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Friday, June 09, 2006

Apology to my pastor's wife

Blame this post on the blogger break. I was surfing the net a little more than usual and found the passage which I quote below.

Recently I was talking to my pastor's wife, a brilliant woman, who is writing a series of Bible Studies. She was explaining to me the deplorable state of biblical literacy and I expressed some reservation. I may have said something like "All the guys I know seem to be biblically literate."

However, after reading the following quote, I realized that I owe her an apology. Biblical literacy has fallen to a new low.

This is from an article called "Evangelical Lap Dogs", by R. C. Sproul, which appeared in an excerpt from the November 2002 issue of Tabletalk:

    "Actually, the TNIV appears to be a move not toward greater accuracy but away from it. One example: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.' (Matt. 5:9). The TNIV changes sons to children. But the Greek word huios in its plural form means 'sons,' not 'children. 'My Latin Bible translates it 'sons' (filii). My German Bible, my Dutch Bible, and my French Bible translate it 'sons.' Likewise, every English Bible I own translates it 'sons.' Indeed, from the first century until today, the whole world has understood what the Greek says.
Is it possible that R. C. Sproul does not own either a King James Bible or a Luther Bible? Can anyone verify if this is an authentic quote? I don't know who Sproul is but Wikipedia says that he is some years older than I am so I find this hard to believe. Apparently he has written a book called Knowing Scripture, 1977, so he is one of those who ought to know.

Have evangelicals given up on even owning a King James Bible? Maybe Wayne could conduct a little survey for me to see how few people left today grew up on the KJV.

Sproul continues,
    "It was not until the advent of gender-inclusive language (the legacy of radical feminism and political correctness) that any translation dared to change the original text. This is accommodation to the culture.
I knew all along that Luther's Bible would not meet the Colorado Springs Guidelines, but I did not realize that the King James Version was in the same boat. Can someone tell me if the KJV is still sold in the USA today?

I asked Dr. Packer about why the ESV had used 'sons' and not 'children' in Matt. 5:9 and he answered,

    "We were not trying to repristinate the King James Version, you know."
At least he was familiar with the King James Version.

If this is a misquote of Sproul, I beg forgiveness. However, I will also apologize to my pastor's wife. She found me naïve in my assumption that most people have a basic familiarity with the text.

Update: It was not until later that I realized where I had heard Sproul's name before. He is one of the original 12 who affirmed the Colorado Springs Guidelines. He also signed the statement of concern against the TNIV. He does not even own a King James Bible?

Those who drafted and affirmed the CSG did not consult the most basic lexicons, the King James text, or even the Luther Bible. Exactly what references did they use? These guidelines should be quietly dismantled and the statement of concern against the TNIV removed from the internet. Surely anyone proposing Bible translation guidelines for an entire nation should meet certain basic biblical literacy standards.


At Fri Jun 09, 10:12:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

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At Fri Jun 09, 11:07:00 PM, Blogger Richard A. Rhodes said...

I haven't done a systematic survey, but I teach a class of about 250 students each semester about the history of contact between Native Americans/First Nations people and Europeans/whites. There's a lot of Christianity lying around in that history and Biblical references abound, but without explanation they consistently fall flat, even among the openly born-again students (an ever increasing number in this age of fundamentalist pride).

At Sat Jun 10, 02:09:00 AM, Blogger Ruud Vermeij said...

I wonder what Dutch Bible he is using. From all Dutch Bibles I checked, the Statenvertaling (comparable to KJV), the NBG51 (widely used in the second half of the 20th century), the Catholic Willibrord translation and the GNB and the 2004 Nieuwe BijbelVertaling all have children. In fact I could only find one version (Herziene Voorhoeve, 1982, only New Testament) that has sons. This version is not widely used.
His claim is (at least) strange, when talking about Dutch translations...

At Sat Jun 10, 07:51:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

I haven't been able to varify your quote one way or the other, (if you could provide a link to where you found it....) but from looking at Thayers and others 'sons' does appear to be the better and more accurate translation in this instance.

At Sat Jun 10, 08:01:00 AM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

In the KJV the word is translated "son" 307 times, "children" 47 times, "sons" 24 times, "child" 3 times and "foal" once (1).

Also, the comments concerning the KJV being sold in America etc. I find it to be true that many of us grew up on the KJV (I did, although there was much use of the NIV as well), that the KJV remains very popular in the USA (consistently only edged out in sales by the NIV), and most of us yankees own one, even if we don't use it as our primary bible. Heck, some of us even have an old family heirloom KJV in storage. The KJV still very much permeates our society, even though some won't think so. But that's okay, I get my opinion too. Haha.

