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Why I Hate the KJV

Why I Hate the KJV

It’s about time for one of my periodic posts on the King James Version, signaled by comments from a KJV-Only advocate to some earlier posts.

As is usual, the commenter does not interact with anything I say about this issue, but merely affirms the need for a solid foundation, provided in the KJV. In this case, the commenter tells me that the KJV has never been proven wrong. I can hear his question: How can you be so perverse as to fail to give homage to the Bible. To the KJV-Only advocate, Psalm 19:7 does not read “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” but instead reads “The King James Version is perfect, converting the soul.” This particular commenter didn’t ask me why I hate the KJV, but that usually comes somewhere in the discussion.

Well, the answer is that I do not, in fact, hate the KJV. The title is tongue in cheek, though I wouldn’t be surprised to have it used as evidence of my hate. I also do not hate the Douai-Rheims version, the Geneva Bible, Wycliffe’s translation, or the Latin Vulgate. I just don’t recommend that you use any of those as your primary study Bible nor do I recommend you use them for scripture readings. Some exceptions can be allowed for those who are experts in the appropriate language. I consult all of those except Wycliffe on a fairly regular basis.

The KJV is simply one translation of the Bible. It is special because of the time, place, and circumstances of its translation. It is, perhaps, the single most important accomplishment of English Bible translation, though that would be debatable. Its translators worked out some quite good translation principles, and they worked with substantial literary skill. To one who has any feel for the language of that period it is truly a work of beauty. (I must, however, give a nod to the considerable subjective element in beauty. I find it beautiful.)

Having said that, it is also an historical artifact. It is no longer easily understood by modern audiences. Our knowledge of the Biblical languages has advanced. We have many new manuscripts available, and we also have more advanced tools with which to study them. As a choice to use as a study Bible today, or for Bible readings in church, or as a reading Bible, it is not good for the majority of readers. I would make an exception for that small group of people who have actually mastered that language.

The KJV-Only movement is thankfully getting smaller. It has the effect of turning people away from the Bible rather than toward it. It is largely a means of maintaining personal authority for pastors and teachers who have placed their dependence on a particular English version rather than either going to the original languages, or using multiple translations to help get perspective.

Again, I must make clear that I do not refer in the previous paragraph to people who prefer the KJV while respecting other translations, or to pastors who use the KJV in teaching a congregation where that was the preference. I question the wisdom of such a thing, but I do not call it dangerous. What I call dangerous is the teaching that the KJV is the one, true word of God.

I used to write about this frequently, but I don’t any more, fundamentally because I’ve run out of things to say, and I haven’t seen a new or interesting KJV-Only argument to which I can respond in some years. They just repeat the same thing over and over. I’m more interested now in getting people to move to newer versions that are suitable for outreach, such as the CEV, TNIV, or NCV amongst others.

But having gotten some comments I just had to blow off a bit of steam on the topic. I now return you to your regular programming.

Crossway ESV Literary Study Bible

Crossway ESV Literary Study Bible

Regular readers of this blog (that imaginary group every blogger hopes he has!) will know that I am not a fan of the [tag]ESV[/tag]. More precisely, I’m not a fan of the hype that surrounds it in certain circles. It’s not a bad translation in my view–it’s just not very special.

Thus I was not immediately attracted to ESV, The Literary Study Bible despite the very attractive title. I think literary study of the Bible is one of the key elements that is lacking in Bible study by many Christians. Besides the specific benefits of the various literary disciplines, simply relating Biblical material to the metanarrative can improve one’s memory, if nothing else. I’m reminding of a lady who was in a study group I led. After about six months she suddenly got an expression of wonder and surprise in the middle of a session and announced, “I finally see it! It’s all connected!”

Adrian Warnock has printed an extract from this Bible (12 Literary Features of the Bible) with the permission of Crossway, and that one section is enough to spark my interest. I will certainly place this on my list to buy and use, and perhaps review here once I’ve had time to enjoy it a bit myself.

I must note that there are some nuances of the 12 features that I would state a bit differently, but without context, it’s hard for me to tell just how far I differ, so I will save my quibbles until after I have actually read and worked with this Bible. As it stands, I welcome a new tool for students of the Bible in English. Anything that directs people to another perspective from which to study will be helpful.

