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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

P.C. Bibles

AMDG at Christendom Blogosis today blogs on Political Correctness in Bible Translation. He wonders what the big deal is about gender in Bible translation.

Questions I would ask in response would be: How do we determine if anyone has translated a Bible version to be "politically correct"? How can we know the motives of others? What standards of proof should be required before suggestions of political correctness (or heresy, or any other claim) are justified? Might the legal standard of "innocent until proven guilty" work? Will Christians require any kind of accountability and empirical proof for the claims that are made under their banner? Or do we revert to an Old Testament standard: Every man did that which was right in his own eyes?

For myself, I wish for a higher standard. I wish for empirical support for any claim presented. If we claim to know why someone has done what they have done, then we should provide some kind of proof to justify our claim. Without such proof we revert to subjectivism, a form of relativistic humanism which is often decried so strongly by those who themselves practice it, perhaps unknowingly, for what they sincerely believe to be righteous causes.

Frankly, I am tired of hearing years of generalized, subjective accusations made against various Bible versions:

"This one is too liberal."
"This one is too literal."
"This one is bowing to feminist concerns."
"This one is just a paraphrase."
"This one doesn't deserve to be sold in Christian bookstores."
"This one is dumbed down."
"This one leaves out entire phrases or verses."

Let's give details and support for our claims. And let's make sure that any support we do give is based on the realities of the biblical languages and the languages we are translating to, not simply our opinions, however sincere, about what a translation wording should be.

28 Comments:

At Tue Feb 28, 12:10:00 PM, Blogger Jim said...

I blogged Sunday a perfect example of a political-correctness motivated translation.

http://petrosbaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2006/02/theologians-criticize-new-translation.html

Jim

 
At Tue Feb 28, 01:23:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

The only English translation I know of (and I have a lot of them!) that I would truly call poltically correct is the New Testament and Psalms: An Inclusive Version released in 1995 and edited by Victor Roland Gold.

I wrote a blog about this translation, along with confirmation from Gold that the project would NOT culminate in an edition of the entire BIble back in November of last year. That blog can be found at http://homepage.mac.com/rmansfield/thislamp/files/archive-23.html#unique-entry-id-161

Certainly, to label anything "politically correct" is to make a pejorative statement against it. And, Wayne, I agree with the spirit of your post in that such claims usually cannot be backed up. From what I've read of the translators of the TNIV, I have no reason to believe they were trying to create a politically correct translation, despite their detractors' accusations. I honestly believe they were trying to accurately translate the Scriptures in a manner that will clearly communicate to current culture.

However, I would still view the Inclusive Language Version (which is what Gold called it) as politically correct since they seem to go out of their way not to offend anyone. Not only do they make gender inclusive in most references to humans (in FAR more instances than the TNIV or NLT), they also make references to God gender inclusive (something no evangelical or mainstream translation has ever done). The Lord's prayer in the ILV is to "Our Father-Mother in heaven."

Consider the other changes made:

- "Sovereign" or "Ruler" in place of "King" as a metaphor for God.
- Satan, angels, and demons are all represented gender-neutral (at least they were consistent).
- The metaphor of darkness for sin or a lack of the presence of the Gospel has been removed so as not to offend people with dark skin. So now, John 1:5 which traditionally reads: "And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it" is made to read "The light shines in the deepest night, and the night did not overcome it." I guess no one told them that it gets dark at night.
- In the genealogies, when known, wives' names have been added to their husbands. So, now where Matt 1:2 originally read "Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers," it now reads "Abraham and Sarah were the parents of Isaac, and Isaac and Rebekah the parents of Jacob, and Jacob and Leah the parents of Judah and his brothers... ." Whoops, shouldn't the last phrase have included "and sister, Dinah"? And what about Jacob's other wife Rachel, and his wives' two concubines? I mean, if we adding, let's add everybody!
-References to Jesus as "Master" in Luke's Gospel are deemed too harsh, so the less offensive "Teacher" is used.
- "Slaves" are now "enslaved people."
- Since John's Gospel is often criticized as being anti-semitic (in spite of the fact that the writer was almost undisputedly Jewish himself), references to "the Jews" become "the religious authorities" in the Fourth Gospel.
- No longer is Jesus the "Son of God," but now is the "Child of God."
- "Your right hand upholds me" in Ps 63:8 becomes "Your strong hand upholds me" lest any left-handed readers be offended by this oft-used biblical metaphor.

