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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Interim Report review of TNIV passages

Today the Interim Report blog has a post reviewing how several key passages are translated in the TNIV. Here is an excerpt from the blog post:
When I look at a new translation of the Bible, there are certain verses I go to in order to see how various words and phrases are dealt with… such as Gen. 1.1-2…my favorite Psalm – 131… Matthew 5.16… Luke 17.21…1 Cor. 13.1-13… Rom. 4.1-5… Exod. 3.14… Gen. 1.26… Matt. 18.20… John 12.32… 2 Cor. 5.17-21… Phil. 2.6-7… & others. The TNIV does a great job with most of these passages. In Lk 17.21 it correctly says the kingdom of God is ‘among you.’ The usually rendering of “within you” does not fit the context nor New Testament theology. It correctly says in Jn 12.32, “I will draw all people to myself.” The usual “draw all men to myself” doesn’t convey Jesus’ meaning. However, it gets Matt. 18.20 wrong, as many translations do. The sentence is a ‘passive’ in the Greek text. The TNIV renders it as the active voice. The passive shows that it is the Spirit of God that brings people together. Gen 1.26, “Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image,” is correct because “adam” in Hebrew means “humanity.” But later, in chapter 2, it correctly says, “man,” because it is a story about individuals. I like its rendering of “kenosis” in Phil 2.7: “he made himself nothing.” That’s good. “Emptied himself” is okay too; but “nothing” is more stark. The TNIV is helpful at 1 Cor 13.10: “when completeness comes.” Most translations say, “when the perfect comes.” But ‘perfect’ here means ‘the complete.’ All in all, I think the TNIV is probably as good or better than the NRSV. There is no perfect Bible translation, and I know it gets confusing for the ordinary lay person to keep up with all the various versions today. The TNIV is certainly an improvement over the NIV.
I like these kinds of reviews. They strike me as more objective than those which paint with too broad a brush. This review, although short, directly deals with Bible translation issues in the TNIV. It does not seem to start with any ideological assumptions.


At Mon Dec 18, 07:48:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for this. It is indeed a fair review.

But I suspect that Carl Conrad would have a few things to say about the comment here on Matthew 18:20. The blogger insists that the Greek passive form has a passive meaning "someone else brought them together" rather than the "active" or better, in terms of Greek grammar, "middle" voice meaning "they brought themselves together" or "they gathered". But, as Carl has argued rather convincingly, in Koine Greek there is no real semantic distinction between the formally distinct "middle" and passive forms. Therefore the TNIV rendering here "come together" is perfectly justified, and there is no implication that some outside party like the Spirit of God (not mentioned anywhere in the context) has brought them together.


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