I had a conversation with Janet Mefferd last week about the forthcoming 2011 edition of the NIV. Mefferd hosts a syndicated daily talk program on the Salem Radio Network, and our conversation focused on the NIV update as it relates to the gender issue. You can download the MP3 of the program here, or press the play button below.[audio:http://media.townhallstore.com/jm/rs/jm_rs_20101203-3_Fri_a0b4ced2-fb9e-46f5-be29-ddc36362825d_radio-show_Hi.mp3]
A little background to our conversation is in order. Mefferd’s questions revolved around a statement that CBMW released last month in response to the electronic release of NIV 2011. If you haven’t read that statement, you can do so here. That statement concluded with this:
“Though we are genuinely thankful for the many positive changes in the new NIV(2011), and though we are deeply appreciative of the very different process by which our friends at the CBT and Zondervan pursued and unveiled this new version, we still cannot commend the new NIV(2011) for most of the same reasons we could not commend the TNIV.”
It is very difficult to talk about complex issues in sound bites. Yet that is exactly what was required in this interview. The conversation moves quickly, and careful argument is regularly preempted by commercial breaks. So I just tried to make the most of the time that they allotted me. Hopefully this conversation sheds more light than heat.
I am unsure of what forefathers means in a Bible translation. I say this with all honesty. Does it mean male ancestors or does it mean ancestors?
It is very difficult to talk about complex issues in sound bites
I can imagine that would be very difficult. Our public is just not used to digesting real analysis. Methinks the specter of Postman is lurking in the shadows here…
Denny, I’m glad to see you going on a program like that and these kinds of issues being discussed. I know time was limited, so explanations had to be short, but there were a couple of ways I feel like you over-simplified to the point of being unhelpful. I think you could have done better, even in a limited time period.
1. It sounded like a translation either used gender neutral language, or it did not. That’s just not the case with any modern translation. Even the ESV uses gender neutral language in a lot of textsâ€”more instances than the NIV ’84.
But it certainly is a question of degree. And the NIV Update uses gender neutral language more than you’re comfortable with, but some other conservative, evangelical scholars (some who are complementarians) are comfortable with the amount it uses.
2. Description of formal vs. dynamic equivalence. Again, it’s not an either/or question, there’s a broad range of points on that scale that any particular translation might use. The NLT uses a lot of dynamic equivalence, the NIV and NET use less, the HCSB uses less still, then you have ones that use it only if they consider it needed like RSV, ESV, and others.
I just don’t think it’s helpful to explain that issue in such a way as to make it sound like there are two neat, clean categories.
When I worked at CompUSA in Louisville, we’d have people come in the store to buy a computer, not knowing a thing in the world about computers except their uncle told them to buy one with X amount of memory. You end up with a pretty confused customer who’s dead set on one spec that may or may not actually be helpful to them choosing what they need.
3. The complaint about gender-neutral language arising form the feminist agenda (which is true); therefore being something we should avoid. I understand (because I feel the same way) you think that English is better off with the generic masculine. But just because we’d prefer that it not drop out of usage, that doesn’t mean the job of a translator is to try and preserve the old way of speaking.
The job of a translator is to reflect the language, not critique it.
So I wish there had been some more clarity in those areas; but appreciate your participation in that kind of discussion. The more people understand these kinds of things, the better off our churches will be, in my estimation.
I will try to answer here what you asked on the Biblegateway forum.
“Suzanne, there are plenty of Greek words that have a range of meaning and must be translated with different words depending on its meaning in a particular context. It’s not a valid argument to say we must/should translate every instance of anthropos one way or the other.
Must we decide whether Spirit or wind should be used in EVERY instance of pneuma for the sake of helping people “interact with the Greek text”?”
But it was the preface of the ESV which suggested that where ever possible, concordance should be retained. Certainly it is quite understandable, and quite possible to think that both men and women are to be reliable teachers in this verse.
The preface gives the impression that when the English word “men” is used the Greek means “men as in males.” But that is not quite true. In Greek the word is quite open-ended.
But not only can the word refer to men only, if that is who was there, but the plural of anthropos can also refer to women only if that is who is there. See Numbers 31.
So, ultimately we cannot tell from the Greek word anthropos if this verse applies to men or to both men and women. There is no way to tell. The translation should communicate what the Greek actually says rather than interpreting it for the reader.
I applaud your stance on the subject. But when asked why the 1984 NIV was not good enough for 2011, you defaulted to a comparison to the KJV (gay clothing). The fact is, there isn’t anything in the ’84 NIV that needs changing only 27 years later. It’s changed so the publishers can make more money.