on translations

this is my quick response to Mark as he wonders if formal equivalence translations are less faithful translations:

Mark, you are on the right track – the whole question comes back to Fee and Stuart in their book How to Read the Bible for All its Worth – in their chapter on translations they talk in simple terms about translation – do we translate what Paul said, or do we translate what Paul meant? (but in our case we can say do we translate the meaning of the text or just the basic wording of the text and let others figure the meaning?) Some prefer to translate the meaning thus the more dynamic translations – others prefer just to translate what is said and leave the meaning up to being discerned by the reader hence the more formal equivalence or literal translations – still yet others prefer a mix thus the translations like the NIV – so you can see a whole host of issues coming up with these approaches – and the example of the Greek sarx is a good example – do we go with “flesh” or “sinful nature” and why? for obvious reasons one is less interpretive than the other, but could there be instances where it is fair to translate sarx as sinful nature and have it reflect what is trying to be said?

In my personal view as I have tried to share in other comments and maybe even on my blog, I see more dynamic translations as reflecting a more mature understanding of the languages and how they work and it reflects the concern to get the meaning across to the reader of the receptor language. Reading more literal translations makes some feel like they are reading their Greek or Hebrew Bibles but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is accurately translating the meaning of the text in question.

That’s my $0.02!

Doug Moo on 1 Tim 2:12 in the 2011 NIV

Well, probably the translation wars will be forever on going, especially as long as there are those who continue to lift up secondary issues as primary ones.  BibleGateway is continuing it’s Perspectives in Bible Translations series and the latest entry is by Denny Burk (a noted complementarian), associate professor of New Testament and Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

The posting is in response to the CBT’s choice to carry over the wording from the 2005 update of the TNIV in 1 Timohty 2:12 to the updated 2011 NIV which reads:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

Burk’s contention is that the use of “assume authority” is an undeniably egalitarian (mis)translation and it should be stricken from the NIV altogether.  He prefers the even more problematic translation of “exercise authority.”   Well, on Burk’s personal blog, he put up the same article and Doug Moo, chair of the CBT and lead translator of the updated 2011 NIV took Burk to task in writing the following comment, citing a noted complementarian’s commentary as the source of “assume authority”:

As one of the NIV translators, let me just make four comments. First, as another post indicates, there is so much uncertainty about this key word that the accusation of “mistranslation” is simply not fair. Second, the rendering “assume authority” was actually taken from Bill Mounce’s commentary on the Pastorals; and Bill, as you will know, is a complementarian. Third, the footnotes were dropped in the updated NIV simply because the translators believed that “assume authority” could be taken in either direction. We often use this phrase in a neutral way (e.g., “When will the new President assume authority”?). Four, it is our intent to provide a translation that is faithful to the text, bowing to no particular theological agenda (in this case, neither “egalatarian” or “complementarian”). Our rendering of 1 Tim. 2:12 was sincerely intended as our best effort at rendering this very obscure word in a way that would not be driven by either theological agenda.  (post & comments here, bold added)

In support of  why this debate may be forever ongoing you can see Burk’s response to Moo here.   To see the overwhelming evidence against Burk and those in support of a stricter translation see Suzanne’s blog post.

Personally, I am okay with the current rendering and agree with Dr Moo that it leaves things open enough that it is not driven by either side of the debate on women as pastors and elders.  I think people can argue for women as pastors and elders from any translation of the Bible because the argument can be made on solid exegetical (and contextual) basis irrespective of translation (literal or dynamic, etc).  I think if one has one’s mind made up on the issue, how the passage is translated isn’t really going to matter.

This whole debate is getting old and tired.

HT: TC (since I cut and pasted Moo’s comment from his post)

on 2 Timothy 3:17 in the 2011 NIV

Mark is asking a good question about this verse over at his blog – head over and let him know what you all think!  man, person, or servant?

On that note, probably when the NIV update comes out, the only editions I’ll be interested in obtaining would be either a single column reference Bible like I have now in the TNIV, or a copy of the Minister’s Bible in the NIV.

the NIV Update is out Online!!

cut and pasted from Mark Steven’s blog!

You can view the NIV 2011 text HERE at the Biblica website.

Here is a pdf (translator’s notes) explaining the changes and updates to the 2011 NIV

Here is a video featuring Douglas Moo introducing the revised NIV text. As he says, 95% of the original text has been preserved. He also mentions that the process has been rewarding and humbling.

