Tag Archives: New International Version

Translation is Interpretation: Calvin, CBMW, & Phillipians 2:6

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The ever vigilant Suzanne McCarthy, who works with translation issues and points out many of the ideological translating going around in Christian circles, has once again used one of the Reformers and the original Greek to refute the quite biased (and for the worst) translation of Scripture.  At least the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood do not claim to be objective in their readings of Scripture. Then, we would have a problem.

On Philippians 2:6, CBMW says:

The significant thing here is that some theologians writing for the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood have interpreted “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” as an indication that Christ is in some way not equal to God. Here Denny Burk writes for the CBMW,

First, this verse affirms that Christ has ontological equality with the Father with respect to his deity. That’s what “existing in the form of God” means. Second, the verse affirms that in his pre-incarnate state Christ did not try to obtain (or “grasp for”) another kind of equality which he did not have in his pre-existent state.What kind of “equality” did he refuse to grasp for? He refused to “grasp for” a functional equality with the Father that would have usurped the Father’s role as Father. In contrast to grasping for that kind of equality, the Son “emptied himself” and took the form of a servant (v. 7). In other words, in eternity past Christ determined not to usurp the Father’s role but decided to embrace his own role in the incarnation. Thus what we have in this text is both an affirmation of Christ’s ontological equality with the Father (vis a vis his deity) and a passing reference to his functional distinction from the same.  “

But Suzanne, quoting the original Greek, Calvin, and other translations:

This is what Calvin wrote about Philippians 2:6,

6. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

6. Qui quum in forma Dei esset, non rapinam arbitratus esset, Deo aequalem se esse:

In the Latin Vulgate, the Greek word harpagmos, ἁρπαγμός, had been translated as rapina, meaning “rape, pillage, plunder and robbery.” This is how Luther and Calvin also understood this word harpagmos. Calvin wrote,

Thought it not robbery. There would have been no wrong done though he had shewn himself to be equal with God. For when he says, he would not have thought, it is as though he had said, “He knew, indeed, that this was lawful and right for him,” that we might know that his abasement was voluntary, not of necessity. ….

For where can there be equality with God without robbery, excepting only where there is the essence of God; for God always remains the same, who cries by Isaiah, I live; I will not give my glory to another. (Isa 48:11.) Form means figure or appearance, as they commonly speak. This, too, I readily grant; but will there be found, apart from God, such a form, so as to be neither false nor forged?

As, then, God is known by means of his excellences, and his works are evidences of his eternal Godhead, (Ro 1:20,) so Christ’s divine essence is rightly proved from Christ’s majesty, which he possessed equally with the Father before he humbled himself. As to myself, at least, not even all devils would wrest this passage from me — inasmuch as there is in God a most solid argument, from his glory to his essence, which are two things that are inseparable.

However, at least since the RSV, harpagmos has been translated as “a thing to be grasped.” This phrase occurs in the NIV 1984, NASB and ESV. The NRSV, on the other hand, has translated harpagmos as “something to be exploited” and the NIV 2011 as “something to be used to his own advantage.”

For the rest of the post and to make comments, please see this link.

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What Now Shall I Read? The Exciting Conclusion

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A hearty, chunky, beefy, soupy “thank you” to everyone who has kept up with my search for a Bible translation, post-TNIV. Previous entries can be read here: Intro , NIV, NRSV, NAB, NLT, ESV, NASB, and the HCSB & KJV. For this concluding post, I would like to thank everyone who contributed and encourage everyone reading to check out the home blogs of these misunderstood, lonely, nerdy, and amazing Bibliophiles. They are, in order of appearance: Mark Stevens, Rodney Thomas Jr., Jeremy Thompson, Joel Watts, Jason Skipper, Dustin Smith, and me. Since I know you are all dying to know who the most convincing was, I will interact briefly, and without further ado, with each translation that was posted on.

The NIV: The problem here is that I agree with everything Mark had to say about the NIV. He claims that it “just felt right.” This is a claim that I can make as well. The language just feels comfortable to me. The NIV is the Bible I was first introduced to, and the Bible that I can quote from most comfortably. Mark also makes some very good statements about the gender inclusivity of the NIV family of Bibles. The readability is there, and the translators are generally well respected. The problem is that most of this applies to the TNIV, not the newer NIV 2010. In fact, the gender regression and my lack of trust in the current round of translators (as opposed to the TNIV) is why I am looking for a new translation in the first place. Verdict: Unless the TNIV makes a comeback, I will read elsewhere.

The NRSV: As a student of the scriptures, I am convinced that the NRSV has much good to offer. I don’t find the more literal translations of words to be “wooden” as some others have, but I also appreciate that it is not as gripping as one might hope for in their religious literature. The readability does not bother me as much as it might otherwise, since the general narrative is already embedded within me. At this point in my life, I am looking for more literal/faithful translations than gripping ones. Having said that, I don’t like preaching from this Bible. It does feel wooden when I preach from it. The problem compounded is that my church, and most PC(USA) churches I have been to, use this version. I am stuck at least using this translation liturgically for the foreseeable future. But that isn’t so bad. Verdict: Unless I have a say in the matter, I will read this version liturgically and for some study purposes.

