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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Packer interview on Bible translation

Suzanne McCarthy interviewed J.I. Packer on February 10, 2006, about Bible translation and English Bible versions. The transcript of that interview is now available for download from:

http://www.geocities.com/bible_translation/list/files/packer.doc

Or if you prefer it in html format, download from here:

http://www.geocities.com/bible_translation/list/files/packer.htm

22 Comments:

At Tue Jul 11, 11:41:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for giving us Packer's words in full. I note:

Suzanne: ... I have to ask you about 2 Tim. 2:2. Did you think that it referred to men?

Packer: I think it means men exegetically - we think that it means ‘men’. ...


This is interesting. Does Packer's retreat from "I" to "we" imply that he was overruled on the committee and is now trying to support its decision? As one classically educated in Greek he surely knows that anthropoi is gender generic, and does not mean "men" in the male only sense. But this is what Grudem and Poythress try to dispute on the basis of their misunderstanding of LSJ and other lexicons.

And then, on the Statement of Concern, Packer said:

I agreed with the substance if not with the precise manner of expression.

That is the partial dissociation of himself from the statement which I noted in comments elsewhere.

Also:

Suzanne: Okay. So does that make the TNIV untrustworthy?

Packer: No it doesn’t. It just means that if you’ve got enough money to buy one further Bible I would encourage you to buy the NL before you buy the TNIV


So he is rejecting "untrustworthy" and so effectively disowning the main conclusion of the Statement of Concern, which is:

we cannot endorse the TNIV as sufficiently trustworthy to commend to the church.

Since Packer is an honest man, he should ask for his name to be removed from the Statement of Concern.

 
At Tue Jul 11, 12:13:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

We wish to dissacociate Dr. Packer from the Statement of Concern. On the other hand, if the authors of the Statement were to see fit to remove the Statement entirely that would also be good.

 
At Tue Jul 11, 03:00:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

if the authors of the Statement were to see fit to remove the Statement entirely that would also be good.

Agreed!

 
At Tue Jul 11, 06:10:00 PM, Blogger son of abraham said...

Suzanne and Peter,

You seem to be grasping at straws. I don't see why you think Packer's words in this transcript show some disagreement with the Statement of Concern. There is no indication of any substantive disagreement here.

Suzanne's contention in the other thread ("We want the truth known, that Dr. Packer does not think that the TNIV is untrustworthy ... He does not disagree on matters of Greek and scholarship with the TNIV") is not supported by this document. He merely indicates, after Suzanne gets excited about the word "untrustworthy" in the Statement, that he would have used a polite understatement if he had written the Statement himself. That is hardly a repudiation of the thought expressed in the Statement of Concern. And there is no adequate basis here for Suzanne's contention that Packer "does not disagree on matters of Greek and scholarship with the TNIV."

 
At Tue Jul 11, 06:30:00 PM, Blogger son of abraham said...

A Correction: After posting my first comment above, I checked the text of the Statement of Concern and I found that the word "untrustworthy" does not really occur in the Statement. The Statement reads,

"Because of these and other misgivings, we cannot endorse the TNIV as sufficiently trustworthy to commend to the church. We do not believe it is a translation suitable for use as a normal preaching and teaching text of the church or for a common memorizing, study, and reading Bible of the Christian community."

And it should be noticed here how the second sentence defines the meaning of the first sentence.

 
At Tue Jul 11, 06:37:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Michael,

This is the core of the argument.

Suzanne: I don’t find autos to be masculine any more than pas and oudeis and those have been changed in the ESV.

Packer: [Pause] Well, you are not quite, um, getting my point. Well I haven’t got this at my fingertips, well I’ll tell you I haven’t got it at my fingertips, nonetheless my memory is, that um instances were produced where that way, that, that say that particular English, let’s call it idiom, was introduced in order to avoid generic masculines which the TNIV is concerned to do ever time it can.

Suzanne: It is considered hundreds of times an inaccuracy in the TNIV, whereas my understanding from autos by comparison to pas, oudeis, pistevon is that grammatical masculines are often, usually, translated without any reference to gender at all. We don’t worry about it – we translate pas, ‘everyone’, we don’t need to say that it is ‘man’. You can say ‘everyone’. So what was special about autos, that made the maintenance of ‘he’ necessary? Not that I would say that I thought the ESV should have used ‘they’. But, does the TNIV have hundreds of inaccuracies in translating autos, with ‘they’? That is what the statement says.

