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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

TNIV 2 Cor. 5:17

Rick Mansfield wrestles with the translation of TNIV 2 Cor. 5:17 in his blog post today. I like what he has to say and the tone of voice with which he said it. Oh, you haven't used his blog's voice producer option yet so you can hear his voice also?!


At Tue Sep 05, 05:58:00 PM, Blogger lingamish said...

voice producer option?!? Wayne, you are a crazy man!

At Tue Sep 05, 06:14:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Ishmael, I don't know if you've seen my post since I revised it this morning. I withdrew the suggestion to use a singular they. At first I was under the assumption that the committee did not use a singular they for the very reason you cite as it would inadvertantly introduce obscure theology. However, I've come to a very different conclusion after discussion and reflection today. I'm uploading a follow-up post even now.

So there's no singular they to pick a fight with--at least in this verse.

At Tue Sep 05, 08:57:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

My follow up entry to this issue is now posted: 2 Cor 5:17 (TNIV) Revisited: I Recant

At Tue Sep 05, 09:28:00 PM, Blogger lingamish said...


I disagree with your view that singular they is "unnecessary." But this comes down to very subjective arguments on either side. No one is "doing" this to the English language. English is shifting and our translations must try to keep up. Keep "he" and some perceive this as excluding women. Use "they" and it sounds awkward to many of us. Ah, translation is a lovely puzzle, don't you agree?

At Tue Sep 05, 09:29:00 PM, Blogger lingamish said...

Rick, I wish to echo Wayne's praise for the tone of your post. Your gentleness was evident to all.

At Tue Sep 05, 10:40:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I am very relieved that this was finally understood as a move towards accuracy and has nothing at all to do with gender.

On gender neutral pronouns, Anon writes,

If a literal translation such as the NRSV can accomplish this, it seems it would have been easy for the TNIV to accomplish this. And yet, the TNIV translators chose to take a path that introduces unnecessary ambiguity

Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. NRSV

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me. TNIV

In the NRSV, the antecedent is restricted to those to whom the author is talking, not just anyone. Also there is no singular/plural distinction. In the TNIV, the singular third person is retained and only the pronoun is changed. So the TNIV is less ambiguous, far more literal and so on.

It is not a move away from accuracy in either case, since the Greek αυτος is only masculine in grammatical marking, not in semantic content. It only serves to mark the antecedent, in whichever grammatical gender that antecedent appears.

In any case, there is little reason for being sensitive about pronouns. Here is a French sentence and its English translation.

On a vu qu'elles t'ont donne un livre.

We saw that they had given you a book.

In this example person, gender and number are not translated literally.

I am personally comfortable with a variety of pronoun strategies.

However, I wish to note that the NRSV does not retain either number or person, and the TNIV does and is therefore more literal than the NRSV, although marginally so. This seems to be misunderstood.

Personally, I could read or hear a singular 'they' without ever noticing it, although I consider that I am otherwise as sensitive to diction and syntax as any man.

At Tue Sep 05, 11:10:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

On a vu qu'elles t'ont donne un livre.

Oui! On, a true gender-inclusive pronoun with no mismatches between syntactic and semantic gender, person, or number.

If only the English could learn from the French!

At Wed Sep 06, 01:19:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Lingamish said:

voice producer option?!? Wayne, you are a crazy man!

Shh, David. Things like that should not be spoken out loud. We might lose some blog readers if they only knew!


Hey, you've been known to get a bit fanciful at times in some of your own posts, esp. when you get a little too far from serious work and too close to play on the sand and surf. (OK, I confess: I was jealous!)

At Wed Sep 06, 05:37:00 AM, Blogger lingamish said...


My party is just about over! Less than three weeks until we return to Africa and I can't wait. There I'll be wrestling with translation in a slightly different way. And no swimming allowed in the Zambezi. Too many crocodiles and hippos.

At Wed Sep 06, 01:41:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Overall, the choice of words and word order of the NRSV are more accurate than the portions of the TNIV I've read, and certainly more than the NIV.

Generalizations are extremely difficult and I disagree strongly with the tendency to compare translations on a spectrum, rather than within a matrix of different features. Any spectrum comparison clouds the real issues.

An example of this would be the use of the words 'church' and 'bishop' in otherwise literal translations. Why not use congregation and overseer which would be more literal? There were obivously political reasons. These are expressed in the directive to the translators of the KJV.

So, each and every aspect of a translation should be analysed without trapping a translations within a certain point on a spectrum. It is our intention here to break out of that pattern.

On the whole, I too favour the NRSV, and appreciate it very much. Women are, in general, better served by a literal translation. I regret to see that the NIV translates Acts 22:3 as Paul being 'thoroughly trained' rather than 'sat at the feet of Gamaliel' thus obscuring the parallel with Mary who 'sat at Jesus feet and listened.'

In general women are not well served in a less literal translation. However, the present changes in translation of gender terms must be understood as a move towards greater accuracy and literalness, not less.

At Wed Sep 06, 01:43:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I wish you all the best as you prepare to return to Africa. It was a great pleasure to get to know you and I hope you will keep in touch when you can.

At Wed Sep 06, 03:19:00 PM, Blogger lingamish said...

Thanks Suzanne. I'll try to keep up the blogging but probably not be able to post very frequently.

At Wed Sep 06, 05:31:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

It is true that the NRSV sometimes does not retain these, and for that reason some scholars prefer the RSV.

In that case they ought to prefer a translation that retains thou. I am not sure at which date this was lost.

At Wed Sep 06, 08:51:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Nope! But I have been at a couple of bruderschaft trinken events.

In Canada, there is another phenomenon. In French Canada it is okay to 'tutoyer' your teacher, which is not acceptable in France as far as I know. So the significance of the second person sing. in French has shifted in Canada.

In fact, in French immersion programmes in Canada the teacher is usually addressed by her first name. Otherwise, one can call a teacher 'madame' or 'mad'moiselle' or 'm'sieu', but not use the teacher's family name.

At Wed Sep 06, 10:34:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


On in French can be translated into English by 'one', 'someone', 'anyone', 'a fellow' or 'a girl', 'people', 'they', 'we', and 'you' depending on context. That is one reason why I was pretty surprised when I first found people fussing about pronouns in the Bible. They only relate back to the antecedent - they are function words.


Did you see Geoff Pullum's article on Yoda's syntax which I posted in a comment on this post? I thought you might like it!


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