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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."

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