Why the NIV Should not be the Standard English Version A Defense of the Literal Bible Translation Method John Ronning, November 18, 2009 I.

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1 Why the NIV Should not be the Standard English Version A Defense of the Literal Bible Translation Method John Ronning, November 18, 2009 I. Preliminary remarks. 1. This paper is in part a response to Why the English Standard Version Should not become the Standard English Version (Mark Strauss, ETS, 2008), this paper is not a defense of ESV. I concur that the number of problems in ESV suggests that the translation was done with insufficient care, and I agree that ESV should not become a standard English translation. Of greater concern to me than the examples mentioned by Strauss are evidences in the ESV OT of theological liberalism of the kind that caused Evangelicals to reject RSV, upon which ESV was based. E.g. NIV and TNIV are in my opinion more theologically conservative than ESV in passages such as Dan 9:25 and Zech 6:13, in the sense that the former reflect the traditional evangelical messianic understanding of these passages. Also, probably no translation in history has exhibited the theological ineptitude of the original ESV translation of Num 21:3, which said that the LORD obeyed Israel (similarly Josh 10:14). 2. A substantial portion of Strauss s critique would apply not just to ESV but to literal translations in general. This paper is thus a defense of the literal translation method (also called formal equivalence ), which also involves a critique of the dynamic (or, functional) equivalence translation method used in NIV et al. 3. While I would certainly concur that an overly literal translation can be misleading, as a teacher of the OT to students in a context where the NIV is the most popular translation, students who usually do not have significant knowledge of the original languages, I regularly find when I make a point based on comparing one Scripture with another that the connection which is apparent in NASB or other literal translations is obscured or nonexistent in NIV (occasionally NIV has the more helpful reading). Some of the examples in this paper fall in this category, while others go beyond such examples to cases of clear distortions of meaning which I believe are facilitated by the translation method used. 4. Though I have problems with the translation method used, NIV has many commendable translations and in my opinion recent potential rivals such as ESV and HCSB do not measure up to NIV with respect to the multiple levels of quality control, checking and re-checking, etc. used in the production of NIV. II. Strauss two criteria. Strauss paper states two criteria for Bible translation. The first is that a translation must be understandable ( Does this translation make sense? ) hopefully no one will disagree with this criterion. A second criterion is that the translation should be in standard English ( Would anyone speaking or writing English actually say this? ). Strauss seems to think this criterion is self evident, but I contend that it should be questioned; that following this criterion leads inevitably to a needless loss of information in translation. I would also suggest that the goal is unattainable, if we broaden the meaning of English to include not just grammar and syntax but idiom. In Gen 4:10, e.g., God says The voice of your brother s blood cries out to me from the ground. NIV has Listen! Your brother s blood cries out to me from the ground. NIV is perhaps more natural English but even so people in the English speaking world simply do not talk this way ( his blood cries out from the ground ), unless under influence from the Bible. NIV could not be said to more understandable than the more literal translation. I would suggest, then, that what Strauss derisively calls biblish ( produced when the translator tries to reproduce the form of the Greek or Hebrew without due consideration for how people actually write or speak ) is in fact unavoidable. Further, as we shall see, the NT

2 writers depend on just such a technique (call it hebreek I suppose) to make connections between the OT and NT clear. III. How dynamic (or functional) equivalence may obscure meaning. The principle of dynamic / functional equivalence focuses on preserving information content, and the effect of the translation on the reader rather than the way in which that content is communicated ( formal equivalence ). The problem with this approach is that in disregarding the manner, or form, of communication, the translator may in fact unintentionally obscure information. How you say it may be significant. If this were not so, the discipline of rhetorical criticism would not exist. I begin with two examples from the narratives about Abraham in Genesis. 1. The Fall of Abram and Sarai (Gen 16:2 3) The narrative of Sarai giving Hagar to Abram is told in such a way as to bring out some parallels (verbal echoes) with the narrative of the Fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3; these parallels are more evident in a literal translation than in NIV: 1 Gen 3:6, 17 (NASB) She took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Because you have listened to the voice of your wife... Gen 3:6, 17 (NIV) She took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Because you listened to your wife... Gen 16:3, 2 (NASB) Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. Abram listened to the voice of Sarai Gen 16:3, 2 (NIV) Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. Abram agreed to what Sarai said. In comparing Gen 3:6 to 16:3, NIV does as well as NASB in allowing the reader (or meditator) to see the parallels. The same is not true of Gen 3:17 vs. 16:2. In terms of factual information, NIV has succeeded in carrying over such information from the original. In terms of how you say it, however, NIV has obscured an echo from the Fall narrative (Genesis 3) in Genesis 16. This echo is still there conceptually (in both cases a husband following his wife into sin) but the verbal echo has been obscured. By obscuring the echo from Genesis 3, the implication that what Abram and Sarai do in Genesis 16 is sinful is also obscured, since there is no overt comment on their behavior in Genesis 16. The idea of Genesis 16 as a Fall narrative is important in the development of the idea of Jesus as the 1 See Werner Berg, Der Sündenfall Abrahams und Saras nach Gen 16, 1 6, BN 19 (1982): Other conceptual parallels are also present between the two passages, such as the idea of dissatisfaction with God s provision ( God is withholding something good from you ), and the idea that one needs to seize for oneself what seems to be lacking. -2-

