Friday, July 15, 2011

NNIV – the new standard for WELS?

There is a great deal of concern among WELS Lutherans, and among those who are watching us, regarding our handling of Zondervan's recent ultimatum which is forcing church bodies everywhere, that have adopted its 1984 edition of the NIV as their standard version, to cease using this older version in its publications by some time in 2013. For many church bodies, including the WELS, this is resulting in an unplanned or premature change in the standard Bible version that is used, perhaps in favor of Zondervan's “new” version of the NIV, which in many places is being called in the "NNIV." Recently, after a brief review of the the NNIV to determine its suitability, our WELS Translation Evaluation Committee suggested that the NNIV "can be used" in our congregations, but this is far from popular among many of those who have done their own evaluation and have found what they consider to be unacceptable deficiencies (Here is one such evaluation, which illuminates many commonly observed deficiencies. Here is another.). Such concerns emerged in comments to our recent post, We still reject the papal system - right?, prompting Rev.'s Boehringer and Rydecki to comment as follows:
    Pastor Boehringer said...

    Dear delegates and readers,

    It is my hope that the Synod-in-convention delays the final decision about a translation until the 2013 convention, if the Lord tarries.

    And in these next two years, we have an opportunity. I hope that every congregation takes the time to study the principles of Biblical interpretation, to learn about the history of Bible translations, and to actually read and compare sizable chunks of the Bibles that are available.

    The Translation Evaluation Committee has given us a starting point. I've contacted the Committee and asked them questions and they've been helpful in their responses. The sense I got from the Committee was one that said, "Here's what we think. Now what do you think?" I've read many of their documents and read some of their suggested reading material. They are useful starting places.

    For a decision this important, we need to take our time. We have a good starting point for the conversation. But now we need every congregation to study the options, so that in two years we can get back together as a Synod and make a wise choice. This choice will have a long-lasting impact, so let's take our time.

    So I thank the Translation Evaluation Committee and look forward to their continued help in the next two years.

    July 15, 2011 8:25 AM

    Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

    Pr. Boehringer,

    I think that's exactly the right approach, and the right way to view the work of the translation committee. I strongly disagree with them that the NNIV is acceptable for our synod's use, but I don't think any of them are incompetent, unqualified or untrustworthy.

    It's my hope that, rather than having to constantly rely on the copyright whims of another church body or of a for-profit company out there somewhere, we might finally organize our synod (and also the ELS, hopefully also with help from the LCMS) to publish our own Bible translation, especially with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation coming up.

    July 15, 2011 8:46 AM


Have we had enough time to fully evaluate translations? What are our real options? If the NNIV "can be used," despite its shortcomings, couldn't the ESV, NKJV, or even the old KJV, also be used – despite their shortcomings? After all, every one of these translations are in official use among Confessional Lutherans in America today. What about the the recent Lutheran translation, God's Word to the Nations? It meets all of the criteria that seem to be popular among "evangelical" Lutherans these days – very simple sentence structure, and the elimination of nearly all ecclesiastical terms (like covenant, grace, justification, etc.). It contains no big words, complex sentences or difficult ideas with which to confuse those who read it (like there are in the original texts). Which English version of the Bible shall WELS Lutherans herald as the English language standard of the Holy Scriptures? Which translation shall we hold high and confidently claim to the English speaking world, "This is what the Bible says!"? The NNIV? The NKJV, ESV, KJV, GWN? Some other translation?

Do you agree, dear reader, with what seems to be a rush to adopt the NNIV? Or, have you settled and insist on an alternate translation? Do you think we need more time, as a Synod, to study and contemplate the issues and translations? Or, should we implicitly trust the advice of a few men regarding a new standard English version of the Bible? What do you think?

62 comments:

Paul McCain said...

I am dreadfully concerned for my many friends in the WELS and though I know they are uncomfortable using this language of me, I unhesitatingly call them my dear brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope and pray that the WELS sees its way through this situation and does not embrace the NIV2011. It is truly a Trojan horse, containing within itself deadly doctrine and very serious distortions of Holy Scripture and consequently pure doctrine.

I have a more complete blog post offering a number of reviews from others who have pointed out the grave problems with NIV2011:

http://cyberbrethren.com/2011/05/04/why-the-new-niv-is-bad-news-for-lutherans/

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Thank you, Rev. McCain, for expressing concern for us and for pure doctrine, for your early analysis of the NIV2011, and for continuing to warn of its danger. I replaced the link used in the post, above, to the blog article your reference (actually, I thought that was the one I was linking to -- guess I should check links before I post...).

In my personal opinion, adoption of the NNIV is a deal-breaker. If it is adopted by Synod, but if my congregation does not adopt the NNIV, I could continue in the WELS, I suppose, but difficulties would soon be upon us, as, post 2013, our current hymnal could no longer be printed containing the NIV 1984 nor could our catechisms. They would have to be swiftly updated. Depending on what would change in the hymnals, this may preclude joint worship with those who confess its words. It would mean that I would have to withold my children from catechism if it meant using materials published by NPH using the NIV2011 -- unless my pastor deigned to alternative or "older" materials.

I'm sure that most can guess, I would prefer that adoption of the NIV 2011 be forcefully rejected by Synod in Convention. Unfortunately, from a political perspective, I think the best that can be hoped for is that Synod postpone a decision, as Rev.'s Boehringer and Rydecki discuss, above. Once people have the chance to actually look at the content and go to the effort of evaluating not only the NNIV but other versions, I'm optimistic that and alternative to the NNIV will be chosen.

AP said...

I have come to like the ESV translation myself and have been mainly using it (and the old KJV) for my own Bible reading and study. Concordia's "Lutheran Study Bible", which uses the ESV, is quite excellent in my opinion as well. I have heard some suggest that the ESV is not as "readable" as the NIV, but I honestly do not understand that criticism at all. If "readability" is such a huge issue, then just go ahead and adopt something truly horrendous like the New Living Translation. Now, I can see how the KJV can be difficult for some, but there is no more poetic translation. It takes a bit of getting used to, but a nice annotated edition makes it fairly painless.

The KJV has one great advantage. It is in the public domain. I suppose that there could be ESV 2.0 at some point down the road, and then we are back in this same situation. There could also be a NEW New NIV. Given that Bible publishing is a huge industry and that the NIV is owned by News Corp (Fox, Fox News, etc), you can bet there will be at some point. Adopting any copyrighted translation comes with this difficulty.

I agree with Mr. Lindee that this translation issue will become a much larger one if and when there is a new hymnal in WELS or a new catechism in WELS. For now, no matter what WELS formally decided, the NNIV is easy enough to avoid. I wonder how NPH feels about this decision? Surely if a large mass of WELS members reject the NNIV, it will cut into their bottom line rather deeply.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Lund Family said...

Dear friends in Christ,

I just finished rereading the translation committee materials for the umpteen time it seems and find myself with only more questions on why so much emphasis is being placed on this new NIV2011 as being adequate for WELS. I am trying in all honesty to understand the criteria, which to me have inherent conflict.

Criteria 2 - We expect, with Luther, that a translation will communicate in the language of the people, using idioms and expressions that are understandable and in common, current use.

and

Criteria 3 - We expect that a translation will understand itself as a ―direct quotation of an ancient document, rather than merely supplying the ―gist of the original’s meaning in a contemporizing paraphrase.

Is it possible to reconcile these two criteria, where one does not fall prey to the other?

Forgive my bluntness here, but the criteria seems to be stacked to make all translations even in terms of their flaws, hence the NIV2011 becomes the default because it represents a the easiest flow on continuity from the NIV84. If we were willing to upset people in the late 1970s with the change from KJV to NIV84, and the WELS survived - surely we can write criteria that do not conflict, evaluation the best translations on those new criteria, make a better decision and make the change in the future.

Another question that recently has come to mind with regard to any translation we might pick is prefaced by the following thoughts. Our pastors are well-trained, we believe, in the original languages of Greek and Hebrew. There seems to be an assumption that picking a translation can and will be overcome by pastors knowing the original meaning and intent of the words that God gave each author to write down. Also implicit is the assumption that pastors will take the time to instruct the flock where a translation falls short in our confessional Lutheran Christian theology and when questions come up in Bible study, etc. - that the pastor will continue to be faithful to the Word of God and not the translation.

Lastly, I am deeply concerned with the statement of perception that the English language has changed significantly in the past three decades. How does one determine when the changes in English have grown to the point of making changes in the Bible translations? At one point in the Translation Committee's Q&A, it is stated that CBT used the most common terms used in language currently. I believe that those common terms used in language are influenced by our culture and therefore are susceptible to introducing error into how people understand a passage from the Bible. Doctrine than becomes a target based no just on the common terms, but how they are perceived and used in our culture.

Based on these concerns and questions and the fact we are allowing an external timeframe and publishing company to push us, I believe we must defer adoption of any translation and specifically reject the NIV2011.

LutherRocks said...

Where does Zondervan get off at issuing an 'ultimatum'?

Joe

Pastor Shiloh Monday said...

Greetings,

The translation issue is an important one and worthy of all the study and discussion that this is generating and more. I would only like to add the following thoughts that I believe should be kept in mind.

1) Although the translation issue is truly an important one, more important is that a church body be committed to training, ordaining and calling doctrinally sound preachers and teachers of the Word so that they can counter the weaknesses of any translation that we or our people might be using. I have a hard time hearing comments from Rev. McCain that he is "dreadfully concerned" that WELS is even considering using the NNIV and that it would be a Trojan Horse for us. Frankly, he has real trouble in his own city to deal with. A doctrinally bad translation in the hands of doctrinally sound men is less serious than a doctrinally fine translation in the hands of pastors who neglect Biblical Lutheran doctrine. The ESV translation, or any other for that matter, could not salvage the funeral sermon I heard preached by an LCMS pastor last year that mentioned nary a word of the redemption or the resurrection. That, sir, is cause for your dreadful concern.

2) Although choosing and using the best translation(s) that is (are) available to us truly important, that pastors be studying the Scriptures in the original languages and that our people actually be involved in regular Bible study is more important.

On a side note, I wonder if a study of the weaknesses of the LXX, combined with an study of how our Lord and the Apostles made use of the LXX, would shed some light on how much damage we can expect the weaknesses of a particular translation to do or not do when they are used.

Again, I do not say any these things to diminish our discussion of the subject of choice of translation in any way, but I do believe they are important points to consider along side.

And finally, I agree wholeheartedly with Pr. Boehringer's encouragement that WELS not rush this decision but take it as an opportunity to do a more thorough study. Pr. Rydecki, you also read my mind in saying that upcoming 500-year Lutheran anniversaries could provide the perfect opportunity for the American Lutheran church to finally make an concerted effort to do for English Bible translation what Luther did in German. The 500th anniversary of the publication of the entire Luther Bible would be 2034, if I'm not mistaken. That should give us enough time, don't you think?

