Bible translation

Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds...

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. (Emerson, "Self-Reliance")

(Tim) Last night moving boxes for the garage sale at the church-house, someone pointed out the irony of the title given this edition of the New Living Translation--the best-selling gender-neutered translation in print today. They've removed thousands of male inclusives from the text of God's Word, yet market the book (it's not really a Bible at all) under the title, "Every Man's Bible." Or rather, "every man's Bible."

So let me get this straight: naming the race "man" is hip again, now. Just keep the letters all lower case--all of them except that 'B' in Bible.

Why no free MP3s of the NASB, ESV, NLT, and HCSB?

(This post was quite different, originally, and I've changed it to reflect what I found after more research. I'm sorry for my earlier errors.)

(Tim) Evangelical publishers would do well to offer free digital MP3 files of their Bibles to facilitate memorization. Free MP3s of the KJV are widely available, while other Bible publishers are earning good royalties off these audio files that cost little to nothing to serve on the web, nor do they need to be printed or shipped. The NASB95 is about the least expensive of contemporary versions at $20-30 for the entire Bible in MP3...

And women rule over them...

O My people! Their oppressors are children, And women rule over them. O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray And confuse the direction of your paths. -Isaiah 3:12

If we wanted to describe the repudiation of Biblical sexuality spreading across conservative churches and denominations today, we'd have a hard time finding a better text than this curse of God recorded by the prophet Isaiah. Women lead men, those who guide the People of God lead them astray, and pastors confuse the direction of their flocks' paths.

It's everywhere, from Campus Crusade for Christ to Operation Mobilization to Columbia International University to Wheaton College to the Presbyterian Church in America...

A while back, the New Yorker ran an article by Malcolm Gladwell profiling Cesar Millan, the man behind the National Geographic show, Dog Whisperer. Titled "What the Dog Saw," the piece gave readers a spellbinding glimpse into the life of a man expert at disciplining incorrigible dogs. The central thrust of the article was an explanation of Millan's "phrasing," his ability to bring his body movements, hand gestures, tone of voice, and eye contact into perfect harmony so that dogs understand Millan says what he means and means what he says. In an interview following the publication of his article, Gladwell described Millan's good phrasing:

What we're talking about, when it comes to phrasing, is simply the ability to communicate with clarity. We all think that those around us have the ability to read our minds--and we get frustrated when our intentions are misunderstood. But the truth is that accurate communication is really hard, and only a very small number of people can do it well.

Gladwell's profile contained a number of examples of dog owners who hired Millan to tame their dogs. Here's the story of a dog named Beauty:

"I have forty-seven dogs right now," Cesar...idly scratched a big German shepherd. "My girlfriend here, Beauty. If you were to see the relationship between her and her owner." He shook his head. "A very sick relationship. A 'Fatal Attraction' kind of thing. Beauty sees her (owner) and she starts scratching her and biting her, and the owner is, like, 'I love you, too.'"

Near the end of his article, Gladwell told the story of a Chihuahua named...

Man named woman, but God named the race "Man"...

66clouds_cover This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created. (Genesis 5:1,2)

(Tim, w/thanks to Eric W.) I'm not a fan of indices consisting of tag or word clouds as they've come to be used on blogs, but take a look at the helpful picture of the doctrines of Scripture this tool creates. Note particularly the prominence of 'son,' 'man,' and 'father' with no corresponding prominence of 'daughter,' 'woman,' and 'mother.'

Really, this only flows from the doctrine that God named Adam together with Eve and their descendants "man" or "adam." Not "eve" or "woman." And not "adameve' or "manwoman."

If all Scripture--every last word of It--is "God-breathed" and "profitable," what profit has our language and usage today made from the name of the race Scripture records God Himself giving us, let alone the frequency of its use in the sacred pages?

Copyright law used to deny God's Word to Portuguese believers...

Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. (Isaiah 55:1)

(Tim) Under "Save your church money...," David Ker, a Bible translator and blogger of Mozambique, commented on the lockdown the Portuguese and Brazilian Bible Societies have put in place denying Portuguese Christians access to Portuguese digital versions of God's Word.

