I continue reading in Grant Osborne's Hermeneutical Spiral for the advanced topics class I am teaching this semester. The chapter on syntax has a new section on the "inclusive language debate," particularly in relation to the TNIV. Apparently Osborne served on the committees that created the NLT, so he is very open to "functional equivalence" translation like these, although clearly he is okay with formal equivalence translations as well. He sees a role for both and passes on a nice spectrum chart created by D. A. Carson:
Of course the last two aren't really translations but paraphrases of the English.
The name that shows up over and over in this "excursus" is Wayne Grudem, who led a good deal of the charge against the TNIV. Osborne does not attack him at all, but by the time I was done reading this section, the magnitude of Grudem's lack of understanding of how language works was quite noticeable. This would then also include others who led the charge against the TNIV: R. C. Sproul, John Piper, James Dobson, etc... By the way, anyone who questions Grant Osborne or D. A. Carson's conservative credentials is psycho.
Here are some quotes from this section of Osborne:
"Spirit is feminine in Hebrew and neuter in Greek--should we translate 'she' in the Old Testament and 'it' in the New Testament? No one does so" (155).
"Do we 'change God's words' when we translate he as 'they' (so Grudem 1997:30-32)? If that were true, it would entail retaining every original word and syntax from the Hebrew or Greek, and the translation would be unreadable" (156).
"In terms of lexical [meaning] correspondence, we must realize that words do not have individual meaning but collational meaning, that is, they draw meaning from their relationship to other words in the sentence (e.g. make pancakes, make sense, make friends, make a place)" (156).
"Changing from the individual to the group or from the inclusive 'he' to a plural does not change the meaning in any way" (154).
The response of Craig Blomberg, another conservative evangelical, is also mentioned in an endnote. He mentions among other points that it is increasingly becoming correct grammatically to write, "anyone bringing their textbooks." I know I find myself writing this increasingly, although I usually then undo it since a colleague corrected me publically once for it in something I had written for a committee.
But of course English teachers do not create the rules and can only enforce them in their classes. "[S]tylistic conventions are determined by current consensus" (526, n.29).
I have put it this way--if we have to have the level of verbal accuracy in translation that Grudem, World magazine and others require, then shame on anyone for using English at all. To be consistent, we will have to ban all translations from use as the Muslims do the Quran. No translation can measure up.
Frankly, since all manuscripts differ from each other in some respect, we are lost if this is the case. We will all have to go back to the Greek tradition behind the KJV too on faith that somehow it was the Bible of the earliest Christians despite the evidence to the contrary. Surely God wouldn't have allowed the majority of Christians throughout the medieval period to follow a text that differed by as much as 5% from the original in its wording. And then we will all have to become Roman Catholic, for surely God would not have allowed the beliefs of the church to differ from the original for 1000 years either.
Or maybe the problem here doesn't have anything to do with the Bible but with typical resistance to the advance of God's kingdom because of deeply ingrained biases mistaken for God.