3 Second Adam, or Son of Man. 2 NIV could have retained the echo of Gen 3:17 in Gen 16:2 by being consistent in its less-than-literal translation: Abram listened to Sarai (cf. NASB, Abram listened to the voice of Sarai ). Would anything be lost in so doing? The Hebrew idiom, to listen to someone s voice, is of course very common in Hebrew. It almost always means to do what someone says (whether by command or request). While it is true that this is not considered good English, it is easily understandable and easily learned. NIV on a few occasions does reproduce this biblish (e.g. Exod 15:26; Deut 30:20). Is anything lost in omitting voice to gain the approval of English teachers? For the translator to say No, nothing is lost seems rather bold and unhumble the translator must have omniscience to make such a conclusion. Those following a more cautious method say, Something might be lost, so since listen to the voice of is easily understandable, we will reproduce it in English. Because of this method, in John 10:16, 27, where Jesus talks about his sheep hearing/listening to his voice, the reader can more easily see (or a preacher/teacher can more easily explain) that this is the way that God talks about his people. I.e., there is a double entendre; the idea of sheep hearing (recognizing) their shepherd s voice, and the idea of God s people (who are sheep) listening to his voice (i.e. obeying). 2. The Birth of Isaac Gen 21:2 7 tells us quite repeatedly and redundantly (eight times) that Abraham is the father of Isaac. This information is brought out three times just in v. 3: 2 Sarah conceived and bore to Abraham a son... 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. 4 Abraham circumcised his son Isaac... 5 Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born to him I have borne him a son in his old age. This is, of course, redundant, repetitive, but it is just as redundant in the Hebrew as it is in English. That this is not the standard Hebrew way of reporting the naming of children is evident from other passages such as Gen 16:15 16: So Hagar bore to Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore [not, bore to him ], Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him. In NIV Gen 21:3, the three indications that Abraham is the father of Isaac are reduced to one: Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. (NASB) Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. (NIV) In terms of factual information, both passages are equivalent. In terms of smooth English, NIV is better. NIV, however, has eliminated some of the repetitiousness (or roughness) of the passage which is also quite evident in the Hebrew and literal translations, thereby removing information from the passage. What information? It might occur to someone who is meditating on this passage in the Hebrew, or a literal translation of the same, that if Abraham s fatherhood of Isaac is being repetitively asserted, it might be because someone else was suggesting that someone else was Isaac s father. As to who else could possibly be said to be the father of Isaac, we note that in the preceding context, Sarah had been taken in marriage by king Abimelech. As to who might be making this outrageous accusation, 2 See chapter 4 of the author s forthcoming, The Jewish Targums and John s Logos Theology (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2010). -3-

