Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How does one interpret language in a post-Modern Age? What about the language of the Bible?

The notion that all language statements and assertions stand in need of interpretation and may be interpreted in many different ways – including those that contradict the explicit meaning – is wreaking all kinds of havoc. Especially when treating the Bible. Theology has often become an exercise in interpreting away Biblical statements that the theologian does not agree with.

To be sure, some language calls for interpretation, but other language is clear on its face. Some of the controversies involve questions about which is which. But even interpretation is supposed to help us understand what has been said, rather than undoing what has been said.

These were words written this morning by Dr. Gene Veith (italics and bold are mine), in his blog post, Cranach: How to interpret "kill Americans", in response to an apology offered by South Korean "Gangnam Style" rapper, Psy. Eight years ago, Psy preached/rapped the following message to a crowd at an anti-war concert:
    “Kill those f—— Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captive / Kill those f——- Yankees who ordered them to torture / Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers / Kill them all slowly and painfully.”
But today he apologizes in the following words:
    “While I’m grateful for the freedom to express one’s self, I’ve learned there are limits to what language is appropriate and I’m deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted. I will forever be sorry for any pain I have caused by those words” (bold emphasis mine).
What Dr. Veith finds interesting is Psy's assertion that his words need "interpreting." “In what sense is that statement in need of interpretation?”, Dr. Veith asks. Here he is not really addressing the offensive and inciting words of the rapper, or even his apology, but is using this situation, as he stated, to address “The notion that all language statements and assertions stand in need of interpretation and may be interpreted in many different ways – including those that contradict the explicit meaning...

While a former member of a "conservative" Lutheran church body (not WELS, not ELS, not LCMS), I learned that "all doctrine is taken from direct positive statements of Scripture, only." Positive statements are identified by the grammar and vocabulary of the texts, and distinguished from comparative or normative statements. Direct statements are identified by the context, whether the author is speaking directly, or repeating what someone else said. Only the author is recognized as inspired and empowered by God to issue prescriptive statements, so, unless he is quoting God, indirect statements of the author – that is, statements he is making through another human – are not sufficient to prescribe doctrine. This categorically rules out anecdotal sections of Scripture as offering prescriptive statements or of having sufficient authority to qualify other direct positive statements of Scripture. This is a significant fact to remember, especially when considering, for example, the Bible's teaching on "The Roles of Men and Women." Many advocates of feminist theology among confessional Lutherans (nearly all such advocates, by my estimation), fixate on anecdotal sections of Scripture and set those sections at war against what the Bible says in direct positive terms. "B-b-b-but, what about Deborah?" (attempt to build doctrine from anecdotal sections of Scripture); "B-b-b-but, what about Priscilla?" (another attempt to build doctrine from anecdotal sections of Scripture); "B-b-b-but, what about Lydia?" (more anecdotal references...). WELS advocates of feminist theology were quoted extensively in my post, Post-Modernism, Pop-culture, Transcendence, and the Church Militant, displaying this very hermeneutical approach – attempting to derive meaning from anecdotal sections, even those which have nothing to do with the teaching of "Gender Roles," and vaunting that derived meaning over the clear statements of Scripture.

When my wife and I joined WELS, we learned that the statement "all doctrine is taken from direct positive statements of Scripture, only," is no longer used. Instead, the phrase "all doctrine is taken only from clear statements of Scripture," is used, alongside the warning to "distinguish prescriptive from descriptive statements." I thought that was odd, because the former of these two statements is not a "clear" statement at all. The term "clear" is relative. What is clear to one person may or may not be clear to another. Moreover, if it is unclear what a 'clear statement' is, then it is also unclear whether a statement may be 'prescriptive' or 'descriptive'. So I asked my pastor about this.
    "I learned that 'all doctrine is taken from direct positive statements of Scripture, only.' Is this what you teach? Is this what you mean by 'clear statements'?" I asked.

    He replied, "Well, essentially, yes. We don't use that phrase anymore because the terms 'direct' and 'positive' require a knowledge of grammar that people don't have anymore. They wouldn't know how to apply it. So we just say, 'clear statements', now."