These are but a few examples. Personally, I'm thankful that this one didn't catch on.

 
At Tue Feb 28, 01:38:00 PM, Blogger Brian said...

r.mansfield,

wow...that version gets to the point of my post in the first place...where will it stop?

allowing a little here and a little there will eventually end up being a bad thing IMO...there must be lines drawn, reasons, and standards...

For example, look back a mere 50 years at bathing suits...or what was considered modest attire in church compared to what is now...it is a slow gradual decline.

I am glad Wayne posted on the subject.

I thank the Lord we are allowed to learn Greek so that we don't have to rely 100% on English translations.

AMDG

 
At Tue Feb 28, 01:52:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Yes, but I don't care much for slippery slope arguments. I think that Wayne is right that you have to have positive evidence of "political correctness" before such labels should be thrown around.

When you look at the list of TNIV translators (http://www.tniv.info/story/cbtmembers.php), neither poltical correctness nor any liberal agenda comes to mind.

The inclusive gender debate is not one of liberal vs. conservative or even complementarian vs. egalitarian. It's a disagreement over translation philosophy, pure and simple. To ask "where will it stop?" is to ask the wrong question.

The real question to ask of any translation is whether or not it accurately communicates the original author's message (as best we can tell) to the secondary language. Any translation should be judged by that. And communicating to one language is more than just matching words in one dictionary to another. A culture's understanding of certain words has to come into play as well.

 
At Tue Feb 28, 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Rick, who needs to compose posts for this blog when we have such great comments as yours?!!

Now get back to writing on your dissertation.

:-)

 
At Tue Feb 28, 02:04:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Rick, I would agree that the Oxford Inclusive translation was intended to be politically correct. You have given evidence of it. I don't think that the anti-TNIV camp has given evidence that there was any p.c. motivation involved. Each verse needs to be considered on its own merits, and each wording decried in the TNIV has good exegetical support for it, from all the study I have done. It is wrong, IMO, to call an exegetical difference a "translation inaccuracy" or a sign of some kind of impropriety.

It's fine to debate differences in exegesis or translation philosophy, but it's not fine to claim that those with whom we disagree do so for improper reasons.

As the Good Book says, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart." It seems to me that divining the motives of others is looking on the outward appearance. But God is the one who knows their hearts, not us.

 
At Tue Feb 28, 02:07:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

I, for one, like the change of "right hand" to "strong hand". As a lefty, I've been SO offended by this kind of prejudice.

....


Just kidding btw ;)


References to Jesus as "Master" in Luke's Gospel are deemed too harsh, so the less offensive "Teacher" is used.

I can sympathize with the motive behind this change, and see why they would seek an alternative.....But "Teacher" and "Master" were completely different words. Trying to blend them together skews certain texts and relationships. Even the Pharisees used the word "Teacher" and "Rabbi" to address Jesus. "Master" was something completely different though, and didn't refer to the same thing.

On a sidenote, I wonder if the translators of this New Testament would do the same thing to Chinese Kung-Fu narrative stories, where students address different figures as "Master" or "Teacher". Trying to blend the two words together would the skew the relationships in these stories as well.

