Policing our language…

Screen Shot 2012-12-06 at 10.07.41 AMBack in 2005 I edited a blog (TNIV: Stealth Bible) set-up by WORLD magazine to continue their good work of opposing the bowdlerization of the English Bible, particularly the work of Zondervan and her Committee on Bible Translation (creators of the TNIV and now NIV11). One of the posts drew attention to the gender-neutral language policies that have become commonplace among institutions of “higher learning,” state bar associations, and government institutions. What is common to all of these policies is their authors’ abhorrence of words like “he,” “him,” “his,” “brother,” “man,” “mankind,” when used as a representative–as God did when he named mankind Adam. Here’s the original post (…sorry, but I haven’t taken the time to check the integrity of the old links…):

The TNIV’s Bedfellows 04/27/2005

As I come across inclusive language policies I will be posting links. It is an interesting study to see what institutions are enforcing gender-neutral language and what they say about it. The TNIV comes from the same stock…

Calvin College
University of South Australia
The University of Western Sydney
The University of Newcastle (Australia)
Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches
University of Dayton (Religous Studies Department)
University of Maryland, College Park
The University of Alberta
McMaster University
The University of Sunshine Coast (Australia)
Coolamon College
The University of Saskatchewan
Moravian Theological Seminary
Canadian Auto Workers
University of Maine
Takoma Park Presbyterian Church
Asbury Theological Seminary
Rainbow Families
Western Illinois University
Presbytery of San Jose (PCUSA) pdf
Drew University
Wright State University
Iowa State University
Hartford Seminary
The University of Montana – Missoula
The Law Society of British Columbia
University of Illinois Board of Trustees
Virginia State Bar pdf
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

A quick search today reveals more policing:

UNC (my alma mater or pater; they’ve even stopped using “freshman“)
Sarah Lawrence College
CQ University Australia
The University of Sydney
Marquette University
Canadian Government (with a quiz to check your usage!)
Canadian Department of Justice
American Philosophical Association
New Mexico State University
Iowa State University
Seattle Pacific University
St. Bonaventure University
University of Notre Dame, Department of Theology
Asbury Theological Seminary
New South Wales Parliamentary Counsel’s Office
United Nations
United States Supreme Court (this article laments the court’s lagging behind but, in the conclusion, praises Justice Alito for his use of gender-neutral language)
U.S. State Department (the gender-neutering of our passports)

For more reading on the loss that will come to our culture and, particularly, to our Bible translations by the continued policing of generic masculines and anything that smacks of masculinity, take a look at Vern Poythress’s good work here.

Modern Bible Translations: The product of "commercial ambition," "sectarian interests," and "social and linguistic fashions"…

Whereas in America in the second half of the nineteenth century, Bibles printed in uncountable numbers made a spate of KJVs, with a bare dozen of private new versions, in the twentieth century, especially in America, especially since 1945, new translations make the flood. Some were modest affairs, the work of one dedicated scholar, like Moffat, Weymouth, Knox or Phillips in Britain; in America, Goodspeed or Lattimore. Most, later in the century, were grand American productions, the salaried work of big, well-funded comfortable committees with full secretarial support, massive publicity and marketing organizations and claims of gigantic print-runs and sales. It is all a long way from Tyndale, hungry, cold and alone in his Antwerp room.

Like Hollywood movies, many of the later productions were remakes, so that form America came the New King James Version of 1982 (and before that in 1970 ‘The King James II Verion’, a curious title indeed); after the Revised Standard version of 1952, the New Revised Standard Version of 1989; after the Good News Bible in 1976, a completely revised edition (the fourth) in 1994; after the New International Version of 1978, the New International Reader’s Version in 1997; and, from Britain, after the Jerusalem Bible in 1966, the New Jerusalem Bible in 1985; and after the New English Bible in 1970, the Revised English Bible in 1989.  Those are by no means all. Again in America, the Amplified Bible of 1965 did what it announced, and indicated to most of the KJV’s words ‘additional shades of meaning’. The Living Bible of various dates in the 1960s was an out-an-out paraphrase, not always wise. The Reader’s Digest Bible of 1982 got the whole thing down to some hours’ reading. The various forms of The Message of the 1990s make a feel-good handbook which often grossly mistranslates (see chapter 34 above). Even that is not, again, by any means, all. Not only have all these lasted, but all of those just mentioned are, as the new millennium gets underway, in print and in use.