Translation, Exposition, and Communication

Translation, Exposition, and Communication

Yes! I have found another pretentious title for a relatively simple post!

I’ve been following the discussion around the blogosphere about literary translation, which has involved any number of blogs. I’ve been too busy to write about it. I was about to start last night, and then Doug at Metacatholic said part of what I wanted to say, and I waited until this morning to put it all together a bit more.

In working with secular literature, and even with much religious or spiritual literature, there are many ways in which a work can be transformed to reach a particular audience. One of the methods I’ve been playing around with is simply writing a very short fictional piece that tries to teach the same lesson (example here). The point here is not to produce professional fiction or for the teacher to produce a “better” story, but rather for students to study the story by changing its form. I would ask students to tell a story from their own lives or to create a fictional one to teach the lesson. In studying Bible stories I also use the technique of having students tell the story from someone else’s point of view (see the section toward the end on Ahab’s Viewpoint).

In secular literature we can have a book re-presented as a condensed book, a movie, a play, a children’s edition, illustrated edition, modernized (for an older work), and so forth. In each presentation, there are many choices made in terms of what of the original work will be presented again and what will be left out. Any time one changes the presentation, one loses something, and one may also gain something. The person who alters the form may well instill some additional meaning into the work that was not there before.

But in Bible translation it seems to me that we tend to operate in fear of doing it the wrong way. Now don’t get me wrong here. I have very strong preferences in terms of Bible translation. I’m an advocate of dynamic equivalence, and of using ordinary, natural expressions in the target language. That is what I want most in a translation. If you think about it, and then realize that the most common thing I’m doing with a Bible translation is using it in a teaching context, you will realize that my preference of translation and my purpose tend to line up. One must add that I do not pretend to teach my classes Greek or Hebrew (unless that’s the subject!) and thus I am uninterested in a presentation of the forms of the source language.

Nonetheless, as I talk about translations, I tend very strongly to speak in terms of lines of division. There are formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence, and never shall the twain meet. Now I actually believe there is a continuum (illustrated here), but that continuum easily gets lost in discussion.

Let’s take [tag]The Message[/tag] for example. The key question people ask me, and the one I’m likely to bring up if they don’t, is whether this version is really a translation or not, and whether it is “good to use.” I can then analyze the language, and how close it is to the source, and in general I must admit that The Message doesn’t seem to me to reflect the original very accurately in many cases.

But let’s shift context. Would I say the same thing about [tag]Eugene Peterson[/tag]’s teaching or his exposition in other material that he has written? There’s a bright line there that we may not always acknowledge. If he’s expounding, it’s OK. If he’s translating, well, not so much. What we are generally looking for is a solid line that divides working with the original languages from translation, and then working with a translation from someone’s exposition.

But is such a line realistic? Let’s compare my reading of Hebrew, for example, to that of a Rabbi who has spent his entire life working strictly with the Hebrew text. Alternatively we could compare my reading to someone who has spent his entire life studying comparative ancient near eastern languages, which is closer to my own study. Since I went from that study at the MA level to teaching Bible at the popular level, I have spent a great deal less time in the details. I would expect there to be points that either of those experts would see in the text that I would easily miss. When I read their expositions, I see this in action.

Let me belabor the point a bit before I build on it. I had read Leviticus through in Hebrew several times on my own, and done so in connection with Nahum Sarna’s JPS commentary, for example, but then I picked up Leviticus with Jacob Milgrom’s three volume Anchor Bible set. I claim to study from the original languages, and I do–in a sense. But not like that!

On the other hand I regularly encounter preachers who say that they prepare their sermons from the original languages, and yet can barely work through the material word by word. Now don’t take this as criticism. I congratulate them for using all the tools at their disposal, but their specialty and their calling doesn’t allow them to become experts in everything.

Hopefully that portrayal will do to show three levels of reading of the source texts–the expert in the texts, the person with facility in the language yet who does not professionally research on linguistic issues, and the pastor/teacher who knows some of the language. Anyone with experience could fill in the blanks either direction.

