Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The NIV 2011 and the Importance of Translation Ideology

Our recent post, The NNIV, the WELS Translation Evaluation Committee, and the Perspicuity of the Scriptures, has attracted a number of very good comments. I am going to belabour the issue a bit more by focusing on the importance of translation ideology, using a set of comments offered by Rev. Kurtzahn following that post. He raises a point worth exploring – which if left unexplored, has us up to our eyebrows in nothing but the technical translation details of each and every questionable phrase, debating not only what texts accurately represent what was actually written in the original, but how “it can be understood” in whatever it is that we’re calling “modern English.”

Is translation ideology substantive? It seems some would prefer not to address this issue. Refusing to regard it as such, or even to discuss it, certainly keeps laymen out of the discussion, as it has us jumping straight into technical “examples.” The simple fact is, most laymen are more than capable of parsing the issues involved with ideology, and are justified in not only judging whether a given ideology is, in principle, capable of producing a translation that they consider adequate, but in rejecting those ideologies which, in principle, do not.

As Mr. Peeler pointed out, Dynamic Equivalency (the translation ideology of the CBT) is related to post-Modernism in its understanding of meaning in language as a social construction (“grammar follows usage”) – an understanding which is a very recent innovation. According to it, social experience is the vehicle for, and social context the arbiter of, meaning. Language is merely a social experience by which meaning is conveyed, and it is the immediate social context which dictates both usage and meaning, not the structure of the language itself. As a result, post-Modernism teaches that meaning is always subjective and relative (resulting in a lack of clarity... terms and phrases of otherwise objective meaning become “slippery”). This is why post-Modernists will insist that there is no truth – not because there actually is or is not Truth, but because even if Truth does exist, it cannot be expressed since language is insufficient to convey it.

But what is “Dynamic Equivalency?”

To use a very widely used (and seriously discussed) example, the post-Modern adherent of Dynamic Equivalency will complain that the passage in Isaiah which reads “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,” cannot be understood by a person who has never seen snow. It has no meaning because it is not part of his experience. As a result, instead of actually using the word “snow” to communicate “white-ness,” a more effective translation for, say, a resident of the Caribbean may be “the sands of St. Thomas Beach.” But that wouldn’t communicate to someone outside the Caribbean, so another translation would be needed for those groups of people who have seen neither white snow nor white sand, but which is common to their unique experience – fields of cotton, for instance, or even milk. These are all naturally occurring examples of the color white, and communicate the idea of “white-ness” just as effectively. It doesn’t matter that the word in the original is “snow.” This is Dynamic Equivalency, and the job of the translator under this ideology is to (a) interpret the meaning of the source language, and (b) choose his own words in the target language that communicate this same idea.

Only, notice in the case of “snow” used above, that the translator, while communicating “white-ness” through the use of alternative words, fails to communicate the idea of a “covering” which descends from above, and also fails to communicate the idea of “cleansing,” which is precisely what snow does for the landscape as it melts (and is also part of the meaning directly intended by Isaiah). Thus, under the ideology of Dynamic Equivalency, the translator, in choosing his “alternative phraseology,” is said to “pick and choose” from the source language what meaning he will include in his translation – not because he is forced by inadequacies in either source or target languages, but because he is ideologically (a) given license to do so in order that he may engage in the task of interpretation, and (b) constrained by his own ideas of what constitutes “meaning” within a given social or cultural construct and of what patterns of words can be legitimately used in association with that meaning.

This is in distinction to the translation ideology known as “Formal Equivalency,” which constrains the translator to criteria which are largely external to “contemporary” usages (which are different from what is meant by “modern” usages, as we shall see) peculiar to given social constructs that shift from region to region and over short periods of time. Rather than a social construction (“grammar follows usage”), this ideology follows Classical and Modernistic ideas which see language as the basis of human reason and of the structures of society (“usage follows grammar”), and endeavors to reproduce in the target language a grammatical structure and vocabulary that is essentially parallel to what is found in the source. As a result, choices in grammatical construction and word choice are characterized by the objective challenge of identifying grammatical structure in the source language and determining the best approximation in the target; likewise with the vocabulary chosen.

