Bill Mounce responds to Mark Strauss on ESV

Bill Mounce, who is New Testament Chair of the ESV translation committee, has responded to Mark Strauss’ paper as reproduced on this blog. Ironically he has done this on Zondervan’s Koinonia blog, and hidden in a post on ETS Day 2. Here is the relevant part of what Bill writes:

But hands down the paper that engendered (pun intended) the greatest response was Mark Strauss’ paper entitled, “Why the English Standard Version Should Not Become the Standard English Version: How to Make a Good Translation Much Better.” Let’s start with disclaimers:

Mark was not part of the original TNIV team but has been used by Zondervan as one of their most eloquent spokesmen and is now a member of the CBT (Committee for Bible Translation). I am the New Testament Chair of the ESV, and Mark and I have been good friends for many years, and are both on the board for the Zondervan commentary series mentioned above.

While the content of the paper was helpful, I am afraid that it only increased the gap between the two “sides” of the debate. There has been a lot of hurt and damage done toward people on both sides of this debate (e.g., someone shot a bullet through a TNIV and mailed it to the publisher), and I got the feeling that Mark was getting tired of being attacked. I would be tired if I were in his shoes. He kept saying that the ESV has “missed” or “not considered” certain translational issues. While I am sure they were not intentional, these are emotionally charged words that do not help in the debate. They are in essence ad hominem arguments focusing on our competence (or perceived lack thereof) and not on the facts. He was not in the translation meetings and does not know if we in fact did miss or did not consider these issues. Time and time again Mark said that if we made a change, then we would have gotten it “right.” This, of course, is not a helpful way to argue because it implies there is only one “right” way to translate a verse. His solution appeared to be that we should adopt a more dynamic view of translation, and then we would have gotten it right. The solution to this debate is to recognize that there are different translation philosophies, different goals and means by which to reach those goals, and the goal of the translator is to be consistent in achieving those goals. In all but one of his examples, our translation was the one required by our translation philosophy.

Mark invited us not to argue with him after the paper but to engage in the debate next ETS, so I am going to break my decades of silence at ETS and will read a paper about why we did get it right for our audience. The inside story of the ESV and specifically our translation guidelines have never been told. And when done, I will invite Mark to write this blog next year.

It is good to hear some balanced comment from the ESV camp. I look forward to hearing something of the inside story of ESV. I take the point that ESV is in general following its own translation guidelines, but I don’t consider these guidelines to be helpful. Quite apart from the issue of gender language, I consider these guidelines to have led to the situation which I described in a comment here a few days ago (which Mike found humorous although I intended it seriously):

At least ESV as it currently is has found a niche market among those who believe that archaic and unclear language is the sign of a proper Bible, and that clarifying such language is the job of a preacher.

See also Mike’s response to what Mounce has written.

UPDATE: And see also what Bryan has written in response, and Jeff’s comment there.

21 thoughts on “Bill Mounce responds to Mark Strauss on ESV

  1. John says:

    “I consider these guidelines to have led to the situation which I described in a comment here a few days ago (which Mike found humorous although I intended it seriously): At least ESV as it currently is has found a niche market among those who believe that archaic and unclear language . . . ”

    This quote is humorous because, if the author believes it, he is ridiculously misinformed to the point of farce. The ESV is the number 3 best selling Bible translation according to the CBA’s latest numbers. It was number 5 the month before that. Note that the TNIV never makes the top 10.

    The ESV Study Bible sold out before its release and immediately went into a second printing. Three of the top five best selling translations for the past two months are KJV based and use the “archaic and unclear language” that the author believes only appeals to a “niche”. Maybe that language is not as “archaic and unclear” as he believes.

    The ESV is a spectacular translation for its purposes. The TNIV is a spectacular translation for its purposes. But they all have flaws, that is the nature of translation. And it is just silly to critique a formal translation because it’s not dynamic or vice versa.

    I could write a very long paper regarding how the TNIV left out critical words of the original text for the sake of clarifying the meaning. That would be stupid. That’s what the TNIV was designed to do–capture the meaning.

