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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

another favorite Bible versions poll

New Testament scholar Scot McKnight has had a poll up for about a week, asking visitors to his blog which is their favorite Bible version. 235 votes had been cast so far when I checked before writing this post. Even though the ESV has not yet made it into the top ten best selling versions on the CBA monthly list, it is the favorite (22%) among those visiting Scot's blog. That shows something about the quality and tone of Scot's posts, since he has stated on his blog that he doesn't even own a copy of the ESV and doesn't have positive feelings about it.

If however, we add together the 20% of votes for the NIV and 15% for the TNIV, which seems reasonable, the two together get 35% of all votes cast so far.

Favorite Bible versions polls are often conducted on the Internet. I wish I had kept track of the results from each of them. It would be interesting to see how much variation there has been during more intense times of discussion about various versions.

Well, if you haven't voted in Scot's poll yet, it is still open, and you can.


Cross-posted to BATSIS

a fine display of character

Thank you to each one who responded to the survey about whether or not you could view all the Hebrew and Greek characters in our post which experimented with different fonts.

The results were overwhelmingly that viewers were able to view both the Hebrew and Greek fonts if we used unicode fonts which are fairly widely used, such as SBL Hebrew or Ezra SIL for Hebrew and Gentium, Tahoma, Times, or Arial for Greek.

We'll try to remember to use these compatible fonts in the future on this blog, and would encourage others to do the same on their blogs when displaying Hebrew or Greek characters, especially if there are diacritics for Hebrew vowel pointing and accents and breathing marks for Greek.

And now, the poll will come a'tumbling down.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bible books abbreviations poll

Many of you who visit this blog are familiar with abbreviations for books of the Bible. Do you have any preferences for which system of abbreviations is used? I am surveying people for their preferences for the BATSIS tagging system. It would be nice to have a single set of abbreviations to use in the BATSIS system. Please take a few moments to answer the poll which you can get to by clicking on the title to this blog. The poll is blue, the only poll on the BATSIS blog.

Who actually reads this stuff anyway?

This morning my inbox had a message from a Swedish-language prayer list. It wasn't very uplighting because it confirmed something I've believed for some time. The headline was depressing "Sex av tio tycker inte om att läsa Bibeln" (literally Six out of ten do not think to read the Bible). Okay so I guess this would be true for those outside of the church or those of other faiths but the really depressing thing is that the newspaper article this message repeated is reporting on church people. You can read the article for yourself here.

The Swedes have three Bible versions to choose from. A 1917 highly formal version after the style of the English KJV, an equivalent of the Living Bible paraphrase and a new translation Bibeln 2000, which came out in time for the Millennium. Now I happen to like the Bibeln 2000 translation. More idiomatic than the 1917 version and closer to the Swedish I learnt. That there's nearly 90 years between them says a whole lot for that 1917 edition though. I also happen to like other projects that the Swedish Bible Society are undertaking. But it seems that Swedish church-goers are not reading the text for themselves.

With friends in Sweden I would love to move there from Britain if only my work wasn't with users of a minority language indigenous to Great Britain. Such a move would not really alter the situation there or here. Occasional postings to the Bible Translation email list have reported similar statistics gathered by Gallup for the US. Bible readership is in decline. The situation in Great Britain probably is the same. Except that unlike the Swedes we in the US and UK have a plethora of translations to look at.

As I write two things went through my mind. One is some verses from the book of the prophet Isaiah 29:11,12:
To you all these visions will be like words in a book that is closed and sealed. You give this book to someone who can read, saying, "Please read this." He answers, "I can't read it. It's sealed." Then you give the book to someone who can't read, saying, "Please read this." He answers, "I can't read." [God's Word translation]
Just so happens that I recently started reading J Alec Motyer's commentary on Isaiah and he says of these two verses:
The double illustration covers those who can but cannot be bothered and those who cannot and do not care. Basic to both is a spirit of unconcern. The one will not exert himself to break the seal and read, nor does the other urge him to do so.
My second thought was a line from a song by my fellow English man Matt Redman "Lord send revival; start with me."

Does this news report mean I'm going to give up wanting Better Bibles? No way. What it does do is to make me even more passionate that the Bibles people have in their hands are the best we can produce. And also to continue reading the Bible myself and simultaneously get out there and urge other people to read the text for themselves.

Let us hope and pray that Isaiah's follow-on words (vv13,14) are not true of this generation.
The Lord says, "These people worship me with their mouths and honor me with their lips. But their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is based on rules made by humans. That is why I am going to do something completely amazing for these people once again. The wisdom of their wise people will disappear. The intelligence of their intelligent people will be hidden." [God's Word translation]

Monday, August 29, 2005

Did he break his neck?

Here is a verse from the NKJV which Mark Strauss quotes in his Powerpoint presentation:
And he arose, and came to his father. But while he was yet afar off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)
I see several translation problems in the English wording here.

One is that the antecedent of "his" in the noun phrase "his neck" is unclear. Whose neck did he fall on? If the father fell on his own neck, we can wonder if his neck got broken in that fall?

Another problem is that the literal wording "fell on his neck" does not communicate the meaning of the original Greek to English speakers. Other recent English translations accurately translate the Greek here to say that the father "embraced" his son.

There are other translation problems in the NKJV wording of this verse, but we won't take time for them now.

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Punching the street

Mark Strauss, Professor of Greek and New Testament at Bethel Seminary West (San Diego), has consented to be a contributor to this blog. Mark is very busy, however, and probably won't be able to blog more than perhaps once a month. Mark has written on Bible translation.

Yesterday I received a Powerpoint presentation from Mark. It is an introduction to Bible translation. One of the slides in the presentation is just too good not to share with you. Many people claim that the Bible should be translated literally. They even claim this for some idioms, even though translators have demonstrated repeatedly that translating idioms literally usually makes no sense in the target language. So Mark gives us a literal translation of an idiom to illustrate the point. Here it is:
Along the path, I'm punching the street at the fissure of sunrise.
Can you figure out what English sentence that is a literal "translation" of?


(pause for a musical break)


Hint: It has at least three English idioms.


Do you have it yet?


It's this sentence:
By the way, I'm hitting the road at the crack of dawn.
I think that's a great sentence that shows that idioms cannot be translated literally, if we also want their idiomatic meaning to be communicated accurately.

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TNIV revised spelling of names

While turning to a reference during a sermon yesterday, in a church copy of TNIV (the IBS UK church edition), I chanced upon a list of "Revised Spelling of Proper Names", comparing forms of the same name in NIV and TNIV. Most of these changes relate to the Old Testament.

NIV had already changed the traditional forms of quite a few names, especially replacing "ch" by "k" at the start of a name - as these names could clearly be mispronounced according to the regular English pronunciation of "ch". For example, KJV "Chedorlaomer" (Gen 14:1) became NIV "Kedorlaomer". These changes are certainly correct as the correct sound is "k", a plosive, and not the fricative sound sometimes written as "kh".

TNIV has retained these new forms, but with some extensions. It seems that "ch" has been changed to "k" at the end of words where the sound is actually more like "kh", e.g. "Abimelech" > "Abimelek", similarly many other names previously ending in "-melech". Word initial "c" has also been changed to "k", e.g. "Cabul" > "Kabul" (hopefully no one will take this as a reference to the capital of Afghanistan!); also word medial "c", replacing traditional "ch" (with the "kh" sound), e.g. "Achbor" (KJV), "Acbor" (NIV) > "Akbor". I suspect that "c" remains in TNIV only in names which are considered too well known to change, e.g. "Zechariah".

