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Saturday, May 27, 2006

TNIV vs. ESV

Is the TNIV more accurate than the ESV? Reviewer T. Christian believes so and presents evidence to support his claim.

Do you agree with the evidence he presents?

Categories: , ,

32 Comments:

At Sat May 27, 11:04:00 AM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

1 Samuel 8:16 (NEB): "Your slaves, both men and women, and the best of your cattle and your asses he will seize and put to his own use."

Contextually speaking slaves, both men and women, is probable. NEB and TNIV agree here.

Mark 1:3 (NEB): "In the prophet Isaiah it stands written..." No footnote.

The evidence for "Isaiah the prophet" is early, while the KJV renders the later "prophets", and the ESV Footnotes this because the large body of manuscripts are representative of this. More evidence for "Isaiah the prophet" is that it is also found over a large geographical area (not just in one local manuscript tradition). Once again, the NEB is on.

1 Cor. 7:36 (NEB): "But if a man has a partner in celibacy and feels that he is not behaving properly towards her..." (Footnote, Or a Virgin daughter (or Ward)

TNIV specifies the circumstances as conditional by the inclusion of "virgin he is engaged to", while the NEB is much more inclusive with its use of "partner in celibacy". Many won't be engaged to a "virgin". TNIV renders "honorably", while NEB renders "behaving properly", at first glance. Honorably is not commmonly understood (just survey the wide range of answers you will get to "What does it mean to act honorably?")

1 Cor. 6:20 (NEB): "...honour God in your body."

"in" complaint still present, although theologically motivated statements are gone.

The rest of his argument falls short, and is not even worth arguing over. If he can cry legalism, others can cry liberalism. There are always other sides, for everything.

His interpretation of Acts 17:11 is interesting, to say the least. He mentiones that , "...the TNIV is probably one of the most accurate and best-rendered English translations you can get", but this is hard to tell because of all the differing opinions on what "accurate" means for a translation of the Bible. Accuracy itself has become subjective.

In summary, I found his review to be far too subjective. All I can say is thank God that we have such a large plethora of translations to choose from in English, there is one to suit everyones "needs", whether they be political or theological. However, I say this with all sincerety, I wish we, as Christians, could begin to actually do what scripture says, rather than constantly arguing about what it says. Is textual criticism important? Absolutely, but we let it become more important than actually doing anything, and most modern bibles (along with many traditional ones) have been saying the exact same thing for centuries, but we still don't do it.

 
At Sat May 27, 11:08:00 AM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

Concat: "behave properly" is also not 100 percent understood commonly either, however I find it to be somewhat easier to understand than "honorably". Others will vary, no doubt.

 
At Sat May 27, 03:17:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Matthew, you have a good sense of English style. Thanks for your good comments.

 
At Sat May 27, 04:24:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Good for T. Christian! (Anyone know who she or he really is?) Putting this kind of review on Amazon may really help. I wonder what Amazon think about having multiple copies of this kind of review. I guess they would not be happy if it was posted against editions of ESV. But maybe he ought to try - perhaps with a different name so that they don't immediately flag the author of these reviews as a rogue reviewer.

But I'm not convinced by the argument on 1 Samuel 8:16. The textual corruption could just as easily be in the LXX Vorlage. However, I know that many people argue that the Masoretic text of 1 Samuel is generally especially corrupt and so the LXX is better in this book. The trouble with that is that in places the LXX is also clearly corrupt, so we have no way of knowing which is more original.

 
At Sat May 27, 05:21:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

I found their slurs against Dr Grudem unfair and offensive and that seemed to represent the tone overall when refering to individuals that were taken as not agreeing with the so called 'T Christian'.
Whichever side of the so called 'fence' you are on in this regard, please, don't tell me you approve of the offensive tone taken in this so called review.
I agree with Matthew that this review is extremely subjective and that the so called evidence is in the eye of the beholder.

