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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gender language literally speaking

I have to wonder if most people really do think that gender neutral language is less literal than gender specific language. Each case has to be assessed in isolation and then the group as a whole.

First, brothers and sisters- (from LSJ)
    as Subst., adelphos, ho, voc. adelphe; Ep., Ion., and Lyr. adelpheos (gen. -eiou in Hom. is for -eoo), Cret. adelphios, adeuphios, Leg.Gort.2.21, Mon.Ant.18.319:--brother, Hom., etc.; adelphoi brother and sister, E.El.536; so of the Ptolemies, theoiadelphoi Herod.1.30 , OGI50.2 (iii B. C.), etc.; ap'amphoterônadelpheosHdt.7.97 : prov., chalepoipolemoiadelphôn E.Fr.975 : metaph., a. gegona seirênôn LXX Jb.30.29.
Other meanings are "fellow, kinsman, colleague, associate, member of a college"
As an adjective adelphos means equally "brotherly" or "sisterly".

Second, uioi - sons.

I have seen very few translations that translate the uioi of Israel, as the "sons of Israel", [except when referring to the named sons of Jacob.] Take a language like Hebrew, in which there is a word for "son" and a word for "daughter", and translate into English, in which there is a word for "son, daughter and child." In the plural, which is more literal - "sons" or "children"?

Third, fathers. (from LSJ)
    In pl.,

    1.forefathers, Il.6.209, etc. ; exetipatrônfrom our fathers' time, Od.8.245 ; ekpaterônPi.P.8.45 .
    2.parents, D.S.21.17, Alciphr.3.40, Epigr.Gr.227 (Teos).
    3.parentnation, opp. colonists, Hdt.7.51, 8.22, Plu.Them.9. (Cf. Skt.pitár-, Lat. pater, etc.)
Fourth, I hope we don't have to fight about whether anthropoi means all humans, or men only. In fact, I would argue that using "humans" produces a much more literal translation.

This leaves the singular "they". Excuse me. I have a code in the node. Pass the kleenex. Atchoooooooooooo.

Apart from the contentious S"T" is there any basis for arguing that gender neutral language is less literal? What is the evidence?

I am hoping that the literal translation blogabout, which I have been enjoying up until now, can continue without having to rework the gender issue. Surely we can set this aside for a bit.


At Mon Oct 15, 06:22:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Personally, I prefer the characterization "gender accurate" which is employed by promoters of both the TNIV and the NET Bible because I believe that speaks to the exact issue you're addressing, Suzanne.

I got into a rather animated discussion with another doctoral student about this in the campus cafeteria the other day. He said he doesn't mind the TNIV, but wishes they would alert the reader in the comments when they've made a gender change.

"Alert the reader to what?" I asked.

"Alert the reader that there's been a change from the original."

"But there's been no change!" I exclaimed. "The renderings that you're referring to more accurately reflect the meaning of the original."

And I used the same example I often use of ἀδελφοί in Rom 15:30. The context is clearly both genders here as demonstrated by ch. 16. To translate ἀδελφοί as "brothers" or "brethren" is not more literal. It's simply inaccurate.

So then it becomes--as in most of these cases--no longer an issue of what's more literal. It's a question of what's more accurate. And personally, I'd take accuracy over an literal incorrect translation any day!

But this also goes back to the mistaken notion that one word correspondence is more accurate, too, and that's simply nonsense because languages won't work that way.

I'm not saying that literal can't be accurate. But I am saying that literal doesn't have to mean one word for one word correspondence. I mean really, "brothers and sisters" for ἀδελφοί in a verse like Rom 15:30 is more literal in my opinion simply because the alternative doesn't reflect the meaning of the text.

At Mon Oct 15, 07:53:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am saying that "brothers and sisters" is also more literal, not only more accurate - although not closer to form equivalence because it breaks the one word for one word notion.

At Mon Oct 15, 08:51:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

I understand you to be asking about the meaning of the word "literal" and not asking a question about the desirability of any particular translation practice.

I notice that in many places where the NRSV translates as "brothers and sisters", it includes footnotes of the form "Gk brothers". This suggests to me that for better or worse, many consider "brothers and sisters" to be a less literal translation.

As a matter of terminology, I think that there is value in keeping the notions of "literal" and "accuracy" separate, because otherwise the arguments of the proponents of dynamic equivalence (who suggest that literal translation is not necessarily the most accurate) become incoherent.

At Mon Oct 15, 02:49:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I also would like to keep literal and accurate separate. I am arguing that "brothers and sisters" is equally literal, since this is the first lexicon entry under the plural of adelphoi. I really do not regard footnotes from the NRSV as evidence of anything but an opnion. Is this what you want to use as evidence? There is no use having a discussion if you are just going to pile up opinions.

