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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bible concern survey results

Last September we began a survey on this blog about Bible concerns. The instructions for the survey were:
(Click here for an explanation of this survey before taking it.)

Overall, my biggest concern about English Bible versions today is.
Nearly 1600 visitors to this blog indicated their greatest concern. The results are:

As you can see, the three highest concerns about English Bible versions today, as indicated by those who chose to take this survey, are: accuracy, gender neutralization, and Christianizing the Old Testament.

For anyone not familiar with the term, gender neutralization refers to using a gender-inclusive term when translators believe that the biblical language term being translated refers to a group which included both females and males, or to an individual unidentified in terms of gender such as "someone", "a person," "a child," "anyone," "a believer", etc.

"Christianizing the Old Testament" refers to translating passages of the Old Testament with Christian interpretations, especially interpretations found in the New Testament.

Thank you to each one who responded to this survey. Feel free to comment on its results or the survey itself. I will soon remove this poll from the margin of this blog and move it to the Bible translation surveys webpage.

12 Comments:

At Thu May 03, 07:36:00 AM, Blogger ElShaddai Edwards said...

I'm curious. Based on the previously posted instructions, it would seem that the issues identified in the poll are negative trends that the responder would be concerned about. Are that many people really concerned that modern Bibles are Christianizing the Old Testament? Or do you think that people flipped the poll and the responses indicate that this is one of the most important things for a Bible to do? Isn't the NRSV the only modern Bible to *not* Christianize the OT?

 
At Thu May 03, 08:29:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Based on the previously posted instructions, it would seem that the issues identified in the poll are negative trends that the responder would be concerned about.

Yes, that was my intention for this poll. But I have wondered all along if responses were based more on concerns about Bible translation, in general, not about problems perceived in Bible versions today.

Perhaps my instructions were not clear enough. Or maybe many people are like me and don't like to read the instructions.

In any case, you've raised the basic concern I have had about this concerned (!) poll. I hope we have more comments about this.

 
At Fri May 04, 03:38:00 AM, Blogger Andrew McNeill said...

That's an interesting idea because if 300 people who took the poll think that Christianizing the OT is bad, that disturbs me. Alongside the NRSV, the NET (by apparently conservative scholars!) seems to de-Christianize the OT. I think this increasing trend is disturbing and I doubt that 19% of the people who voted would think that this is a good trend. Perhaps though, I'm merely trying to fit the poll results to my own prejudices.

 
At Fri May 04, 05:29:00 AM, Blogger Peter M. Head said...

But 'concern' is too ambiguous. Presumably most of those concerned about 'accuracy' really want more accuracy. Isn't it likely that those concerned about 'Christianisation of the Old Testament' want more of it too?

 
At Fri May 04, 06:42:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Elshaddai, there are other Bibles which claim not to Christianise the OT. I think TEV/GNT is an example, very likely also CEV. It is certainly the policy of the Bible Societies who publish these versions not to Christianise the OT. Also probably RSV does this a lot less than translations from evangelical sources like NIV and ESV. TNIV has stepped back from some of the more extreme Christianisation of NIV (and in fact quite a few of the criticisms of TNIV relate to this, also TNIV's failure to misquote the OT in the NT to Christianise it), but does still Christianise a bit.

Andrew, the Hebrew Bible was originally a Jewish book written by Jews before the time of Christ. Translators who translate it faithfully as such are not de-Christianising it. But other translators, going back to ancient times, have adapted translation on the basis of Christian (sometimes New Testament) interpretations. Whether that is a good thing or a bad depends ultimately on your faith convictions; you should realise that many people have different convictions from yours on this point. But I fail to see how translators can be accused of de-Christianising something which never was Christian.

 
At Fri May 04, 08:28:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

There is a flaw in the way the software counts votes; if you Google, you can easily find instructions for a single person to place as many votes as he wishes. Sometimes I notice that vote counts change in odd ways over a one day period. For these reasons, I suspect this poll does not accurately reflect the opinions of visitors to this blog.

 
At Fri May 04, 09:27:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

There are a number of versions that use the Masoretic text and other ancient documents to translate the Hebrew Bible rather than reading interpretations in from the Christian Scriptures. Among major translations that use more accurate descriptions are the NJPS, NRSV, NEB, REB, RSV, and GNT. In many case, alternative readings are noted in the footnotes (especially with the NRSV and RSV) and good study bibles (particularly NRSV-based study Bibles) will also note alternative readings.

The NET, NJB, and NAB bibles all have integral footnotes that note Christianized vs. original readings and thus can be useful for study.

Most other major bibles (including the KJV, NKJV, D-R, NASB, NIV, TNIV, NLT, ESV) change their interpretation of the Hebrew to bring it into harmony with Christian readings.

