making the TNIV a better Bible

After the anti-TNIV campaign, some people probably would never open a TNIV. Others love the TNIV and find it that it makes the NIV even more accurate. Still others consider the TNIV a good translation but find passages where it can be improved?

And that brings me to the topic of this post. If you could sit down with the CBT (Committee on Bible Translation) that revises the TNIV and talk with them professionally, what verses would be at the top of your list for them to revise further, and what evidence would you give as support for each of your suggested revisions.

Please do not link to lists of hundreds or thousands of verses which have been posted on websites by anti-TNIV people. The CBT already has access to those lists. For this post we are interested in what you yourself would most want to see revised in the TNIV to make it an even better translation. Please mention the top few verses which you think need revision in the TNIV and what revision you feel would make those verses better.

I have a feeling that if we do a good job with comments on this post, we may be able to make an important contribution to the future of the TNIV. Please keep all comments constructive and gracious, not dismissive of the TNIV, as whole. There are other forums where people who do not like the TNIV can dismiss it. On this blog we do not want to dismiss any Bible version. We want, instead, to know specific ways that versions can be improved.

The production of the TNIV/NIV Bible–the Standard of Integrity

In a recent posting Open Scriptures I made a comment regarding the relationships between the three organizations (actually four) involved in the production and publishing of the NIV and TNIV. I believed, and still do, that the legal and contractual obligations between these partners has placed them above reproach. There were some comments which in effect questioned this. So, I contacted the Executive Vice President of Publishing and Editorial Operations at Zondervan, Stan Gundry, for his input.

The following is his reply published in its entirety with his permission. I have withheld his contact information for obvious reasons. However, he will be reading the comments to this posting. Also, if you wish to contact him directly, please contact me, and I’ll be glad to let you know how to contact him.


The Committee on Bible Translation (CBT) is an independent body of OT and NT scholars, generally representative of the denominational and theological diversity represented in English-speaking, international, evangelical (broadly defined) Christianity. Their remuneration and reimbursement for expenses comes from the International Bible Society (IBS, but recently they changed their name to Biblica; I will refer to it as IBS in this message). I have no reason to believe that they receive any kind of royalty or ongoing payment on the sale of either the NIV or the TNIV, and I am confident they do not. In fact, I have every reason to believe their pay would be considered by most people to be very modest–it is largely a labor of love and mission on their part.

By contract with IBS, the CBT controls the text of the NIV and the TNIV. This means that no one can revise, correct, update, or otherwise change these texts other than the CBT itself. In fact, the CBT itself cannot make any such changes to the NIV text as originally published without a quorum of the CBT present, and without at least a 75% majority of those present. The CBT is a self-perpetuating body and operates under its own very clearly defined rules. Even though I have known most CBT members for years, including many who have retired, even I do not know most of the rules or inner workings of the CBT. I do know there is a mandatory retirement age from the CBT, but retirees may attend and participate in their deliberations but they do not have a vote.

IBS holds the actual copyright to the NIV and TNIV, though they have no control over the text itself (that resides with the CBT as stated above). IBS in turn licenses the commercial publishing rights to commercial publishers–currently the primary publishers are Zondervan and Hodder (UK). The publishers must publish the text exactly as delivered by the CBT, including all footnotes, paragraph headings, etc. Publishers’ royalties are paid to IBS, and these funds support IBS’s Bible distribution and translation projects around the world. IBS does do a very limited amount of commercial publishing and/or distribution of these texts, but it is so small as to be inconsequential.

Zondervan does not have a representative who sits in CBT translation sessions, who participates in their discussions, or who has a vote at the table. When the CBT meets in West Michigan in working sessions, we do generally take them out to dinner once, but it is purely a social occasion and an opportunity for us to express our appreciation to them. We do occasionally correspond with or meet with the CBT chair or other members of the CBT, but these are never occasions where we attempt to tell them how they should be revising or updating the text, and if we were to attempt to do so, I can guarantee you it would be counter-productive. Such contacts with CBT members are opportunities for them to tell us what they are doing and what they wish we would do differently. The CBT is jealous of its scholarly independence and it protects itself from pressure groups who have an agenda. (Note how the 75% majority rule protects that as well.)