We could similarly work our way through a continuum of levels of study with various English translations, based on how accurately the text conveys the maximum possible content of the source text. Somewhere in there we should fit someone who studies from multiple English versions.

Finally, if we keep looking, we’ll find those persons who really don’t learn directly from the text or a translation at all, but rather learn the Bible in their community through exposition. There is a contempt in conservative Christianity for such people, but there are many who do know their Bibles quite well simply because they are regularly in the church when the scriptures are read and expounded, or they get similar knowledge from reading. This kind of thing makes folks like me nervous, because there are plenty of written materials that I believe distort the meaning.

Now note that the continuum I have presented is based solely on comprehending the intended message of the text. If I were to abandon that particular question, I might ask instead what methods of study and exposition result in the greater absorption of the spirit of the text by the students. That would result in quite a different list.

I could again shift views and try to build a continuum based on what produces a community sense of worship in reading scripture. This is a tremendously neglected area in many protestant churches. The information content is the sole criterion. The notion of the scripture reading as a vehicle for community worship is rarely considered. I can evoke cries of dismay when I suggest that respect for the scriptures might well be enhanced by reading all four lectionary texts on a Sunday. There seems to be a sense that if we don’t talk about it, if there is no sermon that builds directly on all those texts, there is no point in reading them. That comes from the idea that only knowledge is important.

When reading scripture for worship, the literary quality of the text becomes more important, and especially the sound of the text when read aloud. Out of modern versions I like the sound of the [tag]New Jerusalem Bible[/tag] or the [tag]Revised English Bible[/tag] in public reading, but I know a number of people who would still go for the [tag]KJV[/tag] solely for its literary beauty. Now I don’t happen to like the KJV all that well myself, but I believe that literary taste has only a small objective portion and a very large subjective portion (a few notes on this here).

If I were to work solely from my own tastes, I would suggest trying to match the literary quality of the original in translation. If so, [tag]Hebrews[/tag] should be harder to read, even when you know all the vocabulary words, than is [tag]1 John[/tag]. But of course it should not merely be harder to read; that’s just a product of someone not steeped in the language and rhetorical techniques reading a rather sophisticated text. The translation would need to be a literary masterpiece in English. My question would be this: Can you do that without reorganizing the material? In order to present the message of Hebrews as perhaps a masterful short theological essay, would we not need to take liberties with the structure of the book? After all, few English readers even notice the various literary features.

What I’m suggesting here is that none of these issues are binary issues, and that there are very few absolutely right and wrong answers. I use the slogan “the best Bible version is one your read.” My point is that different people will be comfortable reading, and will understand different Bible versions. There will always be a compromise on what is conveyed and what is filtered out by the translation choices. That is simply a feature of translating, transforming, or expounding a message.

One last note for those working on single translations into languages that are likely to have only one. There I can think of no better goal than “clear, accurate, and natural.” It’s very easy to set goals that are out of range of human thinking. In English, where so much effort is expended, we have the luxury of using multiple version and thousands of books of exposition to get the message across. In languages much less privileged–or abused–that doesn’t exist. There I would have to say that having something clear, accurate, and natural would come before anything else.

I sense that understanding in Peter Kirk’s post “Literary Translation” and Obfuscation, which I think brings up a number of points. Look at that post from the perspective of a Bible translator who is not adding yet another English translation to the literature.

Let me note the following from John Hobbins: Is Literary Translation Possible and If a text is literary, its dynamic equivalent in translation must also be literary From the second I take the following:

But that means that dynamic equivalent translations like the Good News Bible and the Contemporary English Version are improperly done. For vast swathes of the Old Testament, the translation they offer is not literary enough.

My point would simply be that I don’t accept the phrase “improperly done.” They are done according to the goals of their translators. The proposed “literary” translation would not accomplish that goal. Let me belabor the point some more. I love reading the [tag]REB[/tag]. It sits open on the reading stand by my computer because I love to consult it. I love to read it aloud. But I cannot use it in teaching, because I end up with too little understanding of the text. What to me is literary beauty obscures the meaning for them.

For my goals in teaching, the REB is “improperly done.” But for my goals in reading and study, it is quite “properly done.”