At Sat Jun 10, 09:03:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thank you.

My sense is that people have the KJV as an object on their shelf but not written as words on their heart.

It must be the RSV that most people think of as the Bible.

How could someone not know that the peacemakers were the 'chlldren of God.'


I am not speaking about accuracy here, we could go in so many directions here, but about the tradition of translation, the fact that the change is really from 'children' to 'sons' made by the RSV, and this change very much affected me. How did I feel to see the RSV change the word of God in this instance?

Are the feelings of grown men more important than say the feelings of a child (who might not be a son)? Did anyone think how a little girl would feel picking up an RSV, and finding herself written out?

Sproul identifies with the Bible from the first century until today, but he does not know it. Those who do know it must see their feelings ignored.

I apologize for not saying where I got the quote, but I feel it is better without that context. I have no reason to think that it is not accurate, but I cannot get into the Tabletalk archives.

At Sat Jun 10, 09:42:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

For the record, here are some other English versions which translate huioi as "children" in Mt. 5:9:


"Children" is an accurate translation when Greek "huioi" refers to both males and females. It is quite likely that Jesus was including females in his statement on peacemaking. Some of the greatest peacemakers in history have been women.

At Sat Jun 10, 12:24:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, this is a great posting!

But don't blame the RSV translators for changing "children" to "sons". This dishonour seems to belong to the translators of the English Revised Version of 1881, which reads "sons of God" in Matthew 5:9. They probably made this change because of their policy of concordant translation. From there it was copied into the ASV, and thence the RSV.

At Sat Jun 10, 12:58:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I understand the priniciple of concordant translation and I knew Darby had 'sons' for Matt. 5:9 on this basis.

But I did not know who had brought 'sons' into the tradition of the 'authorized' translations.

If you establish that you want a 'concordant' translation then it makes some kind of sense. But concordance has its limits. Would Aquila Ponticus be responsible for the most literal?

At Sat Jun 10, 06:51:00 PM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

"Did anyone think how a little girl would feel picking up an RSV, and finding herself written out?"

If it is her first time reading the Bible she may not know that she is included in it to begin with, yet alone that she has been purposefully written out!

You overvalue the popularity of the RSV. I come from an evangelical family, and they have almost exclusively used the KJV and NIV for the past 30 years. Before that, they ONLY used the KJV.

I never even heard of the RSV until after I had graduated from High School and started discovering alternative translations for myself!!!

The RSV was a popular translation although in a limited sense, those who produced it (those behind the translation) and the way in which they translated some passages sealed the fate of the RSV for the general bible reading public before it ever even had its foot out of the door (History has proved this fair enough).

At Sat Jun 10, 07:30:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

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At Sat Jun 10, 09:43:00 PM, Blogger SingingOwl said...

Yes, Suzanne, the KJV is still widely sold in the USA.

I think in "King James" for so many verses...even though I do not preach from it. I have to keep a KJV concordance so I can find the passage and then look it up in a more contemporary version.

If Sproul said this it is....inexcusable, IMO.

At Sat Jun 10, 11:00:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thank you,

You have confirmed my own experience.

What concerns me is that I cannot understand the premises which the Colorado Springs Guidelines are based on. I cannot talk of motive, but I wish to understand what their purpose is and whether they have any influence at all now, or if I am tilting at windmills.

At Sat Jun 10, 11:23:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

What concerns me is that I cannot understand the premises which the Colorado Springs Guidelines are based on. I cannot talk of motive, but I wish to understand what their purpose is and whether they have any influence at all now, or if I am tilting at windmills.

I don't think you are tilting at windmills to be concerned about the CSG, Suzanne. If we examine the signatories to those guidelines there are very few biblical language specialists among them. I'm talking about people whose doctorates are in biblical languages and who would be regarded as some of the best informed scholars on biblical languages. There was no one with any special training in translation principles, that I know of. Primarily the group was made up of preachers (some well-known) who are devout, committed to protecting God's Word as they understand it, and who believe that reducing the amount of masculine-oriented language in English Bibles is a concession to the feminist movement, whether deliberate or subconscious.

The CSG have not had much of an effect among the highest levels of quality biblical scholarship, including those of conservative and evangelical wings of the church.

Only two Bible versions have been produced which followed the CSG. I predict that no others will be.