But what happens when structural differences in the target language result in an objectively inadequate “approximation” of the source? Most commonly, in the KJV for example, such problems are handled by adopting a convention, to assist the reader in determining what was actually written in the source, as distinct from what the translator may add for the sake of clarity. For example, all of the italics in the KJV are words added by the translator to complete the grammar in English – they are italicized to alert the reader to this fact. The terms ye, you, thee, thy, and thou, which are all understood to mean “you,” were used to distinguish between plural and singular usages: ye and you were used to signal to the reader that groups of people were being addressed, while thee, thy, and thou indicate that a single individual was being addressed. This was a convention adopted for the sake for the translation, which did not follow common usage (anyone who is familiar with Shakespeare knows that these terms were not used strictly in this way). Likewise with the similar, though distinct terms longsuffering and patience (μακροθυμία and ὑπομονή, respectively), which are translated with the single word “patience” today – after all, we’re told, “they’re just synonyms.” But if they are merely synonyms, why did the KJV maintain the distinction? Simple. Do a word study and you’ll find out why. The Greek term ὑπομονή (translated “patience” in the KJV) is never used as an attribute of God; μακροθυμία (nearly always translated as “longsuffering” in KJV) is used as an attribute of God. The difference is that “patience” looks forward in time to an expected result – an idea which is ridiculous when applied to God; “longsuffering” bears with the burdened, without emphasis on time or expectation – an idea which not only can be applied to God, but which is fulfilled in Christ, who bore our burdens for us. Maintaining this difference was a convention adopted in the KJV to assist the reader in determining what was actually written in the original languages; it was not dictated by common usage.

This raises a related point, one which is often heard with respect to the KJV, but which is applied in various ways to other older versions of the Bible, along with older literary works, as well: its language isn’t “modern” English, but is “olde” English. This type of reasoning betrays, in addition to exposing a basic knowledge deficiency, a post-Modern attitude toward older works of the English language: their language is not our language. Our language, they would say, is a recent evolution dictated by changing social constructs.

The fact is, the period of “Old English” (which is actually the “Anglo-Saxon” language – the language of the barbarian German inhabitants of Mediæval England, the Angles and Saxons) came to an end with the Norman Conquest in 1066. The most common example of “Old English” literature is Beowulf – and if anyone has seen this in its original language, they can attest that, indeed, it is a completely different language. The Norman Conquest then began the period of “Middle English” which lasted until the late 15th Century – the most significant literary works of this period being Wycliff’s translation of the Bible and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The period of “Modern English,” that is, the period of our language, began at about the time of the Renaissance; and the first great work of “Modern English,” which still is the greatest and most significant work in our language, is the King James Version of the Bible. Its recognized greatness has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that it is the Bible, but rests purely on its literary merits alone. As a result, and until recently, this work has been used for centuries to teach the English language. Our language is not a recent innovation; rather, ideas which insist that contemporary speech patterns (which are largely the result of declining literacy) constitute our language are themselves recent innovations, resulting from the development of 20th Century Analytical Philosophy and its application to linguistics theory. This goes all the way back to Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica (1910), which concluded via rigorous mathematical proof that mathematics is a branch of pure formal logic, and therefore does not carry meaning other than what the mathematician brings to and derives from it. Grammar is formal as well, thus linguists picked up on the work of Russell and Whitehead and began applying its conclusions to the study of language. Post-Modernism descends almost directly from these influences. By the 1920’s, the National Council of the Teachers of English (NCTE) was calling for teachers to refrain from teaching students how they ought to use language to express themselves, and instead only teach the “facts” of language. By the 1950’s, the formal teaching of grammar was regarded as a waste of classroom time, since it was largely agreed that grammar was not necessary to derive meaning from language – meaning, they insist, is derived purely from the social context.

(For more on the decline of language from the perspective of a professional Classicist and grammarian, read Dr. David Mulroy’s The War Against Grammar. Three good reviews of this work that I recommed are, one by Dr. Jeremiah Reedy (Macalester College) and two by Andrew Kern (CiRCE Institute): one here and the second, here. There is, of course much more to the story of the decline of American education, and its well-documented design, since the Industrial Revolution, to maintain a distinction between a well-educated “professional” and “leadership” class, and a minimally educated “working” class... but that is a separate topic.)

I was shocked when I first learned these things in the mid-1990’s, as I argued with an English grad-student who was chiding me for lamenting the decline of grammar instruction. She said, “Sure, it’s important for English speakers to know that there is such a thing as grammar, so we’ll provide a unit or two in high-school, but it is not necessary for effective communication to occur. We’ve known this since the 1950’s, and formal grammar instruction has been rapidly declining since then. On purpose!”

“But,” I countered, “How can the Christian possibly read his Bible and understand it without grammar!?” She was a Christian and appreciated the significance of this question. She just shrugged. “How can a student be prepared as a good citizen, without a knowledge of grammar?! You must know grammar to read and understand the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence!” She shrugged again. “This is utterly disenfranchising! How can students be prepared to function in a litigious society, where every transaction is considered a legal contract? How can a citizen hope to engage in entrepreneurial activity if he doesn’t know enough grammar to effectively engage in contracts!?” She shrugged again.