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

1) Of those who have posted here on this blog, how many of you have either sat down with one of the guys on our translation committee or have spoken with them on the phone? I had the privilege of sitting down with Prof. Cherney during Summer Quarter to ask him some questions and he was nice enough to address my concerns. So much of the misinformation here on this blog could be cleared up by either talking with these guys or by reading their papers---preferably both.

2) While it may be true that the change-over in the NIV was sudden to some. For those who have been following the issue longer, they will recall that several years ago they already announced that they were going to close off the NIV-84. That is far from "sudden."

3) There are deficiencies in the NIV-11. If your patience will permit, here are some examples:

i.) “Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them” (Acts 6:3 NIV11) this translation of "ἀδελφοὶ" gives the impression that it was the women who also voted. Not true.

ii.) “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 NIV11) Good so far. But in the footnote, it reads: "Or young woman." Not good at all.

4) Just as there are some weaknesses in the NIV-11, there are also many improvements, both linguistically and doctrinally. For the copious examples of this, I trust that you will read our translation committee's published papers. In the Romans 9-16 class I took at Summer Quarter, I compared four translations (NIV-84, NIV-11, ESV, HCSB). And the one that did the best job of communicating the teaching/doctrine was the NIV-11. The point I'm making here is this: What use is it to stand and die one or two doctrines in the bible and overlook all the other doctrines in a bible?

5) There are those out there (Grudem & Polythress) who would like to attach bad motives to Zondervan and the NIV Bible Translation Committee. If one can prove that there is some dark agenda, fine. But if you are simply cursing in the darkness, then you are breaking the 8th commandment. The CBT has gone on the record a number of times stating that they don't have some dark agenda.

6) It is false and misleading to conclude that the ESV (or any of the other english versions) is better than the NIV-11. Please consider these examples from the ESV:

i.) “And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”” (Genesis 19:5 ESV) This verse is a translation fail. They could have actually translated "know."

ii.) “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3 ESV) Why do they narrow down what should be broadened out to the general man/woman relationships? For all of its alleged superiority when it comes to gender-role-translation, the ESV fails here too.

iii.) “and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” (1 Peter 2:8 ESV) The ESV here and in other places has a Calvinistic leaning. (cf. Jude 4, et al)

For my own part, I think the actions of my District were wise. Again, contrary to what people have reported on this blog, the Michigan district did not reject the NIV-11. Instead, they encouraged the Synod to not give the NIV-11 preferential treatment, but instead, to evaluate it along with the rest, at the same status or priority as the rest.

If you have found some "deal-breakers" in the NIV-11, so be it. It has some weaknesses. And the weaknesses are real. But don't pretend that the other versions out there are better. And above all, please pursue this transition in translation in a peaceable and orderly way.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Rev. Bauer,

1) Of those who have posted here on this blog, how many of you have either sat down with one of the guys on our translation committee or have spoken with them on the phone?

Well, I've e-mailed some. Does that count in your rule book? And when did you sit down with any of us here or spoken with us on the phone before you accuse us on this blog of putting out "misinformation"?

What use is it to stand and die one or two doctrines in the bible and overlook all the other doctrines in a bible?

I'm not sure who you think is doing this. The NNIV doesn't just get one or two doctrines wrong. It has hundreds, even thousands of examples of gender neutral language that inappropriately deviate from the inspired text. It freely improvises away from the inspired text regarding the references to "the Jews" in John and Acts. Add to that the whole philosophy of translation that substitutes interpretation where simple translation would be sufficient, and you have a translation that moves further away from the inspired text. But this will all be treated in future posts more thoroughly.

There are those out there (Grudem & Polythress) who would like to attach bad motives to Zondervan and the NIV Bible Translation Committee. If one can prove that there is some dark agenda, fine. But if you are simply cursing in the darkness, then you are breaking the 8th commandment.

Personally, I don't care what any of their motives were. I think people are foolish to accept or reject a translation based on the motives of the translators. All I'm concerned with is the final product, which, in this case, falls right into the lap of the feminist agenda (among other issues).

It is false and misleading to conclude that the ESV (or any of the other english versions) is better than the NIV-11.

So, are you saying that you've thoroughly examined all these translations to know that the NIV is most certainly as good as any of them? Really? We couldn't get a synodical committee to study all the other translations yet, and yet somehow you know?

Your ESV example from Genesis 19 is very much consistent with the rest of the uses of the word "know" in Genesis. Adam "knew" his wife. This follows the more formal philosophy of translation of the ESV, which is a far cry better that NNIV's "Adam made love to his wife." There is Scriptural significance in the verb "to know," and I can fully understand why the ESV sticks with it, whether I think it's best or not.

But don't pretend that the other versions out there are better.

I'm not pretending anything. I'm not thoroughly satisfied with any existing translation, but I think that a less readable but more accurate translation trumps a more readable but less accurate translation any day.

But rather than settle for false doctrine or for translation philosophies that deviate from the inspired text and replace it with man's interpretation, I have suggested that we go forward seeking to produce our own translation.

Pastor Spencer said...

Pastor Bauer,

Thank you for your comments. And I mean that. Yes, you were perhaps a bit critical of some of our writers and/of commenters, but that's just fine. We need to be able to be frank, blunt, open, and honest with each other if any of the difficulties our synod faces are going to get properly ironed out.

As an aside - this is a call to all of you out there - if you have something to say, say it! I know this has been said before, but it bears repeating; if you want to point to what you see as a fault or failing of something on Intrepid Lutherans, please do not hesitate to do so. And, "speaking the truth in love," does not necessarily mean speaking only nice words, and leaving harsh comments unsaid. So, please, speak boldly!

Having said that - to my point. No, I have not talked personally with members of the committee. I'm glad you have, and I'm glad they were receptive and open. Just one thing - when a person comes by my office on Monday to ask me to explain or clarify what I said on Sunday, my first thought is that maybe, just maybe, I didn't say what I should have said, or as much as I should have said, or spoke so clearly as to not be misunderstood. So, if we must talk individually and personally with members of the committee to get the full truth and impact of their report, perhaps their report was not a clear and full as it should have been. Not an accusation, mind you, just a thought.

Pastor Spencer

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

(This comment has been edited)

dē Paul McCain's comments:

He states that he is "dreadfully concerned" about his "friends" in the WELS. I wish that he had been more concerned about his own Synod. It is good and proper order to have the Synod in convention give direction and shape to the translation their publishing house uses. This is the approach we are striving to make use of....

....

Finally, we would take his words more seriously...if he were to speak in a loving way. On his facebook page, in his posting called "Why is the Wisconsin Synod [WELS] Willing to Support an Inaccurate and Unfaithful Bible Translation?" he has a picture of a man with a bible in one hand and a stack of money in the other.... Why in the world would he put such an offensive picture on his page?

He can call us "friends" as much as he wants. But I'll believe it when he starts treating us as friends.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Yes, as Pr. Spencer said, speak boldly. And if you criticize us at IL, we'll probably still post your comment.

But when unfounded or unproven accusations are thrown around at other commenters or when someone starts ranting, throwing pot shots or making blanket condemnations, your comment may be edited or deleted. FYI.

Lund Family said...

I would like to followup the statement by Pastor Rydecki, "I'm not thoroughly satisfied with any existing translation, but I think that a less readable but more accurate translation trumps a more readable but less accurate translation any day."

As laity, I would prefer a faithful and accurate translation over one that is more readable too. We have some of the best trained pastors of any synod and I would prefer laity ask questions of their pastors about an accurate translation as opposed to pastors having to answer questions about gender neutrality and prophecies issues. Or worse yet, have laity somehow not know about the translation problems that exist or that the translation questions they have are not worth asking their pastor questions about. Of course I would hope laity with questions always ask their pastor questions.

As to Pastor Bauer's question about asking questions directly of the translation committee, I personally have not called them on the phone either. I have met Pastor Petermann and Tom Nass, though I doubt they would remember me. I respect both men greatly for their work done past, present and future. I have talked with my District's conference pastors and listened to their opinions and their reactions in speaking with Tom Nass and Prof. Wendland on the Bible translation issue.

Anonymous said...

I do not like the new NIV and will not recommend it to my congregation. What will I recommend? I don't know yet. I am still waiting to see what NPH will use for publishing and why. If we use the NIV'11 in publications, I will probably still neither use it nor recommend it for a variety of reasons.

Right now I am recommending my members to get two Bibles: 1)One of the following: NASB (or KJV or ESV) 2) Another one of the following: AAT/HCSB/NIV84

My advice is to use a Bible from group 2 for bulk devotional reading, and then compare it to a Bible from group 1 when you want to study smaller chunks indepth. (There are good cross references in the NASB, so I tend to recommend that one over the ESV - unless we put the TLSB in the mix).

What else do I want to say: "Pastor Otten: please get the AAT v.4r in some sort of electronic form. Even the KJV21 is on Biblegateway. If you seriously want us to consider that translation, then make it more accessible!!!"

For my personal devotions? Currently I am reading the KJV. Why? Three reasons: 1) It's the 400th anniversay of this historic translation that has served the church so well for so long. It has a connection with Luther via Tyndale. There is nothing wrong with it. 2) I have an non-dramatized Alexander Scourby Audio Bible which I love to listen to when reading. He was an excellent Bible reader. His use of punctuation, cadence, inflection tempo . . . it is all very good! 3) Reading the KJV devotionally helps me comprehend old English better. I mow find myself reading and comprehending theological resources that were translated or composed in old english more quickly.

Having said all this, I am not proposing that the KJV be adopted as our translation of choice (although, it would save NPH a few bucks on royalties). I am just saying that I am enjoying this translation.

In Christian love,
Pastor Michael Sullivan

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

Hey Paul, You wrote:

"Your ESV example from Genesis 19 is very much consistent with the rest of the uses of the word "know" in Genesis. Adam "knew" his wife. This follows the more formal philosophy of translation of the ESV, which is a far cry better that NNIV's "Adam made love to his wife.""

For my own part, what good is "scriptural significance" if the person reading the text doesn't understand what the words mean? I agree that the ESV is consistent in its translation of sexual intercourse as "know." But, if they chose to not translate that hebrew idiom, then why did they choose to actually translate other passages? Every time it says in the hebrew "and his nose became red", do they translate these words literally/formally? Obviously not. Why then did they give up on translating the hebrew idiom in this verse and then translate the hebrew idioms in other verses? I'm not enamored of "made love to his wife." But it at least it gets the point across.

Since I used the word "misinformation", it is proper that I mention specifically what I mean:

1) Some days ago there was a posting which mentioned that there were two districts that rejected the NIV-11. If the reference to the "two districts" included the MI district, then it was misinformation.

