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Friday, 21 April 2006

The TNIV in Luke 12:45

KJV "But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;"

TNIV Luke 12:45 "But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk."

Here is a typical case of overkill. In an attempt to fix what wasn't broken (KJV has 'men servants and maidens', NIV has 'menservants and womenservants), the CBT has changed the whole meaning of the passage, which speaks of a servant (the Greek word doulos is only used in the first clause of the verse) who is put in authority.

The Cotton Patch Version might have been expected to do a better job on this passage, and indeed it does show (with gender inclusivity on the part of the beaten servants taken for granted) the relative position of 'the servant' to 'the other servants', a distinction now lost in the TNIV:

"But if that worker begins to say to himself, 'My boss will be late this morning,' and starts throwing his weight around and abusing those under him, then he goes out to get something to eat and a few beers. . . ."

But both versions fail to capitalize on the opportunity to relate this parable to a setting very close to the mind of the English reader, especially if he or she is from the Southern U.S.: the setting is of SLAVERY, not the corner office. Let me show how it could be translated, in a way that would far better reproduce its effect on Jesus' hearers:

"But suppose the overseer says to himself, 'Master is taking a long time to get back,' and begins to beat up the slaves--both men and women--and to eat and drink and get drunk."

Alas, not only did the TNIV demote the overseerer to a fellow slave, they even preserved his masculinity--thus proving that the masculine gender is STILL the gender of generic reference, and substituting the anaphoric pronoun 'them' for 'him' everywhere it occurrs in generic usage does nothing to avoid the offense here of a MALE supervisor beating up on his FEMALE underlings.

Actually, the Cotton Patch account is more gender-neutral than even the TNIV, and with the "ex uno plura" magic of just a little bit of CBT grammarspeak, it can be fixed up to remove all possible offense:

"But if that worker begins to say to themself, 'My boss will be late this morning,' and starts throwing their weight around and abusing their underlings, and goes out to get something to eat and a few beers. . . ."

But we don't speak that way yet in English. Possibly some teenagers do, but as long as they insist on universal gender equality they will find no solace even in that pinnacle of teenspeak, The Message:

45"But if he says to himself, 'The master is certainly taking his time,' begins maltreating the servants and maids, throws parties for his friends, and gets drunk. . . ."

Update: I failed to notice until now the obvious influence of the parallel passage on this parable. No doubt textual critics centuries from now will note that the TNIV editors were probably influenced by the wording of their translation of Matthew 24:49--
"and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards."

The TNIV in Malachi 4:6

CounterMalachi 4: 6 "He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction."

Let it not be said that I am on a mission to totally discredit the TNIV. In fact, having researched the revision 4 years ago and found it wanting, I had pretty much put it out of my mind as "not for me," until along came this Symposium earnestly trying to convince me otherwise. So I returned to the subject, and this time found wanting not only the revision itself, but all the more so its proponents and their futile arguments favouring it above all its predecessors.

But here I find the TNIV to be a most excellent translation, and fault the KJV, like as the NIV, for gender-neutralizing 'sons' without completing the parallelism by doing the same for 'fathers'. Nor can I find fault with the translation of erets as 'land' instead of the potentially misleading 'earth'. And I trust that the erudite minds of the CBT were correct in changing the 'curse' of the KJV/NIV to 'total destruction'--not because they have earned that trust, but because in fact the typical connotation of cherem in the OT is that of the results of a curse, not of the curse itself. While I find 'or else' rather jarring to the ear, at least in this case the damage had already been done in the NIV, so I can fault the CBT here only for not revising enough, rather than too much.

Had the CBT confined themselves to repairing only those places in which the KJV and the NIV shared a deficiency of translation--places in which the former translations were themselves inconsistent or misleading--then I could indeed concur that its good points outweigh the bad. But instances of the one are few and far between, and totally overshadowed by the other. Thus I will continue to study the TNIV as I do the LXX--with both eyes open, pen in hand, and a shelf of reference books within easy reach. But I cannot view the translations in the same vien (although the claims of both versions' proponents are perhaps equally exaggerated), for while the LXX represents but the rudimentary first step in of the art of Bible translation, the TNIV is now set before us as its pinnacle.