When Rev. Kurzahn complains that “In taking formerly unchurched people through Bible information classes for church membership, I find I have to stop to explain words the NIV uses, and the long sentences are difficult for some to grasp,” I reply, “It’s not the Bible that is the problem. It’s the people and their deficient education. The solution is not to follow them into the chasm of declining literacy by advocating increasingly simplistic Bible translations and thus drag the rest of English-speaking Christendom into that abyss with them, but to do what the Church has always done – you must to the hard job of educating them. If their education and formal understanding of their own language is deficient, then that deficiency must be remediated.

We are not the first one’s to encounter the problem of ineffective literacy among the unchurched – or even among our own. The Early Church had to contend with the problem of illiterate catechumens, and solved that problem by establishing a network of catechetical schools which taught language and doctrine, and later, also trade and professional skills. By the time of Constantine (three hundred years following Christ’s Ascension) the pinnacle of the cultured elite in the Roman Empire was dominated by Christians – not only was Constantine compelled to elevate Christianity by ending the persecutions, by recognizing Sunday as the day of worship, by lifting the burden of taxation from the clergy (and many other concessions), it is evident from Christian literature of that time that authors presupposed a sophisticated and well-educated audience. So well-prepared were the early Christians in their ability with language, that St. Augstine said of Christian women (who were educated alongside the men) that they were known to be more capable in the acuity of their religious discussion than the Greek philosophers. Luther and Melanchthon had to contend with this problem, as well, and their solution was to develop a rigorous system of universal education and adjure the German Princes to implement it (as I mentioned in commentary following my post, NNIV: The New Standard for WELS?).

The current “problem of language” is a problem foisted on us by a World which has eagerly embraced philosophies which militate against God and His Word. It is nothing other than a continuation of the openly antagonistic assault on the Church that has ensued since the time of the Enlightenment (which was chronicled in my as-yet-incomplete series on Law & Gospel). The solution isn’t to give in to these philosophies, but to do the hard work of recognizing their danger, and then combating them by standing in the face of society with the declaration “No!” In this case, it means refocusing ourselves on the importance of a thorough and rigorous education. I say this in confidence, knowing that if any Christian church body in America can live up to this challenge, the WELS can. Our parochial school system is recognized as among the top in the nation. Let’s use it.

So I conclude, discussion regarding translation ideology is substantive discussion, and we must be clear on what we insist, in principle, both is necessary and what must be rejected, before we even attempt to gaze into the technical minutiae of specific translation challenges.


Anonymous said...

well said, Sir.

Andy Groenwald

Anonymous said...

Interesting that this same topic came up in a secular setting yesterday. I attended a seminar by Edward Tufte discussing (among other things) presentations, and he lamented that educators are being irresponsible when they "dumb things down" to the audience (e.g. trying to make everything fit on a Power Point slide"), rather than fulfilling their duty as educators to equip their students to grasp the intricacies of the information at hand.

I can appreciate that this is not an easy task for Pastors, but as a layperson I would much prefer being confused by a difficult passage, than to be mislead by a deceptively clear-sounding one.

- Mark Salzwedel

Tim Niedfeldt said...

Thank you Doug. As usual, I have an opinion and you just say everything I'd like to say only 10 times better. How's that for a change from the old days? Excellent points.

Tim Niedfeldt

Daniel Baker said...

Fantastic post, Mr. Lindee. I also appreciate the reference to Dr. Mulroy's book; I was privileged to take two of the courses he teaches at UWM. If his abilities as a professor are any indication, the work should be an amazing read.

Benjamin Rusch said...

Looking at the paragraph of you/ye vs. thee/thy/thou, I couldn't help but be reminded of my language studies at MLC. Some of my classmates (including myself) secretly translate 2nd person plurals as "ya'll". So Jesus' words to the crowds "I tell you the truth"/"ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν" translates literally (with stifled giggles) to "truly I say unto ya'll."

Reason being: there is, quite simply, no exclusively plural 2nd person pronoun in "modern American English" other than this one laughable abbreviation, yet its plural meaning is unmistakable. Would I put this into a public translation? Probably not. My alternative? I was fond of using small diacritics to differentiate plural "yöu" and singular "yo̊u" in my English Bible.

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

Luther once wrote: “Abusus not tollit, sed confirmat substantiam.” (Large Catechism, §5, para. 59) (“The abuse [of something] does not destroy but [rather] confirms its essence.”) Simply because there are people who misuse something that is valid, that doesn’t mean that that object is evil in and of itself. In fact, instead of proving its invalidity, it strengthens its validity. Much of your discussion in this post has reminded me of this fact.