Packer: [Pause] Well I can only respond that we who subscribed to the statement were coming from a different starting point. What we were noticing was that the TNIV did everything it could to be, as they say, as gender neutral as possible, which was a sort of concealment of what was said and so a sort of substituting of - there are cases in point of that, of those inaccuracies, a case in point of what the Bible said and I think that some of those cases are of that sort, a sort of substituting.


If you can't do better than that then you should back out. What is the concealment? What about pas is a concealment if you change from 'every man' to 'everyone'? Are you really trying to tell me that there is a preferential message about salvation for men in the Bible, expressed in the male grammatical ending of autos and the generic 'he' in English?, but not pas or oudeis?

If the cross is the centre of our faith, do not men and women stand on the same ground? Why seek prominence for men (not my words but Grudem's).

All I ask is honesty and justice for a group of mostly men, the TNIV translators. Othrewise I carry on with teaching handicapped children. What do you think I do with my life!

 
At Tue Jul 11, 08:15:00 PM, Blogger son of abraham said...

Suzanne wrote: If you can't do better than that then you should back out.

Good grief, Suzanne. The man was having a short and informal conversation with you (it seems a bit much to call this an interview), and from the transcript anyone can see that he was not enjoying it, and eager to bring the conversation to an end. He did not choose to enter into a detailed discussion with you. And so you conclude, he "can't do better than that," and you announce that he actually has no disagreement with the gender-neutral exegesis of the TNIV.

 
At Tue Jul 11, 10:35:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Tue Jul 11, 11:38:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Michael,

you announce that he actually has no disagreement with the gender-neutral exegesis of the TNIV.

He disagreed with the gender neutral exegesis certainly, but the question is why, when he could not answer the specific grammatical questions. My guess is that very few people take Dr. Packer on. Yes, he was uncomfortable, but he leaned into the tape recorder throughout the conversation.

He has tremendous influence, and should be accountable. He should have been able to out argue me, don't you think. But did he?

Anonymous,

Imagine my surprise when I read this. Dr. Grudem has written 3 books about 500 to 800 pages long on the necessity of male leadership.

I was given one of his books at a certain time in my life so I would know how to live as a Biblical woman. And then I read this. That he has never studied Attic, Homeric or Koine Greek, but only enough Greek to make the Greek words in the NT line up with the RSV!

The real point is that he didn't know the meaning of αδελφος, ανηρ or ανθρωπος. Either the alpha entries were missing from Grudem's lexicon or he never opened one. But I suspect that LSJ is not much used by NT scholars.

So who supported Grudem and Poythress, who surely could be expected to know better but did not? R.C. Sproul and James Dobson.

But worst of all is that Koehler-Baumgartner was spelled Koehler-Bahmgarter. Odd, I thought. And only mentionned in the footnotes, as an afterthought. Not much Greek in this book and not much Hebrew either! I can only say the The TNIV and the Gender Neutral Controversy was not a scholarly book. Afterall who would be allowed to study Koine Greek without a foundation in Hebrew? Not me. I wasn't let into Hellenistic Greek without taking Hebrew first.

 
At Wed Jul 12, 03:08:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, why would you expect Sproul and James Dobson (not my late friend John Dobson who wrote a primer in NT Greek) to know better than Grudem and Poythress? Are they Greek professors? Are any of the signatories? Apparently not. There is a brief Statement of Concern by Evangelical Scholars on the CBMW website, which lists some scholars with their main subjects. None are listed as Greek or Hebrew professors. Some are listed as New Testament scholars, but as this list includes Grudem and Poythress it is clear that there is no implication here of a high level of Greek.

 
At Wed Jul 12, 09:47:00 AM, Blogger son of abraham said...

Suzanne wrote: But worst of all is that Koehler-Baumgartner was spelled Koehler-Bahmgarter.

Worst of all is your crowing about a misspelling of a German name and calling it the "worst of all" things in the book. I checked the PDF file of the book and found that HALOT is referred to in only two footnotes. The two misspellings (Bahmgarter and Bahmgartner) happen only once, and in the same footnote. It's a failure in the typing (observe that "h" is adjacent to "u" on your keyboard) and in the proof-reading of this one note. But if this the worst of all things in the book, what does that say about your case against it?

