Will the TNIV survive?

Gary Zimmerli blogs about his frustration over how the TNIV has been marketed:

You know, I really like the TNIV. I really do! But it gets so frustrating when it seems like they’re (meaning Zondervan) not doing a thing to promote it. The TNIV is clearly a superior translation over the NIV; as I’ve said repeatedly, it’s got the accuracy of the NASB with the easy-readability of the NIV.

He concludes with a plea to Zondervan:

But there is one thing I want to say to Zondervan: Please, PLEASE give us some clue what you’re gonna do with the TNIV!

Yesterday I had an important call from two men at Zondervan who are tasked with trying to fix the problem. We talked for nearly 1 1/2 hours about the lack of traction that the TNIV has gotten compared to some other recent versions. I have to keep the contents of our discussion confidential. But I was impressed with the willingness of these men to think outside the box. I was also gladdened to hear more than once their desire to do things in a godly way. I suggest that we channel our justified frustration (they are as frustrated, if not more so) into praying that this good Bible version can be rescued so more Bible readers can benefit from it. Zondervan is listening to suggestions if you want to email them about what you think needs to be done for the TNIV to survive.

71 thoughts on “Will the TNIV survive?

  1. danny says:

    Thanks for this, Wayne. I know as a Bible teacher in a local church, I have definitely recommended the TNIV, and I can think of quite a few who have purchased one. But I’m also only one teacher in a relatively small church (300ish people) with a small audience. I’ll look forward to seeing what happens from here.

  2. David Wilson says:

    I’m not sure it can be rejuvenated. The launch fuss poisoned the public opinion so severely that it inoculated evangelicals against it as well as cementing the NIV as their Bible.

    Personally I use the NLT 2.0 primarily, but probably would have used the TNIV had it not been labeled as “liberal” right off the bat.

    If I was a product manager, I’d be looking for tie-ins with small group studies alongside the “Message” (like the Navigators excellent “Living the Questions” series)and strike out for the younger crowd almost exclusively. You’ll not get the “young, restless,and reformed” crowd,they are ESV fanatics, but the newer missional communities might respond well. Sit down with youth pastors and work through some collaborative efforts.

    I’d try to get individual gospels or impactful books into youth events like “World Changers”, “Big Stuff” etc.

    HTH,

    David

  3. Brent says:

    I posted about this also here:

    http://www.christianmonthlystandard.com/index.php/tniv-zondervans-red-headed-stepchild

    Here is what I thought could be done:

    As has been noted by many blogs, the TNIV has once again fallen off of the top ten list in Bible sales in units and dollars, according to the CBA. When we see what Crossway has done with flooding the Bible market with tons of different ESV styles, sizes, and formats, one has to wonder about Zondervan and its treatment of the TNIV. We know that Zondervan can market a translation. The NIV was the first translation to finally remove the KJV from the #1 spot. You can buy a NIV of any style, size, and layout. If you want it, there is a NIV to meet that desire. But when it comes to the TNIV, it is quite the opposite. There are a few TNIV pew Bibles, one study Bible, and one reference Bible (one in expensive leather and one in cardboard, I mean, the worst bonded leather I have ever handled). The options are sparse, especially for a translation that was released in 2005. Another useful comparison is to Tyndale which released the updated NLT in 2004, only one year before the TNIV. The options and editions for the NLT, however, are vast.

    As long as the TNIV choices remain what they are, the TNIV will die a slow death like the NRSV has. There will be some supporters and a few diehards, but it is hard to find a NRSV that fits exactly what one is looking for and that translation released in 1990. I believe this is one major reason why there has been little traction with the NRSV and not so much about the “gender neutral” aspect. If I cannot find an edition I like, I will not use the translation much. A case in point is the ESV Single Column Reference Bible. It is not that I think the ESV is superior to all other translations. I find it frustrating in a number of places. But I love the Single Column Reference Edition so much that I want to use it. If I had that edition in nearly any other translation, I would use it frequently. I think many people are this way, influenced more by the edition than by the translation.

    It is up to Zondervan. The TNIV is better than the NIV. But will Zondervan give the TNIV a fighting chance? It does not appear so. Zondervan ought to be embarrassed that The Message sells more in copies and dollars than the TNIV. New NIV editions continue to hit the market while the TNIV sits idle. It won’t be long before the TNIV is sitting on the one shelf with all the other odd or obscure modern translations.

  4. Bill Blue says:

    I hope the TNIV survives. I agree that it is clearly better than the NIV in both accuracy and ease of reading. I know it is an update of the NIV and the two have much in common, but I was never a fan of the NIV.

  5. Tim says:

    A couple points:

    1) When I do Bible study on campus, I refer to the TNIV from time to time because the group that meets is ecumenical. Many of those who come tend to use the NIV, so having the TNIV allows me, a Catholic, to interact more closely with the text that most non-Catholic Christians use. My use of the TNIV has been in many ways a joy. I really enjoy just sitting down and reading from it. Of course, I would love to have an edition with the Deuterocanonical/Apocrypha. I wonder if a TNIV with Deuterocanonical/Apocrypha would help? I emailed the IBS a year ago encouraging them to consider this possibility, and I received a very nice email reply from a Rev. Dr. Gary W. Carr who said ” I will take your suggestion very seriously to consider adding the Deutero-Canonical books in a later edition.”

    2) I tend to agree with much of what Brent has said. While I refer to a number of translations, I tend to use the NRSV the most and the biggest struggle I have is finding one in an edition that meets my needs. The closest I have come is the Cambridge NRSV Reference Bible with Apocrypha. HarperCollins has been publishing newer editions of the NRSV, but I have yet to find one that includes simple things like cross-references. So, I can somewhat understand the desire to have multiple editions of the TNIV.

  6. Chaka says:

    I look forward to seeing the outside-the-box avenues this team is coming up with to get the TNIV out there. From all I’ve heard, The Bible Experience was one such avenue.

  7. dladuke7 says:

    I’m a former manager of a CBA bookstore and I can tell you that in addition to the advice above I would include a New Testament version at a giveaway price. We sold the ESV New Testament for fifty cents a copy. People bought them by the case. We sold several cases a month to local groups who gave them away.

  8. Wayne Leman says:

    The TNIV & NLT are helpful when teaching less literate adults.

    And people who have done their doctoral studies and taught English at the university level, like me! I believe that it is not a mark of literacy to produce Bible versions which are not written in true English. It is simply a mark of being part of a church subculture that does not use standard English.

    It is possible to have good quality highly literate English and for it to still be natural. Great English authors have proven it time and again.

    I just read on the Bible Translation discussion list about a lecture by a translator who works at the U.N. She said that as she watched television or other media she constantly asks herself, “How would I say that in the language I translate into?” That question needs to be asked all the time by English Bible translators, but it is not. And so we get wrong ideas about what a Bible is supposed to sound like. And, in the process, wrong meaning often gets communicated.