2) The shift from the NIV-84 was not sudden. If several years of forewarning was sudden, then our break from Missouri could be considered sudden too. I'm not all that excited about the fact that they are closing off the NIV-84. (in fact, I'm quite frustrated) But there was forewarning for those who payed attention (ironically, I wasn't one of those who payed attention initially. I read the press releases only after the fact. But they were still there to be read.).

Likewise Paul, you write:

"Personally, I don't care what any of their motives were. I think people are foolish to accept or reject a translation based on the motives of the translators. All I'm concerned with is the final product, which, in this case, falls right into the lap of the feminist agenda (among other issues)."

Amen to the first part of the paragraph! However, I question the second part of the paragraph. Feminists might use the NIV-11 for their own purposes, but it does not prove that some gender inclusive language is out of place. Both the ESV and the HCSB use gender inclusive language. The apostle Paul uses gender inclusive language. (in 2 Corinthians 6:18 he adds to the LXX by including the phrase "καὶ θυγατέρας"). I agree that the NIV-11 goes too far with that sort of language. But it isn't out of place to simply use gender inclusive language per se.

So also Paul, you write:

"So, are you saying that you've thoroughly examined all these translations to know that the NIV is most certainly as good as any of them? Really? We couldn't get a synodical committee to study all the other translations yet, and yet somehow you know?"

One doesn't have to read every word of all the translations to see in detail what their strengths and weaknesses are. I have cited some weaknesses with the NIV-11 and the ESV. I could also cite a number from the HCSB. My point was that all the translations I have been reading have doctrinal weaknesses. And they all have linguistic traits I"m not all that excited about either. In that sense they are no better or worse than the others.

Finally, I asked Prof. Cherney about the "let's do our own translation" option. I'm running out of my 4000 character limit. But let me just say that it would take far, far more time, energy, money (insert other resource examples here) than I had initially thought. I think it would be the ideal option. But, at least, we should stop and "count the cost" first.

Anonymous said...

Please excuse all the spelling and grammatical mistakes in my last post. I have a bad head cold and failed to properly proof read my post.

In Christian love,
Pastor Michael Sullivan

Anonymous said...

Readability seems to be a goofy argument to me. I don't think that the Scriptures should be impossible to read, but I do have a concern about making the text too simple. Surely there are some cases where a simpler text is preferable, but in most cases it seems that the text shouldn't be made too simple. God's Word is serious, and should be translated as such. If we dumb down the text, we risk making it seem silly and childish.

I have attended Bible study as a student at BLC, and while someone else was reading from the NIV, I read from the NKJV which was a decent form of closed captioning. (I should try it once with the ESV.) So maybe the readability issue might be a bit pointless, and an NIV to NKJV would be easier than we think, or maybe I am just "used to" the NKJV. I quit using the NIV when I entered college; the only real exposure I have now is during the church service and very occasional reference; I regularly use the NKJV and the ESV.

Jerod Butt

Daniel Baker said...

While discussing alternative translation possibilities with my pastor in anticipation of the Convention's approval of the NNIV for synodical publications, the 'God's Word to the Nations' translation was offered as a possibility. I have borrowed a copy of the New Testament of this translation to examine its merit; thank you, Mr. Lindee, for suggesting some of the less flattering qualities of the translation. I suspect that I will stick to my original recommendation that the ESV or NKJV would be the best options for our congregation.

Not to dwell on a tangent, but I think the unbecoming words directed toward Pastor McCain are highly inappropriate. Pr. Monday's non-sequitor reference to an LCMS congregation with an alleged lack of Christological emphasis in a funeral sermon can hardly be used to condemn the entire synod. Shall the LCMS judge the WELS by its congregations which feature popcorn munching during its prayers, plagiarism of heretical Reformed and non-Lutheran sources, and excommunication of members who call their pastors out on these errors?

Likewise, Pr. Bauer would do well to put the best construction on Pr. McCain's Facebook image and assume that, perhaps, he meant it in reference to Rupert Murdoch or News Corp, rather than jumping to unfounded conclusions.

In short, we would do well to put into practice the the analogy regarding a plank and an eye that Someone once illustrated.

Daniel Baker said...

As another aside, I would not be averse to utilizing the translation that Pr. Sullivan is currently using for personal study, but I must admit to being baffled by its sentence structure and word usage when I read from it. Regardless, nearly every teacher (and pastor!) I had in my WELS grade school and high school curriculum bemoaned the fact that they memorized a particular text in the "old version" of the Bible. I suspect that, if students were fully immersed in this old version from infancy through the collegiate level, it would not seem so foreign or "hard to read" as some imagine (this goes for any translation).

David Wietzke said...

I am interested if anyone has made much use of the HCSB translation. My initial reactions to it have been fairly positive, but admittedly my exposure to it has been limited.

I think that the 2011 convention would be VERY wise to make use of the next 2 years in studying translations for publications, rather than making an immediate decision.

I do think that "readability" is an important consideration. I was actually disappointed that the NNIV did not work harder to shorten long sentences and simplify vocabulary in the epistles.

I'm open to further study, but it certainly seems to me that the NNIV has gone too far in gender neutrality. Translating "anthropoi" as "people" is one thing; translating "adelphoi" as "brothers and sisters" is quite another. And 1 Timothy 2:12 is a real concern. It's hard enough for us to maintain this teaching in the world without having to 'improve' a translation when defending it!

I remain puzzled why the "young woman" footnote in Isaiah 7:14 NNIV does not seem to have raised too much consternation. Wasn't there a (fully justified) furor when the RSV included this in the 1940s or 1950s?

I trust and admire the men on the translation evaluation committee, but am not persuaded of their conclusions as of yet.

May God give our synod much wisdom and strength to deal with this issue correctly, courageously and lovingly.

Anonymous said...

Did you know that the NLT (2007) doesn't even go as far as the NIV (2011) in regards to gender neutrality?

Compare the NLT (2007) with the NIV (2011) in the following passages: 1 Timothy 2:12 & Acts 1:16.

The NLT (2007) was an improvement over the NLT (1995), which was pretty bad. Still, I will not recommend the NLT for some of the same reasons I do not like the new NIV (Psalm 8 / Hebrews 2, footnote for Isaiah 7:14 . . .). It is interesting that the NLT wasn't given any consideration in the Translation Committee's report, even though it seems to be a more "conservative" translation over the NIV(2011) in the parts that I checked (and my checking was not extensive).

My preference? Christian News seemed to indicate that Otten would give the rights of the AAT to NPH free of charge. If this is true, maybe we should seriously consider Otten's offer to use and continue revising the AAT. The AAT is a decent Lutheran translation. Professors Becker and Kuske (to name only two) worked on revising it, why not continue the work and refine it. Such a project would not be impossible for us (much easier than starting a translation from scratch) and we would have a translation for publication in the short term.

If you want to see how the AAT stacks up against other translations, check out this LCMS comparative study. Page 5 has a brief paragraph on the AAT, and then you can look at the examples throughout the study. The AAT has its quirks, but I would rather settle for them than the NIV (2011).

In Christian love,
Pastor Michael Sullivan

Anonymous said...

I agree with the general sentiments. The translation is the soft-sell version of the Historical Critical method. I ask myself, if the translators were willing to mess with the gender, what other things did they change? Do we believe the Bible was inspired word-for-word, or did God inspire general concepts? An eighth grader confirmand would know better. Meanwhile I was told by an shall-remain-nameless seminary professor, regarding the NIV 2011 that "perhaps my faith isn't ready to understand why gender neutrality is okay, and that "every translation is treason".

If the WELS accepts the NIV 2011 it is siding with many other Sects who do not believe in plenary verbal inspiration. May this not be!!

But really, it shows how deep the systemic rot is in the WELS to show that the Synod (on any level) would even consider that translation. The Southern Baptists are even laughing at us--aghast that the WELS is struggling over the matter. (hanging my head)

I would hope that Confessional WELS pastors and congregations would tell the Synod "we will not use no purchase any materials containing the NIV 2011, nor will we vouch for the orthodoxy of any church who uses the translation.

Tim Meyers

Anonymous said...

While I agree with many of the points made here against the NNIV and am still on the fence regarding which translation I would prefer our synod uses, I think too much is being made of gender-inclusive language.

Yes, there are passages where the translation goes too far and affects our teaching of the roles of men and women. (Pastor Bauer's example is one of them.)

However, I find it foolish to believe that EVERY "they" (rather than the generic "men") is somehow part of a deeper feminist agenda.

Some background: I am a writer, editor and internship instructor for one of the world's largest sports websites. I deal with "common usage" every day and I, myself, have been surprised with out common usage deviates from what I was taught.

In 1993, Chicago Manual Style recommended the "singular they" instead of writing "he and/or she." Their most recent update softened that stance to neutral, but the AP style guide still recommends gender inclusiveness. APA and MLA both go so far as to suggest "avoiding" gender specific language.

Those are the four common style guides that shape the way American English is to be written. All of them are in line with the decision made by the CBT.

Now, as I said earlier, should this change in English affect our teaching? Certainly not! But, I think it is silly to pretend the NNIV is foisting some change in English upon us, when the rules have been in place for 18 years.

Again, this does not mean that we should ignore the passages where usage of gender inclusiveness affects our doctrine (as Pastor Bauer aptly showed above). Yet, while much can be said about the weaknesses of this (and any) translation, I do not think this is the "hill to die on."


--Michael Schottey

AP said...

Since when did using a plural pronoun as a singular pronoun become grammatical?

I use the Chicago Manual as the rule on footnotes, documentation, and bibliography but not for much else. I have zero use for MLA or APA, though I'm often forced to deal with them. If we want to anoint these manuals as the official guardians of the English language, then we had all better start replacing B.C. and A.D. with B.C.E. and C.E. as well.

I think we can all agree that there is no perfect translation. Some are just more imperfect than others. I'm still not sure which one, from a particularly Lutheran perspective, is the least imperfect. As I said, I have enjoyed reading the ESV, but I don't know if it is right for the whole synod.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Schottey,

My problems with the gender inclusive language aren't related to the use of the singular "they". As you said, that's part of standard English, whether we like it or not.

My problem is with verses like Acts 1:16 where it is implied that women took part in choosing Matthias, or 1 Timothy 2:12 where it is implied that women can indeed have authority over men, as long as it is given rather than assumed.

My fear is that, if we adopt the new NIV, it will only be a matter of time before it is argued within the WELS, on the basis of such verses, that women can and should indeed have authority over men in the church.

It's hard enough to teach people what the Bible has to say about gender roles without our Bible translation itself seeming to say the opposite of what we teach.