Other changes in TNIV include using historical forms of names rather than Hebrew ones: "Evil-Merodach" > "Awel-Marduk", "Erech" > "Uruk"; clarifications of pronunciation e.g. "Zeboiim" > "Zeboyim"; and some which obviously reflect the translational preferences e.g. "Jaakanites" > "Bene Jaakan"; "Kittim" > "Kittites"; "Mizraim" > "Egypt" (Genesis 10:6,13, 1 Chronicles 1:8,11).

It seems to me that in general these changes are for the better. But there are many more similar changes which should really be made for consistency. For example, most "b"'s in Hebrew proper names have in fact always been pronounced "v", but TNIV has only made one such change: "Abib" (the month) > "Aviv" - presumably to match "Tel Aviv" in Ezekiel 3:15 NIV, which was presumably itself so spelled to match the modern city in Israel. However, most existing "v"'s should probably be changed to "w", as representing Hebrew vav ו which was pronounced "w" in biblical times. Similarly it would make a lot more sense to use "f" instead of "ph".

Nevertheless, I congratulate the NIV and TNIV teams on their gradualist approach to reform of the spelling of Hebrew proper names.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

BATSIS is born

BATSIS, Biblical And Theological Studies Indexing System, was born yesterday. This new system provides a common format for indexing biblical and theological studies posted on the Internet. The BATSIS system does this through tags which appear on the BATSIS at the tagging system. You can not only tag your own blog or website so your visitors can see what topics you have written on, but your writings can also be registered in the BATSIS system. Visit BATSIS to learn more. Feel free to ask questions there about BATSIS and to offer suggestions so the system can work as well as possible.

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

McKnight on Dynamic Equivalency

Scot McKnight continues his blog series on Bible translation issues. His post today on Dynamic Equivalency (click on the title to this post) is important and is raising a number of comments from others.

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What do we want in a translation?

In his ad hoc series on translation at the Jesus Creed blog Scot McKnight is asking simple but profound questions about translations. Today's, which you can reach via the title above, is "What do you want in a translation?" In a brief comment there I've mentioned the one feature common to all the English translations I've read and that bothers me the most. No matter what philosophy the translators follow: literal, word-for-word, concordant, formal equivalence, functional equivalence, meaning-based, paraphrase, closest natural equivalence, the resultant text all reads the same ... stilted and lifeless. Amos and Isaiah, despite their different up-bringings, both sound the same. Mark and Paul, whose use of Koine Greek could not be any more different from each other, both sound the same.

The one translation I'm aware that even considers this issue is the New Jerusalem Bible. In the introduction to the Gospels is this note:
Mark's Greek is rough, redolent of Aramaic, and often fauly; but it is fresh, lively and appealing. Matthew's Greek is also rather marked by Aramaic but smoother than Mark's as well as less picteresque and more correct. Luke's is mixed; when writing independently, his Greek is excellent, but out of respect for his sources he incorporates their imperfections—after polishing them a little. Occasionally he goes out of his way to give a good imitation of Septuagint Greek.
Now that's the sort of thing I want from a translation. The fresh, lively and appealing Mark, the smoother Matthew, the excellent Luke, and what can I say of Paul? And I want similar distinctiveness in the Old Testament too. Unfortunately what we get is homogeneity of languages from stylists in the NIV or Leland Ryken in the ESV. I say let the Bible writers speak with their own voice.

So here's my answer to Scot McKnight's question. I want a translation that reflects the original authors' skill with Koine Greek. I want a translation with Paul's epistles in the language of the NEB; Mark's Gospel from Lacey's street bible; Luke and Acts as in NIV; James the NLT; John's Gospel, epistles, and Revelation the CEV; Matthew, Jude, 1 & 2 Peter, and Hebrews from Stern's CJB. Then we'd have English translations that match the language of the originals not something to revere as a piece of beautiful literature. Translations that are redolent with the life we know is in there.

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Friday, August 26, 2005

Context is key in Bible translation and ...

Rick Brannan blogs that "Context is Everything" and he's right. We cannot translate the Bible accurately unless we correctly understand the original meaning of biblical words in their source text context. And we translate accurately only if the target language words (and syntax) we use convey in their linguistic context the original meaning of the source text in its context.

Rick illustrates his point well by describing a recent experience that involved communication that required needing to know a lot of information in the context that was not explicitly stated. You'll know what I mean if you read his post.

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Larry the Cucumber reads the ESV

Yep, Larry the Cucumber, of the Veggie Tales, reads the ESV. The ESV Bible blog tells us so.

BTW, Larry is one cool dude! Our grandchildren like him.


Scot McKnight has a mild case of ...

Scot McKnight, of the Jesus Creed blog, and whose posts are irenic, instructive, and edifying, has a mild case of ...

Of what? You'll need to read his post to find out.

Does God have a long nose?

The original language texts of the Bible include many idioms, i.e. phrases which have a meaning which is rather different from the superficial sum of the meanings of their parts. Sometimes this meaning is based on metaphorical extension of the meanings of component words, but idioms can be distinguished from metaphor in that they are fixed expressions used regularly.

An example of an idiom in the Hebrew Bible is מִלֵּא יָד mille' yad, literally "fill the hand", which is used of the ordination or consecration of priests, for example in Exodus 29:9. The phrase may have originated as a metaphor of handing a responsibility to the priest, or perhaps as a symbolic action of placing symbols of office into his hands. But as used in the Hebrew Bible this is an idiom with a meaning quite different from literally filling hands. So this idiomatic usage must be distinguished from Leviticus 9:17 where, literally, the priest fills his own palms with the grain offering - using a different Hebrew word, כַּף kaf "palm" rather than יָד yad "hand".

Advocates of literal or formal equivalence Bible translation often argue that Greek and Hebrew idioms should be translated literally word for word. For, they say, it is the responsibility not of the translator but of each reader to interpret these idioms. There are good arguments against this, in particular that professional translators are in a much better position than ordinary Bible readers to understand which phrases have an idiomatic meaning and what that meaning is. Thus, ordinary Bible readers would probably be very confused by a literal rendering "fill the hands" in Exodus 29:9, or might misunderstand it in some literal or semi-literal sense e.g. that this is how food would be provided for the priests. If these Bible readers have access to good explanatory notes, they will of course be able to read there the meaning of the idiom - but only if they recognise their need to read such notes; if they think they understand the idiom they will not look for help. Also many Bible readers do not have good explanatory materials, except for any footnotes etc bound with their Bibles.

But another argument against literal translation of idioms is that even the most extreme literalist translators do not in practice translate all idioms literally. In fact they choose to interpret some idioms because a literal translation would be too misleading. Most formal equivalence English Bibles seem to translate "ordain" or "consecrate" rather than "fill the hand" at Exodus 29:9. Young's Literal Translation has "consecrate the hand", which is misleading but at least avoids this idiom being misunderstood in a literal sense.

There is another common Hebrew idiom which even Young avoided translating literally. This is found in Exodus 34:6, and in a number of other places which are more or less quotations of this famous divine self-disclosure. Astonishingly to English speakers, the LORD describes himself literally as having "length of nose", or "length of nostrils", Hebrew אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם 'erek 'appayim. So, those who call for idioms to be translated literally should, if they are consistent, call for this statement to be translated something like "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, the long-nosed one, ..."