Theological and ideological storms like this tend to go in cycles. I don't know how long Dr. Grudem can keep up his energy fighting the TNIV. He is the main person fighting this fight now. Yes, there are pastors who follow him and have adopted the ESV in their churches. But I'm not sure how long the unusual notion of male representation in language and federal theology will be held up as something deserving of continued support. It may be that there will be other causes to move on to for many who initially signed on to the anti-TNIV package. And it has been the case that as scholars have objectively studied the TNIV further, they have found that it really is a pretty good translation after all. The lists of so-called "inaccuracies" that Dr. Grudem has promoted are, I think, recognized by many as more of the nature of differences of exegetical opinions, rather than errors.

That's my take on it, anyway. I still think it is worth the effort to bring biblical and linguistic light to bear on the CSG so that people can make as informed decisions about claims that have been made as possible.

I surely cannot fault Dr. Grudem and those who believe as he does about male representation and federal theology for their sincerity. They truly believe that they are protecting God's Word from error. Of course, those who translate in ways they disapprove of are just as sincere in believing that the exegetical options they have chosen (all strongly supported by sound biblical scholarship) make the TNIV more accurate than the NIV. And in terms of gender-accuracy, it seems to me that the TNIV is more accurate than both the ESV and HCSB which retain masculine words where many, if not most, biblical scholars would view there to be a gender-inclusive reference.

I'm thinking of passages such as Rom. 12:1, Mt. 5:9, etc.

At Sun Jun 11, 12:50:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

RSV was very popular among evangelicals here in the UK in the 1970's. In fact it was the version almost everyone was using, at least in the Christian Union and evangelical Anglican circles I moved in, until by about 1980 it was gradually eclipsed by NIV.

At Sun Jun 11, 03:01:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

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At Sun Jun 11, 03:03:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Our church has used the RSV for at least 30 years, and at the rate we are going, will be doing so for the next 30 years.

This morning was youth Sunday and a 13 year old girl, pigtails and freckles, treble voice, read 2 Tim. 2: 1- 6 in the RSV.

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,
[2] and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
[3] Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
[4] No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him.
[5] An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.
[6] It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.

Then the youth pastor pounded his fist, and thundered out a sermon on not capitulating to culture. He spoke of how a soldier, once he or she has signed on the dotted line, is committed, and a young person must leave behind the things they would rather be doing.

Our youth pastor needs a better Bible.

At Sun Jun 11, 03:20:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

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At Sun Jun 11, 03:43:00 PM, Blogger Ian Myles Slater said...

''There was no one with any special training in translation principles, that I know of.'

What is hard to understand about this assertion..."

I thought that the assertion was about those who drew up the Colorado Springs Guidelines (CSG), and the associated attack on the TNIV. It was the latter, not the former, which with Dr. Youngblood was in fact involved.

So he was one of *their* targets, and Wayne Leman's statements are perfectly consistent.

Or have I missed something?

At Sun Jun 11, 04:15:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

More about Youngblood and Kenneth Barker can be found here. They went on to be translators of the TNIV.

They did attend the meeting, however, Ron Youngblood left the meeting early, due to a prior committment, so he was not part of much of the discussion. Grudem claims that he drafted a set of guidelines himself which were presented for the first time during the meeting, Grudem's guidelines had not been circulated previous to the meeting, and that Sproul, Poythress, and Piper presented statements.

It was in the afternoon, after Youngblood left, that Barker, Piper, Poythress and Grudem sat down and drafted the guidelines that were circulated later from Barker's original notes. However, there is only a partial record of the notes Barker started with.

Grudem writes that he and Poythress know that the KJV used 'children' instead of 'sons' and call the matter of the plural 'sons' "a difficult question requiring a judgement call." In spite of this the guidelines do say that 'sons' should not be changed to 'children', however, banim often means children." (page 13)

Other relevant information here is the fact that Grudem writes about "those of us who came to the meeting with objections about the TNIV. (Tim Bayly, Joel Belz, James Dobson, Charles Jarvis, John Piper, Vern Poythress, and R.C. Sproul)" This is a direct quote about the meeting in June 1997.

I am quoting from pages 19 - 23 of the The TNIV and the Gender Neutral Bible Controversy.

This last statement of Grudem's which he himself wrote in his book, is seriously out of step with his account on Justin Taylor's blog here.

But contrary to what you reported from your friend on the TNIV committee (which I think was his speculation), the ESV grew out of the appreciation of many scholars for the merits of the old RSV and a desire to see it updated, and not out of opposition to the TNIV Bible. The reason for my own involvement with the ESV was a long-standing desire to see an updated RSV, and had little or nothing to do with the TNIV controversy....

