Better Bibles Blog has moved. Read our last post, below, and then
click here if you are not redirected to our new location within 60 seconds.
Please Bookmark our new location and update blogrolls.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Impressive flesh: swimsuit contests maybe

It has been noted that the TNIV revises the NIV to more literal language in a number of passages (this does not take into account the greater degree of gender-inclusive language in the TNIV, which can be viewed as a movement in the opposite direction, becoming less literal).

Note NIV Gal. 6:12
Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
Now compare the TNIV revision:
Those who want to impress others by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
Now, it may just be my linguist's mind, which often finds meaning possibilities in things which ordinary people do not, but when I read the first sentence of the TNIV here, I get a picture of something like a swimsuit contest, where people are impressing others by exposing their flesh. I know that is not the meaning intended by the TNIV team, but sometimes unintended meanings are communicated by our translation wordings.

Personally, I would prefer a different revision of the NIV wording, something along the lines of
Those who want to make a good impression with external bodily symbols are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.
I know that the NIV has often been criticized for being too dynamic, and this might have been one of those passages. So I respect the decision of the TNIV team to revise to more literal English to be less dynamic. They were trying to increase the accuracy of the translation. For those who are familiar with Bible English use of the word "flesh," they may have succeeded. For those of us who often get a more standard meaning of "flesh" when we hear that word, the jury is still out. I suggest that the TNIV team would find it helpful to do field testing on their current wording to find out how many speakers of non-church dialects of English think about swimsuit contests when they read Gal. 6:12.

There are some other English versions which sound even more like there is a swimsuit contest going on in Gal. 6:12. Note these wordings:
It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh ... (RSV, NRSV, ESV)

Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh ... (NASB)

As many as desire to look good in the flesh, ... (WEB)

These people who want to impress others by their flesh ... (ISV)
What do you think? What versions can you cite which make the meaning of the Greek of Gal. 6:12 both accurate and clear in English, without it sounding like we are showing off how nice our bodies look?

Categories: , , , ,

3 Comments:

At Sat Jul 02, 07:56:00 PM, Blogger Paul W said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Sat Jul 02, 08:03:00 PM, Blogger Paul W said...

Wayne, the NJB translates Gal 6:12 as, "It is those who want to cut a figure by human standards ... ". I like the fact the NJB translates the expression en sarki a lot more felxibly than other translations, realising that Paul's own use of the language of "flesh" was very flexible.

But the expression "cut a figure" is opaque to many English speakers. I've asked about 5 people what think it means. Replies include: "Make a mark for yourself," "distinguish yourself," etc. IMHO the NJB has done very well with this verse, but it somewhat undoes its good work with this opaque idiom - which people may intuitively grasp all the same.

The REB's rendering IMHO is also on the right track. But perhaps it's another candidate for your examples of bad English in Bibles: "It is those who want to be outwardly in good standing ..."

 
At Tue Jul 05, 03:12:00 PM, Anonymous Dave Rattigan said...

The TNIV rendering is an atrocious backwards step from the NIV. How bizarre.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home