    "So how do they know what a 'clear statement' is?" I further inquired.

    "Well, I know the grammar, of course... but for the most part, it's pretty obvious. If someone has a question, though, I am able to clarify it."
"But," I continued to think, "isn't the WELS school system one of the finest private school systems, and among the most highly regarded, in the country? Surely, each one of these students is well-trained in English grammar. Doesn't WELS take into primary consideration who their own people are when establishing hermeneutical principles like this?" Ultimately, I later discovered, it doesn't matter how literate WELS students (who are groomed as future Lutherans, and even WELS members, one would think) are, or how well trained in English grammar and vocabulary they are. The fact is, when you teach people to pay attention to the grammatical construction and the specific vocabulary used as they read their Bibles, then the Bibles they read need to make a faithful attempt to reproduce both the form and content of the original text. The NIV doesn't do this! As a consequence of Dynamic Equivalency (the translation principle governing the translation of the NIV), it makes no academic attempt whatsoever to reproduce either the grammatical form or the specific vocabulary used in the original Greek and Hebrew texts. Rather, the grammar and vocabulary used in the NIV is purely a creation of the translators, who recast the original texts in their own English prose – much like one would as he faithfully summarizes the work of another author in a paper, without quoting the other author directly, by restating what that author said in his own terms. The purpose in making such a summary is to use another author's words to help one make his own point, the grammar and vocabulary of the summary being carefully chosen to serve one's own purpose while still being "faithful" to the author's original message (and as we have frequently pointed out on this blog, in neutering the Bible, in purposefully adopting the politically-correct and feminist requirement of a gender-neutral translation ideology, the NIV translators most certainly have "their own point" to make). The fact is, a "direct positive statement" is defined by the specific vocabulary and grammatical construction in which that statement occurs. Because the grammar and vocabulary of the NIV does not strive to represent the grammar and vocabulary of the original Greek and Hebrew texts, but is merely a creation of the translator as he seeks to restate the meaning of the original in his own English terms (which are reduced for the reader of sixth-grade reading level), what may be a "direct positive statement" in the original texts may or may not make it into the NIV as a "direct positive statement," and what may be a "direct positive statement" in the NIV, may or may not be a "direct positive statement" in the original. Indeed, studiously paying attention to the specific grammar and vocabulary that is found in the NIV may very well lead one astray. That's not the purpose of the translation, after all. (Indeed. Try participating in an inductive Bible study sometime, with NIV and NASB users. It's a real hoot!) And so the precisely defined "direct positive statement" gives way to the relatively defined and manifestly unclear "clear statement," and the poor layman, who may or may not know his own language well enough to follow grammatical construction, is reduced to seeking human authority, rather than the Scriptures themselves, to clarify for him the Bible's teaching. This was the topic of last year's post, The NNIV, the WELS Translation Evaluation Committee, and the Perspicuity of the Scriptures (so far, our third most popular post of all times), and is well worth the reader's review.

The reality is, Psy's offensive and inciting anti-war message doesn't need "interpreting." It is a direct positive statement, and stands on its own. In fact, it was issued as a series of command statements, and, thus, is categorically clear. But, as Dr. Veith intimates, post-Modernism would rob us of such clarity – the clarity of "direct positive statements." Hence, it is not only at war with the political and legal structures of the West (a war which is contributing mightily to social upheaval), but is at war against that on which these structures are ultimately founded, and that which gives us the Message of Jesus Christ and the Hope of Salvation: the Holy Scriptures, the very Word of God. In the opening paragraph of Part 1 of our series, "Relevance," and Mockery of the Holy Martyrs, we introduced this war as the same war that the World, one of the Christian's three great enemies, has always waged against Christ's Church:
    “The Christian's three great enemies are the devil, the world, and his own flesh. They each work to lure him into sin, in order to separate him from his Saviour, Jesus Christ. The World especially, Jesus tells us, hates us on account of Him (John 15:15-25), therefore, we should not marvel when the World conspires against us to rob us of His sustaining Word (1 John 3:13), which includes all aspects of Scripture: not just every word, as Jesus tells us directly in Matt. 4:4, but the form, or grammar, as well – as St. Paul amply demonstrates, the central teaching of Scripture hinging on a single point of Hebrew grammar (Gal. 3:13-16).”
Stripping the Scriptures of the significance of their inspired form, as post-Modernism does, robs them of their clarity and requires that even "direct positive statements" be subjectively interpreted. Dynamic Equivalency and the NIV has primed an entire generation of American Christians to accept this notion.