Simply because post-modernists use dynamic equivalent methods for evil, this doesn’t mean that the method needs to be thrown out entirely. There are very reputable men within our fellowship who have far more linguistic experience than anyone who has posted in this website who have and do make use of the “dynamic equivalent” method when necessary:

“The notion of “function” is viewed as being crucial to meaning – applied meaning – in all its diversity and fullness, including those aspects of pragmatic significance that relate to the participants involved in the communication event, its situational significance that relate to the participants involved in the communication event, its situational setting, and the particular medium of message transmission employed. ... When applying the results of this hermeneutical method to Scripture translation, interlingual communicators seek to reproduce the most “relevant” aspects of the essential “meaning” intended by the biblical text, including its functional dynamics, by means of the resources of the receptor language.” (Ernst Wendland, “Oral-aural Dynamics of the Word, with Special Reference to John 17,” Notes on Translation 8 (1994): 25)

If your premise is that Dynamic Equivalency is intrinsically evil, then the person you need to take to task is not the CBT. Instead, you need to take Professor Ernst Wendland to the hoop.

When one actually looks at the english translations that are available, (As Prof. Nass points out in his last article in the quarterly) there are no translations which are entirely literal. And the ones which go to the other (dynamic) extreme (e.g. The Message) make themselves theologically (if not linguistically) unusable. Consider this example:

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12 NIV11)

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12 ESV)

"For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens." (Ephesians 6:12 HCSB)

You’ll notice in this example from Ephesians that despite the fact that the promoters of the ESV go out of their way to say that they “get out of the way of the text”, in this example the ESV is the only one to add words that the Greek doesn’t have. Instead of translating “darkness”, it adds the word “present.” The ESV is a perplexing juxtaposition of examples where they should have done the hard work of translation but didn’t (Gen. 19:5) and examples where they add words that aren’t there in the original.

I don’t necessarily have a problem with the ESV going down the dynamic equivalent road by adding the word “present.” It does so in many examples. The frustration I have is when people contend that the dynamic equivalent method is in itself worthless. As Prof. Rod Decker points out, (http://ntresources.com/blog/?p=1232) the truth is that all the major english versions lie on a spectrum between formal and functional--none being entirely literal and none being entirely idiomatic.

Pastor Spencer said...

Good grief!

Typical Yankees - it's not "ya'll" but "y'all." As in - "Gotta learn y'all everything, don't I?!"

From the Southern Dictionary -

The plural of you. Also acceptable, "you's" (pronounced use), the simple addition of the s makes "you's" both logical and compact

Trying to lighten things up a bit, y'all!

Rev'rn Spence

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Rev. Bauer,

You state, If your premise is that Dynamic Equivalency is intrinsically evil, then the person you need to take to task is not the CBT. Instead, you need to take Professor Ernst Wendland to the hoop.

First, no one has claimed DE is "instrinsically evil." That is your straw man, not ours. On the other hand, since we don't believe any man to be infallible, we have no problem taking Prof. E. Wendland "to the hoop," if necessary. This "appeal to authority" is a logical fallacy. That doesn't mean the scholars shouldn't be given their due. It just means their great learning doesn't automatically make them right.

You're also mistaken about Ephesians 6:12. You state, You’ll notice in this example from Ephesians that despite the fact that the promoters of the ESV go out of their way to say that they “get out of the way of the text”, in this example the ESV is the only one to add words that the Greek doesn’t have. Instead of translating “darkness”, it adds the word “present.” The ESV is a perplexing juxtaposition of examples where they should have done the hard work of translation but didn’t (Gen. 19:5) and examples where they add words that aren’t there in the original.

You have failed to notice, Pr. Bauer, that the Majority Text variant in the Greek includes the phrase τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου in that verse, which, I'm sure you know, can very legitimately be translated as the darkness "of this age" or rather "this present darkness." Please, before you try to point out how horrible the ESV is, check your Greek apparatus.

As for Genesis 19:5, where you claim that the ESV translators didn't "do the hard work of translation," please also direct your criticism to the KJV, and to Luther (that infamous slouch), who also failed to do the "hard work of translation" by translating that phrase "erkennen," "to know," just like the KJV, just like the ESV. "To know" was no more commonly used in German to refer to sexual relations that it is in modern English. But Luther chose to preserve the inspired metaphor, because, while it may not be the commonly used phrase, it is certainly understandable. This is not failure to "translate." On the contrary, it's very proper translation methodology. It's the place of a commentary to explain the significance of the translation.

Pastor Steve Bauer said...

