Thanks to Doug Chaplin, Mark Goodacre and Matthew Montonini for providing a chain of links to a paper by Douglas Moo, chairman of the CBT, the group charged with the revision of the NIV, entitled Flesh in Romans: A Challenge for the Translator.
The NIV has long been criticised for its rendering of the Greek word sarx, as used by Paul in his letters, as “sinful nature”, rather than the traditional “flesh”. In his paper, on the first page, Moo reveals that after 1995, so presumably in the preparation of TNIV, this translation choice was reviewed, but
The committee as a whole decided in the end to retain “sinful nature” as the usual rendering for the negative use of sarx in Paul. I am not sure that I agree with this decision … in all thirty places where the NIV translates sarx “sinful nature” the TNIV has done the same …
The remainder of the paper is an in depth analysis of how Paul has used sarx in Romans and of the translation options for this word. As far as I can tell from a skim read, this is a model example of how to approach this kind of difficult exegetical and translational issue, and provides useful insight into how the CBT and other translators go about their work.
The decision on whether to pursue a generally concordant translation or a dynamically equivalent translation of sarx depends, in the last analysis, on translation philosophy and intended audience. Neither decision is right or wrong apart from such variable considerations. … If we are to hope for a Bible which an entire congregation can use, the readability of a more contextually nuanced translation such as the TNIV may be the best option.
Nevertheless this is an issue which the CBT is bound to revisit in their renewed discussions in preparation for the NIV 2011 update. And since their chairman is “not sure that [he] agree[s]” with the NIV and TNIV renderings, this is one place where we may well see a change in 2011. While I’m sure they will genuinely welcome any contributions to this debate, they may well have seen them all before.