    There is a very important difference between highly literate natural English, as found in the Atlantic Monthly and other sophisticated literary pieces and the non-standard English found in most English Bible versions. Awkward, unnatural English is not a mark of literateness. It is, instead, a mark of not having been trained how to do translation into one’s own mother tongue. I wish that U.N. translators could train English Bible translators how to translate.

    Well, I’m preaching my standard sermon again. And notice, I’m using natural English to do so! 🙂

  9. Dan says:

    Speaking of linking it to The Message, I saw an ad yesterday for a study Bible from Zondervan. It’s a parallel of The Message and…. the NIV.

    They keep right on with this stuff!

  10. Dan says:

    I am not sure we should put the NRSV in the dust bin. They have many editions available at even a Barnes and Noble. They just released a great Notetakers edition WITH Apocrypha. So, if the NRSV is hitting the dustbin, I have struck out TWICE! The TNIV, which Zondervan is burying, and the NRSV which is a great translation, but labeled as “liberal.”

  11. David Frank says:

    In my experience in Bible translation work, the focus for me and most everyone else I dealt with was on linguistic and psychological factors in translation: issues about propositions, discourse, comprehension, etc. At this phase of my career, the sociological factors surrounding Bible translation seem so prominent. They have to do with political groups, marketing and economic concerns, etc. From a linguistic/psychological perspective, the TNIV is a great translation, but that just isn’t good enough. Its viability is at the hands of sociological factors. It doesn’t matter if the critics of the NRSV or the TNIV aren’t Biblical scholars or knowledgeable about translation issues. It does matter if they are well known and respected as authorities by the public. Wayne, you said that John Piper isn’t a Biblical scholar, as if that mattered. He is a prominent teacher and preacher in the Christian world, and that is what matters. The same goes for J.I. Packer. These men are known for supporting certain translations and opposing others, and it doesn’t matter to the general public whether they have the credentials to judge a Bible translation. The public wants to know what translation to trust, so they look to trusted Christian leaders to tell them. You said that Rick Warren supports the TNIV. Why didn’t I know that? He certainly is a well known and trusted Christian author, but his support for the TNIV must be pretty low-key.

    I’m sorry if I am not real coherent right now. It is late here in Germany, where I will be presenting a paper this week. I just spent a couple of hours catching up on all the interesting posts and comments on the Better Bible Blog from the past couple of weeks.

  12. Sue says:

    J. Packer supports the NLT. I am certain that he finds no more difficulty in the TNIV than the NLT and I think he and many other scholars could be found to support this. I think someone needs to ask them.

  13. Jay Wermuth says:

    As I recall, Ben Witherington has made some quite negative statements about the liberal translation decisions made by the NRSV committee. As for most of my seminary professors, they swear by the NRSV like I swear by the TNIV. I wonder if one day when my generation (18-30) will be using the TNIV in the academy more than the NRSV! I could only pray for such a shift. Thanks Wayne for your updates on this conversation. This news has me on the edge of my seat! I cant wait to hear how they plan to help this translation out. I did send an e-mail Zondervan’s general e-mail a while back, but is there a more direct place I could send my ideas? I am a seminary students and have been trying to defend my use of the TNIV to my classmates. Many of them bright young budding scholars who believe the TNIV to be a feminist translation that turns God into a she! I love the challenge of pointing out this egregious error, but I wish I could get a bit more help from Zondervan in this regard.

    Blessings.

    -Jay

  14. Jay Wermuth says:

    Sue, why don’t you see if you can get Dr. Packer to review the TNIV and comment on it with an educated eye? I don’t know if you have this power, but I thought I’d heard you mention that he went to your church? Maybe I am mistaken. That would be a big deal though!

    I think a big step in ending this feud is to have those who have so voraciously attacked the TNIV (without properly studying the issues for themselves) to recant their rebuke of the translation and to submit an endorsement of it. I actually think that many of these gentlemen have an ethical and moral obligation to do so. In my opinion, by signing a statement of concern about a translation they have not even read, many of these gentlemen have not only lied to the church, but have done great damage to the reputation of those who spent years of their lives working on developing this translation. Dr. Packer, in this instance, admits that many of these men were his colleagues. So I would hope he would confess that the TNIV is not the demonized translation that he and many of the people who signed the statement of concern have made it out to be.

    Personally, I have lost a tremendous amount of respect for Dr.Packer and those who have come out against this translation. As much as I respect these men, I felt absolutely lied to by them. They have betrayed my confidence. I was one of those people who went out and bought the ESV and spoke negatively of the TNIV, until I really began reading the ESV and was so annoyed by its language that I began to look for other options. I decided to pick up the TNIV for the heck of it and I LOVED the way it was written. I decided to do some research, as Packer and others should have done, and found that this translation is not only more accurate than the NIV, but more accurate than the ESV in many places. I have now recanted for my uninformed attacks against the TNIV and I would ask those who deceived me to have some dignity and do the right thing!

    Admit you were wrong!

    Just a thought…

  15. Jay Wermuth says:

    BTW, my frequent use of the word man and men is not meant to exclude women from their role on either side of this debate, but probably stems from my overuse of the ESV in the past year. I should have been more gender-accurate! 🙂

  16. Sue says:

    I want to clarify. I do not in practical terms believe that anyone is going to say that they were “wrong.” In my experience, this is unrealistic. I do, however, believe that some people would be willing to say that the TNIV is ALSO an excellent translation.

    Since I no longer attend the church which I mentioned, I do not think that I would have the opportunity to approach Dr. Packer on this. It is possible – but I am not sure whether it would be useful.

    I do note, however, that Dr. Packer often wishes to be a spiritual encouragement in areas where he has previously noted a technical disagreement, and it is quite likely that he might welcome a chance to say something positive about the TNIV.

    I also note that Dr. Kostenberger was eager to comment on this blog,

    “For the record, I no longer stand behind the substance of the article in the CBMW News from which you quote. See my review of Don Carson’s book on Bible translation.”

    I feel that there might be a certain number of people who would welcome the chance to speak out in a moderate way in favour of the TNIV, especially now that the NLT has received some acceptance. I do think it is worth a try.

  17. Theophrastus says:

    I believe that it is not a mark of literacy to produce Bible versions which are not written in true English.

    What could possibly be truer English than to emulate a translation that is commonly regarded — even today — to be among the very best works of English literature?

    The language of the Authorized Version is archaic. In 1611 it was already archaic, since it drew so heavily on the language of Tyndale (1525-1535) and the Geneva (1560). But this is the first I have heard that it is not true English. If we read Shakespeare and write sonnets, have we failed the “mark of literacy”?

    Contemporary translations may be more easily understood or benefit from more scholarship. But — more eloquent? I disagree.