4 the following context shows Ishmael and his mother being exiled for Ishmael s offense of mocking Isaac. An explanation of Ishmael s offense is completely lacking, unless one takes notice of the rhetorical clue of repetition and redundancy in 21:2 7, which helps us read between the lines to conclude that Ishmael, probably at the instigation of his mother, is calling Isaac the son of Abimelech, a conclusion reinforced by the fact that his punishment (expulsion from inheritance rights) fits his crime (the accusation of illegitimacy, if upheld, would have the same result for Isaac). 3 NASB has a superior translation, not necessarily because the translators had a superior understanding of the text, but because of a superior method which treats how you say it as part of what the Holy Spirit has inspired and thus potentially significant. Who do the translators think they are, to eliminate this information from the text? Further, we see in this example that the distinction between formal and functional equivalence can be misleading, since in this example, form (redundancy in this case) is part of function (the reader should notice the redundancy and ponder the reason for it). Dynamic equivalence is supposed to focus on preserving the effect of the original but in this case by freely altering the form it has taken away from that effect. Which translation offers more rewards for those who memorize and meditate on the text? Which translation therefore should be commended for serious Bible study, memorization, and public reading? In contrast, which translation is more suitable for a dumbed down and lazy church which is interested in the Bible at the level of first impressions only? 3. Judges 18:6 and Joshua 18:6 Translations which are generally literal, of course, also depart from literalness in order to preserve the goal of understandability. Such translations can afford to make marginal notations of their departure from literalness, and such notes are of potential significance in understanding Scripture. Dynamic translations could only note such departures very selectively, since they would be so numerous as to be distracting. For example, the expression before the LORD occurs in both Judg 18:6 and Josh 18:6 (although 2 different prepositions are actually used in the Hebrew). And the priest said to them, Go in peace. Before the LORD is the way in which you are going. (Judg 18:6) You shall describe the land in seven divisions, and bring them to me here [in Shiloh, at the tabernacle], and I will cast the lot for you here before the LORD our God. (Josh 18:6) Conceptually, the passages are related as follows: in Judges 18, apostates from the tribe of Dan are going beyond their allotted territory, the boundaries of which were decided before the LORD in Shiloh, as described in Joshua 18 (this expression before the LORD is repeated in Josh 18:8, 10). They ask an apostate Levite, posing as a priest, his opinion, and the apostate Levite assures them that the way in which they are going, which is contrary to the will of 3 I pointed this out in The Naming of Isaac: The Role of the Wife/Sister Episodes in the Redaction of Genesis, WTJ 53 (1991):17. Similarly, Menachem M. Kasher quotes Rabbi Obadiah Sforno (d. 1550), He [Ishmael] derided the whole business, suggesting that Isaac was not Abraham s child at all, but Abimelech s (Genesis [vol. 3 of Encyclopedia of Biblical Interpretation: A Millennial Anthology; New York: American Biblical Encyclopedia Society, 1957], 111). See also Rashi on Gen 25:19: The cynics of that time were saying that Sarah conceived from Abimelech (Chaim Pearl, RASHI, Commentaries on the Pentateuch [New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1970], 52). -4-

5 God revealed in Shiloh, is before the LORD. Ironically, the apostate Levite uses this expression while directly contradicting what was decided before the LORD in the time of Joshua. Of course, one can only see this irony in the Hebrew, or a literal translation of the same. Translating both passages literally would help to bring out the verbal echo, and would be an aid to the teacher or preacher who is teaching Judges 18. A further irony involved in this situation is that the inheritances for the priests and Levites was also decided before the LORD in Shiloh (Josh 19:51), a decision disregarded by this priest who is not presently living in a levitical city, and previously lived in Bethlehem, also not a levitical city. Who does he think he is to talk about what is or is not before the LORD? It gives us an example, like minister, like people. As far as I know, no translation translates Judg 18:6 as I have done above, nor am I suggesting it should be so translated. However, NASB, which translates, Go in peace; your way in which you are going has the LORD s approval, puts before the LORD as the literal reading in the margin (of the reference edition), which means that a careful student of Scripture who only reads the Bible in English can see the connection between the two passages, or can more easily see it when a teacher or preacher points it out. 4. Repetition as a safeguard. Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. (NIV, Phil 3:1) Maybe Paul is thinking the Philippians might wonder if he has a disorderly mind he has already told them to rejoice (2:18), and is going to tell them again (twice in 4:4). In 3:1 he gives his motivation for repetition it is a safeguard. NIV does fine in reproducing such repetition in these passages in Philippians, but 2 Cor 12:7 is another story: Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me to keep me from exalting myself! (NASB) To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. (NIV) Paul s repetition here, which has nothing to do with Greek idiom, is as evident in Greek as it is in English, and could be considered a safeguard for the reader, that Paul s example should warn the Christian minister (or Christians in general) of the danger of conceit or self exaltation. This safeguard of repetition is removed in NIV, which seems to treat the repetition as superfluous, the product of a disorderly mind. Again, I wonder, who do the translators think they are to do such a thing? IV. Keeping translation and explanation separate Explanation is, of course, part of what teaching and preaching are all about. Translations that explain are helpful, of course, to the extent that the explanations are correct. One problem with this approach is that readers of the Bible generally will not know what has been added by way of explanation. Another problem is that ambiguities in the original might be clarified mistakenly. Note the following comparison of Gal 3:16 in NIV and NASB: Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, And to seeds, as referring to many, but rather to one, And to your seed, that is, Christ. (NASB) -5-