    But I guess I’m not the only one that has read Mark’s articles as a massive retaliation for attacks on the TNIV. What a shame. I sincerely hope Zondervan is paying him for his services because his articles have been, without a doubt, the longest TNIV advertisements I’ve ever seen.

  2. Wayne Leman says:

    John wrote:

    The ESV is the number 3 best selling Bible translation according to the CBA’s latest numbers. It was number 5 the month before that. Note that the TNIV never makes the top 10.

    John, the TNIV actually did make the top 10 a number of times. But it is not on the top 10 list now.

    Are you aware that low sales for the TNIV result from a boycott of TNIV sales initiated by some of the ESV translators? Christian booksellers in the U.S. have listened to Dr. Grudem and others who called for the boycott and put the boycott in place. But they sell other English Bible versions which have as much, or more, gender-inclusive language as the TNIV, but which have not been boycotted as the TNIV has been.

  3. Wayne Leman says:

    John wrote:

    And it is just silly to critique a formal translation because it’s not dynamic or vice versa.

    I agree, John. But I don’t believe that Mark Strauss was critiquing the ESV because it is a formal translation. He himself always rcommends to people that they own and use a formal translation along with a more dynamic one.

    Dr. Strauss’ critique of the ESV is over specific inferior English wordings, not over translation philosophy. There are formal English translations which do not have the bad English wordings for those verses that Dr. Strauss critiqued. Note the number of times that the NASB or HCSB, both literal versions, were cited by Dr. Strauss as having better English for a particular verse.

    There are advantages and disadvantages of each translation philosophy. But translation philosophy was not under debate in Dr. Strauss’ paper. It was, instead, poor English wordings.

    It is possible to have essentially literal English Bible versions which have better quality English than the ESV. The HCSB is one of them. And for people who prefer the ESV on ideological grounds, because it retains masculine language for generic meanings, so does the HCSB. The ESV and HCSB are the only two English versions recently produced which follow the Colorado Springs Guidelines for gender language in English Bible versions.

    The ESV can have better quality English wordings as the ESV team continues to revise it. They have already made improvements to its English and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so. And in the process they will not change the degree of formal equivalence of the ESV one iota.

    If you need examples to know what I’m referring to in this comment–as I need examples, BTW–I can supply some in a comment. But to save me time (I can’t take too much time away from my job as a Bible translation consultant), I would point you to Mark’s paper, where he has already supplied many of them. And others can be seen from me and others, reviewers as well as editor types like myself, on my ESV Links webpage. Please note that I have done the same kind of work for a number of English versions, including TNIV, NLT, ISV, HCSB, NET. Links to my work for some of these versions are at the beginning of my ESV #7 post.

  4. Mike says:

    “Three of the top five best selling translations for the past two months are KJV based and use the “archaic and unclear language” that the author believes only appeals to a “niche”. Maybe that language is not as “archaic and unclear” as he believes.”

    I doubt it. It sounds more like cultural attachment to particular wordings that have been around for a long time in a book considered to be the word of God. It happens all over the world with new and better translations being criticized because they sound like natural language.

    Consider this story from R. T. France:

    “Shortly after good News for Modern Man (the New Testament of the Good News Bible) was published, I attended an English-speaking service in a remote hill-station in Nigeria. After reading a passage from the new version (designed for precisely that sort of situation where English was, at best, a second language), the Nigerian leader of the service put the book down, saying, ‘Now we will hear it from the real Bible,’ and he proceeded to read the same passage form the KJV. This devotion to the KJV as ‘the real Bible’ is still to be found in many English-speaking congregations, after decades of ‘better’ translations being freely available. To talk of a corrupt text and of language that does not communicate to most people today cuts no ice: The Bible is expected to be in Elizabethan English. The colloquial language employed by Tyndale so that the Scriptures would be accessible to the ploughboy has thus become, with the passing of time, the esoteric language of religion, and the more remote it becomes from ordinary speech the more special and holy it seems.

    The task of Bible translation is much easier where there is no existing version to be supplanted. I met a translator who had been commissioned to produce a dynamic new translation for a tribe in Zaire who already had a Bible version translated from the KJV and thus quite remote from the current form of the language. He told me that how he read out of his fresh, new colloquial version with pride and how the hearers commented favorably on the ease of understanding but then pointed out that, of course, it wasn’t the Bible! It almost seems that, by definition, the Bible must be remote and unintelligible.

