Wednesday, July 27, 2011

NIV 2011: A brotherly debate

The following discussion was entertained online today during the lunch recess of the 2011 WELS Synod Convention. Two individuals knowledgeable in the original languages debated the (de)merits of the NIV 2011. One agreed with the Translation Committee, simply arguing that language has changed so therefore our Bibles must change. The other pointed out that this point of view is the result of shallow thinking, and eventually argues that the very structure of language in Western Civilization depends upon the Order of Creation, that open rebellion against God's Created Order in greater society is the reason for growing gender-related changes in how the English language is used, and that such rebellion has no place in our Bibles.

We copy this public discussion, below, minus the infrequent and extraneous contributions of others (but including the tail-end of a previous, similar discussion that led into it). This was a real-time debate, both individuals were typing swiftly, and thus there are many typos. We have not corrected those typos.

How do you, dear reader, react to the following substantive discussion?

ghostofmartinluther: because it's taking liberties with the original text. Did God inspire words or concepts?
ghostofmartinluther: all Orthodox tradition believed that God inspired specific words, not mere concepts
ghostofmartinluther: Um yeah, but Luther was trying to make it understandablee, not politically correct
ghostofmartinluther: The NIV 84, NKJV ESV and many others are perfectly understandble and much more accurate than NIV 2011
Pablo: @Ghost...I know I might be difficult here, but do you have a more specific spot, say a page number that I can work with?
ghostofmartinluther: because they don't weren't translated with an politically motivated agenda
ghostofmartinluther: page number? as in?
ghostofmartinluther: from the translators notes?
ghostofmartinluther: lets see
Pablo: yeah, thanks
ghostofmartinluther: middle of page 4 moving into page 5. The translators display a desire to adapt the original language to fit modern modes of speech
ghostofmartinluther: instead of being faithful to the original
ghostofmartinluther: for the purpose of being "inclusive"
ghostofmartinluther: I gotta boogey. But the philosophy of the Translators is more important than individual passages
ghostofmartinluther: because it gives you an understanding about the whole translation that might otherwise be hard to grasp
ghostofmartinluther: adios