One of the bloggers expressed the view that Zondervan exercised considerable influence over the CBT, and he cited Bruce Ryskamp’s (Zondervan’s president at the time) participation in the meeting where the Colorado Springs Guidelines were initially framed as evidence of this. But here is the actual situation. Bruce is a business man and not a Bible scholar–he would be the first to tell you that. He attended as an observer. At the conclusion of the meeting, he was asked to sign the CSG. Initially he said, “No, Zondervan cannot abide by these guidelines because it publishes at least two translations that do not abide by these guidelines and it is not going to stop publishing them.” Eventually, Bruce did sign the original CSG, with the caveat to those present that he signed only as an observer. (BTW, in my files I have a communication from Wayne Grudem where he acknowledged to Bruce that this was indeed the case). Later that summer, when the CSG were reissued in a revised form (I trust your blogger friends do remember that within days of the original version it was pointed out that this original version had a serious error in it as it related to the translation of adelphoi), Bruce refused to sign the revised version and asked that his name no longer be associated with the CSG. He realized that his signature of the original version had been misunderstood and perhaps misused.

I know less about the inner workings of the RSV/NRSV translation committee and its relation to the NCC and its publishers. But I suspect it is quite close to the model I have described above for the CBT/IBS/publishers. I do know considerably more about the inner workings of other Bible translation committees and their relationship to the publishers, having been given this information first-hand by scholars who have worked on those committees. I regret to have to say that some of those committees not only have at least one publisher representative present and voting, but the sometimes the publisher even has the power of veto over committee decisions.  And of course, when the Southern Baptists announced their plan for the Holman Christian Standard Bible, who could ever forget Al Mohler’s famous (or infamous) statement that the SBC would have a translation it could “control”? In many cases, the copyright to the translation is held by the commercial Bible publisher or the foundation with which the publisher is closely linked.

Even though I work for Zondervan, a commercial publisher, I strongly believe that the model that exists between the CBT, IBS, and the commercial publishers is the best way to protect the integrity of any translation. I know too much about what can and has happened in other situations to believe otherwise, even though it puts Zondervan at a commercial disadvantage relative to publishers who own the copyright to their translation.

Stan Gundry
Executive Vice President, Publishing and Editorial Operations

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.

The Lord’s Prayer (reprise)

Last Sunday the sermon at Berkeley Covenant was on the Lord’s Prayer. (Find it here.) Pastor Andrew has been working through Matthew, pretty much verse by verse, and it’s been very profitable. From time to time he hands off a passage to one or another of the church leaders when he or she has something worth saying on a particular topic, or when there is a need for is attention to be elsewhere in a given week.

This week it was Jeremy, who a former BCC youth leader. Jeremy had a lot of good points, but he bit off more than he could chew. Actually I suspect he fell prey to the problem that Pascal famously summarized in a letter to a friend:

Je n’ai fait cette lettre-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.
I have written this letter longer than I should, because I didn’t have the time to make it shorter.

(This quote is often wrongly attributed to Mark Twain.)

But I was struck because I have my own opinions about how the Lord’s Prayer is to be interpreted, as I’ve discussed in this blog before. But it was one of those God moments, because I’ve been mucking around in 19th century Ottawa texts. (That’s the Ottawa dialect of the Ojibwe language, a Native American language and my area of academic specialization.) The text I’m working on is a Shorter Catechism published in 1864/1869 and available online here and in a well-processed version here.  Not surprisingly, the Lord’s Prayer is featured prominently. (It’s presented here with the original spelling in bold, the modern spelling in italics, and a back translation from Ottawa into English. (I’ve revised it from the one on the web where I disagree with Kees’ interpretation.)

Odanamihewin awi Debenjiged.

Nosina wakwing ebiian,
Noosinaa waakwiing ebiyan.
Our Father, who is in heaven.

apegish kitchitwawendaming kidanosowin,
Apegish gichitwaawendaming gidanoozowin.
May your name be sacred.

apegish bidagwishinomagak, kidogimawiwin,
Apegish bi-dagwishinoomagak gidoogimaawiwin.
May your kingship arrive.

enendaman apegish ijiwebak, tibishko wakwing, migo gaie aking.
Enendaman apegish izhiwebak dibishkoo waakwiing mii go gaye akiing.
What you think [should be], may it happen the same on earth as in heaven.