I mention this history simply to say that the controversy over the TNIV was not the driving force behind the creation of the ESV.

Please read Grudem's post for the entire context and timeline. It appears clear that the two, the move against the TNIV, and the initiative of the ESV did, in fact, happen at the same time, although Grudem this year tried to disassociate them.

At Sun Jun 11, 04:17:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

The entire event which I refer to above is the June 1997 meeting to draft the CSG. Yes, Youngblood and Barker were there as I describe.

At Sun Jun 11, 09:29:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

I posted:

There was no one with any special training in translation principles, that I know of.

anonymous wondered:

What is hard to understand about this assertion is that Mr. Leman posted about Dr. Ron Youngblood's background here, so he definitely knows about Dr. Youngblood's background in translation principles (and actual translations).

The key wording in what I posted was "training in translation principles". If people are going to develop guidelines for translating any text, in particular the biblical text, they need sufficient training in translation principles to create adequate guidelines. Ron Youngblood is a wonderful Bible teacher, Old Testament exegete, and a longtime member of the CBT (NIV/TNIV translation committee. But to my knowledge, no one on the CBT or the ESV COT, for that matter, has had any training in translation principles. Such training is offered by the Monterrey language institute, by translation training programs for U.N. simultaneous translations, by some specialty programmes in the U.K. such as when people study under Professor Mona Baker, or the translation training programmes throughout the world offered under the auspices of SIL.

Very few English Bible translators in the modern era, since there has been good linguistic foundation that leads to professional training in translation principles, have had training in either linguistics or translation principles. And much is lost in translation without such training. I met once with a subset of the HCSB translation committee and at least two of their men had some training linguistics. One had an M.A. in linguistics from a highly respected private university in the Midwest. Another had a Ph.D. in linguistics which he received in a joint programme offered by SIL and one of the universities it was affiliated with. It was clear to me in talking to the committee that both of these men had important insights into how language works because of their formal studies in language.

Most English Bible translation committtees are composed of individuals who have established themselves as being expert in the biblical language of one or more books of the Bible. They often have quite good exegetical schools. Few, however, have a professional level (Ph.D plus post-graduate professional work) in English linguistics, English literature, linguistics itself, or translation principles. English Bibles could be much better if the committees translating them had several individuals with such background.

Indeed, Mr. Leman said he has has "come to appreciate Ron Youngblood very much."

Indeed I have. He is one of the finest Christian scholars I have ever met. I consider him a friend. He knows Scripture well and has a heart that seeks after God. Ron is one of the best men who has ever worked on an English Bible translation.

But Ron, like most other exegetes who have translated English Bibles, does not have formal training in linguistics or translation principles. Nor should we expect him to. He has done well in the professional areas in which he was taught.

What I am trying to say is that we would get better English Bibles if we had more people translating them who had formal training in linguistics and translation, and also a number who had professional experience and a deep sensitivity to the natural grammar and lexicon of English. One of the best English translations ever made was by J.B. Phillips. By boldfacing the word "English" I intend to focus on the fact that J.B. Phillips, like his contemporary C.S. Lewis, has a wonderful sensitivity to the natural language patterns of English and how to word English well so that it is vivid, attractive, and lively.

We may fault Phillips at times for some exegetical weaknesses in his translation. But his English was splendid. Too many English translation are exegetically strong but so poor in terms of English quality. We need both to have better Bibles. It takes teamwork with good exegetes and those who has mastered English well and do not import foreign syntax from the Bible or anywhere else into English Bible versions. Without both a Bible version will almost certainly display weaknesses that detract from its potential quality.

At Sun Jun 11, 09:43:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

FWIW, Rev. Tim Bayly, a pastor in Ohio and former president of CBMW, has blogged that he himself largely drafted the CSG. I think Rev. Bayly would agree that his training is in theology to be a pastor, not linguistics or translation principles. IMO, someone who drafts guidelines for how to translate the Bible into English should have done formal studies and have professional expererience in translation principles. I think most of us would want those who write and revise the PDR (Physician's Desk Reference) to be well-experienced physicians. The same desire for professional training should be true for those who develop guidelines for Bible translation.

At Sun Jun 11, 10:23:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I was surprised to see the key role that Piper played as well. He is the author of the 'vision of Biblical complementarity' presented in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

At Mon Jun 12, 03:04:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne, didn't Vern Poythress have some training in translation principles? I thought you told me that he had attended SIL courses. And he was one of the Colorado Springs Guidelines signatories.