    But the Bible, or most of it, was not written in a special ‘holy’ language. the Hebrew prophets spoke in vigorous contemporary idioms, and the New Testament writers used ‘market Greek.’ A translation that will do justice to the intention of the original writers must put intelligibility before the maintenance of traditional language that no longer communicates effectively.”

    R. T. France, “The Bible in English: An Overview” in The Challenge of Bible Translation (eds. Glen G. Scorgie, Mark L. Strauss, and Steven M. Voth; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2003), 193.

  5. Peter Kirk says:

    John, that high sales figure for ESV (but note it is only for unit sales which include highly subsidised editions sold in bulk for evangelism) by no means disproves my contention. It shows only that the niche I described is a large one, that a high proportion of American churches are promoting the false teaching that “archaic and unclear language is the sign of a proper Bible, and that clarifying such language is the job of a preacher”.

  6. John says:

    I think you guys underconsider the reach of those promoting the version; the interest in more literal versions than the once-darling NIV which (probably because of the TNIV ungendering) may be falling out of favor; the fact that the original Bible doesn’t read like a Newspaper, or even so colloquially as people would have us believe, and that the supposed “archaisms” (it really just depends on the crowds one hangs around with, and where one is) aren’t so foreign (oftentimes expected because of being accustomed to this or that form of literature) to the ears of English speakers. Never once have I heard (at least in my circles) that anyone adopted the ESV because it sounded older; in fact they just seemed to like it a lot, and didn’t find it awkward or hindering…and they’re not very literary or into old or this or that form of English either! You’re way too pedantic fellas.

  7. Peter Kirk says:

    John, you wrote about

    the fact that the original Bible doesn’t read … so colloquially as people would have us believe

    Well, since those “people” include scholars of Greek and Hebrew, may I ask on what basis or evidence you consider it to be a “fact”, and not just a hypothesis or opinion, that they are wrong?

    OK, let’s not be pedantic. If we desist from knocking ESV because of its small errors, and suggesting that people should read something else, will the party promoting ESV agree to desist from knocking TNIV, with pedantic lists of hundreds of supposed errors, or any other translation, and from promoting ESV as the standard which everyone should read?

  8. mashmouth says:

    will the party promoting ESV agree to desist from knocking TNIV, with pedantic lists of hundreds of supposed errors
    There is the crux of this whole thing? It is a backlash argument between translational philosophical opinions?… whaaa haa haa ha.
    They are opinions.
    The Word of God will not change.
    You guys may do well to find a hobby.

    Seriously… I may see the point here that a side believes the Bible is interpreted to have one Truth, and perchance (archaic word) the other side believes the Scriptures to be teaching one Truth in the actual tittles it uses… do you think God made one Reality or did He think it should be interpreted as is currently and commonly politically correct?

    Ok, I will now leave the peanut gallery.

  9. mashmouth says:

    Here is my favorite in this post and thread, though…

    (with gaze slightly lowered and voice reservedly sparse, arms to the sides and shoulders calm…)
    “John, the TNIV actually did make the top 10 a number of times. But it is not on the top 10 list now.”

  10. Ask Mr. Religion says:

    Mounce’s plans to read a paper describing the inner workings of the ESV committee should be an eye-opener.

    I wish someone would do the same on the ESV Study Bible. Why they neglected to add a topical index bewilders me. I had to rip one out of an old MacArthur Study Bible and glue it into my ESVSB, creating the “perfect” Study Bible. 😎

  11. Gleet Harefoot says:

    What about the ESV’s strong literary ties to the beautiful echoes of Tyndale’s original English translation? The ESV retains the clarity of modern English yet impressively links with some of the centuries-old rhythms and cadences of Tyndale’s contributions to the KJV. This is especially useful in corporate worship. Some of the charges accusing the ESV of retaining archaic language may actually come from an intentional tip of the hat to the heritage of the English Bible. I’d like someone with better credentials than my meager layman’s point of view to comment on this, please.

