TNIV and blogging protocol

I appreciated the following comment and thought it worth a posted reply:

Hi Mark! It looks like you have a great blog here. I wanted to make a couple of comments about your remarks toward the TNIV, and my intent is to do so in the spirit of discussion and not antagonism.

First, you noted in your previous post,

“No, I’m not a fan of gender-neutral Bible versions. See Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress’ work for that. Neither am I a fan of the T/NIV translation philosophy, which I think includes too much interpretation. But I read Greek and Hebrew, so I don’t have to take their word for it. I’m not going to let my objections stop me from the profit of reading through the Bible in a new way this year.”

Well, I teach from the TNIV weekly and occasionally have opportunity to teach from it, but I would agree with you that I’m not a fan of “gender-neutral” Bibles either. Is that a contradiction? Well, no–and you may think I’m splitting hairs here–but the TNIV translation is not intended to be gender neutral as neutral would imply “it.” Rather, the translators prefer to call their approach to gender as gender accurate; that is, they prefer to have the translation communicate the genders intended by the original writer(s).

So if I can give an example from something you said above, I know you were kidding when you said, “fallible men (TNIV: ‘people’)”, but that is exactly not the kind of rendering the TNIV translators would make. Why? Because it’s fairly well known that those who divided up the Bible into chapters and verses WERE men. The TNIV reflects those kinds of renderings as such. But in a context such as Romans 15:30 in which Paul writes “I urge you, ἀδελφοί…” Traditionally, this has been translated as “brothers” or “brethren,” but the context of Romans 16 clearly shows that Paul is writing to a mixed audience. Even the ESV acknowledges this by giving the alternative translation in the footnotes, “Or brothers and sisters.” The TNIV simply uses that translation “brothers and sisters” because it more accurately reflects the use of ἀδελφοί in this verse. In Greek literature, the meaning of this term is always dependent upon the context.

For what it’s worth, the characterization gender neutral is actually a pejorative term used by detractors of the TNIV.

Second, you mention that you wouldn’t want to preach from the TNIV, but I can attest to you that it makes a very good translation to teach or preach from. Most of the people in the Sunday School class I teach are reading from the TNIV. They can easily follow along with the TNIV because there’s only a 7% difference between the two, but even gender issues aside, the TNIV is a much more accurate translation than its predecessor. I use it probably 90% of the time, although I occasionally use the HCSB or if the audience is right, even the NLT.

You mentioned Grudem in the other post, and I respect him greatly, but disagree with him on this issue. And I would also point to individuals like D. A. Carson and Timothy George who have endorsed the TNIV as well as the great evangelical translators who worked on the committee such as Douglas Moo and Gordon Fee.

My reply:

Hey, Rick, I think yours was an ideal comment—a good spirit and good substance. This is just what I wanted from a blog, a chance to be sharpened by the writing-and-response process.

You’re right that the TNIV is not exactly “gender-neutral,” as if it includes no references to maleness or femaleness. I do want to avoid incendiary rhetoric! But isn’t “gender accurate” just a bit slanted itself? Maybe begging the question? What alternative do other translations have but to be “gender inaccurate”?

Yes, I’m aware that men I respect, especially Carson (but also Bock, Blomberg), endorse the TNIV. And, indeed, I am in favor of using a more readable translation than the NASB with the low-income kids I work with (in fact, I used my TNIV there last night!). But here are my main objections to its use as a Bible for regular study and preaching for mature Christians:

  1. I’m uncomfortable with changing singular to plural and third-person to second-person. Admittedly, “man” is a collective singular, so as for intrinsic meaning I can’t object to “People do not live on bread alone” (Mt 4:4). But “Whoever has ears, let them hear” (Mt 11:15)? Is that singular or plural? Does it matter? I’m wary of assuming that the perfectly acceptable singular can be replaced with a plural without any loss or change of sense. And if a generic “she” is acceptable in today’s writing (I see it frequently), then a generic “he” is still understandable—and when English grammar matches Greek, isn’t it best to take advantage of that?
  2. As for that “perfectly acceptable singular,” I’m aware that not all find it such. But I simply have to see this 7% gender change as sourced ultimately in an agenda I believe to be opposed to Scripture. Is language as a whole really pushing out the generic “man” and generic “he”? If so, should Christians use the Bible to get on the forefront of that change—especially when we have reason to believe it is ideologically motivated? Maybe someday soon “they” and “them” will be accepted in formal writing as singulars. I actually do think that day is coming. But I would rather be conservative with the Bible.
  3. I think the NIV—and now the TNIV—are wonderful translations to have around. They provide conservative evangelical interpretations of difficult passages. As I was reading along in Proverbs, say, when I first got my trusty parallel Bible, I would come across a verse in the NAS which just didn’t make sense to me. So I would read the NIV and find a helpfully smooth rendering. My firm inductive conclusion is, however, that the NIV is sacrificing some ambiguity that God inspired. For careful study, I’d rather my congregation (if I had one!) be first confronted with the ambiguity/difficulty and then go to more interpretive translations for a possible explanation.