Suzanne reminded us that "the guidelines do say that 'sons' should not be changed to 'children'". But what is the base point of this "change"? Is it KJV, or RSV, or NIV? It certainly isn't the Greek text, because there is no word 'sons in the Greek text, at Matthew 5:9. So, do the guidelines mean that it is OK to translate "children" where KJV has "children"? I suppose KJV is not in breach of the guidelines because as far as I know no earlier translation had "sons" at this point. So should the guidelines be interpreted as meaning that whether a rendering is acceptable depends on exactly when it was translated? This way lies absurdity!

Then Suzanne wrote "Grudem writes about "those of us who came to the meeting with objections about the TNIV. (Tim Bayly, Joel Belz, James Dobson, Charles Jarvis, John Piper, Vern Poythress, and R.C. Sproul)" This is a direct quote about the meeting in June 1997." But this is also absurd! No one could have had "objections about the TNIV" (is that good English?) in 1997 as the project had not even been started.

At Mon Jun 12, 07:04:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

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At Mon Jun 12, 07:53:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Reasoning in parallel, I naively assumed that those with a strong background in exegesis might be better translators.

I believe that you assumed correctly. It takes both good exegesis and a good understanding of translation principles to translate properly. It is possible for these two sets of skills (not "schools" as I typo-ed in a comment last night!) to be in the same person. Or in a committee translation there might be exegetes and those trained in translation principles working together so that both sets of skills create a proper translation.

There cannot be a good translation without good exegesis. Nor can there be an adequate translation unless there is application of proper translation principles in the translation process.

Actually, there are not simply these two skill sets that are required. There are others, as well. For instance, it is essential that those translating be native speakers of the language into which they are translating. And it is essential that they do not stop using their native speaker sensitivities to their own language as they translate. The resultant translation should sound like it was written by a native speaker of the language.

As for blogging about translation principles, that's a good idea. We could have a number of posts on this blog illustrating some important translation principles and procedures.

At Mon Jun 12, 08:38:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Peter asked:

Wayne, didn't Vern Poythress have some training in translation principles? I thought you told me that he had attended SIL courses. And he was one of the Colorado Springs Guidelines signatories.

I was at SIL Oklahoma when Vern first was there. Vern already had a Ph.D in math, so he audited courses, rather than taking them formally as a student, as far as I know. He became an understudy to Ken Pike who was teaching first year grammar from the viewpoint of his theory of tagmemics. Vern is very intelligent and picked up that linguistic theory quickly. He later would publish using the tagmemic model.

In those days there was no translation theory taught at the SIL courses. So, as far as I know, Vern has never done any formal training in translation. However, it seems from his writings that he probably read later in semantics and some in translation theory. There is a good section on translation theory in the middle of the book which he co-authored with Dr. Grudem. I have found that section helpful and credible.

It seems to me that that where Vern's comments on Bible translation are weakest is when he tries to integrate his personal commitment to Federal Theology in the book he co-authored with Dr. Grudem (who also seems commited to that theology) to Bible translation. It is possible for a person to integrate insights from one discipline (such as theology) to another (such as translation). But one must be very careful that the influence of one discipine upon another not lead one to conclusions which are not very tenable within the field into which the influence in applied. The application of P&G's unique theory of theological masculine representation as applied to the language of the Bible is one of the most questionable parts of their approach to Bible translation. That application overlooks important concepts of cross-linguistic studies in gender systems which demonstrate that gender is often not assigned on the basis of a direct connection to biological gender. There is, instead, what is called grammatical gender where there is a great deal of arbitrary assignment of gender (e.g. Greek pistis 'faith' is feminine, but Greek nomos 'law' is masculine; Hebrew ruach 'spirit' is feminine, while Greek pneuma 'spirit' is neuter). Poythress and Grudem are not consistent in finding theological principles from the grammatical genders of biblical words they discuss. They focus almost exclusively on grammatical genders which accord with their ideology and theological system. That is called selective treatment of the data which is a kind of logical fallacy.

If their theory of the relationship between grammatical gender and theological significance is true, then they should tell us the theological significance of the assignment of all gramamatical genders in biblical languages. What is the theological significance of the gramamtical genders for the biblical language words for "spirit"? What is the theological significance of the fact that the Greek word for "office of an overseer" (episkope) is of feminine gender? Does this mean that the ideal church overseer (1 Tim. 3:1)should be female, but some men can be accepted to that position, as well? I'm sure that Poythress and Grudem would say that it does not. Well, then, how do they determine which grammatical genders are theologically significant and which are not?