The drive for change comes, even more than from better understanding of the original textual bases (by 1990, less of a consideration), from commercial ambition, from sectarian interests, and from social and linguistic fashions. The Good News Bible (1994) is not alone in adopting ‘inclusive language’. Moreover, for some large groups of consumers, the Bible, it seems, must not be found disturbing, whether by calling God (in Jesus’ words) ‘Father’ (which is ‘patriarchy’), or, as with The Message, jettisoning theology altogether to suggest that it may just be possible that you may not at all times feel totally good about yourself. That is an even longer way from Tyndale.

The bizarre and the reprehensible, many though they are among the more than twelve hundred different Bible translations published since 1945, should not distract from the solid dozen or so of major twentieth-century endeavours. The British Revised Version of 1885, and it American cousin of 1901, did indeed open a door.

-from David Daniell’s The Bible in English

English Bibles before Tyndale's Translation…

…campaigns to remove heresy and heretics seem to have worked on the principle that possession of vernacular Scripture meant heresy (Daniell, The Bible in English, 69).

William Tyndale (ca. 1494-1536) is credited with the first mass-produced translation of  God’s Word into English (though he did not complete the Old Testament before he was martyred in 1536). Did English-speaking people have a vernacular translation before that?

John Wyclif (1324-1384), remembered as the “Morning Star” of the Reformation, either produced or was instrumental in the production of a vernacular translation of the Scriptures.

It seems unlikely that Wyclif himself, pen in hand, translated any of ‘his’ Bible. But that the manuscripts were the work of men close to him, influenced by him, inspired by his teaching and preaching, there can be no doubt (Daniell, The Bible in English, 73).

Daniell points out that not everyone was happy about having a common-tongue translation of the Bible. After Wyclif died in 1384, a number of Constitutions were adopted by the English Roman Catholic Church in 1409. Article 7 forbade a man to…

…translate any text of Holy Scripture into the English or other language, by way of a book, pamphlet or tract, and that no book, pamphlet or tract of this kind be read, either recently composed at the time of the said John Wyclif, or since then, or that in future may be composed, in part or in whole, publicly or privily, under pain of the greater excommunication…

In 1411, the archbishop Arundel received a list of 267 heresies and errors found in the works of Wyclif. The fires were stoked: first his books were burned in 1411 and 1413, then his bones were exhumed from the grave in 1428 and burned.

It seems that around 175 copies of the Wyclif Bible exist today, scattered about various British universities and cathedrals.

Praise God for the faithfulness of these men who desired the people of God be able to feast on God’s Word.

The Second Commandment According to the NIV11

Back about a decade ago Zondervan and the International Bible Society (now Biblica) introduced a gender-neutered edition of the New International Version (NIV84) of the Bible called the Today’s New International Version (TNIV). In addition to the thousands of changes they made to God’s Word, it was a sloppy translation. Singulars were changed to plurals to avoid generic masculine pronouns; mentions of the Jews—for fear of offending—were dropped; gender-specific words like man, father, and brother were replaced with gender-neutral words like human, parents, and brothers and sisters. The hopelessly patriarchal text was neutered to be more palatable to modern sensibilities. Sales weren’t so hot, so they put it out to pasture.

Now that the TNIV is gone and a decade has passed since that first attempt to place the TNIV alongside the NIV84, Zondervan and Biblica had the courage to update the NIV84, incorporating much of the changes that appeared in the defunct TNIV. The new product, the NIV11, is not a trustworthy translation. It too, like it’s deceased mother the TNIV, is bending over backwards to make sure God’s inspired word contains no offense. Here is one example of thousands—the NIV11’s take on the second commandment (Exodus 20:4-6):

NIV84: “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

NIV11: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

You’ll notice that “fathers” has been replaced with “parents.” The process of removing male and federal headship from Scripture moves forward. The gate keepers of Scripture only allow us access to a sanitized version of the Word. The opportunity to communicate, they reason, is more important than what is communicated—even if the what (those words…even the little pronouns) is inspired by God.

