Tuesday, February 8

There are a few people who have been upset by the TNIV's approach to "gender accurate" language. The folks at World magazine, who tend to be on the reactionary side anyway ("the louder you scream the more legitimate your case"), have set-up a blog just for people who want to berate the TNIV. So far, I haven't seen anything on there that is an actual legitimate theological challenge to the translation. Mostly it's about personal style preferences or that people think there is something wrong with being so vernacular.

Of course, there are some theological issues -- especially those raised by the folks over at Touchstone magazine. They bring to the text some theological suppositions about male headship -- that is that there is a hierarchical flow from God which involves maleness. And they see this as a thread throughout all of the biblical revelation. My sense, though, is that in reaction to the extremes of western egalitarianism, they are reading traditional cultural roles into the text and seeing those as the point of the text. If you have those suppositions any translation which tones down gender distinctives is going to be troubling.

Of course, no translation is free of cultural suppositions. And that's why biblical scholars cannot rely on translations alone. A good understanding of Greek and Hebrew goes a long way in keeping things in balance.

Personally, when I'm working in English (I'm a very low level original language scholar) I use the ESV a lot because of its classic feel, flow, and precision. But I also use the NLT and the TNIV. The very things that I like about the ESV seem to make it inaccessible for a good deal of the population, which is narrowly locked into USAToday style English.

There are deeper issues that are raised here, though. And they have to do with who does Bible translation and who "authorizes" a Bible. It is interesting that in this modern era pretty much all of the translations are done by independent Bible societies or commercial ventures (other than the Roman Catholic translations such as the NAB). The closest thing to a church authorized translation in the non-RC world was the RSV in 1952 and the subsequent NRSV in 1989, which were both sponsored by the left leaning National Council of Churches. But the NCC isn't really the church either. Of course, coming up with a church consensus is going to be difficult in a society which emphasizes free thinking and independence in ecclesiology. But it should be noted that the current controversy is as much the fruit of ecclesiology (or lack thereof) as anything else.

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