At Mon Jun 12, 09:45:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

because as far as I know no earlier translation had "sons" at this point

Peter, you are right here. Wycliffe and Tyndale have 'children' also.

You also remark on the absurdity of my quotes from Grudem. I do quote correctly. Grudem refers to having the NIV people there, that is Youngblood and Barker, I believe, then he switches to saying "those of us who came to the meeting with objections about the TNIV".

So in retrospect he looks back and says, I assume, we had objections about the inception of the TNIV, as a project of the NIV committee. He was trying to head it off, before it was even undertaken as a translation project. But, of course, the inclusive NIVI had been published in England.

I must mention again that I heard about all this in 1998 from translators of the TNIV, specifically that there was a group working against them. So the TNIV committee was formed already before 1997, they were in progress, and the CBMW put together a group to work explicitly against them.

That is how I see it. That is what I believe that Grudem is saying. He says they got together, the seven names I mention because they had 'objections about the TNIV'. So the TNIV was already underway, from 1996 I believe, and then the ESV project was initiated in 1997. I am trying to stick to quoted facts, I hope that I am doing this. The TNIV translators are very dear to me, but they will not protest themselves.

At Mon Jun 12, 09:49:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne, thanks for the clarification on Poythress. Well, it seems that I have a more thorough understanding of SIL translation principles (although not of theology or mathematics) than Poythress does. I studied them at the SIL British School (now ETP). Although my teachers were not as distinguished as Ken Pike, John and Kathleen Callow have published standard works on translation principles: John is co-author of "Translating the Word of God", and Kathleen wrote "Discourse Considerations in Translating the Word of God". And then three times I was an assistant teacher on the translation principles course at SIL/ETP.

So I hope to be able to post on some of these translation principles in future. But I'm not sure that I will have time this week.

At Mon Jun 12, 10:00:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I must mention also that Dr. Packer was firm in his answer that it was the accomodation to culture that was wrong, not any exact translation practise itself.

However, it is also important to note that the Tyndale and other early translations probably did not enter into it, for Packer. I asked Packer about propitiation and what he thought of the various other ways of translating that concept before the KJV, but he was unaware that the word 'propitiation' was a late candidate, around 1585, I believe. Packer just assumed that 'propitiation' was in Tyndale, but it is not. He said that to me directly, "it is in Tyndale, is it not." I changed the subject without answering I was so disappointed.

At Mon Jun 12, 10:37:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Suzanne, why are you unwilling to say where you found the quote that you have given in the original post.
You said "I apologize for not saying where I got the quote, but I feel it is better without that context. I have no reason to think that it is not accurate, but I cannot get into the Tabletalk archives."
As far as I can see there are no Tabletalk archives on the Ligonier site anyway.
I'm sorry, but all we have is an unsubstantiated quote from a source that is dubious at best and if not dubious, why not give it.
Obviously I can't say either way. I don't subscribe to Tabletalk, but to build an accusation against R C Sproul without giving anybody the chance to investigate the varacity of your 'source' is at best an abrogation of your own blog guidelines.
I expect better standards from your goodself, so should you.

At Mon Jun 12, 12:52:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Glenn, the quote by R.C. Sproul is genuine. He said what Suzanne has quoted. I linked to his quote several months ago from my TNIV links webpage. Unfortunately, when I now try the citation link from that webpage I get a dead link.

You are welcome to cite the url from my webpage if you like as a source--it was a legitimate source at one time. Apparently someone has deleted the webpage that used to be on the Internet with that quote from Dr. Sproul.

At Mon Jun 12, 12:56:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

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At Mon Jun 12, 01:39:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Thank you Wayne for clearing that up, but it still begs the question as to why the reluctance to indicate the source.
Why not just say that it is no longer on the web rather than the comment - 'but I feel it is better without that context.'?

At Mon Jun 12, 02:16:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Glenn said:

Thank you Wayne for clearing that up,

You're welcome, Glenn.

but it still begs the question as to why the reluctance to indicate the source.
Why not just say that it is no longer on the web rather than the comment - 'but I feel it is better without that context.'?

I don't think I have written anything like that. Rather, I pointed you to the source which was there on the Internet when I included the link to Sproul's quote. It wasn't until the post on this blog that I went back to see if I could get the source for Suzanne that I discovered the dead link.

I think Suzanne has just addressed your question, also, if you were actually writing about something she has written, rather than something I wrote.