  18. Michael Nicholls says:

    I’m with Wayne on this one. I’m a Wycliffe Bible translator working in Africa, and while I’m working I’m constantly looking at multiple translations – NASB, NIV, NLT, not to mention the Greek, LWC (Language of Wider Communication, in our case, Swahili), and the target language, and most of the time the NLT is the one that gets it right, and says it best. If I want a ‘literal’ translation I just look at the Greek, or an interlinear, which renders the literal English translations obsolete (if I want a ‘literal’ translation, why look at a NASB when it’s usually literal, but sometimes deviates?).

    So someone will say, “the NASB/NKJV/ESV are translations for those of us who haven’t had the opportunity of learning Greek and want to see how the original is worded, etc”.

    But I encounter this problem all the time when my mother-tongue translators say “What does the Greek say?” and I have to be careful, because if I give them the literal translation without explaining how and why the Greek does it that way, they come up with all sorts of different conclusions. That, in my opinion, is the danger of a literal translation in the hands of someone who’s not equiped/trained to understand the word order, semantic domains, and discourse features of the original language.

    For example, last week we were translating Luke’s introduction in Luke 1, where Luke writes to Theophilus “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (NIV). I learned that Tanzanians have always assumed that Theophilus was a Christian, since to be ‘taught’ means you’ve sat under teaching, and received the teaching, and are therefore a believer. But most scholars would say that we don’t know whether or not Theophilus was a believer, and it’s more likely that he wasn’t. We can’t use the literal translation because of its connotations. And that’s not even a ‘big-deal’ passage. How do we know that the word-for-word translations in our language, English, don’t have the same problems? We don’t, unless someone who knows the original language has translated for us, rather than transliterated or transmitted.

    I’ve yet to meet a ‘field’ translator who feels differently.

  19. Michael Nicholls says:

    But were the original books of the Bible written in lofty, eloquent, archaic language at the time it was written, or did we ‘add’ that?

    It’s interesting that most languages in the world, that have the Bible, have a ‘KJV’, or an old version that cannot be altered because it is the Word of God. Even the Creole Bible in Papua New Guinea is treated this way!

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  21. Billy says:

    Wayne, what Bibles did you have in mind here, “I believe that it is not a mark of literacy to produce Bible versions which are not written in true English.”?

    So these producers are not marked by literacy?

    Are you certain that you are not confusing English and its many variants with what seems to me is a desire for a specific variant, what I would call conversational English.

    “It is simply a mark of being part of a church subculture that does not use standard English.”

    I would be very interested to know what subculture I belong too, and how am I marked and how do you know who I am?

    Dude, don’t dis people unless you be dissed.

    I mean, I heard some dog, who was really da man, rap on this before. Are you really da man to dis? Or is da ESV da bomb?

    Is this the non-standard English you had in mind?

  22. Jay Wermuth says:

    Billy,

    Your comments seem a bit over the top to me. In my opinion a good sentence is one that doesn’t stop me in my tracks, forcing me read it again to figure out why a comma is in a awkward position. Maybe this is a method Shakespeare would use for some sort of dramatic emphasis (I am no english scholar so I could be wrong), but I for one am certain that many of my well educated friends question the akward pauses, sentence structures and word choices used in the ESV. I am on record as having said that I used the ESV for quite some time until I became exacerbated by all of the unnatural sentence structures and unnecessarily difficult word choices.

    Now I am by no means a biblical scholar, but I would also not consider myself ignorant. If I am having these problems when reading the ESV, I can’t imagine what a teenager reading the ESV is thinking. My point, and I think Wayne and others point, would be that using “standard” English means using English that makes sense to the broadest audience in the clearest way. Nobody is making the assertion that one should use ebonics to translate the bible (me genoito!). My point is, the ESV and others simply did not think through the fact that writing should be accessible to an audience wider than simply the biblical scholar or English teacher. I recently read in a book about writing scholarly theological papers that one should use the simplest word possible to convey the meaning and use difficult words when necessary. Since then, the grades on my papers have been significantly better and my professors have commended me for ceasing the using of “inflated language” (which I thought they wanted!). This is not said to toot my own horn, but to show that even in educated circles, there is no need for some of the “inflated language” found in many of the translations we read today.

    Just a thought.

  23. Billy says:

    Sorry that the ESV causes you to become exacerbated. (worse?)

    Nobody is making the assertion that one should use ebonics to translate the bible (me genoito!)………..I didn’t understand the Greek reference so I looked it up.

    I never advocated ebonics, btw how do you know thats what it was, as a translation?.

    If you read what I wrote it was an example of NON_STANDARD English that I made to Wayne in a tongue in cheek manner to ascertain if he might have meant my subculture used.
    I guess I could have made it clearer…….”Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. ” ESV

    “simply did not think through the fact that writing should be accessible to an audience wider than simply the biblical scholar or English teacher.”

    I assume that Crossways wanted to make a Bible they could sell. There must be a whole lot more scholars and teachers out there than I thought, because they certainly are selling them. Or, are they just under the influence of a vast marketing conspiracy to buy a Bible they don’t understand. I am not a part of either of those two subcultures so I await the categorization that I requested.

  24. Jay Wermuth says:

    Billy,

    Thank you for pointing out the irony of my inaccurate word choice :). I definitely meant exasperated! As for your correct statement that the ESV Bibles are selling, sales do not necessarily equal a good translation (see The Message). In this instance, I can honestly say that most of my friends bought the ESV Study Bible because it looked so impressive! This is the key to the ESV’s current sales growth IMHO. To be honest, I went out and bought one too. Unfortunately, that is how shallow my generations is… To Crossway’s credit, they get it. To the detriment of Zondervan, they don’t understand how influential color maps and color diagrams of the Solomon’s temple can actually be to a dumb young seminary student when buying a bible. Just about every friend I have in school here has bought this ESV Study Bible, and then they (many of my friends)realized that the translation is not enjoyable to read.

    “There must be a whole lot more scholars and teachers out there than I thought, because they certainly are selling them.”

    Do you have to be a biblical scholar to read and understand most of the ESV? No. But, do you need to be one to fathom why they use the words they do and why they make the grammatical choices they do? Yes, and apparently an English scholar as well because for the life of me I can’t understand some of the ESV translators sentence structure decisions. Once I read a passage a few times I get it and move on, but when I read the TNIV I rarely have to stop except to ponder the profundity of the authors (translated) words, not the translators grammatical decisions.

  25. Billy says:

    Here, I going to get into a difficult area.

    I bought the Archaeological Study Bible, because I like Biblical archaeology, because I am used to the NIV, and because I was concerned over fundamentalist commentary bias. While I got what I wanted intellectually I didn’t get what I wanted spiritually.

    The TNIV just seems so forced to me, it causes me to start thinking about liberal agendas and having that stuff shoved down my throat rather than contemplating the word of God. I can’t help it, I’m a flawed political conservative.

