not allow a TNIV nor an NIV2011 cross the threshold of my home or office. They are theological poison! Personally I’m a KJV kind of guy… The KJV presents to us the perfect and finished work of the cross. Other translations make faith an outward working which leads us into bondage. [and I hope when you get to heaven, you get to meet people who were saved through the new NIV — this ‘poisonous’ translation — because they will certainly be there…]
  • An example is Romans 1:17. The NIV translates that in the gospel “a righteousness from God is revealed.”  [talk about missing the point…yes the 1984 edition does say that, but the NIV 2011 moves much closer to what the author of the comment wants — too bad he didn’t bother to check before posting the comment]
  • The author must have attended the same seminary as Brian McLaren- Oh wait, he never went to seminary and has no theological education of any kind. Why do we let people like this represent us. Christianity Today is out of touch with what Christians believe. This is not about translation methodology, but politically correct tinkering with the text to sell more Bibles to liberal denominations.  [this comment is a fail on so many grounds: (a) the senior staff at CT have sufficient training — including seminary — to do their job and (b) the NIV market has always been Evangelicals; the “liberals” the author describes aren’t going to touch it no matter how hard anyone tries]
  • For a critique of modern translation theory and practice, see Leland Ryken’s… pamphlet, Choosing a Bible. [probably one of the most overt examples of ESV propaganda out there, and published by the ESV’s publisher within weeks of the ESV translation’s release]
  • I’m most worried about the true motivations of publishing houses feeding the 80-90% of the world where we already have reliable modern translations with newer translations when those same scholars and publishing houses could be actively partnering to translate and publish for unreached and under-reached people groups.  [on the surface, a good point, but you have to have learned those languages to do that work; instead English translators wrestle with issues that provide background to foreign language translators]
  • …Tinkering with one thing today is a prelude to tinkering with many more things later depending on one’s own interpretation.  [but actually, if you read Mark Strauss and Gordon Fee’s How to Choose a Translation for All It’s Worth — admittedly published by Zondervan — you learn that with the TNIV, the translators actually reverted back to older forms and poetic structures]
  • Are we going to rename “Manchester” to “Personchester”? (and any way Chester is a man’s name….)  [Manchester. Yes. That’s where all this has been heading all along]
  • …more to follow, I’m sure…

With all of this taking place, there’s been little notice of a quietly growing — now in its third printing — new translation, The Common English Bible (CEB).  Has anyone taken any time to look at the same issues in the CEB? 

Advertisements

June 17, 2011

Southern Baptists Reject New NIV Translation

SBC shindig in Phoenix, four days ago

“We’ll get Mikey to try it, he hates everything”
classic Life cereal commercial line

At their annual convention in Phoenix, Arizona, “messengers” of the Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly “not to commend” the newly revised edition of the New International Version translation of the Bible, aka NIV 2011.

Their unstated reason is simple: They don’t like it.

Specifically, they don’t like it when passages that traditionally referred to males — using words like he, him, his, man, men, etc. — get changed to gender neutral pronouns.

But gender neutral is usually how the original texts read.  In the book, How To Choose A Bible Translation for All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss, the latter talks about working on the translation committee for the TNIV.  He notes that the Greek “anthropos” — from which we no doubt get the word anthropology, the study of human civilization — refers to  ‘person’ or ‘persons.’  You could say, tongue in cheek, that “in anthropos there is neither male nor female.” 

But he goes on to explain that forms like “Son of Man” cannot be jettisoned so easily, since they are both a poetic form and a doctrinal statement.  In other words, God is not a ‘she’ in either the TNIV or the NIV-2011, though this is how some hot-headed people would have you believe it reads.   It’s the end of doctrinal purity as we know it.

Consider this verse which we’ve been discussing here on this blog and at Christianity 201 recently:

If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

What possible major doctrinal violation takes place when I paraphrase that as:

If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

[The so-called “singular to plural” crisis is, in this case, solved by the antecedent use of “one.”]

The answer is: Nothing.  It’s a much closer rendering of what Jesus is saying here, unless, of course, he is extending the invitation of discipleship entirely to males.

The Southern Baptists simply don’t like the change.  And they don’t like it with the same venom that characterizes King James Version Only people.  (And yes, I said King James Version only, which KJ-Onlyites hate because it concedes there are in fact other versions.) 

You can read the wording of their resolution here.

Furthermore, when you read it, you’ll note this interesting clause:

RESOLVED, That we respectfully request that LifeWay not make this inaccurate translation available for sale in their bookstores;

Ah yes, the power of an economic boycott.  The SBC controls the LifeWay chain of bookstores and websites; an organism about which I’ve already expressed a certain degree of contempt here.  This is the group that believes women should not teach men, but rakes in huge piles of cash daily from the sales of books by Beth Moore.  This is the same mentality that caused a group of 800 male pastors to turn their chairs so that their backs were to the podium during an address being given by Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz; a story referred to in a chapter of J. Lee Grady’s book Ten Lies The Church Tells Men, that was referred to here a few days ago.

What is Zondervan to do about all this?  The remaining editions of the NIV-1984 version in the Thinline and Church Bible (formerly Pew Bible) style — the two most popular formats — have already been discontinued and remaining copies donated to mission agencies.  The devotional, teen and study Bibles are not in reprint awaiting the fall release of the rest of the NIV-2011 product line.

Zondervan made an “all-in” commitment to the new translation, and is now met with this slap in the face from North America’s largest Protestant denomination.

