Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Church and Continuity" Conference Review: Gender Neutral Translating

The presentations at the 2012 Intrepid Lutherans "Church and Continuity" conference commenced Friday evening with Rev. Robert Koester’s comments on the NIV2011 Bible translation matter.  He offered an abbreviated review of his paper, "Gender Neutral Translating and the Verbal Inspiration of Scripture."

His expanded treatment of the topic was delivered to the January 2012  Metro-Milwaukee Pastor's Conference,  "A Brief Layman's Guide: Understanding the Problems of Gender Neutral Translating."

Rev. Koester also made available last fall an eight page overview of several concerns.

Since even the brief layman's guide is a thoughtful 60 pages, permit me a few paragraphs to highlight only one point of concern out of many offered.  (I hesitate to do so because Rev. Koester's research should not go unread.)  Biblica Inc.'s Committee on Bible Translation (C.B.T.)  was assigned editorial guidelines, and quoting from Koester's paper,
Instructions given the C.B.T. as they set out to do their first gender-neutral translation are public knowledge. Principles C and D of part I, “Basic Principles” reads:
C. Authors of Biblical books, even while writing Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit, unconsciously reflected in many ways, the particular cultures in which they wrote. Hence in the manner in which they articulate the Word of God, they sometimes offend modern sensibilities. At such times, translators can and may use non-offending renderings so as not to hinder the message of the Spirit.

D. The patriarchalism (like other social patterns) of the ancient cultures in which the Biblical books were composed is pervasively reflected in forms of expression that appear, in the modern context, to deny the common human dignity of all hearers and readers. For these forms, alternative modes of expression can and may be used, though care must be taken not to distort the intent of the original text.

Consider again the above section from the Biblica Inc.'s C.B.T.  Is the work produced under such filters a translation or an interpretation?   Should we shrug off with deliberate indifference the intent to adjust Scriptures to avoid offending sensibilities and to avoid 'denying the common human dignity'?

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.  Proverbs 30.

1 comment:

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Rev. Koester's presentation was outstanding. It is unfortunate that audio quality made the video unpublishable. (Rest assured, video of other presentations is being rendered -- Rev. Koester wasn't mic'ed so the audio didn't come throu very well...)

His paper, Gender Neutral Translating and the Verbal Inspiration of Scripture, is aptly titled and leads to the citation of "C.B.T. Principles" near its end. Positively galvanizing, they were not only noticed but seized upon by many, particularly laity, in attendance: "This statement denies verbal inspiration and infallibility on its face," one layman commented; another questioned how anyone in the WELS who knows these "C.B.T. Principles" could possibly endorse the work they produced. Who is in charge here??

In this regard, it is useful to compare the implications of "C.B.T. Principles" to those of the position notoriously occupied by Fuller Seminary.

The C.B.T. states (above): Authors of Biblical books, even while writing Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit, unconsciously reflected in many ways, the particular cultures in which they wrote.. Fuller Seminary states: Where inerrancy refers to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the churches through the biblical writers, we support its use, but insists that use of the term "inerrancy" is dangerous when it implies a precision alien to the minds of the Bible writers, or when it diverts attention from the message of salvation and the instruction in righteousness which are the Bible's key themes. (BTW: Fuller's departure from inerrancy is recorded here: The Strange Case of Fuller Theological Seminary, Ch. 6.)

The C.B.T. denies inerrancy and inspiration when it implies that the Bible's "human-ness" is distinct from its divinity, and that its "human-ness" results in corrupted meaning for the "contemporary" Christian. Fuller denies inerrancy when it positively vaunts the divinity of the texts' meaning ("what the Holy Spirit is saying") over against their "human-ness" by militating "key themes" against details and by characterizing their "human-ness" ("minds of the Bible writers") as incompatible with contemporary students of Scripture. Both C.B.T. and Fuller recognize a human/divine distinction in the Biblical texts, reject "human-ness" as an aspect of their inspiration, and place its identification and remediation in the human hands of contemporary translators.

However, neither position is orthodox. While recognizing the "human-ness" of the inspired texts in the varieties of their style, perspective and culture, orthodoxy does not fixate on meaning at the expense of precise detail but includes historical precision, vocabulary and the very grammar of the texts as inspired and inerrant, in their whole and parts. Rev. Brian Keller (WELS) draws out this very point on pp. 44-45 of his equally important essay EVALUATING BIBLE TRANSLATIONS: Alle Schrift von Gott eingegeben.

IMHO, those who defend the work of C.B.T. are in the same category as those who defend Fuller Seminary; thus, they are not to be simply trusted. Christians must always "trust but verify;" both are the responsibility of the individual, independent of his personal regard for the speaker or author, whether such be a respected teacher, classmate, friend, or even a family member.

My Opinion,

Mr. Douglas Lindee

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