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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Can women be entrusted with the gospel? - Part 2

The Greek word anthropos means 'person.' Its plural, anthropoi, means 'persons' or 'people.' The Greek word aner means 'man' and its plural, androi, means 'men.' Greek lexicons have stated these meanings for a long time. Greek anthropos can refer to a man, but from that we cannot conclude that the meaning of anthropos is 'man.' Similarly, the English word "person" can refer to a man or a woman, but when it does so that does not change the meaning of the word "person" to 'man' or 'woman.'

The Colorado Springs Guidelines (CSG) for translation of gender-related language recognize that anthropoi refers to people, not men, in gender-inclusive contexts in the New Testament:
5.In many cases, anthropoi refers to people in general, and can be translated "people" rather than "men." The singular anthropos should ordinarily be translated "man" when it refers to a male human being
The CSG were created by men opposed to the increasing use of gender-inclusive language in English Bible versions. Several of the authors of the CSG were on the ESV translation team. The CSG were followed by two English versions, the HCSB and ESV. Yet, as seen in our previous post, the ESV does not translate anthropoi as 'people' in 2 Tim. 2:2. Instead, anthropoi was translated as 'men.' We are left to assume, either that:
  1. The ESV translators simply copied the RSV translation, which they were revising, and overlooked revising RSV 'men' of 2 Tim. 2:2 to 'people,' or
  2. The ESV translators interpreted anthropois of 2 Tim. 2:2 to refer only to men, based on theological or exegetical considerations, or possibly (but I think less likely),
  3. The ESV translators used the word "men" in 2 Tim. 2:2 to refer to generic persons.
Had Paul wanted to state clearly in 2 Tim. 2:2 that the gospel was only to be entrusted to men, not women, he could have used the proper Greek dative for that, pistois andrasi 'faithful men.'

The HCSB also translates anthropoi of 2 Tim. 2:2 as "men":
And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
The NET Bible, also translated by complementarians who believe that women's roles should be different from men in ministry, however, correctly translates anthropoi as 'people' in this verse:
And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.
So does the ISV whose New Testament reflects the careful scholarship of Greek professor, David Alan Black, a conservative Southern Baptist who I would guess to be a complementarian:
What you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.
The HCSB, ESV, NET, and ISV are all recent translations. I assume that each was translated by men who are complementarians, believing that women should not be pastors. Yet the NET and ISV put Greek scholarship above their own ideology and translate anthropois correctly as 'people' in 2 Tim. 2:2.

Other recent versions do not follow the Colorado Springs Guidelines (all except the TNIV were published before the guidelines were formulated in 1997). These versions translate the generic meaning of anthropois in 2 Tim. 2:2:
Take the teachings that you heard me proclaim in the presence of many witnesses, and entrust them to reliable people, who will be able to teach others also. (TEV)

You have often heard me teach. Now I want you to tell these same things to followers who can be trusted to tell others. (CEV)

You've heard my message, and it's been confirmed by many witnesses. Entrust this message to faithful individuals who will be competent to teach others. (GW)

You should teach people whom you can trust the things you and many others have heard me say. Then they will be able to teach others. (NCV)

You have heard me teach many things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others. (NLT)

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (TNIV; 'people' is a revision of NIV 'men')

and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well. (NRSV)
I am thankful for Bible versions translated for people who speak current English which translate anthropoi as 'people' in 2 Tim. 2:2, a correct translation according to Greek lexical scholars. I am glad that both men and women can be entrusted to share the gospel with others.

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Can women be entrusted with the gospel?

For millenia women missionaries have told the good news about God's salvation throughout the world. My mother is one of those women. She and her twin sister traveled from their home state of California to rugged Alaska in the 1940s to help the pioneering work of another woman missionary. They held Bible studies for women and children. After awhile a little church began from that work, with a man as pastor (the lady missionary believed that only men should pastor). The pioneer missionary moved on to other places in Alaska to do the same kind of sharing of the gospel.

But some English translations of the Bible cast doubt on whether it is legitimate for women to be entrusted with the gospel, even though the original Greek (2 Tim. 2:2) appears to sanction it. Click here if you'd like to read Suzanne's post about the pistois anthropois (not pistois andrasi) who are to be entrusted with the gospel.

Monday, January 30, 2006

She became pregnant

I took the Vamva (1831) version of the Greek NT to work today and sat with Katie at lunch. She is Greek, still attends the Greek orthodox church and this is the Bible her church uses. I asked her to correct my pronunciation as I read. After reading a few verses in 2 Timothy I said that there was a verb that I couldn't understand and could she help. So I read to her from Matt. 1:18,

"Ευρεθη εν γαστρι εχουσα εκ Πνευματος Αγιου"

"What does that mean, evrethé?"

"She became pregnant."

"She found out ...?"

"No, just 'became', found? hmm, no..."

"You wouldn't say 'she found herself' or 'it was found that?'"

"No, no, it is an expression, an idiom, 'she became' that's all."

Okay, I came home and checked in the French Bible. Oh, right, duh, "elle se trouva enceinte" is indeed "she became pregnant". "'Se trouver" is an idiom, usually considered similar to "être".

The German uses "fand sich's ... schwanger", also reflexive, she 'found herself pregnant'.

Right, there I was thinking about whether it was a middle, passive or whatever. Okay, in French and German there is a reflexive verb, comparable to the middle voice. Katie wouldn't go that far. She would only say it was an idiom and shouldn't really be translated.

I have to ask this, aren't we making this a bit too difficult for ourselves? This is one reason I don't venture into exegesis. You can develop an extensive thought on a verb form or a single word, only to find out that it is a chimera.

Jim, who said in the comment section of this post "Look! the girl is pregnant!" would win, if I were the judge.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Who are you to condemn God's servants?

I have just read an interesting post on This Lamp about the New Living Translation. Here Rick Mansfield comments on why the NLT translates Romans 14:4 as it does.

    Who are you to condemn God's servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord's power will help them do as they should. NLT

    Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. NASB
Here Rick goes through the process of understanding that the NLT cannot be labeled incorrect, even if it is more interpretation than he wants.

    As I continued my study, I eventually understood why the NLT translators presented their verse in this way. The Apostle Paul is making an analogy. In the context of casting judgment on each other over secondary issues, Paul is essentially asking the question, "Would any of you show criticism to another man's servant?" Of course not. It wouldn't be the place of someone to do that in the ancient world. When I taught the passage this morning, I tried to make a modern analogy to being frustrated with rowdy children in public places. Often we are tempted to say something perhaps as a reprimand to them or perhaps to their parents, but we often don't because they aren't our children. This is close to what Paul was saying to the Roman Christians. It wouldn't be fitting to criticize another person's servants because odds are they are fulfilling the will of their master. Paul is stressing that likewise, we belong to God. We are his servants, and it's neither appropriate of us to pass judgment on each other for this disputable issues.

    Now I just explained to you what the verse meant. I have interpreted it for you. The NLT translators describe their dynamic-equivalence method as "thought-for-thought."

    In the preface of the New Living Translation, they describe their method in this way: translate the thought of the original language requires that the text be interpreted accurately and then be rendered in understandable idiom. So the goal of any thought-for-thought translation is to be both reliable and eminently readable. Thus, as a thought-for-thought translation, the New Living Translation seeks to be both exegetically accurate and idiomatically powerful.

    When the NLT translators rendered Romans 14:4 as "Who are you to condemn God's servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong..." they were taking the interpretive step for the reader and accurately rendering Paul's thought in the passage. The point is about judging God's servants. That may be a bit more than what I personally want my primary translation to do for me, But I can't label it incorrect.
Read the entire post here.

Translating συ λεγεις of Mark 15:2 - Part 2

Loren Rosson blogs again on the question of what Jesus meant by answering συ λεγεις to Pilate. Loren wrestles with the issue at hand: Was Jesus affirming that he was the king of the Jews?