But largest for how long?  As we reported here on Wednesday, USAToday’s religion page states that baptism statistics for the SBC are at a virtual all-time low for the past two generations, dropping to 1950s levels.  The denomination is going the way of many mainline Protestant ones; losing relevancy and losing younger families.

As for the translation issue:  C’mon guys (which implies both male and female here).  Look at the example above from Luke 9 and tell me that some element of the Christian faith is being compromised by the paraphrase I offered. 

If not, then suck it up. 

Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  Our faith is based on unchanging truth.

But the English language is changing, and male-dominated, patriarchal language simply doesn’t mean what you think it means anymore; it isn’t heard that way, and simply doesn’t cut it.

~Paul Wilkinson

November 23, 2010

Notations on Galatians — NIV 2011

Technology may not always be as labor-saving as it should be, but in this case, it definitely helps.   This is an extension of something I did last week at Christianity 201, and began with the discovery that in revising the NIV for the new release for March, 2011, some books of the Bible got changed more than others.   The second-most modified text was in III John. The most greatly updated text was Galatians.

The red text indicates 1984 text that was deleted, and the green text indicates the 2011 replacement version.   It’s not just whimsical to play Bible translator and ask yourself what might be behind the revisions you see here, it’s actually good Bible study.

Note:  Section headers, while part of the copyrighted texts of the respective versions are not considered part of Biblical text.   This comparison was done at textdiff.com … Care was taken to place the translations of each chapter in the correct order for comparison purposes, so yes, in the fruit of the spirit passage, “patience” is the current text and “forbearance” is the revision.    32.21% of the verses in Galatians saw some reconstruction.   Some additional verses had other word changes or punctuation changes… Text as accessed 22.11.10 at BibleGateway.com … For the sake of space, this comparison does not include the footnotes.

Chapters two through six continue after the break.

Chapter One

1 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters[a] with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
No Other Gospel
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you byto live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let himthem be eternally condemned!under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let himthem be eternally condemned!under God’s curse!

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men,human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please men?people? If I were still trying to please men,people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul Called by God
11 I want you to know, brothers,brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from birth[a]my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I didmy immediate response was not to consult any man,human being. 17 nor did I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and laterArabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter[b]Cephas[b] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21 Later

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me. (more…)

November 2, 2010

New NIV Has Everyone Talking

Like the weather and country music, everyone has a thought to weigh in on the new NIV.    The ultimate test of its success will be measured by the numbers of people who commit to print copies when those release in March, but meanwhile, here at T-Minus-Five-Months, if nothing else, this must be driving a huge volume of traffic to BibleGateway.Com, no doubt including people who had never used the site before.

On the other hand, if you are a regular BibleGateway user, you’ll note that if NIV (old) was your default translation, it has automatically been reset for you to NIV (new).   This is indicated by a ©2010 notation, even though most of know the project as NIV 2011.   (I guess you can’t copyright into the future, though it didn’t stop Larry Norman from doing it on one of the Crosstones albums.)

see photo info at end of article

On Monday, a search for “New NIV”  (in quotation marks) yielded approx 1,200 mentions using the Google Blog search alone, but less than a hundred during the timeframe the text was actually released online.    There was a lot of speculation ahead of time apparently, or else a lot of people got advance copies, which I doubt.   The best test for you, the reader, is to look up verses with which you are intimately familiar, and then discern for yourself if this is the translation for you.

While I have no reason at this point not to like it, I continue to be impressed with my NLT, right up last night’s reading of Isaiah 55.    It continues to feel increasingly comfortable.    The new NIV — to be referred to, by the way, as simply the NIV — is 95% a reiteration of the previous edition.   Only 5% is revised.

Most of the online comments at this point are rather cursory.   How do you assess a Bible in just a few hours?   But N. J. Mackison (I hope I got the name right) does the best job I saw last night with a variety of observations, including the change from “saints” to “holy people.”   This one is definitely worth a mouse click.

Kevin Davis takes an objective look at how the new translation deals with the gender-inclusive issue.   There’s a similar post at the Better Bibles Blog.

Denny Burk includes the video introduction by Douglas Moo, and notes correctly that Zondervan et al have had some rather bad experiences updating the NIV in the past, and really need this one to work.

Darryl Dash, who lives about 90 minutes west of me, has the video also, and goes one better with an interview with Dr. Moo.   Don’t miss this one.

Nick Norelli shines the spotlight on a well known passage in Philippians 2.

The blogger simply known as Dave laments the eventual loss of the TNIV, as I’m sure others will.

Jimmy Snowden is a HCSB user who weighs in on the new version and also why he is not an ESV reader.

Charles Halton is upset that the Committee on Bible Translation didn’t like any of the suggestions he sent them in an open letter.

The blogger at Evangelical Textual Criticism incorrectly observes that BibleGateway has removed the old NIV, though we found it at 10 PM at the end of the translation list.

Robert Jimenez notes that “flesh” has replaced the term “sinful nature” and also looks briefly at the gender issue.    Cory Howell gets into this in more detail, including a look at the term “son of man.”

…That’s an overview of where things stood at 11 PM last night (EDT) on day one of the new translation.   Oddly, when I checked Alltop Church and Alltop Christian — the two Alltop blog aggregators to which I belong — I couldn’t bring up any mention of NIV in the post titles.

If your blog, or one you’ve read on this topic isn’t mentioned here, there’s lots of room in the comments.  Just don’t include the link to this one.

PHOTO INFO:  Kenneth L. Barker’s classic book has nothing at all to do with this article, but this post desperately needed a graphic.

Blog at WordPress.com.