 
At Tue Feb 28, 02:47:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Jim, I saw your post on Sunday, I think, but, alas, although I can do fairly well with several languages, I am German-impaired. I was hoping you could provide a German translation, also. The Internet Babelfish translator just doesn't do your excerpt justice:

"Theologians criticize the project "Bible in fair language", supported by prominent Evangelist church representatives. It is to make among other things a working of women more strongly visible and provide in such a way for more sex justice... The president of Canstein institute for Bible and professor for new will, Andreas's lime tree man (Bielefeld), criticizes that some that admits so far become translations the Biblical text falsified. If in the Matthaeus gospel against Pharisaeer one polemisiert, it is inadmissible to want to place this correctly with a "fair translation". Lime tree man considers it inadequate to transform the Matthaeus text in such a way by the translation that it meet today's insights. There were no Pharisaeerinnen. As example he states a verse in the Matthaeus gospel (23,2), Luther with "on the chair of the Mose sits the writing scholars and Pharisaeer" shows. In the "Bible in fair language" it is to mean: "on the chair of the Mose sit Tora scholars and pharisaeische men and women." It surely did not give Pharisaei women on the chair of the Mose however. Until today give it also no orthodox Rabbinerinnen. The Tuebinger Alttestamentler Bernd Janowski is according to the FAZ the opinion that the re-translation the spirit of the time delivers itself and is a "document of the scooping out protest anti-mash". It called it "shaming" that the project is promoted by church-leading side."

See what I mean?!!

:-)

 
At Tue Feb 28, 04:09:00 PM, Blogger Brian said...

I was not making a judgement on what translation is "PC" and what translation isn't. I think that would be too subjective.

However, I can tell you that it is taking place. People are changing the gospel in the name of making it more "understandable". I don't believe the Scripture was meant to conform to the world and the culture.

Look around for the new Biblezines that target specific "cultures". hip-hop Bible, goth Bible, etc etc...

AMDG

 
At Tue Feb 28, 05:31:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Brian said:

However, I can tell you that it is taking place. People are changing the gospel in the name of making it more "understandable".

Brian, just as in your blog post, you are making another claim without including any evidence to support it. This would not be allowed in court. And we are dealing with matters concerning the Bible which are even more important.

On this blog we ask that if you state an opinion you also provide empirical data to support your claim. Simply stating something does not establish it as being true.

What evidence can you provide that anyone has changed the gospel, as you claim? Give us an example, a real example from somewhere so we can consider whether your claim is true or not.

Thanks.

 
At Tue Feb 28, 05:49:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Tue Feb 28, 05:58:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

I don't believe the Scripture was meant to conform to the world and the culture.

The process of even "literal" translation is making scripture "conform" to "something", more or less. Every language, from the beginning of humankind to the present, is a product of and reflective of the people and cultures who spoke or speak it. To translate the Bible into their language even literally still carries some kind of baggage with it.

Besides that, the scriptures were not meant to be some kind of compass and guideline for promoting it's own culture against the "world". Else we are all terribly doomed.

No, it's about principles -- Principles which can be expressed in many ways, without being compromised. Many can hold a "biblical worldview", but still express it in many different ways. A biblical worldview is about principles and ideas, not expression.

If that wasn't the case, Paul wouldn't have employed Stoic rhetorical arguments in Hellenistic epistolary writings to communicate the Gospel, nor would he have said that he "became all things to all people" in order that he might win them to Christ. John wouldn't have referred to Jesus as the Logos in order to communicate the pre-existent nature of the Son of God to a Hellenistic audience. Further, there never would have been a Council of Jerusalem that freed the Gospel from Jewish exclusivity and expression.

The Word of God is like water -- Water can come in fluid form, as solid ice, or as vapor. Further, water can be put in a glass, smash like an iceberg, sooth like a mist, or come like a crashing wave. But in the end, it's all water.

 
At Tue Feb 28, 08:21:00 PM, Blogger Brian said...

First off, I am making no specific claims that need emperical evidence to back them up. I have not singled out anyone or anything.

If you are referring to my blog statement that PC is wiggling its way into Bible translation...I don't see where that is a claim that requires emperical evidence. The definition of PC is subjective and may vary from person to person.