Because of that, in my mind, just the two passages I listed above are "deal-breakers", without even mentioning the anti-messianic sections.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

Tim Meyers wrote:

"But really, it shows how deep the systemic rot is in the WELS to show that the Synod (on any level) would even consider that translation. The Southern Baptists are even laughing at us--aghast that the WELS is struggling over the matter. (hanging my head)"

I'm curious of where your proof is that Southern Baptists are laughing at us. The Baptists I am in contact with who are studying the NIV-11 (and other bibles) are seriously saddened that their own brothers rushed to a decision on this matter without studying it further. And by no means are they laughing at us. I hope you're speaking hyperbolically. Because if you're not, you'll have to produce evidence that a sizable amount of Baptists even know that the WELS exists (Most I've talked to don't). But in addition to that, you'll have to produce evidence that they are indeed laughing at us.

Also, you'll also have to show how considering the NIV-11 as a translation option for our synod proves that there is "systemic rot" in the WELS.

You bring forth serious charges against our church. Unless you bring forth real and substatial proof, I have no choice but to conclude that you are breaking the 8th commandment.

If you really do think that the WELS is in error for considering the NIV-11 as a translation option, then this is not the forum to speak of such things first. Speak to your pastor, congregational president, circuit pastor, in keeping with Matthew 18.

Why does this blog tolerate such flagrant breaking of the 8th commandment unchecked?

--Pastor Steve Bauer

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

Mr. Adam Peeler wrote:

"My fear is that, if we adopt the new NIV, it will only be a matter of time before it is argued within the WELS, on the basis of such verses, that women can and should indeed have authority over men in the church."

In all sincerity (and I hope this will be recieved with my due humility), your logic is flawed.

For decades now we have been using the NIV. And there are sections of it where they made the language far more baptistic than we would have liked. For example, in 1 Peter 3:21, we find the word "ἐπερώτημα". It means "pledge, appleal or promise." The evangelicals (not surprisingly) used the word "pledge" to give it the less-than-subtle shading that baptism is a promise we make to God. Not good.

However, my question is this: how many WELS pastors or congregations did you find teaching and preaching that this was an act we do for God? We dealt with this vague wording and then taught what the proper scriptural understanding is.

It is flawed logic to assume that if we adopt a translation where the interpretation is left more to the reader that the Synod will fall apart (doctrinally).


Also, Adam, you write:

"Because of that, in my mind, just the two passages I listed above are "deal-breakers", without even mentioning the anti-messianic sections."


I'm with you here, Adam. The changes made in the Messianic sections are not good at all. If this is your "deal-breaker", then you have my full respect and support. For in these examples (and there seem to be a bunch of them), they aren't just shifting the wording to put the interpretation in the hands of the reader. Instead, they are changing the direction of the whole psalm.

However, even in saying this, please allow our men time to evaluate the other translations. In the other translations I have looked at there are also real doctrinal errors as well. The final decision for our publishing house will not be easy.

--Pastor Steve Bauer

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Rev. Bauer, you wrote:
Why does this blog tolerate such flagrant breaking of the 8th commandment unchecked?

For the same reason we tolerate all of the flagrant accusations you've thrown around on this thread. We're trying to facilitate a discussion. We're not trying to shepherd every commenter.

Your use of Matthew 18 is completely unbiblical. What private sin has anyone been making public here? I know of none.

As for the 8th Commandment, I know of no one's reputation that has been maligned. You talk of "serious charges against our church." Whose reputation is being maligned here? It's a general observation about a system, not an accusation against any individual or group of individuals. I don't know that I agree with the phrase "systemic rot," but you're being awfully quick to specifically judge this commenter while he is expressing a general observation about no one in particular. This is not a violation of the 8th Commandment. Please stop trying to intimidate our readers with such accusations.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Bauer,

I don't think your argument based on 1 Peter 3:21 and the doctrine of Baptism applies here for two reasons.

First, there are many, many passages in Scripture which can be used to support our teaching on Baptism clearly and concisely. When it comes to the roles of man and woman, there are relatively few, and probably none so clear and concise as 1 Timothy 2:12. Thus, 1 Timothy 2:12 is relatively more "important" for teaching gender roles than 1 Peter 3:21 is for teaching Baptism.

Second, the doctrine of Baptism isn't one that is commonly misunderstood or routinely attacked within our synod. Thus, one bad translation in one passage isn't likely to introduce much danger. The doctrine of gender roles, though, is commonly misunderstood and routinely attacked within our synod. It's far more likely, therefore, that a bad translation in a key passage will be used (purposely and/or accidentally) to introduce dangerous false teaching.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Also, Pastor Bauer, you write: "please allow our men time to evaluate the other translations".

Is this happening? My sense is that "our men" gave the new NIV a thumbs-up while at the same time dismissing the other options relatively quickly and casually.

Take the HCSB for example. I've been using it in my personal reading and have been very impressed with it. The only criticism I've read about it is that it sometimes uses Yahweh instead of Lord--which was perceived by "our men" as weird.

If that's the biggest issue with HCSB, then we ought to take a long, hard look at it, rather than dismissing it. I just don't get the sense that we're taking a long, hard look at anything except the NIV.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

Pastor Rydecki wrote:

"It's a general observation about a system, not an accusation against any individual or group of individuals. I don't know that I agree with the phrase "systemic rot," "


The system IS people. People came up with the "system." People use the "system." to divorce the "system" from the people that comprise the system is artful sophistry.

Again, where is the proof of "systemic rot?" You don't just get to throw out words like that without proof.

And again, where are the supposed masses of baptists out there laughing at us?

This is not intimidation. This is simply a request for proof.

And my use of Matt. 18 is justified. When someone in my congregation accuses our church-body of harboring a "systemic rot", then I want that person to speak to me or to my circuit pastor, or to my district president, whose responsibility it is to see to it that there is no "systemic rot." If you don't like Matt. 18, maybe I should have cited this instead: “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:19 NIV) If it's wrong to entertain an accusation against one elder, how much more is it to entertain an accusation against a whole church body?

I'm all for discussion. But using words like "systemic rot" go beyond discussion and into the realm of accusation.

I'll be more than content to let them stand if there were actually proof to support the accusation.

You, Paul, have told me that you're ok with the ESV rendering of Gen. 19:5. But more importantly, you have told me *why* you are ok with it. I don't agree with all of it. But at least you provide some evidence to support your claims. Why do you expect less from others who post on your blog?


--Pastor Steve Bauer

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

Mr. Adam Peeler wrote:

"First, there are many, many passages in Scripture which can be used to support our teaching on Baptism clearly and concisely. When it comes to the roles of man and woman, there are relatively few, and probably none so clear and concise as 1 Timothy 2:12. Thus, 1 Timothy 2:12 is relatively more "important" for teaching gender roles than 1 Peter 3:21 is for teaching Baptism."

Good point. I didn't think about that. I'll have to ponder that more.


Adam Peeler also wrote:

"Second, the doctrine of Baptism isn't one that is commonly misunderstood or routinely attacked within our synod. Thus, one bad translation in one passage isn't likely to introduce much danger. The doctrine of gender roles, though, is commonly misunderstood and routinely attacked within our synod."

Over the years, in the congregations I have served in, I haven't seen what you describe here. Baptism is misunderstood just as much as the roles of men and women are. But I'm not serving in your area, I guess.

--Pastor Steve Bauer

Anonymous said...

Pastor Bauer,

Southern Baptists have been outspoken critics of the NIV 2011 and they state their reasons lucidly--reasons that Confessional WELsians would be proud to agree with. But yes, hyperbole is a fine rhetorical device.

I happen to agree with Fr. Rydecki about your eighth commandment claims, but to go further: The eighth commandment prohibits bearing *false* witness. All I did was bear *accurate* witness to the fact that the WELS IS considering a translation that approached God's Word as if God inspired concepts, instead of inspiring every single word.

In this, the WELS will be departing from a very important Orthodox tradition. We will be, in essence, rejecting the philosophy of Luther, Tyndale, and other faithful translators in favor of pop culture-fueled political correctness.

The WELS has Confessional Doctrine. And yet considers a gender neutral Scripture?

I don't know what you call that, Pastor Bauer, but I say it's evidence of a systemic problem in the WELS, and a problem with the faiths of the men who are standing behind the NIV 2011. I hope we may convince the proponents of a wiser Truer translation.

Now, that's not bearing false witness. That's bearing witness to the facts and drawing a reasonable conclusion based on the wisdom given me by the Holy Spirit through the Word.

But to surmise why certain WELS pastors are supporting the NIV 2011: It is well known that certain people in our synod use the term (regarding evangelism) "preparing the soil". These men imagine that we may do something to make the Word of God grow better when we sow the seed. From this concept come all the things some churches do to attract people: Racketball for the Lord, Clown Ministries, etc.

But this NIV thing...this is the next step. The NIV translators said point blank, they are trying to make the Word more attractive (and less detractive) by changing the words that would make people uncomfortable, and changing words which they imagine people won't understand.

Given that we already know of evidence of "church polishing" in the WELS, it's a reasonable to surmise that the proponents of the NIV in the WELS are doing it for the same reason.

If this is the reason, we need to unite and reject the NIV 2011.

(note, Pastor Bauer: again. not bearing false witness. I'm not declaring something untrue. I'm surmising something I think to be reasonable.)

Tim Meyers

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

Mr. Meyers wrote:

"The WELS has Confessional Doctrine. And yet considers a gender neutral Scripture?

I don't know what you call that, Pastor Bauer, but I say it's evidence of a systemic problem in the WELS, and a problem with the faiths of the men who are standing behind the NIV 2011. I hope we may convince the proponents of a wiser Truer translation."

If using gender neutral language is wrong, then I suppose all the other bibles who use gender inclusive language are wrong? Examples:

ESV, Matt 7:9, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?” [ESV uses generic “one” for ἄνθρωπος even though it is followed by a masculine pronoun.]

HCSB, 2 Tim 3:13, Evil people and impostors will become worse. [HCSB uses the least inclusive language of all recent translations but here uses generic “people” for ἄνθρωπος]

NET, 1 Thess 1:4, “We know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you”

NLT, 1 Tim 2:1, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people”


So also, I suppose the apostle Paul is wrong as well: ““I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”” (2 Corinthians 6:18 NIV) In quoting the LXX, he adds the two words "and daughters." That's as inclusive as it gets.


For my own part, I don't understand your hyperbole. Nor do I understand which parts of your post were in fact hyperbole or not. But, the parts you have clarified (and thanks for doing so), I have the opportunity to respond to.

Finally, since you're speaking clearly and publicly now, do you really mean what you say in these words that if the WELS considers "gender neutral language" then there is "evidence of a systemic problem in the WELS?"

--Pastor Steve Bauer

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

So also, I suppose the apostle Paul is wrong as well: “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18 NIV) In quoting the LXX, he adds the two words "and daughters." That's as inclusive as it gets.