Mijishinang nongo agijigak nin pagwejiganimina minik eioiang memeshigo gijig,
Miizhishinaang noongo a-giizhigak nimbakwezhiganiminaa minik eyooyaang

Give us our bread today, as much as we use every day.

bonigitedawishinang gaie ga iji nishkiinangi,
Boonigidetawishinaang gaye gaa-izhi-nishki’inaangi,
And forgive us who have angered you,

eji bonigitedawangidwa ga iji nishkiiiamindjig,
ezhi-boonigidetawangidwaa gaa-izhi-nishki’iyaminjig.
in the way we forgive those who angered us.

kego gaie ijiwijishikange gagwedibeningewining,
Gego gaye izhiwizhishikaange gagwe-dibeningewining,
Do not lead us into a trial.

atchitchaii dash ininamowishinang maianadak.
ajijayi’ii dash ininamawishinaang mayaanaadak.
and put what is bad far from us.


Back translation is an interesting exercise. It is a regular part of the the translation process for modern Bible translations into minority languages.

From the back translation, one can see that the Ottawa translator got a lot of things right, and some things wrong, including one glaringly wrong. (Gagwe-dibeningwewin is a legal trial, not a metaphorical reference to a test of our moral fiber.)

But the back translation also highlights what happens in translation when there is no history of translation practice to cast a long shadow over the contemporary translator’s product.

What I mean is that this particular passage bears a lot of emotional weight for us. We don’t want to mess with the translation of this passage so much so that even the TNIV says something fairly archaic sounding:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

That’s because if we translate into natural, contemporary English, the meaning of the Greek original like the New Living Bible does:

Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored.

May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven.

Give us our food for today, and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

then we feel like it’s somehow not really the Lord’s prayer.

A Woman’s Literal Bible Assessment 2

I shall label this series the WLBA for lack of better name. Here is installment #2.

Doug at Metacatholic has responded by suggesting that I do not cast a wide enough net. I am not ambitious enough. I must have a more expansive view. Whew.

But we have discussed already which translations do not have the Deuterocanon, and which have congregation or assembly instead of church – and, let us not forget that there are Bibles with and without bishops! There is also an ongoing lively, and let me add significant, exchange about how the Hebrew scriptures, (and believe me, I won’t get this right because now I am supposed to refer to the Tanakh) are translated.

The fact is that we have spent the better part of the last 18 months narrowing down the discussion. So you must explore our archives sometime. We have discussed gender language until I heartily wish that the Christian scriptures had been written in a language with 2 colours and 5 genders.

On a more sober note, I have been counseled not to focus too heavily on my own favourite interpretation, but to look for a meditating position. And Jeremy suggests that there is a difference between a translation which would be compatible with one’s position on women, and a translation from which one can derive one’s position on women.

My feeling is that the need to derive either male leadership or egalitarian leadership from the scriptures, is not spread out equally across the different groups or through the various periods of church history. It probably was not the predominant concern in 16th century England, nor is it now a pressing concern in the mainstream protestant churches. That is why I am focusing on the evangelical community. But, I open to thinking more about this.

The data I am using is contained in this post. I will keep it stored there and discuss one translation at a time for a while.


Ta da! I am sure that it is no surprise that the TNIV is top of the list. Here is what it looks like. I have scored it as 4 out of 4, giving 1 mark for Rom. 16:1 and 2 combined.

Rom. 16:1 – deacon
Rom. 16:2 – benefactor
Rom.16:7 – outstanding among
1 Cor. 11:10 – have authority over her own head
1 Tim. 2:12 – assume authority

Here are a few notes about the TNIV choices.

Rom. 16:1

Here the TNIV has deacon, which is a transliteration of the Greek diakonos. The NLT2 and the NRSV also have deacon. The RSV has deaconess. Although I originally felt that deaconess should not be considered as equivalent of deacon, this is a bit tricky, and I don’t know if it is worth spending more time on right now. Greek has one word for deacon and another word for deaconess, but here it says that Phoebe was a deacon.