Kyrie Elesion.


Anonymous said...

Could you provide some specific examples of verses in which the NIV has obscured or eliminated direct positive statements of Scripture?

I agree with your warning about the dangers of the post-modern hermeneutic, but I'm not sure I see the NIV "stripping the Scriptures of the significance of their inspired form".


Isaac Parson

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...specific examples of verses in which the NIV has obscured or eliminated direct positive statements of Scripture?

It's an irrelevant question. In a previous post I addressed the penchant get immediately lost in the technical mintutiae of translation issues, as a means of dismissing the controlling importance of translation ideology, stating:

"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."

In point of fact, the first aspect of a translation to accept or reject is its translation ideology. Prior to this, the importance of technical minutiae isn't even in view. If the translation ideology ought to be rejected, then the technical junk simply doesn't matter.

And in this case, it really doesn't matter. What defines a statement as "positive" is its grammatical construction. In principle, Dynamic Equivalence, and the NIV, does not concern itself in the slightest with attempting a faithful grammatical reconstruction of the source text. Thus, by definition, the grammatical form of any positive statement in the NIV that also happens to be a positive statement in the original text, is so merely by coincidence. I, for one, positively reject any ideology from which descends a translation whose grammatical rendering of doctrinal statements – i.e., "direct positive statements" – only coincidentally results the same necessary positive form as the source texts, and only coincidentally did so for every positive statement in the Bible! Who knows? Maybe the NIV accidentally got it right in every single instance? It doesn't matter, since any layman with even a moderate regard for God's Word will have already rejected it by this point, in principle, long before any technical examination of every single "direct positive statement" is undertaken, or even suggested, since the translation ideology itself is insufficient to produce an English rendering that he can independently rely upon.

The layman cannot trust the NIV. This lack of trust is not at all the same character as a "healthy caution" which a reasonable person might have for any translation, who understands that there will necessarily be imperfections, since English grammar does not mirror that of Greek and Hebrew, nor are their always choices of English vocabulary which represent exactly the terms used in the source texts. Rather, the layman's mistrust for the NIV, and the NNIV in particular, must be fundamental and thorough, not because of specific examples of weakness, but because the post-Modern translation ideology of Dynamic Equivalence is at war against language and meaning itself, is at war against the primary Means through which the Holy Spirit works.

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

But still, maybe the NIV – and especially the NNIV – succeeds at producing a generally reliable translation by accident, despite its post-Modern ideology of translation which would reasonably guarantee no such thing. How many instances of "obscuring direct positive statements" do we need, before we can affirm that what the translation ideology of Dynamic Equivalence necessarily leads to, is actually manifest in the NIV? One example? Two? Or do we need thousands?

We've discussed this on Intrepid Lutherans, before, especially in regard to the NNIV. Read our post, NIV 2011: A brotherly debate, for starters. Right away, we see that "Gender Roles" rise to the fore in ways that not only impact Scripture doctrine, but have significant and fundamental impact on our Christian Worldview as well. And how could the adoption of an Egalitarian theological framework as a stricture on the rendering of the source texts into English, not have such an impact? It's inconceivable that it wouldn't, and impossible that it won't. But don't stop reading there, continue by reading Rev. Rydecki's The Gender Gutting of the Bible in NIV 2011. Significantly, he states:

"These changes in gender language affect literally thousands of verses throughout the Bible. While the change to any given verse may appear subtle, when considered from the wider perspective of the whole Bible, the changes are, in reality, monumental. An entirely different cultural context is being superimposed on the context in which the Holy Scriptures were written."

