Pageviews last month

Friday, 29 January 2010

Praying Unbelievers: The NIV and Acts 21:5

Anyone trying to produce a gender-neutral translation of the Bible is going to run into a problem whenever they encounter a clearly androcentric passage. And, to their great detriment, it turns out that the Bible has quite a few of them. In this post we'll look at the opening verses of Acts 21.
1 And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. 2 And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard, and set sail. 3 When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo. 4 And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5 And when our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey; and they all, with wives and children, brought us on our way till we were outside the city; and kneeling down on the beach we prayed and bade one another farewell. 6 Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.
That from the RSV. Note particularly verse 5b: "They all, with wives and children, brought us on our way." Since "they" refers back to the Tyrian disciples, the passage clearly shows that the author of Acts used 'disciples' with a primarily adult male connotation, and had to specify when the term was intended to include others.

How did the NIV handle this passage?
We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.
Aha, so the CBT on this pass agreed that 'disciples' referred to adult men only. Clear enough. But look at what happened when the CBT put out an edition of the NIV for kids--the NIrV:
We landed at Tyre. There our ship was supposed to unload. 4 We found the believers there and stayed with them for seven days. Led by the Holy Spirit, they tried to get Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5 But when it was time to leave, we continued on our way. All the believers and their families went with us out of the city. There on the beach we got down on our knees to pray. 6 We said good-by to each other. Then we went on board the ship. And they returned home.
Since 'their families' is a distinct subset from 'all the believers', the CBT made the ridiculous assertion that a bunch of unbelievers not only accompanied their loony Christian relatives to the beach, but knelt with them to pray!

Did the CBT fare any better when they brought their gender-neutral strategy to bear on the adult version? Let's see:
We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. 4 We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5 When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. --TNIV
See what happened? They managed to eliminate the praying unbelievers, but in order to pull it off, "the disciples" had to be erased from the text, and replaced with "them."

Just to be fair, let's see how some other gender-neutral translators handled the problem. First, the NRSV:
We left and proceeded on our journey; and all of them, with wives and children, escorted us outside the city. There we knelt down on the beach and prayed 6 and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.
Hmm. In this case gender neutrality had to go, in the interests of accuracy. OK, next the NLT:
The entire congregation, including women [or wives] and children, left the city and came down to the shore with us. There we knelt, prayed, 6 and said our farewells. Then we went aboard, and they returned home.
Same story here. The reading "including wives and children" is, to begin with, strikingly inarticulate. And notice how "and" has been replaced with "including" only where the text had to be wrested into a gender-neutral position. It took CBT two tries to make the switch!

"And" and "Including" are mutually exclusive terms in this context, so the CBT are in a real pickle. Either they were poor translators when they used the one, or they were denying their stated principles when they used the other. Which will it be in the Newer and Improveder International Version?

UPDATE June 10, 2011
There was no change in the NNIV.

UPDATE June 10, 2015
I'll grant the CBT another point here, as I encountered a quote in which AIG's "Bodie" Hodge wrote: "A feasibility study predicted that 1.6 million people will visit in the first year alone with hundreds of thousands who will not be Christians."  Thus using 'with' to mean 'including' is an acknowledged feature of English.  It's awkward, but usually its meaning is clear: in this example, 'unbelievers' are clearly a subset of 'people.' As in Philippians 1:1, where 'bishops and deacons' are subsets of 'saints in Philippi.'

But not so much in Acts 21.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Racism Defined

What is Racism?

I'll answer that question for myself. I trust that any who hope to understand racism will see why I define it thusly:

Racist: Characterized by racism, which is the belief that one's own race is superior to all others, and that with that superiority come certain rights and privileges.

A good example is, of all people, Abraham Lincoln. In his fourth debate with Stephen Douglas, Lincoln argued:
"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races -- that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

In March 1860, Lincoln's racism was evident in an address he gave in Hartford, Connecticut:
"I think I would go for enslaving the black man, in preference to being enslaved myself. ... They say that between the nigger and the crocodile they go for the nigger. The proportion, therefore, is, that as the crocodile to the nigger so is the nigger to the white man."

And this, from a man born the same day as Lincoln, but on the other side of the Atlantic:
I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilization than you seem inclined to admit.... The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time, the anthropomorphous apes... will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.
--Charles Darwin in a letter to W. Graham, July 3, 1881

Friday, 22 January 2010

MLK shares responsibility for eight deaths

Eight people are dead in Virginia, mostly because of Monday being Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Unintended consequences.

"Speight is jailed on one count of murder and likely to face more charges in the Tuesday morning rampage that killed all eight at the quiet country homestead he shared with 37-year-old Lauralee, her 38-year-old husband Dwayne Sipe and their children, Morgan Dobyns and Joshua Sipe.

Relatives and people who knew Speight say he had a history of mental breakdowns and may have become fixated on the notion that his sister wanted to oust him from the house passed down to them by their grandparents and mother. The family lawyer, however, says her intention was exactly the opposite: She planned to deed the property solely to him.