    I believe, I’m not saying that I know, that the Bible was written by Middle Eastern men from a Middle Eastern culture that didn’t let’s say elevate the position of women 2-5,000 years ago let alone now. I believe that their flawed human biases made it into the Bible and, therefore, that paarts of it are very male centric. I don’t believe that’s was God intended and it conflicts with love one another as I have loved you which I believe is the greatest commandment. I’m OK with that conflict because I know that God values us all. The more that the TNIV people claimed gender accuracy though the more I new that I wouldn’t get what I wanted there.

    Because of this Blog I bought the NET Bible and found it even more satisfying intellectually.

    Then one day there was this extended rant here against the archaic language in the ESV primarily from one guy that much of which in my opinion missed the real point and was petty and mean spirited.

    I kept thinking about the misquoted line from Romeo and Juliet, ” “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Why would a person spend all that effort to promote such a negatice idea of a text that is not what he thinks.

    So being the kind of guy that I am, a contraryian (rather that fundamentalist sub cultured kind of guy) I went to Barnes and Noble to have a gander at the ESV Study Bible.

    As you said, it was finely produced with great pictures and for the most part good notes. The language not only didn’t put me off, it appealed to me……it had kind of a poetic flow in a way.

    I started reading Romans and it attained a new clarity for me that I had never experienced before. It just stuck me as more spiritual than the NIV and the NET probably because I have fallen under the evil spell of Biblish…………….BUT>>>>>>>>>>> nevertheless it spoke to me.

    Others may think I am a fool, but I believe that there is a great deal out there beyond the temporal, and as long I it got me there, because thats where I wanted to go, I knew I must buy it. I usually “review” books at Barnes and Noble and buy them at Amazon, and could have saved $20 if I waited to buy it, but I wanted it then. Thats what I did, bought it there for $49. This is after just buying The Archaeological Study Bible, and the Print version of the NET Bible.

    The ESV has become my main study Bible because of the way it makes me feel and because most of the notes are good (the commentary in the back I can’t take or leave), I supplement this with the NET, and the Message. I also frequently refer to the E-Sword.

    It saddens me when people degrade the Bible version that I like so much and I hear and empathize with the gender neutral advocates. But why categorize me in some way that is not true; when they are so certain that their Bible is the most accurate. I’m not claiming that the ESV is more accurate and that certain parts of it aren’t male biased. I don’t believe everything in it, like God favored Joshua’s genocide, but I’m not expecting a version that omits that story. I am perfectly willing for others to love the TNIV, why is it necessary to compare the two. Why not just read the version you like without having to place a value judgement for others to follow?

    I am no scholar or teacher. It just appeals to me.

  26. Theophrastus says:

    You have misread me if you believe I am saying that the Authorized Version is the “Word of God” — I am speaking of literature here, not theology.

    You ask if the Bible’s language is (1)lofty, (2) eloquent, and (3) archaic. I restrict myself to Hebrew in answering.

    It can be misleading to compare literary styles across languages, but most would argue that the Hebrew Bible was written in (2) eloquent language. And there are certainly many passages that are (1) lofty.

    Similarly, there is little doubt that the Hebrew was (3) archaic at the time the Bible was compiled. Indeed, there are hundreds of passages which we cannot confidently translate today. If you look at a scholarly translation (particularly the NJPS) you will see hundreds of notes to the effect of “meaning of the Hebrew uncertain.” The most troubling case is one of the literary masterpieces of Scripture: the book of Job as a whole remains problematic.

    Now, we can argue over the degree to which the Authorized Version reproduces the style of the Hebrew original — Robert Alter and Frank Kermode, to mention two leading experts, have argued that the Authorized Version best emulates the Hebrew among the translations that we have.

    The question you ask (does the Authorized Version retain fidelity to the stylistic features of the original Hebrew?) is a fascinating one, and one that should be discussed at length. However, my point above is actually far simpler and less controversial. I am merely arguing here that the Authorized Version is “true English” and that the translators bore “the mark of literacy”.

  27. Jay Wermuth says:

    Billy,

    those are all fine points and I commend you on standing up for what you like. I would have hoped that I would share your appreciation for the ESV (esp. since I spent about $60 on that study bible!). No translation is perfect, and the ESV and TNIV are in the family of imperfect translations. For me, I have found the TNIV remarkably accurate and readable, but I understand your appreciation for the ESV.

    Thank you for your comments!

    -Jay

  28. Michael Nicholls says:

    Thanks for the response and clarification.

    I was speaking of literature too. I think what we’re trying to define is Wayne’s term ‘true English’, and perhaps that’s where some of us disagree. What he probably meant (and he can correct me, but this is how I would use the term) is that true English is English that people use and understand today.

    One could say that many people use and understand the AV today perfectly well; but people don’t really reproduce the language of the AV in normal life situations. That’s probably the test of ‘true English’(‘standard English’) – do people normally use it? Literature is usually more formal than spoken language, so we allow for that, but I don’t know of any secular literature that is being translated today into English using the language of the 1600s. If someone tried, how would the response be? I think it would be fair to say that people would think it’s contrived English, and not ‘true’ English, and inaccessible to the general public.

    I agree that the AV is a beautifully written text, and a huge part of the history of the English language, but I don’t think that it’s ‘true English’ in the sense that it’s the language of today’s English speakers.

    I also agree that the Hebrew Scriptures were written in language that was sometimes lofty, often eloquent, but I didn’t think they wrote it with language that was already archaic. People don’t usually intentionally write in archaic language, unless you’re Joseph Smith, or have a specific reason (poetry, stlye emulation, etc.).

    I just don’t see how the language of the AV is ‘true’ or ‘standard’ English and how a literacy consultant could give it the mark of approval for today’s audience.

  29. Wayne Leman says:

    I think what we’re trying to define is Wayne’s term ‘true English’, and perhaps that’s where some of us disagree. What he probably meant (and he can correct me, but this is how I would use the term) is that true English is English that people use and understand today.

    True English was my off-the-cuff label for English wordings which follow the rules of English syntax and lexical relationships. At any period of time in the history of the English language, there have been standards of usage which a huge majority agree are “correct English.” I don’t want to push this too far, since, of course, the picture is actually more complex. There are levels of formality and informality in language. There are different dialects and jargons.

    But there still are for any period of time, including the present, English language rules which a majority of people agree on, even when they have not thought of them consciously. There are exceptions to the rules, as with most things. Most people today, for instance, would consider “Think not that this blog is a hotbed for radical liberalism!” not to follow current rules for true English. We don’t use the negative “not” in that word order today. That word order was even on the way out in 1611 A.D. when the KJV was published. Yet there are some Bible versions produced today which, inexplicably, use that archaic word order.

    There are plenty of other examples I could give, but we can only say so much in a comment, especially when our day job is calling for us to get some work done!

