Friday, October 14, 2011

Translation Recommendation for Wesleyan Church

The Wesleyan Church has used the NIV generally for decades, but as we now know, the old NIV is being phased out and churches are having to decide what to use now and what to put in their pews.  I have waffled on a recommendation, but one has finally crystallized in my mind.  I'm recommending the new NIV 2011.  Here are my reasons:

1. Continuity
There are many other fine translations out there.  Some Wesleyans, for example, were involved in the translation of the NLT.  The NRSV remains the version that most scholars use and that you will use if you go to Asbury.  The ESV is now very popular among Calvinist evangelicals. The CEB is a new translation that has many fine features.

But to decide in any one of these directions requires a new direction for Wesleyans, and it is unclear that any of these are so much better as to tip the scales in their direction.  Our people are used to the NIV.  Why not stay with it?

2. It is an improvement on the old NIV.
To be honest, I used to make fun of the NIV from a scholarly perspective.  It added words here and there, wore its theology on its sleaves.  It was also a product of its age, meaning that it used "he" and "man" all over the place when it isn't actually there in the Greek or Hebrew. A lot of people think that the new NIV is caving in to political pressure in taking most of this language out.  But much of the time, it's actually more accurate to go neutral.

In fact, I think some who pushed the ESV for this very reason were surprised to find out how much of that language it took out.  Much of the time, the Greek doesn't specify the gender, meaning that doing away with this language is actually more accurate.

I came across this example.  Someone was concerned that the new NIV of 2 Corinthians 5:17 reads, "If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come."  They thought the ESV was more accurate to say, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation."  But the Greek simply says, "If anyone is in Christ, new creation."  The ESV here thus makes the original more masculine than it was.

There are numerous places where the new NIV has improved things that I used to critique.  For example, the old NIV of Colossians 2:14 read that Christ had "canceled the written code, with its regulations." The NIV incorporates good evidence from archaeological discoveries that have led almost all scholars to agree that what Christ cancelled here was "the charge of our legal indebtedness." The translation of 2 Corinthians 5:17 above in another example of taking into account some recent scholarship on 2 Corinthians.

Bottom line: The new NIV is a better translation than the original NIV, and it was headed by evangelicals with absolutely solid evangelical credentials like Doug Moo of Wheaton.

3. Even more Wesleyan now!
I would claim that the NIV was originally a product of the primarily Calvinist-evangelical powers that be, despite the fact that Stephen Paine of Houghton was involved with it.  In my opinion, the ESV has become the new baby of this power block.  The new NIV, interestingly, seems to fit better with Wesleyan theology than the old one did or than the ESV does.

Notice, for example, that the new NIV calls Phoebe a deacon in Romans 16:1.  The ESV, since it was produced by people who generally resist women in ministry, could not bring itself to do this.  So in the ESV, Phoebe is just a servant of the church.  Meanwhile, while Junia in Romans 16:7 of the NIV is outstanding "among" the apostles, in the ESV she is "well known" to the apostles.  The new NIV lets you decide if she was an apostle.  The ESV doesn't want to give you the chance to think something awful like that.

Let's be clear about this "gender neutral" stuff.  The NIV only uses "brothers and sisters" when that's what we would all agree the original meant.  It never adds women to the translation when they weren't there originally in the meaning. While a translation would not have to do this, certainly it fits well with Wesleyan theology.  Sometimes rendering the neutrality of the original requires changing a singular to a plural to make good English, but in some places this may actually be less of a change than translating with "he."

All translations involve a loss of meaning.  You simply cannot render the exact meaning of something in one language into another.  All translations are approximations and interpretations.  If we are really this concerned about precision, we had better stop using translations altogether and learn Greek and Hebrew. Fine with me.  We'll do away with all translations and read the real Bible. ;-)

I wish everyone could do a quick study of the way the NT authors use the OT.  What you'll find is that they definitely fall in the "dynamic equivalence" camp.  Think The Message.  They make the new NIV look like the King James.

So there's my recommendation to the church.  Let's stick with the NIV.  It's our tradition.  It's more accurate than the old NIV.  It's more Wesleyan than the ESV.

13 comments:

Nathaniel said...

The problem with the 2 Corinthians 5:17 example is that the new NIV has resorted to bad English that obscures the meaning of the verse in order to preserve the accident of the Greek's gender neutrality. In order to avoid the unclear passivity, one has to add the "is a" and an appropriate pronoun. Since personal pronouns are not genderless in English we end up with "he is a."

I'm not saying you don't know all this (you do of course, and much more than I). I just don't understand why a passive phrase which obfuscates the object and meaning of "καινὴ κτίσις" is a better choice than choosing a gendered pronoun which makes this meaning clear.

Ken Schenck said...

There is a question whether Paul actually means to say he or she is a new creation. NT Wright suggests it means something like the new NIV, if someone is in Christ, then it is an indication that the new creation is here. All debatable, of course.

Anonymous said...

In John 9:35-37, the King James Bible says "Son of God". The NIV says "Son of Man". The Greek says "theos", which means God. Will the new version of the NIV correct this error, or will it remain in the text? You cannot show a Muslim this text as a proof-text for the Sonship of Christ, which is something they say he never claimed for Himself. ONLY the KJV can be used to show them that He did declare His Sonship.

Ken Schenck said...

