Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More on the NGV

Mr. Mansfield challenged me to cite a single incorrectly translated verse, especially one with theological implications, in the NGV or TNIV. Well, here's a little list from CBMW from the New Testament, and here's another one from the Old Testament. Here's an analysis of some of these verses. Has, as Mr. Mansfield claims, the thesis of Grudem (and a lot of others) been refuted? Is the concern really overblown?

No; as my links still work, and that demonstrates that Grudem, Ryken, Polythress, Thacker, Mohler, Piper, Strauss, and others certainly haven't been convinced by TNIV advocates. Rather, I'd argue that CBMW's thesis has largely been confirmed by the creators of the TNIV themselves, as the 2005 revision took pains to remove some of the more egregious errors in the 2002 TNIV. One doesn't fix what isn't broken, no?

But why does this matter? Well, per Mr. Mansfield's suggestion, let's take a look at one example, Psalm 8:4.

NIV: What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
TNIV (2005): What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

OK, first of all, the TNIV commits stylistic malpractice here, transforming a majestic meditation of David into something worthy of a science fiction cartoon or comic book. Strunk & White, stat!

Second of all, the TNIV changes "son of man"; this is a prophetically significant phrase. Do this a few thousand times, as the TNIV does, and you will tend to obscure some very important doctrines. When the TNIV changes "he" to "they" it obscures in many points the reality of personal accountability before God--say in Revelation 3:20 and elsewhere.

And yes, this does have other effects. Let's consider how the TNIV translators might update the Declaration of Independence, specifically the phrase "all men are created equal".

One might say "men and women," or "people", or perhaps "white male landowning slaveholders", depending on one's point of view, no? One could get a great argument for, or against, any one of these, right?

Which is the central objection I have to the TNIV, and to paraphrases in general; even if they get the "sense" of a passage right, they've made all of the decisions for the reader, and the reader is powerless to use the hints provided by the author to apply the text to other writings. I'd rather have someone read the "NGV" than no Bible at all, of course, but when there are so many translations that are more accurate at the same reading level, I really fail to see the need for the TNIV.


hammerswing75 said...

I think that's a fair rebuttal. I've been using the NRSV for the past few years because it's the Bible that I've had on hand, but I think I'll do a little research and pick up a better translation.

Bike Bubba said...

Ben, lots of good choices. If one enjoys word for word equivalence and Hebraisms, the NASB, ESV, KJV, and NKJV are all very good. (that's obviously my bias) If one has trouble with those, I'd recommend the NIV and HCSB.

And as I noted in the post, I'd avoid paraphrases from all corners unless that's what it takes to get you into the Word--they simply make too many interpretation decisions for the reader.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendations. I'll check 'em out.


MainiacJoe said...

I've written a post here at my blog focusing on your last paragraph about paraphrases in general.

Marklark said...

What do you think of the Geneva Bible that WND and other more "religious" sites/orgs are selling?

It is supposed to be the version that Calvin, the Pilgrims, and the "forefathers" used.

Bike Bubba said...

Mark, it's updated, so it might lose a little bit, but the guys in the seminary at my church note that the 1611 KJV is about 95% derived from the 1599 Geneva, and the KJV also shares about 90% of its phrases from Tyndale's. The KJV, of course, "loses" the Calvinistic "study notes" of the 1599 (which was the main reason for the KJV, after all), but all in all, the 1599 is more or less the KJV.

MainiacJoe said...

Speaking of the KJV, please comment on the quality of the original-language manuscripts used for it relative to the manuscripts used for modern translations. It frankly surprises me that you speak of the KJV as more accurate based on its English style when its source material lacks the result of 400 years of scholarship and archaeology. Are you one of those that considers this scholarship to be a detriment instead of an improvement? If so, why?

R. Mansfield said...

Bike Bubba,

Yes, I do feel the "little lists" you cite are overblown and unfair, but it's obviously impossible for me to react to so many verses at once.

You list quite a few respectable names that you refer to as those who haven't been convinced by TNIV advocates. I wonder, though which Strauss you mean? If it's Mark Strauss, who has strongly defended the TNIV, well, he is now on the TNIV committee, although he wasn't on it when the translation was first published. Regardless, I could cite a number of conservatives who do support the TNIV including D. A. Carson, Timothy George, Douglas Moo (who was also one of the translators), Gordon Fee, Philip Yancy, and more. I think we could say that there are respectfable conservatives on both sides of this issue and simply leave out the piling up of supporters or detractors.

As for Psalm 8:4, an explanation at http://www.tniv.info/bible/sample_resultsingle.php?rowid=39 gives the following information:

It is clear that Psalm 8 is not speaking about one particular "man" but about humanity in general, about humanity's place in the scheme of things, in the order of creation. When the psalmist asks "What is 'enosh? [traditionally rendered "What is man?"], he uses a generic word for humanity that hints at human frailty. When he follows this in a conventional poetic parallel construction with ben 'adam [traditionally "son of man"], he employs a conventional Hebrew generic phrase for human being(s)/humanity/humankind that serves here as a close synonym of 'enosh. One should compare Ps. 144:3, where the psalmist also speaks of humanity generically. There the psalmist begins by asking "What is 'adam?" and follows that in poetic parallel with "son of 'enosh," again intending these to be virtual synonyms. And there is also Job 17:17, where the author presents Job asking "What is 'enosh?" and raising the same question with reference to human beings in general as the author of Psalm 8 (but in a different context). See also Job 25:6, where one finds 'enosh and ben 'adam in similar synonymous parallelism and similarly referring to generic humanity.

When the author of Ps. 8 speaks of "the son of 'adam" [traditionally "son of man"], he does not use it as a title; it is purely a conventional generic reference to human beings. When Jesus took to himself the title "Son of Man," he attached his identity to the one spoken of in Dan. 7:13, not to the phrase "son of 'adam / 'enosh" as it occurs in Psalm 8 and many times elsewhere (for example, Ps. 144:3; Job 25:6; Dan. 8:17; and often in Ezekiel).

Nevertheless, the author of Hebrews does establish a link between Psalm 8 and Jesus. He declares the wondrous truth that in Jesus what Psalm 8 affirms about humanity's royal status in God's creation is coming to complete realization in and through the incarnate and glorified Jesus.

I don't see how the TNIV creates stylistic malpractice here worthy of a science fiction cartoon or comic book, but perhaps that's in the eye of the beholder.

Your reference to the Declaration of Independence is mere rhetoric with no real bearing because the TNIV CBT has no plans to update the Declaration.

I know that I am not going to change your mind about the TNIV. That's really not my goal, but I hope you realize that these issue are more complex than they are often presented by the TNIV's detractors.

Bike Bubba said...

Mr. Mansfield, the simple fact remains that you asked for a single verse, and I provided it. That verse nonetheless included a significant impact on theology to boot. When you consider that this kind of thing happens a few thousand times in the NGV, it really becomes hard to overstate the impact of their flawed translation methodology.

Joe, my position is that the differences between the ancient manuscripts are less significant than the differences in modern translation techniques. The differences between TR and eclectic text are well known--and are printed in most Bibles. Poor translation decisions obscure the meaning in a more insidious way, however.

MainiacJoe said...

Thanks for answering, Bert. That makes your support of the KJV make sense.

Bike Bubba said...

One more thing; there IS a lot of historical argument about the real meaning of the Declaration of Independence, and YES, there are simplifications and explanations out there. It's not merely a rhetorical example.