I failed to notice at first that the TNIV NT had preceded the Malachi translation with the same wording in Luke 1:17--where, interestingly enough, the Greek word is the one for 'children', rather than 'sons'.

Update June 2012:
 Neither the KJV nor the NIV follow the Masoretic text at the end of Malachi, where it repeats v. 5 following v. 6, due to a Masoretic custom not to end any book of the Bible on a negative note. The Complete Jewish Bible follows the MT here and the three other places, with the repeated verse in smaller type.

Thursday, 20 April 2006

The TNIV in John 6:33

John 6:33 "For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

The second use of 'bread' here in the TNIV is insightful. Both the NKJV and the NIV had "for the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven," referring to Christ himself.

So, contrary to their claims, the CBT have removed a masculine reference to God ('he') and replaced it with a genderless noun. And yet they scoffed at the KJV for using "which!"

This was not only deliberate, but given that they have so strenuously denied doing any such thing, it can only be considered deceptive as well.

UPDATE 2013: Unchanged in the NNIV.

The TNIV in Hebrews 11:35 and Luke 12:14

CounterHebrews 11:35 "Women [gunaikes] received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. "

Why 'women'? If 'men' can sometimes mean 'men and women' in context, then why, in the name of gender sensitivity, can't in contexts like this 'women' mean 'men and women' too? Do the CBT really believe that only women can be bereaved? Did not both Abraham and Jacob receive their sons back, as it were, from the dead? Were they not both men? How about the Prodigal's father?

Update: It was starting to look like the CBT always translates gyn- as 'woman', but never anthrop- as 'man,' when I ran across Luke 12:

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."
14 Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" 15 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions."

Jesus' first word in v. 14 is anthrowpe, which the CBT usually avoids translating in the male gender whenever possible--even when referring to Jesus if it is his humanity that is primarily in view, rather than his masculinity. But this instance is ironic. Nothing in the passage itself, nor in its immediate context, indicates that the person Jesus addressed, or even that person's sibling, was specifically male. Only a cultural understanding of Jesus' audience would have indicated that only sons inherited from their fathers (but see Job 42:15 for several notable exceptions!). That same cultural understanding, however, seems to have failed to inform the CBT that the women in Acts 1 did not vote in church business meetings!

Once one breaks free from the moorings of normal meanings of words, anything is possible, but nothing is certain.

Saturday, 15 April 2006

The TNIV in John 15:26

"When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me."

The TNIV breaks from the KJV/NIV in this verse to identify Jesus' name for the Holy Spirit as "Advocate" rather than "Comforter." While this would seem a better translation into standard English of the Greek word 'parakletos,' I can't help but comment on how this verse nonetheless points out an inconsistency in the TNIV's treatment of grammatical gender.

Promotors of the TNIV would assure us that they have not, like some gender-corrected translators, given us a bible that at all diminishes God's masculinity. To quote John Kohlenburger III:

"Gender inclusive translations like the TNIV do not dabble with God language. When God describes himself as a Father or husband--or even compares himself to a comforting mother in Isaiah 66--these images are retained."

But is God exclusively masculine?

The TNIV gender-sensitizes Genesis 1:27 as follows:

So God created human beings [KJV, NIV 'man'] in his own image, in the image of God he created them [KJV, NIV 'him']; male and female he created them.

So, more blatantly than does the NIV (which is exactly the same as the NKJV here), the TNIV states that God's image was reflected in both the male AND the female that He created. So if God's image is feminine as well as masculine, what's wrong with using feminine language for God?

Obviously the Father and Son always take masculine singular modifiers in Scripture, but how about the Spirit? As the TNIV advocates point out, the Holy Spirit is grammatically feminine in the OT and neuter in the NT, yet they criticize the KJV for using neuter language in the NT for the Holy Spirit. But why in the name of gender accuracy does the TNIV translate as if the Holy Spirit is masculine instead? They would have been no less accurate in using feminine language for the Holy Spirit in the NT; even more accurate in the OT, except that there don't appear to be any OT passages where the gender of the Holy Spirit would come through in English translation.