You are correct, Pastor Rydecki. I came across that different translation of Eph 6:12 in devotional readings. I don’t usually check all the variants when working through my devotions. There is that variant attested to by the corrected Sinaiticis and the Majority text. You are correct in this one example. However, if you would like, I could provide many, many other examples where the ESV did make use of the dynamic equivalent approach. Professor Nass’s papers have provided copious examples. My point is still valid, despite my error in this one verse. None of the major translations in english are either literal nor dynamic exclusively. My criticism of the ESV is that it claims to “get out of the way”, but in reality there areas where it doesn’t.

In your third paragraph you write:

“Dynamic Equivalency (the translation ideology of the CBT) is related to post-Modernism in its understanding of meaning in language as a social construction (“grammar follows usage”)...As a result, post-Modernism teaches that meaning is always subjective and relative .... This is why post-Modernists will insist that there is no truth – not because there actually is or is not Truth, but because even if Truth does exist, it cannot be expressed since language is insufficient to convey it.”

As I read this paragraph, (and please clarify if I am reading this incorrectly) you are concluding that DE is related to post-Modernism and therefore bad. Please let me know, is DE bad or not? That is not a strawman argument. It is a simple question. If you could elaborate on this some more, I would appreciate it.

And I stand by my statements about the ESV rendering of Gen 19:5. It would have been possible for them to translate the hebrew idiom into english, as they do in so many other areas. But they didn’t. As a result, when someone picks up the ESV and reads that section, unless they had read it in another translation before, they would come to the wrong conclusion as to what the men of Sodom were asking for. No, Paul. That’s a translation fail. In their effort to ‘get out of the way’ they let the reader remain in the darkness. (cf. also Amos 4:6 et al)

And I thoroughly disagree that that is an example of where the pastor or commentary needs to be the teacher. I would agree with you if you were speaking about the word, covenant/testament in the Lord’s Supper sections or “sons” in Gal. 3. Those are words that needs a thorough treatment. But they could have made it understandable in that Gen. 19 section. They simply didn’t.

Again, there is no major english translation which does not make use of DE to a greater or lesser extent. If post-modernist, liberal theologians and translators use the DE approach for bad, it proves very little about the approach.

And, hey, how do you italicize when you post? That looks a whole lot better than me trying to enclose quotes within quotes.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

I'll let Mr. Lindee explain his take on Dynamic Equivalency, since he wrote the article.

I point again to Luther's translation philosophy in passages like Gen. 19:5. It may not be the only way to go, but it's certainly a valid way to go.

Italics = Enclose the words you want to italicize in < em >Italicized words here< / em > (without the spaces in between).

Benjamin Rusch said...

Yet another thing about translations: whenever I discuss my beliefs with atheist/agnost friends, they're quick to spew passages as proof of Christians being bigots/sexist/homophobic.

The bible is not a document from the 21st century, and many mistakenly misinterpret it as a face-value textbook. The bible is full of letters, not lessons. Testimonies, not textbooks. Personal, not intellectual. My belief is that Dynamic Equivalency is in danger of amplifying these commmon misinterpretations. In addition, being quick to gender-neutralize masks the fact that the bible was recorded during eras in which sex roles were very different.

It's my impression that these "corrections" are a thin attempt to make the bible seem less sexist/homophobic/bigoted/etc. Are we conceding that the bible is 'intolerant sexist trash', so therefore we have to "correct" it?

Anonymous said...

Hi Benjamin,

Are you suggesting that someone in the WELS might be wrong? Don't you think that's a violation of the 8th... I'm sorry... I'm totally kidding.

Ben I don't think anyone is the WELS would say that the Bible is intolerant, sexist, etc. but I do think some people's line of reasoning goes like the following:

"People think the Bible is homophobic, sexist, intolerant, paternalistic. WE know it's not, but that's what the world thinks. Since we are free in Christ and are commanded to be all things to all people, we can change the genders, change the tone (and so on) so not to alienate these people who have a mistaken understanding of scripture. (once they have faith they'll understand) And really, at the end of the day what does it matter if we say 'all people' instead of 'all men'. or if we use 'they' as a gender-neutral singular pronoun.? It isn't as if the meaning were changed." (They call this "clearing the trash away from the temple" or "preparing the soil")

I can give you the names of more than 10 WELS pastors who've promoted that exact philosophy regarding Bible translations, praise music, outreach efforts etc. There's a firm belief among certain WELS pastors/laymen that we can fudge orthodox practices because "we who understand Christian freedom, we who exhibit desperation for the lost, WE know the stakes. We can't be so stuck in our own Lutheran culture that we alienate the unchurched." (See? I can imitate it pretty well because I was taken in BIG time as an 18 year-old puke)

What these guys fail to understand (or don't have a problem with) is that this is Enthusiasm, the idea that God affects man by means in addition to the Means of Grace.