I did a quick check and the NIV2011 stuck with "Son of Man." I then peeked at some other translations and then at the manuscript evidence. The older Greek manuscripts have anthropos here. So it's only the Greek of the later manuscripts, which Erasmus used in editing the Greek behind the KJV, that have theos. "Son of Man" was a significant title, though, if you look at Daniel 7.

Radar said...

All translations involve a loss of meaning. You simply cannot render the exact meaning of something in one language into another. All translations are approximations and interpretations. If we are really this concerned about precision, we had better stop using translations altogether and learn Greek and Hebrew. Fine with me. We'll do away with all translations and read the real Bible. ;-)

This comment you make would mean that Psalm 12:6,7 is not true. In these verses we read, "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, Thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever"(KJV). When you look at an instruction manual, it is in 2 or more languages, both of which show us how to proceed with the project. When we read the Bible, we can rest assured that it is God's preserved, complete Word. Nothing has been lost or weakened, because God is able to keep every jot and tittle of the sacred Text. I have heard a Wesleyan pastor say that all translations are paraphrases, but God has been ( and will continue to be ) faithful to keep His Word complete. The KJV inserts in italics words that help to clarify the meanings of passages, AND, it is not missing 64,000 words, phrases, or complete verses as does the NIV, and all other translations in english that have popped up in the last century. The KJV is the only non- copyrighted Bible left. When someone puts a copyright on a "bible", it's because there is money involved. It is easy to show all the places where omissions have attacked the diety of Christ in these new versions. One thing that I no longer see in church is comparative studies of different versions. The recent Community Bible Experience has subtly closed the door of this important study format. Now we are all expected to read the version recommended by the church. This is the one we see projected on the screen in the assembly. For someone to go to a Bible study and read about Christ's claim to Sonship in John 9:35-37 in the KJV ( if it were ever to BE the topic ), would cause ( hopefully discerning disciples) to ask questions as to who authorized this discrepancy. I cannot agree with your statement above. The Lord God promised to preserve His Word (which, by the way, He considers to be more important than His NAME), and my prayer is that we repent of our allowing the corrupted texts to have crept into our midst, and return to the "purified seven times" Scriptures before it is too late. These modern versions are ecumenical, and you should know what that implies.

Radar said...

By the way , the" oldest" manuscripts, are the codex sinaiticus and codex vaticanus , which disagree with each other in hundreds of places. When Tichendorf dug sinaiticus out of the waste basket, there was a reason it was there. Do some research, beloved.

Ken Schenck said...

Thank you for expressing your position. I have no problem with individuals and even congregations continuing to use the KJV, as long as they do not do so in a way that hinders the gospel.

One thing I would hope you would accept is that, on the technical side of things, the vast majority of experts are against your understanding. For example, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus are not the oldest manuscripts and haven't been for a century.

As for Psalm 12:6, I think you are misreading it. The sense is something more along the lines of, "The things said by the LORD are pure things said."

Radar said...

Last note. Who had the authority as "experts", to remove the 64,000 words, phrases, and whole verses? What are their credentials? Who trained them? ALL the new versions disagree with the KJV. Does this mean that for thousands of years, God has not kept his promise to His beloved? And how will we ever be able to get back to Bible memorization classes with the youth with so many different versions? God is not the author of confusion.

Ken Schenck said...

I appreciate your zeal and your sense that you are standing up for God and the truth!

A key is that, in the minds of these scholars, they were not taking words out, but these words had been added in hundreds of years after these books were written. Not only the early manuscripts but (what convinced me once upon a time) asking what the most likely explanation is for how one reading ended up changed into another.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the words you are talking about were also a matter of controversy when Erasmus established the Greek text behind the KJV in the early 1500s. At that time, the equivalent of today's KJV only movement criticized Erasmus for messing with the Latin text that had been used in the church for 1000 years as well. And the KJV wasn't the "conservative" favorite at the time either but the Geneva Bible.

In the end, it is the message that God is most concerned with, since no English translation, including the KJV, translates word for word. Such a translation would be horrible English!

Radar said...

There was a man by the name of Constantine Simonides that confronted Tichendorf about the Codex Sinaitucus. I had thought that this manuscript was older than it actually was. Apparently, it had been treated with lemon juice and herbs to make it look old, and Simonides repeatedly challenged Tichendorf to a public debate about this manuscript, but he never accepted the challenge. Adullam Films (Christian Pinto), has 2 excellent exposés on who is behind all the new Bible versions. The first is called, "A Lamp In The Dark", and the second, and most revealing video is entitled, "Tares Among The Wheat". The evidence for conspiracy is overwhelming in these 2 videos. By the way, Des Griffin laughs when people call him a " conspiracy theorist", because the Bible itself is full of recorded conspiracies. Man is a conspirator by nature, and that is why he needs a new heart. Rome is the worse conspirator of all. You may not want to believe that, but the evidence is recorded in their own words. They recommend the NIV, but hate the KJV. Why? Easier to understand language is NOT the reason. Check out the 2 videos on Youtube.

Radar said...

"In the end, it is the message that God is most concerned with, since no English translation, including the KJV, translates word for word. Such a translation would be horrible English!" (Ken Schenck)

One person says,"go get milk at the store". Another person says, "go to the store and get milk". The EXACT same message in a re-arranged structure. . Psalm 12: 6,7 are NOT the same message. God IS faithful!

Radar said...

I meant to say, not the same message in theNIV and KJV. Sorry.

Radar said...

In my 1:28 comment, I mentioned a chap by the name of Des Griffin. I meant G. Edward Griffin. Des Griffin is another writer. Sorry.

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