 
At Sat May 27, 05:34:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Glenn said:

Whichever side of the so called 'fence' you are on in this regard, please, don't tell me you approve of the offensive tone taken in this so called review.

Glenn, on this, please see the BBB links policy in the right margin.

Whether we agree with T. Christian or not he raises important empirical questions which deserve to be studied empirically, not simply dismissed with a broad brush as being "subjective."

Each side in the debate practices the kind of character assassination that you (and I) object to. One side accuses the TNIV translators of capitulating to feminist concerns. The other side accuses Dr. Grudem of shallow scholarship. I wish neither side would attack personalities, but, rather, would stick to discussing the issues. There are significant issues in this debate and they deserve to be discussed in as scholarly a fashion as possible, without any subjective dismissive comments.

We need to be as objective as possible in dealing with the different possible translation options in English Bibles today. Much harm is done when any of us lapse into judgement of character rather than careful critique of content.

Thanks for raising the flag of your own concerns on this matter.

FWIW, Dr. Grudem has been practicing this kind of negative subjective dismissal of the TNIV for several years. I wish he would stop. His cause would be enhanced if he would just present evidence for his claims rather than trying to divine the motives of those with whom he disagrees.

As we have stated in the past, when we contributors of the BBB fail in this regard and move away from a focus on the data itself to judgement of character, we want our readers to call us to task for it. We need this kind of accountability within the church today. The Bible version wars are unnecessary if we would focus on just arguing for or against translation options, rather than broad brush dismissal of any version or its translators.

 
At Sat May 27, 06:11:00 PM, Anonymous Ian Myles Slater said...

Glennsp, I didn't care for the personality part either. Although I think that the "don't take some critics too seriously" message was reasonable enough, the attributed motivations weren't.

(I also didn't agree with a lot of the specific examples from the translations, for reasons much better expressed by others already.)

For those unfamiliar with the situation, "personal comments" about authors (editors, translators) are not supposed to be allowed on Amazon.

There doesn't seem to be as clear a policy about responding to critics (other than singling out other Amazon reviewers for praise or blame, which is supposed to be forbidden).

Policing of the rules is lax, since the site is enormous, and the software they rely on really isn't close to being up to the job. (Nothing would be, but some seems better than others.) Worse, Amazon's interpretation of the rules, when actual humans take a look, is completely arbitrary.

Obvious (and irrelevant) personal slurs may stay up indefinitely, despite being reported, if they aren't obviously obscene. (Software is usually good at catching that -- and perfectly innocent words, in the bargain.)

But I had a review censored for describing the author of a book on ancient Greek myth and ritual as a distinguished classicist, with some career details (University posts, Honors, Invitational Lectures), some of whose other books are difficult to follow. I thought that was useful information for prospective purchasers, but not the editor-of-the-day. (I eventually found a way around this odd prohibition.)

The Amazon Discussion Board usually has several examples of such problems under consideration.

On the other hand, multiple postings of the same review, as seen in this case, are perfectly acceptable. Amazon arbitrarily splits and lumps editions, and reviewers just try to keep up with the latest oddity. Will you find that the Study Edition in hardcover is considered a different book than the otherwise identical but less expensive Student Edition in paperback? Is the Abridged Edition for Younger Readers catalogued as the same book as the Enriched Edition?

Flip a coin!

Translations -- and not just Bibles -- are a notorious problem area, followed closely by classics of English and American literature, and trailed by much-reprinted popular fiction, with decisions going in both directions for no clear reason.

 
At Sat May 27, 06:30:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Glenn, I wish to say a bit more in case it wasn't clear in my earlier response what I believe is the higher road in such debates. I believe that when someone makes specific claims, as T. Christian has done, with the translation wordings he evaluates, it is necessary to present specific evidence refuting it if someone disagrees. It is not sufficient to dismiss the claims of someone as being "subjective" (of T. Christian) or "shallow" (of Dr. Grudem), etc. The only way that we can truly evaluate the various claims in the Bible versions debates is if everyone deals with specifics and presents credible, scholarly evidence from the biblical languages for or against a claim.