Of course no one does translate like this - for the very good reason that such a literal translation would be immediately misunderstood, and in a very inappropriate way, in terms of the English idiomatic meaning of having a long nose, i.e. being excessively inquisitive. This is of course not what the Hebrew idiom means. Rather, in Hebrew the word אַף 'af and its dual form אַפַּיִם 'appayim, literally "nose" or "nostrils", have a regular metaphorical sense of "anger". This is found especially but not only in the idiom חֲרוֹן אַף haron 'af, literally "burning of nose", which means something like "fierceness of anger". Similarly, אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם 'erek 'appayim, literally "length of nostrils", has the idiomatic sense "slowness of anger", with "length" understood in a time sense. Thus most English versions correctly translate "slow to anger".

So, if ever anyone recommends to you a particular translation because it is literal and avoids interpretive readings, I suggest that you refer them to Exodus 34:6. If their favourite version does not translate this idiom literally (and I don't know of any which do), then you can tell them that its translators are just as "guilty" as any others of interpretive translation, of making their own decisions about which idioms to translate non-literally and how to do so. Or, to be a bit more accurate, point out that no translators are guilty for doing this, because it is in fact impossible to translate, at least to produce a translation which is comprehensible to ordinary readers, without making these kinds of interpretive decisions, and without translating idioms according to their meaning rather than their strict form.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Relevant to Relevance

Arbitrarily deciding a few moments ago to follow the link Wayne has here for the SIL online Journal of Translation I notice that the new issue is out. One of the papers is a comparison by David Weber of the Code Model and Relevance Theory. Clicking on the title of this post will get you the abstract of Weber's paper and a link to the downloadable version of the paper. Gutt briefly addresses this same topic in his monograph Relevance Theory: A Guide to Successful Communication in Translation but doesn't spend long enough on the comparison.

From the few pages of this paper I have so far read it looks as if Weber provides all of us interested in Bible translation with another good introduction to this important and sometime difficult linguistic theory. Maybe after reading it some of the mystique of Relevance Theory will disappear and its relevance to translation become clearer. I plan to spend sometime over this coming weekend, which here in Britain includes a public holiday on Monday, reading Weber's paper.


Getting fed ... by RSS

I enjoy finding out when other blogs post on Bible translation issues. For many biblioblogs I get that information through an RSS feed to my RSS reader. Many blogs have an icon or link which gives the special address needed for the RSS feed from those blogs. Many bloggers, include those of us who post on this blog, of course, use the free services of and Blogspot. In case you did not know, you can get an RSS feed from any Blogspot blog which has proper code in its template (most do). The syntax to get that feed is:
So, for instance, if you wanted to get the RSS feed from this Better Bibles Blog, you would substitute the BBB's blog URL name, which is "englishbibles" resulting in:
That is exactly what you would copy into the Add RSS address window of your RSS reader. This blog, like many others, has a blog URL (Internet address) which is different from the name of the blog that you see at the top of the blog page when you visit the blog. Another way to think of it is that you add "atom.xml" to the end of a Blogspot URL to get its RSS feed.

Well, now in case you did not know before, now you know how to keep up with new posts at other Blogspot biblioblogs.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Picking a translation

I think many of you will want to read this blog post by Scot McKnight, a NT scholar who teaches at North Park University. Scot will blog next on translation theory.

UPDATE (Aug. 25): Scot has just moved to a new blogging service. His new blog has the same name, Jesus Creed, and is one of the most attractive blogs I have ever come across. Scot's post on Bible translation theory is on his new blog.


Acts 9:31: ESV, NIV, and TNIV

The ESV Bible blog quotes from Styria's LiveJournal post of August 20. Styria writes about the translation wordings of Acts 9:31 in the NIV and ESV. (Styria's LiveJournal post is a repost of his post on his Blogspot blog, dated October 9, 2004.) Styria prefers the ESV wording of
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
over the NIV wording of
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.
I commented on Styria's re-post, saying:
I think the NIV is attempting to say the same thing that the ESV does. The ESV makes it clearer what the two parts of the "means" of church growth are, as you nicely state.

FWIW, this is a verse that the TNIV revised, and with the revision the two parts of the means of church growth are just as clear as in the ESV. (BTW, the ESV wording is nearly identical to the RSV wording on which it is based.)

Here is the TNIV wording:
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
I should also add that the TNIV wording is actually clearer and, in my opinion, more communicatively accurate, than the ESV wording, which uses the somewhat obscure church term "walking" which is a Biblical Greek (but not English) metaphor for "living." Also the TNIV has "encouraged by the Holy Spirit" which is definitely more natural, and more communicatively accurate than the ESV wording "... in the comfort of the Holy Spirit."

I'm not a TNIV advocate, nor was I ever an NIV advocate (nor did I advocate against either), but I believe that if a thorough comparative study of the communicative accuracy of the ESV and TNIV were conducted, the TNIV would come out far ahead. The TNIV has better quality, more natural English which communicates the original meaning of the Bible more accurately, more often than the ESV. I think my own quantified studies which include analysis of the ESV and TNIV already demonstrate this.

Unfortunately, for too many people today, who have heard the vitriol against the TNIV, when someone simply mentions the name Today's New International Version (or TNIV), there is a negative Pavlovian response, the same response I had as a child when the RSV was mentioned. The RSV was thoroughly condemned by the church I grew up in, but now has been used as the basis for the ESV whose team leadership have been in the forefront of attacks against the TNIV. Of course, the ESV team has revised the passages in the RSV which were of such concern to the church leaders of my background. One need not agree with some of the gender-inclusive decisions made by the TNIV team to recognize the overall translational superiority of the TNIV over the ESV. I could not say this if the ESV were written in contemporary English and did not have so many passages with odd, obscure wordings. The TNIV uses almost no obsolete English, especially compared to the RSV/ESV versions. Its English is still not as smooth and natural as I like in a Bible version but it has much better English than a number of other English versions, including the RSV, ESV, and NASB.

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KJV editions and some humorous errors

Thanks to a tip in a post from Adam J. Lea, I have just enjoyed some Bible humor. We have mostly serious posts on this blog, but I want to share the humor with you. Here it is, an excerpt from a series of lectures on the KJV by Greek professor, Dan Wallace:
One of the ironic facts about the KJV is that it is impossible to honestly speak about the first printing, because there never really was a first printing! “The revision and correction process began immediately in 1611, … even before the first printed edition was completed and put together. The pages of these two editions [the actual first edition and the corrected second edition]… seem to have been accidentally mixed before either was assembled and bound.”14

Thus, the first edition of the KJV is actually more of a first-and-second-edition hybrid. But there are ways to tell whether one possesses a ‘first-second’ edition or a completely second edition. I won’t go into those details here. I have seen what is probably the finest example of the so-called ‘first’ edition of the KJV surviving today. It is part of a private collection in Texas.

Besides these two editions, the Authorized Version went through at least two more in the first year alone. In the first three years, it actually went through fourteen minor editions due to the frequent mistakes in the process of translating, revising, and printing. But these are not really revisions by today’s standard. Two larger overhauls were completed in 1629 and 1638. Within fifty (50) years “the need was presented and an effort was made to officially revise [it once] again”—this time more thoroughly than the previous two revisions. But Parliament decided not to act on this impulse when Charles II ascended the throne in 1660. The shifts of the political winds thus stymied the third revision of the KJV. It would not undergo a major revision again for 100 years. In 1762 and 1769, the KJV was revised for a third and fourth time.

