Jim Packer and TNIV
And so it has come as a surprise and a sadness to me to find Jim Packer regularly listed as one of the Christian leaders who has joined in the intemperate public campaign against the TNIV. So I decided to investigate further Packer's position on such issues.
I found that Packer is indeed a complementarian, and a member of the Board of Reference of CBMW (the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood). But then many of the TNIV translation team are complementarians.
Recently Packer has written a preface to the book "Translating Truth", to which Wayne Grudem is a major contributor. In this preface he criticises dynamic equivalence translation, but he does not mention gender related language.
So, it seems that Packer is a complementarian with a preference for formal equivalent translations. And so it is no surprise to find him also listed as the General Editor of the ESV Bible. But this does not imply that he would be an opponent of TNIV. Some members of the ESV team have been accused of opposing TNIV out of rivalry, but I respect Packer too much to suggest that.
Here I repeat in edited form some remarks which I first posted as a comment on the posting Grudem on choosing a faithful Bible translation, in response to a previous comment in which Packer had been named as a leading opponent of TNIV.
I found the following extract from an article from 2002 quoting Packer, whom I greatly respect, in which his criticism of TNIV is rather muted:
Another leading theologian, J.I. Packer, did not add his name to the signatories, but told Baptist Press: "This [TNIV] is a retrograde move that the translators have made. I have read a text of a statement by Wayne Grudem and others, and I find myself in sympathy with it. I find it to be a passing modern fad, frankly, to object to the inclusive masculine pronoun. To change the shape of biblical verses to fit this fad leads to a good bit of under-translation. The masculine pronoun belongs in almost every language of the world. The gains that this translation seeks to achieve are far outweighed by the loss. I appreciate the NIV, and I think they have taken a wrong turn."In other words, Packer has no strong objections to TNIV on principle. He refused to sign a statement of opposition to it. Rather, he seems to show just an old man's failure to recognise that English really has changed, and probably permanently, since he was young. He also demonstrates his ignorance concerning "almost every language of the world", for there are very many which have no masculine pronoun, and none that I know of other than English which have one which primarily agrees with real world rather than grammatical gender. (End of adapted comment.)
It seems to me that Packer's opposition to TNIV is fundamentally different from Grudem's. Firstly, he has not joined in the campaign of vilification or signed the statement condemning its alleged errors. More importantly, his reasons for opposition seem to be fundamentally different from Grudem's. Grudem insists that all masculine pronouns in the Bible have a real male orientation, on the principle of "male representation", and so must be translated by explicitly masculine pronouns like "he". Packer's position, however, seems to be that masculine pronouns in Greek and Hebrew can be gender generic, the general scholarly view, but should be translated by "he" because this word is gender generic in English, except as "a passing modern fad". The result is the same, and so both Grudem and Packer can accept ESV, but their understanding of the issues is totally different. Packer's position is the traditional evangelical one, but Grudem's theology of male representation is novel. I am sure that Packer has recognised this and so has distanced himself from Grudem's criticisms.
Packer is certainly a prominent figure, but he has not joined in the intemperate campaign against TNIV. So I would conclude that it is wrong to list him as a leading opponent of TNIV.