I would encourage you to support your displeasure with T. Christian's review by presenting evidence from the biblical languages that would show weakness in his specific arguments. Address each specific claim with specific evidence or counter-evidence.

In we all did this, there would be much less fire in the debates and much more edification and increase in understanding.

 
At Sun May 28, 07:57:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Just for clarification, I do not fully endorse T. Christian's comments about Dr Grudem. For example, Christian writes "he simply is incapable of being unbiased and honestly looking at the translation and textual issues". As I am not a Calvinist, I do not believe that anyone is incapable of turning away from wrong attitudes and actions to do what is right, but they have the free choice to do so. (This is not intended as a full statement of my theological position on such matters!) Grudem has so far proved his unwillingness to provide an objective assessment of TNIV based on proper evidence. He could do so if he chose to. And if he wishes to be taken seriously in this or any other matter, he should do so.

 
At Sun May 28, 10:34:00 AM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

Peter Kirk mentioned, "He could do so if he chose to. And if he wishes to be taken seriously in this or any other matter, he should do so." in reference to Dr. Grudem.

I don't endorse what Grudem says either, and I have many points of contention with him (as with most any other scholar who is brave enough to actually publicize some of their incredulous ideas) but I don't feel that I am judge and jury on the man.

If we all need to start doing everything objectively (which could endanger conviction) then we should all just give up now. We aren't robots. If Dr. Grudems conviction is what it is, and he sticks to his guns, then I can't fault him for that. At least he isn't like me, who has personally flip flopped on the gender issue multiple times. I say it is because I am open minded, others would just say I can't make up my mind.

Who knows...

 
At Sun May 28, 10:42:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Matthew said:

If Dr. Grudems conviction is what it is, and he sticks to his guns, then I can't fault him for that.

True, Matthew, but we can fault him, I believe, for claiming that those who disagree with him are in error. He does so with his long lists of supposed "inaccuracies" in the TNIV. He provides little, if any, evidence to support his claim of inaccuracy. The fact is that those are not necessarily inaccuracies, but differences of opinion about what is a better translation wording. Scholars often have to agree to disagree. They can still stick to their guns.

 
At Sun May 28, 12:10:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I was involved in a seminar in 1997 and have followed the matter of the Colorado Springs Guidelines for some time from a distance as an observer. It is my conviction from information that I was told in 1997 and information I received yesterday, that the signatories of the statement of concern against the TNIV, and especially those who initiated this statement, have said things that are in point of fact untrue.

I carry the knowledge of untruths told and it is a burden to me.

I do not attribute motives, but certain information has been deliberately misrepresented. How can I speak for the truth?

In spite of the seemingly harsh things that I have said, in all this time, no one has ever shown me that I have said something that is not factual. In fact, I have left certain things unsaid since they are so unedifying.

This is not an issue of gender language, That is simply an example, one small example. It is a matter of truth and honour. Evangelical theologians have been deeply hurt by the Colorado Springs Guidelines, the ensuing statement of concern, the ongoing radio programs and journals that pursue this issue. This reflects on the Christian community, Christ's church.

I am not T. Christian and I do not know who this person is, but I make a plea for truth.

Who will hold the signatories of the statement of concern to account?

 
At Sun May 28, 03:39:00 PM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

Wayne Leman said, "True, Matthew, but we can fault him, I believe, for claiming that those who disagree with him are in error."

From his point of view he can fault them for not agreeing with his claims, and from our point we can fault him for his claims. Everyone gets faulted!!! It's a fault party.

Suzanne McCarthy said, "Evangelical theologians have been deeply hurt by the Colorado Springs Guidelines, the ensuing statement of concern, the ongoing radio programs and journals that pursue this issue. This reflects on the Christian community, Christ's church."