  12. John says:

    #
    John
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    I think you guys underconsider the reach of those promoting the version; the interest in more literal versions than the once-darling NIV which (probably because of the TNIV ungendering) may be falling out of favor; the fact that the original Bible doesn’t read like a Newspaper, or even so colloquially as people would have us believe, and that the supposed “archaisms” (it really just depends on the crowds one hangs around with, and where one is) aren’t so foreign (oftentimes expected because of being accustomed to this or that form of literature) to the ears of English speakers. Never once have I heard (at least in my circles) that anyone adopted the ESV because it sounded older; in fact they just seemed to like it a lot, and didn’t find it awkward or hindering…and they’re not very literary or into old or this or that form of English either! You’re way too pedantic fellas.
    #
    Peter Kirk
    Posted November 27, 2008 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    John, you wrote about

    the fact that the original Bible doesn’t read … so colloquially as people would have us believe

    Well, since those “people” include scholars of Greek and Hebrew, may I ask on what basis or evidence you consider it to be a “fact”, and not just a hypothesis or opinion, that they are wrong?

    OK, let’s not be pedantic. If we desist from knocking ESV because of its small errors, and suggesting that people should read something else, will the party promoting ESV agree to desist from knocking TNIV, with pedantic lists of hundreds of supposed errors, or any other translation, and from promoting ESV as the standard which everyone should read?

    To Mr. Kirk,

    First, you wrote:”It shows only that the niche I described is a large one, that a high proportion of American churches are promoting the false teaching that “archaic and unclear language is the sign of a proper Bible, and that clarifying such language is the job of a preacher”. To which I responded, “I think you guys underconsider the reach of those promoting the version; [and] the interest in more literal versions than the once-darling NIV which […] may be falling out of favor”.

    All I was doing was questioning your very dubious statement that what people are doing is promoting a false teaching that says “archaic and unclear language is the sign of a proper Bible.” I for one have seen person after person flustered and angry when they discovered some DE translation has obscured, not clarified, passage after passage of their Bible, such as by trying to remove difficulties by thinking for the reader, or translating one application, principle, or implication of a passage, rather than the text that makes that (or multiple) implications, exhibits principleS, or can be applied to various situations.

    By “I think you guys underconsider the reach of those promoting the version” I meant that Christians in general, evangelicals in particular, follow one another very often in what’s new (often sadly), or the teachings of some influential teacher (e.g., among them, Piper) and those connected to them: their reach comes from the fact they’re very well-connected to one another.

    As to the Bible being non-colloquial, I think you’re known for claiming Hebrew is colloquial though consensus says otherwise (I’ll let you keep arguing that one out with the John over on Ancient Hebrew Poetry). I take the Bible that way regarding the NT because that’s the appearance of the NT, and people took Deissmann’s work sensationally and far beyond what he himself suggested either explicitly or implicitly; the NT (especially Matthew) Greek…just isn’t “Greek”[-ish?]; that John uses formulaic language and “word” in such a way it’s reminiscent of Philo, yet the use of the word is in a Semitic rather than Greek way: the NT seems foreign and perhaps undecipherable to the Gentile and uninitiated Greek world at the time; heck, I’ve heard Jews (scholars) lecturing on how “Jewish” John’s Gospel is! (Contra the once popular thought that it was the other way around). DE appears to take the O & NT to be documents which “speak like you do” to the original hearers; yet, for instance, the NT may “use your words”, but often it seems to do so in “our way, not yours” (to its original audiences). Some of the post-exhilic prophets are very interesting since…the returning population more than likely spoke much more Aramaic, yet it demands they hear Hebrew; with Aramaicisms, sure…but it’s still Hebrew, and one group was even punished for forgetting it; how’s that for “the language of the people”?

    The Greek NT has a large audience for being “Greek”, but even its content is written as if for initiates to the OT scriptures…for Christians brought-up upon those writings alongside the preaching of the apostles; it requires background knowledge to the meanings and full intent: much of it does not hold your hand; it can be allusive…such as Jesus’s obscure parables: of which those unexplained in the NT are still fiercely debated. By all accounts it appears much of it was written by guys thinking in Hebrew (the missing verb “to be” in the Beatitudes of Matthew, where is it?), or diglots thinking somewhere in between…that enough brings difficulties that begin removing the text from common speech; with Luke’s writings being the possible exception, however: though the content certainly isn’t quiet “gentile”.