You wrote: Not much Greek in this book and not much Hebrew either! I can only say the The TNIV and the Gender Neutral Controversy was not a scholarly book.

You are right about that, if you mean that it is not a closely focused monograph written for scholars. Clearly it isn't. It treats a broad subject, and it was intended for a wide readership.

 
At Wed Jul 12, 10:37:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Michael,

You are quite right about the 'h' and the 'u'. Certainly I am not one to talk when it comes to typographic errors!

I understood the book this way. The authors were not familiar with LSJ and they weren't familiar with K-B either. However, it is hard to prove that, but I suspect that was true. But what is the point of writing a popular book on a subject that is not proven academically, and making errors in it. The most obvious about adelphos, but also about aner. They don't seem to realize that when the LSJ says aner means 'man opposed to god', that is man as a generic, without male semanitc content. That is the kind of error that makes this book not acceptable.

 
At Wed Jul 12, 03:59:00 PM, Blogger son of abraham said...

Suzanne wrote: The most obvious about adelphos, but also about aner.

If you think adelphos and aner are gender-neutral words in Hellenistic Greek, all I can say is what Packer said to you: May you have "the best of luck" in your studies.

 
At Wed Jul 12, 06:04:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Michael,

I simply can't find where you respond to the obvious example given by the LSJ for ανηρ. Here it is,

Zeus is the father of men and gods, πατηρ ανδρων τε θεων τε, and this is equated to the rule of a king over his children, των τεκτων αρχη βασιλικη, and the relation of the male parent to child, ο γεννησας προς το τεκτον. The LSJ gives this as the example for aner meaning 'man opposed to god'. Is there some suggestion that the children are only males? Not according to LSJ.

This is from Aristotle's Politics I, 5:2

Dr. Packer was not under the impression that I needed luck in my 'studies'! He did not disagree with me on adelphos but felt the footnote was enough, after all it was 'belaboured'. What are you arguing here?

I think Acts 7:23 makes it plain enough that αδελφος means both men and women.

When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel ESV

Note that in the ESV Israel may have 'children' but God has only 'sons', and we know that this was a departure from tradition. In the Luther Bible, God has children and only ever one Son.

 
At Wed Jul 12, 10:44:00 PM, Blogger son of abraham said...

Suzanne wrote: I simply can't find where you respond to the obvious example given by the LSJ for ανηρ. Here it is, Zeus is the father of men and gods, πατηρ ανδρων τε θεων τε, and this is equated to the rule of a king over his children, των τεκτων αρχη βασιλικη, and the relation of the male parent to child, ο γεννησας προς το τεκτον. The LSJ gives this as the example for aner meaning 'man opposed to god'. Is there some suggestion that the children are only males? Not according to LSJ.

Your argument here is problematic, for various reasons. The comparison of ανδρων with τεκνων (I don't know why you've written τεκτων) in this context does not make me carry over some gender-neutral idea from τεκνων to ανδρων. Aristotle quotes Homer's line on the fatherhood of Zeus (πατηρ ανδρων τε θεων τε) only because he wishes to associate fatherhood with kingly rule. The gender of the ανδρων in Homer's line makes no difference. As to LSJ, it does not even address the point you are trying to make, either way. It only indicates that ανηρ is sometimes used for "men" in contrast with "gods." And in general I will say that examples drawn from classical Greek cannot be given much prominence in determining the meaning of common words in the later Koine. There is something inappropriate about pointing to a quotation from Homer in a discussion like this.

Suzanne: Dr. Packer was not under the impression that I needed luck in my 'studies'!

Well, that's your impression. But I see something different in that remark.

Suzanne: He did not disagree with me on adelphos

He was willing to grant that the plural may be semantically inclusive, but to him this concession was unimportant, because he regarded it as inclusive in the same way that the English word "brothers" can be inclusive. Hence the ESV rendering, which he considered to be "transparent to what was in the original." You were not satisfied with that, and kept returning to the subject, so at one point he dismissed it with the statement, "the generic masculine was a reality in NT times." So if you think you were seeing eye to eye on this subject, you missed something.