However, the word could also mean servant, so it really depends on the context. I do believe that both sides could accept either servant or deacon here. There is no real mediating position, but certainly the role of deacon itself is open to discussion.

Rom. 16:2

To continue with Pheobe, in verse 2 she is called a “benefactor”. This is a true middle position if we consider the historic and literal alternatives. Prostatis has been translated as “leader”, “respected leader”, “defender”, “succourer”, “patron”, “benefactor”, “great help” and “helper”. I would position “benefactor” in the middle. The three contrasting senses of “leader”, “benefactor” and “help”, sufficiently cover the lexical range. However, “help” is itself somewhat ambiguous, so the BDAG has said, “a woman in a supportive role, benefactor, patron”. This word never means “help” as in “assistant”.

This verse is interesting because there is a bit of a play on words. Paul literally says “stand by Phoebe, because she has stood before many, also myself.” There are a variety of ways to take this, but it implies that she has helped Paul on her own initiative from a position of influence and wealth, and provided for or defended him in some way. She helped from out front; she wasn’t his ‘girl friday’. The male word prostatês can mean “front rank man”, “chief”, “ruler”, “guardian” or “protector”. In the LSJ the word used to describe Phoebe is simply listed as the female form of the above.

Now think of how watered down it sounds to call a chief or ruler a “helper”. Yes, there is a play on words and some translations couldn’t resist the quip – “help Pheobe because she has been a great help to many”, but I don’t think that does Phoebe justice. She championed Paul. The French L-M says that this word means “celle qui a la puissance de direction” – “la directrice”. The translation should reflect the meaning of the word in some way.

Rom. 16:7

Let’s move on to Rom. 16:7 and Junia. Andronicus and Junia are “outstanding among the apostles”. You really can’t get a closer lexical and grammatical equivalent – “distinguished”, “famous”, “remarkable”, “prominent”, literally “of exceptional quality” – take your pick. It seems to me that if Jerome was happy with Junia, we should be. And there is no one to stop people from adjusting the meaning of apostle accordingly. Afterall, women were prophets too, and there must be some way of dealing with that one.

1 Cor. 11:10

Another fascinating verse. The Greek “to have authority on the head” defies obvious interpretation. Either a woman has authority over her own head, or she has a symbol of her own authority on her head. To say that in this case “have authority over” really means “be under authority” just because it is a verse about women just isn’t going to wash.

There has not been one other example in Greek literature where this expression means to have a symbol on the head that a person is under someone else’s authority. No one has ever suggested that there is such an example in all Greek literature – to my knowledge. I hope people are reading and will bring up counter examples if there are any. I could have missed it, but there isn’t one in Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. I think that is significant.

So the TNIV translates 1 Cor. 11:10 as “have authority over her own head”. The TNIV adds the word “own” which is not in the Greek. However, this is to counteract against the many years where this verse has been interpreted as a woman being under someone else’s authority. Maybe she is, and maybe she isn’t, but this verse does not say. It says she “ought to have authority”. The TNIV has a footnote offering the alternative interpretation.

1 Tim. 2:12

The TNIV once again, with “assume authority” offers a mediating position midway between “dominate’, or “rule” and “have authority” or “exercise authority”. However, there is no evidence that this word meant “to have legitimate authority.” The older BDAG had that as one meaning, but in view of the evidence, it has now been changed to “assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate.” But the evidence suggests something much closer to “dominate” or “compel.” Once again, I have no thoughts on how to interpret this, I would just like to see a literal translation.

So, overall, the TNIV has “deacon”, “outstanding among the apostles”, and “to have authority on her own head” as very close formal equivalent translations. Then the choices of “benefactor” and “assume authority” represent a mediating position. The TNIV closely resembles the King James Version in Rom. 16:7, 1 Cor. 11:10 and 1 Tim. 2:12. Check for the KJV here.

More another day.