I think we should be glad that "Christ's Church", as you put it, and evangelical theologians (don't forget the scholars) continue to take issue with the issues. For me, it is a sign of life, for others, it is just constant busy work. Much depends on perspective.

You go on to say, "I carry the knowledge of untruths told and it is a burden to me." I don't think a single one of us who has come into contact with an issue of some sort could deny this. It is not the burden of the individual, but the burden of humankind, that we should become aware of "untruths" and feel their weight upon our shoulders. The most cursory look into the "world", and I feel the burden that Christ must have felt. He knew the truth, yet noone was willing to listen, aside from a scant few (and, truly, few still).

I think what really reflects on the christian community is how complacent we have become. You know what is really unfortunate? That we just can't seem to simply do what our Lord and Savior told us to do, which is clearly illustrated in scripture (regardless of gender accuracy). That is unfortunate.

You said it was a burden to carry the knowledge of "untruths" told in relation to this (still) current issue. Just imagine how much more of a burden it is to know the truth of God's Son.

Current issues don't seem so bad when I remember that we as people don't like the truth, because it shows up our impurities, and our wrongs.

Let me say this. Although I don't agree with the way the gender issues have been handled, and I don't have any admiration for the Colorado Springs Guidelines, I am glad that a Christian oriented group stood up for something. Could they be wrong? Sure, but at least they didn't just mindlessly accept. We are such infants in our understanding, the more I learn, and the more education I get, the more I learn that the wisdom of humankind really is foolishness. I know I feel like a fool all the time in the ways that I think.

 
At Sun May 28, 04:26:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Matthew writes,

I am glad that a Christian oriented group stood up for something.

Personally, I would rather see a Christian oriented group stand up for truth.

 
At Sun May 28, 09:22:00 PM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

Suzanne, when you quote, please do so with full context, or at least, for heavens sake put three little dots (re: ... text ...) to indicate that text follows or precedes the quote. The way you quoted would get a person thrown out of college.

Here is the full context: "Although I don't agree with the way the gender issues have been handled, and I don't have any admiration for the Colorado Springs Guidelines, I am glad that a Christian oriented group stood up for something. Could they be wrong? Sure, but at least they didn't just mindlessly accept."

My whole opinion was that we should concentrate on the important parts of christianity (THE TRUTH) and not the minor parts. I'm sorry this was so blatantly missed, I will do better in the future to spell it out very clearly and concisely. Please forgive me.

 
At Sun May 28, 10:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't agree with T. Christian. First, he slammed a translation for following the Masoretic text of the (Hebrew) Scriptures, and then giving the definition from the Septuagint in the footnotes. Now, I would argue that it was completely plausible that the Masoretic text was accurate and the Septuagint, as often happens, had a mistranslation. The responsible thing to do is list the alternate meaning in a footnote ... which is exactly what the ESV did.

Furthermore, he didn't address the two most serious problems with TNIV: first, its hideously ungrammatical use of English, making an inelegant text; and second, its imputation of Christian interpretations of the (Hebrew) Scriptures, a fault that is also shared by the ESV. The poor language of the TNIV is simply inexcusable; it encourages improper English among those who read it. But the failure to read the (Hebrew) Scriptures as they were read by Jews means that everyone who reads these translations is getting a highly biased interpretation, not a translation. In this respect, translations such as the (New) JPS or, to some degree, the NRSV (although it is not a completely reliable translation) are superior.

 
At Sun May 28, 11:40:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Mon May 29, 04:23:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Anonymous, I agree with your comments about TNIV's "imputation of Christian interpretations of the (Hebrew) Scriptures". This is not a good thing, although TNIV is an improvement on NIV in this area. But this is a different issue which was not raised by T. Christian - except for his/her preference for the LXX text at one point.

As for "The poor language of the TNIV", please can you be a bit more specific. Are there any particular constructions you object to, or particular verses which you would want to rephrase?

