“Farewell NIV”?

At BLT krwordgazer posts “Farewell NIV”?, a highly critical review of a claim by another blogger that the NIV has gone away. This includes a careful discussion of the gender related issues which have been the reason for some people rejecting the NIV 2011.

For some of us there is little new in this post. But for readers who have not already had their fill of these discussions, this is a useful introduction to the issues.

Please comment on the post at BLT, not here.

blog guidelines

This is a reminder to follow all our blog guidelines when posting any comment. Our blog guidelines are found near the top of the right margin of our blog. If your comment does not follow the guidelines it will either be deleted by a moderator, or if it is a mixture of permissible comments and some not permitted, the wordings which are not permitted will be deleted, as described after the guidelines. The BBB is a moderated blog, so if you do not see one of your comments posted in a day or two, assume that it did not follow the blog guidelines.

We welcome vigorous debate that deals with Bible translation issues as objectively as possible. But we do not permit any comments which question the motives of any Bible translators. We do permit comments which question, on scholarly grounds, the translation of any specific passage in the original languages of the Bible. So, question translations, yes, question motives for translations, no.

‘Flesh’ Beats ‘Sinful Nature’ for Clarity

I am almost persuaded by John Richardson the Ugley Vicar’s argument that “flesh” is a better rendering of sarx than “sinful nature”, in Romans 8. It’s a shame John didn’t realise that the NIV translation team now agrees with him. But I do also see problems with the “flesh” rendering.

Poetic Acts

The preceding post, by Peter Kirk, was about “poetic” and “accessible” language. This post is another about scripture set to poetry.

I have just received a copy of The Apostles’ Acts — In Verse, by my friend James Vasquez. James has written seven books of poetry based on scripture. James writes in classical poetic metre and rhyme.

Here is James’ rendition of Acts 17:22-34:

Paul in Athens

Within the Areopagus
Paul stood to view each person there.
He raised his hand and then his voice
Rang through the morning’s balmy air.

You men of Athens, hear me now,
For you are a religious lot,
And everywhere I look are seen
False idols that your hands begot.

And viewing each most carefully
As I in passing sauntered by,
An altar most remarkable
With its inscription caught my eye.

For “To An Unknown God,” it said.
Now what you worship as unknown
This day I will proclaim to you,
That you may all his wisdom own.

The God who made all things we see,
The world and every denizen,
Is Lord of heav’n and earth nor does
He live in temples made by men.

Nor do our hands yet serve him well
As though in need he looked to us,
For he gives life to every man,
His breath, and all things prosperous.

And from one man he made across
The earth all nations in their place,
And set the times for each and where
They were to live, each tribe and race.

He did this that all men might seek
And hap’ly find him reaching out,
Though close to every man he’s found,
His faithful promise leaves no doubt.

And thus, “In him we live and move,
And have our being as well,” one said.
“We are his offspring,” we are told,
By your own poets now long dead.

And since, O men of Athens, we
Are very offspring of this God,
Think not that like an idol he
Is made of gold or wood or sod.

For these are images and made
By man’s design and errant skill.
They hear not your petitions and
Your prayers remain unanswered still.

Now in times past God overlooked
Such ignorance and soul’s decay,
But now repentance he commands
For he has firmly set a day,

When he will judge the world at last
With justice foretold long ago,
By one whom he appointed and
Has given proof that all may know,

By raising Jesus from the dead,
The One whom I proclaim to you,
Though words I speak will never serve
To praise his name for honor due.

At once the air was filled with sneers.
Philosophers take pride in naught
But what their forebears have declared,
And oft their teachings have forgot.

But some asked Paul to speak again
And bring his message without shame,
While others who believed his word,
True followers of the Lord became.

“Poetic” and “Accessible” Language

I am not usually much interested in liturgy, as I don’t see much place for formal liturgy in church (but that is not an issue for discussion here). But I did read Doug Chaplin’s post Accessible and poetic: crafting words for worship, and the principles discussed there seem to me very relevant for Bible translation. Here is a quote:

Some people hear the word “poetic” and think “obscure”, when they should be thinking “vivid”. Others hear the word “accessible” and think “bland”, when they should be thinking “inviting”.

I am all in favor of Bible translations which are poetic, if that means vivid, not obscure. And for me it is important that Bible translations are accessible, in the sense of inviting, but that should not mean that they are bland. Would anyone disagree?

ISV nears publication

The International Standard Version (ISV) is now on its last revision before publication. Note its features on its website:

The ISV is the first modern Bible translation in any language to provide an exclusive textual apparatus comparing the text of the famed Dead Sea Scrolls with the traditional Masoretic text of the Hebrew Tanakh (i.e., the “Old Testament”).

  • Over 5,000,000 electronic copies of the ISV New Testament have been distributed worldwide.
  • The first press run sold out in less than a month.
  • The second press run sold out before it was printed.
  • The ISV has been universally praised for its readability and accuracy.
  • The ISV is respected by professional Bible translators.
  • The ISV renders the book of Isaiah from the reliable Dead Sea Scrolls, using the Massoretic Text as a comparative.
  • Other Dead Sea Scrolls translations are coming soon.

Report on divine familial terms

Last year we raised the issue some translators in Isalmic contexts have faced in deciding how to translate the divine familial terms.

The World Evangelical Alliance convened an independent panel to consider the issue. The panel has just completed their report, which you can download from their webpage.