Adelphoi in Greek simply does not mean the same thing as "brothers" in English. The fact is that even when using literal translation, there is not only one option for a translation. Exousia is literally "power," "authority," "permission" and "right". There is no one which is more or less literal. Pater is both "father" and "forefather", and in the plural "parents". That is what it meant - literally.

I notice that Alter uses "children of Israel" and "sons of Israel", depending on context. I would argue that both are equally literal.

However, I now have to assume that you regard the TNIV as less literal because of "brothers and sisters". But all previous translations which use "men" for both andres and anthropoi were definitely less literal because they did not distinguish "men" from "humans".

So ultimately, those who claim that the NRSV and TNIV are less literal are either so attached to male specific langauge that they claim it to be more literal in face of evidence to the contrary, or they are so entrenched in traditional language that they cannot distinguish between traditional and literal.

Frankly I think men see male language as more literal because it actually applies to them literally. But women, who always have to make the adjustment in English, although not in the same way in other languages, see male language as figurative. Men represent the human race, for a certain vocabulary item, not in God's eyes but in human eyes. This is not a sign of literalness to women, but obfuscation.

Try to back up your opnion on how literal the TNIV is with evidence and I will be interested in reading it.

Do you also discount all David Stein's work on ish?

At Mon Oct 15, 05:23:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

Well, well, there is nothing like having words shoved in my mouth. My statements are clear enough -- no need for you to make false assumptions. I challenge you to find a single statement where I said the TNIV was more or less literal than the NIV. I have merely pointed out that at least one translator of the TNIV regards it as less literal than the NIV. Moreover, that translator is held in high esteem on the blog (and by you personally.) Should you have a problem with that, I suggest you take it up with him, since you know him. I've now pointed this out to you in three different forums.

Here is the definition of "literal" that most people use, from the OED: Of a translation, version, transcript, etc.: Representing the very words of the original; verbally exact. Also, (the) exact (words of a passage).

Normally we base definitions on consensus usage -- that is opinions. (Thus, your statement about my basing my usage on mere opinions is akin to a lawyer decrying an argument because it based on "mere facts".) I shall be fascinated to find out how you determine the way people use words without relying on their actual usage -- that is, opinions.

Of course if you wish to give an alternate definition of "literal" please feel free. For example, you may define literal as "the meaning of a phrase". However, please don't be surprised if your non-standard definition creates confusion in communicating with others.

For example what is a literal translation of "Papa m'a dit qu'au tennis il coupait ses balles"? It would need to capture the notion of "couper" -- that is to cut -- even though Dad is probably playing tennis. Doesn't a literal translation of "Papa m'a dit que souvent je lui cassais les pieds" imply something about feet being broken into pieces? The fact the sentence has a meaning about being annoying is a different point than the literal translation.

I further note that you are confusing a literary translation with a literal translation.

Finally, since I brought Stein's work to your attention, I am rather surprised to see you accuse me of ignoring it

I will point out that by your definition of "literal" -- almost all Biblical translations are very non-literal: since God lacks a gender (at least in the Hebrew Bible) by most theological accounts, by your definition, any translation using the male pronoun is necessarily non-literal.

Your basic point is that you think that Biblical translations that use multi-gendered language (when the interpretation is consonant with the original) are preferable to those that do not. You may as well define "good" to mean "multi-gendered" so that your thesis becomes tautological.

At Mon Oct 15, 07:27:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I have already acknowledged that there is a problem with the comparison on the Zondervan website, in the chart and the book. I cannot check with Dr. Fee because he has retired and does not keep office hours.

Possibly someone with an OED can supply the definitions of "usage" and "opinion".

(It is worth noting that the comparisons made by Wayne and Craig Blomberg explicitly exclude deviations touching on issues of gender and the non-standard English "singular they" -- which arguably comprise the most prominent classes of revisions to the NIV.)

Since I have evidently made a false assumption, maybe you could indicate why you think this is worth noting.

At Mon Oct 15, 08:03:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

I have already acknowledged that there is a problem with the comparison on the Zondervan website, in the chart and the book.

I suspect that there is no "problem" with the comparison on the Zondervan website, but rather that it reflects their corporate view (as well as Fee's views). Zondervan reads the TNIVTruth blog and so far has declined to change the chart. Zondervan also publishes the Fee-Stuart book (which has been cited both on this blog and the TNIVTruth blog.) I think the more plausible contention is that Fee and Stuart -- as well as Zondervan truly believe the TNIV is less literal than the NIV. As you will doubtlessly recall, from many citations on this very blog, that does not mean the Fee considers the NIV to be superior to the TNIV.