It's interesting how two simple Greek words are so difficult for us to understand: What did they mean when they were spoken? A huge amount of human communication is like that. We often don't literally mean what we say. Any adequate theory of translation must account for non-literal use of language. But, then, what do I know? :-)

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Translating συ λεγεις of Mark 15:2

Biblical scholars often wrestle with what is the communicative (rhetorical) meaning of Jesus' answer to Pilate, συ λεγεις (literally, "You say so") in Mark 15:2. Mark Goodacre, a Markan scholar, has just posted on what he thinks is the reason Jesus answers Pilate more enigmatically than he did the high priest in Mark 14:62. (Mark builds on a post by Phil Harland.)

If we can know, with a fair degree of certainty, the communicative meaning of Jesus' answer to Pilate, I believe that we should translate that meaning in any Bible version which attempts to include pragmatic meaning as well as lexical and syntactic meaning. I have never understood the communicative meaning of Jesus' answer just from the literal translation, "You say (so)." That is, what was Jesus communicating to Pilate by his answer? Was he saying, "You're the one who has said that, not me." Or was he indirectly affirming that the answer to Pilate's question, "Are you the king of the Jews?" was "Yes." Or maybe he meant something else.

Much of the time we don't mean what we actually say, in English or any other language, and this is quite possibly one of those utterances recorded in Greek. So how should we translate something that doesn't mean what it says? This is a difficult problem for translators, one which gets at the heart of how humans communicate with each other.

Here are some wordings from Bible versions which attempt to translate what Jesus actually meant when he said συ λεγεις to Pilate:
  • Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, I am,” Jesus answered him. (GW)
  • He asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Those are your words,” Jesus answered. (CEV)
  • Pilate questioned Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him, “It is as you say.” (NASB)
  • Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say.” (NLT)
  • “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. (NIV; cf. TNIV, which is more literal than the NIV, as it is in several passages: “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.)
Notice the differences in communicative (rhetorical) meaning found among these different versions.

We may never know for sure what Jesus really meant by what he said to Pilate. I do believe, however, that it helps translation users to at least have access to footnotes which give the possible communicative meanings of συ λεγεις in this context.

UPDATE: Loren Rosson continues this discussion in his latest post.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Bible translation and imperfect textual transmission

Mark D. Roberts, one of my favorite bloggers, is about to conclude a lengthy and important series of posts on textual transmission, titled The God of Imperfect Textual Transmission. Mark specifically addresses claims against the trustworthiness of the biblical text made by Bart Ehrman. Ehrman's book, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, was published at the end of 2005 and is getting more press than it deserves. I commend to you Mark's blog series which is written in his usual scholarly, irenic, and pastoral style.

For those of us concerned about good Bible translation issues, we can rest assured that the differences among the extant Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts of the Bible make no significant difference, overall, in how we translate nor in what we can learn from the Bible itself. A Bible version, such as the NKJV, whose New Testament is based on the Textus Receptus, teaches us the same things about God and his desires for us as do the many other versions which are based on ecclectic Greek texts.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Lesser of Two Weevils: Love and love

The Lesser of Two Weevils: Love and love

Earlier today I received an email asking if I would consider posting on Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical which had comments on Hebrew and Greek words for love. I am happy to note that Talmida has beat me to it, and saved me time which I need to keep pushing ahead editing the recordings of Cheyenne Bible translation.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The best-selling artist of all time

In the spring of 1976 I had the privilege of watching the best-selling artist of all time at work. I was at bible school in St. Légier, Switzerland, not far from Lausanne. One day in the lecture hall a slim grey-haired woman with a vivacious yet serene face was introduced. She walked to the overhead projector at the front of the room and placed her pens on the table beside it.

Then in the lilting French of Suisse-Romande, she began to tell the story of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. As she spoke green palm leaves splashed onto the screen. A path wound through the scene and people took shape at the side. The donkey emerged from fluid lines and Jesus rode on him. Children lay palm leaves in front of the donkey,

    Gloire au Fils de David!
    Que Dieu bénisse celui qui vient au nom du Seigneur!
    Gloire à Dieu dans les Cieux!
And so I first saw the illustrations of the Good News Bible. Annie Vallotton has since then become the best-selling artist of all time.

    Perhaps the most striking physical innovation in Today’s English Version concerned the innovative use of line drawings and illustrations by Swiss artist Annie Vallotton. Vallotton was born in Lausanne, the daughter of a well-known Swiss Protestant writer.
    Her illustrations for a selection of Gospel verses published by the French Bible Society brought her to the attention of ABS officials. Dr. Nida had several conversations with her in Europe early in 1964, and on May 7 of that year the Board of Managers approved the inclusion of the line drawings she submitted in the forthcoming Gospel of Mark, as well as in the full TEV.
    Vallotton summarizes her artistic philosophy in three very basic phrases: “use a simple line; reduce it to minimum; give it maximum expression.” Modern literature, she observed, “is attractive, it is colourful… [it] first solicits the reader to take a glance at it, then entices him to start reading.”
    Traditional Scriptures, by contrast, typically appeared “in dull grey columns of tiny characters and in a language often so terribly archaic.” Vallotton believed that the Bible should be given “a new look” and hoped her illustrations might stimulate modern readers to pick it up, find that “its teaching is always relevant and useful, and to try to find parallels with men of today and their daily experiences.”
    The simple lines, universal movements and gestures, and powerful renditions aimed not to replace the written word, but to force readers to react to and confront the text, viewing the language in a new way. She provided an important visual complement to the linguistic theory informing the version’s production. Bible Resource Centre
    She will always be known as an artist but Annie Vallotton is also a talented story-teller. The only collection of her stories that I can find tonight are here. Annie Vallotton raconte, les animaux et les enfants dans la Bible.

    Choosing a Pew Bible

    Henry Neufeld has just blogged on choosing a pew Bible. It's another good post from a man who has spent much time evaluating English Bible versions. Please pray for all churches who face decisions about choosing pew Bibles.

    The Responsibility for Clear Translation - follow up

    A follow-up to my previous posting: Tim Bayly made the following response to my second comment on his posting:
    Dear Peter,

    You're right to call to mind the warnings of Scripture concerning God's judgment, but wrong in your choice of the one most pertinent to what's here under discussion. When men want to clean the text of Scripture up so that it can't be charged with sexism or anti-Semitism and delete or change words such as 'man' or 'Jew" in the Greek original that have a direct parallel in English, they are choosing the approval of man over the approval of God.

    This is precisely what "Today's New International Version" and the "New Living Translation" do in a number of places, and no matter how men such as yourself justify this change, it is sin.

    The proper place to look for warnings of Scripture pertinent to these deletions and changes is neither Ezekiel 33 nor Luke 17, but Revelation 22:18,19: "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book."

    The problem with the words 'man' and 'Jew' is not that they are unable to be understood by the modern man, but that he understands them quite well and finds the Holy Spirit's use of them offensive. They seem sexist and anti-Semitic to him and so he finds men who style themselves translators to do his bidding and remove the offense of God's Word.

    The Holy Spirit warned that the time would come when men would not put up with sound doctrine, but would surround themselves with teachers who would say what their itching ears wanted to hear. Today His words continue to be fulfilled, and the men hired to do the scratching continue to deny that this is what they are doing.

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Tim Bayly
    He then closed the posting to further comments, so that I was not able to reply to his accusation of sin. So I will reply here instead.

    First, I resent being accused of sin and not allowed the opportunity to reply to this accusation. I wrote to Tim Bayly off list asking for the right to reply, but he refused it to me. I also asked him:
    Is it OK for women to produce translations like TNIV? After all, you have stated only that it is a sin for men to do so.
    But he did not answer this question.

    Now Bayly has confused the issue by this comment. There was no mention of gender-related language, nor of alternatives to "Jew", in the original posting, nor in my comments on it. My comments related to the use of words and phrases in translations which are not understood by target audiences, because they are archaic or religious jargon. This clearly does not apply to "Jew", nor to "man" or to other commonly criticised renderings of gender language. Bayly has in fact completely failed to answer my point that using language which is not well understood in translations is a stumbling block preventing many from finding salvation.

    With these words there is an entirely different issue: the words are well understood, but (at least according to some) in a sense which is different from that intended by the biblical authors. And the motivation of most translators who choose alternative renderings, including the NLT and TNIV translation teams, is exegetical and communicative accuracy, not "to clean the text of Scripture up so that it can't be charged with sexism or anti-Semitism". Tim is welcome to question their exegetical and translational choices, but he is out of order to attribute to them motives which they have denied.