"Doulos" and the NASB: "…voluntary submission to deity…"

What with the ESV translation committee’s new concern that the word “slave” (translation of the Greek doulos) has “irredeemably negative associations and connotations,” I wondered how my preferred translation, the New American Standard Bible, handled the same word (and the prefixed version, sundoulos, which generally they translate by adding “fellow,” as in “fellow slave.”). The NASB mostly renders it “slave,” but at a number of places, it has “bond-servant,”—a fact which stood out to me when I began preaching through the book of James last year. James 1:1: “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,…”.

Here’s the frequency of each of the NASB’s various translations of doulos (including the plural form and both singular and plural of sundoulos):

“Slave(s)”—103 times

“Bond-servant(s)”—25 times

“Bondslave(s)”—6 times

“Servant(s)”—4 time

I was curious about the variety, so I emailed the Lockman Foundation to ask for an explanation. Here’s the response:

The use of the term “slave” is a complex issue, one which we continue to review given its connotations. The NASB has the terms “bond-servant” and “bondslave” in places where “slave” might sound harsh for the context, though the three words all mean the same thing since “bond” refers to “bondage”. Of course “fellow” is included for the Greek sundoulos. The NASB translators felt that in all of these places a softer term than “slave” was justified because the relationship is one of voluntary submission to deity, though the duties and obligations are not thereby mitigated.

When you look through the specific verses, a pattern emerges that confirms their explanation…

Overwhelmingly, “slave” is used where the context is one of earthly, economic slavery or when that slave/master relationship is used as an example in a parable.

On the other hand, “Bond-servant” or “bondslave” is selectively used when referring to specific people and their relationship to God: Mary (Luke 1:38, 48), Simeon (Luke 2:29), the Apostles (Acts 4:29, 16:17, 2 Cor. 4:5), Paul (Rom. 1:1, Gal. 1:10, Phil. 1:1, Titus 1:1), Timothy (Phil. 1:1), Jesus (Phil. 2:7), Epaphras (Col. 1:7, 4:12), Tychichus (Col. 4:7), pastors (2 Tim. 2:4), James (James 1:1), Peter (2 Peter 1:1), Jude (Jude 1), John (Rev. 1:1), God’s people (Rev. 1:1, 2:20, 7:3, 11:18, 19:2, 19:5, 22:3, 22:6), and Moses (Rev. 15:3).

So, though the NASB asserts that the words “bond-servant,” “bondslave,” and “slave,” all mean the same thing, her translators chose to use the softer term in those places where the master is God because it better expresses a “voluntary submission to deity.”

Seriously? Anyone see a bit of a problem there?

Do we hate authority?

Modern Bible Translation & The ESV

Modern academics have been hired to give us new translations of God’s Word because the old translations retain the hopelessly patriarchal language of the original. These academics are sensitive men–more sensitive, in fact, than God who inspired such language. Like softening a linebacker by dressing him in a skirt, they have been in the process of changing Scripture to hide its ugliness for many decades now. They have saved us from words like “he” and “man” and “brother” and “son” and “father.” “He” becomes “they.” “Man” becomes “Human.” “Brother” becomes “brothers and sisters.” “Son” becomes “child.” “Father” becomes “parent.” And so, our modern sensibilities are massaged…but meaning is changed.

If you use any of the following translations or paraphrases, your Bible has been sanitized by these sensitives: New Revised Standard Version, Good News Bible (2nd edition), The Message, Contemporary English Version, New Living Translation, Today’s New International Version, New International Version 2011, and the English Standard Version.

It might be a surprise that I include the ESV on the list, but it should be there. They come in such pretty covers and convenient sizes that we go crazy for them. Yet, the ESV translators got queasy with a number of things: “sons of Israel” all through the Old Testament–so they went with “children of Israel” or “people of Israel;” “brothers” in the New Testament–so they plopped in a note at most instances, saying “Or brothers and sisters.” Also, they really messed up 1 Cor. 6:9–posts about it here and here. They have just gotten upset by God’s use of the word doulos, “slave.”