Now, the only reason for noting that gender language was not considered is that it is one possible explanation for the discrepancy between Craig's analysis (which is also available from a TNIV web site -- and where Craig himself explicitly notes that he does not consider gender in his comparisons of literalism) and Wayne's analysis. (Another explanation, which I did not mention, is that the obvious enthusiasm of some for the TNIV has influenced the subjective aspects of Wayne's and Craig's analyses.)

My entire argument was that TNIV enthusiasts ascribe more qualities to the translation than the translator and publisher do. (I am frankly skeptical of many of the positive claims made about the TNIV.)

I must say it is quite distressing that (a) you conflated the issue of literary translations and literal translations; (b) your immediate reaction to a simple observation about the scope of the two analyses was an attack post (and follow-on comments). I realize that in some circles the phrase "more literal" is considered as positive, but as your co-bloggers never tire of pointing out, taking that philosophy as absolute criterion leads to nonsensical translation. I was merely asserting an unassailable fact: that Craig and Wayne's analyses did not consider gendered language.

Now, if I were to point out that "man" (or "male") has fewer letters and syllables than "woman" (or "female") and thus was easier to spell, would you produce a similarly angry attack post and follow-up comments?

At Mon Oct 15, 08:08:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

you conflated the issue of literary translations and literal translations;

Where did I do this?

and thus was easier to spell, would you produce a similarly angry attack post and follow-up comments?

Not if I find my box of kleenex first. I think I will just toddle off and take an antihistamine with rum. That might do the trick.

At Mon Oct 15, 08:25:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

I said:

you conflated the issue of literary translations and literal translations;

You said:

where did I do this?

John entitled his post:

The Literary Translation Blogabout

You wrote in your post:

I am hoping that the literal translation blogabout, which I have been enjoying up until now, can continue without having to rework the gender issue.

Do you need more examples? I can provide them.

I of course understand that issues touching on gender are a point of sensitivity to you. However, given that several of the major thrusts of your post are based on simple misreadings, I do believe that this has not been one of your finest arguments.

At Mon Oct 15, 10:00:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

the literal translation blogabout

A thinko

At Mon Oct 15, 10:26:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Mon Oct 15, 10:31:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

I think the plural would be more appropriate.

Just to clarify for the record:

(1) I did not say that I consider the TNIV to be more or less literal than the NIV. (I said that one translator and the main publisher of the TNIV had an opinion on this, and implied that the TNIV-boosters were being "more Catholic than the Pope" -- in a Protestant way, of course.)

(2) I did not say that I consider more literal translations to be always better (they are sometimes demonstrably worse.)

(3) I did not say that I consider multi-gendered translation to be better or worse than traditional translation.

(4) I did not say that I consider literal translation and literary translation to be the same, or even similar. (While there is of course some connection, they are quite separate.)

(5) I did say that I object to my opinions being misrepresented by Suzanne here and elsewhere, even after I had issued multiple clarifications on multiple blogs.

Regarding the NIV and TNIV, I curse them thrice after the fashion of Mercutio: "a plague on both your houses." However, it seems that the plague is otherwise occupied visiting Suzanne's house instead.

I look forward to seeing Suzanne's posts once her haze lifts.

At Mon Oct 15, 10:57:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Iyov commented:

I was merely asserting an unassailable fact: that Craig and Wayne's analyses did not consider gendered language.

Iyov, I actually did extensive evaluation of gendered language for several English versions, including the NIV and TNIV. Obviously, the TNIV ranks much higher than the NIV in terms of using gender-inclusive language, as you can see from my online study of gender language in English Bible versions.

In summary, from evaluation of 106 verses, the TNIV ranks at 80% usage of inclusive language, while the NIV ranks at 21%. The NRSV is at 88% and the CEV is at 90%. The NLT is at 81%. The RSV is at 10%, its ESV revision is at 27%.

The reason I did not include these gender language results in my original post comparing literalness between the NIV and TNIV is that I was not able to figure out a logical connection between gender language and literalness. I still don't see such a connection, although those who believe that referentially inclusive terms such as anthropoi 'people' and adelphoi 'siblings, brothers' should only or usually be expressed with English masculine terms would probably consider a lower ranking on my gender study to indicate a greater degree of literalness.

OTOH, if we are concerned about gender accuracy, then using English "siblings" or "brothers and sisters" for adelphoi which refers to a group of both males and females, is more accurate than using the term "brothers" and hoping that some people will understand "brothers" to include women or (at Poythress and Grudem state in their books), "women can be taught" that the word "brothers" can include them. I disagree on the grounds that we don't teach new meanings of words by fiat. New meanings develop more naturally than by statements from language teachers.