Thousands? How many thousands? The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a conservative Evangelical organization dedicated to the preservation of Scriptural teaching on the roles of men and women, popularly known as "Complementarianism," counted them, and reported on the NIV 2011 in June 2011, in their document, The Translation of Gender Terminology in the NIV 2011. To understand this article, it is necessary to know that the NIV 2011 is not a revision of the NIV 1984, but of the TNIV ("Today's New International Version", published in 2002), the CBT's first market experiment in a gender-neutral translation, that received so much criticism from Evangelicals, that the new translation utterly failed and they had to pull it from the market. Unfortunately, they didn't pull their controlling feminist interests. In the TNIV, this document reports, 3,686 mistranslations in the Old and New Testaments related to gender language, alone (which they had reported to the CBT as they issued their rejection of the TNIV as suitable for Evangelical Christians). In the NIV 2011, fully 75% of these were retained exactly. Of the 933 changes (representing "some of the most heavily criticized gender-neutral renderings of the TNIV"), most, but not all, resulted in improvements in the use of gender. "Nevertheless," this document continues, "the modifications were incomplete, since the vast majority of the problems previously identified during the TNIV debate still remain."

And such addresses only gender-neutral concerns and the impact they have on doctrine, and ultimately the way people think about their own existence and their relation to one another.

So how long should the layman keep his nose buried in this excrement, seeking for a way to rename it a rose – as some have apparently succeeded in doing? Until he has grown so used to it that it doesn't really seem so bad? That seems to be the only way.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lindee,

It seems to me that you've established a fairly rigid dichotomy--a translation is either dynamically equivalent or it is essentially literal even in its grammatical forms.

The truth, though, is that all translations fall somewhere on a spectrum between the two extremes. No translation, by definition, can fully and literally reproduce all of the original language's grammatical forms. The simple fact is that Hebrew grammar is different than Greek grammar is different than English grammar.

The most important issue in translation is not reproducing grammar but reproducing meaning. The power of the Word, after all, comes not from the grammar but from the meaning of the original languages. Otherwise, we would all have to learn Hebrew and Greek in order to believe. A translation that strove to reproduce the grammatical forms of the original text above all would be completely meaningless.

Now, certainly we can disagree as to which translation most faithfully conveys the meaning of the original, and we might find ourselves on different spots in the spectrum, but to say that a translation must be rejected for not using the original literal grammatical forms is simplistic and unfair.

Isaac Parson

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Mr. Parson,

You state: The most important issue in translation is not reproducing grammar but reproducing meaning.

I have to disagree, vehemently. This is tantamount to establishing levels of importance within God's Revelation, and ultimately defining the source of Scripture's meaning – that which was directly inspired by God – as outside the relevant scope of what God reveled to mankind. The grammar, is, in fact, inspired just as much the vocabulary – this is stated above, in the body of this post, and is established Lutheran doctrine. Neither grammar nor vocabulary is as disposable as post-Modern linguists imagine. If it is vitally important to meaning of the original the Greek and Hebrew, then it is vitally important to reconstructing that meaning in any language. The meaning is NOT independent of the grammar and vocabulary, and if we are to be faithful in our attempt to reproduce Scripture's meaning, then we must be equally faithful in reproducing, as objectively as possible, the source of that meaning as well – doubly so, if Lutherans still think that "all doctrine is taken from direct positive statements of Scripture, only", since this is a grammatical definition. I know that some Lutherans still believe this, but if I'm in with a bunch of Lutherans who don't, then my days among them are certainly numbered.

Continued next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

You state: It seems to me that you've established a fairly rigid dichotomy--a translation is either dynamically equivalent or it is essentially literal even in its grammatical forms.

