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Monday, 29 May 2006

"Themselves" in the KJV and TNIV

Counter TNIV, Numbers 6
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the LORD as a Nazirite, 3 they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. . .'"

Oh boy, here we go again. Gender-specific language has been replaced with gender-neutral language, right?


The KJV pre-empted by nearly four centuries the TNIV's use of 'themselves' as a generic singular (italics in the original):

"When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: Hee shall separate himselfe from wine, and strong drinke, and shal drinke no vinenger of wine, or vineger of strong drinke . . ."

The TNIV is a bit more blatant than the KJV, and even more so than the Hebrew, but clearly the use of some sort of generic 'themselves' goes back a long way.

But the TNIV is woefully behind the times in another point of translation. It's been clear for some time now that the other beverage in question here is much more specific than 'other fermented drink'. It's beer.

Now that's something that today's generation should be able to relate to.

Saturday, 27 May 2006

Youth and Maidens

Counter Something else that happened this week reminded me how languages change. I came across an article written in December 1886 by the mother of some public schooled children in Northern Michigan who had attended the school Christmas program. It was held, by the way, in the Schoolhouse, which doubled as the local church-house on Sundays, there being no Township Hall.

She expressed herself in the style of the King James Version, writing such things as:

"And they compassed the stage about with curtains, on the north side and on the south side covered they it."

One expression in particular caught my eye: a reference to "youth and maidens." Now, I knew at once that this was no expression culled from the King James Version, so I did a search on the phrase, and found classically themed poetry of the mid-19th century replete with it. Thus it was that a word used only generically in the KJV had gained gender specificity in 19th century poetic expression. Now, of course, it is back to being generic; so much so, that I earlier suggested it for use in the next revision of the NIV!

Languages change, and meanings of words within a language change, depending on how they are used. To the author of the 1886 article, "youth and maidens" just seemed more fitting a phrase than "young men and maidens," which would have actually been the appropriate Jacobian usage. This shows that although bibline language flowed easily from her pen, it reveals not so much that she was well-versed in Scripture, but that bibline language formed a large and integral part of the literary culture at large with which she was so familiar. So naturally did she do this that without any background information, I could have dated her composition to the late Victorian era from the language alone.

That day is no more, and trying to fit an edition of the Scriptures to the literary language of the day will never bring it back.

Thursday, 25 May 2006

Aren't we there yet? OR You've got a long way to go, baby.

Jumping in on July 12th to add one more thing on the TNIV:

I was just visiting the TNIV website and noticed a long illustrated list of testimonials from pastors, scholars, and at least one rock musician. There are nearly 100 names on the list; guess how many of them are women.

If you said 50%, you guessed about 50 times too many.

Now, back to the original post:

A couple of things happened to me in the past week which bear on the issue discussed over the past dozen or so blogs. I'll probably save the most recent for later, and begin with my visit to a Gender Sensitive Church--I'll call it the Shoetown Union Church.

This church is perhaps not quite so Gender Sensitive as it could be, but it's pretty close: while both the assistant pastors and almost all the other staff members are female, the Senior Pastor is decidely of the Male persuasion. This particular Sunday, however, he had no visible part in the program.

The sermon, which lasted all of 19 minutes, included about an 8-minute video clip from a Hollywood production of which I'd never heard before, which directly related somehow to that Sunday's Gospel Lesson. The rest of the sermon was read by the first women I've ever seen wearing a clerical collar; it appeared to have been sewn into the neckline of her dress.

Yes, she was wearing a dress. I don't know if that is standard feminine attire for the pulpit at Shoetown Union or not, but none of the other pastorettes were thusly attired; one was in jeans. Strike one against Full Gender Equality!

All Bible reading was from the same version as was represented in the Pew Bibles in front of me: the Gender-Sensitive NRSV. But a peculiar thing happened at one point in the service: we all joined in together in a recitation of The Lord's Prayer, and it sure sounded just as I had learned it nearly 4 decades back. I grabbed a Pew Bible as soon as the prayer was over and checked; nope, not only do the relevant passages in Luke and Matthew (which, I might add, relegates the closing clause of the prayer to a footnote) shun the archaic language of "Art" and "Thy," the introduction specifically states that such language is no longer an appropriate way to refer to Deity. Strike two against Modern Language Versions!

I was struck by what a small portion of the building the Sanctuary occupied; perhaps due to the 3 services that are held each Sunday morning, no more space is presently needed. But a building program is in the works, I discovered; led, it turns out, by a Male. Strike three against the elimination of Gender-related Roles!