  30. Theophrastus says:

    That’s probably the test of ‘true English’(‘standard English’) – do people normally use it?

    That strikes me as an odd definition. By that definition, Faulkner’s novels are not written in “true English”. By that definition, T. S. Eliot’s poetry is not written in “true English.” By that definition, any text written with specialized vocabulary (such as a scientific paper) is not written in “true English”. By that definition, the Code of Federal Regulations is not written in “true English.”

    Most people don’t normally talk in sonnets, but poets still write in sonnets. Most people don’t normally talk in iambic meter, but when David Mamet writes a play with it, he wins a Pulitzer, a Tony, and gets a movie deal. Most people don’t normally talk using footnotes, but no scholarly translation would be accepted without one.

    (Indeed, the question of meter is very important. Few people speak in a strong meter, but the Hebrew has a strong, distinctive meter, and Bible translations sound good in a strong meter — those strong cadences are the reason that the Authorized Version [and to a lesser degree, its descendants] sound so good read aloud.)

    Large stretches of the Bible are poetry, and poetry rarely uses language that people “normally” use.

    On the other hand, while there have been Bible translations that try to capture the way people actually talk (e.g., translations into vernaculars such as Scots or Welsh English or American Black English or American Southern English) but these are often treated as if they were parodies.

    Finally, one is left with this as a puzzle: as I mentioned, the Authorized Version used archaic language when it was published in 1611. The Authorized Version had a rocky initial reception (since people initially preferred the even more archaic Geneva Bible) but within the century it had secured its position and by the 18th century, scholars were acclaiming it as model literature. At no point in its history did the Authorized Version use language that people “normally” use. How is it that a translation that was always archaic came to be regarded as a towering giant in English literature?

  31. Theophrastus says:

    Most people today, for instance, would consider “Think not that this blog is a hotbed for radical liberalism!” not to follow current rules for true English.

    How odd that we are so exceptionally fond of quoting Kennedy’s Inaugural Address: “Ask not what your country can do for you . . . .” since you explain that it was not English. Do you think we will find commentary in the newspapers of January 21, 1961, that the new President was using ungrammatical, untrue English?

  32. Billy says:

    So…………..any on comment what kind of person is in this church subculture, I think you qualified/quantified this blog, so who are us members of the sub culture?

  33. Yasmine says:

    Dear All,

    Whenever I read a discussion like this I am baffled that no one seems to consider how many people read the Bible in English for whom English is a second language. When you learn a language you will never learn any ancient form of it but the contempory form. Even those who are widely learned and well read will have a hard time to understand a text like the KJV.

    For example: You take up German. It is said to be a difficult language to learn. You are able to read contemporary literature even older texts. You master Thomas Mann, eventually you are able to read even Goethe. Do you really think you will understand Luther’s Bible ( the 1545 version)???

    Believe me, you won’t!

    The USA is a traditionell immigration country but I fail to see this argument ever considered when translations are discussed.

    I have a NIV and also a NLT Bible. When I read the ESV online as it is often quoted I get distracted because I start to think or even sometimes wonder about its strange sentences or use of (for me) weird words when I should be focused on the meaning.

    I used to have a German teacher (btw I am German, just in case my long sentences didn’t give me away…) in High School who despised foreign words, mannerism and the like telling us that a good command of one’s own language will enable us to have the proper word for everything and to keep everything as clear and smooth as possible.

    Just my 2Cents. Regards Yasmine

  34. Wayne Leman says:

    Theo., Kennedy’s inverted negative was not ungrammatical, nor have I made any claim that it is. The rhetorical use of inverted negatives has changed. At some stage of English language development before publication of the KJV, positioning the “not” after the verb was normal, standard English. Then the current word order for not came into more and more standard usage. But the older word order was still understood. The usual thing happened when there is language change and two grammatical forms then exist, one older and one newer: people created a semantic difference accounting for the difference in the forms. Since the negative after the verb was rarer, people chose to consider it as a higher, more elevated form of language. It is what linguists called marked language, that it, it is not the usual form used, but has a marked usage. In Kennedy’s case, using the older form gave that part of his speech greater literary power. It is more memorable than using the current negative word order “Do not think what you country can do for you, …”

    It’s often not a matter of whether or not something has been grammatical at any stage of a language, but, rather, what is standard usage. Non-standard usage communicates different meanings, including different rhetorical or literary meanings.

    This process of semantic change that follows usage change is most fascinating. There is a world-reknowned linguist, George Lakoff, who is a professor at the Univ. of Calif., Berkeley. Brilliant guy who is fascinated by semantics, language usage, and the relationship to cognition. He has written some seminal books which relate to these issues. One of the most influential of his books as been “Metaphors We Live By” which he co-authored. It is still used as a textbook in many college courses.

    So, once again, I did not claim that inverted negatives are ungrammatical. But using them communicates to hearers that we are expressing meanings at a different level of language, with different rhetorical impact from when we use standard current English syntax and lexical combinations.

    When Bibles are written in non-standard English they similarly communicate rhetorical meanings which their translators may or may not intend.

    “Think not …”
    and
    “Do not think …”

    are logically and propositionally equivalent. But they are not at all equivalent at a rhetorical level. President Kennedy understand that and we have all benefitted from his careful use of an archaic word order to create a more impactful statement.

  35. Theophrastus says:

    Yasmine, I understand your points, but there are a wide variety of translations available for those who speak English as a Second Language. Similarly, those who lack education or who have reading problems need simplified versions.

    However, I wish to take issue with your assertion that those who study a foreign language can not master the classical forms.

    In English, we of course have numerous counter-examples — Nabakov and Conrad immediately come to mind — these authors not only mastered the entire range of English literature, but went on to become among the greatest English authors (Conrad, you will recall, did not begin his study of English until he was in his 20s).

    In many languages such as Hebrew, at least some aspects of the classical languages are taught almost immediately even in a modern language class. In every foreign language I can think of, by the time one takes classes at the Master’s level in almost any language, classical and early modern forms become quite important. Certainly it is unthinkable to me that someone who claims to be a Western scholar of the Chinese or Japanese languages would not have a fair knowledge of the classical forms of their respective language, since they are so important to their literary history.

    Is it really the case that German speakers who study English are never expected to be able to read Shakespeare, for example? (The syntax and especially the vocabulary of Shakespeare are far more challenging than the language of the Early Modern English Bibles such as the Authorized Version or the Geneva.)

    While the Luther Bible is challenging for the non-native speaker, do you consider it more difficult than the Hildebrandslied, or von der Vogelweide, or von Eschenbach’s Parzival, or the Nibelungenlied? All of these are on the curriculum of advanced German classes at American universities.

  36. Michael Nicholls says:

    You’ve given good examples, and I agree with you that poetry, scientific papers, Kennedy’s speech etc., are all examples of good, true English, even though they’re not conversational English.