    Bayly refers to "the Holy Spirit's use of" terms like "Jew" and "man", presumably in fact meaning his use of Greek words like Ἰουδαῖος Ioudaios and ἄνθρωπος anthrōpos, and their Hebrew near equivalents. I think he should look carefully at exegetical opinions, e.g. from well-known scholars like Don Carson, before assuming that the Holy Spirit's use of these terms is necessarily everywhere compatible with translations like "Jew" and "man". I wonder if attributing one's own opinions to the Holy Spirit might be the unforgivable sin against that Holy Spirit. (If Bayly wishes to understand this as an accusation and respond to it here or elsewhere, he is welcome.)

    I am surprised that Bayly claims that I am seeking the approval of man. I would have expected him to claim that I am seeking the approval of woman! But in fact I am seeking the approval of God, by presenting his word as clearly as possible to those who are perishing without it. That is the responsibility which I have as a Bible translator, and I am not going to allow anyone like Bayly to divert me from it.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2006

    The Responsibility for Clear Translation

    In a recent posting on his Baylyblog, Tim Bayly criticised TNIV and NLT, as well as the Living Bible and The Message, as "not the text of Scripture, but the text of commentary on Scripture". In response to another part of this posting I commented:
    You seem to define "true translations" as "works that strive to give first place to the actual words God chose". That sounds to me like a definition of an edition of the original language text. A translation is by definition a work in which the words in the original language have been replaced by words in another language. And the skill of a translator, as I know from my experience as one, is to choose the most suitable words and phrases in the target language to express the meaning of the original language words. If the translation (unlike some recent translations which sounds as if they have been prepared for 16th century readers) is being prepared for modern people, who mostly do watch television, the target language words should be those which those modern readers clearly understand. If they are not, the readers will fail to grasp the message of salvation. And part of the responsibility for their eternal destiny will be that of the translators who caused them to stumble over obscure language.
    Andrew responded (abridged):
    Peter, now integrity forbids you to translate the Scriptures using any words you don't hear during prime-time on the major broadcast television networks (cable is too elitist).
    David responded:
    So they'd have been saved if someone had used more "contemporary" language?
    I further commented, clarifying my position:

    Andrew, it is not "integrity" which forbids me from using words which my audience does not understand, it is common sense, i.e. the desire and need to communicate to them, in a way which they understand, a message which is more than a matter of life and death.

    David, it is between the individuals and God whether they will be saved if the translation uses more understandable language. But it is my responsibility to present the message as clearly as possible. Compare Ezekiel 33:6,8 and Luke 17:1-2: I don't want to be the unfaithful watchman who fails to warn clearly of coming judgment and salvation, so that I am held accountable for others being lost eternally.

    the Jesus community: They'll Know We Are Christians By Our _______

    the Jesus community: They'll Know We Are Christians By Our _______

    Ted Gossard, who frequently comments on BBB posts, has just blogged the truth. We know it is the truth because Jesus, our Teacher, first told it to us (John 13:35). It is so easy to get sidetracked, acting and speaking as if there are more important ways by which people will know that we are Jesus' disciples: our doctrine, our dress, our social concerns, or even what version of the Bible we use (or what version(s) we disapprove of). I suspect that sometimes I focus so much on Bible translation concerns that I could be accused of forgetting the most important way that people can know that I am a Christian, that I love my fellow believers. I want to demonstrate love for others, even as I wrestle with translation issues.

    Monday, January 23, 2006

    About those Literal Translations

    I highly recommend reading this entire article by Ken Collins. It is only a few paragraphs long. Entertaining too. How often do we remember that priests are presbyters. Or are they? When does a cognate lose touch with its origins?

      Then there are vocabulary problems. In the New Testament, the Temple has hierarchs and the church has presbyters. Most translate hierarch as priest, which is really incorrect, because priest is just an English contraction of the word presbyter. But if the translators put down priest for presbyter, it looks like they are discrediting churches that do not call their clergy priests. But if they put down presbyter, which is the untranslated Greek word, or elder, which is the word’s meaning, they discredit the churches that are so old that the word presbyter turned into priest as the language of their members changed. So there is no neutral, literal solution. The same is true of the Greek word episkopos, which means supervisor, but is the source of the English word bishop.
    And then there is this,

      All translation is interpretation, and none is strictly literal. When someone calls their translation of the New Testament a ‘literal’ translation, it means one of two things. It could mean that they are sacrificing an easy read for a responsibly accurate rendering. In that case, they are just using the word ‘literal’ in the naive sense. Or it could mean that they have a doctrinal ax to grind and are using the word ‘literal’ to make you think that the Greek made them do it. So in the latter case, the word ‘literal’ is synonymous with ‘tendentious.’
    Well, I grew up with a few literal translations of the Bible. Darby, Young's, New American Standard. But the Good News Bible has been my companion since 1982! Why couldn't someone preach from that. So much logomachia! No chresimon, katastrophe for the hearers. Okay, either preach from the Greek or use real English.

    Parallel Bibles

    Parallel Bibles contain two or more versions of the Bible arranged so that they can be easily compared. They can be useful for Bible study. I have added some of the most recently published parallel Bibles to this blog's Bookshelf.

    In the days of his flesh - Part 2

    Yesterday I blogged on the phrase "In the days of his flesh" in Heb. 5:7. In this post I point out Bible versions which use better English for Heb. 5:7.

    First, versions which use the poor English wording for Heb. 5:7 are KJV, NASB, RSV, the two revisions of the RSV, NRSV and ESV, and the ISV.

    Better wordings are:
    In the course of his earthly life (REB)
    In his life on earth (TEV)
    During his earthly life (NET, HCSB)
    During his life on earth (GW)
    During the days of Jesus' life on earth (NIV, TNIV)
    while Jesus was on earth (CEV)
    While Jesus lived on earth (NCV)
    While Jesus was here on earth (NLT)
    For myself, it sounds better to use "during" or "while", rather than "in," to introduce a period of time. I'm surprised that the TEV, which ordinarily uses rather natural English, precedes the time phrase with "in."

    How can Bible translators avoid using wordings which are not good English? One of the best ways is by asking good speakers of English to help them spot any wordings which do not sound natural. It is difficult for Bible translators to catch all poor wordings by themselves. It helps to bring a kind of open source approach to the translation process and ask others to help with those parts of the translation process that they can. Translation checking should be required of every Bible version produced. And it should be required that such checking be done by ordinary fluent speakers who have a good sense of what good quality English is.

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    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    In the days of his flesh

    Recently there have been messages on the Bible Translation discussion list wondering what is the referent of Greek autou in Hebrews 5:7. That was an important topic. But when I first looked at some English translations of Hebrews 5:7, what jumped out at me is the atrocious English that begins the wording of this verse in several versions, "In the days of his flesh."

    Do any translators really believe that that phrase is English? Yes, the words are English, but do they make any sense put together as they are? How would any fluent speaker of English understand what the phrase meant? And if they don't have any idea what it means, how can that version be considered accurate, since accuracy is when the meaning of the original is communicated faithfully to users of a translation? Is it really necessary to learn some kind of odd English to be able to understand English Bibles?

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    Saturday, January 21, 2006



    This is a good post by Ben Witherington about a story that deserves to be told over and over again. I myself, along with thousands of other young people, was deeply impacted in 1956 by the martyrdom of the five missionaries depicted in this new movie, "The End of the Spear." My wife got to see this movie today while on a missions administrative trip.

    And there is a connection to Bible translation. Rachel Saint, sister of Nate Saint, the pilot of the plane which flew the five young missionaries into the jungle area where they were killed, helped translate the Bible into the language of the tribe the missionaries were trying to contact.

    From the death of five young men, dedicated to the God of the Bible, came human and divine forgiveness for the tribe whose men killed them, as well as multitudes of others around the world who have been impacted with God's message of salvation through young people moved to go into missionary work through the sacrifice of those five.