Culture, Translation, and Literal Meaning

Culture, Translation, and Literal Meaning

I just read two excellent articles on Bible translation, one on a blog, and the other coming to me via e-mail. It seems to be very difficult for people to get an idea of just how language works. The notion that each word has a fixed, eternal, precise meaning just seems to hang on. Learning a foreign language will help, as will reading material from earlier in your own language’s history.

The first article is by fellow Moderate Christian Blogroll member Eddie Sue Arthur [I originally credited this article to Eddie, but it is really by Sue. I apologize deeply for miscrediting it] who asks Can you close the door?. It may seem simple enough, but as Sue will demonstrate, it can be somewhat more complicated than that for Bible translators. Not only do words mean different things at different times and in different places, but they also occur in idiomatic expressions in which the word isn’t unit of meaning at all.

Sue’s article is straightforward and simple, and I recommend it to anyone who is struggling to understand why Bible translation cannot be a more absolute and objective process.

The second article came via the Bible Translation Mailing List which presents an article by Kermit Titrud titled Critique of the English Standard Version and “Are Only Some Words of Scripture Breathed Out By God” by Wayne Grudem in Translating Truth: The Case for Essentially Literal Bible Translation. Wheaton, Il.: Crossway Books, 2005. (You have to say that title on one breath or it doesn’t count!)

Update: This article is now also available on the Better Bibles Blog.

This article examines translations in the [tag]ESV[/tag] and in [tag]dynamic equivalence[/tag] translations that are criticized by Wayne Grudem. The fundamental issue is the same. Languages are very different and finding equivalent expressions requires effort and often will not look very much like the form of the original at all.

I strongly recommend both of these articles, and for non-specialists especially the first.

Personality and Bible Translation Preference

Personality and Bible Translation Preference

My post yesterday, titled must personality, is in response to a two part series by Wayne Leman over at Better Bibles. You can check out part 1 and part 2 there, along with a quite substantial number of comments.

Wayne says that his initial thesis, which he presents even though he feels it was disconfirmed, was this:

Those with whom I disagreed with about Bible translation were so set (whoops, sorry, deeply principled!) in their ways. And those with whom I have had some of the most difficult interactions in the past often have scored with a “T” (Thinking) on the Myers-Briggs profile. So I assumed that those who believed so strongly in the value of literal Bible translations and lack of value of idiomatic Bible versions must also be a Myers-Briggs “T”.

I’m wondering, however, if there isn’t still some point to his hypothesis. I’m one of those Ts, though I generally agree with Wayne on Bible translations. But I have an almost compulsive need to read things in their original languages. Even in such languages as Akkadian which I read only with the most tedious effort, I still like to at least check key points of any translation I’m using. Now my limited ability indicates I should probably give more credence to the translation, but I still go look.

Now perhaps many T personalities don’t have the same experience I have had with discovering translations that are literal but misleading. If they don’t have the time, energy, talent, or whatever else it takes to study the original languages, perhaps they would be driven, unlike me, to go to the translation that feels closest from their point of view. I rarely use the NASB, for example, because I can produce that for a passage in a few minutes, and do so regularly as my “working translation.”

On the other hand, even having produced an essentially literal translation, I am often at a loss for English words that express well the thought that I’m sensing in the text. I can go to the [tag]NRSV[/tag] to check my work, so to speak, but to get effective wordings in English I’m more likely to check the [tag]CEV[/tag], [tag]REB[/tag], [tag]NJB[/tag], or [tag]TNIV[/tag], along with a number of others.

It’s just a thought.

PS: For those in the comment thread over at Better Bibles, I haven’t commented because one is required to have a blogger account, and I can’t even remember my ID. Hopefully I’ll find it at some point. I’ve never had a “blogger” blog, but I did at one point have an account.

Communism and Bible Translation

Communism and Bible Translation

Bible translators and those who discuss that work know quite well that translation produces controversy, sometimes quite virulent controversy. One of the great watersheds in American church history was the publication of the RSV and the fight that followed. Though many of these issues are still quite alive today, the battle lines have largely shifted to other issues such as gender neutral or gender accurate language.