    But these are fairly restrictive registers of language – what is permissible for a presidential speech is not permissible for a narrative. What sounds good in poetry does not sound good in an exhortative letter. Most of the New Testament is narration and exhortation, yet some would have it written like a Shakespearean play. If there are parts of the Bible that show that kind of creative, theatrical, poetic flair in the original, it should be maintained in the translation. But I don’t think most of the Bible fits that register.

    So, while the newspapers probably applauded Kennedy’s speech, I doubt they emulated his style of language to report what happened. They used a normal, narrative, newspaper style of language that was appropriate for that genre.

  37. Michael Nicholls says:

    When Bibles are written in non-standard English they similarly communicate rhetorical meanings which their translators may or may not intend.

    This is key. I think a lot of people would say that Shakespeare and the Bible (KJV) use similarly marked language, but I don’t think it was the intent of the biblical authors to be associated with archaic poetry/drama.

  38. Yasmine says:

    Theophrastus, All the texts you mentioned are read in High School/Univeristiy but I can’t think of a single person I know that reads them for pleasure in their pasttime.

    And yes I think Luther is challenging as he uses a vast array of words hardly anyone understands anymore today. I happen to know some of them (only because my Granny used to use them sometimes) but the layperson doesn’t in most cases.

    I was referring to a person who learns a language, not someone who studies it at a university. When you study it at the university I’d assume you want to make it your profession. When you learn it you can do so to make a living with your knowledge e.g. work in another country, have a job in a multinational company, love its sound, want to read books that aren’t translated yet etc.
    The translations for second language readers are sometimes too simple. While I enjoy reading the NLT I can not say the same of NIrV. A translation should give you a feel for the text. Is it poetic? Who is speaking? A fisherman or the scribe of the king? Translations as NIrV don’t do this.

    Nabokov and Conrad used a quite “normal” form of English not an archaic one. So I don’t think they are good examples. While I like to read Conrad, it would pain me to read Shakespeare. I like to read contemporary writers in French but have more than a hard time to read Moliere. Do I really education if I can’t do so?

  39. Theophrastus says:

    Well, this may be where we most disagree. Ancient parts of the Bible, such as the Song of Sea, are written in a particularly archaic form. As has been widely noted, in the Pentateuch, there are dramatic stylistic changes, which some claim points to the presence of a redactor (I do not subscribe to this theory, but my point is that there is a mixture of different forms.) Poetic portions of the Bible are written in poetry, which is necessarily an affected form of language.

  40. Theophrastus says:

    You are undoubtedly correct that semantic change may cause confusion for some readers, which is one argument for revision.

    However, I think the reason that Kennedy said

    “Ask not what your country can do for you”

    instead of

    “Don’t ask what your country can do for you”

    is that he paid close attention to the sound of the language. The former has a strong meter, the latter does not. It is clear that both the Hebrew of the Bible and much of the Authorized Version pays similar attention to meter; but most contemporary translations simply translate for (high level) semantic content. This reduces the Bible from literature to a set of very interesting ideas.

  41. J. K. Gayle says:

    That’s probably the test of ‘true English’(‘standard English’) – do people normally use it?

    I think all of us who use English say things that not all or even most “people normally use.” A case is a sentence in your post text, Wayne:

    “I was also gladdened to hear more than once their desire to do things in a godly way.”

    Sincerely, I don’t know many other people who normally use “gladdened to hear.”

  42. Wayne Leman says:

    Kurt wrote:

    Sincerely, I don’t know many other people who normally use “gladdened to hear.”

    Good observation, Kurt. And that is probably first time I have ever used the word “gladdened.” Sometimes in these contexts of discussing words used in English Bibles I use a word which I would not normally use. I don’t know why. There’s probably some reason but I’m not in touch with it.

  43. Peter Kirk says:

    Theophrastus, you may be right about the Song of the Sea, but in that case let’s use archaic syntax etc for that small part of the Bible and use proper modern English for the rest of it. It is possible to reflect stylistic changes in the Pentateuch (if they are real, I’m not sure if they are) in English with different styles without resorting to archaic or borrowed foreign forms.

  44. Theophrastus says:

    Peter that is, to my mind, the most acute and valid criticism of the Authorized Version: that it translates 2000 years of literature across two languages and variety of different genres into a single register of voice.

    I am not claiming that archaic language is necessary to translate the Bible — but that most translations translate it into a flat style. I’ll illustrate my point using an example from Middle English in my next comment (in the main thread).

  45. Theophrastus says:

    Today, Peter Ackroyd published his new translation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales into English. Now I haven’t received my copy yet (the post office does take a bit of time) but I read the beginning of Ackroyd’s translation of the Wife of Bath’s Prologue (one of the funniest and earthiest works in English literature) in the The Times.

    Here is how Chaucer wrote the first few lines (you can find an interlinear version here:

    Experience, though noon auctoritee
    Were in this world, is right ynogh for me
    To speke of wo that is in mariage;
    For, lordynges, sith I twelve yeer was of age,
    Thonked be God that is eterne on lyve,
    Housbondes at chirche dore I have had fyve —
    If I so ofte myghte have ywedded bee —
    And alle were worthy men in hir degree.
    But me was toold, certeyn, nat longe agoon is,
    That sith that Crist ne wente nevere but onis
    To weddyng, in the Cane of Galilee,
    That by the same ensample taughte he me
    That I ne sholde wedded be but ones.
    Herkne eek, lo, which a sharp word for the nones,
    Biside a welle, Jhesus, God and man,
    Spak in repreeve of the Samaritan:
    `Thou hast yhad fyve housbondes,’ quod he,
    `And that ilke man that now hath thee
    Is noght thyn housbonde,’ thus seyde he certeyn.
    What that he mente therby, I kan nat seyn;
    But that I axe, why that the fifthe man
    Was noon housbonde to the Samaritan?
    How manye myghte she have in mariage?
    Yet herde I nevere tellen in myn age
    Upon this nombre diffinicioun.
    Men may devyne and glosen, up and doun,
    But wel I woot, expres, withoute lye,
    God bad us for to wexe and multiplye;
    That gentil text kan I wel understonde.
    Eek wel I woot, he seyde myn housbonde
    Sholde lete fader and mooder and take to me.
    But of no nombre mencion made he,
    Of bigamye, or of octogamye;
    Why sholde men thanne speke of it vileynye?

    Hilarious! Even though the veil of Middle English, we can sense the ribald voice, the social class, and the character of the Wife of Bath. We are left awestruck by Chaucer’s mastery of rhythm and humor and tone.

    Now here is Peter Ackroyd’s translation:

    I don’t care what anyone says.

