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Friday, 24 April 2009

The TNIV and the Silence of Women

Mike Aubrey has added informative comments to some of my earlier posts on the TNIV. I appreciate his attention, among other reasons because it has brought out the likelihood of my readers misunderstanding why I appear to be so hard on the Committee and the version they produced. I believe some of my stated concerns will be addressed in the next edition--Tomorrow's New International Version? Today's Newer International Version? The Global Version?--, but it was never really my intent to improve the translation when I first set out down this path two years ago.

My stated intent, from the earliest posts (which should all be retrievable under the label 'translation'), was to respond to a propaganda package I had received from Zondervan, which touted the TNIV as a theologically conservative, linguistically precise, culturally relevant, and gender-sensitive improvement on every translation that had ever come before it. Until I received this packet, I hadn't paid much attention to the TNIV, and really didn't care one way or the other whether it turned out to be a commercial success or not. But being told so forcefully that all the opposition to the TNIV was a bunch of 'misinformation' goaded me to investigate the TNIV myself to see if it lived up to these lofty claims.

Now, let me reiterate, I like the idea of a theologically conservative, linguistically precise, culturally relevant, and gender-sensitive translation of the Bible into English. I'm rather bugged by translations that fail to distinguish between singular and plural in the second person, and use 'man' when 'person' would more accurately convey the force of the original. Alas, as I have demonstrated, the TNIV does both. And the more I looked at the TNIV, the more examples I found which gave the lie to every one of its lofty claims. Inasmuch as the charges of 'misinformation' were first brought up by the TNIV's publishers, I thought it incumbent upon me to point out that in making such claims for the TNIV, they were guilty of that very charge of misinformation. Thus the impetus behind these posts: not to debate the merits of the TNIV per se, but only to point out inconsistencies within the text of the TNIV that give the lie to Zondervan's claims that the TNIV is the best possible translation available today. I suggest that anyone who wants to dispute that the TNIV does not live up to these claims first read the book that impelled me to begin this series of posts: Perspectives on the TNIV from Leading Scholars & Pastors, an undated paperback published anonymously by Zondervan (ISBN: 0310931630). It would also be very helpful to watch the accompanying DVD by Mark Strauss.

Now, on to today's topic. First Corinthians is rather unique among Paul's epistles, or anyone else's for that matter. Instead of being addressed just to the church or the saints in Corinth, it is to "all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours." So, more than in any other epistle, the commandments set forth in this one should be binding on Christians of all times and all cultures. Notice, for example, how many times the TNIV uses the word "command/ment/s" exhortively in the epistles:

Romans 2
1 Corinthians 6
2 Corinthians 1
Galatians 1
Ephesians 1
1 Thessalonians 2
2 Thessalonians 3
1 Timothy 7
2 Peter 1
1 John 10
2 John 3
Revelation 3

Note that the Corinthians received more commands than any other single church; this letter had twice as many commands as any other ecclesiastical epistle. But here we refer only to uses of the word, not the thing itself; the final chapter of 1 Corinthians is actually one long list of specific instructions from Paul to the Church at Corinth.

Another unique feature of this epistle to the Corinthians happens to be one of these very instructions, which, had it been accurately translated, would have turned the whole TNIV approach to First Corinthians on its head. The CBT had set out to make the general message of the New Testament apply indifferently to men and women (something even they were not able to force the text to do in chapter 14 of this epistle), and this agenda-driven approach to translation forced them to mistranslate a key instruction of Paul to the Corinthians, in verse 13 of chapter 16. He told them to "Be men." Now, if that isn't a dead giveaway that the whole epistle is written in a male context, with exceptions to be given rather than assumed, I don't know what is. Looking at the LSJ lexical entry for this particular usage, the second person plural present imperative middle of andrizow, we find:
2. play the man, X.An.4.3.34, Pl. Tht.151d, Arist.EN1115b4, LXXJo.1.6,al., 1 Ep.Cor.16.13;

In other words, Quit you like men. But the TNIV found an entirely new meaning for this word--one not so much as hinted at even in the expanded lexical entry--namely, 'Be courageous' [but see comments]. Now, if someone is trying to encourage a young man to keep a stiff upper lip, he may well tell him, "Be a man" or "Act like a man!" But one would never tell this to a girl, or even to a mixed audience. There were a couple other words Paul could have used to the effect of "take courage"--in fact, he even used one of them in Acts 27 when speaking to a strictly male audience--and, in an refreshing display of candor, the TNIV even admits it:

21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: "Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.

So, Paul's use of the word andrizesthay is a dead giveaway that the commands in this epistle are directed to a male audience, unless specified otherwise. So when Paul in chapter 14 gives general instructions on keeping silence (in verses 28 and 30), he is referring to men. The specific instructions for the silence of women come in verses 34 and 35. The TNIV turns this all on its head by inserting women into the general commands, but letting stand the female-specific exceptions of vv. 34-35.

The translators of the TNIV are on a slippery slope. Having allowed their determination to make Christianity an egalitarian religion affect how they translated a key word to interpreting Paul's instructions on church order, it is only a matter of time before they reject the commands themselves as being too burdensome. As Mike pointed out [but see comments], at least some members of the CBT don't even think vv. 34-35 should be in the Bible. And once they go, a couple of verses in 1 Timothy 2 are next on the chopping block.

Addendum: Well, as Mike Aubrey suggested, I surfed around to see what others were saying about the TNIV. And what I found out was that bloggers are somewhat stumped at why the TNIV, excellent translation that it is, can't hold its own against the NLT, which, despite its new and improved facade, is still a paraphrase. Even The Message is outselling the TNIV.

