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Saturday, October 28, 2006


Chris Heard at Higgaion has a good post on some difficulties he has found in the TNIV Old Testament. Although I have presented myself as a proponent of the TNIV, what actually motivates me is removing the statement of concern against the TNIV in order to clear the air and create dialogue around what a good translation really would be.

Here are Chris Heard's comments,
    You know what I really want? A translation that has the readability of the TNIV without the theological baggage that distorts the text—but not one that does as far as, say, the CEV in simplifying its vocabulary. Does anyone know of such a translation? Does it exist? Have I just missed it? Or is it time for a new translation project (maybe without the word “Standard” in the name—you don’t actually become a “standard” by claiming to be such)?
I have a lot of sympathy with this although my Hebrew isn't good enough that I am going to notice any discrepanies in the OT without having them pointed out.

I remember last spring feeling discouraged when I realized that some translations have considerable problem issues but all translations have some problem issues.


At Sun Oct 29, 02:55:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

While there is some justification for Chris Heard's comments about TNIV, I'm afraid to say that I find it hard to take them seriously because of the really shoddy work he has done on Isaiah 7:14, where he has completely mis-parsed two key words. See my comment there. I note that he is a professor of religion, not of Hebrew. This leaves me lacking any confidence that his comments on Jeremiah 7:22-23 can be relied on; it seems to me that a good case can be made for the TNIV rendering as a plausible alternative exegesis to the one he prefers.

At Mon Oct 30, 05:33:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

People like to unify and systematize things as a matter of rule. Especially religious ones.

News at eleven.

Or in other words, so long as Bible translators bring their faith based preconceptions to their work (i.e. divine authorship, unity, etc.), these problems will always arise.

That doesn't mean I'm saying that those preconceptions are wrong. I'm just saying, as far as the job is concerned, those beliefs are irrelevant. Let the text speak for itself, and ground it in the best available scientific data. Not some vague sense of belief. It's weak, and ultimately, a disservice to Bible readers.

At Mon Oct 30, 07:25:00 PM, Blogger Rich said...

I still think the best OT translation of the Meaning-based philosophy is God's Word (GW).

At Wed Nov 01, 04:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where is Anonymous/Ishmael when you need him?

At Wed Nov 01, 11:07:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

He picked up all of his toys, deleted all of his posts, and went elsewhere...

He's still out there if you know where to look, though.

At Wed Nov 01, 02:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Wed Nov 01, 02:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm...where and for whom do I look? :)

At Wed Nov 01, 02:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He does bring up issues brought out by Bruce Metzger in his book on ancient and English translations. I guess it brings up the issue of accurate vs easy-to-read, but it is disappointing one has to give up one for the other. I don't think one has to, but the problem may not lie in translation philosophy so much as ideology.

At Wed Nov 01, 03:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I should clarify that Metzger was referring to the NIV, but the TNIV has apparently replicated the problems he reviewed.

At Thu Nov 02, 01:21:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

GD, I'm not sure which problems you are referring to. But TNIV has not replicated all of the reported problems in NIV OT, but has corrected a number of them, such as the capital S in "Son" in Psalm 2.

Who brought up the issues which Metzger brought out? Was it Anonymous/Ishmael, or someone else? Do you have any online link to a list or summary of these issues?

At Thu Nov 02, 12:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the lack of clarity, Peter. I was not referring to Anon's comments, but to Christopher Heard's comments (on the TNIV) being similar to some concerns brought up about translation from Metzger.

I thought Metzger had put a reference to the appropriate translation of Isaiah 7.14 in his chapter on the NIV, but it was in a previous chapter on a different translation, but the comment applies (he did not repeat it in the NIV discussion). Just as you had agreed, it is likely inappropriately translated as "virgin" in the NIV, TNIV, and almost any other of the Bibles that are designed for conservative use. He simply says it is translated "a young woman" in the NEB, "as would be expected."

The comment by Heard that also brought remembrance of Metzger's discussion had to do with Jeremiah 7.22, for which Metzger states "the translators have inserted the word 'just' for which there is no Hebrew authority."

There is no mention of Chris's other concern in Metzger's work.

Other things mentioned by Metzger:

"At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:2), the NIV omits the words included in all Greek manuscripts that Jesus 'opened his mouth and' -- without providing any English equivalent for the phrase."

Maybe that's just picky, but the TNIV is very similar to the NIV.

He continues, "at Matthew 13:32 concerning the mustard seed, they inserted the word 'your' ('the smallest of all your seeds') and the word 'now' in 1 Peter 4:6 ('the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead') --neither of which is in the Greek text."