Are you a new reader? I think that you are glossing over what I have stated directly in my comments, and what I have explained in almost painful detail in other posts on this subject. Do you think that you are going to post a transliteration as a way of mocking me for being "literal?" I ask in advance to save you the embarrassment of doing so – I've seen advocates of the NIV, who set up an opposition between "Dynamic Equivalence" and "literalism," do this many times. The terms we work with here are "Dynamic" or "Functional Equivalence," "Formal Equivalence" and "Optimal Equivalence." I don't know of any literalists who post here. Also, if you plan to defend "Dynamic Equivalence" by saying "Luther did it, so it's okay" – don't bother doing that, either. He, like Tyndale, most definitely followed, in fact, in many ways established the conventions of what we today would call "Formal Equivalence," to which Rev. Rydecki, who's been studying Luther's Unrevedierte Ausgabe, can attest. Anyway, I fully acknowledge that language differences will not result in a literally equivalent translation, but I don't call for one, either. In our post, The NIV 2011 and the Importance of Translation Ideology, I distinguish Dynamic and Functional Equivalence, and characterize Functional Equivalence as follows:

"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."

I shorthand this in a comment to our post, NNIV – the new standard for WELS?, in this way: 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.

The capacity of the target-language referenced here, is not at all determined by the "conversational use" of English made by the average person, which the CBT has determined resides somewhere in the fourth- to sixth-grade reading level, but its full formal capacity – objectively defined by its full grammar, the breadth of its vocabulary, and the rhetorical devices at its disposal. Note this, as the issue of language capacity is addressed directly and at length in reference to Dynamic Equivalence and the NIV in our post, The NNIV, the WELS Translation Evaluation Committee, and the Perspicuity of the Scriptures

Rigid? I don't think so, although the body of this post, above, may not give the fullest indication of that. Rigorous and serious, are terms I would accept.

Joel Lillo said...

O.K., then.

What translation WOULD you advocate, then?

The reason I ask is that I haven't heard one proposed here. I've only heard the condemnation of the NIV 2011.

Is it the KJV?






New WELS translation?

Pick an alternative. Make your case. Take your stand. Write an article promoting your choice.


--Joel Lillo

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Rev. Lillo,

That's more than a fair question. We at IL probably should have settled on one version to advocate before this became an issue last summer, and advocated for that version along with pointing out the unacceptable weaknesses of the NIV all along (incidently, as a point of history, this is exactly why the anti-Federalists failed to keep the US Constitution from being ratified. Anti-Federalists vastly outnumbered the Federalists, but offered no alternative solution to the Constitution.). It came up on us so fast, since we were fairly confident that our leadership would have shut the door on the NIV 2011 right out of the gate. Frankly, we were incredulous when they were not only willing to consider it, but actually endorsed it, so much so that we were confident that even if a few Professors from the outer limits of reality endorsed the NIV 2011, the rest of the Ministerium was likely to retain some sort of sanity and oppose the NIV 2011 all on their own. We were bowled over when that wasn't the case either. By now, it's probably too late for us to endorse any specific translation and have any impact. I still can't believe such rigorous opposition to the NIV 2011 has been required in order to bring what minor attention to these important issues we've brought to them. I would have thought these were all well-known deficiencies. I simply can't believe it -- it is very demoralizing.

Anyway, Lee Liermann did asked this question in a comment to the 11/30/2011 post The LORD (no longer) Our Righteousness. I, along with Rev.'s Rydecki and Spencer answered him. I don't know if they have changed their position, but I haven't. For convenience, I'll simply copy my response to Mr. Liermann below. IIf Rev. Rydecki or Rev. Spencer have changed or retained their position, I'll let them speak for themselves -- same, if Mr. Heyer or Rev. Lidtke care to share their opinion on it.

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

It is no secret, I am partial to the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Despite its age, it is still considered a very accurate translation. In terms of its literary quality, it is heralded as a masterpiece of the English language. Shortcomings in the KJV that we may observe today have very little to do with the skill or faithfulness of its translators, but are, rather, a result of changing English usage, and, in some cases, of the accumulation of additional Greek/Hebrew texts. However, these shortcomings are very well documented, language helps for the laymen in the form of lexicons and concordances have been abundantly available for over a century, and the bulk of theological writing in English over the past 500 years makes exclusive use of the KJV. I suppose I could make a compelling case for retaining it even today, particularly for individual use. But, despite our appreciation and reverence for the KJV, and its continuing usefulness, for over half a century WELS has seen the need for a new translation, and that remains the question under consideration. So I won't attempt advocacy for the KJV. At least not directly...