Waaait a minute, Rev. Bauer. First, as you well know, LXX has been pilloried for well-over two centuries as a very poor translation of the Hebrew into Greek -- even Jerome and Luther distrusted it in preference for the Hebrew. The fable of its translation, "by the 70," that was given in rather romantic detail by Josephus, was proven fraudulent as long ago as the 16th Century! It was an apologetic for Hellenistic Jewry. Today it is regarded as a relatively poor and haphazard translation of the Hebrew into Greek, that was amended over centuries by countless unknown editors. Mentioning LXX so prominently in this way makes it sound as if you are anticipating an argument against the NIV based on its use of LXX as the basis of its OT translation, instead of the Hebrew Masoretic...

More importantly, if the inspired text includes both genders in a given context, then, indeed, it is more than proper -- it is required -- that it be translated accordingly. This by no means grants license to translators to neutralize gender in every context. If one distinguishes between the inspired text of St. Paul (whether he quoted a translation or not) and the work of the modern translator, it isn't even appropriate to include Paul's LXX quotation in an argument supporting the "freedom" of a modern translator to do so!

The fact is, every layman should have the guarantee that translators of the Bible are slaves to the grammar and vocabulary of the inspired text, and are set upon a single academic task: to provide a translation of it into a given target-language (the layman's own language) in a way that mirrors the grammar and vocabulary of the original text as closely as is practical in the target-language. I'm not asking my translator to be my pastor -- I am not asking him to explain the original text to me. In fact, I forbid it. I want the translator restricted to the grammar and vocabulary and to provide me with an English text that is rendered as objectively as possible from the original language, even if that means it is difficult to read and understand on my own. If, as a result, I have questions and need such a Bible explained to me, I will consult the man I have Called for this purpose, the man who knows me personally and understands, firsthand, my difficulties: my own pastor. In this sense, I insist, the ideology of Dynamic Equivalency -- according to which the NIV, in all of its editions, was translated -- treads upon, and even abrogates, our Doctrine of the Call. It is a given that pastors who prefer this ideology do so out of a sense of alleviating the burden placed on them of teaching the text. In doing so, I would argue that they are abdicating, even if in some minor way, their role as teacher (i.e., catechist), and are placing that role on an unknown and heterodox translator instead.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Bauer, you are the only person in the discussion who is writing rudely here. There really isn't any need for it, you know. I've been speaking clearly since the beginning and your condescension is unbecoming of your collar.

If you reread both my posts you will find (very clearly written) that I think the heart of the problem is that the NIV 2011, by it's translators' own admission) forsakes Verbal Plenary Inspiration in exchange for the idea that God merely inspired concepts.

Gender neutrality is one outcropping of such a problem. But there are many others. From a layman's view (not versed in Greek) if the translators don't feel the need to engage in good Scholarship with regard to gender how am I to trust any bit of their work? Another way to say the same thing: They translate with an agenda divergent from all of historic orthodoxy. Their work is suitable only to wipe with.

So, for whatever reason the NIV is being considered and defended, that it IS being considered means the WELS is considering a departure from historic Orthodoxy. If I can't call that Rotten, sir, what should I call it? 'Satanic' is another fine adjective that comes to mind for agendized politically correct translations.

And Fr. Rydecki, the following is not a pot-shot but rather a teachable moment: Let me just point out something. The politically Liberal in this country force politically correct language upon us because it's "more inclusive" and "excludes discrimination", don't they? They do it claiming moral authority. But then, on the other hand they muzzle any sort of discernment (like saying homosexuality is sinful, etc) if it doesn't go along with their agenda---as if they had moral authority.

Isn't this true? Isn't this how Liberals work? Strange that Pastor Bauer is doing the same exact thing. He would prohibit me with moral authority (8th commandment) from calling the problems in the WELS "systemic rot", but on the other demands that we accept a Gender neutral Bible. Right out the Liberal playbook, folks.

Pastor Bauer, just why is it that you show up here to rudely defend a poor translation of the Bible? What is your agenda?

Tim Meyers

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lindee,

I (mostly) agree with this statement you made, however, there is room for improvement:

"I want the translator restricted to the grammar and vocabulary and to provide me with an English text that is rendered as objectively as possible from the original language, even if that means it is difficult to read and understand on my own."

As a former (struggling) student of Hebrew, I don't think it is right to burden the people of God with the most literal translation of the original text possible. While our culture has maintained some similarities with Hellenistic (and later Latin) culture, we have not with the ancient Hebrews.

Is it a better translation to write "nose is hot for" rather than "angry"? Is it a better translation to overuse superfluous words that the Hebrew demands but English speakers would find confusing?

Listen to Yoda from Star Wars and ask yourself is that is what you want read from your lectern each Sunday.

A Bible translation SHOULD BE in the everyday, common language of the people. That is what Wycliffe was condemned for and what Luther toiled for.

If you truly want the most literal translation, I commend you to Young's Literal Translation. It is easily found on Bible Gateway and was very useful to me in regards to checking my own translation work. However, it reads like a lead weight and one can barely understand what it communicates let alone the doctrines behind the words.

The spectrum between literal translation and understandability in every day language is an important discussion and should not be regarded as something shameful or underhanded, Luther asked himself the same questions when writing his German Bible--using far more "low" (common) German than many may have wanted.

I have my own, severe, doubts that the NNIV is at the perfect place on that "spectrum," but I think it is in a more defensible position than many are giving it credit for.

While many are stopping at the lectern in terms of understandability, I think it is important to walk down to the classrooms as well. YOU might be able to muddle through the ESV, but will a 4th grader? A preschooler? Remember that these decisions are being made for their sakes as well.

--Schottey

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

Mr. Lindee wrote:

"First, as you well know, LXX has been pilloried for well-over two centuries as a very poor translation of the Hebrew into Greek -- even Jerome and Luther distrusted it in preference for the Hebrew."

I agree. The Hebrew is much better than the greek translation in the LXX. But, you're misunderstanding my point. Paul chose to quote the LXX in the NT greek. He did not translate the verse from the Hebrew into the greek (as he seems to in some other places). But, even that's not the most important point. The most important point is this: he *added* to the verse. He added the words "and daughters." That is inclusive language. Your estimation of the LXX does not change the words of the NT greek in that verse. Do you get what I'm saying?

So also, Mr. Lindee:

"More importantly, if the inspired text includes both genders in a given context, then, indeed, it is more than proper -- it is required -- that it be translated accordingly. This by no means grants license to translators to neutralize gender in every context."

Amen. What the NIV-11 translators did in the messianic psalms and the beginning of Acts is going way too far. Agreed. But that's not what Mr. Meyer wrote. He wrote: "The WELS has Confessional Doctrine. And yet considers a gender neutral Scripture?" Every bible uses gender inclusive language. The real issue is *in what passages* does one use inclusive language.

So also, Mr. Lindee:

"I want the translator restricted to the grammar and vocabulary and to provide me with an English text that is rendered as objectively as possible from the original language, even if that means it is difficult to read and understand on my own....In this sense, I insist, the ideology of Dynamic Equivalency -- according to which the NIV, in all of its editions, was translated -- treads upon, and even abrogates, our Doctrine of the Call."

Professor Nass puts it this way:

"In terms of Lutheran doctrinal theology, we believe that God has verbally inspired each and every word of the original texts (the materia). Each word is important and treasured, because it comes from God. However the true essence (the forma) of God‘s inspired revelation is the thought or truth or message that is conveyed through the vehicle of the words as they are combined in a context, not the outward words themselves. Hoenecke writes, ―The essence of God‘s Word is not the sounds, tones, letters, syllables, words, and sentences. It is the divine truth contained in the words.‖67 Words serve the meaning; the meaning does not serve the words.68

Footnotes:
67 Adolf Hoenecke, translated by Joel Fredrich, Paul Prange, and Bill Tackmier, Evangelical Lutheran Dogmatics: Volume IV (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1999), 5.

68 Luther makes this point in LW 35:213."

It is a false dichotomy to set up formal vs. functional, literal vs. idiomatic. Both the words *and* the thoughts are important. I urge you to read Prof. Cherney's paper on this topic. It's very well written. Indeed, the dynamic equivalence can go too far (e.g. "made love to his wife" NIV-11). But, just as bad is thinking that if one slavishly transports the biblical words into english that he has done his work as a translator. In this regard, the ESV (for example--though I could cite others) fails. Example: ““I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities” (Amos 4:6 ESV)

Before you lock in your viewpoint ("treads upon, and even abrogates, our Doctrine of the Call"), I urge you to read the papers on the Translation Committee's website, especially Professor Nass' and Professor Cherney's papers.

--Pastor Steve Bauer

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

Mr. Meyers wrote:

"If you reread both my posts you will find (very clearly written) that I think the heart of the problem is that the NIV 2011, by it's translators' own admission) forsakes Verbal Plenary Inspiration in exchange for the idea that God merely inspired concepts."

Could you please provide for me some sections of their writings where the translators associated with Zondervan "forsake verbal plenary inspiration?" What you're saying may be true. But, I would very much like to see proof.

In my readings from the NIV Committee on Bible Translation I haven't found what you have. In fact, I seem to find the opposite:

"Second, we object to the “guilt-by-association” labeling of some of our translations. The review notes some renderings in the updated NIV that are adopted also by “feminist” interpreters. Yet they fail to note that many of these same renderings are also adopted by complementarian interpreters. (For instance, “assume authority” in 1 Tim. 2:12 is Calvin’s rendering.) The fact that egalitarians and complementarians alike adopt many of these translations suggests that, in fact, there is broad scholarly support in favor of these conclusions. It is the scholarship that has influenced the decisions of CBT in these texts – not a modern agenda of any kind....Fourth, the CBMW review criticizes the updated NIV for avoiding certain masculine terms. The review notes, for instance, that the updated NIV often makes changes to “avoid the word ‘man.’’’ It would be only fair to note that almost all modern English translations do the same thing. The English Standard Version, for instance, is based on the Revised Standard Version. Yet over 700 occurrences of the word “man” or “men” found in the RSV are dropped in the ESV." (A Brief Response from the Committee on Bible Translation to the Review of the updated NIV by the Committee on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)

It may be what you are saying is true, but please, where is the proof? You write: "Isn't this true? Isn't this how Liberals work? Strange that Pastor Bauer is doing the same exact thing." Am I a liberal simply because I would like some evidence?

--Pastor Steve Bauer

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Mr. Schottey,

You raise many good points. I'll start by responding to your last point and work back a little from there: While many are stopping at the lectern in terms of understandability, I think it is important to walk down to the classrooms as well. YOU might be able to muddle through the ESV, but will a 4th grader? A preschooler? Remember that these decisions are being made for their sakes as well.

I positively reject the notion that a suitable standard translation is one rendered in favor of either fourth or sixth grade reading levels (the latter being the target reading level of the NIV 1984) or can or should be expressed as anything but a standard the language itself. Such individuals have parents, teachers and pastors whose God-ordained function it is to remediate and teach the meaning of the Scriptures to them. The argument that fourth graders need to read and understand the Bible on their own abrogates the roles of these adults in their teaching roles. On the contrary, a standard translation is one that marshals the full capabilities of the target-language – as far as it will allow – in artfully rendering the original in the target-language, not into the limited speaking idiom of a peasant.