 
At Mon May 29, 09:42:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Matthew,

I would like to apologize for my reaction to your comment. It seems in the nature of the medium that some things are misunderstood.

I feel you are speaking from deep conviction as am I.

If i understand you correctly, we both agree this: gender language is not a primary issue, truth is. I appreciate this very much.

Thank you.

 
At Mon May 29, 11:41:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

The most glaring shortcoming of the TNIV's language is the use of plural pronouns as singular genderless pronouns. While I realize that some attempt to defend this as a colloquial use of English (and even trot out previous examples of previous use or statements by a variety of experts defending its use) it is simply the case that the vast majority of educated readers find this usage non-standard.

If the vast majority truly believe this, as you claim, then why do so many (perhaps a similar "vast majority") use the singular they.

And what linguistic plumbline are you using to determine that singular-they is "non-standard".

I hear it all the time, from fluent English speakers of many social levels, including many with advanced graduate degrees. How can something which is so standard in usage be "non-standard"? Who determines what is standard and non-standard?

 
At Mon May 29, 11:43:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for your explanation. I must say I had wondered if you were confusing TNIV with ESV and the other "essentially literal translations" mentioned in Wayne's latest posting. For it seems to me that these versions contain far more examples than TNIV does of what is by the standards you appeal to "hideously ungrammatical use of English".

As for your claim concerning singular "they" that "it is simply the case that the vast majority of educated readers find this usage non-standard", this is simply not the case here in England where this usage is widely accepted, and we are a large enough proportion of the English speaking population to falsify your claim about "the vast majority".

 
At Mon May 29, 12:12:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Mon May 29, 12:23:00 PM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

Suzanne, you said, "If I understand you correctly, we both agree this: gender language is not a primary issue, truth is."

You would be exactly correct!

 
At Mon May 29, 03:34:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Anonymous, "the vast majority of educated readers" are not at Cambridge or Oxford! But I can give you an example of its use in what is perhaps the most famous publication of either of these universities, the Oxford English Dictionary:

They

2. Often used in reference to a singular noun made universal by
every, any, no, etc., or applicable to one of either sex (= `he or she').

Also I can quote you an example from a famous Oxford scholar of English who was also a Cambridge professor:

She kept her head and kicked her shoes off, as everybody ought to do who falls into deep water in their clothes.

CS Lewis, Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" Chapter 1.

Or from another Oxford scholar, Lewis Carroll:

* Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:
o ``Whoever lives there,'' thought Alice, ``it'll never do to come upon them this size: why, I should frighten them out of their wits!'' So she began nibbling at the right-hand bit again, and did not venture to go near the house till she had brought herself down to nine inches high.
o ``If everybody minded their own business,'' the Duchess said in a hoarse growl, ``the world would go round a deal faster than it does.''
o ``Somebody said,'' Alice whispered, ``that it's done by everybody minding their own business!''
* Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There:
o [White Knight:] ``It's long,'' said the Knight, ``but very, very beautiful. Everybody that hears me sing it -- either it brings the tears into their eyes, or else --''

These examples and many others courtesy of Henry Churchyard.

 
At Mon May 29, 05:52:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Tue May 30, 04:11:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Henry W Fowler (1858-1933) (assuming we can trust Wikipedia at least this far) does not postdate CS Lewis (1898-1963). Fowler was a child of a Victorian era which believed in prescriptive grammar. That Victorian belief still survives in a few quarters, but to most of us in England it is as dead as Queen Victoria and Fowler himself. Although Fowler worked on the Oxford dictionaries himself, that project has abandoned his prescriptive approach for the descriptive one which it now follows.

You state that "most of us were taught in school to avoid the singular "they"". Really? This is certainly not true of most people in England today, for at least since the 1960s formal English grammar has hardly been taught at all, and certainly such details have been ignored.

I will agree with you the matter is controversial (although the existence of a Wikipedia entry is no proof of that!) and that "the singular "they" ... is not accepted in all quarters". There are clearly some, including yourself, who continue to reject it vehemently. But they are probably a minority, and certainly not "the vast majority".