In turns out that the Methodist church, or at least some Methodist clergy were pretty thoroughly involved in the incident I want to recount. In the days of Joseph McCarthy and his red hunting, it should not be surprising that reds were “discovered” on the RSV translation committee. It won’t surprise any Methodists that one bishop was accused, G. Bromley Oxnam, among other church leaders. I should note that being accused by McCarthy had no evidentiary value–he’d accuse anybody.

Peter J. Thuesen, in the book In Discordance with the Scriptures [link is to my book note], notes that J. B. Matthews, a Methodist minister, and one-time communist sympathizer himself, was hired by HUAC. He had written in an article in American Mercury that “. . .the Protestant clergy comprised the largest single group of communism’s supporters.” After various protests, Matthews was allowed to resign.

There were more accusations, however. One pamphlet accused various Protest leaders and Samuel McCrea Cavert, National Council of Churches executive secretary, of subversive activities (Thuesen, 103). Further,

Still more pointed was a second pamphlet, Thirty of the Ninety-five Men Who Gave Us the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, issued by the Cincinnati-based Circuit Riders, Inc., a Methodist anticommunist organization led by air-conditioning executive Myers G. Lowman. Lowman’s widely distributed booklet alleged that the thirty members cited on the RSV committee and its advisory board were “affiliated with Communist and pro-Communist fronts.” (Thuesen, 103)

Such accusations may seem a bit unreal today, but they were very significant in their time. Simply the accusation of communist sympathies could be enough to torpedo a career in some areas.

Translators will not be surprised, however, to see the popular accusation of the day applied to their work.

Bibles: Turning a Blessing into a Curse

Bibles: Turning a Blessing into a Curse

I have blogged a number of times on the benefits of having multiple English Bible versions to use in Bible study, especially for the student who does not know Biblical languages. I did so most recently in my post From Word to Study, in my series on word studies.

Yesterday I got an e-mailed link to a blog post titled all these translations, arrgh in e-mail in which the writer narrated a journey through confusion to some sort of solid ground with reference to Bible study. It’s not his conclusion that causes me to disagree, but rather the fact that he and so many others have to go through such a journey. I do disagree with his preference for formal equivalence versions for study, but that’s another topic. Others may be less careful than he was and get stuck in some very dangerous places.

Why is it that the blessing of having the Bible readily available in English can so often be turned into a curse. Here are some of the common complaints I hear:

  1. I can’t follow the pastor’s scripture reading. It’s not the same as in my Bible.
  2. I like the rich language of the KJV
  3. The differences in versions causes confusion. Nobody knows what to believe.
  4. There are missing/added passages in that Bible!

How do we respond to this? Well, it’s valuable to educate people on the process of translation and the reasons why translations differ. I try to do this in my book What’s in a Version?, which is actually simply the lesson materials for a seminar I’ve taught several times. I’m looking at extracting from this a shorter version titled “Choosing a Bible” with additional material on choosing Bibles with study notes, and then expanding the current book, which only has a couple of paragraphs on the major issue of gender language, for example. Such education is good, and of course I like to sell books! 🙂

But let’s look at these objections and some things we can do to help people understand through what we do in church, Sunday School, and other such studies on a daily basis.

  1. Have a pew Bible.
    We like people to bring their Bibles to church, but the one way to be sure everyone can read together is through use of a pew Bible. Then identify the translation you’re using and let the congregation know that it is in the same version as the one in their pew. This can also help with unison reading and responsive reading. People can still choose to use their own Bibles, but then they’re on their own. Consider also preaching about Bibles, and perhaps also sponsor a missionary who is translating the Bible. Bring your missionary to the church to speak.
  2. It may be difficult to deal with the “rich language” issue. In some churches, the answer may be a Bible that has more majestic language, though in modern English, such as the REB or the NJB. In other cases you may simply have to explain to some members that in order to reach the unchurched who don’t understand “churchy” language, you’re reading from a more modern version. To those who love the KJV, I suggest setting up a small study group of those who are of like mind, and using the KJV in your group. This will have the added advantage of adding a Bible study event to your week.
  3. Differences in Bible translations are generally only a major problem to those who use the proof text method. The best answer to this is to train your congregation (whether you are a pastor or other leader) in how to study and to lead them to base their beliefs on a broader range of scriptures and a more secure foundation of interpretation.
  4. It’s a bit more difficult to deal with the whole passage differences simply because you need to deal with how texts are copied, but again, educating people to broaden their scriptural base will help, because no major doctrines are based solely on disputed passages. Education and study are still the key.

