Sunday, August 25, 2013

Driscoll Shark-Jumping 2

OK, I couldn't wait till tomorrow.  Mark Driscoll has, in my opinion, gone too far in trying to make the ESV the new KJV of evangelicalism.  He has six reasons why his church uses the blessed ESV.

In a previous post, I was a bit mocking of the contradiction of saying God is obsessed with the precise wording of the Bible and yet using an English translation at all, let alone one that does not represent the wording most Christians have used in worship throughout church history. Let's call that post, "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

In his second point, his eminence tells us all not to use dynamic equivalence translations like the NLT or the Message.

2. What it says comes before what it means.
Driscoll is saying that commentaries should unpack what the Bible means but that a translation should try its best to render the text as it is.  A translation that tries to stick fairly closely to the sentence structure of the original is called a formal equivalence translation.  One that tries to render the thought in idiomatic English is a dynamic equivalence translation.  A free translation or paraphrase is one that is very free in trying to translate the basic thoughts in equivalent categories in the target culture.

Again, don't get me wrong. I myself prefer formal equivalent translations like the ESV and RSV. But for preaching, I prefer a translation that brings out the message the sermon is about. It should be a both/and, not an either/or.  Even among formal equivalence translations, it is good to use more than one.

There are two rubs here.  The first is that all translation involves interpretation.  It is impossible simply to translate "what it says" and leave the "what it means" to the interpreter. A translation often has to choose to go one way or another. That's why it is good to use more than one if you do not know Greek and Hebrew.

In fact, it is with fiendish delight that I notice Driscoll contradicting himself on his #6, where he compliments the ESV for translating in a complementarian way.  So take Romans 16:7.  The NIV2011 gives us exactly the kind of translation Driscoll is talking about: "Greet Andronicus and Junia... They are outstanding among the apostles."  No doubt he prefers the ESV's version: "Greet Andronicus and Junia... They are well known to the apostles."

The ESV wants to make sure you don't think Junia, a woman, was an apostle.  Accordingly, the ESV has given us a "dynamic" translation that is possible, but it does exactly what Driscoll is condemning the other translations for--doing the interpretation for us.

Physician, heal thyself.

The more important rub is that the NT authors wouldn't know what the heck he's talking about.  As I mentioned in the last post, the NT authors felt entirely free to change the wording of OT texts they were quoting because it was the spirit rather than the letter of Scripture that they were interested in.  A free translation like The Message is a far better example of how the NT authors used the OT than the ESV.

I came across one such passage this afternoon in John 7:38: "Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them."  The problem is, what text is Jesus/John quoting???  The best suggestion I've heard is Isaiah 55:1--"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters."

Yep, you know what you're talking about, Mark.  Jesus sure was preoccupied with a literal translation, wasn't he?

1 comment:

Susan Moore said...

Ok, thanks for all that (both blogs and the link).
So, historically, not being fluent in the original languages, to study word meanings I have lined up my NAB, KJV, NKJV, NIV(s), and ESV. Then I look at what I decipher from those and compare that to a meaning deciphered from the original language. If it seems there is a discrepancy between a meaning I'm understanding from the original language and its given English interpretation, then I go to the Oxford English dictionary and spend a good bit of time there as well, and hope my confusion ends there and doesn’t lead to having to figure out Latin. For anything Latin I go to the online Catholic encyclopedia.
Understanding how all these differences came to be is helpful. Also, I now understand why it is important for those who teach scripture to be fluent in the original languages.
Given my sordid past, complementarianism has been a great curiosity to me. I know men who believe in their hearts that it is through those beliefs that God has deemed the way for women to be protected, respected and loved. I actually don't have a problem with them or their belief, and have a great deal of respect for their desire to 'take a bullet' for women out of their love for them. If I sense I am around men like that I find I ‘fall in line’ and submit to their authority. Those men are gentle, and express the fruit of the Spirit.
However I do have a problem with men who attempt to hide their false motives behind complementarian traditions as a way of justifying their oppression, abuse or exploitation of women. I think these men fall under the teaching in Mark 7:5-13. A man’s motives can be discerned if one looks closely at whether he is willing to listen, teach, or do for a women at some kind of a cost to himself, or if he expects the woman to ‘pay’ for his ‘love’. Those self-serving men are opportunistic and predatory in nature, and are to be avoided and/or rebuked.