By using masculine language in John 15:26, the TNIV makes no improvement on the KJV. And in Acts 11:15, it perpetuates the error of the NIV by inserting masculine language in reference to the Holy Spirit where the KJV has none!

The TNIV translators have tried both to produce a more accurate translation, and to avoid assigning male gender to their translation of Greek words that don't require it, but here they have once again failed at both.

Monday, 10 April 2006

The TNIV in Acts 1-2

I was recently invited to attend a "Bible Translation Symposium" in Winona Lake, IN. A look at the syllabus told me that this was clearly going to be a sell job for the TNIV, so I didn't bother going. But someone who did passed on the curriculum to me, and it is my intention to spend some time critiquing a key point in the TNIV's defense of its gender-sensitive translation policy.

First of all, some praise for the CBT, the producers of the NIV/RNIV/NIrV/TNIV. Bless their hearts, they really put out the effort to produce a translation that met the goals they set out for themselves. They really weren't prepared, I'm sure, for the backlash of opposition their work received, nor was it exactly fairly given when all major translations since 1983 have been guilty of some level of gender inclusivity. Here the detractors can point to the Colorado Springs Guidelines, in which the publishers of the NIV promised not to revise it in the direction of gender inclusivity. But in their defense, the CBT have always claimed that the Guidelines did not apply to the TNIV, which was then already in the works. And like they said, their translation isn't for everybody. It certainly isn't for my three teenagers, all of whom prefer an edition of the English Bible from several centuries earlier than the TNIV, and none of whom had any problem figuring out what the "gay clothing" in James chapter 2 refers to.

What bothers me about the CBT was not so much the way they went about accomplishing their goal (though I do believe that they did a rather poor job of it), but the goal they had in the first place. They attempted to make the Bible inoffensive, and in do doing they only set themselves up for failure. This was the original goal of the NIV: to remove the offense of archaic language from the Scriptures. Only a decade into the use of the NIV, it was found to still be just as offensive as ever, thus the solution: to remove gender-specific language. Alas, this is nothing but paying the dane-geld. "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness" (KJV)--or, "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing." (TNIV) Putting that in the language of a 21st-century teenager doesn't change a thing!

Now to the specific critique of a claim made at this Symposium: that the use of gender-sensitive language doesn't change any of the Bible's teaching on biblical manhood and womanhood, or the role of women in the church. I'll grant the CBT the benefit of the doubt and agree that they didn't have to change their own views any as a result of doing this translation; but I must needs remind them that the 21st-century views on this topic are a recent innovation, and insofar as the TNIV reflects the translators' views on gender, it does represent a change to the historic orthodox position.

For this study, we turn to the opening chapters of the book of Acts. In the KJV, the word 'men' is found in Acts 1 & 2 thirteen times: nine as a translation of 'andr-' and twice in translating other words that can refer to adult males. The other two times it is used as a supplied human specifier. In the TNIV for the same passage, 'men' is found only three times translating 'andr-': twice translating the same way the KJV did, twice as a supplied gender specifier, and twice to depict a word that the KJV translated as something else! Let's break this down by chapter and verse to see how inconsistent the TNIV is in carrying out its agenda of gender sensitivity.

Acts 1: KJV and TNIV both translate three of four occurrences of 'andr-' as 'men'; TNIV replaces the other with 'sisters'! Each supplies 'men' once: KJV as gender-inclusive usage, and TNIV as a word implied by immediate context.
v. 10 Both have 'men' (referring to non-gender-specific angels!)
v. 11 Both have 'men' (although the context would seem to demand the presence of women!)
v. 16 KJV has 'men'; TNIV has 'sisters'! (if 'men and brothers' didn't exclude the women present, what could Peter have possibly said that would have?)
v. 21 KJV and TNIV have 'men' (reinforcing the exclusive role of men in church leadership, contrary to the implications of TNIV in Rom. 16:7!)
v. 23 KJV has '(two)'; TNIV inserts '(two) men' (whose masculine names are supplied in context).
v. 24 KJV inserts '(all) men'; TNIV has 'everyone' (as did the NIV, so what's the improvement?)