Instead, I'll state that if we insist that a new translation is necessary, then I favor the New King James Version (NKJV). I grew up on the New American Standard Bible (NASB), my wife on the New International Version (NIV 1984). Many years ago, as we studied our Bibles together during our courtship, and discovered many incongruities between the two, some of them irreconcilable, we resorted to the Bibles our fathers used in the home (the King James Version) for guidance in understanding those sections. The KJV very nicely navigated those difficult sections in precise English, though it also used rather advanced grammar. This began our interest in and fairly close examination of Bible translations, after which we settled on either the KJV or the NKJV -- for their precision and common heritage (both in English usage and textual sources). We liked the NKJV as a modern translation for its continuity with its predecessor, the KJV, and thus also the familiar ecclesiastical terminology it employs, retention of memorable poetic meter, especially in the poetical books, and usefulness in comparison with older theological and devotional works still in use, which use the KJV. We went with the KJV, however, because of its more widely available documentation, lexical helps, and broad use throughout the English speaking world over the past half-millenia. Today, among Lutherans, the NKJV is officially used by the ELS and the CLC. It seems to be highly regarded among the Lutherans in the AFLC (according to my unofficial poll), although I don't think they have an officially adopted translation for use in Association publications. The LCR still uses the KJV. I don't know about ELDoNA. LCMS uses the ESV, though they were participants in its translation. And I don't think the ELCA uses the Bible at all, anymore.

However, I could live with any of the top three Formal Equivalence (or "Optimal Equivalence," if you prefer) translations that are under consideration: the New King James Version, the New American Standard Bible (NASB), or the English Revised Version (ESV), in that order. I personally disdain and reject any Dynamic/Functional Equivalent translation on grounds of principle (and this includes the NIV 2011). In principle, this methodology is insufficient to produce a Bible that the layman can study independently, and just as independently arrive at reliable conclusions. Such requires a precise vocabulary, a faithful grammar, and lexical helps corresponding to that vocabulary and grammar.

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

One criticism of the Holman Christian Study Bible (HCSB) is its use of the term Yahweh in place of LORD in the Old Testament: "It's wierd," complains the TEC. Yes, it is weird, but so are alot of ecclesiastical terms. Unfortunately for the HCSB, Yahweh isn't one of them. It is important that ecclesiastical terminology be retained as much as possible -- especially that terminology which has been in consistent use for millenia -- for the purpose of reinforcing Christian catholicity if for no other reason. WELS has also complained, regarding the ESV, that its rendering in 1 Cor 11 does not support the principle of male headship in society, giving the ESV an egalitarian flavor that many find distasteful (amazing to me, since these same individuals don't seem to have any problem with the wholesale imposition of egalitarian gender neutrality over the entire translation of the NIV 2011). But for such shortcomings in the ESV, a bottle of white-out and a permanent marker should suffice to correct them. Given that I was raised on the NASB, I should have high confidence in it. It is a precise and faithful translation... for the most part. I'm sure it would be fine for Lutherans who can read it through the lens of Lutheran catechesis. But my experience with it has me a bit prejudiced. As a non-Lutheran, I didn't discover, and couldn't have discovered, Lutheranism in the NASB. The Lockman Foundation is dominated by Baptists -- at least it was when I was using the NASB, and it was lovingly described as such to me when I was young. As a result, some definite bias is evident in its various renderings, which had me confused for a long time. To be honest, my (then future) wife and I did not discover Lutheranism in the Bible, neither the NIV nor the NASB, until we switched to the KJV. As an example, compare 1 Pet. 3:21 (KJV NASB). They neither say, nor mean the same thing, strictly speaking, though a Lutheran may find it possible to "properly understand" the NASB here. A non-Lutheran would never see Lutheran theology in the NASB in this reference.