One fantastic resource they have thrown in are translation notes.

Louis, from Baker Book House Church Connection has been up most of the night and he says the follwoing,

I looked at about 75 or so passages and saw many changes (I didn’t get much sleep last night ). TNIV fans will be happy to know that there is a lot of the TNIV in the update. ”Brothers and sisters” is used throughout. In many cases the updated NIV simply retains the TNIV readings (as well it should have in my opinion). In many other cases, however, the updated edition stays faithful to the NIV or finds an alternative rather than adopting the TNIV reading. (For example see 1 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 2:6, 17; 12:9; Gal. 6:7; Acts 20:30; 1 Cor. 14:28; 15:21 and Mat. 7:3)

Well, I know what I am doing tomorrow! ;)


my thoughts!  I am very pleased to see they switched from “sinful nature” in most cases back to “flesh” (sarx) (this is the NASB rendering) and that they retained “brothers and sisters” in the tradition of the TNIV.

I hoped to see that it would really be an update of the TNIV to tighten things up as I think the case has often and very well been made that the TNIV had better renderings than the NIV even in non-controversial places – so I hope to see most if not all these elements of the TNIV retained.

But all that said, I am wondering why it is only really a 5% update? 🙂

Bible Translations quote of the day

Stop buying different bible transaltions and start reading one of them!

Mark Stevens’ wife Beck.

That’s it, you go girl!!   Take the woman’s wisdom people,- it’s easy to get enamored or inandated or over intrigued with all this different and “new” Bible translations – it’s fine if you like Bible translations, but pick one and read it.  Read it consistently, often, and all the way through the Bible, beginning to end – then, start over with the same translation.

on Bible Translation

According to the latest Mission Frontiers magazine, a publication of the US Center for World Mission

2252 languages groups have not one verse of Scripture, and no one is working on translations for these groups (pg 11)

My question is this: should we continue advocating Bible translations for these groups or should we just advocate these groups learn a similar language to theirs that does have some or all the Bible translated or promote more English teaching and just give them a good ol NLT Bible?    For example if one of these groups is in N. Asia should they just learn Manderin and save work for translators or should it be encouraged they have a translation in their own language?

What say you?

On translations (again)

Just a quick note to share that I think when it comes to the question of which Bible translation is “best” I have shared previously that I do not think there is any one best translation necessarily but that all have and serve their different purposes – purposes for which among other things should help people read the Bible in such a way as to help them come to know and understand God in a way they might not otherwise since it is primarily through the Scriptures God reveals himself to humanity – The Bible is God’s primary means of self revelation to his creation.  We also come to know and understand God and his ways through the church, the primary expression of God’s presence in the world, in obedience to the Scriptures.

That said, I think it is best for people to just pick a translation they feel comfortable with and go with it – read it, know it, take it in, live it out.  So the “best” translation of the Bible is one people will actually read.  The fuss over different bible translations can get too be too much and I think serves as a distraction to the greater purposes of what the Lord wants us to be doing in this world – that is my personal opinion.

I think the fuss over English translations while there remains not a few languages around the world that continue to go without a written copy of the Scriptures breaks the heart of God – mainly because all the fuss misses the point and detracts from the heart of God’s mission in the world – seeing his salvation to the ends of the Earth (Isa 49:6; Matt 28:19).

Personally I’d like to see a 50 year moratorium placed on updating English translations of the Bible so that all monies and efforts can be put towards supporting translations efforts for those languages yet without a written copy of the Bible (probably NT first then OT) of which there are hundreds if not thousands. 

That’s how I see it.

on Bibles and translations

Over at Abberation blog there is a post regarding Christian incivility toward the Bible with a few examples as:

#1  During the holidays at our local Christian retailer, customer walks in and examines the Bible section to see if they carry The Message Bible. Customer finds they do so he orders the clerk to come over. He begins to berate her for the store carrying it and stated it’s not a Bible and it belongs in a garbage can. Long story short, he ends up flicking a couple Message Bible’s off the store shelf onto the floor. At that point she threatened to call the police and he leaves.

#2  Over on the Puritanboard this was written about the Today’s New International Version,

the TNIV is a TERRIBLE translation. Its novelty is NO reason to trust it…look at how the original languages are represented (and look at the motivations of the translators!)

Do you have a wood burning fireplace? You might remove the covers from your TNIV and use the pages to help start fires.

