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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Comparing the NIV and TNIV for standard English

Out of 100 Bible wording examples I have evaluated for whether or not they are standard English, it is interesting to note that the TNIV edges out the NIV by 9%. The outranking of the NIV by the TNIV has remained steady as the number of examples I have evaluated as increased, even though TNIV revisions are sometimes more literal than original NIV wordings. (I recall giving a wording in the TNIV a "0" because its change toward greater literalness resulted in a wording which is not so standard English, but I have so far been unable to find that example to include in this post.)

In a large number of cases, the TNIV and NIV wordings are identical. But let's look at some of the differences between the NIV and TNIV which I have noted in my study.

In Matt. 13:38 I consider that TNIV "the people of the evil one", in contrast to NIV "the sons of the evil one," is a more natural way to communicate the Semitic meaning 'belonging to' of the original idiom. The TNIV rendering also communicates the original meaning more accurately to English speakers who do not know that Semitic "sons of" meant 'belonging to.'

In John 12:15 TNIV "Daughter Zion" is better, IMO, than NIV "daughter of Zion," which sounds like it is referring to a female whose father's name is Zion. The TNIV wording is still not as clear as it could be that it is referring to the people of Jerusalem, but this is probably one of those places where the TNIV translators feel that this information needs to come from teaching.

Although my most recent research has been to evaluate whether or not wordings are standard English, I sometimes have observed that one wording is more accurate than another. In 1 Cor. 7:1, I consider that TNIV "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman" is more accurate than NIV "It is good for a man not to marry." Both words, of course, are standard English.

In Eph. 2:3 I gave both NIV "objects of wrath" and TNIV "deserving of wrath" a "1" for being standard English. But this is a case where I would prefer to assign scalar numbers rather than binary ones. The TNIV wording is better English.

TNIV 2 Thess. 3:10 "Anyone who is unwilling to work" is a clear improvement over NIV "If a man will not work." Other recent English versions, including those which strictly follow the complementarians who created the Colorado Springs Guidelines, also correctly translate the gender-inclusive Greek pronoun tis here as "anyone."

It is not standard English to have a testimony "in" yourself or even in your heart. In 1 John 5:10 TNIV "Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony" improves upon NIV "Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart."

What are some other improvements to the quality of English that you have noted that the TNIV has over the NIV?

6 Comments:

At Tue Feb 06, 05:08:00 PM, Blogger exegete77 said...

Howdy, Wayne. I'm not sure that with regard to 1 John 5:10 TNIV is equivalent to the NIV. If they are not presenting the same concept, then it doesn't matter (for your study) whether they are "standard English" or not.

NIV: Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart.

TNIV: Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony.

The NIV presents the view that the testimony is personal internal faith; in systematic theology, the phrase is "the faith which believes". Whereas the TNIV presents the testimony as an external statement of faith; in systematic theology, this would be the faith which is believed" (as in a creed).

So, a first question has to be asked: which translation is reflecting the original text? Only then can we re-ask the question: "which is doing so with standard English.

Looking at the Greek, I think the reflexive εαυτου favors the NIV (and ESV, ISV, GW, etc.). So, then we would have to consider which of these is "standard English". Interestingly, these four translate the passage in the same way.

Rich

 
At Tue Feb 06, 05:35:00 PM, Blogger exegete77 said...

Wayne wrote: In John 12:15 TNIV "Daughter Zion" is better, IMO, than NIV "daughter of Zion," which sounds like it is referring to a female whose father's name is Zion. The TNIV wording is still not as clear as it could be that it is referring to the people of Jerusalem, but this is probably one of those places where the TNIV translators feel that this information needs to come from teaching.

This raises an interesting discussion point. Is "Daughter of Zion" considered a technical term in Hebrew? I'm thinking along the lines of Moises Silva's discussion in Biblical Words and Their Meanings, 2nd ed., p. 77. How far can we adapt the translation of a technical term? BTW, I am writing up a blog on this with regard to other "technical terms", so I would be interested in any insight anyone can provide.

 
At Tue Feb 06, 08:10:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Is "Daughter of Zion" considered a technical term in Hebrew?

I doubt it. I would think it is simply a Hebrew idiom. A technical term is a word or wording which is used with a unique meaning by a special subset of a language group, such a those in the medical profession, lawyers, etc.