Lynchburg attorney Harry Devening, who handled legal matters for the family, said Speight had an apparent learning disability and history of mental problems, and "ran away" from his sister's Georgia home for several days during a breakdown in 2007, about a year after his mother died.

Giglio said Dwayne Sipe found him in a motel room along a highway. Even then the family had no reason to suspect Speight might turn violent. Giglio said he last spoke to Dwayne Sipe the Saturday before the shootings and everything seemed fine.

Devening said Lauralee Sipe perceived no problems either, signing a deed late last week to put the family property in Speight's name. She planned to record it at the courthouse immediately, he said, but both Friday and Monday were state holidays."

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Haitians die at hospital for lack of . . .

. . . medical workers who can think (and act) for themselves.

"With Haiti's main hospitals destroyed or damaged by last week's magnitude-7 quake, the U.N. hospital is one of the best now operating. Even so, its two vast tents are so jammed with severely injured patients that others are forced to lie outside, and basic equipment — a heart-monitoring system, an intubator, a ventilator, even oxygen — is lacking."

This is a tragedy, indeed. But someone needs to tell these people that a mere 95 years ago, medics in field hospitals on the Western Front had none of these fancy devices, and they did just fine at saving the lives of soldiers who stopped a bullet with their femurs.

Let me tell you what the most basic medical equipment actually consists of:

a needle & thread

With these you can cut open the wound, remove the bullet, amputate the mangled limb, sew everything shut, and wrap it tight. Apparently Mr. Lagradelle had received none of these basic battlefield procedures for a whole week after the earthquake. What's incredible is that the U.N. doctor watched him die without giving him any basic treatment whatsoever, when any battlefield barber in Napoleon's Army could have done gotten it all over in ten minutes, even without the benefit of that all-important saline drip (you really can't treat a broken leg with intravenous drugs. Believe me. It's obviously been tried). He died, because his vital signs--dutifully taken every four hours around the clock as he lapsed into unconsciousness from his untreated injury--weren't in the normal range required for surgery. Bulloney.

Lord save us from such doctors, especially when we really need their skill.

Trusting God, or trusting the police?

After the shootings, authorities told nearby residents to stay inside and a small Christian school was locked down until state police could escort about 60 children from the building.

Resident Bethel Hawkins said Tuesday that police warned families to lock their doors in an area with many senior citizens.

"We're just being cautious, keeping our doors locked, not going outside," said Hawkins, who lives about 2 miles up the road from where the shootings occurred. "Our church service is supposed to be tonight, but we talked with our pastor and told him we're not coming out. We're not going out in the dark not knowing what's out there. But we trust in the Lord to take care of us."

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

In which the White Man is Quoted by a Scholar

As frustrating as it has been for me not to see my posts engender scholarly interaction in the comments section, I have received some hints over the years that they are not totally disregarded among those whose names grace their own publications. The latest of these appears to be Philip B. Payne, the very scholar who first identified umlauts in Vaticanus. Lately he has been called upon to defend his identification of these scribal marks as "early," that is, having been added to the manuscript before all but a handful of the other extant manuscripts for any given passage were produced. Other theories place the addition of the umlauts (now known as distigmai) in the middle ages or even as late as the end of the manuscript era.

Identifying the distigmai as "early" allows him to make such statements as:

"Although Vaticanus does not include John 7:53–8:11, its distigme is the earliest evidence for this text after John 7:52. Similarly, although Vaticanus does include 14:34–35, its distigme here is the earliest manuscript evidence for a text that omitted these verses."

The foregoing is a quote from his article, "Responses to Questions about 1 Cor 14:34-35 as an Interpolation."

I previously posted on this topic here. What's interesting about Payne's article is that he quotes me in it:

"The White Man wrote on Oct. 16, 2009:
'Note, however, that Dd F Gg support ὑμῶν after γυναῖκες alongside Byz against NA-27, so it's really just cherry-picking to count them as unequivocal evidence for removing the verses entirely."

He responds with:
"My point is not that Dd F Gg [this should be Dd Ee Ff Gg, per Fee] give unequivocal evidence for removing the verses entirely, but that they exemplify two features common to interpolations: the[y] put these verses into a different location in Paul’s text than most other manuscripts, and they add to the extraordinarily high number of textual variants in these verses."

He then goes on to respond to my questioning of his assertions which I raised on Oct. 16 at the Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog, which were:

1. Scribes copying the manuscript later would
a) naturally assume that the text in the margin was inadvertently omitted and
b) so insert those verses into the text.

2. All manuscripts of the Western Text-Type put these two verses after 1 Cor 14:40. (how about dem o x z vg?)

3. Such divergent positioning is one of the hallmarks of interpolations.

4. There is no comparable instance of any other manuscript of any of Paul's letters of a scribe rearranging Paul's argument with a significant block of text in this way.

5. we know that it was contrary to scribal convention for a scribe to take the liberty to change the order of Paul's argument simply because he thought a different ordering of the text would make better sense.