Altogether, nearly 100,000 changes have been made to the 1611 KJV. The vast bulk of these are rather minor (mostly spelling and punctuation changes), but in the least this fact shows how impossible it is today for any church or any Christian to claim, “We read only the original 1611 King James Version of the Holy Bible”!

With all the revisions made to this translation over the centuries, printer’s errors were bound to creep in. Even though the goal was to eradicate all mistakes, every printing of the KJV added more!

For example, in 1611 the so-called ‘Judas Bible’ was printed: In Matt 26.36, the KJV says that Judas came with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane—even though Judas had already hanged himself in the previous chapter!

The very first edition of the Authorized Version is the ‘Basketball Bible’ because it speaks of ‘hoopes’ instead of ‘hookes’ used in the construction of the Tabernacle.

A 1716 edition has Jesus say in John 5.14 “sin on more” instead of “sin no more”!

The next year, the famous ‘Vinegar Bible’ appeared; this name was attached to this printing because the chapter title to Luke 20 was “The Parable of the Vinegar” instead of the “Parable of the Vineyard.”

In 1792, Philip, rather than Peter, denied his Lord three times in Luke 22.34.

Three years later the ‘Murderer’s Bible’ was printed: It was called this because in Mark 7.27 Jesus reportedly told the Syro-Phoenician woman, “Let the children first be killed” instead of “Let the children first be filled”!

In 1807 an Oxford edition has Heb 9.14 say, “Purge your conscience from good works” instead of “Purge your conscience from dead works.”

A printing of the KJV in 1964 said that women were to “adorn themselves in modern apparel” instead of “modest apparel” in 1 Tim 2.9.

But none of these printing mistakes can equal the Bibles of 1653 or 1631. These are the two ‘Evil Bibles’ of the King James history, for they both left out the word ‘not’ at key junctures. The 1653 edition—known as the ‘Unrighteous Bible’—said “the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God” in 1 Cor 6.9. And the 1631 edition, the infamous ‘Wicked Bible,’ wrote the seventh of the ten commandments as “Thou shalt commit adultery”!

The Wicked Bible was such an embarrassment to the Anglican Church that the archbishop ordered the Bibles to be burned, and he fined the printer, Robert Barker, 300 pounds—no small sum in those days. Barker, who had been the king’s printer since the Authorized Version came out, died fourteen years later in debtor’s prison.

Not only have there been these occasional but bizarre printing mistakes, but several errors in the 1611 edition have never been changed. For example, in both Acts 7.45 and Heb 4.8 the name “Jesus” appears when Joshua is actually meant! Hebrews 4.8 in the Authorized Version says, “For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.” The passage is saying that although Joshua brought his people into the promised land, he could not give them the eternal rest that they needed. But by having “Jesus” here, the KJV is thus saying that Jesus was inadequate, that he was not able to save his people from their sins. In Greek, both ‘Joshua’ and ‘Jesus’ are written the same way— jIhsou'". The issue is not one of textual variant, but of inattention to the details of the interpretation of the text.

Or consider Matt 23.24 the Authorized Version reads, “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” The Greek text here means to “strain out a gnat”—not “at a gnat.” Jesus’ point is the same as what he says in Luke 6.41— “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” The religious leaders focused on the tiny problems of others without taking care of the big issues in their own lives.15

Now, please understand: I am not listing these errors to make fun of the KJB! But I also don’t want anyone to have the illusion that it is a perfect translation. No translation is perfect—not the KJV, not the RSV, not the NIV, not the NET Bible.

In fact, just to play fair, allow me to mention an error that made its way into the second printing of the NET Bible, New Testament, in 1998. This translation has more notes in it than any other Bible in history. There are half a million words of notes for the New Testament alone! And at one of them, the typist accidentally hit a second ‘s’ when he wrote the conjunction ‘as.’ I won’t spell it out for you, but you can well imagine the name this edition of the NET Bible would be called! Not only this, but as the senior New Testament editor of the NET Bible, I have to take full responsibility for this note. Besides, I was the one who actually typed in this word!

Footnote 14: Minton, Making, 330. He adds some other fascinating information as well!
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Blog experiments: Hebrew and Greek Unicode

Our blog template now is using Tahoma font. (Later: the template has been returned to the Blogspot default font, Georgia.)

In this blog post we are attempting to use Times New Roman in this paragaph (as in "pair o' gaffes?!). There is Arial in other paragraphs. For the Hebrew and Greek accented characters, which previously did not display properly, we used Arial Unicode MS much of today (latest revision (Aug. 25): we have now stopped using Arial Unicode MS). (The latest display uses SBL Hebrew or Ezra SIL for the Hebrew characters, if these fonts are on your computer; if they are not then the display is in Times. Greek characters are displayed in Gentium, Tahoma, Times, or Arial.) How does this post display now in Internet Explorer and Firefox? (Final results for me, Wayne Leman: I now seem to have proper display of all Hebrew and Greek, including accented characters, in both IE and Firefox.)

I would enjoy finding out how many readers of this blog have computers setup now to display all the Hebrew and Greek characters. Please answer the survey, the first poll in the right margin.

From Peter Kirk's preceding post:

For test purposes, here are some Unicode Hebrew and Greek texts:

Fully pointed and accented Hebrew (thank you, Tim):

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ

Enlarged display by Wayne: We should be able to display these Hebrew characters so they are larger:

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ

Increasing display size can be done in word processing programs, as well as in blog posts (for Blogger and Blogspot, use the Compose mode when creating or editing posts to view the Font and font size buttons).

Hebrew pointed but not accented:

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ

Consonantal Hebrew only:

בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ

Fully accented polytonic Greek (fully composed, according to Internet recommendations):

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

Enlarged display:

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

Unaccented Greek:

Εν αρχη ην ο λογος, και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον, και θεος ην ο λογος.

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Unicode Hebrew and Greek

There has been some discussion of Unicode Hebrew in comments on Wayne's posting Who hates divorce? Unicode Hebrew and Greek certainly cause problems in e-mail, because not all e-mail programs recognise Unicode, although it has been the international standard on the Internet for many years (Eudora is a particular culprit here). It seems to me that there is much less of a problem using Unicode in web-based programs like Blogger - as long as the program supports Unicode properly, and it seems that Blogger does.

But this does require that those reading the blog are using browsers which support Unicode Hebrew and Greek. This should not be a serious problem for most readers, for Microsoft Internet Explorer (5 or 6, on Windows 95 and later) and Mozilla Firefox (my recommendation, a free download for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and Solaris) offer full support for display of Unicode Hebrew and Greek. However, some people may be reading this blog with systems and browsers which do not support Unicode.

Users also need appropriate fonts, and this is where there may be a problem. The default fonts for this blog do not support Hebrew or Greek. My system (Firefox on Windows XP) substitutes them with fonts which do support these scripts, but not always in an ideal way. It seems to use Arial for Hebrew consonants and vowels, but not accents, and for monotonic Greek letters as used in modern Greek. But it uses a different substitute font for Hebrew accents and for polytonic Greek letters i.e. anything with a breathing mark, an iota suffix, a diaeresis, or a grave or circumflex accent. So I see a mixture of fonts, which is rather ugly, and also rather small for Hebrew, but readable. But other systems may not substitute so well.