I'm thinking along the lines of Moises Silva's discussion in Biblical Words and Their Meanings, 2nd ed., p. 77. How far can we adapt the translation of a technical term? BTW, I am writing up a blog on this with regard to other "technical terms", so I would be interested in any insight anyone can provide.

Well, those are interesting questions, Rich. I've heard the arguments a number of times over the years but so far I have found extremely few technical terms in the Bible. I would like to see a list of them and the evidence that they have a unique meaning to a unique subgroup of technicians.

Obviously, the answer to this question is very important for English Bible translation since some who translate using non-standard English say that they must do so to properly reflect the technical terms in the Bible.

I'm looking forward to being able to examine the evidence.

 
At Tue Feb 06, 08:16:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Howdy, Wayne. I'm not sure that with regard to 1 John 5:10 TNIV is equivalent to the NIV. If they are not presenting the same concept, then it doesn't matter (for your study) whether they are "standard English" or not.

I don't understand what you have said, Rich, but let me hope that I can do justice to what you have said by stating what my study is and is not about. As I said in the preface to this latest study, it is *only* evaluating whether any particular wording is standard English or not. This study is not evaluating accuracy or any of the other important factors that go into determining whether a Bible translation is adequate. I have other studies on accuracy, and some of the other translation parameters.

I do appreciate the comments you have made about the different possible meanings of the NIV and TNIV wordings, and I would like to save your comments for another time when we would be focusing on accuracy. And, yes, as I have always said, and you are saying also, accuracy is the most important translation requirement. If a translation is in standard English but not accurate we might as well throw it out. It is of no use if it is not accurate.

But it is also of value to evaluate whether or not wordings are in the language of the people who are going to use a translation. The Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts were and so we should follow that same language pattern for our translations into other languages, including English.

I don't see any reason why, once we have determined the meaning, as accurately as possible, that meaning should not be expressed only using the standard, high quality literary principles and rules of English.

 
At Wed Feb 07, 05:46:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

But it is also of value to evaluate whether or not wordings are in the language of the people who are going to use a translation. The Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts were and so we should follow that same language pattern for our translations into other languages, including English.

Perhaps the Greek was (although parts of the Greek are quite formal and difficult). It is highly debatable whether the Hebrew uniformly was (the language in many parts of the Bible is quite elevated and complex -- not at all, the language of the people -- I doubt that people ever spoke the language used in some parts of the Bible -- anymore than readers of Shakespearian sonnets used their language.)

I don't see any reason why, once we have determined the meaning, as accurately as possible, that meaning should not be expressed only using the standard, high quality literary principles and rules of English.

That's the rub, isn't it? Actually, I thought it was part of the Reformation heritage for each believer to find his own meaning in the Bible.

But I regard it as a great weakness of contemporary Bible translators that they focus so much on the meaning of the text as opposed to the form.

Consider Psalm 122:6-7 in the KJV:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
They shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls, And prosperity within thy palaces.


The alliteration of the "p"s here is an attempt to capture something very significant about the Hebrew. There is long word play in the Hebrew between "Jerusalem" yerushalayim, "peace" shalom, "pray for" sha'alu, "prosper" (actually to be quiet, at ease), yishlayu, shalvah. Even if you don't read Hebrew, just pronounce this out loud:

sha'alu sh'lom yerushalayim
yishlayu ohavoyikh
yehi shalom b'heilakh
shalvah b'arm'notayikh


As you read it aloud, you cannot help but notice the quiet rhythm, the repetition of the "sh" and "l" sounds, that conveys this strong notion of peace. That's the real message of this text, not the literal meaning of a translation such as the TNIV's

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”


Here the TNIV has taken the literal meaning (more or less) but has taken one of the most beautiful passages in the entire Bible and turned it into the awkward prose of a Hallmark greeting card. It's grammatical English, all right, but cloying, annoying, saccharine English. And that's ultimately unfaithful to the text.

 
At Wed Feb 07, 12:02:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I thought it was part of the Reformation heritage for each believer to find his own meaning in the Bible.

Indeed (and her own meaning), but it is also part of the Reformation heritage that the Bible should be in the language of the people, not in an incomprehensible special dialect.

 

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