The issue of whether Bible translations should use colloquial English is an interesting one, but a separate one. I am not here arguing that they should, rather that the language of TNIV is now acceptable in all but the most formal e.g. legal registers of English.

 
At Tue May 30, 07:21:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Remember that when asked about the singular 'they', Dr. Packer just shrugged and said that it was "perfectly standard". Whatever quibble he may have with the TNIV it is not grammar.

 
At Tue May 30, 01:49:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Tue May 30, 02:30:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

All of my dates are correct. The error is yours, Anonymous, as I was not giving the dates for Charles Dodgson but for CS Lewis. Lewis was one of the authors I quoted as using singular "they"; I repeat:

She kept her head and kicked her shoes off, as everybody ought to do who falls into deep water in their clothes.

CS Lewis, Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" Chapter 1.

I can agree with "Anonymous"' point (a) If grammar distracts a reader's attention from what the actual text indicates, then it adds a barrier to his (or her) comprehension of the text. This is the very reason why TNIV uses singular "they": because the obsolete use of generic "he" in such places in other versions such as NIV and ESV (but not NRSV) distracts the attention of readers, especially in the 18-35-year-old target audience. Again, RSV, ESV and NASB are more guilty here, because they use the kind of non-standard grammar which Wayne has complained about far more commonly than TNIV uses singular "they". In fact I note that NRSV avoids non-standard grammar in several of the examples Wayne quotes, probably to avoid having to follow it up with generic "he", but not in Proverbs 21:18 "The wicked is a ransom for the righteous", where NRSV uses non-standard grammar. And the comments on Wayne's NRSV page on this blog give other examples of poor English in NRSV, e.g. Genesis 25:8 "Abraham ... died in a good old age". So, while we can both appreciate NRSV for avoiding too much use of the constructions we don't like, we cannot consider it ideal English.

 
At Wed May 31, 04:12:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Hi,

As you can see from the quotes further down the article, not everyone agrees with your appraisal of 'they' usage. (I refer to the quotes from the style manuals)

Wayne, you asked me to be specific, but this says it much better than I could with my limited abilities.

(Source is given at the end of the article)

"What about the grammar? Although this is not our primary concern, we suspect that the TNIV’s regular use of “singular they” is a colloquial form English that many readers will find unacceptable for the written English of the Bible. Of course, readers will have to decide this for themselves. But we think it appropriate to point out that while TNIV mentions some style manuals that approve this use, they miss a significant point of difference: these style manuals are talking about how they want people to write their own sentences today, not about how people should translate sentences from an ancient author who actually used masculine singular pronouns to speak of an example of a general truth. None of the English manuals quoted tell us to translate another writer’s masculine singular pronouns as gender-neutral plurals!

In addition, we should point out (a) that many other respected manuals reject singular “they” as incorrect (see below), and (b) that English stylists have been under tremendous pressure for decades to conform to or even to require “politically correct” speech. So they are not entirely free from bias.

Several highly respected English authorities reject “singular they” and consider it unsuitable for standard written English. For example, the 2000 edition of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, perhaps the most widely-acclaimed and most respected handbook for good writing in the English language, says, “Do not use they when the antecedent is a distributive expression such as each, each one, everybody, every one, many a man. Use the singular pronoun.” They then give examples of incorrect and correct usage: [incorrect:] Every one of us knows they are fallible. [correct:] Every one of us knows he is fallible. (William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2000), p. 60).

The current edition of The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual (2000) directs, “use the pronoun his when an indefinite antecedent may be male or female: A reporter attempts to protect his sources. (Not his or her sources...).” While it also says that a sentence may be best recast as plural, as Reporters attempt to protect their sources, there is no mention of any possibility of a mixture such as A reporter attempts to protect their sources, which is the style we find throughout the TNIV. (See Norm Goldstein, ed., The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual (Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus, 1994), p. 114).