    Christians continue to be martyred around the world today, but it is not a story that we hear much about in the MSM (mainstream media). And the Bible, still being translated into 3,000 or so Bibleless languages around the world, continues to bring hope to people who want something different. The Good News is not forced on them, as some anthropologists and some in the MSM would lead us to believe. Instead, the Good News is presented as an option for people who want something different in their lives from the fear and bondage they currently experience.

    This Good News is even available in English for people who often assume that they have no need for the Bible that explains the Good News, people who are living in a postmodern, post-Christian world, where faith is often derided.
    These were [Jesus'] instructions to them: “The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. Pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest, and ask him to send out more workers for his fields." (Luke 10:2 NLT)
    UPDATE: Sean Boisen has also blogged on the movie and the story behind it.

    Sometimes literal is the best translation

    Yesterday I was reading John 1 in the NLT and came upon this wording:
    As they approached, Jesus said, "Here comes an honest man – a true son of Israel." (John 1:47)
    My translator antennae tune in whenever I read "son of ___" in an English translation since biblical text "son of ___" often does not have the same meaning as English "son of ___." With the NLT wording, most English readers can reasonably assume that Jesus was saying that Nathanael was the son of someone named Israel. But Jesus was not saying that Nathanael's father was named Israel. Instead, he was saying that Nathanael had the qualities of someone who truly acts as a "descendant of the man named Israel," that is, an Isrealite. (Biblically literate readers are taught that extended meaning, "descendant of ___" for biblical text "son of ___.")

    I checked a number of other English versions and found that all except one other simply translate the underlying Greek word here, Israelites, as "Israelite," which is exactly the intended meaning. The other version which does not use the word "Israelite" is the CEV which is worded:
    Here is a true descendant of our ancestor Israel.
    Clearly, the CEV translators are trying to express the same meaning as "true Israelite."

    It seems to me that those versions which literally translate (actually, transliterate) Greek Israelites to English "Israelite" are both accurate and clear. I see little reason to use any other English wording. In this case, a literal translation is probably the best translation, since it accurately and clearly communicates the original meaning to English readers. In many other cases, a literal translation does not accurately communicate the original meaning, but that is a topic for other posts.

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    Friday, January 20, 2006

    Free Bibles

    Many older English Bible versions have been available for free download for quite some time. But a number of more recent versions are also available for free. I appreciate being able to read and compare Bible versions on my computer screen.

    The NET Bible has always been available as a free download. I prefer to use the NET Bible in HTML format because it is so convenient to use its hyperlinks to go to a specific reference or to read a footnote. You may need to register with a username and password on the NET Bible website to download the NET Bible, but there will be no charge for your download.

    The entire TNIV can still be downloaded as a PDF file.

    The ISV is available as Microsoft Word or PDF downloads, as the complete NT and 40% of the OT (Exodus, First Samuel, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Psalms 1-65, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Daniel, and all 12 Minor Prophets).

    Several recent Bible versions are available as free download modules for viewing within the free e-sword program, including the ESV, The Message, GNB (TEV), CEV, ISV (NT only in e-sword), GW (God's Word), and WEB. E-sword is a very easy program to use. Its interface is very user-friendly, something I appreciate. In addition, you can download the following versions and read them within e-sword if you pay a usage fee: NASB, Amplified. The NET Bible is now formated for e-sword. There is a free download version with limited footnotes available on the NET Bible website.

    It is possible, although labor-intensive, to download the entire HCSB for free. I have downloaded a large amount of the HCSB by viewing and saving an entire chapter at a time on the HCSB online webpage.

    The Source New Testament is now available as free PDF downloads of individual books (but without the useful footnotes, except for 1 Timothy).

    Each book of the NT which has been translated so far in the Better Life Bible is available as a free download from its website.

    UPDATE: The ERV (Easy-to-Read) version, originally designed for deaf audiences, is available for free download as PDF files of individual books of the Bible. (HT: Chris Heard)

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    Thursday, January 19, 2006

    BBB Bookshelf

    There is now a Bookshelf for this blog. It displays books which you may find interesting and helpful. You can click on an image for a book to learn more about the book and to order it if you wish. Just for the record, this blog does not receive any percentage of sales from any books listed on the Bookshelf. If you believe that some other book would be especially valuable for visitors to this blog to read, please let us know about it. You can email us privately (see our email addresses under contributor profiles) or post your recommendation under Comments for this post. We can't say that we will put all recommended books on our Bookshelf, but we'll consider all recommendations.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    Suzanne's Bookshelf: Generic Pronoun 'he' II

    Suzanne's Bookshelf: Generic Pronoun 'he' II

    Suzanne makes an excellent point in the latest post on her blog: there is no generic "he" in Greek. Generic "he" is a matter of English syntax, not Greek. Greek doesn't even have a pronoun "he" as English does. Greek uses pronominal affixes on verbs that function as "he" and "she" in English. Greek verbs do not differentiate grammatical gender on their pronominal affixes, nor does Cheyenne, the language I have spent so much time studying. Both Greek (grammatically differentiated) and Cheyenne (no gender distinctions) can use demonstrative pronouns, equivalent to English "this," "that," "those", etc., to indicate some kind of pronominal emphasis. But this is not the same syntactic person referencing as is done with Greek and Cheyenne pronominal affixes or unstressed English pronouns "he," "she," and "it." Demonstrative pronouns have a pragmatic function that is more emphatic in discourse than that of normal pronouns or pronominal affixes.

    These are important facts to consider in the current battles over gender-inclusive language in English Bible translation.

    Can you stomach this translation poll?

    A few months ago I read a comment posted by someone on the Internet who was dissing an English Bible version because it used the wording "she was found to be pregnant" rather than "she was found to be with child" for Matt. 1:18. The underlying Greek is eurethe en gastri exousa, which is a euphemism, literally translated to English as "being found to have in the belly."

    I thought it would be interesting to ask you, our blog visitors, what you think is the best translation of this Greek phrase. So I have created a poll to do just that. Feel free to interpret the words "best translation" in the poll question however you wish, including that it could mean "most accurate translation." You will find the poll in the right margin of this blog. It has a blue background.

    For those of you who feel you cannot pick one of the translation options the way the poll question is worded, consider picking the last option, which is:
    The poll question can't be answered properly without further explanation.
    And for those of you who might wonder if I'm hoping to make a point with this poll, you wonder well.

    Revision and Translation

    Today Henry Neufeld blogs on the question of when is a Bible version appropriately considered a "translation" and when is it a "revision." Henry is a longtime student of English Bible versions. That experience is clear in this excellent post.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    Finding an Authoritative Translation

    Henry Neufeld has a post on Finding An Authoritive Translation. Here he describes why one might want to use a concordance,

      Many people put a great deal of weight into these kinds of studies in terms of finding or even creating new definitions, but without facility in the language in question it is doubtful that your work will be all that accurate. Such study can alert you to just where the problems are in a translation. This may not give you the final answer, but at least it may keep you from being embarrassed by finding out that you based your interpretation on a faulty translation, or that you were dogmatic about something that is really very controversial.
    His point is that you may not find the answer to what you were looking for, but at least you will not leap to a conclusion that will later embarass you. Good advice.

    There are also links to the Bible Version Selection Tool and Henry's book on Bible Versions, What's in a Version? I was able to read the first few pages on Amazon and was quite fascinated. Inspired by the Bible Version Selection Tool and browsing the book, I began to refine an idea I have had recently.

    I have been wondering how long it will be before we can create our own Bibles. There would have to be a selection tool or quiz first, and then the results could be processed and a personalized Bible could be produced. You would just have to answer the following questions.

    1. Was Jesus talking about his 'church' as an institution or an assembly of people?
    2. Should the church have 'bishops', 'overseers', 'elders', or 'shepherds'?
    3. Should the church have 'deacons' or ministers?
    4. Should 'sisters' be included?
    5. Should 'baptism' be by immersion or choice of method?
    6. Should instructions to the individual be differentiated from instructions to the group?
    7. Are women 'saved' by childbirth or 'kept safe' through childbirth?
    8. Should the Bible be readable by laypeople?
    9. Should the Bible sound like it was written by Shakespeare?