Lunchroom chat and a Woman’s Bible

Last year I mentioned a few conversations I have had at work over lunch. When the chat dies down, I will sometimes just turn to a colleague and ask her what Bible(s) she has used. Since I work in a public school with a staff from a mixed background, Catholic, Jewish, atheist, Buddhist, this can be interesting. So far, I have had some in depth conversations about the Good News Bible, and the King James Version, the only two which seem to be widely recognized.

Today I asked a colleague whom I knew to be an evangelical,

“What Bible do you use in your house church?”

“Oh, we all use something different – I don’t know, well, you know, NRV and The Word.”

I nodded sympathetically and waited.

“By Eugene Peterson.”

“Oh yeah, the Message.”

“Yeah, that’s it. I have a Woman’s Bible, maybe NRV, hmmm, NIV? It has all these little boxes, devotions, for women and all that. Oh, I love it.”

“Not the TNIV?”

“How would I recognize that?”

“Well, if it had brothers and sisters in it.”

“Oh, no, I don’t mind something not being gender inclusive. You know the best Bible for the sheer poetry is the King James Bible. Yes, that is the best.”

And I would have to agree. The King James version offers not only poetry but in places a more literal translation. I still stubbornly hold to the idea that the literal and non-interpretive style of the KJV serves women well. Other literal Bibles are also good for women. I was also familiar with the Young’s literal translation. Maybe it is my familiarity with these translations that makes me so uneasy at some of the Bibles I start out to review here. I am simply taken by surprise!

Here is the question – which modern Bibles are closest to a traditional and literal interpretation for the following verses? I have provided the KJV, Young’s literal version, the Emphasized Bible, Luther Bible, and Latin Vulgate for comparison. Is it just me, or are Bibles in this century more selectively interpretive in these verses.

Rom. 16:1


servant KJV
ministrant YLT
minister EB
im Dienste Luther
in ministerio Latin

Rom. 16:2


succourer KJV
leader YLT
defender EB
Beistand Luther
astitit Latin

Rom. 16:7

ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις

of note among the apostles KJV
Junias – of note among the apostles YLT
Junias – of note among the Apostle EB
Junias – berühmte Apostel Luther
nobiles in Apostolis Latin

1 Cor. 11:10

ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς

have power on her head KJV
[a token of] authority upon the head YLT
to have permission EB
eine Macht auf dem Haupt haben Luther
potestatem habere supra caput Latin

1 Tim. 2:12


to usurp authority KJV
rule YLT
have authority over a man EB
daß sie des Mannes Herr sei Luther
dominari Latin

I don’t think readers realize that when I noticed that the NET notes didn’t mention “leader” for προστάτις, I was genuinely surprised because we used the Young’s Literal Translation as a reference Bible when I was young. Some may talk about my having a “preferred” interpretation but I am displaying legitimate concern when a traditional and literal understanding is not even referenced in notes.

But I want to ask which modern Bible would be a candidate for the most traditional and literal translation with regards to these verses? Which ones are the farthest removed from tradition? I have only checked a handful so far. Believe it or not!


I’m going to score these Bibles out of 4, counting Rom. 16: 1 and 2 together. If we look at the accepted text base and lexicons which are contemporary with these Bibles, they would all score 3 out of 4 for being literal.

Young’s Literal Translation – 2 1/2 out of 4,
Emphasized Bible – 2 out of 4,
King James Version – 3 out 4,
Luther – 2 out of 4,
Vulgate – 3 out of 4

ESV 2001 – 1 out of 4

Rom. 16:1 – servant
Rom. 16:2 – patron
Rom.16:7 – well known to
1 Cor. 11:10 – a symbol of authority on her head
1 Tim. 2:12 – exercise authority

TNIV 2001 – 4 out of 4

Rom. 16:1 – deacon
Rom. 16:2 – benefactor
Rom.16:7 – outstanding among
1 Cor. 11:10 – have authority over her own head
1 Tim. 2:12 – assume authority

HCSB 1999 – 2 out of 4

Rom. 16:1 – servant
Rom. 16:2 – benefactor
Rom.16:7 – outstanding among
1 Cor. 11:10 – [a symbol of] authority on her head
1 Tim. 2:12 – have authority

