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New gender-neutral Bible translation angers conservatives

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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
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Spanish to English
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Only the "Daily Mail" (which barely qualifies as journalism) would call this "political correctness" Mar 19, 2011

Every change they cite is a matter of getting the English to reflect the meaning of the original. That's what a translator is supposed to do.

The only thing to be lamented is the reversion to sexist language in the more famous verses.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:03
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Singular they Mar 19, 2011

It is interesting to see that the new NIV versions use the singular "they" to avoid saying "he or she".

This news item is about the 2011 edition. Remember that the NIV has had several editions over the past decade in which they went back and forth between the various viewpoints (gender inclusive versus not). In one of the previous versions, they chose to be gender-inclusive regardless of the meaning of the original, but in another they chose to be gender-inclusive only if the original does not specify male specifically.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:03
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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NIV 2011's own sample of changes Mar 19, 2011

A very interesting page is this one:
http://www.niv-cbt.org/niv-2011-overview/
on which the NIV 2011 committee explains a few changes. These include:

Words which used to mean something 40 years ago but now mean something different:

* ‟Saints” often becomes ‟God’s people,” ‟the Lord’s people,” ‟the Lord’s holy people” and the like. Most people today think of a particularly good person when they hear the word ‟saint,” whereas in the Bible it translates terminology that regularly refers to all believers.

Terms that few people were familiar with 40 years ago, but which is better known today:

* ‟Ankle chains” refer much more often to prison manacles than to the type of personal adornments described in Isaiah 3:20. The modern fashion of wearing jewelry around the ankle has led to the widespread use of the word ‟anklet” to describe this piece of jewelry, and this is the word used in the updated NIV.

New opinions about what certain words mean in a certain context:

* We are more certain than we were forty years ago that ... those crucified on either side of Jesus (called lēstai) were ‟rebels” rather than ‟robbers” (e.g., Mark 15:27).

Previous translations which lead to false doctrine based on misunderstanding the text:

* One shouldn’t be as easily able to misapply Philippians 4:13 now that it reads,‟I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (i.e., to be content in all circumstances, whether in riches or in poverty), rather than ‟I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Words that are outdated or that have been replaced in common English by something else:

* ‟Forefather” has all but disappeared from the English language as a generic term, being replaced by ‟ancestor.” Even in Evangelical sermons and writings, ‟ancestor” is more than twice as common as ‟forefather.” ... ‟Ancestors” was regularly preferred [in the NIV 2011] to ‟forefathers” unless a specific, limited reference to the patriarchs or to another all-male group is intended.

Some changes may appear to be gender-inclusive when in fact they are not:

Romans 16:1-2 now reads, ‟I commend to you our sister, Phoebe, a deacon [diakonos] of the church in Cenchreae. ... she has been the benefactor [prostatis] of many people, including me.” Complementarian and egalitarian scholars alike are increasingly agreeing that diakonos here means ‟deacon” (not just ‟servant) and that prostatis means a patron or benefactor (not just someone who was a ‟great help” in some unspecified way).

In some cases the translators deliberately chose an ambiguous term because they are uncertain of what the original means (or they can't satisfy a large enough group of critics with any precise word):

1Timothy 2:12 now reads,‟I do not permit a woman to teach or assume authority over a man.” Much debate has surrounded the rare Greek word authentein, translated in the 1984 NIV as ‟exercise authority.” The KJV reflected what some have argued was in some contexts a more negative sense for the word: ‟usurp authority.” Therefore, ‟assume authority” is a particularly nice English rendering because it leaves the question open...



[Edited at 2011-03-19 18:12 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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The Bible is a translation Mar 21, 2011

No professional would dare to introduce other factors in a translation other than the pure source meaning with the same vocabulary and register. It is very sad that we increasingly get adulterated translations of the Bible, which often lead to discussions that make absolutely no sense at all. We no longer know what the word of God really was!! Terrible.

As a believer, I really long for a translation of the Bible into Spanish that says EXACTLY what was said in the original. It matters to me, and it surely matters to many people, so there would certainly be a market for such a work.


 

Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:03
Italian to English
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Exactly what it says in the original??? Mar 21, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

I really long for a translation of the Bible into Spanish that says EXACTLY what was said in the original.


You're a translator and you believe that is actually possible? I'm amazed.


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 05:03
Member (2008)
French to English
Concordances Mar 21, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

As a believer, I really long for a translation of the Bible into Spanish that says EXACTLY what was said in the original.


I don't know about Spanish but in English there are concordances of the Bible available that cross-reference the original Greek or Hebrew words and include dictionaries of those original words. Actually, the exercise highlights how the meanings from the original words are very difiicult to convey exactly in another language, since words in one language often encompass meanings in a different way than the words in another language.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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It is possible! Mar 21, 2011

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:
Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
I really long for a translation of the Bible into Spanish that says EXACTLY what was said in the original.

You're a translator and you believe that is actually possible? I'm amazed.