…TNIV is the most accurate reflection of contemporary western society’s declining morals…

The Nearly Inspired Version?

yesTerday’s New International Version.

Truly Non-Inspired Version

#3  The New Living Translation (NLT) has a new fanpage. Considering the source, I don’t take this one very seriously. It’s announcing that it’s “straight from Hell.”

Then there is Gary sharing about his dilemma about what translation to go with for his regular Bible.  He also describes an instance where he couldn’t just sit with one Bible and read it – he kept switching around

Then, one person commented on TC’s blog post about if the unreached will be saved or not, stating in part:

“Of course if we read the NLT only all this would be clearer and we wouldn’t need to think so hard…. Or we could be ESV-onlyists, and be none the wiser, but at least bathe in the glow of our illusion that literal = accurate.”


Whew, where to begin?  I want to suggest as well that you read this article on The Art of Manliness blog about the problem of consumerism creating a lack of creativity and even commitment – more choices hasn’t help creativity it’s inhibited it, in fact even blocked it because it takes too much work to create – it’s easier just to consume and toss out – and I think this problem of consumerism as other Christian philosophers and scholar/pastors have noted, has completely consumed the church even to the point it is inhibiting our ability to really and faithfully live out the Christian life and witness to Jesus. 

How does this relate to the post and my title?  Well, I think the problem of incivility towards the Bible is possibly a part of this problem with consumerism on two fronts.  One  front is some are getting worn out by the consumer mentality and it is showing in the example #1 above – though this man’s temper tantrum reveals another problem of a general lack of understanding about Bible languages and how they work, thus the comment about our illusion that literal = accurate.  


In my opinion proper understanding of the biblical languages and how they work (linguistically, syntactically, etc) should lead to a more or less dynamic and smooth translation not a more literal one (e.g., TNIV, NLT, etc).   A literal translation only leads to one feeling as if one is reading his or her Greek Bible in English, not necessarily to a better understanding of the text at hand per se.


Which leads to the problem on the other front: we want to badly to be right that we have trouble dealing with any sense of inaccuracy or even ambiguity – which is leading to the problem of being willing to just stick with ONE Bible and go with that one – to read it through and through, to know it well. 

I wonder if the whole issue of multiple Bible translations and the vast array of types or editions of Bibles is a result of this consumer mentality – we want our choices and so much so we are not willing to stick with one Bible for fear a more accurate one might come out and so on.

This is the same problem with Church life – we can hardly stay at the same church for too long anymore because we want freedom of choice and to be able to consume and move on and he same with Bibles, as I mentioned. 

Well, mymind is still reeling on this issue but these are some thoughts for now.

John Hobbins on the Ideal Translation

The ideal translation of the Bible in my book is not one that simplifies and paraphrases the source text with the unattainable goal of allowing “the modern reader to hear the text in the same way the original readers heard it” (Mark Strauss). An excellent translation of the Bible will be intelligible on its own, stretch the resources of the English language beyond the bounds of “normal, idiomatic English” in the interests of bridging the distance separating one cultural context from another, and, in the process, draw attention back to the argument, structure, and language of the source text.


Think upon this, share in the comments.

Bible Review: 24/7 A One Year Chronological Bible

7-nltThanks to Laura Bartlett for sending along Tyndale’s newest edition of the NLT Bible: 24/7 A One Year Chronological Bible. Tyndale, 2008.  

First off, this edition is in a unique format.  It is more or less in a square shape with the dimensions 6.5 x 5 x 1.8 inches.  So, it’s trendy, and probably, it will appeal to a younger crowed.  

Secondly, there are historic Christian symbols throughout that are connected to the Christian Faith – these are new woodblock prints specially commissioned for this edition of the NLT.   This adds to the visual appeal of the Scriptures in a similar manner that I imagine Icons do for those of the EOC and related communions.

Thirdly, in a manner similar to the typical One Year Bible format, in the margins are what they call “verse callouts” that are more or less “Scriptures of the day” highlighted in bold.  Often these are the typically “important” verses or are ones that most recognize as being significant in one way or another.   The intent is for folks to think upon the slected verses in times of meditation and throughout the day.

Finally, the most significant feature is the Scriptures in chronological order, as is understood by the editors.  