    As for knocking the ESV, I’m not talking about desisting from knocking the ESV because of “small errors”; there’s much I take issue with in it, for instance, being able to predict “PC” manipluations before even turning to certain passages just by having background knowledge of some of its editors (Grudem, for instance), and teachings that are practically idols among the [Neo-]Evangelicals. Knocking a version because of supposedly “archaic” language (which is just literary), however, is quite unacceptable: especially when that “archaism” would more properly be seen as literary; the complaints here are often against language that just doesn’t square with oral language, rather than taking into account that for centuries English has distinguished oral and literary speech for good reasons: it’s obselescence in translations (e.g. “to wit”, “wot”, “mansions” as in the NKJV rather than “rooms” or “dwelling places”) that could properly be questioned; positioning perfectly acceptable literary forms as mistakes or lapses of judgment, however, is dubious; and have we forgotten we are commanded not to complain? Knocking a version for sticking to its principles, excepting if those principles just don’t square with biblical teaching about the word itself, just isn’t acceptable.

    As for the TNIV, it is being questioned, and I think over some important issues, over valid concerns. Giving it flak over a gender neutralization with no change of meaning may be pedantic: I wouldn’t myself do the neutralization just because I believe Scripture is Holy, God’s, not ours to tamper with insofar as possible in translation, but if it doesn’t change the meaning, I might not make an issue so long as someone doesn’t ask. Neutralizations such as that at 1 Cor 14:8, which changes the meaning (even if only so very subtly) in order to avoid what is necessary to translate it in English (a grammatically masculine pronoun since only grammatical masculines properly function neutrally as pronouns in certain cases in English, though perhaps just grammatically), I would take issue over; changing “father” to “parents” in verses about fathers or the Father, is not acceptable; changing singulars to plurals to avoid “gendered” language where it alters a passage’s meaning in order to accomplish this neutralization…is simply unacceptable (in some cases it can be seen as a singular plural, but in a great deal of them this is totally inobvious because some preceeding singular construction in the Greek or Hebrew has been altered to be inclusive of both sexes that the following singular plural becomes plural in this new context).

    If the TNIV hadn’t done these things, it would likely not be receiving the hard knocks it is now; and this is besides that the IBS signed an agreement to never release a gender-neutralized version of the NIV in America, then ignored this pledge; that’s not a small transgression, but a lot of bad faith; the producers of the TNIV, for breaking those agreements…simply asked for a lot of scrutiny…and people didn’t like what they found in those examinations. The TNIV’s producers are recieving what they asked for. The “sad” fact (for modernists) is…the Bible is often, intentionally, very “male oriented”, (throughout Acts, for instance, we find “men, brothers”, which refers only to males, and in each of those contexts…it is all males: sanhedrin, synagogues, two fighting males, etc…changing these to be inclusive is to lie to the reader; much of the Proverbs portray things centered upon sons, and for this uses women to illustrate those teachings!).

    Last time I checked the TNIV was being knocked over more than such “small” issues as those…but also for imprecisions introduced (or specificities absent the originals) over sensitivities perceived by some to be more important than translating and letting things simply stand; like “Jewish leaders” in place of “Jews” (the original is “Jews”, and implies corporate guilt to the Jewish people); about violating the convictions of the original NIV translators and decoupling the link between the Old and New Testaments in its translation (assuming the NT is anachronistic…”Christian” vs. Jewish, though it is, in fact, itself “Jewish” in its time). It has been knocked for trying to push and agenda to unwilling consumers while its pushers try to overcome resistence through advertising slight improvements in minor details since the NIV; it has been knocked for propagandizing a vague claim to “accuracy”, heavily, without answering its critics substantively among the general populace. If they can explain to me how passages about “the” Father and “the” Son aren’t substantively changed by removing those masculines (Heb 2:6, for example)…cool. Changing “aner” to “person” just isn’t translating, nor acceptable: you try to argue among scholars that “aner” doesn’t mean, explicitly, “male” sometime…I dare yoU: go ahead and fight for it: please, I would love to see you come up with something substantive, please, go ahead.