    Then the decision would be made as to how to translate ekklesia, episkopos, diakonia, adelphoi, baptizo, su (thou), sozo and so on.

    Actually this might be what some churches do. A select few elders sit down in private and say, "Should we have bishops and women; or no bishops, no women; women but no bishops, immersion - maybe; grade 11 reading level; congregation instead of church?" and so on. There must be many other defining questions that I have not asked.

    Swimming suits in the Bible

    Several English Bible versions have this wording as part of Gal. 6:12:
    those who want to make a good showing in the flesh
    Ordinary fluent speakers of English who read this can easily assume that this is referring to showing off our flesh, such as at a swimsuit contest.

    Obviously (I hope!), this verse is not talking about baring our skin. So how can translators prevent that wrong understanding of this biblical text?

    The solution is for English translators to carefully consider what their translation wordings communicate. One of the best ways to discover what our translations communicate is to ask others. Then, based on responses, translators should revise until the English wordings communicate the same thing to others that the translators understand the biblical text to be saying.

    In this verse the word "flesh" (a literal translation of Greek sarx) is not referring to our bare skin. But 'skin' is a common understanding today of the word "flesh." If we want Bibles to communicate accurately and clearly it is necessary to use English wordings which are part of the current syntax and lexicon of a language.

    There probably also needs to be some adjustment to the wording of "make a good showing" so that the meaning of the biblical text here is communicated more accurately and clearly.

    It seems to me that the following wordings accurately and clearly translate the problem phrase in Gal. 6:12:
    Those who want to make a good impression outwardly (NIV)
    those who want to be outwardly in good standing (REB)
    the ones who want to show off and boast about external matters (TEV)
    These people who want to make a big deal out of a physical thing (GW)
    Interestingly, the TNIV returns to the problem wording by revising the NIV to:
    Those who want to impress others by means of the flesh
    One of the themes of this blog is that it is possible to translate both accurately as well as naturally, using only the accepted syntax and lexicon of English or any other language into which the Bible is translated.

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    Monday, January 16, 2006

    Meaning and Thinking: New papers relevant to relevance

    Meaning and Thinking: New papers relevant to relevance

    Some of the papers in this short bibliography on Relevance Theory are written by individuals involved in the worldwide Bible translation movement, including Fritz Goerling, Ernst-August Gutt, and Steve Kempf.

    (Update: That blog post was not as up-to-date as I thought it was. Sometimes my RSS Reader displays old posts as if they are new ones. The date on the post above turns out to be October 6, 2004. At least it's still in the 21st century!)

    Sunday, January 15, 2006

    Translation vs. Transliteration: Mystery

    Kenny has another post in his translation vs. transliteration series, which I believe started here, where he mentions angel, apostle, Christ, evangelist, hades, gehenna, etc. I have been thinking about a few others, like bishop, deacon, eglise (church in French) and synagogue. There are many more.

    In this more recent post Kenny tackles the word 'mystery'. After discussing relevant background material he concludes,

      The mystery was not revealed in former times, but it has now been revealed by the Spirit, and Jesus gave us special instructions as to what to do with His secrets: "Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops" (Matthew 10:27, cf. Luke 12:3).

      I conclude, therefore, that the New Testament's use of this word implicitly sets up a contrast between Christianity and the Pagan mystery cults: whereas the Pagans carefully guard their mysteries, the Christians are eager to announce them from the housetops! God's revelation, once given, is given to all mankind. All are welcome and invited to come and learn the mysteries of God. You need not go to any particular location or perform any particular ritual: we, the Church, will come to you to teach you the mysteries God has revealed to us.
      This creates something of a difficulty for the translator, because modern audiences do not have familiarity with these kinds of religious "mysteries." As I mentioned, we have some secret societies that resemble the mystery cults, but modern religions tend not to work this way (although Mormonism does have some rituals that are open only to higher-level members of the church). As such, we do not have a term for this.

      The Eastern Orthodox Church continues to use the word "mystery" to refer to a mystical ritual, but this isn't quite right for Paul's usage either. Mystery is the word used in references to these things in writing about Greek culture and religion, so if the target audience of a translation is made up of hellenists, then keeping the word mystery is appropriate. Also, many "church people" have been taught the Pauline meaning of mystery as something that had never before been revealed to mankind, so this audience, although it doesn't catch the implicit contrast with Paganism, does get the correct meaning. But what about translations for more "mainstream" audiences?


    Yesterday Rick, of Rico Blog, blogged on translation of Greek kai in 1 Tim. 5:17. Rick notes that "and," the typical translation of kai, functions differently in different places in this verse. This is a very important observation: the same language form often has different meaning or function, depending on its usage in context.

    In translation this means that sometimes the meanings of the source language form in different contexts are sufficiently different that different forms in the target language must be used to translate those different meanings. Better Bibles do not simply match a source language form with a target language form. Instead, better Bibles match the function (meaning) of each source form with the most appropriate form for that same function (meaning) in a target language.

    Friday, January 13, 2006

    Brothers and Sisters: Colorado Springs

    I feel that I have to give this post a qualifying subtitle, so 'Colorado Springs' it is. A few people have mentioned my post on the generic pronoun so I will take a few minutes to continue the discussion on gender. As Alan says here, Grudem and Poythress do admit that 'brothers and sisters' is acceptable for 'adelphoi'. However, a close reading of The TNIV and the Gender Neutral Bible shows that they did not always hold this position.

    On June 2, 1997, when the initial Colorado Springs Guidelines were agreed on, Guideline B 1 originally read,

      "Brother" (adelphos) and "brothers" (adelphoi) should not be changed to "brother(s) and sister(s)."
    In The TNIV and the GNB, 2004, p. 425 - 426, Poythress and Grudem write, "Examination of further lexicological data (as indicated in chapter 12) showed that this guideline was too narrow."

    The following refined guideline was approved on Sept. 9, 1997,

      "Brother" adelphos should not be changed to "brother or sister"; however, the plural adelphoi can be translated "brothers and sisters" where the context makes clear that the author is referring to both men and women.
    What was the 'further lexicological data'? In Poythress and Grudem's own words,

      "in fact, the major Greek lexicons for over 100 years have said that adelphoi, which is the plural of the word adelphos, 'brother" sometimes means "brothers and sisters" (see BAGD, 1957 and 1979, Liddell-Scott-Jones, 1940 and even 1869).

      This material was new evidence to those of us who wrote the May 27 guidlines - we weren't previously aware of this pattern of Greek usage outside the Bible. Once we saw these examples and others like them, we felt we had to make some change in the guidelines."
    Do Grudem and Poythress actually say that those who wrote the gender guidelines had never looked at the 'gender terms' in Liddell - Scott or BAGD? Do they really call Liddell - Scott (1869) new evidence?

    By their own admission, these men were of an age where they had already established their own personal theology, and had presumed to write theology for others, without ever learning to use a variety of the most standard Greek lexicons. They came to Colorado Springs with their gender guidelines already prepared, based on a narrow view of what the Greek said, and attempted to make these guidelines binding on the Christian community.

    I suggest that today we have the first generation of translators for a major English revision of the Bible who have, for the most part, not been exposed in any way to the study of classical Greek. They do not bring a knowledge of Greek to the Bible, but they bring their own preconceptions of the English Bible to the Greek.

    Many other passages in this book confirm that the authors are not aware of patterns of Greek usage outside the Bible, in particular with reference to anthropos, aner, and arren.

    I am particularly indignant, since I studied Greek from the age of 14 to 21, and when I became an adult someone gave me Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Grudem and Piper, so I could presumably, benefit from their wisdom.

    More on the generic pronoun another day. On adelphoi, 'brethren' was once an acceptable solution for me but 'fellow believers' also sounds appropriate. However, I am sure that Wayne Leman will want to take issue with 'fellow'. I appreciate Stephen Carlson's thoughts on this here.

    CafeApocalypsis: Translating "Brothers and Sisters"

    Lingamish: Born to be my baby

    Lingamish: Born to be my baby

    By the way, there is no connection between the title of the Lingamish post and my preceding post here on BBB!