NET – 1996 – 2005, 0 out of 4

Rom. 16:1 – servant
Rom. 16:2 – great help
Rom.16:7 – well known to
1 Cor. 11:10 – symbol of authority on her head
1 Tim. 2:12 – exercise authority

NLT 1996 – 2 out of 4

Rom. 16:1 – deacon
Rom. 16:2 – helpful
Rom.16:7 – respected among
1 Cor. 11:10 – wear a covering on her head to show she is under authority
1 Tim. 2:12 – have authority

CEV 1995 – 3 out of 4

Rom. 16:1 – leader
Rom. 16:2 – respected leader
Rom.16:7 – Junias (male) highly respected by
1 Cor. 11:10 – sign of her authority
1 Tim. 2:12 – tell men what to do

NRSV – 1989, 2 out of 4

Rom. 16:1 – deacon
Rom. 16:2 – benefactor
Rom. 16:7 – prominent among
1 Cor. 11:10 – symbol of authority on her head
1 Tim. 2:12 – have authority over a man

NIV – 1978 – 1984, 0 out of 4

Rom. 16:1 – servant
Rom. 16:2 – great help
Rom. 16:7 – Junias among the apostles
1 Cor. 11:10 – symbol of authority on her head
1 Tim. 2:12 – have authority over a man

NASB – 1960 – 1995, 0 out of 4

Rom. 16:1 – servant
Rom. 16:2 – helper
Rom. 16:7 – Junias among the apostles
1 Cor. 11:10 – symbol of authority on her head
1 Tim. 2:12 – exercise authority over a man

RSV 1 out of 4

Rom. 16:1 – deaconess
Rom. 16:2 – helper
Rom. 16:7 – Junias among the apostles
1 Cor. 11:10 – veil on her head
1 Tim. 2:12 – have authority

ISV – 2003 – 1 out of 4

Rom. 16:1 – servant
Rom. 16:2 – has assisted
Rom. 16:7 – Junias among the apostles
1 Cor. 11:10 – authority over her own head
1 Tim. 2:12 – have authority


Rom. 16:1 – in the ministry
Rom. 16:2 – has assisted
Rom. 16:7 – Junias among the apostles
1 Cor. 11:10 – a power over her head
1 Tim. 2:12 – use authority over the man

"a good man, be he of the male or female sex"

This afternoon, Randy Stinson is preaching on Bible translation and Gender. Coffee Swirls is blogging the event. I wonder if Randy will properly explain the meaning of aner in his address.

We do not wish to deny the possibility that the plural of aner could take on a wider sense such as “people” in the fixed idiomatic expression, andres + plural noun, such as “men of Athens,” “men of Israel,” etc. But where is the proof? If substantial evidence is forthcoming, we would be happy to change out understanding of plural andres, and we recognize that there may be such evidence that we have not yet seen, especially with regard to fixed idioms such as “men of Athens,” etc. But we have not yet seen clear evidence that this is the case. So we cannot at this point agree with the TNIV’s claim that aner “was occasionally used as a generic term for human beings.”

This is the quote on the CBMW website. But what do they make of Plato’s Laws and the way aner is used in this passage? Can you talk in English about a member of our community, be he male or female, becoming a “good man”? I just don’t think so.

ποτὲ ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς γίγνοιτ’ ἄν,
τὴν ἀνθρώπῳ προσήκουσαν ἀρετὴν τῆς ψυχῆς ἔχων… ,
εἴτε ἄρρην τις των συνοικούντων οὖσα ἡ φύσις
εἴτε θήλεια, νέων ἢ γερόντων

… in which a member of our community–
be he of the male or female sex, young or old,–
may become a good citizen, possessed of the
excellence of soul which belongs to man. Plato’s Laws 6. 770d

I was so relieved to find this quote. Finally – here is a way to show what anthropos and aner really mean. Anthropos is the quality of being human, and aner, that of being a citizen, or a member of society.

Think of how this passage would sound like this,

… in which a member of our community–
be he of the male or female sex, young or old,
— may become a good man, possessed of the
excellence of soul which belongs to man. Plato’s Laws 6. 770d

Not so great. In fact, I personally would just get rid of the generic “he” in this passage while I was at it. But, nobody asked me! The translation was done in 1926.