I could have made a claim that the TNIV's translation of Pslam 34:20 is PC and it changes the true meaning of the verse (PC still being subjective there).

I could state that all the examples out of the Inclusive Version above are PC (again PC is subjective).

I could make a claim that the white supremacists mis-translate all sorts of verses to fit their needs (the examples are too many to list see the below URL if you wish).

http://www.anointedstandard.com/

However, I made none of these claims.

Are you saying that every entry on your blog (making a claim) has emperical evidence to back it up?

AMDG

 
At Tue Feb 28, 08:24:00 PM, Blogger Brian said...

P.S.

To comply with your guidelines I will retract the following statement:

However, I can tell you that it is taking place. People are changing the gospel in the name of making it more "understandable".

...and I will cease commenting on this blog entry as well.

AMDG

 
At Tue Feb 28, 09:31:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Brian said:

To comply with your guidelines I will retract the following statement:

However, I can tell you that it is taking place. People are changing the gospel in the name of making it more "understandable".

...and I will cease commenting on this blog entry as well.


Brian, I should apologize to you. We have asked that blog comment claims, such as the one you just retracted, be supported by evidence. But we have not required it, nor do we require it now. And there is no mention of it on our posting guidelines at the top of the right margin of this blog.

I believe that I came on too abruptly to you. I did not intend to be lacking in grace but I was and I'm sorry. There was pent up frustration within me, built up from years of hearing unsubstantiated claims made against various English Bible versions. I simply think that as believers we can do better. We owe it to each other to do better, I sincerely believe. I have seen sincere comments against Bible versions or their translators which are, in spirit, slander, even if not intended to be slander, and maybe not legally so, in a court of law. That grieves me deeply. We can do better. I need to do better. I try to practice what I preach. Sometimes, because of that, it takes me several hours to compose a blog post in which I am trying to present evidence as clearly and exhaustively as possible. But I also have a day job, so I have to balance the need to provide supporting evidence each time with the fact that all of my blog posts are still on the blog, and there is evidence in those archived posts.

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate the input from everyone here on the blog. It is far better for us to debate with each other than to burn each other's Bibles (some of this has been done), threaten translators with boycotts of Bible version sales, or actually help carry them out, etc.

This is how the world will know that we are are his disciples, if we have love for one another.

Speaking the truth, in live.

I want to do better.

 
At Tue Feb 28, 10:21:00 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Wayne,

Just a quick follow up to let you know that I was in no way offended...I have been on the internet for the better of 20+ years (I work in the industry) and I am not easily offended on the internet or in person.

In addition, I don't have an axe to grind against any translation that I can think of. I have downloaded and/or purchased nearly every translation I can get my hands on...I suppose it is sort of a hobby (collecting Bibles). Obviously, I have opinions on how I think some translations could have translated certain passages better...but I don't voice them really. :)

As a never ending Greek student my ultimate goal is to be able to read and comprehend the GNT fluently without having to reference anything.

To God be the Glory.

 
At Wed Mar 01, 04:55:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne wrote: "As the Good Book says, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart."" Mine doesn't, Wayne. At 1 Samuel 16:7, which you are trying to quote, it says הָֽאָדָם֙ יִרְאֶ֣ה לַעֵינַ֔יִם וַיהוָ֖ה יִרְאֶ֥ה לַלֵּבָֽב׃, (note the gender generic הָאָדָם ha'adam) which in my preferred translation (TNIV) is rendered as "People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

 
At Wed Mar 01, 05:15:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Brian made a few specific claims. I will not attempt to defend the Inclusive Version or the Anointed Standard. But I do want to look at this (hypothetical) claim, which does deserve an answer:

I could have made a claim that the TNIV's translation of Pslam 34:20 is PC and it changes the true meaning of the verse (PC still being subjective there).