6 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say and to seeds, meaning many people, but and to your seed, meaning one person, who is Christ. (NIV) NIV makes Paul a complete idiot, who (1) doesn t even know that seed in the promises to Abraham does in fact mean many people, like the stars of heaven, etc. (2) thinks that if many people were meant in the promises to Abraham, God would have said to your seeds, and (3) can t even remember this mistaken belief a few verses later when he gets it right by saying that believers in general ( many people ) are Abraham s seed (v. 29). To be fair, NIV reflects the interpretation usually given to Gal 3:16, and probably reflects the interpretation of the NASB translators as well. NASB, however, preserves an ambiguity in the Greek, namely, that many could in fact mean many seeds, not many people. The word many can have the grammatical sense of plural, which can refer to as few as two. Abraham did in fact have two seeds, the two seeds of Gen 3:15 (righteous and wicked, seen in Isaac and Ishmael); the promises are only to one seed, to those who are righteous not because they are children of Abraham but because they are children of God. Following up on this observation, I commend the following translation of Gal 3:16, which is consistent with Paul s teaching elsewhere: The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It does not say and to your seeds, in the plural, but in the singular, and to your seed, that is, Christ s. 4 V. Dynamic equivalence gives license to rewrite Scripture. This is something of a slippery slope argument. The argument is that translators who take the freedom to rephrase for the purpose of clarification, can more easily take freedom to rewrite Scripture. Following are some examples of this that we see in NIV. 1. Hebrews 2:9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death [dia. to. pa,qhma tou/ qana,tou] crowned with glory and honor, so that [o[pwj] by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. (NASB) But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (NIV) NIV seems to be motivated by a belief that Jesus was only glorified after death, whereas it is quite clear from John s Gospel, where lifted up and glorified both refer to the crucifixion (both are also found in LXX Isa 52:13; see John 3:14; 12:32, 33, 34; 13:31), that Jesus is glorified in his suffering, i.e. prior to his death. Heb 2:9 is perfectly consistent with this; Jesus is glorified so that he might taste death for everyone. The Greek is quite clear that Jesus was glorified prior to his death. 5 NIV explains by changing the order to what makes sense to the translator. How 4 For discussion see Ronning, The Jewish Targum s and John s Logos Theology, In the expression, Kai. tw/ spe,rmati, sou( o[j evstin cristo,j, I take the antecedent of o[j as sou, not spe,rmati,: the seed of you who is Christ. Paul s reason for thinking of seeds is that Abraham s plurality of seeds is a disqualifier for the role of new Adam. In the promises, Abraham stands as a figurehead for Christ. 5 The construction of the sentence is much debated. But it must be admitted that any construction which makes the coronation subsequent to the tasting death for every person is unnatural; the o[pwj depends upon evstefanwme,non (Marcus Dods, The Epistle to the Hebrews, in The Expositor s Greek Testament [ed. W. Robertson Nicoll; 5 vols.; New York: Hodder and Stoughton, 1912; repr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 4:

7 is this different from the practice of ancient scribes who changed the Greek text before them to something that made sense to them? 2. John 17:6, 11 12, 26. In John 17:6, 26, Jesus says in his prayer to the Father that he has made the Father s name known to the disciples. The name of the Father must be the Tetragrammaton, as is evident from comparing John 5:43 ( I have come in my Father s name ) with 12:13 ( Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, from Ps 118:26). NIV does not use name in translating these verses, though a footnote does give the literal meaning. Not using name in translation obscures the connection to the OT theme of God making his name known to his people and to his adversaries (e.g. Exod 3:14; 34:5ff; Isa 64:1 2). More serious is what NIV does with John 17:11 12: Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me. (NASB) Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name--the name you gave me-- so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. (NIV) That name you gave me (v. 12) could easily be interpreted as the name Jesus, which would be clearly impossible if the Greek your name which you gave me was retained. V. 11 is confusing but is open to the interpretation again that the name Jesus is in view, and that Jesus is the power of the Father s name. It goes without saying that the Greek text says nothing about power. John 17:11 12 would be about the clearest statement of the deity of Christ anywhere in the NT, as it says that the Father s name (YHWH) is also given to the Son, just as Paul says in Phil 2:9 11. Unfortunately, ancient wellmeaning scribes were apparently confused as to what was meant by your name. Apparently thinking that the passage could support the heresy of modalism (Jesus is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), a slight change was made in the Greek so that it was not the Father s name that was given to the Son, but the disciples: Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept. (KJV) NIV has done something quite similar; sensing a difficulty, they have invented a virtual [i.e. non-existent] Greek text which instead of your name reads the power of your name (v. 11) or that name (v. 12). This well meant alteration obscures important teaching on the deity of Jesus Christ, and is arguably facilitated by the translation method, though here we have an example of going beyond dynamic equivalence to an alteration of meaning (under what theory can that name be considered an accurate rendering of your name?). 3. John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven, except he who descended from heaven the Son of Man [who is in heaven]. -7-