In a blog post titled, "Illegal sources of the Portuguese Bible in digital format," he writes:

While every other major world language has multiple versions of the Bible represented online, Portuguese has not one. To paraphrase Emerson, make the Bible illegal and we all become criminals*.

The spirits of John Wycliff and Brother Andrew hover over this shameful situation compelling us to act. If the enemy forces were a state religion like the Church of England or an oppressive government like China or Iran we would think nothing of risking our lives to bring the Bible to those who can’t access it otherwise. But in this case because the bad guys have the words “Bible Society” in their name we’re supposed to sit on our thumbs...

Why God named the race 'adam'...

(Tim: this is a rerun) The Apostle Paul prohibits the exercise of authority over man by woman, saying "I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, for Adam was created first, then Eve." (1 Timothy 2:12a)

With this simple statement, Paul explicitly affirms what is implicit throughout God's Word: that the order of creation establishes patriarchy as God's pattern for leadership in human relationships. Addressing the matter of propriety in prayer, the Apostle Paul again emphasizes this order: "For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake" (1 Corinthians 11:8,9).

Imagine a new believer, thoroughly confused by our disordered world, discovering the truth of passages such as 1Corinthians 11:3-16, 14:34-35, Ephesians 5:22-33, 1Timothy 2:9-15, and 1Peter 3:1-7. What a deep sense of relief to discover that the order of creation gives us universal principles for the relationships between men and women.

But while the facts of Eve's creation are instructive for establishing proper order between man and woman, Genesis goes on to reveal another important biographical note about Adam and Eve. The significance of this biographical detail, also, is revealed more fully in the New Testament.

The first hint of this element comes after the Fall when God, walking in the Garden in the cool of the day, inquires of Adam, "Where are you?" When Adam responds by explaining that he and Eve found themselves naked and hid, it is notable...

The death of the TNIV: follow the money...

(Tim) Before everyone forgets about it, here are a couple thoughts about the announcement by Zondervan and Biblica that they're scrapping their TNIV product.

I've spent my life inside the world of Christian publishing, particularly the Bible publishing world. And the thing everyone must understand is that it's an exceedingly rare Bible translator or publisher who is unaware of the money that can be made or lost on Bible sales. And usually made--not lost. We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and the necessity of keeping an eye on the mammon is as applicable to men like Don Carson who have been paid to translate gender-neutered Bibles as it is to the women like Moe Girkins who have been paid to head up gender-neutered Bible publishing corporations like Zondervan.

So, for instance, we all know Zondervan has canned their TNIV product because its sales have been pitiful. Looking more deeply into the matter, we find...

Why "pregnant" doesn't cut it (II): So how did Jerome translate it?

"(Tim) This is a comment made by Josh Congrove which I'm promoting to the main page from its original placement under the post, "Gagging God." Josh is a doctoral candidate in Classics here at Indiana University and a member of Church of the Good Shepherd. Thank you, Josh.

* * *


As Tim mentioned in his post, Gagging God," I want to offer some linguistic context for this discussion.  At the outset, let me say that this is not a formal, sustained argument, and that the evidence and claims I'm introducing here are initial, and preliminary.  Having said that, a decision to translate the Greek phrase in Matt. 1:18 as simply "pregnant" is not a discrete one.  It reveals, I think, much about both the state of evangelical scholarship today and the perilous ties between Bible translation and the academy, and between the academy and the marketing world.  If it comes to pass as I expect it will, it is a troubling, if not unexpected, development in a long line of distresses.

The proposed translation can be evaluated from two philosophies, of course, that of formal (or word-for-word) equivalence, and that of dynamic equivalence.  Since it's likely most of those reading this blog understand the essentials of these translation philosophies, I'll dispense with any further preliminaries, and move to explaining why I think translating this phrase as simply "pregnant" would be at the very least an unwise, and perhaps a reckless, decision.