6. no scribe of any surviving manuscript (and there are thousands) of any of Paul's letters ever did anything like this in any other passage of Paul's letters.

7. In every other instance where Bishop Victor corrected the text of Codex Fuldensis,
a) surviving manuscripts support his rewriting of the text, and
b) he is known for preserving the readings of ancient manuscripts

His answers to all but the last of these begged the question by referring back to assertions made by CBT member Gordon Fee, the originator of the Interpolation Theory.

Well, I appreciate Dr. Payne's belated response. It appears from it that any quibble I have over this theory is really with Dr. Fee, but it may astound my readers to hear that, all in all, I think it's a pretty reasonable theory. It still strikes me as supported mainly by allegation rather than deduction, so I'm far from convinced. But I'm certainly willing to entertain the idea that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was not part of Paul's epistle at the time he signed off on it, and welcome further investigation and discussion.

But does it matter? Those evangelical scholars like Drs. Payne and Fee, who consider the Pericope Adultera an interpolation, nonetheless recognize it as an authentic record of Jesus' words and deeds. So, if this passage accurately reflects Pauline doctrine, it makes no difference to us today whether it was originally canonical or not--or does it?

It appears that that question has yet to be addressed, as only those already committed to an egalitarian interpretation of Scripture have yet proposed that 1 Cor 14:34-35 is non-canonical.

UPDATE: I have since addressed the question, in the longest series of posts on this blog. It starts here

Monday, 18 January 2010

It's MLK Day

Nearly 20 years ago, I participated in the local celebration of Martin L. King, Jr.'s birthday. I prepared to deliver his "I have a dream" speech, but was stricken from the program, I suspect because I wasn't black enough. At any rate, in celebration of the day, here are some ongoing quotes from the late racial rights leader--who, it should be noted, was born as Michael King and began his public life as M. L. King, and was actually the father of a son named Martin Luther King III for most of his celebrity.Therefore while Martin Luther King, Jr. is the name by which he is universally known, it was never more than a stage name.

Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission—a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances; but even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I’m speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men—for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao, as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

A vote for same-sex marriage: The TNIV and Mark 10:12

92, 821 views

The Committee for Bible Translation (known throughout this blog as the CBT) has closed the door for suggestions to improve the NIV/TNIV, as the two versions will be rendered obsolete by the newer and improveder NIV set to come out next year.

In one sense, this is too bad. In another sense, it's too late. There is only so much that can be done to improve the TNIV without either:

a) Reverting to the old reading of the NIV
b) Reverting to the reading (or at least the meaning) of the KJV
c) Violating the copyright of one of the other two dozen English New Testaments in print.

Take, for example, Mark 10:11-12. This is how it would read in a modern language KJV:

And he said to them, "Whoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery against her. And if a woman puts away her husband, and is married to another, she commits adultery.

The message is pretty clear. Whether a man or woman initiates a divorce, he or she becomes guilty of adultery by remarrying.

Now, I don't think this could be said any more plainly than the reading of the NLT:

He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.”

You can't get more gender-inclusive than that. But how does the gender-inclusive TNIV read? Well, the same as the old NIV did:

He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."

Notice the difference? The TNIV, blind as ever to the need to make generic feminine constructions gender-neutral, leaves a glaring loophole for same-sex marriage by either partner. A loophole that never existed in the KJV. And doesn't exist in the NLT.

Ah, you say, but the TNIV most accurately translates the Greek here, which does specify the gender of the new spouse in each case.

So what?

The CBT has shown wanton disregard for any number of places where the Greek specifies the gender--specifically, masculine gender. On what grounds do they show such respect for it here?

They certainly can't claim that they are trying to make the Bible more understandable to Today's Young Person, who needs to know, and really should be able to find out from reading the Bible, the opinion of their Creator on "same-sex marriage." Not the opinion of gay and lesbian members of a translation team.

UPDATE OCTOBER 2011: There was no change to the NNIV. The loophole remains.
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2016: Now that marriage between homosexuals is a protected right in a growing number of judicial and ecclesiastical districts, the NNIV is already out of date.
Wow, that sure didn't take long.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Castellio on Calvin as a common despot

"Your words and your weapons are only those common to every despot; and they can give you but a temporal, not a spiritual, dominance--a dominance based on coercion, and not upon the love of God. Nor do I envy you your power or your weapons. I have other powers and other weapons--an imperturbable conviction of innocence, and a trust in Him who will help me and give me grace.

"Even if, for a season, truth is suppressed by the blind 'justice' of this world, no one can permanently coerce truth. Let us cease to heed the judgment of a world which slew Christ; let us ignore an assize before which only the cause of violence proves victorious. The Kingdom of God is not of this world."

--Sebastian Castellio to John Calvin, after Calvin used his authority to block publication of Castellio's book exposing Calvin's role in the brutal execution of Servetus (translated from the quotation in Castellio gegen Calvin oder Ein Gewissen gegen die Gewalt, by Stefan Zweig, 1936)