More important than any of the specifics is to constantly celebrate the availability of the scriptures in your teaching, preaching, and in your daily life. Be aware that even very good technical criticism can drive people from the Bible. My own dislike for the Living Bible had to be sidelined just a bit when I found that it was the first Bible my wife had read, and resulted in her coming to the Lord. What if someone had gotten to her first with a charge of corruption? Criticism of Bible versions is healthy, and often required. There is no Bible version that cannot be justifiably criticized. But such criticism should always be put into context.

The abundance of Bibles is a blessing–let’s strive to keep it that way!

More on the TNIV

More on the TNIV

I was a bit put off at first by certain rhetoric on the new TNIV Truth blog, and I must confess that anonymity doesn’t rank high with me, even when I understand the motivations. Now the blogger there has “outed” himself and also posted a note on the TNIV on one of my pet peeves–discussions of translator motivations.

First let me quote from Lane Wiemann’s profile:

I have a passion for the Bible being worded in the language of the majority of English speakers. I also have a passion for truth.

Excellent! This is precisely where we want to be.

Much criticism of the TNIV, often combined with advocacy of the ESV is motivation based. While the sophistication of the rhetoric and arguments is better than the old KJV only stuff, there is a distinct nasty odor in this type of argument. It seems extremely odd to me, and even borders on dishonest, to criticize a translation based on some assumptions about translator motivations when the translation itself is available to check alongside the source documents.

I have never encountered any translators who are not motivated by a desire to help people understand the Bible. There are plenty of disagreements about how to accomplish that, and sometimes I have thought translators get way off the mark on the method, but I would be very slow to question any of their motivations.

Thus this from the post Have you stopped beating your wife (TNIV Truth blog) is right on target:

Rather than speculating about the motives of the TNIV translators, it would be better if we objectively examined each verse with which there is a difference of interpretation. In most cases we will discover that good Bible scholars differ on the interpretation of those verses and that the TNIV wordings are supported by lexical and exegetical evidence from the Bible itself as well as from good scholarship.

Wow! What an amazing concept! Let’s look at the actual evidence and see what conclusions we come to! (I am not aiming this sarcasm at Lane Wiemann, but rather at those who somehow miss this obvious method and go instead for unknown and often unknowable motivations.

While I have not encountered actual Bible translators who do not want to express God’s message clearly and accurately, I have encountered many church members who are primarily concerned with other things. Unlike Mr. Wiemann and the folks over at Better Bibles, I’m not a translator except for what I do as part of my own teaching and writing work. Where I encounter this issue is in churches with actual church members when I teach classes in how translation works. Those church members are often confused.

Because some people have attacked the motivations of Bible translators, and the TNIV seems to be the main target right now, and so people are afraid of corrupted Bible translations. Their concern often keeps them from using new versions that provide clearer translations. My own choice for use in writing and often in teaching has been the CEV. One common complaint has to do with the way a version sounds when read from the pulpit. Now oral reading is something that needs to be given consideration in translation, but these members are often not concerned with whether it is easy to understand when read orally or has good rhythm. What they want is something that sounds “Biblical,” generally meaning “like the KJV.”

One class I taught was split throughout, with one group repeatedly saying that the Bible used in church and Sunday School should be one that made them feel comfortable, while the remainder of the class thought the choice should be made based on how well an unchurched person would understand the reading. Not surprisingly, when I read passages to these two groups, the first group like versions like the RSV, ESV, NASB, or the NRSV, except that they generally didn’t like gender-neutral language. The second group favored dynamic equivalence translations like the CEV or TNIV.

I think it is extremely important for those who have a good technical knowledge of translation issues to be truthful and to reduce the rhetoric which makes church members believe there are conspiracies of Bible translators whose purpose is to conceal the truth and support social agendas by inaccurate translation.

It would be valuable, as a start, to stay away from accusations of bad motivation except where there is very substantial evidence.