    Suffer the little children

    Have you or someone else you know ever wondered what the English translation wording meant when Jesus says, "Suffer the little children to come unto me?" When people come upon words in English Bibles which have different meanings from what they used to have, which is the case with the word "suffer," most people try to comprehend the wording using their current understanding of words. So some people might wonder if Jesus (or perhaps some else, maybe their parents) had to suffer when children came to him. Or maybe those who think more globally, including many theologians, might think that Jesus is referring to how women suffer in childbirth to produce children who can come to Jesus.

    Obviously, none of those meaningss are correct even though they might be the best someone can come up with given that they are speakers of contemporary English and a Bible version they are using is not written in contemporary English. Jesus was saying what most English versions today make clear, "Allow the little children to come to me."

    Why did I blog on this today? Because my wife, Elena, and I have been busy this week helping welcome our newest granchild, Shiloh (seen above with her grandma Elena), into the world and taking care of her older siblings. Shiloh Irene Errington was born this Tuesday. Shiloh is a precious little thing. Just as I did with our granddaughter, Elianna, born last August, I was able to come up with a special lullaby song for Shiloh. I sang it to her for a long time last night, after we brought Shiloh home from the hospital, as I paced the floor with her in my arms, trying to keep her asleep so her mother could get a little more rest before the next feeding. Shiloh's parents and we, both sets of grandparents, will gladly encourage Shiloh to go to Jesus, as she grows and understands more about our faith. And we will try to read Bible versions to her which use English that her parents and older brother and sister already speak. (The children speak very good English, using adverbs properly. I'm amazed, as a linguist, at how much "good" English grammar our small grandchildren have already learned.)

    How about you? Are you using Bibles which are worded in good quality contemporary English? If so, you, your family, children, and grandchildren, speakers of contemporary English, will understand God's Word more accurately and clearly.

    The Pope on the Bible

    Eddie Arthur has put on his Kouya Chronicle Blog an interesting posting with a quotation about Pope Benedict's views on the Bible and how it should be interpreted, contrasting it with Islamic interpretation of the Qur'an. I have commented in reply. While this is not explicitly related to Bible translation, the underlying principles are very relevant for translators.

    Thursday, January 12, 2006

    Hebrew Update

    There are several recents posts on Hebrew worth checking out. First, Talmida links to the TanakhML Project where one can read,

      The full Tanakh: Torah, Prophets and Writings of the BHS (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) is available in an excellent readable font. You can read it as is, or in parallel with the King James Translation.
    In parallel sounds right to me.

    Daily Hebrew has this post on the Divine Name and Language Hat mentions a book and link on the History of the Hebrew Language.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    Lost in Translation

    I think there are some good principles that we who are concerned about good quality Bible translation can learn from this blog post, Lost in Translation?

    What are some that come to your mind?

    (HT: Eric of Funky Dung, via email.)

    Old Testament Bad

    This post title on Dr. Claude Mariottini blog caught my eye and I had to read the post. It turns out that "Old Testament bad" is a colloquialism referring to something very bad that has happened, akin to the more commonly known phrase that something is of "biblical proportions."

    In this case what was Old Testament bad was that the usually highly ranked University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball team took a drubbing from the also usually highly ranked University of Kansas Jayhawks basketball team, 73-46. Kentucky Wildcats fans have been despondent after that loss. I am not. I graduated from the University of Kansas. Go Jayhawks!

    Online Textual Commentary

    Although this blog focuses on translation of the biblical texts, it is necessary that we first know what those texts say. Jim West of the Biblical Theology blog has just posted this notice:
    Wieland Willker has revised his very useful Textual Commentary and you should take a look at it. Wieland has done a LOT of work over the years and I recommend his Commentary heartily.
    The title of Willker's work is An Online Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels.

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    CafeApocalypsis: 1 Cor 11:10

    CafeApocalypsis: 1 Cor 11:10

    I think we have discussed this difficult verse on the BBB recently. No one knows for sure what "because of the angels" means. I think it is probably best to leave the translation like that, rather than including some interpretive translation.

    Sunday, January 08, 2006

    Translating kephale

    What is the figurative meaning of the biblical metaphor kephale (denotationally 'head') and how best to translate it is the subject of intense debate, one that goes to the heart of differences between complementarians and egalitarians.

    Yesterday Dave Barnhart of Vulgar Homiletics asked What is "Headship"? Regardless of what you believe the meaning of the metaphor kephale to be, it would be worth your while to read Dave's post at Vulgar Homiletics. Dave cites recent posts by BBB contributor Suzanne McCarthy on her blog Suzanne's Bookshelp.

    Most Bible translators choose to translate the figurative language of the biblical metaphor kephale, literally. That is one interpretation. This interpretation typically leads to translation users assuming that the Bible's metaphor of "head" means the same as our English metaphor of head.

    A few Bible translators translate the meaning of the biblical metaphor in a way that doesn't assume that our English metaphor of head has the same meaning as the biblical metaphor of head:
    For a husband has authority over his wife just as Christ has authority over the church (Eph. 5:23 TEV)

    The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church (Eph. 5:23 The Message)

    The man is the source of the woman just as the Anointed One is the source of the assembly. (Eph. 5:23 The Source)
    And so we come to the, er, head, of one of the most pressing matters in current Bible translation debates. It is whether it is best to translate the biblical text, including its figurative language, as literally as possible, and leave to Bible teachers the task of explaining the meaning of the literal translations, or whether it is better to translate the meaning of the biblical text more directly, including translating figurative language with wordings which make the figurative meanings as accurate and clear as possible. Godly translators with sincere intentions take different sides in this important debate. There is room for both kinds of translation, IF we understand the value and limits of each. Many Bible teachers, professors, and pastors recommend using both literal and idiomatic translations for one's own Bible study. I'm in their camp.

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    Saturday, January 07, 2006

    Translating connotative meaning

    In a recent comment on the blog post about TNIV "Turn your ear," Funky Dung (Eric) expressed proper concern:
    my main worry when reading translated idioms is that the translation carries most or all of the denotation, but little or none of connotation
    I began my response to Eric like this:
    Eric, you have noted an important translation principle. Not only should translations be denotationally accurate but they should also retain the connotations of the original.
    I just found a post on the Codex blog which also insists that translating connotation is a necessary part of adequate translation. But Tyler's post used more interesting examples than I did and is entertaining as well.

    (HT: Parableman)

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    Friday, January 06, 2006

    Paul Whiting: How to Read the Bible Book-by-Book---Preparing for the Second Reading

    How to Let the Bible be Read by You

    In yesterday's posting, Wayne referred to Paul Whiting's How to read the Bible Book-by-Book---Getting an Overview over on Paul's blog. Part of me really likes what Paul Whiting says.

    However, the other part of me is bothered by some of the ideas. Not bothered in the sense that they're bad or harmful ideas, they definitely aren't. But bothered by the fact that I, well, how can I say this, I try so very hard to understand the big chunks of Scripture, but, I don't do what Paul suggests. That strikes me as odd. Why don't I do it? I'm not sure.

    So, let me encourage people to go and read Paul's blog entry, he makes some good points; but, let me also share a few steps I do as a starting point to letting the Bible be read by you.

    Step one: I bring the text into a word processor (I use OpenOffice) and strip out all the verse and chapter divisions.

    I'm essentially deconstructing the intrusion of the discohesive effects of these two additions to the text. I understand that the chapter divisions were very poorly done. The chapter divisions were not arrived at through any linguistic analysis. Believe or not, sometimes it was simply where the manuscript ended one page (leaf) and began another. So, in a nutshell, the chapter divisions are worthless. The original author did not write the chapter divisions and modern English letters do not have chapter divisions. Using them is (dare I say it?) bad translation--it's not rendering in English any meaning the original had.

    Step two: After stripping out the distractive verse numbers and chapter divisions, I paragraph the text.

    How to do this? Well, use something. I use my Greek NT (GNT) and simply break up the text in the same way the GNT does. A little later in my efforts I develop my own paragraphs (which generally agree with the GNT, but not always). You could use your favorite commentator; however, note that many commentators are verse oriented so they're not nearly as sensitive to the paragraphing as they need to be. On the positive side there appears to be more movement toward discourse level observations. And you should use these.