I will not answer the nebulous suggestion that this "is PC", but only at "it changes the true meaning of the verse". This suggestion depends on one's understanding of the true meaning of this verse. If one understands the Psalms as a collection of proof texts about Jesus, and this verse as one of those proof texts, then TNIV does indeed not support this understanding, because it states that this promise is not for a singular "A righteous man... he" (vv.19,20, NIV) but for a plural "The righteous... they". However, if the psalm is understood in its original context, as David's prayer, and if v.20 is understood in its context as related to the unambiguously plural vv.15,22, it becomes abundantly clear that vv.19-20 refer to "the righteous" in a collective sense. This is God's promise to all those who are righteous. As such David could claim the promise for himself, it could be applied to Jesus (John 19:36), and it can be claimed as a promise by believers today. The versions which change the true meaning of this verse are those which try to restrict the applicability of this wonderful promise to just one man, Jesus.

See also the TNIV translators' own comments about their rendering of this verse.

 
At Wed Mar 01, 06:00:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

In regard to Psalm 34:20 in the TNIV:

"he protects all their bones,
not one of them will be broken."

I have remarked before elsewhere that I feel that this is an unfortunate translation choice on the part of the TNIV translators that brings them unnecessary criticism--that is, criticism that could have been avoided.

I understand why they translated the passage as they did, but it needlessly obscures the reference to John 19:36.

[Side comment: I don't think this is the same as say the Isa 7:14 young woman vs. virgin issue (and incidentally, the TNIV reads "virgin"). What I mean to say by that is that I don't believe that when the NT quotes the LXX instead of the Hebrew text that the translators should attempt to make the OT sound like the NT text in retrograde. However, that's not what's at play in a verse like Ps 34:20.]

In this case, it makes the TNIV translation of John 19:36 to be a rather odd connection, especially when John 19:36 in the TNIV reads "Not one of his bones will be broken" (emphasis added).

This is strictly my opinion, but if I were drawing up my own guidelines for translating an inclusive gender version of the BIble, I would recommend that verses that fall within the traditional group of prophetic statements about the Messiah, and especially those quoted in the NT, should be left as they are--that is, as in the case of Ps 34:20, left in 3rd person masculine singular.

Again, I understand why the TNIV translators made the choice they made with Ps 34:20; I just don't think it was a good decision. It would be one thing if this were a decison made by the Jewish Publication Society for a translation strictly of the Hebrew Bible. But for Christians, who have two covenants in their canon, I believe there's a responsibility to keep these kind of connections intact.

 
At Wed Mar 01, 08:50:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Rick wrote "it needlessly obscures the reference to John 19:36". No, this is not a needless change in TNIV. It is a result of a deliberate policy decision (a significant change from the NIV in fact) to translate the Hebrew Bible as a set of books in Hebrew from their own time. That is the right and proper way to translate them. NIV rightly received a lot of criticism for reading the NT into the OT, especially in its use of capitals e.g. in Psalm 2:12 "Kiss the Son" (TNIV "Kiss his son"), but also I understand for making the some parts of its OT correspond to the NT quotations. Well, the only example of this which I know of is the infamous "virgin" in Isaiah 7:14, which TNIV does not correct (although it does add a footnote "Or young woman"), but then there is a minority exegetical opinion supporting this one. It seems to me that the TNIV team have instead aimed to do the right thing by translating the Hebrew Bible as Hebrew books, even if at times they have lacked the courage of their convictions.

Rick, don't you see that your proposed guideline "I would recommend that verses that fall within the traditional group of prophetic statements about the Messiah, and especially those quoted in the NT, should be left as they are" amounts to understanding the Hebrew Bible as a compilation of proof texts rather than as a work of literature and scripture in its own right? Anyway, what do you mean by "left as they are"? Left in Hebrew? Whatever translation choice is made, it is an interpretive decision, there is not one a priori preferable "unchanged" translation.

And don't you see that the promise in Psalm 34:20 applies to all women as well as all men who are righteous? Your principle implies that its application should be restricted to Jesus. That is to steal out of the scriptures one of its most precious promises. And all for the sake of trying to clarify what is already a rather obscure allusion (not a direct quotation) at John 19:36, which can be and is adequately signalled with footnotes etc.