I note that of the fonts on Windows XP, Tahoma offers full support for polytonic Greek. It may be worth modifying the template for this blog so that this is the first suggested substitute font. Tahoma also supports unaccented Hebrew, but for good quality accented Hebrew either SBL Hebrew or Ezra SIL is needed - and although these are free downloads (and should work well in all applications, not only in Office 2003, in a fully updated Windows XP) they will not be on most readers' systems.

For test purposes, here are some Unicode Hebrew and Greek texts:

Fully pointed and accented Hebrew (thank you, Tim):

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ

Enlargement insertion by Wayne: We should be able to display these Hebrew characters so they are larger:

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ

Increasing display size can be done in word processing programs, as well as in blog posts (for Blogger and Blogspot, use the Compose mode when creating or editing posts to view the Font and font size buttons).

Hebrew pointed but not accented:

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ

Consonantal Hebrew only:

בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ

Fully accented polytonic Greek (fully composed, according to Internet recommendations):

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

Unaccented Greek:

Εν αρχη ην ο λογος, και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον, και θεος ην ο λογος.

I would be very interested to hear, in comments on this, from anyone who has serious problems reading any of these texts.

UPDATE: In the first comment to this post, Tyler Williams points us to the Greek Unicode Tables on Brandon Wason's Novum Testamentum blog. And Brandon's post points us toward Rod Decker's helpful webpage on Hebrew and Greek Unicode fonts.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Top Down or Bottom Up...or both?

I have an idea for how a translation process can achieve a better translation. It assumes the truth of two linguistic fundamentals:
  1. The meaning of a text is greater than the sum of its parts (bottom-up)
  2. The context of each part selects the meaning of each part (top-down)
In other words, there is a top-down cognitive mechanism to both understanding and constructing a text as well as a bottom-up one. Both processes (top-down and bottom-up) happen simultaneously.

Here is the translation process in a nutshell.
  1. Draft or use a "as literal as possible, as free as necessary" translation. Since it is quite difficult to think in ancient Koine Greek (we have no one to converse with), it is necessary for the next step to use an English translation that gets you most of the way there. I don't think one needs to be created; however, it would be beneficial to have a analytic translation along side of the one being produced by this process. See point 6 below.
  2. Write up a structured outline of the book. The outline is linguistically based and fairly high level. The elements of the outline refer to the book, sections and subsections, and paragraphs. It is not verse oriented (poetry excepted). This outline is developed from existing English translations since people synthesize information best in their own language. However, this still won't be easy since the majority of English translations (and commentaries) don't flow well to begin with (For example, NT Wright is the only person I know that ties Romans 9-11 in with the rest of the Pauline letter! In fact, some commentators think 9-11 was redacted in at a later date). Note, however, that what we are trying to accomplish is a synthetic translation that allows for people to simply read the text. That requires the text to just flow. The primary purpose of this step and the next is to get a good feel for how the original author develops the point (or points) of the book. There is a lot of work to be done in this step and the next. And it will not be easy.
  3. Associate a precis with each line of the outline. For example, the precis for a paragraph would look very much like a topic sentence. Larger lingusitic constituents will require larger than sentence precis. This part of the process helps force the coherence.
  4. The outline is peer-reviewed for coherence. In other words, it should notread like a list of unsorted daily devotionals. Nor should it look like a list of headings. It should, pretty much, read like a synopsis (or abstract) of the entire book and it should be clear and natural. There should be logical/rhetorical transitions between each element. For pragmatic as well as authentic reasons, multiple outlines would be allowed at this point. There will be quality control feedback loops feeding back to this step so the outlines will gravitate toward greater accuracy. Someone who is familiar with the underlying book should understand the flow as given in the outline. Scholars might (very likely would) hold strong reservations regarding agreeing with it without further research; but, the flow would "make sense." The quality control for the outline--that is, does it authentically reproduce the author's original intent--would be hammered out in the steps outlined next. It is very important to understand that the metric of success of this step is this: Is the annotated outline coherent?
  5. Each paragraph is translated. This is fundamentally a bottom-up procedure. The precis would be adjusted and frequently reconsidered as the paragraph is translated. Note, however, that the flow of the overall document must be upheld--coherence must be maintained. That is, the coherence of the outline must be maintained even if the outline itself is modified. The precis become extremely valuable in this step since they define the context within which the cognitive processes disambiguate linguistic and translation choices. Each of the multiple outlines would be considered against the word-level choices in order to better assess the value of each outline. A complete rewrite of the precis would be allowed, and changes to the outlines would be allowed, but those changes require redoing step 4 above and maintaining the metric of coherence.
  6. If a "literal as possible, as free as necessary" translation was produced in step one, it would also be adjusted. That translation is meant to serve a more analytic audience than the synthetic translation being developed by the processed outlined here. However, the analytic translation would also serve as support for the more synthetic translation.
  7. Field test the language of the synthetic translation. Note: This is not a field test of the content, certainly not a field test of the accuracy or authenticity of the content. It is to test the communicative accuracy. In other words, whether the test taker agrees with the content is irrelevant. Does the average person "get the point" of the text? That's the question. This step would result in appropriately revisiting any or all the steps above.
Lastly, each of the above steps would produce various kinds of supporting documentation. These articfacts would be openly available so the translators remain ultimately accountable to those being served by the translation.

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Monday, August 22, 2005

The chain-linked New Testament

Rick Brannan of ricoblog treats us to a review of a new book, Rhetoric at the Boundaries: The Art and Theology of the New Testament Chain-Link Transitions, by Bruce W. Longenecker. Any book which wrestles with the discourse structure of the Bible in a responsible way can only help in the effort to create better Bibles. Linguist Bob Longacre (hmm, what is there about these surnames and discourse studies?!), who has written about Hebrew chain-linking in the Joseph story of Genesis, would be most interested in Longenecker's book. I hope I can read this new book before too long. Heads up, Exegetitor, you may have some more good stuff here to blog about!

In his review Rick mentions that he previously read Ray Van Neste's Cohesion and Structure in the Pastoral Epistles which deals with both textual cohesion and transitions between discourse sections. (At $140 for this one at, and $94.37 at Eisenbrauns, one might wish to read it via Inter-Library loan.)

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Who hates divorce?