Conversely, when one believes that God ONLY chooses to deal with man through the Word and Sacrament , one may rest assured that all the machinations of man won't amount to squat, because the power rests on the Holy Spirit.

David Kreuter

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Rev. Bauer,

Sorry it has taken so much time to get back to you questions – professional and family priorities have required my attention since I wrote this blog post, but I've finally pieced together a response in free moments.

Yes, I am saying Dynamic Equivalency is bad! Rereading my post, I don't think that I made clear its connection to post-Modernism. DE is related to post-Modernism through 20th Century Analytical Philosophy which impacts the ideology of linguistics common to both post-Modernism and Dynamic Equivalency. DE is a 20th Century innovation, which emerged from the form criticism descending from Analytical Philosophy. As a result, we didn't start hearing about DE until around the 1950's – again, about the same time we started hearing proclamations from academic circles that the teaching of grammar is a waste of classroom time. All of this developed together, it emerged together, and has deep impact on today's post-Modern epistemology ("epistemology" answers the question, "What is Knowledge?" or "How do we know that we have Knowledge?").

Immediately, I'll be criticized for saying that "DE is bad!," as everyone and his mother will cry out "But Luther and Tyndale used DE! See!" and -SPLAT- I'll be presented with pages of Greek, Hebrew, German and "modern English" quotations attempting to show that Luther and Tyndale made use of this method in their translations, so therefore it is okay for us. Of course, if Luther and Tyndale used DE, and if I say DE is bad, well then, I'd be saying that Luther and Tyndale were wrong. Not only would I be committing the unforgiveable sin, I'd be inconsistent! Before I am inundated with this sort of rebuttal, I'll simply say, "No, they did not employ DE – the philosophy from which it was developed did not exist until the 20th Century." They may have resorted to more interpretive translation at certain points, but the ideology which governed their translation method is what we today call “Formal Equivalence.”

"How did you find out about any of this?" You might ask of me? "Are you some sort of nut who reads weird philosophy?" No, not really. Follow the links in my profile and look at my educational background: I spent three-and-a-half years as a Graduate student studying Education at one of the top ten Colleges of Education in the nation (according to the NEA). This stuff isn't "weird philosophy," it is mainstream. Social Constructivism describes very well the epistemology of post-Modernism, and is the basis of today's theories of education that are fast replacing the Progressivism of Dewey (which has been essentially irrelevant since the mid-1980's). That's how I've found out about these things. If you follow those links, you'll notice that I did not complete my Master’s thesis. As a Christian, I could not accept the philosophy of post-Modernism nor the "epistemological learning theory" of Social Constructivism. Struggling against the programme of the NEA in my writing and speaking forced me to read very broadly in order to be effective in my negative responses to the reading that was assigned while still making grades – effort which won me many allies among the faculty (many of whom were struggling against this stuff in the background on their own, some of whom were denied tenure for their objections, one of whom was even "deported").

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

I did not win enough allies, however. Even though it did not address Social Constructivism directly, I was not permitted to complete my thesis because it focused on the importance of retaining mathematics and grammar as part of the core curriculum (the only content areas which provide practice in "deductive reasoning" – an epistemological process which is itself going the way of the Dodo since the advent of Analytical Philosophy, and which is now expressly avoided under Constructivist theories). So, I am not talking about high ideas floating around in the ether that really impact no one, that only a few nuts such as myself think about while normal folks just "live their lives" as they always have. As part of the NEA's programme of education, our society is being trained to think according to a collectivist theory of knowledge, that there is no Truth to be known outside of a person's social collective, that is, outside of the body of common experiences composing individuals' "schemata." Contrary to what some folks may think, this is serious, serious business, and it has immediate and real impact on us today. For example, the "Goals 2000" initiative of the 1990's, as an attempt to equip all schools, at government expense, with networks and computer labs in every classroom (in return for tethering local schools to the educational mandates of the Federal government), was gleefully promoted among Social Constructivists as a way to expand and even "globalize" students' social collective, and represented an effort toward "normalizing" more varied ideas of Truth, and "attenuating" more exclusive ideas of Truth like those promoted by various religions. I know some of these inside details, as I served for a year as a Goals 2000 consultant. Today, these objectives are further facilitated by social networking applications like Facebook and Twitter.