8 This verse has caused confusion because the ascension of Jesus is in the future as Jesus speaks to Nicodemus. The scribal addition who is in heaven seems to be motivated as a way of forcing this verse to be a post-ascension comment by John rather than part of what Jesus said to Nicodemus. Taken as the words of Jesus, however, we can see that Jesus (1) is refuting the Jewish belief that Moses ascended into heaven at Mt. Sinai; (2) has ascended into heaven in the past. This 2 nd point serves to connect the NT descent and ascension of Jesus (i.e. the incarnation and post-resurrection ascension) with the OT ideas of God descending (i.e. intervening in history for various purposes, saving his people, etc.; e.g. Exod 3:8; 34:5), and ascending (after giving revelation, or after victory over his enemies). I.e. Jesus descended and ascended many times in the OT before his descent in the incarnation. NIV, however, gratuitously removes the ascent/descent language from the verse, removing the OT flavor of the saying, again obscuring the fact that Jesus is speaking as the God of Israel: No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven the Son of Man. 4. John 8:24, 28 Unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.... then you will know that I am he. I am he is Greek ego eimi, used in LXX as an idiomatic rendering of Hebrew ani hu. The translation given above helps the reader see the echo of the divine I am he of Isa 43:10: In order that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am he. Trying to clarify, NIV completely obscures this connection in its translation of John 8:24, 28: If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.... then you will know that I am the one I claim to be. 6 This is also an interesting example from the point of view of clarity. It does not appear in the context that Jesus has as a first priority, the avoidance of misunderstanding on the part of his listeners of who he is claiming to be (YHWH). The claim is veiled to those unfamiliar with Scripture; NIV responds by eliminating the claim altogether, ironically while intending to clarify! VII. The NT writers employment of hebreek. 1. The Son of Man. If biblish should be avoided, then the expression Son of Man used in NIV should be avoided. Thankfully, it is not. What would be the consequences? The dependence of the Son of Man title given to Jesus on Dan 7:13 is well known. Its dependence on Ps 8:4 is not so well known but is evident in the first occurrence of the title in both Matthew and John: What is... the son of man, that you care for him? You have made him a little lower than the angels... You have put all things under his feet... the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky. (Ps 8:4 8) The foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his main text. 6 NIV does put the alternate I am he in a note, and TNIV has corrected NIV here to put I am he in the -8-

9 head. (Matt 8:20, = Luke 9:58) You will see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. (John 1:51) Son of man is an expression used in Aramaic and Hebrew, and has been called a barbarism in Greek. 7 Thankfully, this barbarism was carried over in LXX of Psalm 8 (and Dan 7:13), so that the Greek speaking readers of the Gospels could see the OT background to the Son of Man title. Strauss criticizes ESV literal translations repeatedly by saying that ESV (like other literal translations) does not employ standard English idiom. In so doing, Strauss implicitly criticizes the Holy Spirit-inspired NT writers for disregarding standard Greek when they wrote. Yet, employment of hebreek (or aramgreek ) is necessary for understanding of this important title Peter 1:13 Therefore, gird 1 your minds for action (NASB; margin: 1 Lit., the loins of your mind) Therefore, 1 prepare your minds for action (NASB update; margin: 1 Lit., gird the loins of your mind) Therefore, prepare your minds for action (NIV) Peter has employed hebreek here; this is a Hebrew way of speaking. Peter s method is implicitly criticized by Strauss. But maybe Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, has a reason for what he is doing? Is anything gained by avoiding Peter s way of phrasing this exhortation, besides the approval of English teachers? Is anything lost by changing it to good English (or in Peter s case, good Greek)? Yes, a potential allusion to the Passover regulations is lost: Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded. (Exod 12:11, NASB; similarly, LXX)... with your belt fastened. (ESV)... with your cloak tucked into your belt. (NIV) Of course, to see the connection to Exod 12:11 in 1 Pet 1:13, both passages must be either (1) consciously translated so as to bring out the connection, or (2) translated literally without thought of the connection to the other passage, according to method, in the main text or the margin. Again, we note that the literal method does not require knowledge of these connections on the part of the translators; the method safeguards the necessary clues. Does it matter whether the reader can see a potential connection to the Passover observance? Perhaps a better question would be, does the translator have the right to decide that it doesn t matter, and thus keep this information from the reader? What exactly is gained when we see an allusion to the Passover here? Isn t Peter s main purpose here to exhort his readers to be prepared, and doesn t prepare your minds for action serve this purpose well enough, without an allusion to some ancient Jewish commemoration? In answer to this, we must concede that those who have never identified with the Israelites will gain little. But for a Jew who has been taught to identify with them, and for all those who are able to identify with Israel on that night, it can make a very great difference when an allusion invites them to do it. The effect of an allusion like this when it is recognized as an allusion is to add a whole new dimension of meaning. The few words of the allusion are invested with all the historical and 7 Frederick Houk Borsch, The Son of Man in Myth and History (New Testament Library; London: SCM, 1967),