Notice that the process of the ESV making peace with political correctness is in evidence here, too: the ESV translation committee and the NIV 2011 translation committee has one common member. The Greek scholar, William D. Mounce, was at one point the New Testament chair of the ESV translation team. He is currently listed as an emeritus member of the ESV board and an active member of the Committee on Bible Translation, the scholars responsible for all the gender-neutral versions of the NIV over the past two decades, including the most recent gender-neutral version, the NIV2011. Mounce spoke at the Evangelical Theological Society  in November of 2009, telling folks to embrace both the ESV and the TNIV/NIV2011. And his motive is most definitely to cater to pomo sensitivities:

My paper was entitled, “Can the ESV and TNIV Co-Exist in the Same Universe?” (It was a response paper to Mark Strauss.) I jokingly answered, “In light of current developments, evidently not” and opened the floor for questions.

My real answer was, “Yes, in fact, they must co-exist” (thinking of the NIV2011). I do not believe that one size fits all. Children no longer learn to read by reading the Bible, and we live in a post-Christian culture that is attempting to expunge any hint of biblical language/metaphor.

When I was a full-time pastor, I preached from the ESV, but for VBS we used the TNIV. We had hundreds of unchurched kids from the neighborhood, and I had no idea of their church background and how their mom felt about “man” and “he.” After all, the goal of translation is communication, so I used the translation that helped me communicate the best in both contexts.

That from an emeritus member of the ESV translation committee and the man who served as the ESV’s NT chair up until a couple years ago.

He also laments the demise of the TNIV:

Let me go on the record as saying I was disappointed to see the death of the TNIV. It was a magnificent and artfully crafted work that consistently held to its translation guidelines. And part of its beauty was that it was not colloquial. It has a beautiful style that transcends many subcultures and one that doesn’t mind ending a few sentences with prepositions. May some day grammarians learn that English is not Latin. I need to go find an infinitive to split.

[For more on the destructiveness of much modern translation go here (Vern Poythress) and here (Baylyblog) and here (Michael Marlowe)]

TNIV: The Seeker-Friendly Translation

Originally posted at Stealth Bible: TNIV

Gilbert Bilezikian, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College and trailblazer for all things feminist, describes the TNIV as a “seeker-friendly translation.” I believe he’s hit the nail precisely on the head.

Given that one of the characteristics of the seeker movement is to cut the role of the Word of God in worship; given that the seeker movement hopes to present the Word of God in such a way that it will avoid offense; given that the seeker church is addicted to image and images and is willing to forgo verbal communication for visual communication, Bilezikian is oh so right to make the connection.

Look at the endorsements page at the TNIV site…seeker church after seeker church lauding the remarkable achievements of the TNIV’s CBT. Seeker churches, churches like Willow Creek, have despised the Word of God for some time (arguing for the rights of sodomites, steering clear of sermons calling for repentance, pushing for egalitarianism inside and outside the church, importing idols into the worship of God)…and they’ve now got a Bible project to fit their ideology. It’s newly cleaned up with offense freshly removed and ready for the seeker who knows perfectly well what he wants and the pastor who knows perfectly well what he doesn’t want.

Nowhere Person

Originally posted at Stealth Bible: TNIV on 3.17.05

The Beatles were hopelessly patriarchal in their use of language, so we present here a translation of the Beatles classic Nowhere Man for today’s 18-34 year old.

You’re a real Nowhere Person,
Sitting in your Nowhere Land,
Making all your Nowhere plans for nobody.
Doesn’t have a point of view,
Know not where you’re going to,
Aren’t they a bit like you and me?
Nowhere person please listen,
You don’t know what you’re missing,
Nowhere Person, the world is at your command.
You’re as blind as you can be,
Just see what you want to see,
Nowhere Person can you see me at all?
Nowhere Person don’t worry,
Take your time, don’t hurry,
Leave it all till somebody else,
Lends you a hand…

Nowhere Person please listen,
Nowhere Person, the world is at your command.
You’re a real Nowhere Person,
Sitting in your Nowhere Land,
Making all your Nowhere plans for nobody…