Yes, despite all the efforts over the past 40 years to eliminate all distinctions between the Sons of Adam and the Daughters of Eve, they stubbornly remain--even in the most progressive of denominations.

So shouldn't they remain in their Bibles too?

Friday, 19 May 2006

The TNIV and the Men of Nineveh

Counter Matthew 12:41
"The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one [or something; also in verse 42] greater than Jonah is here. "

Luke 11:32 [v. 31 note: or something; also in verse 32] . . .
"The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now one greater than Jonah is here. "

To begin with, note that the wording of the two verses is identical in the TNIV, as in its Greek text. The footnotes are also identical, just located differently because Luke 11:31-32 inverts the order of Matthew 12:41-42. So nothing notable about the translation so far. Now, had the CBT stuck with the wording of the KJV, neither footnote would have even been necessary; but that is beside the point.

The point is that in this verse (for we can treat both as one), the CBT made one crucial change from the NIV: andres has been changed from 'men' to 'people'. This is striking becuase the primary meaning of andres is 'men'; indeed, before gender-inclusive translations came along, it has never been translated as 'people'. Yet is is exemplary of the changes made in the TNIV, so we will examine it here.

What exactly is being changed? The CBT and their supporters would have us believe that the change is from an inaccurate translation to an accurate one. Since it was the people of Ninevah who repented at the preaching of Jonah (3:5-8), so goes the theory, it will be the people of Nineveh who will judge those who did not repent at the preaching of Jesus. And indeed, this is the only possible interpretation of the verses as they stand in the TNIV.

So what's wrong with 'the people of Ninevah'? Well, interestingly enough, the CBT didn't like that phrase when the KJV used it to translate anshay Niynveh
in Jonah 3:5, and deleted the translation of a word the KJV itself had as 'people'! So if 'the people of Nineveh' in KJV Jonah could become 'Ninevites' in the NIV & TNIV, how is it that the KJV's 'men of Nineveh' in Matt/Luke, which the CBT assures us are really 'people of Nineveh', couldn't just be 'Ninevites' too? In fact, my interlinear Greek NT translates andres as men, italicizing it as superfluous, and translates the following word as 'Ninevites'. But apparently the CBT could not resist the opportunity to give andres a generic meaning here, despite the lack of cover their previous translation had left them back in Jonah chapter 3.

Upon further examination, it turns out that the two versions of this passage are not completely identical. In about half of all Greek manuscripts, including most of the latest ones, the reading of Luke differs in the spelling of the word, so that 'men of Nineveh' is the literal rendering--a distinction from the Matthean passage that comes through in the Darby Version of the English Bible. In the textual base followed by the CBT, however, 'men, Ninevites' is the literal reading of both passages. The CBT has already demonstrated the repeated ability to leave andres untranslated, so one must suspect they had specific motives for including it, contrary to the literal reading of their chosen textual base in both passages. Had they followed their own example here, the TNIV would have read simply, 'Ninevites'.

So who will rise up at the judgment and condemn--all those who repented at Nineveh (if so, why not include all the cattle?), or just (some of) the men? At least the KJV and NIV left that question open to further interpretation. If the CBT had just resisted the urge to cater to the feminists and translated both passages as 'the Ninevites', they could have done the same.

I don't want to push the issue here any further than Jesus himself did; in Luke 11:31, he spoke of the andrwn of this generation,' but no such distinction is recorded in Matthew. So the CBT is perhaps justified in thinking that 'people' are being referred to here. But in doing so, they are interpreting Scripture, not translating it. This was a problem in the NIV which has actually been corrected in a few places (the note at 1 Cor. 11:4-7 being a good example thereof), but the translation of andr- as 'people' has reversed this trend, substituting interpretation for translation every place it was done.

And with that, I am done (for now) with my evaluation of the common defenses offered up for gender-sensitive language in the TNIV.

Monday, 15 May 2006

The TNIV in Acts 5

Counter As promised . . .
The proponents of the TNIV would have us believe that is more accurate to translate andr- as 'men and women' than just as 'men', on the theory that in Acts 17:34, a woman named Damaris is mentioned as included in the referent of that word. Thus on the questionable recommendation of a single verse, a change was made to the entire Testament which contains it. They have not admitted to it, nor am I accusing them of it, but it does look as if the CBT hired a computer programmer to do a global search-and-replace to make all male references into something less specific. Certainly they seem to have left no such change unmade wherever it were possible to make it--and even where it is fairly ludicrous as a translation, such as in Acts 2:29 where andres is rendered 'sisters'!