 
At Wed Mar 01, 09:17:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Peter, another Hebrew Bible verse that is sometimes highlighted in translation as messianic is Ps. 8:4. The TNIV is criticised for translating its NT quote according to the Hebrew, in Heb. 2:6. There are several similar passages where the TNIV translators chose to translate, esp. the Hebrew Bible passages, in a way that does not Christianize them. They leave the Christianizing for the NT quotes of those passages.

 
At Wed Mar 01, 10:09:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Peter, you make some excellent points. Thank you. What I meant by "left as they are" was left non-inclusive, as they have traditionally been translated. No, my desire would not be to see the OT as a series of proof texts for Jesus' messiahship. These particular texts, if left as they would correspond to the NT use of them (again, not as a retrograde refitting to force them to match--I wouldn't want that) would be a small overall percentage of the OT. I'm merely suggesting it as a purposeful translation choice in light of the unity of the Canon as a whole.

I certainly understand the value of reading a text in its original context. In any class that I teach, I always start with that original context (as best as it can be determined) before the passage is viewed in light of any other context, NT or personal. When I was a first semester student in seminary in 1991, this was something pounded into us by John D. W. Watts who actually counted off on our exegesis papers if we made any reference to the NT!

But even in light of that, ultimately, I want to read the canon as a unity in a manner that gives justice to both testaments. I don't have my copy of the TNIV in front me, but I don't believe Ps 34:20 has any footnote on that particular verse. At the very least, because of the way it is used in John's gospel, there should at least (in my opinion) be an alternate translation listed.

Please hear me that I'm not opposed to inclusive language being used in a translation when the intended referent is both male and female. I would just make exception for the traditional messianic references noted by the NT authors. In the overall of scriptures, that's a small number of texts. At the very least I would suggest an alternate translation in the footnotes for a passage such as Ps 34:20.

 
At Wed Mar 01, 11:00:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Rick, you wrote "In the overall of scriptures, that's a small number of texts." Yes, but I don't think there can be any excuse for allowing deliberate inaccuracy in the translation of even a small number of texts. If they have a generic meaning, they should be translated as generic. A footnote would be appropriate only if it mentioned the NT, as apart from the NT there is no justification for the gender specific translation even as a footnoted alternative. And John Watts' excellent rule would count out any mention of the NT in the OT even in footnotes. Yes, this is something which should be footnoted, but the place for the footnote is at the NT quotation, where there is indeed a footnote in TNIV.

 
At Wed Mar 01, 11:56:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

I understand your point, Peter. These are all challenges we face in light of our culture's changing language. While I accept the idea of inclusive gender translations, and even acknowledge the accuracy inherent in such in light of current English language usage, perhaps I am merely slightly more conservative in how I would approach it in the above-mentioned examples if I were head of a translation committee.

But I'm not... not yet :)

 
At Wed Mar 01, 02:16:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

it is a result of a deliberate policy decision (a significant change from the NIV in fact) to translate the Hebrew Bible as a set of books in Hebrew from their own time. That is the right and proper way to translate them.

Gender issues aside, I've always wondered how some scholars (Christian ones, at least) can come to an interpretation of the Old Testament that they think is in line with "it's original context", but yet, inadvertently call into question the New Testament writers' interpretative use of it.

To many of my fellow Christians' behest, I'm usually pretty "liberal" (for lack of a better word), but this is one of subjects where I'm not.

For example, I would trust what the writer of Matthew says concerning Isaiah 7.14 (or what NT writers say on messianic passages in general) far before I even gave a small nod to what modern bible scholarship says on that passage. Matthew has an amazing advantage over them: He lived closer to the time that Isaiah existed, while a modern Bible scholar is seperated about 2500 years from Isaiah.