If you’re interested, it’s worth checking out the whole report. I’ll quote here its first three recommendations (in depth rationales for these are given in the report):

  1. The WEA Panel (hereafter referred to as “Panel”) recommends that when the words for “father” and “son” refer to God the Father and to the Son of God, these words always be translated with the most directly equivalent familial words within the given linguistic and cultural context of the recipients. In the case of languages that have multiple words for “father” and “son,” translators should choose the most suitable words in light of the semantics of the target language. (This recommendation pertains to the SIL Best Practices statement 0.6, 1.5.1, 1.5.2, 3.2.)
  2. The Panel recognizes that there is significant potential for misunderstanding of the words for “father” and “son” when applied to God, and that in languages shaped by Islamic cultures, the potential is especially acute and the misunderstandings likely to prove especially harmful to the reader’s comprehension of the gospel. Therefore, in case of difficulties, the Panel recommends that translators consider the addition of qualifying words and/or phrases (explanatory adjectives, relative clauses, prepositional phrases, or similar modifiers) to the directly-translated words for “father” and “son,” in order to avoid misunderstanding. For example, as the biblical context allows, the word for “father” might be rendered with the equivalent of “heavenly Father” when referring to God, and the word for “son” might be rendered with the equivalent of “divine Son,” “eternal Son,” or “heavenly Son” when referring to Jesus. The Panel also encouragestranslators to use paratextual material to clarify and avoid misunderstanding in these cases. (This recommendation pertains to the SIL Best Practices statement 1.5.4, 3.2.)
  3. The Panel recognizes that the phrase for “Son of God” has varied nuances in its different New Testament contexts, especially in light of the Old Testament background to those contexts. In the case of most languages, the biblical context should enable the reader to discern the nuances of the phrase for “Son of God,” and translators need not make adjustments to the translated text, although they may want to indicate nuances of meaning in paratextual material. But, when and if necessary, the Panel recommends that translators convey nuances of meaning from the biblical context in the translation through the addition of qualifying words and/or phrases (explanatory adjectives, relative clauses, or prepositional phrases). For example, the phrase for “Son of God” in a context of Messianic kingship might be rendered with the equivalent of “anointed Son of God” or “royal Son of God.” (This recommendation pertains to the SIL Best Practices statement 0.4, 0.7, 1.1, 1.5.4, 3.2.)

SIL Executive Director Freddy Boswell also explained how this will impact SIL translations.

One Bible, Many Versions, by Rich Shields


Joy & Happiness

I had a discussion with a friend recently over the distinction in meaning between joy and happiness, as expressed by a pastor in a recent TV interview:  http://video.today.msnbc.msn.com/today/50224492#50224492

My friend makes a similar distinction in meaning as that pastor does, while I do not.  Dictionary definitions are not very helpful, since the dictionary that I generally use (Third College Edition of Webster’s New World Dictionary, c. 1991) appears to make no distinction between the two terms, while the online dictionary that he regularly uses does.

In support of my view that any distinction between the two terms is blurred or not present at all, I’m listing the following songs, which cover a span of more than 160 years.  While we were in Liberia 40 years ago, we often sang #6 and #7.

1 Happy the Home by Henry Ware, Jr. (1846)

          Key Lines: Happy the home when God is there, and love fill every breast
Happy the home where Jesus’ name is sweet to every ear

2 Happy in My Savior’s Love by Harry Dixon Loes (1919)

3 Happy All the Time (author & copyright unknown, but prior to copyright of songbook, 1931)

           Key Line: With Jesus in my heart, from him I’ll never depart

4 Happy in Jesus Today by W.T. Chapelle (1936)

5 Happy Am I by Clayton P. Erb  (1956)

          Key Lines: Happy am I, Jesus loves me; He took my sins and He made me free

6 Happiness by William J. Gaither (1967)

I found happiness; I’ve found peace of mine
I found the joy of living, perfect love sublime
I found real contentment, happy living in accord
I found happiness all the time, wonderful peace of mind
When I found the Lord

7 Happiness is the Lord by Ira Stanphill (1968)

Happiness is to know the Savior
Living a life within His favor
Having a change in my behavior
Happiness is the Lord

Happiness is a new creation
“Jesus and me” in close relation
Having a part in His salvation
Happiness is the Lord

Happiness is to be forgiven
Living a life that’s worth the livin’
Taking a trip that leads to heaven
Happiness is the Lord

Chorus:  Real joy is mine, no matter if teardrops start
I’ve found the secret – it’s Jesus in my heart!

8 Happy Am I by Mickey Holiday  (1971)

          Key Line:  Jesus is mine forever

9 Happiness Is by Bonnie Low (1982)

Happiness is Knowing that Jesus loves me
And Happiness is Knowing that God above me
Is looking after me And watching over me in love

10 Happiness Is by Evan Rogers, Nathan Fellingham (2007)

          Key Line:  Happiness is a sinner forgiven

Some Bible translators also have used the term happy in ways that blur a distinction from joy (see Matthew 5 in Today’s English Version – Good News for Modern Man, Phillips Modern English translation, Jerusalem Bible, The Source New Testament).

Now for your thoughts.  In terms of Bible translation, should translators avoid using the term happiness for the sake of readers who make a distinction between joy and happiness, or should they feel free to use the term happiness for the sake of readers who consider it synonymous with joy?

If a translation has a particular target audience, how can one determine whether that target audience makes a distinction between the two terms or not?

Thanks to Wayne for posting the relevant survey.  I’m wondering in what “important ways” those who selected that option consider the terms “different”.

joyful and happy survey


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