Depending on your faith tradition, Christianized Bibles may be acceptable for devotional purposes, but there is a general scholarly consensus that they are not acceptable for historical-critical studies.

 
At Fri May 04, 09:56:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Anon, you may well be right about these polls being easily broken. We certainly had that problem with the Amazon poll we linked to a month or so ago. I doubt if these ones are really more secure. They definitely aren't now you have told people where to find the instructions to do it!

 
At Fri May 04, 10:07:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Anonymous commented:

There is a flaw in the way the software counts votes; if you Google, you can easily find instructions for a single person to place as many votes as he wishes. Sometimes I notice that vote counts change in odd ways over a one day period. For these reasons, I suspect this poll does not accurately reflect the opinions of visitors to this blog.

Good observation. I am no longer using pollhost.com which was the service for that poll. What you have observed is a weakness of that polling service. For quite a few months now I have been using a different service, pollcode.com where I am able to specify how long a time period before an individual can vote again in the same poll. I always choose their maximum time period allowed, 365 days. The minimum is one day, which, obviously, would allow for serious distortion of the poll results.

These polls are by not means scientific. But I still enjoy putting them up. I hope you can put up with me as I enjoy them!

:-)

I think that the polls do reflect trends, possibly even relatively important trends, among those who visit this blog and choose to vote in the polls. Of course, there is always the chance that those who choose not to vote would significantly change the results, but I would like to think that we have some randomness there that balances thing out, not to any scientific or statistically significant degree. But at least we have some kind of interesting trends noted. And if even that is wrong, we at least have a good jumping off point for discussion.

 
At Fri May 04, 10:23:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Peter Heard commented:

But 'concern' is too ambiguous. Presumably most of those concerned about 'accuracy' really want more accuracy. Isn't it likely that those concerned about 'Christianisation of the Old Testament' want more of it too?

Yes, Peter, the word "concern" was not clear enough.

I think that everyone is concerned about accuracy in Bible translation. Whether it is their greatest concern or not is another matter. For some people, especially if they did not read my instructions, they might have selected "accuracy" because, overall, that is the greatest concern for Bible translations. But in the poll we were trying to determine if "accuracy" was the greatest concern people had about Bible versions being translated today. In other words, people are highly concerned that there is inaccuracy in Bible versions today. We can't tell from the poll results if people answerd as I desired, where checking a poll option indicated that that issue was one that was of current concern given the state of English Bible versions today.

Next, depending on one's viewpoint, Christianizing the Old Testament would be viewed by some as making the Bible more accurate. This would be true, for instance, of those who support use of the ESV rather than the RSV. The ESV has Christianized many OT passages which were not Christianized in the RSV.

OTOH, there are those, like myself, who believe that the Hebrew Bible should be translated on its own terms, without reference to later interpretations of OT passages "quoted" in the NT. For me, I consider Christianizing the OT to be a measure of decreasing the accuracy of the Bible.

So, the poll was flawed. I have learned over the years that I have been posting polls about Bible translation that it is difficult to create an adequate poll, one which will be understood clearly by everyone and which will not have some problems in interpreting the results. I keep trying to improve how I word polls, but none of them are perfect. Usually, sharp minds find some problems with most of my polls, and that is a good thing, since we want test instruments to be as good as possible.

Often, I am limited by the polling service itself, such as by how many words they allow for the intro. to the poll as well as individual answers.

I will continue to post polls in spite of these imperfections. I like posting them. And, at a minimum, they help us think through important issues in Bible translation.

 
At Fri May 04, 10:59:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne, the problem with any of these polls is that they can only restrict multiple votes by not allowing multiple votes from the same IP address. Otherwise those who want to abuse them simply create multiple identities. But the IP address restriction is a very blunt instrument. For one thing it stops multiple people in one house, and very often in one institution, from voting. But it also means that people can cast multiple votes simply by doing it from different physical locations, or by dialling up different providers. And I am sure there are also ways of faking your IP address which some people can use. The result can easily be a very flawed poll. I don't know what you could do even in principle to avoid this problem.

 
At Fri May 04, 08:56:00 PM, Blogger ElShaddai Edwards said...

Andrew McNeill: Alongside the NRSV, the NET (by apparently conservative scholars!) seems to de-Christianize the OT.

Peter Kirk: I think TEV/GNT is an example, very likely also CEV.

anonymous: Among major translations that use more accurate descriptions are the NJPS, NRSV, NEB, REB, RSV, and GNT.

Thank you for that healthy list of translations to consider. I have the NEB and REB, but will look into the others. I've always found it humorous that academic translators who tend to put less Christian interpretation into the OT are branded as "liberals" while those translators who "jump to Jesus" whenever they can view themselves as religious conservatives.

 

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