First, then, a critique from the formal equivalence side.  As Tim mentioned above, the Greek phrase in question is 'en gastri echousa,' literally translated as "holding in her womb." The word gastri can indicate a number of body cavities, and indeed, though the word is fairly common throughout Greek literature, in the overwhelming majority of instances it means "belly" or "paunch" rather than womb.  In the New Testament, however, the situation is reversed: of the nine instances... I found in the NT, eight  denote "womb"; even more important, seven of those nine occur in the form of the exact phrase found in Matt. 1:18: "holding in her womb."  Why is this significant?  For now, just note that it's likely the usual NT meaning of "gastri" already differed somewhat from that of the surrounding culture. 

Gagging God...

(Tim) Two things needing to be said in the discussion under the post, "Why pregnant doesn't cut it."

First, as a matter of fact, "with child" is a more accurate rendering of the Greek than "pregnant." Unless, of course, we are not seeking to bring the meaning of the words in the original into the receptor language. We can slice and dice the meaning of the Greek original to such a point that it doesn't matter if the mother possessing a man in her guts isn't something we want to communicate, despite the fact that the Holy Spirit chose to communicate it, but then we're not seeking dynamic equivalence, even; but rather, reduction of meaning. More on this later, I hope, from Joshua Congrove.

Second, I said to a Bible publisher two days ago that it would be a wooden dynamic equivalence that, in principle, forswore ever rendering Hebrew and Greek words into English with the goal of instruction by words as well as by concepts. Even if I were sold on dynamic equivalence, I see no reason those of us who still hold to the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture at this late date would seek to communicate concepts and doctrines entirely foreign to our receptor group, and yet would turn around and renounce the use of archaic or entirely new words, themselves, to help in the work.

If we expect our readers to learn new concepts (like Original Sin, for example) through a patching together of common words being used to compose phrases and sentences, there's no reason those new concepts can't be learned, also, by new words which better communicate those concepts (like Original Sin).

Why "pregnant" doesn't cut it...

(Tim, w/thanks to Dave C.) Doug Moo has done a good recent commentary on Romans and is a faculty member at evangelicalism's Harvard, Wheaton College. So why are my concerns unabated when he gives us assurances all will be well with the 2011 updated NIV his Biblica Committee on Bible Translation is producing?

Defending the integrity of the sort of changes he and his people will be making, yesterday Fox News reported Moo saying:

Most changes will have nothing to do with gender inclusivity, Moo said. And the TNIV provides a glimpse of likely changes: In the '84 NIV, Mary is "with child," but in the TNIV she is "pregnant."

Why am I not reassured?

We're halfway to a billion babies slaughtered in their mother's wombs in the past few decades, and our best and brightest...

"Reserving judgment" is exactly right...

(Tim) Also responding to Zondervan's and Biblica's announcement, yesterday, that they're putting the TNIV to rest, replacing it sometime in 2011 with a new Bible they hope will be more successful, CBMW's Executive Director, Randy Stinson, does a much better job:

Copyrighting the Holy Spirit's words, then living off the profit...

But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities... (Acts 16:19)

(Tim, w/thanks to Lucas) A Greek Bible web site used by lovers of God's Word around the world has been shut down by the German/United Bible Society. Why?

Because they are intent upon defending the stream of money they've lived off for many years, now, provided by the Greek text of God's Word they've assembled. They claim their text is the closest anyone can possibly get to the original autographs inspired by the Holy Spirit.

So think about this. The better they do their job, the closer they will be to claiming copyright for the very word of God. In an e-mail, my son-in-law, Lucas, put it this way:

I was trying to figure out what, exactly, the UBS was copyrighting when they produce their version of the Greek New Testament. My only guess is that when they produce a Greek New Testament, they are copyrighting their specific choice of words. In other words, their copyright is not so much on the words themselves, but on the precise sequence of Greek words in their version of the Greek New Testament.

Their ultimate goal, of course, is to produce a Greek New Testament that is *exactly* the same as the original. But here's the crazy part: If they succeed in their goal, they will have succeeded in copyrighting the *actual* text of the Greek New Testament--not a translation, but the real thing.