The point isn't that by avoiding DE ideologies we are going to change these realities, as if we ought to assume the mission of "changing society." Not at all. Rather, the point is at least threefold: (a) these realities are not merely theoretical, they are not mere possibilities, on the contrary, they are hard upon us; (b) these philosophies, active and operating very vigorously in society today, aggressively militate against the chief Means via which the Church's work is accomplished – the objective Message of the Gospel which is delivered in human language; and most importantly, (c) by embracing DE ideologies we are following Society into a use of language – verily, into an ideology of language itself! – that reinforces the social and experiential subjectivity of truth, when instead, the Message itself endeavors to point people outside of themselves and their own experience to the objective reality of Christ and the objective promises of the Gospel. Indeed, by embracing DE we are joining the world in it's assault against the Gospel in the same way that Schliermacher joined the World by embracing the thinking of Enlightenment philosophy (and there is connection in our current circumstances to Schliermacher as well, via Kierkegaard who reacted against him, through the consequent teachings of Bultmann and Barth which have established, again, beginning around the 1950's, the experiential nature of Biblical truth, which have deeply impacted Pentecostal and Evangelical doctrine and practice, and which have since made post-Modernism and related ideas palatable in Evangelical Christianity).

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

Given these realities, the simplistic clarion call, "language has changed so therefore our Bibles must change" is so narrow, and so shallow, that it boggles the mind. Those who claim to have deeply studied the issues and who now "stand before us on their great learning," who yet repeat this line as a defense for adopting DE as the contemporary basis for Bible translations, or who simply quip "Luther did the same thing, so its ok for us, too", can only lead the rest of us to the conclusion that they have, in reality, not thought deeply or critically enough about the real issues, and leave us with the impression that they are, in fact, merely parrots. On the contrary, in the face of these realities, the Church simply needs to seriously reject the notion that elevating DE as the governing ideology of translation serves the Gospel. It doesn't. It attacks it at its very foundation. In responding to this, and by embracing "Formal Equivalence" in its place, what this means is that the Church must also realize that it will need to redouble its commitment to sound education – also rejecting post-Modern learning theories – and have the courage to admit that the work of the Church will look more like the reality it has always been – of thankless labor in face of daunting odds – than the myth of glorious organizational success promoted by the Church Growth Movement.

My Thoughts,

Mr. Douglas Lindee

Anonymous said...

Mr. Doug Lindee

excellent post. I think a very important thing you said is that the corrupt philosophy we're discussing is not only theory discussed in the faculty lounge at Harvard. This mindset runs every public school, every social program, every government institution, every art museum, science museum, history museum, every textbook publisher, kids TV shows, everything, everything in our culture.

You can't hardly get away from it unless you become Amish. But there is the question that I have for Intrepid Lutherans. You guys undoubtedly agree with my supposition that a healthy percentage of WELS clergy (and laymen) are ignorant of post-modernism and ignorant of it's encroachment on Christianity.

If you're like me, your position against the NIV 2011, and your position against rock 'n roll church, and your position against the bad theology that has been overlooked in the WELS is formulated in your mind as a function of your understanding of the World around you, to wit, post modernism.

Said a different way, if I was totally in the dark about the all-encompassing philosophy du jour, how would I be able to have the information necessary to make good judgments?

That was a long preamble to my question: What is to be done if a sizable chunk of the WELS can't/won't ID the problem enough to recognize it when they see it?

"That Hideous Strength" by C.S. Lewis is a work of fiction which very accurately portrays how the post-modern mind works. It's an entertaining read, and very eye opening to see and comprehend the philosophy of the day.

Andy Groenwald

Anonymous said...

some where i read in some bible,, no one was to add or subtract from the bible.. so if a bible does not say every thing its suppose to say about Jesus. or says what it should not say .which the nniv admittly does even by those in wels who want it ..

some one once said lutheranism is just a long train the elca is in the front the lcms is in the middle and the welsers are in the back ..
yet we all get to the same destination eventualy just at slightly different times ..

is love for Gods word THAT WELS PREACHERS SAY THEY HAVE proved by wanting TO USE a bible that subtracts from it BECAUSE IT SAVES MONEY ? by with holding truths about Jesus being fore told.

some GERMANS preachers LIKE TO SAVE MONEY in not so wise a way. Thinking they can make up for it by what they say ..

but we didnt come to hear them we came to hear Gods word.

with out compromise ,, even if it cost more money.

this whole nniv thing kinda reminds me of what some in congress want,, they want every one to pay for abortion even if some of us dont agree with it..

i dont want to have any of my money pay for a bible that even those who support it admit it with hold subtracts from Gods word..

Robert Boe
quemado new mexico
immanuel lutheran
Springerville AZ.

BigDavz0r said...

Interesting discussion here. I'd invite anyone to participate in this discussion as well on my blog: http://bibleimmersion.blogspot.com/2011/08/tell-me-specific-what-you-like-or.html

BigDavz0r said...