The TNIV has corrected the former, but not the latter.

"In 1 Corinthians 4:9, we find in the NIV a quite considerable elaboration of what Paul actually wrote: 'God put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena' (the two additions have been italicized here)."

This is the same in the TNIV.

He then puts a footnote at the bottom of the page "For many more examples of such changes in the NIV, see Robert P. Martin, Accuracy of Translation and the New International Version ... pp. 19-67; and Earl D. Radmacher and Zane C. Hodges, The NIV Reconsidered: A Fresh Look at a Popular Translation ... pp. 25-130.

All of this is from Metzger's book The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions, pp. 140-141.

At Thu Nov 02, 11:42:00 PM, Blogger David Ker said...

I'm late coming to this discussion but I'd like to add my 2 cents worth on "accuracy." It is worthwhile to clarify what kind of accuracy we are shooting for. If it means that we wish to accurately transfer the lexical information found in the original then an accurate translation will look much different than if we are trying to accurately transmit the original message. But this is a bit of a tired argument isn't it? I suppose a seminary prof is going to have a different view of accuracy than the average parishoner. To quote Luther: Rather we must inquire about this of the mother in the home, the children on the street, the common man in the marketplace. We must be guided by their language, the way they speak, and do our translating accordingly.

At Fri Nov 03, 07:55:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lingamish, as I previously stated, one should not have to give up accuracy to make a translation easier to read, but as Heard and Metzger have pointed out, the issue is not always just making things easier to read. They are referring to inaccurate renderings that give one a totally different impression than what was originally written - which is exactly what Luther was writing against, unless I misunderstand your entire quote. If making a translation accurate in the sense of what it really means, rather than giving the appearance of covering over possible inconsistencies (see also Claude Mariottini's post and comments) is a tired argument, I suppose all translation should cease.

At Fri Nov 03, 08:16:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

In Matthew 5:2, NIV and TNIV reflect καὶ ἀνοίξας τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ ἐδίδασκεν with "he began to teach"; specifically "began" reflects what is literally "opened his mouth".

In Matthew 13:32, TNIV has dropped the "your" in NIV which Metzger criticised.

In 1 Peter 4:6, TNIV has translated not the form but the meaning which the CBT exegetes obviously found in this passage. English "dead" implies that they were dead at the time, but Greek νεκροι may not do.

1 Corinthians 4:9 TNIV is an interesting example of implicit information being made explicit to clarify a culturally relevant practice. Metzger may not approve of this as a translation principle, but the CBT clearly does. Without this information readers are likely to fail to understand what is happening here. I know some argue that it would be better put in a footnote. I'm not sure whether I agree in this case.

At Fri Nov 03, 08:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter said: English "dead" implies that they were dead at the time

I think that is Metzger's point. He is talking about translating what is there rather than interpreting. I know all translation is interpretation to an extent, but there are many translations that translated it allowing for that very interpretation. Not that it really matters. Either way is a possible interpretation. If translated the NIV/TNIV way, someone that does not read the Greek or compare with other translations have the possibility of the other interpretation cut off, whereas a more exact translation leaves at least two options. Removing ambiguity that is in the original can give the wrong impression. However unlikely, what if the original writer meant the gospel was preached to the dead (while they were dead)? It would not be the first of unusual statements like that in the Bible, and possibly no more inaccurate.

At Sat Nov 04, 06:17:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I think the experts are likely to know better than you, or any other ordinary reader, whether in this case "dead" could refer to those already dead. The experts on the CBT seem to have decided it could not. Possibly other experts could challenge their understanding, and I might include Metzger among those experts, but probably not you or me.

If experts have decided that a superficially ambiguous text in fact must mean A and not B, it would be highly irresponsible of them to translate it as ambiguous between A and B so that amateurs can misinterpret it as meaning B and thus mislead themselves and their churches.

At Sat Nov 04, 12:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, Peter, you are correct. Metzger already did challenge it.

At Sun Nov 05, 07:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have another question, brought up by Peter's last post (about the functional equivalence staple of not allowing any ambiguity). Which of the expert translation committees were highly irresponsible in translating John 3.16?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

NLT 2004:
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

At Thu Nov 09, 01:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose if no one will reply, I must presume the TNIV was the wrong translation, as it has left some ambiguity as to which of the two ways it could be interpreted (illustrated by the NLT and HCSB translations), since there is no ambiguity to be had in the original languages. Or was the TNIV wrong in leaving ambiguity? If it was, which of the NLT or HCSB is correct?


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