This is born out by both Luther and Tyndale. I've researched the history of this very closely since Easter (hence my infrequent posting since then), in preparation for a long and detailed history of the texts and translations since the Apostolic age. The nursery school folklore taught to us and repeated ad nauseum – about Luther and baby-language translations – is pure rot. "Fiiiiinally," we are emotionally berated, "the German people had a Bible in their own language." This is not true. In the 100 years preceding Luther, there were no less than 18 imprints of the German Bible, four in low German, 14 in high-German, and there were at least two other Bible translation projects underway at the time Luther did his translation – one of them led by a close friend of his with whom he compared notes. Luther's translation was successful not because it was the only one, and certainly not because it was "a children's Bible," but because it utilized the full capabilities of the German language, and so artfully employed the rhetorical devices of that language that it was at that time received and has henceforward been regarded a masterpiece of the German language. Luther's words on the matter of translation can be interpreted in many ways, but the result of his work cannot be – and those results necessarily color any naked interpretation his words that we would otherwise have. If Luther meant to produce a children's Bible, then he was a miserable failure. His translation required a considerable education to understand and appreciate. In fact, Luther and Melanchthon reasoned, if the German Reformation – a doctrinal reformation – was to stand, if Scripture were to continue to speak, then a universal education system was necessary in order that the people could receive the teaching of Scripture and hold on to pure doctrine. Thus, Luther tasked Melanchthon and his student, Sturm, with the task of developing such a system – a system which is even today regarded as the most rigorous and complete system of public education ever devised. We refer to it today as Classical Education (a system which has all but disappeared from Lutheran schools in favor of the progressive ideologies of Dewey, even the constructivist ideologies of Piaget and Vygotsky). As a result of this education – an education that was necessary in order to understand and hold on to the teachings of Scripture – Germany, and all of Europe, saw the greatest period of economic vitality and social mobility ever recorded in the history of man.

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

Likewise were the results of Tyndale's translation, which, because of its similarities, was for centuries regarded as rank plagiarism of Luther. Although it is impossible that Tyndale could have learned his Hebrew anywhere but Germany, it is clear that while he followed Luther, both his Greek and his Hebrew were better, and he displayed independence from Luther in this regard. Tyndale's work, completed by the "translators" of the KJV (who merely adopted Tyndale's incomplete translation with minor revisions, and translated the remainder), has since been regarded as a masterpiece of the English language. It wasn't until the era of the Historical-Critical method in the 19th Century that thought was seriously given in greater Christianity to revising either Luther or the KJV, and it was under these ideologies that such revision has ensued without restraint.

Yes, I understand that various colloquial phrases, "Hebraisms" we may call them in some instances, need to be rendered in terms that communicate properly in English. As I stated initially, however, I positively reject the notion that this means the vast capability of the English language is to be shunted aside in order to produce a "readable" translation for pre-schoolers. The objective is to produce a translation, adorned in the craft of the highest rhetorical art, that represents the capacity of the target-language itself. Regardless of how we may (mis)understand what they may have said on the issue, this is, in fact, what Luther and Tyndale produced, and this is the only reason their works have endured as masterpieces. Christians today should expect nothing less than that translators of the Bible endeavor to produce a masterpiece – anything less would be to regard the Bible as "merely another book," consistent with the ideology of the historical-critical method.

Mr. Douglas Lindee

Lund Family said...

I truly appreciate this discussion and find Doug Lindee's attention, research and argumentation very helpful and enlightening to the translation matter. Thank you for the historical background and it implications.

Perry Lund

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Rev. Bauer,

You state: The most important point is this: he *added* to the verse. He added the words "and daughters." That is inclusive language. Your estimation of the LXX does not change the words of the NT greek in that verse. Do you get what I'm saying?

I do understand what you are saying, and did understand it when you first used that argument. You apparently misunderstood me, and it is entirely my fault – I threw in that part about the LXX as a jab on those who boast of an English translation based on it. It was ultimately superfluous to my main point.

The point is this – it matters not one wit where Paul got that statement, whether he was quoting LXX, or Plato or some other pagan Greek author (which he does on a number of occasions) or anything else. The fact that he, as an inspired author, places those statements in his letter making them inspired material, regardless of their worldly source. You are entirely wrong to insist that Paul's use of LXX to expand some other source in order to make it gender-inclusive grants license to modern translators to exercise their own judgment to do the same wherever they please for whatever reason they may choose. Modern translators are not inspired authors and have not been granted any such license. I reject your reasoning here, and also your conclusion.

Continued in next post...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous post

You state (quoting Nass): However the true essence (the forma) of God‘s inspired revelation is the thought or truth or message that is conveyed through the vehicle of the words as they are combined in a context, not the outward words themselves

I reserve the right, in fact I demand the right, as a lay reader to determine what that idea is. If I am deprived of that right through the translator's (mis)leading work, I am completely unable to function in my role as a Berean. I do not give license to a person who is unknown to me, who is not my pastor, to lead me in my understanding of such ideas. I insist that a translator merely equip me with an objective rendering of the original text -- without infecting me with his ideas reagrding what the idea may or may not be, or his with ideas regarding what may be the most "politically appropriate" manner of delivering that idea to me.

Either I, as the reader, determine those ideas on my own, or I am assisted in reaching them (or am corrected in them as I have reached them on my own) by my own pastor. Period. There can be no other way if the Doctrine of the Call is to be honored and if Scripture's admonition to the laity to "search the Scriptures" can have any real meaning. And this is a necessary recourse for the layman. If the layman diligently reads and understands his Bible, only to discover when using it to admonish his overseer regarding doctrine, that his version of the Bible is deficient and thus his understanding is wrong, what use was his observation of Scriptures injunction in the first place (knowing that this injunction is there for the expressed purpose of keeping God's Messengers accountable)? None. Laymen, without an objective text that both laity and clergy can both point to as "what the Scriptures actually say" renders laity utterly powerless in holding clergy accountable to sound doctrine, and totally incapable of functioning as Bereans in any real sense. I reject any philosophy of translation that would render the laity powerless in this regard, and am suspicious of any pastor who would advocate to keep us powerless through this form of programmed ignorance. It does not help that you point to the Greek and Hebrew as the ultimate authoritative source – it might as well be Latin, and we might as well be Roman. Either provide an objective English translation, or have the integrity to tell us that our English Bible's are unreliable. Then teach us Greek and Hebrew, and forget the worthless translations.

The issue of keeping clergy accountable, as in all generations, will be most critical in the next generation. The most severe challenges facing us, that we already know are coming our way, are attacks against the Doctrine of Church & Ministry (and I am thinking here mostly of the Emergent Church movement which is already upon us), the Doctrine of Fellowship, and the Roles of Men and Women – that latter two have been under withering attack already for the past generation. This does not even count growing attacks against the Doctrine of Vicarious Atonement (which is coming right along with the Emergent Movement). What unbelievably poor judgment it is to recommend a standard translation that is weak on any of these points!

Anonymous said...

"For instance, 'assume authority' in 1 Tim. 2:12 is Calvin’s rendering."

Oh good. If Calvin is okay with it, so am I. That makes me feel so much better about all of this.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Google "NIV 2011 Translators Notes" to find the document I'm quoting. The article betrays soft historical criticism throughout, but it begins to be interesting at the middle of pg 4:

"The committee initiated a relationship with Collins Dictionaries to use the Collins Bank of English, one of the world’s foremost English language research tools, to conduct a major new study of changes in gender language."

Then it continues at the top of page 5:

"The most significant findings that influenced decision making for the updated NIV were:"

And then it goes on to list several ways in which the translators altered the original text. I can't print it all here because it's quite long, but note that translators are NOT talking about how they work to be accurate to the text, but work to be accurate to the modern way of speaking. They admit, not in so many words, that they are altering the original words in deference to the statisticians at Collins Dictionary Inc.

When a person or group decides that God's Word can be altered to fit the culture they are rejecting the long standing Orthodox idea that culture should be altered to fit God's Word. This, in itself is evidence of forsaking a plenary verbal inspiration approach.

And it isn't as if we were talking about something subjective. Mr. Schottey's point to Mr. Lindee is a fine one. Translation does carry along with an element of subjectivity. A word in Hebrew or Greek for 'insane', however it reads in the original, might have been translated as "mad" 80 years ago. "Mad" means something else nowadays and it's perfectly acceptable to use "Insane" instead. But gender is not subjective whatsoever. (except in West Hollywood nightclubs)

The willingness of the Translators to read into the original languages subjectively where no such subjectivity exists illuminates the Translators' belief that God inspired concepts, not words. At least, that's the best construction I can put on it.

Pastor Bauer, with all due respect to your Office, I must implore you not to believe everything you read. Just because the translators deny their liberal agenda, it ain't necessarily so. Of course they would defend their work. Our job is to examine their philosophy and accept the implications we discover.

But here's a second lesson in Liberalism: Liberals always accuse their opponents of what they themselves are doing. Notice, in their response to the CBMW they accuse that organization of finding fault because of that organization's agenda: "CBMW has a self-proclaimed agenda that is not found in the NIV translation committee."

Third Lesson in Liberalism: Liberals shift the topic. I didn't say Pastor Bauer was liberal for "asking for evidence", and he knows it. That's a none-so-honest trick. I said he was a liberal for trying to silence my opinion by use of the eighth commandment, at the same time as demanding the efficacy of a gender neutral Bible.


Tim Meyers

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Great comments, all!

Mr. Lindee very adequately rebutted Rev. Bauer's argument about Paul's use of the LXX. The other point to be made in that regard is so obvious is shouldn't even need stating: Paul was not trying to give the Corinthians a new translation of the Old Testament. He was not attempting to replace their Scriptures with an updated or corrected version. He was taking a passage from the Old Testament and applying it to his people. Pastors do this all the time when we preach. We paraphrase. We personalize. We change third person to second person, etc. In none of these cases are we pretending to change the original text or give our people a new translation to use.

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

Mr. Meyers wrote:

"Google "NIV 2011 Translators Notes" to find the document I'm quoting. The article betrays soft historical criticism throughout, but it begins to be interesting at the middle of pg 4:"

I read the translator's preface a couple of months ago. And, since you reference it here, I read from page 4 on again. And I kept waiting to hear them tip their hand as to their supposedly liberal agenda. I couldn't find any. In fact, I don't remember reading these words in the translation notes the first time, but this time I bumped into this sentence on the top of p. 5:

"If readers are to understand it in the way it was meant, translators need to express
the unchanging truths of the Bible in forms of language that modern English speakers find natural and easy to comprehend."

Since when do liberals use phrases like "unchanging truths?" I just walked by a UCC church that had "Don't put a period where God puts a comma" on their church sign. Now *that* sounds liberal.