William Zinsser, in his book On Writing Well, says that simply changing “he” to “they” is not adequate. He says, “I don’t like plurals; they weaken writing because they are less specific than the singular, less easy to visualize” (William Zinsser, On Writing Well, 5th ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 1995), p. 123).

And English speakers recognize that there remains something strange, something that seems vaguely plural, when “they/them/their” in a singular sense. That is because in the vast majority of cases we use it as plural. So when we try to use it as singular, even when the context would require a singular sense, it just does not work. Think of these sentences:

They is happy.
They is singing.
Is your husband home? Yes they is.
I am not taking phone calls this morning, but if Peter calls, I will talk to them.

In every case, the context tries to force a singular meaning, but the sentence just won’t work. “They” remains stubbornly plural.

So we doubt that “they” is truly an adequate substitute for singular “he/him” even in sentences like the TNIV’s “rebuke the offender; and if they repent, forgive them.” To change “him” to “them” removes the particularity of the specific male example (“your brother ... him” in Luke 17:3) and creates a subtle broadening of the statement to a thought of all the possible people who could fall in the category of “the offender.” This is why we would naturally think it strange to read, “If your brother sins, rebuke them” or even “If any brother sins, rebuke them.” The word “them” just does not function as a true singular in English.

Now the TNIV may say that it is attempting to represent conversational English. Yet there are still some restraints. For example, people in conversation say things such as, “Please pray for Sally and I” (rather than “me”), but it does not seem appropriate to us to put this into the written text of the Bible. (For further material on the use of generic “he” or “plural they,” including many modern examples of generic “he,” see the related CBMW article. )

Wilson Follett, Modern American Usage, revised by Erik Wensberg (New York: Hill and Wang, 1998), agrees that people use plurals to refer to a singular antecedent in colloquial speech, but he then says, “But no esteemed writer of English, early or late, has been cited as using this oddity page after page, in work after work” (p. 31). (We might add, no esteemed writer of English until the TNIV translators.)"

Taken from www.genderneutralbibles.com
(Website sponsored by CBMW)

 
At Wed May 31, 04:59:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Glenn, thanks for responding. You ended:

(We might add, no esteemed writer of English until the TNIV translators.)"

Would the following who lived before the TNIV translators be considered esteemed?

the translators of the KJV
Shakespeare
C.S. Lewis

Each of these and many more well known English writers used the singular they long before the TNIV was ever thought of or even before the feminist movement. Sometimes CBMW does not do careful enough research before posting material on its websites.

 
At Wed May 31, 05:19:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne, you mentioned the KJV translators, Shakespeare and CS Lewis. Of course they used singular "they" occasionally, not "page after page" as in the condition set in the CBMW text. But then TNIV does not use it "page after page" either, but in fact rather rarely.

CBMW's real argument, it seems to me, is made clear earlier in the article, where it mentions "how people should translate sentences from an ancient author who actually used masculine singular pronouns to speak of an example of a general truth". So the article is simply assuming that this is what the ancient author was doing, and that the TNIV translators must have been trying but failing to translate this sense. But the TNIV translators have clearly stated that this was not what they were doing. Indeed it could not have been, because the concept that "an ancient author ... used masculine singular pronouns to speak of an example of a general truth" is an entirely novel one, one which as far as I know was first put forward within the last ten years and which has never been given a proper theological and linguistic explanation.

CBMW would do better to clearly separate the exegetical and translational issues here. Since their primary concern is an exegetical and theological one applicable to all peoples at all times, they are only confusing and weakening their case by mixing in with it the specific linguistic issue of singular "they", which is specific to one language, English, at this particular point in its rapidly evolving history. Even if they win the linguistic argument now, they will have to fight it again in ten years because the linguistic factors will have changed by then. If they want a lasting victory, they should fight not for the shifting sands of linguistics but for the solid rock of exegesis and theology.

 

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