Same goes for the translators of the Septuagint -- they have a 2,200 year head start over modern Hebrew linguists and are closer to a right interpretation on how the original audience of the Hebrew scriptures read them or understood them. Modern Hebrew scholarship, on the other hand, is colored by nearly 2000 years of Masoretic and Rabbinic interpretation and transmission -- interpretation that is and has been overtly and consciously opposed to Christian readings for centuries (Though that opposition was not always the case. The further you go back in Talmudic and Halakhic interpretative texts, the more you find readings which are in line with the NT. Post Rashi and Maimonedes, however, i.e. Rabbinicism in the Middle Ages, you'll find more differences popping up -- and it is these differences that modern scholarship gives credence to, bases it's lexicons on, etc., etc..).

There was a time, in the first few centuries CE, when Rabbinic interpretation was just as Christological/Messianic as the New Testament ("All the prophets prophesied only for the days of the Messiah" – Berachoth 34b). By the turn of the new millenium though, these readings changed. Almost as if everything was systematically reinvented to be the antithesis of Christianity. Even beloved passages like Isaiah 53 were removed from the Parshiyot, the weekly readings (and to this day, they still are).

Anyways....In the end, what I'm trying to say is: Be careful about what you're taught when someone mentions the "original" context of the Hebrew scriptures. Sometimes it could be wrong, and you never know how much baggage their scholarship carries with it.

Secondly, when in doubt, trust the NT or LXX on how the Hebrew texts are supposed to be read. Seriously, what better "exegetes" and "scholars" can you have than Jesus, Peter, Paul, James, Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?

---

Now....I know that this is better suited for a completely new blog posting. Once again, I've derailed. Sorry about that, but I wanted to reply to the implications in your comment.

I know that there is a discussion here focused on the gender/singular/plural specific issues in the TNIV, but I'd love to see someone address what role modern Hebrew scholarship takes in translation, and how or if it has precedence over Christological interpretation in the NT (and further, what it's relationship is with the LXX). How should all of these things be weighed?

And btw, I usually read the NRSV -- a translation colored by many of the things I call into question in this post. I mention this because I don't want you to think this was an attack on your preference for the TNIV, Peter. I'm just trying to voice a few general concerns.

 
At Wed Mar 01, 02:18:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

it is a result of a deliberate policy decision (a significant change from the NIV in fact) to translate the Hebrew Bible as a set of books in Hebrew from their own time. That is the right and proper way to translate them.

Gender issues aside, I've always wondered how some scholars (Christian ones, at least) can come to an interpretation of the Old Testament that they think is in line with "it's original context", but yet, inadvertently call into question the New Testament writers' interpretative use of it.

To many of my fellow Christians' behest, I'm usually pretty "liberal" (for lack of a better word), but this is one of subjects where I'm not.

For example, I would trust what the writer of Matthew says concerning Isaiah 7.14 (or what NT writers say on messianic passages in general) far before I even gave a small nod to what modern bible scholarship says on that passage. Matthew has an amazing advantage over them: He lived closer to the time that Isaiah existed, while a modern Bible scholar is seperated about 2500 years from Isaiah.

Same goes for the translators of the Septuagint -- they have a 2,200 year head start over modern Hebrew linguists and are closer to a right interpretation on how the original audience of the Hebrew scriptures read them or understood them. Modern Hebrew scholarship, on the other hand, is colored by nearly 2000 years of Masoretic and Rabbinic interpretation and transmission -- interpretation that is and has been overtly and consciously opposed to Christian readings for centuries (Though that opposition was not always the case. The further you go back in Talmudic and Halakhic interpretative texts, the more you find readings which are in line with the NT. Post Rashi and Maimonedes, however, i.e. Rabbinicism in the Middle Ages, you'll find more differences popping up -- and it is these differences that modern scholarship gives credence to, bases it's lexicons on, etc., etc..).