    Sure I’ve seen pedantic knocks on the TNIV, yes; but often those lists…aren’t pedantic; and often this blog, for the most part, seems…pedantic: every commentator wishing his (or her) own version of English, or dialect, or ear, is that by which translations get judged. On occassion there’s some comment, this or that, that’s helpful, and it’s great! But the rest of the time… And I think the old complaint that translators often know their Hebrew and Greek better than their English often applies here too, or maybe it’s just the philosophy of translation that’s advocated that is getting in the way of things.

    At any rate, my comment wasn’t about the TNIV, but this comment will probably give you much to respond to: and don’t think I don’t actually look forward to it; or to being challenged to rethink my thoughts. : )

  13. David Frank says:

    John —

    I don’t think I could even try to do justice to your long comment about the value of literary-sounding Bible translations as opposed to common language translations, which was apparently written in the middle of the night. It is just too much to respond to in this context. I’ll just give a couple of simple comments on your comment, even though it was directed toward Peter Kirk.

    First, I can see the value in literary-sounding translations, as you do. I also see the value in common language translations. In translation, we do have to take people’s expectations into consideration, and know our audience. I’m sure it has been said many times before that a translation has to be made with a particular audience in mind, and in the English-speaking world, where we have been blessed with so many translations of the Bible, there is room for different translations with different audiences in mind. Now this is me, David Frank, writing, and I’m not trying to speak for Peter Kirk or anyone else.

    I firmly believe that there is not just one type of translation that is “right” for all audiences, and I’m not just saying that to be conciliatory. Even if you are translating into a group that doesn’t already have a Bible translation in their language, you still have to identify your audience, which is probaly a subset of all the people who speak that language, and you have to take into consideration level of general education, level of familiarity with the content of the scriptures, etc. The ESV is written with a certan audience in mind, the NIV or TNIV is written with a certain audience in mind, and the fighting comes when they are jockeying for pre-eminence as the modern standard for liturgical use (which still may be too vague as an audience).

    I’m very interested in your proposal, “I think you guys underconsider the reach of those promoting the version,” though I’m not sure which version you are referring to; or maybe you are referring to the promoters of any version. Maybe some people are naive in this respect, but I, for one, am not underestimating this influence, if I understand you correctly. For the great majority of the public, confidence in a translation is based on confidence in those promoting the translation. That’s why, in the competition for market share in Bible translations, so much of the debate has been in the form of ad hominem attacks: “You can’t trust the people who make this translation. They have an agenda.” It can get personal and painful.

    Regarding what you said about the translation of the plural “fathers” or “brothers” into English, I’m really tempted to say a few things in response (don’t get the idea that by that I mean angry things), but I know that topic has been covered at great length elsewhere, and I don’t think this is the place to discuss it more. I’ll just say that one of the best writings I’ve seen on that topic is actually by Mark Strauss, in an article called “Current Issues in the Gender-Language Debate: A Response to Vern Poythress and Wayne Grudem,” which is found in a book entitled, The Challenge of Bible Translation, edited by Scorgie, Strauss and Voth (2003).

    Finally, on the topic if the literary register of a translation in relation to the original texts in Hebrew and Greek, I know that I am not competent to assess the literary quality of the original texts. Peter Kirk and other people corresponding with the Better Bibles Blog are much more competent in that area than I am. It would make a good topic for another blog: “What Literary Style Should a Translation Have in Order to Reflect the Literary Style of the Original Texts?” But I wouldn’t be the one to write it. However, I know that some people who are more competent in that area than I am have argued that the language of the Greek New Testament is not a high literary style, and that is why it is called Koine Greek. See Eugene Peterson’s introduction to The Message. Still, I’m not completely convinced by what Peterson wrote. Even though I am not an expert in this area, my impression is that even if Koine Greek is not as formal as Attic Greek, it is still at least semi-formal, and maybe the language of the scriptures is not quite as colloquial as the style of The Message.