I'm sure God hates divorce and I'm sure that the ESV translators believe God does, but they believe that the Hebrew text of Malachi 2:16 does not support a translation wording that God hates divorce. In an interesting blog post ESV Old Testament Chairman C. John Collins explains why the ESV team revised the RSV wording of:
“For I hate divorce, says the LORD the God of Israel, and covering one’s garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.”
to the ESV wording:
“For the man who hates and divorces, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”
The evidence given by Dr. Collins for the exegetical choice made by the ESV team in this verse seems strong to me, but there is also strong evidence for the traditional wording. This is one place where the ESV team decided to make a choice different from a traditional rendering, when there is a lack of consensus among biblical exegetes. Fortunately, there is a footnote in the ESV which shows that there is not total certainty about what was written and meant by the original author:
Probable meaning (compare Septuagint and Deuteronomy 24:1-4); or For the LORD, the God of Israel, says that he hates divorce, and his who covers
The ESV team may be right in the exegetical choice they have made here, although their choice is by far in the minority among Bible versions, including recent ones. The REB and HCSB are the only other versions I have found so far that make the same exegetical choice as the ESV. Here is the REB translation:
If a man divorces or puts away his wife, says the LORD God of Israel, he overwhelms her with cruelty, says the LORD of Hosts. Keep watch on your spirit, and do not be unfaithful.
The HCSB wording is:
"If he hates and divorces [his wife]," says the LORD God of Israel, "he covers his garment with injustice," says the LORD of hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not treacherously.
The HCSB includes a footnote about the exegetical issue at hand:
Or The LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce and the one who
The NET Bible words Malachi 2:16 in accord with exegetical tradition as:
“I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and the one who is guilty of violence,” says the sovereign Lord. “Pay attention to your conscience, and do not be unfaithful.”
And it footnotes the word "divorce" detailing the evidence that leads to the traditional rendering in the NET and also to the non-traditional wording in the ESV:
The verb an}c* (sane’) appears to be a third person form, “he hates,” which makes little sense in the context, unless one emends the following word to a third person verb as well. Then one might translate, “he [who] hates [his wife] [and] divorces her…is guilty of violence.” A similar translation is advocated by M. A. Shields, “Syncretism and Divorce in Malachi 2,10-16,” ZAW 111 (1999): 81-85. However, it is possible that the first person pronoun yk!n{a* (’anokhi, “I”) has accidentally dropped from the text after yK! (ki). If one restores the pronoun, the form an}c* can be taken as a participle and the text translated, “for I hate.”
I am thankful for translators like those of the ESV, NET Bible (in other passages), and other recent Bibles who are willing to break with traditional exegesis of some verses for the sake of what they believe to be increased accuracy in translation.

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Thinking in Greek

Carl Conrad, a moderator of the Biblical Greek (b-greek) discussion list, recently answered a questioner who asked how to develop thinking ability in Greek. Carl's answer is good. Note that he also addresses the issue of "authentic translation" which is a key concern on this blog. It is my belief that only authentic translation can result in better Bibles. Carl has given permission for me to post his answer here:
It may well be that your sense of competence at "translating" Greek to English has already achieved the capacity to think in Greek, but I'm skeptical about that, because that often involves thinking at the level of words rather than of phrases or syntactic units. In my experience, authentic translation is a step BEYOND comprehension of the original text: one must first come to understanding the original text on its own terms, grasp the CONTENT of what that text is saying on its own terms; translation into a target language then involves re-expressing the CONTENT as understood into English or whatever other target language it may be as best one can -- and that may involve an altogether different structure from that of the original Greek passage.

My own view of what's required in achieving "fluency" or the ability to think in ancient Greek involves three types of effort:
  1. Voluminous reading in a variety of texts that lie outside the sphere with which one is thoroughly familiar (let's say, outside the sphere of the Greek New Testament. This could be in older Classical Attic (e.g. Plato, Xenophon, or the like) or it could be from the first two centuries of the Christian era (e.g. Apostolic Fathers, Lucian of Samosata, Plutarch, or the like). The point is that one needs to read a lot of sequential text and thereby become familiar with the recurrent patterns of expression used by good or standard authors: those recurrent patterns of expression are at the core of what it means to "think in ancient Greek.
  2. Composition in ancient Greek accompanying reading of the sorts of texts one is attempting to mimic in one's own compositions. In more traditional schools this still is a vital part of the curriculum for ancient Greek; it has been dropped by perhaps most schools, but its value lies precisely in its power to train one in thinking in standard ancient Greek patterns of expression and using them consistently in what one writes.
  3. Drills in 'question-and-answer' sessions using ancient Greek phraseology; while some of the better recent Attic grammars (e.g. Reading Greek, Carl Ruck's Ancient Greek: A New Approach use this for written exercises, the best way of all would be oral question-and-answer sessions, the method espoused and employed by Randall Buth in his "Biblical Ulpan."
Some resources for Greek composition may be found at:

View Randall Buth's materials for "Living Greek for Everyone" at: (under popup menu on left for "Courses" choose "Greek Materials." The description there reads: "This is a unique introduction to Koine Greek. It is suitable for children, at least from as early an age as they are able to understand why they might want to learn Greek. It is equally suitable for adults of any age. It is doubly efficient in language learning and re-teaches adults what it means to learn a language and to think in a language. The methodology is based on listening comprehension approaches to language learning and has been successfully developed and applied to many modern languages by Harris Winitz."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
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Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Exegetitor opens up

Mike Sangrey, the Exegetitor, blogs on the value of open sourcing in matters pertaining to the Bible, Biblical studies, and Bible translation. For those of you interested in how networking with others about the Bible can enhance knowledge for everyone involved, Mike's post is a must read. Why not just make it easy on yourself and add the Exegitor to your RSS feeds reader?! You'll be wanting to read Mike's posts regularly anyway, so you might as well be notified by an RSS feed when he's posted another one.

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Is you holier than thou?

UPDATE: There is a pretty good description of the changes which occurred with the second person pronouns at this webpage. Unfortunately, as that webpage points out, the semantics of the various changes with these pronouns is difficult to nail down. An even better description may be the Wikipedia entry. As the Wikipedia entry points out, etymologically, "thou" derives from the familiar second person singular pronoun, tu (Spanish tu, German du, Russian ty; in the Russian-speaking village in which I grew up, we only used ty in conversation with each other). I may have been wrong in suggesting that people eventually treated "thee" and "thou" as the more formal pronouns, after "you" displaced them. But I think in my church background "thee" and "thou" indicated greater respect or honor toward God. I think I have heard some people say that "you" was too common or familiar to use in prayer. I may be remembering wrongly, however. It looks like this is a topic which deserves a fair amount of discussion. I would very much welcome comments from any of you who grew up in environments where "thee" and "thou" were still used in prayer. Do you have a sense of what the meaning difference was between praying using "thee" or "thou" versus "you"? I do know that I have been taught a number of times by English teachers and linguists that "thee" and "thou" were singular and "ye" and "you" were plural, agreeing with the preface of the KJV. I have created a new poll to try to find out from you all what meaning "thee" and "thou" has had for you, if you know. It is the first poll in the right margin. The poll is not about etymological (historical) meanings of these pronouns, but about what meaning the pronouns had for you (called synchronic meaning).

Jeremy Pierce of the Parableman blog asks about the meanings of the different second person pronouns used in the KJV, "thee," "thou," "ye," and "you":
A friend of mine read from the preface to his KJV on 'thee' and 'thou' and 'you' in the KJV. According to that preface, 'thee' and 'thou' are used exclusively for singulars and 'you' and 'ye' exclusively for plurals. I'd always been told that 'thee' and 'thou' were the familiar second person pronouns and 'you' the formal, with 'thee' and 'ye' as the subjective and 'thou' and 'you' as the objective. Does anyone have real information on which of these accounts is correct or if somehow there's something to both of them?
I answered Jeremy:
Jeremy, the preface is correct, as far as indicating the meaning of those pronouns as intended by the KJV translators and according to language usage in their time.

However, as the general populace of English-speaking people lost usage of thee, thou, and ye, but continued to use the KJV, a semantic shift took place. The obsolete forms took on a new semantic component of sacredness, formality. So it then sounded more holy to pray to God, using "thee" and "thou" rather than the new second person singular "you" which had spread from being just second person plural to also include second person singular. Since, then, there were competing forms for the meaning of second person singular, i.e. thee, thou, and the new you, and since the obsolete forms sounder more holy to English speakers, the new "you" came to sound too familiar to be used in prayer to God.
A semantic shift took place where the former second person singular pronouns "thee" and "thou" took on the semantic component of formality. People assumed, as they often do, including today, that older sounding English was more majestic. Notice this theme in books by Dr. Leland Ryken where he encourages English Bible translators to return to beautiful, majestic, literary English. He is referring, it appears, to older linguistic forms, both words and syntax, which we humans typically assume must be more majestic than the linguistic forms in contemporary usage. Dr. Ryken is a longtime professor of classical English literature. He loves that literature and it shows in the kind of language he prefers in English Bibles.

