Bible Translation Wars

I recently made the switch back to the New American Standard Bible from the English Standard Version. The political debates surrounding translation principles are far too ridiculous for me to allow them to get under my skin. Far too often for some conservatives, the issues surrounding gender-inclusive language is rooted more in protecting patriarchal territory in the pulpit and home than anything else.

Consider the ridiculous exchange between Wayne Grudem and James Dobson in which the dominating fear of the TNIV (which I don’t use, by the way) and other gender-inclusive Bible translations is that they hinder the maleness of Scripture. Um, whaaaaaaaaaa? Gee, my bad. I thought in Jesus, there is neither male nor female (Gal. 3:28). I didn’t know that the Holy Spirit was pimping the importance of maleness over holiness, sanctification, justification, and all that good stuff we find in the Lord Jesus Christ. Dang, I really need to read up about this in my trusty NASB.

Then there is the Pete Winn article, “When Brothers Disagree.” The title alone tells you where the author stands. I know that the majority of biblical scholars on translation committees are men but there are some women. He quotes Dobson again:

In the end, many Christians observing this battle may wind up feeling like Dobson. After considerable discussion and thought, the president of Focus on the Family reluctantly concluded he could not help but speak out in opposition to the TNIV, but nonetheless felt a profound sense of sadness at having to take the stand: “I love the Scriptures and I know them to be the very words of God to His creation,” Dobson said. “Like most evangelical Christians, I want my Bible to contain an accurate translation of the canonical Hebrew and Greek texts. Accordingly, I will continue to speak out against any effort that alters God’s Word or toys with translation methodology for the sake of ‘political correctness.’ ”

First, this call for not altering God’s Word is disingenuous and theologically naive at best. Every time a translation committee touches attempts to translate the manuscripts, they have to “alter” the Word. No two languages are alike and frankly, I could tell you that just from my year of Hebrew. The Hebrew language is very complex and very rich. Even the best and most accurate translations cannot capture the full depth of what the manuscripts of the Old Testament are saying. In addition, even conservative translations like the NASB employ italicized words to show that they substituted a word into the text to help a sentence make sense to the reader (gasp! heretics!). Yet, Dobson and those like-minded reactionaries like him glide right over basick translation principles.

If the truth be told, you cannot even get a lot of biblical translators and scholars to agree on which ancient manuscripts are the most reliable!

My own personal belief is to receive the text as the text is given. God has equipped believers to understand that when a “he? is universal and when it is specifically referring to a male. I prefer a more literal translation and hence, I prefer the NASB. I don’t use it exclusively and use a lot of other translations like the ESV, NIV, and The Message in addition to the latest Greek and Hebrew texts to help me with study.


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