10 religious associations of the passage alluded to, and so the amount of meaning gained by allusions can be very large. 8 The whole new dimension of meaning is lost when the literal reading is ignored. Translators who are using the dynamic equivalence method who are aware of such connections can consciously preserve them. E.g. NIV preserves an allusion to the Passover in God s promise to deliver Jerusalem from Sennacherib in Isa 31:5: Like birds hovering overhead, the LORD Almighty will shield Jerusalem; he will shield it and deliver it, he will pass over (xsp) it and will rescue it. But when such translators are unaware of such allusions, they are less likely to preserve them, thus more likely to omit relevant information from the translation, meaning again that the method of dynamic equivalence fails to take into account that form is part of function: Therefore I have set My face like flint (Isa 50:7, NASB; NIV is substantially the same). He resolutely set his face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51, NASB). He 2 was determined to go to Jerusalem (NASB update; margin: 2 Lit set his face) Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem (NIV) VIII. Translating the generic masculine. Translators who accept the criterion of good English argue for the desirability of avoiding the generic masculine in Bible translation. I could argue with the assumption that the generic masculine is not good English (I would counter that avoidance of the generic masculine is faddish and elitist English). But I would rather simply say that the generic masculine is readily understandable and thus should be retained. Again I ask, what is gained by its removal (in this case it is not just the approval of English teachers, but of feminists that is gained). What is lost? What is lost is the simple fact that the Bible from beginning to end uses the generic masculine, even more so in the OT than in literal translations of the same, since Hebrew 2 nd person verbs have gender. Does it matter? I would respond, what right do translators have to say it doesn t matter? An example from John 12:26: If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there my servant also will be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. The Greek has four uses of the masculine singular in this verse to refer to the one who serves Jesus. The translation given above has two. In NIV there are none: Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. I choose this example because I think that translators should ponder whether, in avoiding the generic masculine, they are refusing to follow Jesus outside the camp to the place of reproach, as he requires in this very passage, using the 8 Thomas Marlowe, Against the Theory of Dynamic Equivalence, revised October 2009: (Accessed November 5, 2009). -10-

11 generic masculine, and thus will not be honored by the Father. IX. Conclusion The Commission on Worship of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod summarized the advantages of a formal equivalence translation as follows: A formal equivalent translation with the advantage of being closer to the original may be the best kind of translation for Christians who have a strong knowledge of the faith and who desire to study the Scriptures in depth. The main challenge of a formal equivalent translation is that it requires the reader to learn more about the language and customs of the ancient world in order to understand the translation. The translation may sound archaic, but it is also more timeless and classic. In other words, the language may sound ancient even if the translation has just been published, but the reader or listener recognizes the translation s ancient language as a formal representation of the ancient biblical text. As years go by and the English language changes, the translation s language continues to sound classic and memorable. 9 Translations which tend towards paraphrase have usefulness in contexts such as evangelism, and as a poor man s commentary. At issue in this paper is which method should be used in a translation which is meant for serious Bible study, for memorization, and for public reading. My opinion is that the popularity of NIV for these purposes is a sign of poor spiritual health in the church. 9 Comparative Study of Bible Translations: prepared by the Commission on Worship of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, 8 (Accessed Nov 16, 2009: -11-

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