An important question in Acts 1 is whether the women who were named as present participated in:

1) The 10-day prayer session in the upper room where they were present;
2) Deliberation on the choosing of Judas' successor;
3) Nominations to the lot which appointed Judas' successor.

In the first part of this question, both the KJV and TNIV strongly imply that the women were involved, but the TNIV more blatantly so by adding the word 'along' (but then so did the NIV, so what's the improvement?).

In the second part, the KJV shows that although women were present, Peter was specifically addressing the men in setting up the deliberation. But the TNIV specifically inserts the women into Peter's audience, and thus by implication into the deliberation. This is a definite change from all English versions prior to 1983, and brings women into church leadership at the first point it was exercised.

In the third part, the TNIV oddly is just as male-oriented as the NIV and KJV, but this limitation of the apostleship to males is in stark contrast with the TNIV's decisive move to a textual reading (the NIV marginal note has been excised) identifying a female apostle in Romans 16:7! Ironically, the NIV had rejected the KJV's reading of "Junia;" in the case of the TNIV it was clearly a deliberate gender-sensitivity inspired reversion.

Conclusion: The TNIV presents a rather confusing picture of gender roles in the early church through its inconsistent use of gender-inclusive language in Acts 1.

Acts 2: Of the five occurrences of 'andr-', the TNIV does not translate any as 'men'; in two places it needlessly parrots the KJV's 'offensive' male-specific usage, and in two different places it translates as 'men' a word that the KJV doesn't!

v. 5: KJV has 'men'; TNIV deletes 'men' but inserts 'God' (now who's scoffing at the KJV's 'God forbid'?)!
v. 13: KJV supplies 'men', TNIV justifiably doesn't, but it loses all that it gains by deleting 'sweet' (which at least the NIV had in a marginal note)! [on this verse, see my blog of 2/20/06]
v. 14: KJV has 'men (of Judea)'; TNIV naturally has 'fellow (Jews)'--having already mixed the company of v. 5!
v. 17: KJV and TNIV both translate 'neaniskoi' as '(young) men', although daughters are specified in the context!
v. 17: KJV and TNIV both translate 'presbuteroi' as '(old) men', although the entire immediate context is specifically mixed-gender!
v. 18: KJV has '(servants and handmaidens)'; TNIV has '(servants both) men (and women)', which, I grant, better represents the parallelism of 'doulous' and 'doulas'; but one would think that for consistency's sake alone they would have translated v. 17 as 'youth' and 'elders', thus keeping up the mixed-gender parallelism.
v. 22 KJV has 'men'; TNIV has 'people'--an acceptable inclusion, especially in light of v. 36.
v. 23 KJV has '(by wicked) hands'; TNIV has '(with the help of wicked) men'--somewhat inconsistent with the inclusive language in which Peter's harangue has otherwise been couched.
v. 29 KJV has 'men'; TNIV has 'sisters'!
v. 37 KJV has 'men'; TNIV must needs delete it, even though the referent is explicitly male! Otherwise they would, of course, have 'sisters'!
v. 45 KJV supplies '(all) men'; TNIV has 'anybody', which, I grant once again, is the clearer translation (but then so did the NIV, so what's the improvement?).

The question here is the gender makeup of Peter's audience. In the KJV, they are identified as men who colluded in the death of Jesus many weeks earlier. In the TNIV, they are men and women who colluded with the men who caused the death of Jesus--thus removing the entire audience from the immediate guilt of the crucifixion, all in the name of gender sensitivity.

Conclusion: The TNIV makes a change to the history of the Passion narrative while going in opposite directions with changes to the gender makeup of Peter's audience in Acts 2.

It is this sort of gender-bending translation in the TNIV which rightly brings approbation upon the heads of the CBT members. If this is the best of which they are able, may God deliver us from it.

Acts 1-2 is a unique passage, in that the gender makeup of the cast of characters is mixed, yet explicit single-gender usage alternates with explicit dual-gender usage. Women are (at least implicitly) depicted as openly praying and proclaiming in mixed company, but as silent observers while the men are voting for and being appointed to church leadership.