Also, please note that Suzanne referenced the Sproul quote in her original post. Here it is, again:

This is from an article called "Evangelical Lap Dogs", by R. C. Sproul, which appeared in an excerpt from the November 2002 issue of Tabletalk:


At Mon Jun 12, 02:19:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I really had hoped to find the original in the Tabletalk archives. I had expected that it was an electronic journal.

You know my strong preference for using primary sources only. This one time I was not able to use a primary surce. That is matter of pride for me and I regret that I cannot.

So sorry.


At Mon Jun 12, 03:07:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

The correct URL for Tabletalk is now, rather than the dead link which Wayne mentioned. But there is no sign of any archives. I suspect that the original URL was valid only for one month, as it seems that the current site just gives an extract from one issue.

At Mon Jun 12, 03:42:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Peter said:

The correct URL for Tabletalk is now ...

Thank you, Peter. I visited the new address and I have requested Ligonier Ministries to send me a copy of the message by R.C. Sproul that Suzanne blogged about.

At Tue Jun 13, 09:03:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

This reminds me of all those people who insist that there are all sorts of contradictions in the Bible when there are perfectly plausible explanations of the different accounts that don't amount to any contradiction.

Grduem says he went to the meeting with concerns about the TNIV. I looked through the post you linked to, and I don't see him saying anywhere that he didn't have concerns about the NIV revision when he was at that meeting. He does say that the ESV people weren't doing their translation because of the TNIV but because they wanted a revision of the RSV. That's consistent with one of their concerns being that the NRSV was too dynamic in its gender translation, but it's clearly not just that. I see no inconsistency at all. Grudem was concerned about that issue, among others, and he went to this meeting concerned about that meeting, even if it wasn't the obsession that it now is for him. The ESV people had wanted to do a revision of the RSV for a multitude of reasons, one in the list being their disappointment with the NRSV, and one of their reasons for that disappointment was its treatment of gender language.

So I'm a little baffled at this claim that his statement is inconsistent with what he says in that post. There's nothing there that claims that he had no concerns about what would become the TNIV, so I just can't see a contradiction.

At Tue Jun 13, 09:18:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tue Jun 13, 10:28:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

I do not know very much about Mr. Kirk's or Professor Poythress's background in translation principles; and even if I did, I would hesitate to rank them according to relative skill or background. However, I do notice that Professor Poythress reports that he served on the teaching staff of the Summer Insititue of Lingusistics in 1972, 1974, 1975, and 1977.

Indeed, Vern was at the SIL school in Oklahoma those years. Actually, he was there in 1973, also, but maybe he considers he wasn't on staff then. I was there 1972 and 1974 with him. My wife was there 1973 with him, and then with me (then married) at that SIL school in 1974.

As I mentioned in a previous comment, translation principles were not taught at that SIL school, only linguistics. I believe that translation principles came to the SIL school in the U.K., where Peter attended, earlier than they did to SIL schools in the U.S. My wife and I never got any courses in translation principles at any SIL schools, much the pity. We got a separate course on translation principles at a different time and a different place. It was good, but I believe the translation courses now offered as part of regular SIL school curriculums are even better. Things often improve over time, as we learn by doing.

Vern Poythress would not have had any opportunity to take any translation principles courses at the SIL school in Oklahoma since there were no such courses. There were linguistics courses and he did very well at linguistics. He evidences that in how he writes about linguistics in the book he co-authored with Dr. Grudem.

Translation courses teach someone how to translate. Linguistics courses teach people how to analyze languages. They are different subject matter, although both deal with languages.

I want to reiterate that I have the highest respect for Vern's intellect and his training. His first Ph.D was in math. Later he got a Ph.D in theology. He has done very well in both fields.

At Tue Jun 13, 11:26:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy, you write,

He does say that the ESV people weren't doing their translation because of the TNIV but because they wanted a revision of the RSV.

However, these two events were concurrent. These men were taking action to prevent gender neutral language in the new NIV, which is now called the TNIV, and at the same time, they were initiating the revision of the RSV. It is hardly possible to definitively either separate or connect these two events. But I quote Grudem's own book, so you can see what he says. I won't claim that he says something he did not. I concede.

I cannot claim to have taught translation principles like Mr. Kirk, but I was at SIL Washington in 1982 and 1984, and I have both Beekman and Callow, 1974, and Mildred Larson, 1975, two main texts on translation principles still on my bookshelf.