Pablo: Well, I'd like to respond, but it seems kinda not necessary anymore...
Pablo: but for anyone else who might be following along:
Pablo: The entire issue is explained in the preceding paragraphs where the translators employed the help of numerous experts in the field who tracked the usage of specifics words and phrases
Pablo: Those specific words communicated different things 20 years ago than they do now and as a result different phrasing is a necessity as a result of social context
Pablo: This is not an attempt to undermine the integrity of the original language, but an attempt to more accurately communicate that in a modern society
ghostofmartinchemnitz: Pablo, I think it's clear that the translators had a PC bias
Pablo: See, but I don't see where that bias occurs
ghostofmartinchemnitz: If you want, there are plenty of places where the context clearly demands a masculine translation, but they neuter it
Pablo: ok, one sec
Pablo: Is this because the Greek word is masculine?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: In the OT, priests, prophets, patriarchs, and soldiers are all referred to neutrally
ghostofmartinchemnitz: the context is clear that priests, prophets, patriarchs, and soldiers were all men
ghostofmartinchemnitz: there's no reason to make it neuter except to make it politically correct
ghostofmartinchemnitz: the same thing is true in Acts with the calling of Matthias and the deacons
ghostofmartinchemnitz: it's clear that only men participated in those "call meetings"
Pablo: Except in the case of priests, I don't see how that statement is true
ghostofmartinchemnitz: really?
Pablo: yeah
Pablo: there were women prophets
ghostofmartinchemnitz: in ancient Israel, there were no women soldiers
Pablo: and matriarchs
Pablo: and Deborah
ghostofmartinchemnitz: patriarchs, by definition, is masculine
Pablo: as well as others
ghostofmartinchemnitz: brb
ghostofmartinchemnitz: pablo, you're talking about exceptions
ghostofmartinchemnitz: you can't take exceptions and make them the rule
Pablo: I need help understanding the rule, then
ghostofmartinchemnitz: see, the new NIV is making a very subtle yet important change
ghostofmartinchemnitz: God revelealed himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
ghostofmartinchemnitz: not the God of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel
Pablo: true
ghostofmartinchemnitz: he was their God, of course, but that's not how he revealed himself
ghostofmartinchemnitz: that says something about the role of man and woman
ghostofmartinchemnitz: by changing that, the new NIV is undermining this teaching
ghostofmartinchemnitz: same thing in the Epistles
Pablo: the New NIV refers to God as the God of Sarah...etc
ghostofmartinchemnitz: no, but it removes references to teh Patriarchs
ghostofmartinchemnitz: and makes it "ancestors" instead
Pablo: Hang on
Pablo: I don't think that's an attempt to remove the identity of God with the patriarchs, but rather to include the matriarchal ancestors of Jesus...but saying that in a much more succinct manner
ghostofmartinchemnitz: but that's saying something that Scripture doesn't say
ghostofmartinchemnitz: when Scripture refers to the Patriarchs, it does that for a reason
ghostofmartinchemnitz: you can't just include the matriarchs too, just because you want to
ghostofmartinchemnitz: adding that changes things
ghostofmartinchemnitz: the same thing is true with Paul's epistles
ghostofmartinchemnitz: there's a reason that Paul addresses his letters to "Brothers"
ghostofmartinchemnitz: it's a subtle yet important reminder of the roles of man and women
ghostofmartinchemnitz: Paul addresses teh men specifically because they are the heads of the household, responisble for teaching these things to their wives and children
Pablo: What about Acts 2:29...referring to David...translated as "patriarch"
ghostofmartinchemnitz: changing it to "brothers and sisters" undermines that compeltely
ghostofmartinchemnitz: what about it?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: there are plenty of other examples where patriarch is removed
Pablo: or Acts 7:9 referring to the brothers of Joseph as "Patriarchs"
Pablo: but those are not specific references to male ancestors, but ancestors
ghostofmartinchemnitz: well, i'm glad they left some alone, but there are plenty they messed with
Pablo: when it needs to be specific, it is
ghostofmartinchemnitz: says who?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: who are you or I to tell God what he meant to refer to?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: If God said "patriarch" then our translation should say "patriarch"
Pablo: ...and it does
ghostofmartinchemnitz: we shouldn't be trying to decide when God really meant it and when he didn’t
Pablo: Do you know Greek?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: Yup, and Hebrew
Pablo: Alright, so you know that when you translate you need to take context into account
Pablo: right?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: of course
ghostofmartinchemnitz: which is exactly what the NIV doesn’t do
ghostofmartinchemnitz: let me give you another example
Pablo: So when the context clearly indicates that God is referring to men (like David or Joseph's brothers) it translates a masculine pronoun
Pablo: ok
ghostofmartinchemnitz: in 1 Corinthians, I believe, Paul, in the new NIV says, "brothers and sisters be eager to prophesy"
ghostofmartinchemnitz: and then a few verses later says, "women, be silent"
ghostofmartinchemnitz: the context clearly dictates that the adelphoi really was addressing just the men
ghostofmartinchemnitz: but the NIV didn't pay any attention to that context because they had a bias to maintain
ghostofmartinchemnitz: that's dangerous because it can be used to argue that men and women should be "preaching" in worship services
ghostofmartinchemnitz: same thing with the "call meetings" in Acts
ghostofmartinchemnitz: it's clear that only men participated, and yet, the new NIV says, "brothers and sisters"
ghostofmartinchemnitz: again, dangerous, because it can be used to support women's suffrage in teh church
ghostofmartinchemnitz: those are just two examples of PC bias overriding the text and teh context
Pablo: alright, first of all, you are making synonymous 'preaching' and 'prophesying' which (while it may be the case now) was not necessarily true in the early church
Pablo: women prophesied
Pablo: Joel spoke of it and it was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost and with the daughters of Philip
Pablo: so there's a difference between preaching in worship and preaching as 'prophecy'
ghostofmartinchemnitz: yes, women prophesied in Corinth, and Paul promptly told them to stop
Pablo: as for the call service
ghostofmartinchemnitz: 1 Cor. 14:34
ghostofmartinchemnitz: that's why the new NIV makes no sense
ghostofmartinchemnitz: in 1 Cor 14:26, he says, "brothers and sisters, bring your instructions to worship"
ghostofmartinchemnitz: but then in 14:34, he says, "women be silent"
Pablo: just because Peter addressed 'the believers' but that doesn't mean that the believers took part in the 'calling' of the I right?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: that's the way that the new NIV makes it sound
Pablo: I see where you're coming from