Even after people had stopped spearking and writing "thee" and "thou", for a long time, they would pray to God, using "thee" and "thou" instead of "you." They thought they were honoring God with holier language. And, in a sense, they were because those were the meanings in their minds, even though holiness was never a part of the original meanings of those obsolete pronouns.

Historically, there was no reason to use obsolete language. There was no etymological basis for assuming that the obsolete pronouns were more holy than the contemporary pronouns. But meaning is in the mind of its beholders, just as is beauty. So we created a new meaning for the old pronouns. We are doing the same thing today with our nostalgic linguistic revisionism of English Bible translations, where we assume, and even advertise, that some English Bible versions have literary excellence. What is meant is that we have concluded that they have literary excellence because they use older linguistic forms of the language.

The study of sacred language and how contemporary language sometimes becomes sacred is extremely fascinating. As a Bible translator and student of English Bible versions, I am intrigued by and, but also concerned about, some claims made about various Bible translations. Often there is simply no etymological basis for claims made about various language forms or styles of languages used in some English Bible versions. But we create new meanings in our minds, and they become realities at least for those who are part of that subgroup of society which uses the older forms and loves them. Familiarity with those forms does not beed contempt, but, rather, affection. Of course, for those in society who do not use or understand the older forms, a different sociolinguistic effect occurs, namely, one of distancing. If you cannot understand something or if it sounds old-fashioned to you, you will likely either feel distanced, and put off by, that kind of language, or, on the other hand, you may find yourself drawn to it, the latter especially if you grew up hearing that kind of language or if you are a student of classical (older) English literature.

Meaning is often not in the text itself; it's in our minds where so much reality is created. And I am not speaking here about original propositional meaning, the content of authorial intent, which I believe in. I am talking about creating of new meanings for textual forms, meanings different from what original forms or their older translations had. We can speak, therefore, of differences between etymological meaning and psycholinguistic or sociolingistic meanings.

These are important things to think about in terms of English Bible translation. We need to ask, as we frequently state on this blog:
For whom is this Bible version created?
What purposes will it be used for?
If a Bible version will be used by those who love obsolete English, then it can have obsolete forms. If it will be used in evangelism among those who do not understand obsolete English, it should not use contemporary forms, unless we wish to allow the medium to push people away from the message, to use some terms from the media and communications consultant Marshall McLuhan. Similarly, if a Bible will be used by new believers, it probably should not use obsolete English, unless the social structure of a congregation calls for a fast paced adoption of church English by anyone who joins that church. And if that is what the ethos of that church calls for, then I question whether that church has gotten its priorities straight.

None of this, of course, calls for use of colloquial language in Bible versions. But it does call for use of contemporary language, if we are truly concerned about the Bible speaking accurately and clearly to those who speak and write contemporary language, which, really, is all of us who are English speakers. There is a huge difference between colloquial and contemporary language. Contemporary language has a variety of registers, from language used by parents with their small children, to language used by elementary school teachers, to languge used in Pulitzer prize-winning contemporary English literature, all the way up to language used by linguists or theologians trying to impress each other at conferences or in technical articles with their erudition and educational pedigrees. There are differences in contemporary language between spoken and written language. All of these differences can be properly reflected in good quality literary English Bible translations which sparkles with the beautiful of current figures of speech, turns of phrases, alliteration, and other literary devices which are used by the best writers today.

What emotional components does the Bible you use communicate to you? What components would it communicate to your unchurched friends?

Can one Bible version serve all English speakers today? Probably not, if it is written in English which is not used by all English speakers today.

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Luke17:21: Where is the kingdom of God?

Brandon Wason of Novum Testamentum wrestles with the meaning of the Greek preposition ἐντός in Luke 17:21. Was Jesus telling the Pharisees that the kingdom of God was "within" them or "among" them?

Loren Rosson III of The Busbybody blog picks up on Brandon's post, and furthers the discussion by pointing out the apocalyptic intent of Jesus' remarks in this Luke passage.

I appreciate the quality of scholarship represented in both of these posts. High quality biblical scholarship helps create accurate Bible translations.

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Who rejected the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:3?

Andrew Dionne appears to claim that the author of Isaiah 53:3 referred only to male adults rejecting the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:3? The Hebrew word in question is 'ishim.

Here is how some English versions have translated Isaiah 53:3:
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (NASB)

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (ESV)

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.
He was like one people turned away from;
He was despised, and we didn't value Him. (HCSB)

He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (NIV)

He was despised and rejected by others,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (TNIV)

He was despised and rejected by people.
He was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering.
He was despised like one from whom people turn their faces,
and we didn't consider him to be worth anything. (GW)

He was hated and rejected by people.
He had much pain and suffering.
People would not even look at him.
He was hated, and we didn't even notice him. (NCV)

He was despised and rejected by people,
one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness;
people hid their faces from him;
he was despised, and we considered him insignificant. (NET)
Do you think the original author referred only to male adults rejecting the Suffering Servant? Or do you think that he intended the Hebrew plural here to refer to women, as well?

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Can πατήρ mean 'parent'?

Andrew Dionne blogs that Vern Poythress says that Greek πατήρ cannot mean 'parent,' contra the revised entry for πατήρ in the latest edition of the BDAG lexicon.

It is clear, including to Dr. Poythress, that sometimes the plural, pateres, can mean 'parents.' But whether or not the singular can then mean 'parent' is the question. The answer determines whether or not πατήρ can ever be translated as 'parent' in an English Bible translation, at least one whose translators strive to have it be as accurate as possible.

What do you think?

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Wesley Blog rediscovers the GOD'S WORD translation

Shane Raynor of Wesley Blog has rediscovered the GOD'S WORD translation. He writes a good review of this good translation, which, unfortunately, has not gotten a lot of press. I wrote a technical review of GOD'S WORD a number of years ago for a speciality audience of Bible translators. My review might not convey my assessment as well as it should that GOD'S WORD is a good English version for many English audiences. One of its advantages of GOD'S WORD is that its primary translator had many years of Bible translation experience in Africa as a Bible translation consultant. That kind of experience can be invaluable when applied to English Bible translation. The result can be better Bibles than are often produced when English translators have no prior training in translation principles or experience wrestling with accurate, appropriate solutions for Bible translation issues, including those for English speakers.

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Another security tool against spammers

I have just added another new level of security for Comments on this blog, a new feature which Blogspot introduced very recently. I won't say what it is in case those who continue to spam this blog (and others) read this in person. Please continue to post Comments with the additional security step. I think most of you will be able to work with that step just fine, unless, perhaps, you are dyslexic. Please let me know if you have dyslexia and are unable to work with the new security feature.

Now I will delete the spam Comments which have recently come in and some of you have noticed on this blog. Not good, not good!

Blogger for Word

Yesterday Blogcritics posted about some new features for Blogger and Blogspot blogs. One of them should help me create better quality posts. It is called Blogger for Word that allows us to compose, proofread, and post from Microsoft Word. I'm going to try it.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Biblical tagging

Tim Bulkeley of SansBlogue has added tags to his blog posts. Tags enable a blogger to sort posts by subject matter and to help other bloggers find posts on that tagged subject. Tim has a good idea: coming up with some standard tags for bibliobloggers and Bible study categories.