Although in a few spots it clarifies the mixed nature of the people in question, the TNIV--despite using male-specific language where it is unwarranted in the original--muddles the biblical distinction of gender-based roles by using dual-gender language when the maleness of the subject is actually being emphasized in the original. Thus the TNIV cannot be rightly said to "[give no] assistance [to those who] want to ordain women into pastoral leadership," as John Kohlenberger asserts. At best, it presents a mixed message, which can only play into the hands of those who despise the patriarchy of scripture.

Tuesday, 4 April 2006


From The Daily Reckoning, March 30 2006
The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 killed 25 to 50 million people - 2.5% and5% of the world's population. If you believe fear-mongers writing for the world's media, the supposedly virulent H5N1 bird flu virus will cause another pandemic any day now. If it's as bad as 1918, 125 to 300 million will die. With 747s, instead of the more leisurely steamships of 1918, any pandemic will spread a lot faster today so the death toll could possibly reach a billion people. A terrifying prospect, isn't it?But major differences - aside from 747s - between 1918 and now mean that the real chance of another 1918-style bird flu pandemic, while not zero, is pretty close. To start with, in 1918 scientists didn't even know what a virus was. They knew that the Spanish flu was caused by something smaller than bacteria - but until the 1940s no one could see or isolate a virus,let alone analyze one. Today not only do we know what viruses are, we have developed some protection against them; and scientists can decode their genetic sequence.

Secondly, the Spanish flu came out of the blue, so to speak. There was no warning - nor did anybody expect it. By the time people realized it was a pandemic, it had already spread worldwide.Today, in contrast, everybody expects a pandemic to begin any day, and health authorities everywhere are already planning what to do. (Let's just hope their preparations will be more effective that their planning for catastrophes like hurricane Katrina!) But remember SARS? It appeared from nowhere in 2002. And who expected something like it? Not a soul. Yet, just days after it was first identified as a new and unknown disease, sufferers and their contacts were quarantined; travelers were screened - and so many people decided to stay at home that airlines like Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific suffered dramatic declines in passengers - and profits. Within just a few weeks, SARS had been identified as a corona-virus, and soon thereafter its source was traced to civet cats in China's Guangdong province.

SARS, while not as contagious as influenza, was pretty nasty just the same. Almost 10% of the people who caught it died. Ironically,though, so effective were the measures taken to isolate sufferers thatover 20% of the people infected were doctors, nurses and other hospital staff - who caught it from patients! This totally new, virulent but unknown and unexpected disease - spread around the world almost instantly by 747s - killed a total of 774 people. Thousands more people die from diseases like malaria and dengue fever every year. Unlike SARS and the Spanish flu, the world now expects a disastrous,world-wide influenza pandemic to happen any day. So everybody's watching for it. The moment someone catches the H5N1 virus from a bird, they're isolated. Birds carrying the virus are being culled in the millions -further reducing the chances of it mutating into something that can jump from human to human. However, as the British Medical Journal put it in its October 29 issue:"The lack of sustained human-to-human transmission suggested that thisH5N1 virus does not currently have the capacity to cause a human pandemic," adding that the warnings are entirely a theoretical speculation. Is there any evidence for this conclusion? To judge from the press, thisH5N1 avian flu virus is something new. Maybe it isn't. What is certainly new is that every time someone catches it, it's on the front pages of the newspapers. Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger - a molecular pathologist with the Armed Forces Institute of Technology in Washington, D.C. - led the research team that recently decoded the 1918 Spanish flu virus.What they discovered: it was not H5N1 - or any other known avian flu virus. What's more, though definitely bird flu, it didn't originate in chickens, ducks or geese. In fact, nobody knows at the moment what bird it came from. As part of their research, Taubenberger and his team analyzed tissue samples from 25 preserved waterfowl, vintage around 1918, stored at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington.They discovered that avian flu viruses those birds carried were identical to same variants found in birds today. In nearly a century, these viruses have hardly changed or evolved at all.To people used to taking a flu shot every year - because last year's flu shot won't protect you against this year's flu - this may seem a surprising discovery. But human influenzas are continually evolving - as the virus gains resistance to each new medication. As birds don't take antibiotics, get flu shots or other medical cocktails, the viruses they carry don't need to change. The H5N1 avian flu virus is known to have been around since the late1950's. For all we know, it's been infecting people for hundreds - if not thousands - of years. And in all that time, it has not caused a human pandemic. But only in 1997 did scientists actually discover it had infected humans. As a result, today every person this virus infects is religiously reported instead of being ignored - which turns it into a scare, but not a pandemic.

