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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.

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