Continued in next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

This is just my opinion. And I am just a layman. Which means my opinion is irrelevant. Therefore, I invite you to read Rev. Brian Keller's (WELS, MI District) excellent and very important essay on these issues: Evaluating Bible Translations: Alle Schrift von Gott eingegeben. I would also point you to his appendicies: Appendix A and Appendix B. Because I am certain that most people won't go to the trouble to actually read these works, I'll tell you the punch line. He states, that if we decide that it is necessary to go with a Dynamic/Functional Equivalence translation of the Bible, then, because of the interpretive task that is inherently placed on the translator throughout his work, such a translation really ought to be done by confessional Lutherans, if we are to have confidence in it. Otherwise, we should go with an Optimal/Formal Equivalence translation, which restricts the translator to the essentially academic (i.e., essentially non-theological and non-interpretive) task of choosing the best English word(s) and most equivalent English grammatical construction possible per word and sentence (even if such words/construction are not common in contemporary "conversational" English). Among those Optimal/Formal Equivalent Translations, he lauds NKJV and NASB as highly literal, and the ESV, though a compromise between NIV and NASB in terms of readability and reliability, as a translation which can be used with "a high degree of confidence" -- much like the NIV 1984 was considered 35 years ago.

My Opinion,

Mr. Douglas Lindee

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

BTW, in my comment @ 12/11/2012 6:26pm, I wrote; I distinguish Dynamic and Functional Equivalence, and characterize Functional Equivalence as follows

This is an editing error (and I see there are several others, but none affecting my meaning like this error does). When I wrote Functional in this phrase, I meant to write Formal. That may have been obvious from what followed, but I wanted to clarify.

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Also, if you actually want me to write an essay promoting the NKJV (which is the only version I feel strongly enough about as a viable choice to write an essay promoting), then I can do that. But since it isn't even on the table for consideration by WELS, since (AMAZINGLY TO ME!) it never has been an option our leadership expressed willingness to consider, I've been reluctant to go to the effort.

Anonymous said...

Just to add to Mr. Lindee's comments. I have settled upon the NKJV as our Family's Bible. My children use it in school and together we use it at home. When I compare the memory work as presented by school (NIV) to what I have my children memorize (NKJV and KJV) the NKJV seems much easier. Perhaps it is just me but the NKJV and KJV appear to my ear at least to have a much more rythimical or metered quality to them, which I believe aids the memorization process.

Lee Liermann

Joel Lillo said...


Yes, go ahead and write it. Maybe you'll be successful in changing opinions. I doubt if you could change my opinion since I find the KJV family of translations too difficult for my ears that are accustomed to the NIV family.

You could also write an article expressing the Intrepid Lutherans' choice for the best version among those being considered by the WELS for its official translation.

Unknown said...

Just for clarity, any translation choice made by WELS is for use in NPH publications (new & revised materials). Congregations and WELS pastors and laity will be able to use any translation(s) they are comfortable with for their professional and personal use. I enjoy using electronic Bibles like GloBible and then in Bible study bouncing between KJV, ESV and NIV84.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lund,

I think it's important to recognize that, de facto, the choice being made is a good bit weightier than merely what translation gets used in NPH publications.

First of all, the translation chosen will be "seen" as the official choice whether that is a correct assessment or not. Many congregations will adopt whatever is recommended simply for that reason.

Another large number of congregations (those with schools) will switch to using in worship whatever NPH prints in their educational materials just to be consistent.

Finally, whatever translation is adopted is likely to be used in both the curriculum and chapel worship at all four of our synodical training schools, as well as the influential churches in those cities. It is also very likely to be used at pastors', teachers', and delegates' conferences, the district and synod conventions, etc. In short, it will be the "default" choice for *everything* WELS, even if it is officially only for NPH.

This is understood by everyone on both sides, and it is why the choice is so critical.

Mr. Joseph Jewell

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