The point is, the Greek language is perfectly able to express terms like "father and mother," "brother and sister," and "men and women," and the Scripture in fact does use such expansion when the Spirit felt a need to be that unambiguous. The CBT computer translation program, if ever there was one, didn't cope very well with such cases where its work had already been done for it; for instance, in Acts 7:2 the word andres was untranslated altogether, while the rest of the verse was left as it was--including the word 'father' in reference to the Jewish progenitor Abraham! Again, we wonder why the search-and-replace function was never programmed with the perfectly acceptable English word 'ancestor'. One may object that this verse was unchanged from the NIV--but rest assured, it did not escape the revisers' attention; the very last word of the verse has in fact been retouched.

There is a word in Greek that stands in contrast to presbut-, a word typically translated 'elders' even in the TNIV, but in English this carries a more specific meaning than just that of an older man. And in fact, even in the KJV, it is sometimes translated 'older men'. Specifically in Acts 2, 1 Timothy 5, and Titus 2, it is so translated where it is in contrast with ne-, another word that both the KJV and the TNIV always translate as 'young' or 'younger' men.

Well now, they don't either. Sometimes one of these words will be in the femine gender, in which case they are always translated in the TNIV as 'older' or 'younger' women. So also the KJV, and what is wrong with that? Nothing, of course, except that the TNIV is supposed to avoid using the masculine gender whenever it isn't absolutely needed. So why the 'young men' in Acts 5 who carried away the bodies of Ananias and Sapphira for burial? Since their gender is never so much as implied, much less specified, why couldn't these young people have been referred to as 'young men and women', or at least 'youths'? It is, after all, their AGE, not their GENDER, that is being emphasized by the use of ne-.

Perhaps the bigoted translators on the CBT thought young women too frail to help carry out a corpse.

Friday, 12 May 2006

The TNIV in Acts 4

Counter My readers my be tiring of my relentless attacks on the TNIV; I'm rather tired of it myself. But as I continue to read through the apologetic distributed by promoters of the TNIV, I'm continually struck by either the amateurishness or the disingenuity of the contributors to this book--I shudder to say which; perhaps it's a little of both. But their defenses of the TNIV ring hollow in view of the actual version itself. Witness the defense of 1 Timothy 2:5 by Pastor David Miller on page 66 of 'Perspectives on the TNIV from Leading Scholars & Pastors (Zondervan, n.d.)" (cf. pg. 43; an index of verses cited would have been more useful at the back of the book than the 2 pages of celebrity endorsements!):

"'For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human.' The Spirit chose anthropos to stress our Lord's humanity, not his masculinity. The point of the passage is not that Jesus was a male, who mediates between God and males. Fuzzy translations make for fuzzy doctrine."

Come on now--what fuzzy doctrine ever came from calling Jesus a mediator between God and Man? Whatever it is, the paleontologist who described the austropithecine skeleton of Lucy as a good specimen of 'Early Man' is in no apparent danger of embracing it.

But what of the TNIV--does it elsewhere avoid using the masculine when masculinity is not primarily in view? Indeed not, as we have shown in Romans 4:1. But the opening chapters of Acts are also replete with masculine references inserted into the text by the CBT--in addition to the many feminine references we have come to expect. Let's start with the story of the impotent man in Acts 3-4. This is how the TNIV refers to the leading characters in this drama (chapter 4):

9 "If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame"
13 "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men"
14 "But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say."
16 "'What are we going to do with these men?' they asked."

Now, what's so emphatic about the masculinity of Peter, John, and the impotent man that the CBT had to translate anthropos in these verses as 'man' and 'men'? In at least half of the verses above, the CBT's gender-sensitive purpose would have been well served by using their usual 'someone' and 'people'.

One more point before we leave Acts 4. I earlier congratulated the CBT on their choice of 'Advocate' to translate paraklhtos in John 15. I should maybe retract that, as I see they failed to capitalize on their new hermeneutic in Acts 4:36 by translating paraklhsews as 'advocacy'. It was Barnabas' advocacy on behalf of Saul and John Mark for which he is famous, not any act of encouragement.

More later on unnecessary masculine references in Acts 5.

The TNIV in Romans 4:1 vís-a-vís Galatians 4:26

Romans 4:1 TNIV

What then shall we say that Abraham, the forefather of us Jews, discovered in this matter?