The TNIV has a Blog

The TNIV has a Blog

I got an e-mail today with just the link for this new blog–only two entries–and the blogger is [drum roll] –wait for it–the TNIV Translation. Well, I assume the book has a spokesman and he or she (or should I use the singular “they”) is typing the entries. I don’t know if this is an official site or not, and we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

I’m glad to see blogs promoting good Bible translations in modern English, and I think the TNIV is a good translation. I also wish everyone well in promoting it. I do have a problem with some of the rhetoric in the first post. The question they’re asking is “why not the best?” They’re not shy about making claims either:

We can confidently tell you that our Bible translation, the TNIV, is the best.

The even try to make some mileage off of the Better Bibles Blog, where bloggers Wayne, Suzanne, Peter, and a couple of others have defended the TNIV from many attacks. It might not have been the best start to the new blog to take this approach. If they want to set the record straight, then they might be better advised to ask “best for what” before they decide to unequivocally declare their particular version the best.

To be honest, on reading the rhetoric of the first post, I was almost convinced this was some kind of a spoof making fun of the TNIV by using overblown rhetoric, but then I encountered the second post which links (their link is broken, use this one) to a post by Mark D. Roberts reviewing the TNIV which I’ve only partially read, but appears quite intelligent and balanced.

I hope that this blog will improve and will provide substantial, accurate, information on the TNIV which has gotten way too much unfair coverage.

With Reasons Like These . . .

With Reasons Like These . . .

. . . who needs rationalizations? I refer to the article 7 Reasons Why (it’s title in the title bar) also titled “Key Issues Regarding Bible Translation.” This is on the domain, (yes, Virginia, there really is a!).

A while back I blogged on Mark Driscoll’s reasons for using the ESV at his church. But with highly credentialed people to feed pastors misinformation, what should we expect? I am freshly astounded at the poor quality of argumentation and even of exegesis that is used in these articles, even though I shouldn’t be, because I have read these so many times before. Much of this is warmed over KJV-Only argumentation, just used a little bit more narrowly.

Let’s look at some of the major problems with this essay.

In discussing 1 Kings 2:10, the authors wax quite eloquent about the wonders of the metaphor “slept with his fathers” as opposed to “died,” preferring the Hebrew metaphor for death to a modern understanding. One should, of course, note that the metaphor is a Hebrew metaphor, and question whether the modern English reader in fact hears all of the things the translators expect. This underlines one of the common problems with the arguments of advocates for literal translation: They speak constantly of what meaning a word, phrase, or passage “contains” without asking what an audience will hear when reading that translation. What is lacking is any testing to see precisely what people will hear and understand.

This is precisely how I was awakened out of my own apathy on the issue of translations. I was already a fan of dynamic equivalence translations, and thought the KJV was hopelessly out of date in terms of language. But I felt there was no great reason for me to argue with anyone else about this until I was invited to teach on the history of the Bible to a group of high school aged young people. A couple of the students used the KJV, and when they would read, nobody, including them, understood. Now I still see no problem with my mother using the KJV. She’s 87 years old, has read it all her life, and can understand it quite well. But those young people could not. Why should I spend my teaching time in teaching them how to understand 17th century language?

But that incident started me on learning something very important, other than the realization that many people try to use the KJV even though they don’t really understand it. It suggested to me that the right way to discover how well a Bible translation functioned was to ask people to read it or hear it, and then to explain what they had heard. This applies to the use of gender language, or in this case to the particular metaphor, “slept with his fathers.” Does this metaphor mean all those things to actual church congregations, new believers, or non-Christians? I haven’t tested that particular one, though I suspect the answer is that few people would come up with all the wonderful meanings for the metaphor that our authors find. The problem is that those authors are blithely unconcerned with what people understand. For them, communication is all about what’s “in” the text, not about what readers actually understand from it.

Thus we see the following:

Supporters of essentially literal translations would agree that the dynamic equivalence rendering “then David died” does translate the main idea into contemporary English, but they would add that it is better to translate all of the words of the Hebrew original, including the word shakab (which means, “to lie down, sleep”), and the words ‘im (which means “with”), and