Wednesday, 2 September 2009

More Bible Wars On The Horizon?

With the announcement that the NIV is to be re-booted (with some sweet little updates) after 25 years, I must confess to having a sense of foreboding regarding Biblica's latest offering. I'm not worried that the NIV2011 won't be accurate; heck, Doug Moo is president of the translating committee! I'm not worried that the NIV2011 will use gender-inclusive language; darn it, I hope it does! I'm not worried about whether it'll sell; the general Christian public will always buy anything labelled 'NIV'! I AM worried about the opposition it will no doubt receive.

You see, I'm sure that the translators of the NIV2011 will endeavour to give us a translation that reflects the language SPOKEN by your average joe. Doug Moo says:
The committee exists to ensure that the NIV continues to articulate the words of God, as we find them recorded in the original languages, in a form of English that is comprehensible to the broadest possible audience. As a committee, our response to this challenge has always been to follow the example of the original Bible writers who wrote in forms of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek that reflected the language spoken by the everyday working people of their day. Just as the New Testament is written in 'Koine' or 'common' Greek, our aim with the NIV Bible is - and has always been - to translate the Bible into what you might call 'Koine' or 'common' English.
If the translation is to reflect the language spoken by 'the common people' then I'm afraid that gender-inclusive language will be a necessity. Like it or not, in the West, we just don't speak using masculine generic pronouns anymore (i.e. he, his, him). For instance, every time I hear the masculine generic pronoun 'he' used in conversation, it is always qualified with 'or her'. More often than not, the generic plural pronoun (they, theirs, them) is employed.

The TNIV and the NIVI before it received pelters from godly scholars and preachers who opposed these translations on the grounds that they presented readers with "unjustified rendering[s] of the gender language of the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible." So speaks Ligon Duncan, current chairman of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). Yet despite all the arguments of those associated with the CBMW, their basic philosophy is that in order to be faithful in translating Scripture into English, one must NOT translate it in the language of the people (i.e. gender-neutral common English), but in an archaic form of English that has long since disappeared from street parlance.

In an astonishing climb-down, Biblica CEO Keith Danby said of the TNIV:
"We fell short of the trust that was placed in us. We failed to make the case for revisions and we made some important errors in the way we brought the translation to publication. We also underestimated the scale of the public affection for the NIV and failed to communicate the rationale for change in a manner that reflected that affection."
Cited in the same article, Zondervan president Moe Girkins said:
"Whatever its strengths were, the TNIV divided the evangelical Christian community. So as we launch this new NIV, we will discontinue putting out new products with the TNIV."
I don't think the TNIV divided the evangelical Christian community; Christian leaders did. Let's call a spade a spade. Piper, Grudem, Mohler, Duncan and other outstanding (and godly) men campaigned against this translation for it's gender related changes. It's not as if the TNIV publishers at its publication, simultaneously released some polemical propoganda in order to discredit 'archaic' translations that follow the Colorado Springs Guidelines. No, the division came from evangelical leaders, not the TNIV. In short, these men opposed God's word being translated into the spoken language of the people and unnecessarily divided evangelicals before a watching world. As D.A. Carson said:
"Thirty or forty years from now, I suspect, most evangelicals will have accepted the TNIV as a 'standard' translation, and will wonder what all the fuss was about in their parents' generation — in the same way that those of us with long memories marvel at all the fuss over the abandonment of 'thees' and 'thous' several decades ago."
The above link to Ligon Duncan's article leaves me with no doubt that should the NIV2011, as expected, stick with translating in the language of the people, we will surely witness the third installment of "Bible Wars", with books being published on why the NIV2011 is unfaithful to God's words and ridiculous websites cropping up and opposing the translation of Scripture in a way that resonates with the man (or woman) on the street.

PS I should mention that I dearly love Lig Duncan, Wayne Grudem, John Piper and Al Mohler. These are 'my' guys. I just believe them to be dead wrong in this area.

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