Yes, it is always possible to convey the exact meaning.... with the right team of translators and historians, i.e. people who are able to analyse things in context and to convey the meaning to our context today.

Just as an example about what I mean, I fully recommend to read a book called Sacred blood, sacred image, which dedicates a lengthy explanation to the matter of what Peter and another disciple found when they arrived at Christ's tomb. Very interesting example of how something can be understood (and translated of course) when the right knowledge of the time is added to the picture.


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 05:03
Member (2008)
French to English
Agree Mar 21, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:
Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
I really long for a translation of the Bible into Spanish that says EXACTLY what was said in the original.

You're a translator and you believe that is actually possible? I'm amazed.

Yes, it is always possible to convey the exact meaning....


Absolutely. While difficult, it's by no means impossible, rather that much care and skill is needed.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:03
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Different theories of translation Mar 21, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
No professional would dare to introduce other factors in a translation other than the pure source meaning with the same vocabulary and register.


This is one theory of translation, yes, i.e. that the translator should stick to what the source text actually says, regardless of other factors like the purpose of the source text, the intended message/meaning that the source text's author tried to convey, the cultural background of the original readers or of the readers of the translation, etc, and that the translator should use the words in the translation that best or most closely render the meaning of the source text, regardless of whether those words are well-known, current or commonly used in the target language.

As a believer, I really long for a translation of the Bible into Spanish that says EXACTLY what was said in the original.


Well, here's a little exercise, then:

Acts 23 verse 17-24 is interesting for comparison, because it mentions three ranks. All English translations that I checked refer to Felix as a governer (he was in fact a procurator, though I'm not sure if the Greek source text actually refers to him as such). The two officers (who were centurions) are referred to in various translations as centurions, officers, sergents, and captains (although centurion is the most commonly used word). Claudius (who was a tribune) is called a commander, a tribune, an officer, a chief captain, a chiliarch and a commanding officer (and I'm not sure if the Greek source text says "tribune" or "chilliarch", or something else).

In one of my (freer) Afrikaans translations, Claudius gets promoted to "general", the two centurions are demoted to "soldiers", and Felix is the "Prime Minister". What happens in Spanish, and what would you want to happen in Spanish?



[Edited at 2011-03-21 14:04 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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Generals and centurions Mar 21, 2011

Samuel Murray wrote:
Acts 23 verse 17-24 is interesting for comparison, because it mentions three ranks. All English translations that I checked refer to Felix as a governer (he was in fact a procurator, though I'm not sure if the Greek source text actually refers to him as such). The two officers (who were centurions) are referred to in various translations as centurions, officers, sergents, and captains (although centurion is the most commonly used word). Claudius (who was a tribune) is called a commander, a tribune, an officer, a chief captain, a chiliarch and a commanding officer (and I'm not sure if the Greek source text says "tribune" or "chilliarch", or something else).

In one of my (freer) Afrikaans translations, Claudius gets promoted to "general", the two centurions are demoted to "soldiers", and Felix is the "Prime Minister". What happens in Spanish, and what would you want to happen in Spanish?

Interesting exercise indeed!

Now, here are the results:
- From the 1969 Nacar-Colunga, a rather classical translation: Felix is a "procurador" (same as "procurator"), and then you have the tribune and two centurions.

- From the 1992 Casa de la Biblia, a more modern version: Felix is a "governor", and then you again have the tribune and two centurions. I reckon they wanted to avoid "procurador", which in law is a type of attorney.

- From the 2002 Biblia del Peregrino, also a modern attempt: Felix is also a "governor", the "tribune" is suddently a "commander"/"major" (in the sense of military rank), and then you have the two centurions.

So indeed this is a mess, but I find the older, more classical translation better, because I want to know that it was a "tribune" and not a "commander", and that it was a "procurator" and not a "governor". I prefer to keep the word closest to the original, with an explanation of the meaning of the word in modern times, as a mere footnote.

It astonishes me a bit that in most authoritative editions of classical works in Spain, we get a rather original text, maybe with the spelling modernised, but in its original words even if they have little meaning after 500 years. We do get a ton of footnotes, creating a book that it is both interesting because it takes you back in time and teaches you things.


 

Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:03
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
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The Bible is a translation Mar 21, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

As a believer, I really long for a translation of the Bible into Spanish that says EXACTLY what was said in the original. It matters to me, and it surely matters to many people, so there would certainly be a market for such a work.


But how literal is literal? "Elohim" looks like a Hebrew plural. Do you want it translated as "Dioses" (Gods) instead of "Dios" (God), despite the traditional singular understanding of the word? Do you want the people's names to reflect the original text: "Moshe" instead of "Moisés" (Moses), etc.?

Hebrew is often ambiguous in meaning. "Ruach" can mean "wind" or "spirit." A Christian will think "the Spirit of the Lord" passed over the water. A Jew is more likely to think a great wind passed over the water. Both are literal, widely accepted translations. Similar ambiguities crop up in Aramaic and Greek. Should the translation put all possible meanings of all words with slashes between them? It would yield an unwieldy text. It might be of interest to Bible scholars but I doubt there would be a broad market.