At Tue Oct 16, 02:33:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

To those who posted the last few comments. I felt that I needed to remove them for privacy reasons. Please accept my apologies.
Email me if you have any further questions.

I regret that I raised this issue in such a way.

At Tue Oct 16, 03:28:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Tue Oct 16, 03:35:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I found the comment which Suzanne deleted. I post it again, edited to avoid any personal references.

My entire argument was that TNIV enthusiasts ascribe more qualities to the translation than the translator and publisher do.

Iyov, this seems a strange claim. What does "more qualities" mean? Better qualities? Or just different ones? Wayne is certainly not an enthusiast for literal translations, so you can hardly suggest that he is describing TNIV as more literal than it really is in order to promote TNIV as of higher quality! Anyway, the data on which he based his study are published, and you can make your own comparison.
Meanwhile, it seems that Zondervan's dubious marketing is playing into hands of the anti-TNIV crowd in conservative churches.

On the other hand, perhaps because I am male, I do see the force of the argument that consistent "brother" for adelphos and "he" for autos is more literal, though not more accurate, than the alternative wordings in TNIV.

At Tue Oct 16, 08:03:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

It's an idiom in my dialect of English. It means, as you might suspect -- positive qualities. Think of all the things people say about their favorite vitamin -- will improve brain function, improve muscles, reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease, improve your night vision, etc. Now maybe a particular vitamin may have some minor benefit on some of these points, but it likely does not have all those qualities.

In the same way, I have heard people say the TNIV is more readable, is more sophisticated, is more accurate, is easier to understand, is more elegant, is simpler, is better for teenagers, is better for adult study, is less anti-Jewish, is more Christian, etc. Now perhaps the TNIV has some of these qualities, but it is "literally" incredible that it has all these qualities.

I think at the root, a lot of the enthusiasm for the TNIV is plain ol' rooting for the underdog.

At Wed Oct 17, 06:41:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Well, Iyov, that's not much compared with what people have claimed for some other translations. Anyway, it depends what you are comparing with. If someone said that TNIV is more readable than NASB, is more sophisticated than CEV, is more accurate than The Message, is easier to understand than REB, is more elegant than GNT, is simpler than ESV, is better for teenagers than KJV, is better for adult study than NLT, is less anti-Jewish than NIV, is more Christian than NRSV, would you still complain?

At Wed Oct 17, 08:08:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Wed Oct 17, 08:13:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

One could make such comparisons, but they would hardly be especially distinctive, because one could make similar comparisons for more a number of translations (if necessary, changing the points of comparison).

It is also true that people make extravagant claims for other translations, but we have unkind terms for those people. (Thus, books have been written attacking those pushing the KJV-only version. The fact that books have been written attacking TNIV boosters does not weaken my argument.)

Now, I will note that recently a number of posts on the TNIV Truth have been more constructive. The most uncritical posts (some of which took a completely gratuitous swipe at Papists -- how did they get into this fight?) have diminished; and there has even been some discussion of how the TNIV could be improved. This, I would argue, is a more balanced position.

When I look at the TNIV and the NIV, I see two fairly similar translations. Thus, I would say that the difference between the two is much less than many other revisions (e.g., NRSV-RSV, RSV-ASV, REB-NEB, NLT2-NLT1, NLT1-LB, NJB-JB) or pseudo-revisions (e.g., NKJV-KJV). Thus, there is a certain sense of unreality about the comparisons between the TNIV and the NIV (the usual point of comparison): the revision was relatively limited.

Let me give you an example of what I mean: in lieu of using commentaries, some people recommend consulting multiple translations, often in a parallel edition. In fact, Oxford even publishes an Evangelical Parallel New Testament that includes both the NIV and the TNIV (unfortunately, the TNIV of the Oxford edition is the 2001 version which is even closer to the NIV than the 2005 version of the TNIV.) Now, I think that despite your outspoken defense of the TNIV, you will readily agree that studying the NIV-TNIV pair is especially unenlightening to the average Christian in the pew (as opposed to, for example, the NIV-NRSV used by the New Interpreter's Bible or even the KJV-RSV -- both in the same translation lineage -- of the Interpreter's Bible). The NIV and the TNIV are simply too close.

At Wed Oct 17, 08:17:00 AM, Blogger Iyov said...

A slight correction: the NLT1-LB pair should be classed as a pseudo-revision rather than a revision.

At Wed Oct 17, 09:34:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Iyov, you are right that TNIV is only a little different from NIV. In my opinion almost all of the changes have been for the better, but you are welcome to disagree. My point "TNIV ... is less anti-Jewish than NIV" was carefully chosen to reflect one of those small changes for the better.


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