To begin with, this is a difficult passage both textually and hermeneutically. There are no less than four possible texts from which to translate, and it's not all that easy to express the differences between all of them in translation. In my opinion, the NIV goofed in deleting an entire phrase from the verse that wasn't even under dispute: "according to the flesh." The only question was whether this phrase modified Abraham, or what he had discovered. The NIV's "in this matter" was a rather awkward way of leaving the question open. The TNIV, at least, clarified the situation a little with an addition of their own, "of us Jews," which is undoubtedly what is meant in the manuscripts that reference Abraham as "our" ancestor. To clarify, which side of the textual question is taken by the CBT is now clear to the thinking person; but clearly both of these clarifying statements are not necessary if Abraham is the clear referent. Perhaps such verbosity will be remedied in the Newer and Improveder International Version.

UPDATE: It wasn't--quite. The 2011 NNIV reads: What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter?

But it's a bit too early to leave the textual question and go on to gender sensitivity issues. Another variant in this verse is the identification of the Jewish progenitor: Is Abraham the 'father' or 'forefather' of the Jewish race? The verdict of the manuscripts is somewhat indecisive; however, the dead hand of Hort still lies heavily on the CBT, and they retain that portion of the reading of Codex Vaticanus (which, by the way, Hort followed in full by relegating 'discovered' to a marginal note in his Greek text) which agrees with most of the other Alexandrian manuscripts in reading protatopa (ancestor) for patera (parent).

But oops, I've given the gender-sensitive translations of these words--not so the TNIV, which follows the NIV in rendering protatopa as 'forefather', these respective words not being found anywhere else in the New Testament, either in the TNIV or its Greek textual base. 'Ancestors' as a translation of pateres (the plural of patera) is found a few dozen times, though. So why 'forefather' and not 'ancestor' (as the NRSV)? Apparently it is there for no other reason than to indicate that the TNIV here was following the same textual base as the NIV. This, even at the expense of emphasizing Abraham's masculinity, when it was only his ancestorhood that was the point of the passage. Even Jesus didn't rate such treatment in 1 Timothy 2:5!

How about foremothers--do they ever get to be called 'ancestors'? No, alas, in the one spot where the CBT could have translated mhthr as 'ancestor', they stuck to their usual procedure of retaining all generic female references and translated Galatians 4:26 as:

"But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother."

What's wrong with a little gender sensitivity here, for the sake of the males in the reading audience:

"But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and it is our ancestor?"

Monday, 8 May 2006

TNIV in Matthew 19:29

CounterMatthew 19:29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife [a] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
Matthew 19:29 [a] Some manuscripts do not have or wife.

First of all, congratulations to the CBT for moving 'or wife' back into the text from the NIV margin. This is the first of the supposed 7% of changes that were textually based that I've investigated, and it finds the support of the overwhelming majority of manuscripts. Given that it is the harder reading and much more likely to have been purposely omitted, it should have never been in doubt. Certainly there is no doubt that Jesus said 'wife', as Luke 18:29 records.

But bringing back the marginalized wife brings in problems of its own. That is, it demonstrates that the gender sensitivity of the CBT is wholly one-sided. As I have demonstrated in an earlier post, the CBT is eager to read feminine inclusivity into masculine reference, but not masculine inclusivity into feminine reference--thus damning their agenda as feminist despite their vehement protests to the contrary.

Surprisingly, 'wife' was the only referent open to gender inclusion in this passage, as Jesus himself had already specified the inclusion of feminine parents and siblings. But does the CBT really believe that it is OK for a man to leave his spouse for the sake of God's kingdom, but not for a woman to leave hers? If so, Kathryn Kuhlman, who got her hundredfold--and more--in this life, looks to have missed out on inheriting life eternal; while her erstwhile husband, who supposedly left his first wife for the same reason Kathryn later left him, skates in by the skin of his teeth.

Personally, I don't see much difference in who leaves when a marriage is broken up for the sake of the Gospel. But maybe Jesus did. Yet with the one sided approach of the TNIV to gender-sensitive translation, it's impossible to detect gender emphasis in the original text. Let's try a little back-translation (a standard technique in checking the quality of a new Bible translation), and see how close we come to the original NIV.

ONIV text:
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

Backtranslated text, removing gender-sensitive language:
And every man who has left houses or brothers or father or sons or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

Actual ONIV (discrepancies italicized)
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

Well, what do you know. The NIV was already fully gender-neutral--nothing was fixed. Furthermore, even the KJV was already correct here too; there are no generic masculines to fix:

And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

May I suggest something for the next revision of the NIV, to replace that antiegalitarian word 'wife': a word that the CBT themselves use a lot, but has never made its way into any of their translations: spouse.

That should make things equal.

UPDATE 2012: The more things change, the more this thing remains the same. TNIV=NNIV.