    Experience of the world is the best thing. It may not be the main authority but, in relationships, it is a good teacher. I know all about unhappiness in marriage. Goodness me. Oh yes. I was 12 years old when I first got a husband. I’ve had five altogether, thanks be to God. Five of them trooping up to the church door. That is a lot of men. By and large they were gentlemen, or so I was led to believe. Yet I was told quite recently – I forget by whom – that our Saviour attended only one wedding. It was in the town of Cana. So, the argument goes, I should only ever have been married once. And then there was the time when Jesus rebuked the Samaritan woman. They were standing beside a well, weren’t they? “You have had five husbands,” He said. “And the man you are living with is not your husband.” He was God and man, so I suppose He knew what He was talking about. I don’t understand what His point was, but I am sure He had one. Why was the fifth man not her husband? It doesn’t make any sense. How many husbands had she actually had? How many husbands was she allowed? In all my life I never heard there was a limit. Have you?

    There will be ever so many experts telling us one thing and another. But I know this much. God told us to go forth and multiply. Am I right? I can understand that part of the Bible, at any rate. And wasn’t it God who commanded my husband to “leave father and mother” and belong to me alone? But He never mentioned a number. It could be two. It could be eight. Who knows? There’s nothing wrong with it, anyway.

    Ackroyd is easy to read and understand, yes. But the rhythm, the special quality, the humor — it has all evaporated. It’s just words that we have left — Ackroyd has translated the meaning but nothing else. (As those who know Chaucer will recall, the text at this point becomes markedly bawdy, so I will not quote further, although you can consult the links provided above and get further confirmation of the problems that Ackroyd’s translation presents.)

    Now, this example was of Chaucer, but my criticism applies analogously to many contemporary Biblical translations.
    We have a puzzle: our age is gifted with outstanding translations of the classics: of Homer and Virgil and Ovid — most of which strive to recreate in English the style of the original. Some of these translations succeed more than others, but we regard translations that do not make the attempt to be inferior translations. So why do most of our Bibles contain flat, uninspired prose? We demand Dante in English be alive and faithful to the original — why do we set such low standards for Biblical translations?

  46. Theophrastus says:

    I posted a detailed comment drawing an analogy with translations of the Canterbury Tales but the software guiding this blog seems to have put my remarks in “comment purgatory.” Perhaps after the comment completes its penance, it could be released for others to enjoy.

  47. Michael Nicholls says:

    Wouldn’t that be an example of a marked change? Which is fine to throw in now and then – it adds flavour. But if he wrote every sentence with marked language, wouldn’t we find that strange and distracting?

  48. Michael Nicholls says:

    John 11:8

    KJV
    His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?

    TNIV
    “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

    NLT
    But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people[b] in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?”

    Why would you ever quote a fisherman as saying “goest thou thither”? It totally gives a wrong impression. And it’s really hard to say fast 5 times, which is the true test of a good translation. 😉

  49. Wayne Leman says:

    But if he wrote every sentence with marked language, wouldn’t we find that strange and distracting?

    Probably. And the desired (marked) rhetorical effect would be lost if every sentence was written that way. President Kennedy knew how to use the inverted negative so the result was memorable. I’m guessing he never otherwise used the inverted negative in his usual spoken language or writing. If he did, we would have wondered what was wrong with him, or what he was try to prove.

    But when English Bible versions produced today use archaic forms which have taken on new rhetorical meanings, they unintentionally distort the meaning, which is a form of inaccuracy.

    Theo., of course, is absolutely right that most English versions today flatten meter, some flatten metaphors, etc. And that is a shame. Bible translators should attempt to find translational equivalents, not only for first order semantics, but also for the beauty of language, its meter, assonance, etc., if those tools are available in the language, and they are available in English. Of course, if in the process of retaining poetic forms we create semantic inaccuracies, then we have to revise until there is no more semantic inaccuracy. It’s a big job to try to account in a translation for everything going on in a source text.

  50. Peter Kirk says:

    Theophrastus, I take your point. But it is really only people trained in Middle English who can appreciate the rhythm and special quality of Chaucer’s original. I can understand it with difficulty but not really appreciate it as poetry. So really what we need is a translation. It is easy to criticise Ackroyd’s, but is it really possible to do better – while being faithful to the original? Perhaps you can offer us a better rendering than Ackroyd’s of this passage, in modern English that everyone can understand and appreciate.

    Yes, there may be “outstanding translations of the classics”, or of some of them, but that is probably because the translators are exceptional people. We need some people of this calibre to work on the Bible. The only classical scholar and translator that I know of to translate the New Testament was E.V. Rieu, but he was from a past generation and probably not outstanding in the sense you have in mind. And then Ann Nyland is also a classicist, but her translation was not done for literary quality.

  51. Peter Kirk says:

    Your comment did appear, but a long way up in the threaded comments. I replied to it there, I think. I tend to think that threaded comments are more trouble than they are worth, especially as replies to earlier comments can very easily get lost and ignored.

  52. Theophrastus says:

    Well, my Greek is no where near as good as my Hebrew, but let’s break it down. Let’s start with the TNIV, which fails to translate Λεγουσιν αυτω οι μαθηται and just instead adds a “they said” in the middle of the verse. This is not translation, but paraphrase.

    The NLT, on the other hand, adds a new word not in the Biblical text “objected” (note that it has a “they said” later in the verse). Once gain this is interpretation.

    The Authorized Version, on the other hand, shows the close relationship by the use of the second person singular (now archaic, but still used in English, and still showing closeness.) “Goest” matches the subject “thou”, so the only word that must be bothering you is εκει as thither. Here, it is the perfect word since it suggests a location with a purpose, as in Shakespeare’s As You Like It 1.1.179 “This wrastler shall cleare all: nothing remaines, but that I kindle the boy thither.” An older example would be found in great Middle English poem (c. 1300) Cursor Mundi: “Yee sal ha lijf langer ᚦen ᚦider.”

    Finally, assonance is a key aspect of the writing style of Bible, so many portions in the original cannot be read five times quickly. Although it is hardly particularly challenging, I wonder if you can even say Λεγουσιν αυτω οι μαθηται Ραββι νυν εζητουν σε λιθασαι οι Ιουδαιοι και παλιν υπαγεις εκει five times quickly.

    But in fact, you can say the Authorized Version’s rendition five times quickly, because it has a distinctive and pleasing metric, unlike the two other translations.

    Finally, you seem to be making some sort of juvenile joke about stereotypes about the phonetic use of certain sounds by “real men”; but in fact, nautical terminology contains many terms that would seem to argue against your rule: e.g., thole, tingle, tailshaft, skeg, poop deck, pontoon, seacock, mizzenmast, goosewinged, genny, bollard, bobstay, athwart, athwartships — so not all language of seamen is Bull of Barney.

    The bottom line is that in the example you have given, the Authorized Version is the most literal translation, the only one that shows the close relationship between Jesus and his disciples, and the one that is most precise about skeptical cry of the disciples.