Pablo: but misleading is not false doctrine, but rather an opportunity for opportunity that I would guess our evaluation committee has thought through
ghostofmartinchemnitz: I don't see how else you could understand it when Peter says, "Brothers and sisters, we need a replacement..."
ghostofmartinchemnitz: and then verse 23 says, "So they nominated..."
ghostofmartinchemnitz: the only way to understand that is that "they" refers to "brothers and sisters"
Pablo: I guess what I'm trying to say is why throw out the baby with the bathwater...if it's a few places where clarification and correction are necessary why should we retranslate the whole Bible
ghostofmartinchemnitz: it's not a few places
ghostofmartinchemnitz: it's throughout the text
ghostofmartinchemnitz: a fundamental denial of the roles of man and woman
ghostofmartinchemnitz: every time the new NIV refers to priests and prophets and soldiers and patriarchs and apostles and leaders in the neuter, it's a denial of the roles of man and woman
Pablo: I'm sorry, I just don't see that
ghostofmartinchemnitz: see, the roles of man and woman aren't just taught in a few proof passages
Pablo: but
ghostofmartinchemnitz: they are expressed on every page of scripture
ghostofmartinchemnitz: and in the way that our languages adn societies are structured
Pablo: we use those proof passages to interpret the 'more difficult' passages, so why not here?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: i'm not talking about difficult passages
Pablo: neither am I
ghostofmartinchemnitz: there's nothing difficult about saying OT priests were men
Pablo: I'm talking about a hermeneutical principle
ghostofmartinchemnitz: so am i
Pablo: maybe the New NIV didn't use that, but we use that in conjunction with whatever translation we have
ghostofmartinchemnitz: i don't think you're thinking about this deeply enough
Pablo: Here's my perspective
ghostofmartinchemnitz: there's a fundamental reason why anthropos means both male and person
ghostofmartinchemnitz: there's a fundamental reason why man means both male and person
ghostofmartinchemnitz: it all goes back to the order of creation
Pablo: We had the had problems...pastors are trained to explain those problems...but we're talking about different issues
ghostofmartinchemnitz: my point is that this isn't an issue of a few problem passages
ghostofmartinchemnitz: this is a problem of how you fundamentally understand the order of creation
ghostofmartinchemnitz: and how the order of creation expresses itself in language and society
Pablo: the languages that God chose to write the Bible in strategically use those words, but our language doesn't communicate in the same way that Greek does
Pablo: I see what you're saying, but I don't see that coming through as strongly as you say it does
ghostofmartinchemnitz: my point is that english does communicate the same way
Pablo: I think it used to
ghostofmartinchemnitz: "'man" is almost perfectly the same as "anthropos"
Pablo: but I don't think it does anymore
ghostofmartinchemnitz: that's my point!
Pablo: 'man' doesn't communicate what it used to
ghostofmartinchemnitz: we shouldn't be giving in to a sinful change in our society
ghostofmartinchemnitz: let me approach it from a different angle
Pablo: so how do we minister to a sinful world that doesn't understand what we're saying other than to speak in their terms?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: there's a reason why radical feminists resent that the word "man" is contained in teh word "woman"
ghostofmartinchemnitz: on a very deep level, they perceive that it says something about the order of creation, something they are in rebellion against
ghostofmartinchemnitz: there's a reason why the English language has shifted
ghostofmartinchemnitz: a sinful reason
ghostofmartinchemnitz: because our culture is in rebellion against God's order of creation
ghostofmartinchemnitz: when we allow that culture to, essentially" tell God what he meant to say, we're in serious danger
Pablo: Ok, I see what you're do you see where I'm coming from, or should I clarify that?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: I understand your point, it's the same point made by the Committee
ghostofmartinchemnitz: the problem is that your point is wrong
ghostofmartinchemnitz: no offense, it's just the truth
Pablo: alright, in what way?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: your point makes sense on a superficial level
ghostofmartinchemnitz: language changes so we need to change too
ghostofmartinchemnitz: but it completely ignores the deeper realities
ghostofmartinchemnitz: the realty that teh language of scripture was chosen for a reason
ghostofmartinchemnitz: and the reality that the English language is changing for a sisnister reason
ghostofmartinchemnitz: excuse all my typos, I'm trying to type quickly
Pablo: So we should preach in Greek and Hebrew?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: not at all
Pablo: we must preach in English
Pablo: right?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: absolutely
Pablo: or Spanish
Pablo: or whatever language is being used
ghostofmartinchemnitz: there are plenty of good English translations out there that are clear adn also faithful to the words used in the orignial
Pablo: which are?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: the Committee has painted this as an either-or
ghostofmartinchemnitz: either the NIV or nothing
ghostofmartinchemnitz: but that's not the case
ghostofmartinchemnitz: I think that the ESV and HCSB are both viable, faithful options
ghostofmartinchemnitz: both have flaws, but those flaws are mainly stylistic, not substantive
Pablo: I think the point is that any translation has's a translation, it can't communicate perfectly
ghostofmartinchemnitz: yes, but there are two different types of flaws
ghostofmartinchemnitz: there are stylistic flaws and substantive flaws
Pablo: agreed
ghostofmartinchemnitz: stylistic flaws are those passages here and there that aren't quite clear
ghostofmartinchemnitz: substantive flaws are the wholesale imposition of an external bias on teh entire text
ghostofmartinchemnitz: ESV and HCSB has teh former, NIV has teh latter
Pablo: I guess that my problem with the ESV is the communication aspect...I love it, as a study Bible...but it's just plain hard to read from the pulpit or lectern (in many cases)
ghostofmartinchemnitz: I totally agree
Pablo: I guess my HCSB exposure is somewhat more limited, but from what I've heard NIV 2011 is the lesser of two evils (I could be wrong)
ghostofmartinchemnitz: and yet, I'd rather have a Bible that's a little clunky than a Bible that attacks a teachign of Scripture
ghostofmartinchemnitz: I don't understand why the Committee has just simply dismissed HCSB
ghostofmartinchemnitz: their only review of it said that it has teh readability of the NIV with the faihtfulness of the ESV
ghostofmartinchemnitz: which would seem to be ideal, but the Committee won't even give it a glance
Pablo: really? you have a link to that review?
ghostofmartinchemnitz: it's posted, i believe, on teh WELS website with all of the other Committee materials
ghostofmartinchemnitz: i might be mistaken
ghostofmartinchemnitz: i actually have to run now
ghostofmartinchemnitz: but i enjoyed the discussion
Pablo: alright, I'll take a too