Is that not crazy? If I'm right, then you can state it another way: the goal of the UBS is to copyright the *original* text of Scripture.

The head spins...

The NASB and ESV on the iPhone...

BibleTouch (Tim, w/thanks to Lillis) Although for myself, I'll be waiting for a good tethering solution before I use an iPhone, many of you already have them and I wanted to pass on some information about a new Bible that's been produced for it. It's called Bible Touch and it runs on the iPhone and iPod Touch--not over the network. So you don't need internet access to run it.

It's encouraging they've only released it with true translations so far, and not the neutered non-Bibles known, for instance, as the TNIV and the NLT.

Here's the (sort of) press release...

The "New Living Translation" and "Today's New International Version" are bad...

(Tim) Starting in 1996 or so (actually, my work on the NLT started years before this), David and I worked hard privately and publicly to oppose a number of members of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) who, working through the International Bible Society, Tyndale House, and Zondervan, were removing the sex-markings of thousands of texts of Scripture in the Living Bible and the New International Version. At the time, the NIV was the Bible translation standard of the Bible-believing, English-speaking world, so it was the efforts to modernize this particular translation that were our main public focus.

Our opponents' plan was to put out an updated NIV called the New International Version Inclusive. Since then, they've updated their work giving it the name, Today's New International Version (TNIV). In the TNIV, Hebrew and Greek words such as adam, adelphoi, and aner are stripped of their male grammatical component. These scholars, publishers, and corporate executives worked together to mute these words, ending up with new books called "Bibles" where thousands of changes had been made to render them innocuous to those of us raised in a feminized society in which it has become gauche to make references to mixed-sex groups using any word with a male marking. Thus, in their book, 'man' became 'humankind', 'brothers' became 'Christian friends' (NLT) or 'siblings' (NIVI), 'man' became 'person', and so on--thousands of times across the pages of Scripture.
As you'll see from the above reference to the NLT, the NIV was not the only Bible in wide use across the evangelical world being similarly updated. In an effort to update the Living Bible which was growing long-in-the-teeth, Tyndale House Publishers had hired a long list of ETS academics to produce the New Living Translation which, benefiting from millions of dollars in advertising and purchased product placement in national bookstore chains, was steadily gaining market share. (The writer is the son-in-law of Ken Taylor, owner of Tyndale House Publishers until his death several years ago.)

Partly because of the naturally lower expectations of accuracy the NLT inherited from its predecessor, the Living Bible; partly because the academics who had done the NLT's translation work likely expected it to be more a devotional than a study Bible; and partly because the NLT's publisher responded to expressions of concern over some of the more egregious mistranslations evident in the NLT's text with thoughtful consideration and, eventually, a number of changes to the text of the NLT's subsequent printings; the public battle was focused almost exclusively on the updated NIVI, its publisher Zondervan, and Zondervan's subsidiary (in a manner of speaking), the International Bible Society and her subordinate Bible Translation Committee.

The public became aware of the battle through the publication March 29, 1997 of Susan Olasky's cover article, "The Stealth Bible: the Feminist Seduction of the Evangelical Church," in World magazine. For almost everyone this was the first hint of Zondervan's plans and the response was a good measure of the profound theological divisions present within the vast entrepreneurial business park named "evangelicalism."

Predictably, one side decried Olasky's divisive spirit and focused their attack on World magazine...

When you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind...

(Tim) Zondervan is the publishing company that has licensed, printed, taken to market, and aggressively promoted Today's New International Version, a bowdlerized form of Scripture in which the original Greek and Hebrew has been amended in order to appease and mollify feminists. The TNIV is popular among the hipsters leading the Submergent church.

It's somewhat ironic then that Zondervan was just hit with a lawsuit filed by a man who is a sodomite and claims Zondervan's Bibles' treatment of sodomy has caused him great emotional injury. The lawsuit isn't likely to get far at this early date, but it led Zondervan to issue a press release defending their Bibles as follows:

We rely on the scholarly judgment of the highly respected and credible translation committees behind each translation and never alter the text of the translations we are licensed to publish. We only publish credible translations produced by credible Biblical scholars.