I've been adding my (Technorati) tags manually to my blog posts but wishing for some more automated procedure. I'm going to spend some time this weekend checking out the tagging process Tim is using. You might want to, also.

UPDATE: During this weekend I have added tags. Technorati is picking them up and displaying them along with my previous Technorati tags. My list of post categories in the right margin had gotten so long that I changed to a drop-down list for them. I like it. Thanks, again, to Tim, for ideas which, I think, have led to a better tagging system on this blog.

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ESV Bible Sale

Yesterday we noted that those who purchase TNIV products can get a rebate, which reduces the price to buyers who use the rebates. Today the ESV Bible blog announces sale prices on some ESV Bibles. Both price breaks for consumers are for a limited time.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Man, the answer is blowing in the wind

It is time to retire my poll asking blog visitors what they think Bob Dylan was singing about. The poll has been up a least a month, I think, probably longer. Here is the poll and its results:
In the 1960s Bob Dylan sang, "How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man?"

It sounds to me that Dylan was singing about a male adult. 59% 142
It sounds to me that Dylan was singing about any human being. 22% 53
It sounds to me that Dylan was singing about any adult. 15% 36
I don't know what Dylan was singing about. 4% 9

240 votes total
The results are interesting. If we add together the 53 and 36 votes from those who felt, respectively, that Dylan was singing about any human being and those who felt he was singing about any adult, we get 89. 89 out of 240 votes cast means that 37% of respondents thought that Bob Dylan was singing about some person whose gender was not specified. 142 of 240 respondents, 59%, felt Dylan was singing about an adult male. I probably cast the first vote (not stone!), as I usually do, in my polls, and I voted for the first option. If Dylan had only sung "How many roads must a man walk down?" I believe that the referent of "man" could be interpreted by some speakers today to mean any person. That would be the generic meaning of "a man" which has meant "a person," but means that to a decreasing number of English speakers today, myself included.

But Dylan added "before you call him a man." I personally find it difficult to take the meaning of "a man" in this clause to be anything other than 'a male adult.' We parents can speak of our son "becoming a man." We might even say, "Now we can call him a man." But this is my ideolect, and those of others, as shown by the poll results, obviously differ.

Although I like this Dylan song, I'm not sure what he was singing about. I voted for what it sounded like he was singing about. For some people, it is never clear what Dylan is singing about. So some respondents voted that fourth option as the best answer for them.

Why did I post this poll? I wanted to test current understandings of indefinite reference usage of "a man." I was interested, also, in trying to find out if there were differences in percentages of people thinking that what Dylan sang in the 1960s might have a different meaning today. Again, I did not word my poll questions clearly enough to get an answer to that question.

I was stimulated to ask the question in this poll by reading the following comments made by Dr. Wayne Gruden about the translators of the TNIV:
“They are changing a historical document [the Bible],” Grudem said. “It is like someone writing about Bob Dylan’s song from the 1960s, ‘How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man?’ and deciding that people today wouldn’t understand that Bob Dylan was using an example of a specific man to teach a general truth, and therefore telling modern 18-34 year olds that Bob Dylan wrote these words in a song: ‘How many roads must a human being walk down, before you call them a person?’"
When I first read those comments I thought that I might be able to poll English speakers to try to determine if their language intutions agreed with those of Dr. Grudem. Now, in retrospect, I'm not sure my poll was worded properly to test these comments. It was worded properly to test his claim if Dr. Grudem meant for his second sentence to claim that Bob Dylan had used the words "a man" to refer to a male adult who represented a general truth about anyone, man or woman, reaching adulthood. If that is what Dr. Grudem was claiming, then 37% of this poll's respondents agreed with him. It would be helpful to discuss Dr. Grudem's comments with him sometime, asking for clarification. Perhaps that can happen someday.

Thank you to each one who voted in this poll. I don't have a sure answer to any of the questions I was asking, although we can see tendencies in the results. I think it's all right not to know some things for sure. Sometimes, the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind!

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Comments turned off

At about 2200 UTC this blog got hit by a number of spam comments from someone trying to sell his product. It seemed to me that as I was deleting his comments, more kept coming in. So I felt I had to turn comments off for this blog, temporarily, of course. We have been fortunate here at BBB that we haven't had more spam problems than we have.

If you have comments you want to post, and the blog won't take them yet, you can send them to me privately by email and I can post them, or you can hold them for a few hours until the spammer moves on to other targets in the blogosphere or elsewhere on the Internet.

If you do send me comments privately, please include your Blogspot url or whatever you usually use to identify yourself on Blogspot blogs.

UPDATE (0050 UTC): You can comment on posts again, but there is now another level of security to jump through. Many of you already have that level established. I won't say more in case the spammer is reading blog posts in person rather than with a spamming computer.

Psalm 139 post on new blog

I just discovered another nice new blog, not by bloggers Ben 'n Jerry, but Ben 'n Peter. It's the Everything you want to know about the Bible blog, and Ben and Peter (I almost wrote Jerry again!) do not appear to be lightweights. They seem equipped and ready to blog well on our favorite book. Their most recent post is about Psalm 139, one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. I found Ben 'n Peter's blog from a post on the Zondervan blog.


All the Discourse's a Stage...

Mike Sangrey, a BBB contributor, has launched his own blog, the Exegetitor. Today Mike blogs on what he does so well, helping us see the big picture in the discourse sections of the Bible and how those parts of that picture relate to each other. You will want to regularly visit Mike's blog. You will be stretched. And I think you will be enlightened as you get better insights into how the biblical forest and its trees all fit together to praise God and teach his people. The world of English Bible translation desperately needs the insights that come from careful analysis of the discourse structures of the Bible, so that Bible readers will more accurately understand what the biblical authors were communicating.

All the blogosphere's a stage and your blog is now an important player upon it. Welcome to the stage, Mike, my friend!

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Retelling Ruth in contemporary English

Graham Doel, pastor of a church in Morecambe, Lancashire, U.K., blogs on retelling the book of Ruth in contemporary English to his congregation. He begins:
One of the big themes in my life is that the bible should be available and easy for people to understand. I spend hours crafting the talks that I give. I hope that my thinking carefully about the way people hear what is said, they will find the bible interesting and relevant.
Not everyone agrees. Read his post to find out more.

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TNIV rebates

Rebates are now being offered on TNIV Bible products. Thanks to Andrew Dionne for noticing the offer.


RSS as an alternative to Continue Reading

In a comment on Wayne's posting Continue reading: Do you like this feature? someone wrote:
I was beginning to be overwhelmed/discouraged trying read and keep up with blogs and comments. After 2-3 days it became impossible to remember the topics or comments. This new way allows me to quickly scan topics and see if further comments have been made on previous topics. For someone like me who is very busy 12-16 hours a day, this saves me time on such an important issue.
Well, this seems to me the kind of situation which RSS and similar feeds are designed to address. I knew little about RSS until I read a pointer about it in a posting on this blog. But I soon discovered that RSS is supported by the excellent free browser Firefox, as well as by specialist products like RSS Reader. In Firefox, you simply need to go to this blog and then click on a logo which appears at the bottom right of the screen, and you immediately have a dynamic set of bookmarks pointing directly to each recent posting.

But, sadly, this doesn't tell you about recent comments.