    For an example at a higher, sectional level: Scot McKnight has observed some discourse markers in Matthew (see Jesus on Being Missional 1). He observes that Matthew 4:23 and 9:35 form an inclusio boundary defining Jesus ministry. Therefore, I conclude that Matthew has syntactically defined a cohesive section. Scot has made a powerful and astute observation. These community driven observations can be very helpful in paragraphing, and even sectioning (as in the Missional discussion), a text.

    Step three: I then read the entire letter. If you can't do this with the time you have, well, you need to get more time. Seriously, the book is to be read in one sitting and this will really help you. Yes, I know Luke will be very difficult (I haven't done it either), but don't start with Luke, start with Ephesians or Philippians or James (James is incredibly cohesive but few commentators recognize it). No note-taking (Paul Whiting stresses this, and he is exactly right). However Paul's 5 steps move much, much too quickly into the analysis. You have to read the book a half dozen or more times before you get any type of feel for what it is actually saying.

    I think this is because of two reasons:
         Firstly, we are way, way too verse oriented in our approach to Scripture. That is, we've habituated a verse oriented interpretive framework within our mind. Scripture is special--very special. However, it is not special in the sense that it tosses basic communicative facts. We are made in God's image and therefore communicate in the way he communicates. The very first thing God did with us after he created us was to communicate with us (see Gen. 1:28). However, we've habituated a way of interpreting his communication which isn't the way he communicated. We habitually bring an interpretive die and press it against the text. The verse-oriented die is foreign to the text (except for poetry) and, therefore, we need to toss it. It takes a lot of work to break this habit.
         Secondly, we bring way too much theological baggage to the reading. While the first issue is syntactic, this issue is much more semantic. Therefore, this takes even more effort to overcome. It essentially boils down to a willingness to submit to the text and it's Author, and a humility before those with whom we disagree. In other words, we need to be able to dialog within a diverse community. I desire and long for a time when the people within a diverse community--as a community--willingly pursue understanding of larger texts. The coherence in the text will drive the unity of the community and the unity of the community will drive an accurate understanding of the text.

    After several readings I start to get a feel for what the author is saying. What you can do at this point is review the paragraphing. That is, you can start to adjust the paragraph divisions. I know I said above to resist doing analysis; however, what you're doing at this point is getting a feel for the patterns the author is using. It's not detailed analysis--you don't say: "O!, Paul uses a genitive here, I wonder if it's an objective or subjective genitive?" You're allowing the author to show you, to carry you, into how he has structured the text. You want to notice some bigger syntactic things I'll mention in a moment. You also want to notice larger semantic things like the extended metaphors. For example, 2 Cor. 3:7-18 utilizes an extended metaphor having to do with open illumination. He uses words (taken from the NIV translation) like: glory, fade, veil, dull, covers, unveiled, and reflect.

    The linguistic fact that supports this is that an author (and therefore the reader should follow the author's lead by doing the same thing) will chunk a text into cohesive units of thought. Frequently what happens in my trips through the text is I'll notice a chiastic structure or an inclusio (sandwich or bookend) structure. These syntactic clues lead me toward the authorial intent simply because I'm chunking the text in the same way he did.

    So, those are the first few steps I follow. The goal is to capture the syntactic structure as accurately as possible. If you've done your work correctly, the whole text starts to flow. You start to get a feel for how the unit of thought of one paragraph leads into the unit of thought of the next one. If it doesn't, or there's a place where you think, "Hmmmmmm...the Apostle Paul has a senior moment here", then you've missed something. He's right; you're wrong. You're structuring the text wrongly; a word or two is translated poorly; or you're interpreting something based on a bad assumption (one you might not even know you're making).

    Well, I hope that helps in some way. I'd be interested in any feedback. Especially by anyone willing to try what I'm suggesting.

    O!, one other thing: what does this have to do with making Better English Bibles? Well, understanding the authorial intent is prerequisite to accurately choosing the correct words in translation. It's the context that disambiguates the word choices. And context is a word that is often misunderstood. It is not the stuff that goes before and the stuff that goes after--it is the stuff that you and the author are thinking within. I tend to think we should translate clauses (not words) within paragraph boundaries. That is, it's the unit of thought expressed by the paragraph that should guide our efforts at accurately rendering the clauses.

    But, first, we have to let the Bible have paragraphs. And they need to be the paragraphs the original author syntactically and semantically chose. Allowing the text to be what the text is, will enable us to read it. Perhaps, even, in a way that feels all the world like the first time.

    May God's message have it's way with our lives. Isa 55:8-13.

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Paul Whiting: How to read the Bible Book-by-Book---Getting an Overview

    Paul Whiting: How to read the Bible Book-by-Book---Getting an Overview

    Paul Whiting occasionally comments here on BBB. His post about reading the Bible to get the overview of an entire book of the Bible is right on (or spot on, for some of you!). Is this relevant for Bible translation? Absolutely. Mike Sangrey is our man to preach this sermon the best. Note his recent post on coherence. Elsewhere Mike has written about precis. It is important for books of the Bible to be translated in such a way that their coherence and thematic unity will be just as clear in translation as it was intended to be in the original biblical texts.

    And for more of this sermon you'll just have to join in the cheer to encourage the preacher. Ready? OK, chant with me, on 3: 1, 2, 3: "Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike!"


    Lingamish: The limits of grace

    The theological (in)significance of male-representative language

    I am repeating here for a wider audience something which I wrote in a comment on a posting on Gerald Hiestand's iustificare blog.
    Now for a more general look at this posting. Thank you, Gerald, for your kind words acknowledging how I have helped you to understand better the arguments for gender-inclusive translations.

    But it seems that in this posting you are confusing characteristics of the Greek and Hebrew language, such as that male-oriented terms are generally used to refer to mixed groups, with the teaching of the Word of God. The old theories that the original languages of the Bible are special divine dialects has now been thoroughly discredited: biblical Hebrew and Greek are basically the normal languages of the peoples who spoke them. When someone merely says what they are forced to say by the structure of the language, they are conveying no information; for example, if I say "two words", the -s on "words" conveys no new information because the structure of the language requires it to be present. Similarly, when the biblical authors use male-representative language (if I grant for the moment that that is what we find in the Bible) in Greek and Hebrew, they do so because that is what the structure of those languages requires them to do, and therefore by doing so they cannot be conveying any teaching, anything of theological significance.

    Therefore I would totally reject your "surely the use of a typically male term to denote both sexes at least implies male headship". If this use is part of the language, as we can see that it is, it cannot be part of the author's specific teaching. Now I accept that in some sense the Bible does teach "male headship" (but see my previous comment about the meaning of κεφαλή kephalē), but that teaching, and the typological link to the "headship" of God over Christ, is based on explicit teaching e.g. in 1 Corinthians 11:3 (whatever that verse means), and not on the characteristics of Greek and Hebrew of using male-representative language.

    The implication of this is that there can be no theological significance in the use of male-representative language in the Bible, and therefore, by your own argument, there is no need to preserve this kind of language in translations.
    Here is a further comment which I made on the same posting:

    Gerald wrote:

    So it would matter little for my argument whether or not the various languages of the world have consistent grammatically gender terms as long as they had consistent “real-world” male/female terms (which I’m fairly certain they all do).

    I wouldn't count on it, Gerald. Many languages do not have distinct pronouns for males and females, and are almost lacking in distinct male/female terms, e.g. they don't even distinguish "brother" and "sister" except by adding specific separate words "male" and "female". These are not only languages of peoples for whom gender distinctions are of little importance, for those which don't have gender marked pronouns include Persian, used in Iran with its society based on very strong male dominance. Of course these languages do have to have at least one pair of specific words "male" and "female", and I don't know of any which don't have distinct terms for "mother" and "father". But you certainly shouldn't assume that all languages make anything like the same consistent male/female distinctions as English and the biblical languages do.

    By the way, I thought of an example of feminine-representative language which is Latin but used in English: persona non grata, which is used gender generically in English and presumably in the original Latin, although anyone who knows even a smattering of Latin will recognise this as grammatically feminine. Does this imply something about the theology of the Roman Catholic church? Surely not! I hope bringing up this example doesn't make me persona non grata!