    I will say, though, that I don’t think the highly literary-sounding translations are being made because the translators think that the original texts had a highly literary style, or were themselves archaic-sounding, but rather because the translators are taking into consideration marketablity and the expectations of their intended audience. I think the issue is that people expect their Bibles to sound highly literary or archaic, and so the translators are making a product that satisfies that expectation. As I said, further discussion of this particular point would probably be more suitable in a different context.

  14. Peter Kirk says:

    John, I don’t underestimate the reach of teachers like Piper, but I continue to hold that if he or even an angel from heaven teaches that “archaic and unclear language is the sign of a proper Bible, and that clarifying such language is the job of a preacher”, that is false teaching.

    The scholarly consensus is that the New Testament is mostly written in a rather colloquial form of Greek, probably similar to that of the many personal letters from the period which have survived. So there can be no justification for translating the New Testament in a high literary form of English. Anyway, the ESV is not in high literary English, of this period or of any other (if you want a Bible like that, try REB), it is in a kind of semi-pseudo-archaic English which would be laughed at by any real author of contemporary literature. But then if there are people out there who want a Bible in this style, who am I to say they can’t have it? I just want to make sure it is accurate, and that it is not misleadingly promoted as suitable for all audiences.

    I accept that the scholarly consensus for the Old Testament is that it is in more formal Hebrew. But there is in fact almost no evidence for different styles of Hebrew from the period to validate that consensus. So I think it was reasonable of me to challenge the consensus and request evidence for it – which I never saw.

    Neutralizations such as that at 1 Cor 14:8, which changes the meaning …

    I think you have the wrong reference here. Hebrews 2:6 is a correct reference, but unfortunately you seem to be basing your comments on an exegetically indefensible misinterpretation that this verse refers to Jesus, not to humanity in general.

    only grammatical masculines properly function neutrally as pronouns in certain cases in English

    No they don’t, not in my dialect of English. As for translating “aner” as “person”, Suzanne has already exhaustively proved on this blog that in some places this is a correct rendering, so why should I waste my time repeating her work?

  15. David Frank says:

    “John” referred to I Cor 14:8, and Peter Kirk suggested that he had the wrong reference. Interestingly, I Cor 14:8-9 speaks to the importance of communicating clearly and intelligibly.

  16. John says:

    Sorry, that was an incorrect reference; yet that reference is about speaking in an unknown tongue; suppose we that the NT was intended to be spread in a form suitable to every little variety of Greek, however? Or perhaps the demands of an audience outweigh those of a text despite it may ruin precision or accuracy?

    How about 2 Peter where it says things in Paul’s writings are hard to understand. Or how about attempting to reduce Scripture to such an extent that it’s intelligible to the unspiritual (a thing Scripture itself denies)?

    Not to be too ornery…but just wanting to play the advocate for “the other guy”: too much head nodding here.

    Anyway, the possibility of a word being translated in one way or another doesn’t override its predominate sense, or a context which demands it: and I don’t disbelieve that sometimes aner can be used as “person” in some sense or another…just ran across that use other day, in fact! Note, though, you missed what I said, even though you quoted it,

    “only grammatical masculines” (keep reading)

    “properly function neutrally as pronouns” (keep reading)

    “IN CERTAIN CASES” (keep reading)

    “in English” (did I say anything about Greek here?).

    The only point was that in certain English instances, foregoing a grammatical masculine to be politically correct totally rebels against any expression of the translated text’s intended sense; systematic neutralizations of the Bible (complete or not) aren’t justifiable.

    Now for English, I’m totally unaware of “male” being used as a neutral term, how ’bout you? As for Greek, I’ll have to search around the blog for Suzanne’s examples, they sound interesting and worth examining!

  17. Peter Kirk says:

    John, I guess I was confused because you were talking about grammatical gender in English. The problem is that, at least according to standard linguistic terminology, there is no such thing as grammatical gender in English, except perhaps for a few traces like the convention of calling ships “she” and the use (in American English) of “blond” for men and “blonde” for women. The few gendered words in English, basically “he”, “she” and “it”, are selected not because of grammar but because of pragmatics, i.e. the real-world gender of the referent. Our disagreement is in fact not about grammar at all, but over the details of this pragmatic rule, which in my dialect does not allow “he” to be used to refer to a person of indefinite or unknown real-world gender.

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