Now, if you wanted to bring up the real weaknesses of the NIV-11, I don't understand why you don't bring up the stuff at the end of the "translator's notes." What they did to the Hebrews 2 section is ugly---really, really ugly.

But it doesn't prove their supposed evil agenda. It only proves that they went too far in their gender-inclusive language. And if you want to reject the NIV-11 based on even that one passage from Hebrews 2, I'm ok with it. But, if you say that there's an evil agenda from the CBT, they you have to prove it.

So also, you write:

"Pastor Bauer, with all due respect to your Office, I must implore you not to believe everything you read. Just because the translators deny their liberal agenda, it ain't necessarily so. Of course they would defend their work."

This is a strange sentence indeed. The last time I checked, I (and other people) were innocent until proven guilty. Are you really asking me to break the 8th commandment and impune the motives of the CBT without proof?

If the communications which follow are more postings of you *not* providing proof of the CBT's sinister agenda and more postings on "lessons" on why Pastor Bauer is even more liberal than you initially thought, then I suppose our communications are at an end.

Good Night,


--Pastor Steve Bauer

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

Adam Peeler,

Hi Adam, You have my apologies. I missed this comment earlier that you wrote:

"Is this happening? My sense is that "our men" gave the new NIV a thumbs-up while at the same time dismissing the other options relatively quickly and casually.

Take the HCSB for example. I've been using it in my personal reading and have been very impressed with it. The only criticism I've read about it is that it sometimes uses Yahweh instead of Lord--which was perceived by "our men" as weird."

The WELS translation committee did not give the new NIV a "thumbs up." Or, I guess the question is what you mean by "thumbs up." They said that it would be usable. That's far from a ringing endorsement. And they most definitely did not dismiss the other options. In talking to the guys on the committee (and in sitting in on the MI district convention floor), they didn't get much of an opportunity to speak about other translations, since the vast majority of the questions were about the NIV-11.

I had never heard of the HCSB until January. I bought it and have been reading it along with the others. Professor Nass wrote a good paper (posted on it on the translation committee website).

In addition to what he wrote, after having read through many short sections (I'm following the daily lectionary for my devotions) and also having translated Romans 9-16 at Summer Quarter (and referencing the HCSB throughout), I have some observations, which I welcome some input on:

--The Old Testament flows pretty smoothly (and accurately)
--The NT is not as smooth. But it seemed to be as accurate as the others.

It does have some quirky qualities. In addition to the ones Professor Nass speaks about, I found some others. Where there is a Hortatory Subjunctive ("Let us...") and imperatives ("do this!...") and 3rd person imperatives ("let them do this..."), the HCSB bombards us with modalistic language ("should, would, could, etc). It might seem like a subtle thing to comment on, but there's a difference in saying "you should live for Christ" vs. "Live for Christ." The first carries with it some shadings of law and guilt. The second is an invitation prompted by our knowledge of God's love for us in Christ.

The HCSB is an interesting animal. It has less gender-inclusive language than the ESV. And it has far less than the NIV-11. And yet it doesn't fall into the same bizarre traps that the ESV does (Gen. 19:5), in that it actually strives to translate the greek and hebrews idioms.

Having said that, there are some verses that are just plain weird. In that Romans class, I'd be comparing the greek to the HCSB and be thinking to myself "hey, this translation is pretty good"---but then I'd get into the next verse and have no idea what was going on.

I asked a baptist professor in my state what he thought of the translation as a whole (the majority of the translators are baptist) and he used the word "immature." President Wendland called it "half baked" at the MI district convention. I think these are probably the best descriptions I've found. But, even in saying this, I have to admit, it's starting to grow on me.

Sorry for not replying sooner Adam. And I did appreciate your comment about Calvin. It made me laugh. Evidently, most of the jokes people write here go over my head, but I did both understand and appreciate that joke. And don't worry, I'm on vacation right now. Soon I'll be back to work and won't have the time to congest this blog with comments anymore.

Good night, Adam, and Lord's blessings.

--Pastor Steve Bauer

Anonymous said...

Mr Lindee,

I don't recall ever saying that the translation should be "for" preschoolers, you protested a bit too much.

I simply said they should be considered. If one is trying to render the MOST literal translation possible without regard to colloquial modern English and making no judgments about language today, it will be a jumbled mess.

John 3:16 (YLT) for God did so love the world, that His Son -- the only begotten -- He gave, that every one who is believing in him may not perish, but may have life age-during.

For reference sake: the "average" American reads at an 8th-9th grade reading level.

Also, (on the other side of the fence,) I have a hard time with Pastor Bauer's Paul/LXX analogy. Not only because of what Pastor Rydecki said above, but also because when Paul decided to add "and sisters" he did so because of verbal inspiration by the Holy Spirit.

Schottey

Anonymous said...

(Feel free to edit this into my most recent published post.)

Mr. Meyer,

Thank you for your kind words, however I mush disagree with one point you made. Gender isn't subjective, but gender in language certainly can be.

First, in Greek, every word/concept has an inherent gender. Things like love, faith, grace, rocks, trees, etc all have masculine/feminine automatically attached. While you and I say "the rock...it" a Greek would say "the rock (Petros)...he." In our translations, we render that away. That is a subjective decision made on the basis of gender in language.

Secondly, Who did Christ die for? The Greeks say he died for all men. 20 years ago, in English, we said the same. Only, both we and the Greeks MEANT everyone...we just said "men." However, "men" does not communicate "everyone" in the same way it did 20 years ago or in Greek.

I see no problem translating "anthropus" as a gender inclusive English word when the context so proves. The problem is where you draw the line.

The CBT draws the line too far to the "left", as do many other translations. Some do not draw it far enough toward modern speech.

Schottey

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Mr. Schottey,

I don't mean to pick on you, here, but I would like to use one of your statements as an illustration of what I object to -- as an illustratoin of the translator also assuming to role of the reader's theologian and pastor. You state: Secondly, Who did Christ die for? The Greeks say he died for all men. 20 years ago, in English, we said the same. Only, both we and the Greeks MEANT everyone...we just said "men." However, "men" does not communicate "everyone" in the same way it did 20 years ago or in Greek.

I agree that "all men" does not communicate these days the way that it used to, and that alternative phrases may make the point more directly. I would argue, using Rom. 5:18 as an example, that by "all men," however, neither we nor the Greeks meant "everyone," but meant (and continue to mean) "all mankind". There is an important difference here. According to the lexicons I use (Thayer usually, sometimes BAG), anthropos only means human, irrespective of gender, not in reference to the "personhood" of any individual, but simply as a creature. All it does is distinguish a human from other creatures or species, like plants and animals, and from deity. That's it. It is an objective, analytical term, not a subjective personal term. Thus, the term "all mankind" is far more suitable than "everyone," especially in our postmodern era, since the term "everyone" introduces the notion of "one-ness" -- that is, of individuality, self-identity or "personhood" -- when the grammar and vocabulary used in this reference simply do not introduce these concepts. It's just not there. Rather, it is the translator who introduces this idea to an English rendering based on his knowledge of theology, or of the greater context of Scripture. It is wrong for him to do so, as it violates the immediate context (even if subtly).

Given the current reality of postmodernism, the consequences of little editorial changes like this can be severe. Rather than emphasizing objective "all-ness," the reader's mind is drawn to what postmodernism teaches him to fixate on: subjective "one-ness" or "me-ness" as the seat of reality. But this reference has nothing whatsoever to do with the individual, apart from his status as a member of "all"; that is, this reference isn't about the reader, it's about a reality that is entirely outside of him -- it's about Christ and His work on behalf of all mankind. We dare not introduce subjectivity into such a reference.

And this is what I mean by making the translator a slave to the grammar and vocabulary of the original text. I don't want his editorialism inserted into the text, even subtly, to impart meaning that isn't there. As I, the reader, am obligated by Scripture, I will determine meaning and to do so, I will determine which aspects of the greater context of Scripture apply to a given local context. To do this, I need to be equipped with a translation that respects the autonomy of the reader and of the reader's obligation to understand Scripture in its own terms. These ideas ought to be fundamental to any standard version of the Bible that is heralded to laymen as a suitable and accurate translation of the Scriptures. If the result is that I need help coming to a proper understanding of the Bible, well then, that's why I have a pastor. That's his job, not the translator's job. Likewise, if I am a child, that is why I have parents and teachers. Since the historical-critical has been mainstreamed in Biblical scholarship, the translator has found a way to elevate himself into these roles -- roles in which he does not belong. We need to work to put the translator back in his box, and out of our theology.

My Opinion,

Mr. Douglas Lindee

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Actually, I wonder how much of this "confusion" we're making up, due to the subconscious cultural pressure to be politically correct.

"Condemnation for all men," for example, in Romans 5:18. Does anyone really understand that to mean that women are excluded? Really? I don't think so.

(By the way, even "all mankind" turns the Greek plural in Romans 5:18 into a collective. I think "all people" captures the original better, but still not nearly as well as "all men.")

I can tell you that no woman in my congregation balks at the statement, "He who believes in me will live, even though he dies" (as opposed to the NNIV, "The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.") You would really have to prove to me that women have an honest misunderstanding of this before I would be convinced that the language no longer communicates properly.

I don't think women are unaware of their inclusion in the "he who..." or "all men" statements of Scripture. I just think that some people (both women and men) with an agenda don't like it.

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Thank you, Rev. Rydecki.

If we agree that "all men" miscommunicates so severely that it must be changed, then I am willing to entertain carefully considered alternatives. I don't think that anyone is confused by its use, however, as the masculine form is still widely understood as a legitimate neutral reference, though, due to long-practiced political agendas, not as widely used as it once was.

I agree that most of this is argument over political agenda, not at all over what people really understand or not. My goodness, Tyndale and Luther had to invent terms in their translations -- how well did that conform to the "idiom of the people"? It didn't by the standards of today's translation theorists. Understanding them was (and remains) a matter of entering into the conventions adopted for the purpose of rendering those translations. The fact is, these works of art were not slaves to cultural idiom. On the contrary, they rised above their immediate culture and set the standard of communication for centuries. Their references, ideas and use of rhetorical device are fundmental to the way we use language even today. Thus, from a cultural standpoint, these older translations are far more "relevant" than modern book-sellers give them credit for being. If we want to be "relevant" in our choice of translation, or in our translation practice, I think we ought to build on the foundation established by these older translations, and received by Western Culture, rather than trying to invent a new foundation.

My Opinion,

Mr. Douglas Lindee

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Just a thought -- why are we always so concerned with readability over accuracy? The Bible is the Word of God -- if there are parts of it that are difficult and profound... well, handing the things of God can often be difficult and profound. This is why the Church is always gathered around the preaching and teaching of the Word. That's why the Word is to be studied and meditated upon - it's not just some pulp novel designed to read quickly and then tossed away. There is depth in the Word of God - why would we want a translation that tries to eliminate or work around that depth? How is that a good translation?