My main role as an SIL student was to audit the Language Policy course given by the University of Washington and report on the language planning and writing systems concepts taught in that course. I also had some input into the initiative of the NRSI, which was developed a few years later.

But that was not my introduction into translation principles. In 1973, I was a student at the University of Toronto with Dr. Al Gleason, who was an associate of Nida's and I had daily access to the Translator Handbook series. I was 17 and I would go into Gleason's office after his lectures on linguistics, and sit there at his desk with one of that series. We talked about Bible translation for hours.

We kept in touch for many years while I studied linguistics and French/English translation prinicples as well. But they are very boring, someone gives you a list of idioms and says "Have 3000 memorized by Christmas."

At Wed Jun 14, 04:53:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Thu Jun 15, 10:12:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

The R.C. Sproul ministry sent me a photocopy of Dr. Sproul's message, "Evangelical Lap Dogs." It arrived today, taking only two days from when I requested it.

Suzanne's quote from Dr. Sproul's messages is accurate and her citation source is accurate. The quote is found on page 7 of the November 2002 issue of Tabletalk, by Dr. Sproul.

If you wish to see a scan of the photocopy of the section of the original message which Suzanne quote, click here.

At Thu Jun 15, 11:47:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Thu Jun 15, 11:55:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Thank you Wayne for all your efforts in this matter.
This is how it should have been handled from the start.
Tracking down the primary soutce (please note, no attempt to withhold this by Ligonier Ministries) and then restricting comments to the perceived issue at hand.
R C Sprouls actual mistake is limited to a strange lapse regarding the KJV. His statements regarding 'sons' as opposed to 'children' are, apart from that quite reasonable.
Let me see; (from versions on my shelf)
NKJV, NASB, ESV, NIV, Living, Amplified, all have 'sons'.
NRSV, KJV, NJB, have 'children'.
(Although I have the Message I consider it little more than a novelty, in fact I find some of what is done to the intrinsic meaning of the text to be a travesty in the Message, which is why I have left it out)
My personal take is that being designated as 'sons' of God has more inherent impact than
'children' of God.
When all the elements are taken into consideration I would go with 'sons' as the better translation and as carrying the greater import.

At Thu Jun 15, 12:25:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Having now read through the entire article (thank you once again Wayne for your sterling efforts in this regard) Sproul is actually making making tha same point as I have above, but putting it better than my poor attempt.

At Thu Jun 15, 12:31:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

anonymous said:

Thanks. It would be nice to see the whole article, to get the full context of Dr. Sproul's comments. Obviously, he made an error in his claims about existing translations, and I wonder what the whole point of his article is (and what the meaning of the title of his article is.)

I have the entire article scanned. There are two pages, each more than 1MB in size. I can try to reduce it some in size without degrading the readability of the poor photocopy. If you would like a copy of the entire article, please email privately to tell me where to send it. My email address is wayneleman at

I think the title of the article, "Evangelical Lap Dogs" is meant to be a derisive epithet toward those with whom Dr. Sproul disagrees.

At Thu Jun 15, 02:15:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Using the link you provided for me to view the greek from LSJ etc.
Huois = A son as primary meaning.

At Thu Jun 15, 08:30:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I appreciate your input on this post. It is helpful for us to read Sproul's original article.

I will stick to the point of my post which is that Sproul, one of the original signatories to the CSG, was not aware of the English. German and Dutch translation tradition from the 14th century to the 19th century.

I did write that Sproul did not own a KJV, but, of course, that was because I took at face value his statement "every English Bible I own translates it 'sons'". I really didn't think of the alternate possiblity, that he owned the KJV but wasn't familiar with the sermon on the mount in that version.

You write,

My personal take is that being designated as 'sons' of God has more inherent impact than
'children' of God.
When all the elements are taken into consideration I would go with 'sons' as the better translation and as carrying the greater import.

I wonder if you would share with us your background in Biblical languages and translation.


At Fri Jun 16, 11:28:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I am having trouble tracking back comments which you are sending to my personal email. If you would continue posting questions here that would help.

I understand that you are suggesting an extensive discussion on the topic of how to translate 'uios.' That could be a series of posts at some time. I am expressing your request here and it is possible that one of us will take this up in the fall.

I appreciate your concern. However, in the comments on this post, I wish to stick to a discussion of the validity of Sproul's assertion regarding the English, German and Dutch tradition for 5 centuries.

As a signatory to a set of guidelines, he must be held accountable not only for the general direction of his article, but also for the research he uses.

You must hold him to the same criteria you hold me to, and much more, because he has influenced policy and practise.


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