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Having used the ESV for a few years... it's not *that* hard to read from the pulpit. In fact, if anything it just sounds like you are reading Scripture rather than just chit chatting with a buddy on something spiritual.

Daniel Baker said...

My reaction is that we need to stop worrying about this issue, contrived in the Blogosphere and perpetuated in the Cyber World, and start dealing with real, flesh and blood people in our Real Lives. People on the internet are not real, flesh and blood people, if you think about it.

After all, every translation of the Bible sucks equally. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit will let us use even crappy translations to make disciples. Just as He also makes all 400,000 members of the synod completely united 100% in doctrine, so that these matters are really not doctrinal at all. It comes down to personal preference. In the end, if you don't prefer the NNIV, you don't have to use it! Just like people didn't have to use the NIV84 and stuck with the KJV.

Daniel Baker said...

In all seriousness, I think that 'ghost' and 'Pablo' do a fairly adequate job of demonstrating the polarizing sides of this very important topic. As for myself, I side with ghost and remain unconvinced by the Translating Committee's attempts to gloss over the glaring problems with the NNIV as minimalistic. I agree with the delegate yesterday who analogized the problems with the NNIV as straw on the back of a camel.

Regarding alternate translations - after reading Prof. Nass' paper on the ESV, I am fairly convinced that the NKJV is probably the best option, but I disagree with the contention that the errors of the ESV are "on par" with those of the NNIV. I would not be averse to the ESV, particularly since our LCMS brothers are already using it - I would just prefer NKJV. I admit that I am completely unfamiliar with the HCSB, and would need a fuller analysis of it before commenting on its venerability.

Anonymous said...

I think ghostofmartinchemnitz did a great job explaining it. Much better than I. And overall a great dialogue. Pablo argued well but I think he is wrong.

I approached the subject from a philosophical angle, because I haven't had the time to study the translation. While I do think that a person *can* come to a write conclusion merely by analyzing what the NIV translators say themselves, What a difference having a thorough knowledge makes!