Well, I think the reason may well be that all Tyndale House had to convince people of was that the New Living Translation was better than the Old Living Bible. Zondervan, however, tried to pass the TNIV off as the best possible translation man was capable of making (but look for another revision in only 4-5 years [2010: it didn't take nearly that long!]). I know what my reaction to this would have been, absent all the gender controversy: I'll wait 5 years and get one that's "even better yet."

So it is that in my house, with its dozen or more Bibles in half a dozen different translations, the only NIV's are missing their covers and/or many of their pages, there's an NKJV in enough pieces to please a papyrologist, and most of the KJV's suffer numerous lacunae; but there is a brand-new 2-column KJV/NLT. It would be hard to find two translations so diverse, but there they are, under one cover, and there is obviously a market for this sort of package. It's kind of like the American electorate: not trusting either the Republicans or the Democrats, they elect both, and vary the mixture from year to year.


  1. LSJ is less relevant here. Its dated and inaccurate and at times, well, dead wrong (cf. William A. John, "Greek Electronic Resources and Lexicographical Funtion" in Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography (ed. Bernard A. Taylor, et al; Eerdmanns, 2004), 75-84. "Often enough none of the translation equivalents is exact for a given context; sometimes the difinition is simply wrong; glosses are rather frequently wrong..." (77).

    Its interesting that the only gloss that BDAG gives for this word is this: "conduct oneself in a courageous way." The TNIV translators didn't make up any new meaning. The followed the standard lexicon for the New Testament and early Christian literature. And the TNIV isn't alone. Check the ISV, HCSB, NAB, Good News.

    Having allowed their determination to make Christianity an egalitarian religion affect how they translated a key word to interpreting Paul's instructions on church order, it is only a matter of time before they reject the commands themselves as being too burdensome.This is just naive. Should we take the time to list the numerous complementarian scholars on the committee? There are complementarian New Testament and Old Testament scholars on CBT.

    As Mike pointed out, at least some members of the CBT don't even think vv. 34-35 should be in the Bible. And once they go, a couple of verses in 1 Timothy 2 are next on the chopping block.First, the correct word is one Not "some." But more problematic is that you didn't seem to actually have picked up a copy of God's Empowering Presence to read the TEXT CRITICAL discussion of the verses in question. I may not agree with Fee on this point, but I can at least recognize a cogent argument when I see one. 1 Tim 2 is not next on the chopping block - your words are inflammatory rhetoric without any substance.

    I think you need to spend some time at:

    and perhaps:

    I really don't like writing such highly charged comments, but its frustrating when my words are twisted for someone else's agenda.

  2. Going back in time, the previous edition of Bauer (BAGD, 1971) also says, "courageous," as does Louw & Nida's Lexicon - and significantly L&N writes this:

    "(a figurative extension of meaning of ἀνδρίζομαι 'to be manly' or 'to become a man,' not occurring in the NT) to exhibit courage in the face of danger - 'to be brake, to be courageous' (page 307; my emphasis).

  3. Thanks, Mike--keep commenting. I don't often get such erudite comments on this blog. And indeed, the 1889 Thayers even has 'be brave' as a meaning for andrizw. So you're right, it's not a novel meaning.

    Since Fee is on the CBT, obviously he is the one who wanted those 2 verses gone. And indeed, we are beyond the point where it even matters whether lower criticism will allow the verses to remain or not. Higher criticism has already thrown them out as being too burdensome--deutero-Pauline all.

    I don't mean to twist your words to advance any agenda. There's already plenty enough of that going on. So what do you think I should do--overwrite my post or just add to the critical apparatus as new discoveries come along?

  4. Well, your response here definitely melted away all my frustration. I didn't expect that. I'll try to tone down my comments. And I'll stick around.

    Many of us are frustrated by how Zondervan has treated the TNIV, they've done little to nothing to promote it. Many of us fear its too late. The damage has already been done by Grudem & Co. There are some great posts about that here:

    Anyway, I doubt that any of the CBT members would treat 1 Tim as DP. I know Fee doesn't. His commentary on the pastorals defends their authenticity strongly.

    And thank you for being so gracious in the face of my strong words.

  5. You're welcome, Mike. I wasn't even aware of the trouble the TNIV was in until you directed me to those blogs. This whole subject only came up because I'm doing a study on the Silence of Women, and discovered that most interpreters don't really care what Paul (or duetero-Paul) said about it, they are not going to be constrained by any verses in any manuscript that appear to shut women out of church leadership. And I am very familiar with Epp's take on the canonicity of vv 34.35 in that context; I imagine Fee's approach would be similar.

    And while the CBT may claim to have complementarian members, it's obvious that there aren't enough of them to affect the translation. I think it's pretty apparent that changing "women who are deacons" back to "women" was purely a PR move, not a result of a shift in doctrine at the CBT.

    Remember, Scrivener was on the Revision Committee, for all the good that did: from what I've heard, he was routinely outvoted by Westcott and Hort.

  6. One more comment, as I revisit this post. I've done some more reading on 1 Tim 2, and it appears that a large segment of conservatives are able to translate it in such a way that they can have their inerrant cake and still eat the feminist frosting. I won't take on their interpretation here, as it's an entirely separate issue. No one accepting the Pastorals as Pauline, moreover, would dispute that the audience of 1 Timothy was a man, and that his name was Timotheus.


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