There was a time, in the first few centuries CE, when Rabbinic interpretation was just as Christological/Messianic as the New Testament ("All the prophets prophesied only for the days of the Messiah" – Berachoth 34b). By the turn of the new millenium though, these readings changed. Almost as if everything was systematically reinvented to be the antithesis of Christianity. Even beloved passages like Isaiah 53 were removed from the Parshiyot, the weekly readings (and to this day, they still are).

Anyways....In the end, what I'm trying to say is: Be careful about what you're taught when someone mentions the "original" context of the Hebrew scriptures. Sometimes it could be wrong, and you never know how much baggage their scholarship carries with it.

Secondly, when in doubt, trust the NT or LXX on how the Hebrew texts are supposed to be read. Seriously, what better "exegetes" and "scholars" can you have than Jesus, Peter, Paul, James, Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?

---

Now....I know that this is better suited for a completely new blog posting. Once again, I've derailed. Sorry about that, but I wanted to reply to the implications in your comment.

I know that there is a discussion here focused on the gender/singular/plural specific issues in the TNIV, but I'd love to see someone address what role modern Hebrew scholarship takes in translation, and how or if it has precedence over Christological interpretation in the NT (and further, what it's relationship is with the LXX). How should all of these things be weighed?

And btw, I usually read the NRSV -- a translation colored by many of the things I call into question in this post. I mention this because I don't want you to think this was an attack on your preference for the TNIV, Peter. I'm just trying to voice a few general concerns.

 
At Wed Mar 01, 03:00:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Straylight, you bring up some interesting concerns here. If I had time I would love to answer them in a new posting, which is what they deserve. Maybe I will sometime. If so, may I quote your comments in my posting?

As a quick answer to the immediately relevant point, if a translation team believed that the best interpretation of the Hebrew text of this psalm was a Messianic one, to the exclusion of a wider reference to all righteous men and women, they should be consistent and translate the whole psalm as Messianic. They would not be justified in chopping and changing to translate the one half verse (arguably) quoted in the New Testament according to different principles from the rest of the psalm.

But I think you exaggerate the closeness between the OT and NT authors, and exaggerate the extent to which modern scholarly understanding of the OT is based on anti-Christian Jewish exegesis. Yes, scholars should certainly take into account the understandings of the NT authors and their contemporaries when interpreting and translating OT books. But they also need to remember that the purpose of the NT authors was not exegesis of the OT in the modern sense, i.e. not explaining the original meaning of the text, but rather applying that text to the different situation in which they found themselves. Thus in John 19:36, even if it is quoting Psalm 34:20, the NT author is by no means trying to claim that the OT author was writing about specifically Jesus, but rather that this promise to all the righteous was fulfilled for Jesus as it is for all other righteous men and women.

 
At Wed Mar 01, 06:43:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

Sure, you can post my comments if you make a new post. No problem.

As for exagerration, I honestly don't believe that I am doing so. I didn't mean to insinuate that some scholars are somehow consciously choosing to be anti-Christian though. Perhaps some are, perhaps some aren't -- It's all kind of beside the point. I'm not too concerned with their exact motives so much as I am with the materials and collaborators that a lot of their decisions and conclusions in Hebrew studies are based on.

* I'm mainly speaking about textual criticism and etymology here, by the way (something that DSS and LXX studies are already beginning to change). Not necessarily exegesis.

Concerning exegesis:

But they also need to remember that the purpose of the NT authors was not exegesis of the OT in the modern sense, i.e. not explaining the original meaning of the text, but rather applying that text to the different situation in which they found themselves.

Just to clear this up, I don't deny that some texts can carry more than one meaning (i.e. I don't think that all messianic proof texts are exclusively messianic. I do recognize that some of them have historical counterparts). Some of the NT's use of the OT is midrash. Some of it isn't though -- the OT can also be overtly messianic and prophetic, and were not midrashes by the NT authors. And stressing and focusing on historical exegesis too much (at the exclusion of the other senses of a text) will eventually make one lose sight of this. Stressing and focusing on it also reflects in translation.

Anyways, there's much more to say here, I suppose, but I have to cut it short for now.

 

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