Go get 'em ghostofmartinchemnitz

Ghostofmartinluther, Tim Meyers.

Does anyone know why the administrators killed the chat function? Was it because of conversations like the above?

Anonymous said...

Gee Daniel Baker,

I ain't fer certain how you can say both of yer comments above. I'm a real person I reckin', as much as you are. Or Maybe your girlfriend or wife used your account?

Tom Wyeth

Daniel Baker said...

Mr. Wyeth,

I assure you that I have neither a wife nor a girlfriend, so it is impossible that she (or, if you prefer gender neutrality, "they") were using my account. Rather, the first comment was pointedly facetious, while the second was completely serious. I apologize if my sarcasm was confusing; I thought the "in all seriousness" preface to the second comment clarified, but apparently not.

Daniel Baker said...

In addition, I am also curious why the chat feature was disabled. I must say, it was almost better to NOT be at the Convention in person, simply because of the humorous commentary provided in the chat dialogue.

Anonymous said...

Howdy Danny, I feel dum. d-u-m. I ain't real clever when it comes to dry humor. And I must say the frist comment seemed strange comin' from you.

Now I know you was joking I did laugh (and at myself)

Tom Wyeth

Anonymous said...

I figger they disabled the chat cuz the don't 'preciate discernment that aint in favor with party-line


old enough to know better said...

Well, if the new NIV is being changed to reflect gender neutrality, what does that do to the idea that only men can be elders in the WELS synod and only men can vote in the WELS synod and only men can serve communion in the WELS synod? It seems to me that, if they are going to change the words of God to be politically correct, they need to also examine the practices of the Synod and it's gender-biased government.

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Ms. "old enough to know better": if they are going to change the words of God to be politically correct, they need to also examine the practices of the Synod and it's gender-biased government

A reasonable conclusion. If we are going to change the language we use to express doctrine, we are going to change along with the ideas that are forcing these shifts in language usage. Words represent categories of thought. We think about things using words. The words we use to think about things impacts our ideas and our doctrine. If we eliminate gender from our Scriptures, especially if, as ghostofmartinchemnitz indicates, the roles of man and woman aren't just taught in a few proof passages, they are expressed on every page of Scripture and in the way that our languages and societies are structured, we will eventually, necessarily, eliminate it from our doctrine as well -- as it disappears from our thinking, relying on such deficient translation of the Scriptures to inform it.

The judgement of the TEC in this matter is simply a horrifying thing. As ghostofmartinchemnitz states, They haven't thought deeply enough about this.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Just a clarification - not every translation is equally bad. That's just not right. I was a Greek Scholar and Classicist in my undergraduate before going to the Seminary. Moreover, in addition to Greek and Hebrew for the Seminary I've studied Spanish, Japanese, and Latin. I have seen (and evaluated) translations in plenty of different languages, so this is the background for what I am going to say.

There are two main aspects of pulling off a translation - accuracy and the literary nature of the translation. The later is a skill that writers have - putting things in a way that is pleasing to the native ear, giving a good turn of phrase, and the like. Translations can vary in this based on the literary skill of the translators.

Differences of that type don't really matter. It's great to have a good literary character - in fact, it is that beauty which kept the King James as the standard English translation for so long. It's also one of the reasons why I like the New King James -- it tries to mirror that same literary style.

On the other hand, the accuracy of the translation is vital. If you've ever tried to assemble an item made in another country and the instructions were inaccurately translated, you have seen an example of the trouble an inaccurate translation can cause. Accuracy isn't just a matter of style or preference, but is the translator taking the idea expressed in one language and then bringing it over into another.

This is why in all those language classes I took, my teachers and professors were able to give grades. Not all translation work done by their students were equal - not in terms of literary flow, but in terms of accuracy.

Also, it is the height of folly to abandon accuracy in a translation in order to make the translation sound "better" to the modern ear. The Scriptures are precise - they are the Word of God full of the wisdom of the ages. If parts of this are deep, complex, and require time and meditation to contemplate, then that is because God wills it so. Taking short cuts with translations to try to "work around" the hard parts is tantamount to saying God, "Oh God, stop trying to make me think, You're just being silly."

The NIV was only an okay translation (I'd give it a B)... and its revision is just a change for the worse.

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