My thoughts:

When asked if I wanted to review a chronological Bible for Tyndale, to be honest at first I hesitated.  If I’ve been listening properly on the biblical studies e-list the whole concept of a chronological Bible can be a bit noxious, especially with the Old Testament.  So much of what was written when is hotly debated and often not always conclusively verifiable.  In fact, one lister argued that “only Evangelicals” would put an early date on Daniel, etc.  This is less so with the NT but still there is debate as to which Gospel was first and which was Paul’s first letter and so on.  

Let me share an example.  Jan 2, one reads Genesis 4:1-5:32; 1 Chronicles 1:1-4; Genesis 6:1-22.  The last part of the first Genesis reading has the genealogy from Adam to Noah – then the Chronicles reading has another brief listing of Adam and Noah’s descendants.  Then you carry on with the Flood account.   This might be interesting but the problem I have is, there is a reason Chronicles falls where it does in the Hebrew Bible – some may not know this but in the Hebrew Scriptures, Chronicles comes last – its more theological than historical but is believed to be written for a post-exilic Israel to help them get back on track with the Lord – there is lots of idilic language (note: it does not account David’s adultery with Bathsheba, even Menassah is shed in a positive light as an example of the benefits of repentance) but I am not sure the genealogy of Adam and Noah from the Chronicles belongs with the Genesis account of the same in a chronological Bible – the purpose of the genealogy in the Chronicles is to remind the people of Israel who they were and are and are to be.   So, I guess that is one problem I have with how the editors of this edition of the NLT structured the chronology.   Does reading Job fit well between Genesis and Exodus?

Another example would be that the “historical” books of Samuel – accounts of David are blended with Psalms attributed to David (The Kings only have a couple of Psalms blended in, a Psalm of Solomon and David). Some of the Psalms are clearly Davidic and obviously written by him such as Ps 51 for example. The problem is the superscriptions (read: titles) are all believed to be post-exilic, meaning many of Psalms are anonymous.  Certainly Hebrew tradition knew certain psalms belonged to certain folks but for the most part the Hebrew “lamed” functions as a preposition meaning “to, for, by or of” so plugging them in certain places in the historical accounts can be a bit subjective.  A Psalm can be to David, for David, of David, or by David.  For a Psalm to be “Davidic” it has elements of similarity to Psalms known to be written by King David.  Otherwise, because the superscriptions are late, there is no real way to know who wrote what Psalm when.   But to be fair, looking at the reading schedule, it seems the editors took care to be sure that Psalm 34 belonged appropriately with the reading of 1 Samuel 20:1-21:15 (April 15).   

The Gospels are read more or less like a harmony.  They do the same with the historical books in the OT with I&II Samuel, I&II Kings, and I&II Chronicles but I would probably have done that only with Samuel and Kings since they both have a pre-exilic message (this is why Israel went into exile), Chronicles should be separate, as I see it, since it is clearly post-exilic.  Some of the Prophets are also blended into the Samuel and Kings narratives.  

In regard to Paul, being a South Galatians guy, I was pleased to see the editors put Galatians first in the reading of Paul’s letters.  I do believe he visited Galatia before he went to Thessalonika.  Typically in any NT Survey book the Thessalonian correspondence is believed to be Paul’s first letters.  Paul’s letters are blended into the Acts narrative, so the Thessalonians come after the account of Paul being at Thessalonika and so on.    

With the Johannine writings I expected that since the Fourth Gospel is typically dated late (80’s-90’s) that it would come at the end the readings, well after Paul’s letters, and not blended in with the Synoptics, but in fact, all four Gospels are blended and all come before Paul’s letters. which is interesting since chronologically, a significant majority of Paul’s letter were written well before Mark even got started.  In fact, if you’ve read Strobel’s, The Case for Christ, you know that Paul is the best witness to the validity of the Gospels since he was prior to them.  

So I suppose the 24/7 Chronological Bible is really only chronological to a point – if the Editors were technical about it, they would have had Paul’s letters first, then the Synoptics (Luke-Acts together) then the rest of the NT, and then the Johannine corpus would close it out, if I understand NT Chronology in a basic sense.  Blending Paul into the Acts narrative does seem to help put his letters in “context.”  But strictly speaking, Paul was before even Acts was written.  

So, you can see the potential problems of putting together a Chronological Bible  and why it would be hard to read in some sense and how in some sense it could be potentially misleading.  

All that aside, I think it probably will be fun to read through the Bible in an imaginative way as to how God’s redemptive story plays out in history!   And of course reading all that in the NLT!  

Thanks again to the folks at Tyndale for the opportunity to review the 24/7 Chronological edition of the NLT!