In any case, in English (which no longer has a generic male plural), putting "people" instead of "men" or "man" is a good thing in contexts where the meaning is clearly inclusive of women. Women do not live by bread alone either. Saying "people" allows the modern reader to understand the sentence the same way as the original readers would have, and what more could we want from a translation of an ancient text?

[Edited at 2011-03-21 15:32 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
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Death of the uniqueness Mar 21, 2011

Steven Capsuto wrote:
Women do not live by bread alone either. Saying "people" allows the modern reader to understand the sentence the same way as the original readers would have, and what more could we want from a translation of an ancient text?

I get the point, but don't quite agree. To me, "el hombre" or "man" has always referred to all kinds of people. Giving the idea that it hasn't is just a trend. If the original text said "man", may it be "man" in the translations. Or are we also going to edit Hamlet too to change "proud man" to "proud people"? How come we should respect Hamlet and not the Bible in this respect?

Saying "man" or "el hombre" also refers to each person, each individual in direct communication with the creator. Saying "people" puts all individuals in a happy bunch which, although very contemporary indeed, removes the importance of each individual if you ask me, since the individual can only exist as a member of the bunch, and not as a unique, dear creature.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:03
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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Two approaches Mar 21, 2011

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
To me, ... "man" has always referred to all kinds of people. Giving the idea that it hasn't is just a trend.


Changing "man" to "people" may be done for a variety of reasons, but two immediately spring to mind. The first is the question of whether using "man" may be sexist. The second is whether using "man" may be usual. I would use the first reason only if I'm trying to produce a specifically non-sexist publication, or if I know that my target audience would be unable to digest a text that seems sexist.

The second reason is more universal, in my opinion: If the source text does not specifically imply a penis present, then the only valid reason for using "man" would be if that word is the most usual, most commonly understood word that means what the original means.

And... unlike translators of two decades ago, we now have access to vast electronic databanks of language usage to tell us objectively whether a word is truly still commonly in use and whether it still has the same connotations as it had 50 years ago.+

If the original text said "man", may it be "man" in the translations.


What if the original said "a man", but your target language doesn't have an indefinite article? Or worse, what if the source language doesn't have an indefinite article -- would you translate it as "man" or "a man"? Obviously you'd translate it in a way that would lead a modern reader to understand what was meant in the original, despite grammatical or syntactic incompatibilities.

It is interesting for me to follow the objections to the new translations, particularly since only some of those issues are real issues in my own language. We don't use "man" for humankind in my language at all -- we use "the human" (older translations) or "a human" (the modern, more sober translations) or "one (i.e. a person)" (modern, freer translations). But if a Bible translator tries to say "one does not live from bread alone" in an English translation, for whatever reason, then the shit hits the fan, and the poor translator is branded as having done so solely to appease the modernists and the non-sexists.


 

Peter Nicholson  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 11:03
Polish to English
Political correctness or dumbing down? Mar 21, 2011

The 2011 version of Revelation 3:20 sounds more like how a TEFL teacher might explain the 2005 rendering to a class at around pre-intermediate level.

 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
My attempt at a non-sexist Bible Mar 21, 2011

Samuel Murray wrote:
Changing "man" to "people" may be done for a variety of reasons, but two immediately spring to mind. The first is the question of whether using "man" may be sexist. The second is whether using "man" may be usual. I would use the first reason only if I'm trying to produce a specifically non-sexist publication, or if I know that my target audience would be unable to digest a text that seems sexist.

But the "target audience" has been "digesting" translations of the Bible containing "man" for over two thousand centuries! Saying that a bible published in 2002 is no longer digestible by the current society is quite odd to say the least.

Samuel Murray wrote:
The second reason is more universal, in my opinion: If the source text does not specifically imply a penis present, then the only valid reason for using "man" would be if that word is the most usual, most commonly understood word that means what the original means.

I think that, given the fact that God in his supreme wisdom would not create man first, so that his children would not be offended by this preference and arbitrary decision, the Bible should say the following:
Genesis 2, 6: Then the LORD God formed a manperson from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the manperson became a living being.
...
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the mana person to be alone. I will make a helpercompanion suitable for him.”
...
But for Adamthe first person no suitable helpercompanion was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the manperson to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the manperson’s ribs[g] and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a womananother person from the rib[h] he had taken out of the manfirst person, and he brought herthis second person to the manfirst person.

The manfirst person said,

“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
shethis shall be called ‘womanperson two,’
for shethe person was taken out of manperson one.”


Ok, Ok, this is an exaggeration which I hope does not offend anyone. Whether man or woman was created first or both at the same time is something I cannot know and is a matter of faith. I would not be offended if woman had been created first. Quite OK by me!

I just want to prove how ridiculous can things get if we let sexism/anti-sexism intervene in what should be an informed, consistent translation of ancient texts, inspired by God or not (another matter of faith).

[Edited at 2011-03-21 18:44 GMT]


 
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