    For more on the meaning of κεφαλή kephalē, I will refer you now not to my earlier comment but to Suzanne McCarthy's posting about this on her Bookshelf blog.

    Reducing Redundancy: A Response

    I greatly appreciate what Dan Sindlinger, my fellow contributor to the blog, is trying to do in his Better Life Bible. However, I think he is taking a wrong direction in his posting on reducing redundancy in translation. Here I am repeating for a wider audience what I wrote in a comment on that posting:
    Dan, I have to disagree with your high school English teacher. Well, things depend on what genre you are writing in. You mentioned that it was a "paper" on which your teacher wrote redundant. And I would agree that redundancy is a bad thing in a scholarly paper, if that is what you mean. But in other genres repetition and redundancy is a good thing. It is sometimes part of good literary art, especially in poetry but also for all kinds of literary effect, including for emphasis. It is essential in teaching, which is why you will find a lot of redundancy in modern sermons and teaching materials. Of course Jesus was a preacher, and that is why he used a lot of redundancy in his sermons as well, to make sure that his point struck home. In fact he probably used a lot more repetition than is recorded for us.

    Don't make the Bible sound like a scholarly paper, but more like the sermon which much of it is. So, my advice would be, forget your high school English and keep the redundancy.
    As an example of this (and at risk of redundancy!), I want to look briefly at Proverbs 4:20, which has been discussed in the posting "Turn your ear". This verse, like thousands of others in the Old Testament, consists (in the original and in most translations) of two parallel and almost synonymous lines. Some translations, such as TEV/GNT and CEV, sometimes collapse such pairs of parellel lines into one. But I would consider this to be a mistake, except where there are special circumstances. For the parallel lines are part of the poetic style of Proverbs, and of much of the rest of the Old Testament - which is also imitated as well as quoted in the New Testament. Also repetition is part of the teaching style of Proverbs, and of good teaching anywhere. Now I don't know if Dan would advocate cutting out the parallel lines in places like this, as CEV does (TEV/GNT does not). But I think it would be a mistake to do so.

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    Turn your ear

    I just visited Dave Warnock's blog. Dave uses an RSS feed to get "Scripture for Today." Today's scripture is:
    My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one's whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. (Proverbs 4:20-25 TNIV)
    I'm wondering: Would you normally say "Turn your ear to my words"? Or would you use other English words to express the same meaning?

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    Singular they with feminine reference

    Geoffrey Pullum is a highly respected linguist. (Although he teaches at an American university, he's British for those of you who are interested in whether he speaks "real" English or not!) Yesterday Pullum blogged on observed usage of singular "they" when the sex of the referent was female. This language usage is relevant evidence in the debate over whether or not singular "they" is appropriate to use in English Bible translations targeted for speakers of contemporary English.

    As with so many questions about appropriateness of various language forms in different kinds of English Bibles, the compelling determinant is audience, audience, audience. The right question to ask is: "For whom is this translation intended?"

    Some English versions are targeted for those who continue to use and understand masculine generics. Other versions are targeted at those who use other forms to express generic meanings. And this is as it should be, upholding the principle that a translation is worded in the language forms of those who will use that translation.

    At this stage of significant English language change with reference to generic nouns and pronouns, pronoun case, and other language forms, it is unlikely that an English Bible version can be produced which can be the "standard" version for all English speakers.

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    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

    Interview with Jim Packer

    I notice that Jeremy Pierce has commented on Jim Packer's quote on the TNIV here. When Packer's name was first mentioned in this respect last month, I was somewhat surprised since I had no intention of bringing personalities into this discussion. However, I have been taught and influenced by some of the translators of the TNIV so naturally I did want to understand whether the criticism of the TNIV was valid or not, by ESV standards. I made an extremely minor attempt to evaluate whether the ESV used 'the same English word for important recurring words in the original'. It was by no means a statistical analysis. It was simply an attempt to frame some questions in my mind.
    However, Dr. Packer has been quoted on this topic, and I have also been quoted. With that in mind it seemed like the most natural thing for me to talk to Dr. Packer personally, since we attend the same church. He has kindly agreed to be interviewed for this blog towards the end of January.
    I would like to collect a list of questions, which I hope can be grouped or generalized into about 10 questions or less. If you have a question, or would like to suggest wording for a question, please respond in the comment section of this post. Thanks.

    Reducing redundancy in translation

    I can recall numerous occasions when my English teacher in high school marked redundant on a paper I had written. Redundancy is using more words than are needed to relate an idea. It tends to break the logical flow of a text, distracting the reader from its focus, thereby reducing its impact. An example of redundancy occurs in Matthew 24, where Jesus encourages people to be ready for his coming. Matthew’s use of several illustrations to emphasize the idea of readiness may have been appropriate for his Jewish audience, but many people in our society are distracted by this much repetition, wondering if Jesus was introducing a new point with each illustration.

    I can picture my English teacher writing redundant over Matthew’s repeated references to the same idea in chapter 24. To reduce this redundancy for my target audience, I excluded the illustrations of the fig tree (verse 32) and the faithful servant (verses 45-51). The point of these illustrations is not lost, however, since Matthew has already clearly presented it earlier in the chapter.

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    Monday, January 02, 2006

    The Principles of Coherence

    Since Suzanne blogged about The Principles of Readability I decided to read Dubay's paper. On page 32 he says:
    While Kintsch and his colleagues did not come up with any easily used formula, they did contributed[sic] to our understanding of readability, including the central role of coherence in a text. Kintsch found out that lack of coherence affects lower-grade readers much more than upper-grade ones. The upper-grade readers, in fact, feel challenged to reorganize the text themselves. They may require more opportunities for solving problems, while lower-grade readers require more carefully organized texts.

    Well, there you have it: coherence plays a central role.

    I have often found that many Bible translations stutter as I read them. Not only does the versification have a profound impact on readability and comprehension, but the grammatical and lexical dislocations cause me to stumble and trip along as my mind walks through the text. I think the worst part, however, is the translations appear to follow a verse-at-a-time or clause-at-a-time methodology. There doesn't appear to me to be any effort at capturing the coherency in the paragraphs. Nor any effort to convey how the paragraphs are coherently connected.

    Let me give what I hope will be a rather thought provoking example (and this will be far too short of an appropriately developed presentation).

    Ephesian 4:17-5:17 form a chiasm with 5:1-2 in the exact center. If you start reading at 4:17 you'll see that 5:1-2 appear to jump off the page as an incoherent addition to the text. That's one of the clues that indicates a chiasm. The fact is that it is the topic sentence of the entire section. Furthermore, the topic is driven home by way of a conclusive summary in 5:17. This conclusion also reflects, in a contrastive way, what Paul says at the beginning in 4:17-18, another clue to the chiasm. In other words, we need to have the Lord's understanding and not the pagan understanding.

    With this conclusion in place, Paul launches into a very practical application of what it means to "imitate God" and to "understand his will," namely, Eph. 5:19-6:9. This involves being "filled with the Spirit." Being filled with the Spirit means living correctly within several societal institutions--marriage and family, and (what we would call) employer-employee.

    Next, Paul launches into the armor of God section. I discovered recently that this is a very clear allusion to Isa. 59. What does Isa. 59 have to say? Well, it's about God dealing with the sin problem--the very thing Paul was dealing with in Eph. 4:17-5:17 when he told us to imitate God! What does God do? He puts on armor to deal with the sin. What does that mean for us? We are to imitate him--that's what Eph. 5:1-2 said! We are to also put on his armor!

    It's quite coherent.

    It took an enormous amount of effort for me to discover that. And yet, now that I see it, it is perfectly obvious that that is what Paul is doing. It's the structure of the text that clued me in, and the coherency that convinced me that I correctly comprehended what Paul was saying.

    Why can't I have a translation that helps me see the structure of the text far more easily than the hurdles I have to jump over today?

    Bible reading and New Years resolutions

    Resolving to read the Bible regularly is one of the best New Years resolutions a person can make. Some people resolve to read the entire Bible during the new year. Others choose a different reading plan.

    Click here to view some reading plans posted at the ESV Bible blog.