Much better like this,

    … in which a member of our community–
    be they of the male or female sex, young or old,–
    may become a good citizen, possessed of the
    excellence of soul which belongs to humankind. Plato’s Laws 6. 770d

I was so happy to see that the Perseus Digital Library was back online that I did a little search and found that in Plato’s Laws alone, aner has been translated into English by “friend”, “individual”, “citizen”, “everyone”, “person” and so on.

I think that it is safe to say that the TNIV is not breaking new ground when it translates aner in a gender neutral fashion. I don’t think that the TNIV needs the blessing of the CBMW, but I would feel better if the CBMW expressed their happiness at receiving my evidence and changed their understanding of aner. Then they could retract their statement of concern against the TNIV.

Here is the article I am sending CBMW. This is my homework in preparation for the course I am planning to take with Fee this summer. 😉

And there is lots more to say about aner in Hellenistic Greek -some other time. I enjoy this reasearch as it gives me a chance to try out the search capacity of Perseus and gets me reading a little more broadly in classical Greek while I am at it.

I am also trying to read a couple of Psalms in Hebrew, Latin and Greek together, which is way easier than reading them in Hebrew alone. I am much more likely to recognize the word in Latin or Greek. It is a bit of a langauge stew but I find the Hebrew by itself pretty daunting.

Editing out the inspired singular "they"

James 2 is a real challenge to gender guidelines. I wonder if there was a statement of concern against the NIV for editing out gender neutral terms along with the inspired singular “they”.

14 τί τὸ ὄφελος ἀδελφοί μου ἐὰν πίστιν λέγῃ τις ἔχειν ἔργα δὲ μὴ ἔχῃ μὴ δύναται ἡ πίστις σῶσαι αὐτόν

14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?

15 ἐὰν ἀδελφὸς ἢ ἀδελφὴ γυμνοὶ ὑπάρχωσιν καὶ λειπόμενοι τῆς ἐφημέρου τροφῆς

15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.

16 εἴπῃ δέ τις αὐτοῖς ἐξ ὑμῶν ὑπάγετε ἐν εἰρήνῃ θερμαίνεσθε καὶ χορτάζεσθε

16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,”

μὴ δῶτε δὲ αὐτοῖς τὰ ἐπιτήδεια τοῦ σώματος τί τὸ ὄφελος

but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

17 οὕτως καὶ ἡ πίστις ἐὰν μὴ ἔχῃ ἔργα νεκρά ἐστιν καθ’ ἑαυτήν

17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. NIV

The first thing I noticed in this chapter of James in the NIV is that three different words are translated by man in English. They are ανθρωπος, a “person”; ανηρ, a “man” or “citizen”; and τις, the gender neutral “someone”.

But even odder is the way that the Greek was tidied up in English in the NIV. Note the “him” and “his” in verse 16, “if one of you says to him” and then “does nothing about his physical needs”. In fact, in the Greek it says, “to them”.

Somehow an English stylist must have come along and decided that the singular “they” was a product of the English translation, not the Greek, and edited it out. The TNIV has restored it. But if singular “they” is acceptable in Greek, why isn’t it used more often? I don’t know – maybe this one was just overlooked. Each epistle was written by a different author, or scribe, etc. They all had their preferences. So do we.

What is even odder is that the ESV, which does include the inspired singular “they”, but whose translators have sworn, up, down and around that the singular of anthropos should be translated as “man”, has suddenly translated anthropos as “person” in verse 20 – and inserted the word “you”.

ὦ ἄνθρωπε κενέ
you foolish person

I wonder if this goes against the Colorado Springs Guidelines!

And at the end of all that, how many of us stopped to think about how we can help to clothe and feed our brothers and sisters. We don’t need good grammar for that. Let us remember Rahab.

The Bible Experience: The Easter Story

Read today’s blog post at Camy’s Loft: The Bible Experience: The Easter Story. There’s a great recommendation for The Bible Experience dramatization of the TNIV. And you can find out how to download the Easter story from The Bible Experience for free. I’ve been listening to it and it’s good.

You can also click here to download The Bible Experience: The Easter Story from the Zondervan website. It’s a free download in mp3 format.