Suzanne: I think Acts 7:23 makes it plain enough that αδελφος means both men and women. When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel ESV

A more literal translation here is "sons of Israel" (RSV). Sorry if it offends you, but these are masculine nouns.

Suzanne: Note that in the ESV Israel may have 'children' but God has only 'sons'

You mean when the word in the Greek is uios. I noticed that. And I have observed some other inconsistencies in the ESV that I don't understand.

Suzanne: ... and we know that this was a departure from tradition.

Why do you appeal to tradition here? Is it mere rhetoric, because you know that I value tradition? Your own attitude seems very anti-traditional.

 
At Thu Jul 13, 02:02:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Thu Jul 13, 08:14:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Michael,

τεκτων was a typo or what may also be called a 'thinko'. I lost the comment and had to retype it and rushed. I did write a post last year about a poet and τεκτων.

The following is in my mind a generic.

It only indicates that ανηρ is sometimes used for "men" in contrast with "gods."

You write,

Why do you appeal to tradition here? Is it mere rhetoric, because you know that I value tradition? Your own attitude seems very anti-traditional.

Oddly, no, it was because I value tradition. I value the KJV, and have memorized from it, so 'children of God' and 'brethren' and 'man/men' as true generics are part of my discourse. I am not anti-traditional and would have taken a course from Bruce Waltke last week if I had been free to but I was not.

What surprises me is that the complementarian view is not traditional either. There is a great deal of rhetoric there that shocked me coming from an ultra traditinal home, (where some of us wore those little white scarves you advertise. I don't think much of fussing about headscarves, but a large colourful European style scarf a la princess Anne, although not considered dainty enough, would be prefered, but those little white things are a nuisance and a hat takes great skill to wear properly - my mother was able to. But she was respected for leadership skills and being a very strong person even in the traditional ethic, not for being a net 'receiver' of strength as the complementarian view dictates.)

I had never used a gender neutral Bible before. It was reading Poythress and Grudem's book that got me into this. It simply shocked me.

I do not think Dr. Packer agreed with me, but he did not disagree with how I read the Greek grammatical points. I am glad that I posted the whole interview. That is enough. i won't dissect it any more.

They are all real people to me, Fee, Waltke and Packer, but because I have no institutional association I feel free to enter this debate. I have talked it over with a few others here and they agree that it is important, and worth investigating.

I only seek some kind of resulution to the statement of concern. It disturbs many in our community.

So no I am not anti-traditional, but brought up with tradition, one great influence was my great-aunt, who used to teach Greek at university at the turn of the last century, and was married to a Brethren preacher, who was then excommunicated for financial problems.

I have to go now and write a letter to Grace Irwin for her 99th birthday, another great influence, a Greek scholar and in later life a minister, but always a very traditional woman.

Tradition comes in many shades and colours. I am considered by those who know me to be a traditional person.

 
At Thu Jul 13, 08:58:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Anon,

You may wonder why I digress into such a discussion about the strength of women. Let me explain,

In May 1997, at the table drafting the Colorado Springs Guidelines on gender language, was John Piper, along with Grudem and Poythress.

John Piper is best known for writing this, that women are to,

TO AFFIRM, RECEIVE AND NURTURE STRENGTH AND LEADERSHIP FROM WORTHY MEN. (Piper's capitals not mine!)

Unfortunately, I have seen this statement used to counsel women to submit (in a godly fashion, of course,) to physical abuse. Woman are not to stand up for themselves or other women, but 'receive strength' - sometimes that strength is not so worthy nor so kind.

 
At Thu Jul 13, 10:02:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Thu Jul 13, 11:03:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, well, I believe such teaching as you mention is always taught now by complementarians as well, but it wasn't always so. Some women still find it socially and financially difficult to take advantage of what the church allows. But recent changes to the law have helped, although this problem is by no means extinct.

However, I gave myself 6 months all told to write about gender issues; that time is up, and slightly overdue.

I have been reading Alter's David Story. But that seems not the right place to start. The Five Books of Moses is available at the library so I am off.

 
At Thu Jul 13, 11:04:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Thu Jul 13, 01:29:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, I did get a chuckle out of that. Ms. is fine. My Mr. has gotten used to that.

I sometimes wonder if I will get an anonymous donation one day to send me to an upgrade class for typing. ;-) Small 'a' anonymous, and I am not soliciting funds!

 

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