I've also posted about translation theory. The link is found here: http://bibleimmersion.blogspot.com/2011/08/kjv-tyndale-and-translating-good-news.html?

Anonymous said...

We are given the impression that Luther would endorse the NIV11 wholeheartedly. I came acros this quote in my studies today that makes me think he might object to Adam "making love" to his wife:

The expression “He knew his wife” is unique to Hebrew, for Latin and Greek do not express themselves in this way. However, it is a very apt expression, not only because of its chasteness and modesty but also because of its specific meaning; for the verb יָדַע has a wider scope than “to know” has among us. It denotes not only abstract knowledge but, so to speak, feeling and experience. For example, when Job says of the ungodly: “They will know what it is to act contrary to God,” he wants to say: “They will experience and feel it.”5 So also Ps. 51:3: “For I know my sin,” that is, “I feel and experience it.” Likewise Gen. 22:12: “Now I know that you fear the Lord,” that is: “I have learned the fact and have experienced it.” So also Luke 1:34: “For I know no man.”6 Mary indeed knew many men, but she had experienced and felt no man. In this manner Adam, in this passage, knew Eve, his wife—not objectively or speculatively, but he actually experienced his Eve as a woman.

Luther's Works, Vol. 1: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1958 (Luther's Works 1), S. 1:241

Maybe that's why he translated the way he did(Und Adam erkannte sein Weib Eva)?

David Brandt

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Great find, David!

Pr. Benjamin Tomczak said...

What do you think about the Holman Christian Standard Bible's (the translation we're sampling at St. Mark right now) rendering, "Adam knew his wife intimately..." (they render Mary's Greek in Luke 1 the same, "How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?" -- "ginosko")

Which in Genesis 19 (same word), for the Sodomites they translate, "have sex with"

Since I have it handy, Beck (AAT) went with:

"The man had relations with his wife..." (Gen. 4:1).

"Bring them out to us so we can rape them" (Gen. 19:5).

And, "I've had no relations with a husband" (Luke 1:34).

Grace and peace,

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


Good question. First, a clarification. The Biblegateway.com version of Holman is from 2003, whereas other online versions (and the Logos version) are 2009. So Biblegateway has "Adam knew his wife intimately" in Genesis 4:1, but the new revised versions simply have, "Adam was intimate with his wife."

What do I think? I think Beck is far too "dynamic." Those who herald Beck as "Lutheresque" in his translation style are stretching the facts quite a bit. Beck was very "American" in his translation style, but, didn't stay as close to the literal meaning of the words as Luther did.

As for the HCSB translation of "to know" in these three cases, I think it's certainly closer to literal. I can understand why they deviated further from the original in Genesis 19:5, because the context of Gen. 4 and Luke 1 ties "knowing" directly to the birth of a child, leaving no question about what kind of "knowing" is being talked about, whereas someone less familiar with the Hebrew idiom might mistake the kind of "knowing" the Sodomites wanted to have as an innocent getting-to-know-one-another-over-coffee. So I can understand why Holman was more explicit with that one.

However, I still think it best to stick with Luther and translate all three consistently as "to know." In the case of Adam and Eve and Mary, the context doesn't require a footnote of explanation (although there would be nothing wrong with including one). In Genesis 19:5, I think it would help the reader to have the following footnote: "The Hebrew word indicates sexual intimacy."

The ESV translates "to know" in all three cases and has no footnote for any of these verses.

Anonymous said...

As a general rule, I like it when translations try to use the same word or word family when translating identical words in the original. I wish the connection would be more obvious in translation between righteous(ness) and justification or between santify and holy. Obviously it is not easy or even possible in every circumstance (We don't have the word "righteousfy".

In this case I think Holman, at least the original translation, did a decent job of that. Beck did not do nearly as good of a job in reflecting that the same word/expression is used in those different cases.

David Brandt

Anonymous said...

A quote from Luther "On Translating":

On the other hand I have not just gone ahead anyway and disregarded altogether the exact wording of the original. Rather with my helpers I have been very careful to see that where everything turns on a single passage, I have kept to the original quite literally and have not lightly departed from it. For example, in John 6[:27] Christ says, “Him has God the Father sealed [versiegelt].” It would have been better German to say, “Him has God the Father signified [gezeichent],” or, “He it is whom God the Father means [meinet].” But I preferred to do violence to the German language rather than to depart from the word. Ah, translating is not every man’s skill as the mad saints imagine. It requires a right, devout, honest, sincere, God-fearing, Christian, trained, informed, and experienced heart. Therefore I hold that no false Christian or factious spirit can be a decent translator. That becomes obvious in the translation of the Prophets made at Worms.

Luther's Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I. pg.194

David Brandt

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