    The language is archaic, but it is better written, sounds better, and is more detailed and accurate than contemporary translations.

  53. J. K. Gayle says:

    The only classical scholar and translator that I know of to translate the New Testament was E.V. Rieu, but he was from a past generation and probably not outstanding in the sense you have in mind. And then Ann Nyland is also a classicist, but her translation was not done for literary quality.

    Peter, Do you know of Richmond Lattimore
    http://www.brynmawr.edu/classics/lattimore.html

    and of Willis Barnstone?
    http://web.whittier.edu/barnstone/WILLIS.htm

    The former has a wonderful new testament (1996); the latter a new translation of the apocalypse of John and the gospels (both the canonized accounts of Yeshua 2001 and “The Other Bible” 1984).

  54. Michael Nicholls says:

    The NLT, on the other hand, adds a new word not in the Biblical text “objected” (note that it has a “they said” later in the verse). Once gain this is interpretation.

    I think I’m starting to see that we greatly differ on the theory of translation. I would suggest that copying the discourse features and nearest equivalent words of the source language into the target language is not true translation. More like transliteration. And as I’ve posted before, unless the reader has the tools to understand the significance of those features in the source language, he or she will take the wrong meaning from them in the target language.

    All good translation is interpretation. If the translator doesn’t know what it means in the source language, and doesn’t know how to say the equivalent in the target language, how can he accurately translate without misleading, knowingly or unknowingly?

    Also, the Authorized Version often adds words. You have to do that in translation. In this verse it adds ‘thou’ because in Greek it’s implied in the verb. Are we allowed to translate things that are implicit, and not explicit? Perhaps it would be better to talk about the degree of expounding the implicit, rather than whether or not it should ever be done.

    The Authorized Version, on the other hand, shows the close relationship by the use of the second person singular (now archaic, but still used in English, and still showing closeness.)

    Out of curiosity, why haven’t you used it in your posts? It was used for more than just closeness.

    Finally, assonance is a key aspect of the writing style of Bible, so many portions in the original cannot be read five times quickly. Although it is hardly particularly challenging, I wonder if you can even say Λεγουσιν αυτω οι μαθηται Ραββι νυν εζητουν σε λιθασαι οι Ιουδαιοι και παλιν υπαγεις εκει five times quickly.

    I was joking. I thought the 😉 made that clear. Sorry if it didn’t.

    Finally, you seem to be making some sort of juvenile joke about stereotypes about the phonetic use of certain sounds by “real men”;

    This time I wasn’t joking. If someone today reported to me that someone had said “Goest thou thither?” I would wonder why they were using marked forms of English. We don’t want readers of the Bible to think that the disciples spoke in archaic, marked forms of the Greek (Aramaic?) language, because we’re pretty sure they used fairly normal, common language of the day. How would fisherman today say “υπαγεις εκει?”? I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t say “Goest thou thither?” even though they have a plethora of unique vocabulary words that other people wouldn’t use.

    What was this thread about anyway? 🙂

  55. Michael Nicholls says:

    Ackroyd was translating old English into today’s English.

    Bible translation is taking the ‘today’s’ languages of the time, and putting them into ‘today’s’ English of today.

    If one were to translate Chaucer into German, one would probably use Luther’s German, and that would be fine. It would capture what we have of Chaucer’s English.

    But the Bible writers didn’t write in language that was already marked as 600 years old and beyond most people’s understanding.

  56. Billy says:

    It was about how its too bad the world doesn’t recognize the TNIV for the excellent, most accurate Bible there is, so far (and maybe the Best of All Possible Bibles), and put their money with their mouth is vs how archaic, conservative (i.e, evil) inaccurate, sexist, subcultured, tied to the worst possible of all Bibles the KJV and the ESV’s greater sales only the product of good marketing rather than the memorable, literary translation that the ESV is. Its about how its too bad the ESV is in print.

    Remember now?

  57. Peter Kirk says:

    Kurk, thank you for reminding us of these translations. Theophrastus, perhaps you would like to comment on them, whether you consider them to capture “the rhythm, the special quality” of the original Bible text and to “be alive and faithful to the original”. You might also like to consider Alter’s translation in this regard.

  58. Theophrastus says:

    The Authorized Version was of course written in 1611 — and language has changed since then. But I think that Wayne’s criticism was against translations in the Tyndale tradition that retain aspects of Tyndale’s (and the Geneva and AV’s ) wording.

    I like Franz Kafka too, but I don’t write like him. (I am stealing here from one of my favorite book titles.

    I can accept that for some readers archaic language may present a problem — and I am glad that they have a wide variety of translations available. But for those readers who can handle a variety of literary styles (I’d estimate this at being roughly the top 25% of Americans in terms of reading ability), translations in the Tyndale tradition are an excellent choice.

    (You may point out that I am speaking of a minority (25%) of the population, but this group also is likely to include many of the most influential members of societies as well as most of those for whom serious reading is a daily habit. I suspect that the majority of those who read extensive portions of the Bible are in this group.)

    By the way, I do use “thou” from time to time (although this particular genre — blog comments — does not suit itself to its use); it appears in the title of at least one 20th century classic; and it is still commonly used in some regions of the US (e.g, Pennsylvania Dutch country). I don’t think its use in the RSV or NASB77, for example, poses significant hurdles for educated readers.

  59. Peter Kirk says:

    What book title do you have in mind? The link goes to “Why I don’t write like Franz Kafka”, which doesn’t include “thou”. Of course “thou” will be used in book titles that deliberately allude to the Bible in KJV or to other works from the same period. But that is the same kind of point as Kennedy’s archaic negative: occasional use makes a striking point, regular use just makes the text look strange or written by a foreigner who hardly knows any English.

  60. Theophrastus says:

    Sorry, that was a link error. I meant to link to Buber’s I and Thou.

    I do not disagree with your assertion, Peter. I have done translation for fun and for publication, and I do not use “thou” because it means something different to use “thou” in 2009 than it did in 1611. However, for those with education (and again, I argue this is an important market segment) the use of “thou” need not scare away readers.

  61. Peter Kirk says:

    Buber’s “I and Thou” was written in German in 1923 and translated into English shortly afterwards. This is a work of theology, of the kind which will quickly scare away any non-specialist readers who are not scared off by the title, and the “Thou” refers at least in part to God. In the early 20th century the form “thou” was still in common use to refer to God in the second person, i.e. in prayer and worship. Even this usage has become obsolete over the last century. If this book were translated for the first time today I am sure the translators and publishers would go for “I and You”.

  62. sdonahue says:

    I hate to be the naysayer here, but, I have no love for the TNIV; I don’t use it, recommend it, or ‘anything’ it. If it slides away into the sunset, I won’t shed a tear. I am not a fan of inclusive language, and I use the old RSV, the ESV, and for general reading, Phillips, with a touch of the Amplified.

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