Anonymous said...

Having read all the comments posted here over the past few days, and having read Luther's own comments on translating, a strange thought occured to me. I wonder if in the realm of translation Luther has really been understood and followed by those who now carry his name.

In Luther's own words:
"I know very well that in Romans 3 the word solum is not in the Greek or Latin text — the papists did not have to teach me that. It is fact that the letters s-o-l-a are not there. And these blockheads stare at them like cows at a new gate, while at the same time they do not recognize that it conveys the sense of the text -- if the translation is to be clear and vigorous [klar und gewaltiglich], it belongs there. I wanted to speak German, not Latin or Greek, since it was German I had set about to speak in the translation."

"We do not have to ask the literal Latin how we are to speak German, as these donkeys do. Rather we must ask the mother in the home, the children on the street, the common man in the marketplace. We must be guided by their language, by the way they speak, and do our translating accordingly. Then they will understand it and recognize that we are speaking German to them."

"So I must let the literal words go and try to discover how the German says what the Hebrew says with ish chamudoth. I find that the German says this, "You dear Daniel", "you dear Mary", or "you gracious maiden", "you lovely maiden", "you gentle girl" and so forth. A translator must have a large store of words so that he can have them all ready when one word does not fit in every context."

And as a little more food for thought I'll include a quote from William Beck. After all, he is a confessional Lutheran who knew a little something from experience about translating the Bible.

"The function of words is meaning. When a literal translator fails to convey the meaning, he robs the text of its function. The function of the honeycomb is honey. The literalist carefully tries to preserve the wax while he lets the honey drip out. To the extent in which he fails to give the correct meaning, he fails to give the Word of God. His loyalty to words may not be to the Word of God so much as to certain dictionary meanings of words.
This means that the reader has to get the meaning by himself. But he‘s not equipped for that. We hand him a little testament with a big commentary. But a reader shouldn‘t have to lug around a lexicon and a commentary to read his New Testament. It‘s the translator‘s job to give the meaning, not the reader‘s.
The most vital criticism of the literal translator is that he deprives a reader of the chance of judging the truth in the text for himself. It makes him depend on the pastor and other books for the correct meaning. God wants a reader to be able to stand on his own feet as he reads His Word.
A literal translator concentrates all his loyalty and effort on words and structures which cannot be transferred and misses thoughts and feelings which can and must be transferred if the Word is to be effective. In the ASV of Ephesians 1:3-14, participial phrases alternate with relative clauses through a sentence of 268 words that convey a minimum of meaning. People are more sensitive than we think to the language we use. If it is awkward, prosaic, it may not be openly denounced but it will be received with apathy. Even if a literal translation in its clumsy way suggests the meaning, it lacks the life, beauty, and force of the original. It brings meaning in a strange and cold form which is far from the hearts of the people whom we much reach. ―It fails to bring out the comfort of Christ‖ which was Luther‘s criticism of literal translating."

Joshua Becker

Anonymous said...

This is not directed at you, Joshua. Since you brought up Luther I just want to get up on a little soap box for a moment.

1) My problem with the NNIV is not that it translates idiomatically as opposed to literally. My problem is that it fails even as a "dynamic equivalent" translation because, in quite a few instances (albeit, many of them minor), the meaning of the text is not being correctly conveyed. Psalm 8 & Hebrews 2 are the prime example, but note also John 10:1, where the word "Pharisees" is added. Was Jesus addressing the Pharisees in John 10? This is a slight change in the meaning and sense of the text. Luther’s addition of “sola” did not change the meaning of sense of any verse.

2) Luther's translation (the 1545 edition) is a masterpiece, not only because it conveys the meaning of the text into German so wonderfully, but also because it is quite literal! One should never divorce what Luther says about translating from his actual translation. It is in his translation that one sees exactly what Luther meant when he spoke of translating the meaning and sense into good German. He did not sacrifice accuracy for the sake of clarity.

Again, this is not directed at you, Joshua. I know you are not doing this, but your reference to Luther made me recall something I wanted to say about Luther and translating. It is wrong to use Luther to defend the NIV. Luther and the translators of the new NIV are of a different spirit - this is clear when you compare the NIV to Luther's 1545 edition.

In Christian love,
Pastor Michael Sullivan

Anonymous said...

Pastor Sullivan,

I am perfectly comfortable with you getting on your soap box to express your opinions. You can even hunt down a bully pulpit and flog the NIV2011 to your heart's content. I'll often even be happy to flog it along with you.

However, I am not at all comfortable with the assertion you make in your second point that Luther's translation is "quite literal." It's hard to divorce what Luther says about translation from his actually translation because the letter Luther wrote on translation, which I quoted from, is filled with examples Luther himself offered from his own translation where he was not "literal." I will freely admit, Luther was at times extremely literal in his translation. While the quotes I shared express Luther's willingness to depart from the literal words of the text, I recognize Luther also made the distinction that at times such liberties with the text are plain wrong. The reality is that Luther is both literal and idiomatic at times, refusing to be only one or the other.

On a related note, while determining the reasons for the success of a translation are probably beyond me, I would offer the feeble suggestion that perhaps part of the brilliance of Luther, the reason his translation is such a masterpiece, is that he was gifted in judging when to be literal and when to be free in his translation.

A final thought to chew on. In what sense are Luther and the CBT of a different spirit? In what I have read from both I would say the difference is not so much in terms how they view the job of the translator (literal vs idiomatic). It seems to me the difference is more in the matter of the theological presuppositions they bring to the table. Consider this line from Luther, "Ah, translating is not everyone's skill as some mad saints imagine. It requires a right, devout, honest, sincere, God-fearing, Christian, trained, educated, and experienced heart. So I hold that no false Christian or sectarian spirit can be a good translator." Kind of makes you step back and think again not just about the NIV2011, but also the ESV, HCSB, NASB and NKJV. Would Lutherans be better off making Beck their own or coming up with their own translation?

Joshua Becker

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts - all of them. I agree with you totally: Luther refused to be either one or the other. He was idiomatic when language and content allowed him, but extremely literal when they didn't. I consult the 1545 Luther Bible (on Bibleworks) for almost every text study, and I am amazed how accurate his translation often is in both word and thought. One can't pigeon hole Luther and being a champion of dynamic equivalency over against formal correspondence, which some try to do and the basis of his comments on translating. Luther was a master in both, applying the type of translation needed for the type of text he was translating.

And when I spoke of “a different spirit” I was indeed speaking of theological prepositions. Luther was Christocentric. He would never have considered translating Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2 the way the CBT did. He would never consider a footnote for Isaiah 7:14. He made sure that the meaning of Scripture was carefully translated. He would not have been careless, as I sense the CBT was in translating these things (eg. Acts 1:16). This is what I meant when I wrote: “they are of a different spirit.”

Your quote from Luther hits the nail of the head in this regard: "Ah, translating is not everyone's skill as some mad saints imagine. It requires a right, devout, honest, sincere, God-fearing, Christian, trained, educated, and experienced heart. So I hold that no false Christian or sectarian spirit can be a good translator."

I have no doubt that the members of the CBT are first rate Greek, Hebrew and English scholars. But they were careless – especially with Psalm 8 / Hebrews 2. And if it seems that I am harping on these passages, I am for this reason: given the way Hebrews quotes Psalm 8, there is absolutely no reason what-so-ever to translate it the way the NIV and NLT did. The Christocentric spirit of Luther was obviously lacking to translate the way the CBT did.

[To be fair, I wish the AAT and Luther, would have translated “Elohim” in Psalm 8:5 as “angels” since this is the way Hebrews quotes it (or ultra-literally “mighty ones”), but at least both translation are Christocentric. Luther is still better than the AAT, which could be easily misinterpreted to mean Christ “lower” than God during his humiliation, which he never was. I hope this gets fix in a future revision of the AAT.]

In regards to other translations: It seems that they were a little more careful, but not always. Each has its strength and its weakness, but (with my limited use of the other translations) I sense that they were a little more careful. I am not saying that the other translators were more “godly,” just more careful.

Regarding Beck vs. other translations. . . I have not used Beck, but hope to purchase an AAT as soon I can get the NPH. (I do have an AAT catechism) From what I have read regarding the AAT, the fourth edition is much improved – at least from the comparisons I saw. My own feeling is this (again, having only read the comparisons and reviews, but not the actual AAT): If Pastor Otten is truly offering us the full rights of the AAT, along with the rights to revise it, I believe that this would definitely be the best option for our Synod. Translating from scratch would be expensive and time consuming (although, I am convinced we do have the talent to tackle such a project. A former classmate of mine is part of Lutheran Bible Translators, an organization that translates Bibles into more obscure languages). But if we adopt the AAT with the understanding that we can make revisions where necessary, this would serve us both in the short and the long term, and actually save NPH money on royalties. Such a project would be much easier than translating from scratch and we would not be under time constraints. Again, this all depends on Pastor Otten. His “AAT” issue directed at WELS seemed to indicate that he would be inclined to offers us the AAT for such purposes.

In Christian love,
Pastor Michael Sullivan

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

FYI, it is not technically Pastor Otten who holds the copyright to the AAT, but rather the Beck family. I'm under the assumption they are in close contact with one another.

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

Hello Everyone,

The WELS translation committee updated their website. There's a Q&A document which addresses a number of the concerns people have brought up on this thread:

http://www.wels.net/sites/wels/files/Q%20and%20A.pdf

Check out the other documents there too!

Anonymous said...

After reading the Q&A document that Pastor Bauer linked to, I still can't understand why the Committee has been so quick to dismiss the HCSB. In the Q&A, they even make the point that the HCSB has the strengths of the NIV without the weaknesses of the NIV. That sounds ideal! And yet they reject it because it uses Yahweh, which might "take some getting used to." I fail to see how it's hard to get used to using the Lord's name, but it's easy to get used to anti-messianic Psalms and gender neutral language.

The impression I get from reading that is that the Committee, for some strange reason, is so committed to the NIV that they feel compelled to come up with reasons to reject any other version, even if those reasons sound somewhat silly.

But, sad to say, it seems that my concerns are about to become moot in the next day or two.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Okay, this really baffles me: "[WLS President Paul Wendland] emphasized that the choice of a translation is not a doctrinal issue. ... Gender inclusive language was a concern for the committee. However, the truth regarding male and female roles is clearly taught in NIV2011; it is not a feminist translation. Old Testament verses containing Messianic prophecy were carefully studied. Old Testament pronoun references to God are not capitalized, but that allows each reader to come to their own conclusions." (Synod Convention Minutes, Tuesday, July 26, 2011)

How can it be said that the choice of translation is not "doctrinal" while at the same time commenting about how the translation handles certain doctrinal issues?


Jerod Butt

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