    An example from the TNIV: 2 Tim 3:17 “…so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

    The TNIV presupposes one interpretation, that “the man [ανθρωπος] of God” is just a general reference to any Christian. “Man of God” in its many uses in the OT seems to refer to a prophet, a special messenger of God. Granted, “man of God” is used to refer to a pastor just one other time in the NT—but that’s to Timothy in 1 Tim 6:11. Granted, too, this verse certainly has to apply to all Christians. But I’d rather preserve someone’s opportunity to make that judgment—wouldn’t I?

Thanks again, Rick, for the interaction.

A filler post, I know

I hope to post a little substance on the TNIV, answering a great comment I got from an SBTS Ph.D. student and part-time teacher, but I need to do that after I finish Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther for the Bible Reading Program at BJU Press.

Until then…

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My ultimate team, The Ws, is headed up to the Frozen Goose Ultimate Tournament at North Greenville University on Jan 26.

Here’s my current roster:
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Here’s one of the only pics I have of me doing anything remotely cool on the frisbee field. Nine times out of ten, or more like 99 out of 100, it was Greg Bartlett grabbing the disc out of the air over my head. But the camera must have brought something out of me. Or else eating wife-cooked food took an inch off of Bartlett’s vertical:
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What in the World! selections, no. 1

I’m planning to provide select excerpts from the What in the World! (WITW) newsletter as a regular feature of this blog. The newsletter is available free from Bob Jones University. It’s been coming out for a good 20 years as a service to local churches.

So here’s my first selection, this one from the latest issue. I consider it especially powerful when a non-Christian attacks the faulty thinking of his own, like in the following:

Science is science. Religion is religion. Each should stay on its own side of the back seat. This is the thinking of many in America.

“The problem with this neat separation,” says physicist Paul Davies in a New York Times op-ed piece, “is that science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified.”

Davies says he has often asked other physicists “why the laws of physics are what they are.” Some reply, “That’s not a scientific question.” Others say, “Nobody knows.” Davies finds that the most common response is, “There is no reason they are what they are—they just are.” But, Davies says, that’s faith!

Both science and religion have to believe “in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws.” Davies doesn’t accept religion’s claims. But science cannot claim the high ground: “Until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus.” (New York Times, 11/24/07)

For a free subscription to What in the World!, e-mail witw@bju.edu.

The status of women in OT times

I just finished reading Ezra and writing about it for tenth graders. I spent a fair amount of time evaluating and seeking to understand Ezra’s actions at the end of the book, the 111 divorces he oversaw.

I had a thought: if marrying a Canaanite woman didn’t make that woman a Jew (you had to be a Rahab or a Ruth to become a Jew, someone who feared God) apparently women in OT times had a responsibility to believe as individuals. Am I wrong to see that responsibility as conferring a higher status on women than did surrounding cultures? Would it occur to anyone to ask the average Hittite wife what her religion was if the husband’s religion was already known?

Pandora

I just got a recommendation from a friend to try a cool Internet radio station called Pandora. You can set up your own Internet radio stations based on your favorite artists.

So I made a station for artists like “Chanticleer” and one for artists like “The King’s Singers.” So far I’m getting all a cappella, but there really just aren’t that many groups like my two favorites so I am clicking the “thumbs down” option on many of the artists they’re suggesting. After a while Pandora will learn more of my preferences.

I didn’t use to have the theological category of common grace, but Chanticleer was a factor in my attachment to that category. I’m a huge fan of Chanticleer because I think unbelievably beautiful singing glorifies the Lord intrinsically.

I was the one who asked them at Bob Jones to sing “Song for Athene” by John Tavener (one of my very favorite choral composers)—the one which they accidentally pitched too high, causing the soprano to squawk. Poor guy.