"Highly respected" indeed. Their heavy use of 'credible' is telling, isn't it?

In the godly, fear and love embrace...

[Tim: These past few years, Mary Lee and I have become quite fond of Josh Congrove, a doctoral student in classics here at Indiana University. Recently, Josh sent this E-mail to Church of the Good Shepherd's pastors.]

During the Scripture reading this past Sunday, I noticed that the New American Standard Bible (NASB) renders Acts 2:43 in a way that was quite surprising to me:

Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe.

The word in this passage is, as you might have guessed, phobos, and though it may sometimes be interpreted as "awe," I do think that to actually translate it this way (esp. with "a sense of"--see below) substantially weakens the stark force of the text as well as the impact of the conviction seen earlier in the passage...

The Profit Principle...

(David) Placing authority over a translation of the Word of God in the hands of a commercial entity is no greater warrant for confidence than placing that translation in the hands of the descendants of Ellen White or the Watchtower Society. Pecuniary influences are just as real and baleful as sectarian influences.

I mean, really, if you're going to give a commercial entity control over your translation of God's Word, why not just sell it to Rupert Murdoch?

Translations of the Word of God should not be controlled by those with vested interests in their profits. Nor are arms-length translation committees which, though theoretically non-profit owe their existence and income to the profitability of a given version of Scripture, free from the temptations associated with venality and pride--considerations which pass all-too-easily through non-profit membranes.

An everlasting help in trouble...

[NOTE FROM TIM: David posted this article on Baylyblog back in 2007.]

(David) An old lion of the US Congress used to tell young congressmen, “A lie is an offense against Almighty God and an everlasting help in time of trouble.”

Tim has written on the history of the English Standard Version below. Let me state as circumspectly as Christian brotherhood allows the message he’s so carefully (and thus verbosely) delivered: when it comes to money, influence and standing, Christian leaders are as prone to temptation as the leaders of Apple, CBS and the US Congress. Greed and desire for status have led to economy of truth becoming the consistent practice of many Evangelical leaders.

In fact, in an Evangelical community which often views charges of dishonesty against its leaders as negatively as dishonesty itself, leaders are sometimes quicker to to lie than in the secular world because the Christian press, unlike the secular press, is often muzzled in revealing them.

Denying the origin of the English Standard Version and Bible marketing...

(Tim: originally posted October 27, 2007, with an ADDENDUM added March 17, 2011.) While moving into our new church offices, I found a new piece of correspondence documenting the origin of the ESV in the Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy. Why bang this drum again? Because the denial of any connection with controversy at the heart of the ESV's marketing campaign is so typical of the inability of evangelicals to understand that faith is battle, and men who hide the battle for fear it will scandalize the sheep actually harm the sheep. Imagine reformers of past centuries trying to hide the conflict from those they were defending: Think of Calvin holding cloistered meetings with Cardinal Sadolet that the men of Geneva knew nothing about; or Luther publicly denying that his use of the word 'alone' in translating Romans 3:28 was in any way connected with the battle against Rome for justification by faith alone; or the Apostle Paul announcing in his epistle to the Galatians that Peter's particular failure of table fellowship had no significant bearing on his issuing this present letter--that this letter had been in the works for years prior to that public confrontation...

Bible translation: dynamic equivalence, right or wrong...

(Tim) Under a prior post, two dear friends began a discussion concerning dynamic equivalence, maybe the prevailing method of Bible translation today. Both men have good reason to support this method--Chris Taylor because he's the grandson of one of the pioneers of this technique, Ken Taylor, who wrote the Living Bible; and Michael McMillan who works supporting the publishing arm of Wycliffe Bible Translator's Summer Institute of Linguistics, the largest Bible translation organization in the world.

So I encourage you to click on through to the comments where you'll find Chris and Michael posting their thoughts on this critical matter. (It may take a few hours for them to get their comments posted, so stop back in a little while.) And by the way, if their discussion interests  you and you'd like to learn more, Leland Ryken's, The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation, is a good place to start.