When translation committees chicken out
"This edition of the New International Reader's Version has been revised so that the gender language more closely matches that of the New International Version."
From A Word About the New International Reader's Version in the NIrV Discoverer's Bible for Young Readers, 2002, Zondervan.
In March, I blogged about how the Contemporary English Version had been edited to put "grace" back into the "graceless CEV." (See my article at Lingamish: Seasoning the CEV with grace)
Translation committees are sometimes persuaded to reverse their translation choices based on public pressure. In the case of the CEV, I was quite disappointed to see the "Seeker Friendly" Seek Find issued with antiquated English. The 1995 CEV was at some point edited for the 2006 edition and numerous instances of "God's undeserved kindness" or "God treated us much better than we deserved" were edited out and that amazing word "grace" was popped back in.
Although I am always in favor of intelligibility, I think acceptability is even more important. If people reject your translation, it doesn't matter how "clear and natural" it is. I've seen this happen in two cases recently in Africa. The N. translation was beautifully done but they chose a word for God that wasn't acceptable to pastors. The result: a wasted printing of thousands of Bibles. In the case of the S. translation, the traditional word for "grace" was replaced by a "meaningful equivalent." The result is that the translation has been almost universally rejected.
So what do you think? Did the NIrV editors make the right choice editing out gender neutral language?
Here's NIV, Psalm 1:1
Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
Here's the NIrV, Psalm 1:1
Blessed is the one who obeys the law of the Lord.
He doesn't follow the advice of evil people.
He doesn't make a habit of doing what sinners do.
He doesn't join those who make fun of the Lord and his law.
It's interesting how the "simplified language" with shorter sentences results in more pronominal references than even the NIV.
To see the full-blown "gender neutral" language, here's the TNIV, Psalm 1:1
Blessed are those
who do not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
And how about the CEV? Here's Romans 5:15-20 in the 1995 edition ("charis" and "charisma" in bold):
15 But the gift that God was kind enough to give was very different from Adam's sin. That one sin brought death to many others. Yet in an even greater way, Jesus Christ alone brought God's gift of kindness to many people.
17 Death ruled like a king because Adam had sinned. But that cannot compare with what Jesus Christ has done. God has been so kind to us, and he has accepted us because of Jesus. And so we will live and rule like kings.
20 The Law came, so that the full power of sin could be seen. Yet where sin was powerful, God's kindness was even more powerful.
This is the same version that is available at biblegateway.com.
But the 2006 version that I have in the Seek Find edition is heavily (if unevenly) edited. In this edition, the CEV editors changed the instances of "kindness" to "undeserved grace." As I mentioned in my Lingamish post, this is the worst of both worlds. If grace is understood as being undeserved kindness from God, why say "undeserved grace?" That's redundant.
This is an example of the sloppy kinds of patch up jobs translators can do when they're trying to please everyone. On one hand, they've got a consultant saying, "Grace is no longer a term that carries any of the connotations of the biblical term charis." So the translators try to find a good term for charis that communicates well for modern speakers. Then they send it out to the reviewers and they freak out! "Where's grace? This isn't right. What are we supposed to sing in church, 'Amazing undeserved kindness how sweet the sound?!?'" So, the translators go back and try to change it to something that the consultant will accept and the pastors will accept and the result is some awkward phrase like "undeserved grace." Lest you think I'm casting stones, let me confess, "I've been there and done that!"
Does anyone know of any other translations that have come out with a later more formal edition after the original "free" edition?
And which is more important to you: intelligibility or acceptability? Or is there a third option?
And a quick note: I've really enjoyed Suzanne's recent posts on love and also kephale. I loved that line, "the possibility of a relationship of loving interdependence." Sorry I can't comment but for some reason it's easier to post an entire post than comment on Blogger.
P.P.S. If anyone can track down the story on the 2006 CEV edition published in Seek Find I'd be very interested to hear it.