Not everyone agrees, as we'll see in a moment. But here's something else that's suggestive: until very recently, only severe cases of H5N1 infection have been studied by doctors and scientists: the people who end up in hospital at death's door, where nearly half of them die. So we're given the impression - fostered by the scare-mongering media and scientists desperate for bigger government grants - that this is an incredibly deadly virus; one far worse than the Spanish flu. A study published on January 9th in the Archives of Internal Medicine casts serious doubt on this conclusion. In a province near Hanoi, Vietnam,where 80% of residents keep chickens and H5N1 is rampant, 45,476 were randomly selected for a survey - 8,149 of them, or 17.9% - reported having had flu-like symptoms with a fever and a cough. And nearly two-thirds of them had direct contact with sick or dying birds.While blood-testing needs to be done to confirm the hypothesis, it seems highly probable that the H5N1 strain of avian flu is very similar to the other viruses birds carry: capable of infecting humans but with very mild effects - indistinguishable from the common cold - when it does. Only a tiny percent of people infected react so badly they have to go to hospital. Until now, they were the only cases ever reported, so creating the unwarranted fear that H5N1 was exceptionally virulent.

Unfortunately, there is a very different bird flu danger. The H5 strain of viruses is just one of sixteen different virus groups birds carry around -rather like a flying "virus soup." As birds' immune systems are adapted to these viruses, they rarely get sick. This is about to change. Countries like China and Vietnam, which are among those killing millions of birds carrying this virus, are inoculating them as well. So the H5N1virus - not to mention all the other viruses birds carry around with them- will soon gain resistance to current treatments (like Tamiflu). Indeed, the New Scientist recently postulated that the H5N1virus could well be the result of past inoculations of domestic fowl. While the latest evidence suggests they were wrong, there is no doubt that thanks to these inoculations H5N1 could easily evolve into an entirely new strain, already resistant to all known treatments. If that happens, even if it doesn't jump to humans it could easily decimate the world's bird population. That said, it is possible that theH5N1 virus - or one of the other many such viruses birds carry with them -could jump to humans. After all, that's how both the "Asian flu" (1957-58) and "Hong Kong flu" (1968-69) got started. If that happens, what's the best protection? The Spanish flu pandemic gives us the answer (and it's not Tamiflu). One of the countries least affected by the Spanish flu was a country that has long had exceptionally strict quarantine laws: Australia, but not as strict as American Samoa. As telegrams carried the news faster than steamships, American Samoa knew about the Spanish flu long before it arrived there. They simply closed their doors, and did not let any ships dock except under strict quarantine conditions. The number of deaths from Spanish flu in American Samoa: zero. But the Spanish flu did hit Western Samoa, just a few miles away, where there was no quarantine: some 20% of the population died. That SARS didn't turn into a pandemic is further proof of the effectiveness of quarantine in stopping a highly contagious disease in its tracks.

So, provided any new strain of bird flu is spotted early -virtually certain given the current vigilance of the world's health authorities - it will be contained long before it can turn into a pandemic. Chances are, that's never going to happen. But even so, you can be sure that bird flu scares will be a staple of the world's press for many years to come.Why? It's simple. Last year, the George W. Bush announced an "emergency"$7.1 billion program to combat the bird flu scare. Other governments around the world are setting up similar programs, though on a smaller scale. This means we have an entirely new scientific establishment funded by inexhaustible government money whose sole reason for existence is to find something that hasn't happened yet - and may never happen.To justify their existence and to get more of that lovely government green stuff, you can be sure that this new "government program" will do everything in its power to keep the bird flu scare alive.

One way, is adopting the political techniques of "spin." For example, in an article published in Thursday's (23 March 2006) issue of Nature, Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a researcher at the Universities of Tokyo and Wisconsin, wrote that one reason why the H5N1 virus hasn't spread from human to human is that it infects the bottom area of the lungs. Other flu viruses prosper in the top of the lungs, so they're easily spread when people cough, and even breathe out. H5N1 doesn't have that"advantage." Nevertheless, he concludes that his findings suggest that we"may have more time to prepare for an eventual pandemic."The three flu epidemics of the 20th century were caused by the H1, H2 andH3 series of bird flu viruses. All scientists agree that the H5N1 virus must go through many mutations before it can be spread by human-to-human contact. Not only does it infect the lowest part of the lungs, but it appears that the only way a human can get it from chickens is by close contact with lots of infected birds; the kind of thing that can happen when you sleep with them. So here we have a virus, which: has never, as far as we know, spread from one human to another; is hard to get in the first place; if someone does have it, is not released easily by the lungs and to the extent it is, in tiny quantities compared with sleeping in a chicken coop; and has to go through a large number of unlikely mutations first in order to become a pandemic in humans. One of those mutations, presumably, will be to transfer its preference to the top of the lungs from the bottom, probably the least likely of all.

Given all these obstacles, is it science to conclude that it is only "a matter of time" before this virus causes a human pandemic? Or is this the sort of "prediction" you'd expect from government-funded politicized science where the prime imperative is not Truth but staying plugged-in-to-the government-drip-machine? And to stay plugged in, to get the next government grant, you've got to follow the party line, which is: a bird flu pandemic is inevitable. As entrenched government programs are almost never axed, I expect to go on reading that "prediction" until the day I die...of natural causes.
Mark Tier for The Daily Reckoning

Saturday, 1 April 2006

The meaning of 'baptidzo'

Those seeking to translate the Greek word baptizw, especially Baptists, often look to the literal meaning of its root word, baptw, which is 'to dip'. But in I Corinthians 10:2, ebaptisanto is used in a metaphorical sense that seems to give a hint at another literal meaning: the Israelites are said to have been baptized "in the cloud and in the sea." Now, translating this could be a bit difficult if one just used the word 'immersed', as the relationship of the Israelites to the sea (as contrasted to that of their Egyptian pursuers) could hardly be described as 'immersion.'

We know that this is a metaphorical usage because of the previous verse, which states that they were "under the cloud" and "passed through the sea"--the literal situation. That 'baptize' was used to describe both these situations shows that its meaning cannot be strictly limited to the going-down-in-and-coming-back-out of immersion. Thus a lifeboat in heavy seas could be described as being 'baptized' by a huge wave*; and a person receiving a few gallons of water dumped on his head while kneeling in water could described as 'baptized' in the water. The essential element in both seems to be that the one must totally overwhelm the other. The case of the Israelites seems to have been a composite one, as the sea overwhelmed them only on the sides, and the cloud overhead. Perhaps this is a hint at a dual meaning of the baptism ceremony: burial with Christ as descending into the water, and infilling with the Holy Spirit as having a container of the same water simultaneously poured over one's head (which in fact seems to have been the practice of the church in the early centuries).

This reminds me of a rather humorous scene I witnessed (via video) at a mass baptism in Romania. It took all day to baptize the several hundred new Rom believers, so they were hurrying them through as fast as they could without cutting out any of the ceremony. One woman was dipped backwards into the river, but not quite far enough, leaving her bangs and forehead dry as she came back up. No problem; the baptizer quickly slung water onto the dry spot with his free hand, thus rendering her fully baptized (even though not fully immersed).

If I had to suggest a literal translation of baptizw, I would probably suggest something along the lines of "overwhelm." But inasmuch as the word baptism has long claimed the distinctive meaning in the English language as a ritual involving water which is administered to a convert to Christianity, I would not suggest trying to replace it, so much as explaining it--as I have in fact done here.

*I heard a mariner speak of being submerged in just such a circumstance, using the phrase, "two more like that one and we all qualify as submariners," or words to that effect--thus erasing the typical distinction between a submarine going down into the water and a surface craft having the water come down over it.

The Meaning of βαπτίζειν in Greek, Jewish, and Patristic Literature is a forthcoming journal article that addresses this question in scholarly detail. An earlier version of it is already available here.
He proposes the translation "put under water" for all but the clearly figurative uses of the word in Scripture.