The NAB: Jeremy’s post did not convince me to use the NAB whatsoever. But, it was very helpful. Jeremy’s honesty with why he uses the NAB, along with his acknowledgment of its imperfection, and yet his comfort with using it, really felt genuine. He uses the NRSV in tandem with the NAB and it works in his context. And his context, for him, is comfortable with the NAB, therefore so is he. I am confident that wherever the NAB is not quite adequate, Jeremy is doing a good job with his parish to guide them into a clearer picture. So while Jeremy did not convince me to use the NAB, he gained my respect and along the way, allowed me to be more comfortable with my decision to use the NRSV liturgically. Verdict: Unless my Presbytery turns into a Parish and adopts the NAB, I will read elsewhere.

The NLT: I actually like the NLT. Like Joel, I find it to be highly readable, and therefore, very useful, especially to the person who is looking into a devotional Bible or someone who is primarily concerned with narrative/spiritual matters. I have many good friends who love the NLT to death and read the scriptures more because of it than they would without it, which in my book is a great thing. However, at the stage I am in right now, I find the NLT, while highly readable, sometimes sacrifices a more sure reading of certain verses for the sake of the reader. Not that this makes it a poor translation, but the slippery slope of leaning more on a particular translator’s interpretation than on what the text might say more literally is a hard slope for me to start down. Readability, while good for most, is not what I am looking for at the moment. Also, Joel made a very good point. He fell in love with the NLT. Any version that I use has to be a version I can fall in love with in the same way. Verdict: Unless I go back to my roots and join my wife’s family at a more modern Charismatic church, I will read elsewhere.

The ESV: While I appreciate that those who support the ESV wear their theological commitments on their sleeves, it is more off-putting to me that this translation was essentially marketed as “We are not the liberal TNIV.” And while I appreciate Jason’s candor, I am afraid that a translation described by him as basically, “better than the KJV.” I appreciate that much of the theological language and poetic cadence is kept, but my fear is that those who translated it had much too much of their own selves in it, much like the translators of the KJV did. While it is impossible to do away with that danger completely, a reactionary Bible like this one feels like it doesn’t even try to avoid it. And I think for them and their audience, that is alright. But for me, I am not persuaded. Verdict: Unless Jesus comes back as a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed, I will read elsewhere.

The NASB: I must admit that this one caught me a little off guard. As I haven’t really examined the NASB as thoroughly as some others, I had no preconceived notions about it. Actually, that isn’t true. I actually confused it initially with the NAB, and so I thought the NASB was a Catholic translation. I was wrong. But on the other side of it, I am impressed with what I have read so far. Dustin did a far more technical evaluation than most of the other contenders, and as such, I was able to do a 1-1 evaluation myself. I wish Dustin would have done a comparison of the NASB with the NRSV instead of the NIV, but regardless, much of his point was made. The NASB (with many exceptions, as in every version) does a very good job with a more literal translation. Verdict: Unless another more literal translation comes along, I am reading the NASB alongside the NRSV for much of my study.

The HCSB: I like the Transliterations for the names of God, especially YHWH, but the rest of the translating decisions are thoroughly spiritually partisan, and I have no use for that. Verdict: Unless El Shaddai convinces me through a convention, Southern or otherwise, I will read elsewhere.

The KJV: A beautiful, poetic, and culturally significant translation. However, it suffers from an imperialistic nature. A poor translation, in archaic language, based upon a poor Latin translation (no offense, Jerome). I tried, Jimmy, I tried. But I just can’t read you. My horribly mentally scarred 8-year-old self still remembers trying to reach God through you and failing miserably. Verdict: Unless King James comes down from Heaven and tells me otherwise (I have so many theological problems with that last statement I made), I will read elsewhere. Actually, I will read elsewhere no matter what. I would likely treat James as a zombie and shoot off his head.

Overall Verdict: For my part, I am personally comfortable using the NRSV for liturgical purposes. I am now glad to add the NASB to my NRSV and the TNIV I will keep around for the purposes of quick reference or study. However, I believe that at this stage, no English translation can do what I need it to do. I need a translation that I feel has accurately translated the original languages in a way that is relevant and faithful to the original writer’s intent. And probably shocking in a way that most Bibles will not be for commercial purposes. This is why I have decided on a new version. A version that does not exist yet. The PJV.

The PJV (Political Jesus Version) is a serious project (with a tongue-in-cheek name) that springs out of my search for a Bible translation I can get behind. After reading the posts and talking with Rod and Kurk Gayle, Rod and I decided that the only translation we could get behind was the translation we did ourselves. Essentially, Rod will translate a passage, as will I. Then we will compare, get input from others (English, Hebrew, and Greek, general language scholars) and post that passage to political Jesus. We will also include commentary on that passage from Rod, myself, and hopefully other, more diverse voices, in order to facilitate a translation that we hope will be faithful, helpful, and will start conversations. It must also be said that anything we attempt is frail and feeble without God’s blessing. So YHWH, this is my formal request for your help in this project.

Blessings!

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What Now Shall I Read? A Case for the NASB

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A very special thank you to my friend and colleague Dustin from DustinMartyr for joining us in this project, “What now Shall I Read?” Previous entries are here: IntroNIVNRSVNABNLT, and ESV. And now, let’s give Dustin a very warm Political Jesus welcome as he tells me why he uses the NASB version.

Why I read the NASB and I think you should too:It is a literal translation, attempting to take each word or phrase and give it the most literal word for word counterpart available.

  1. 1. The NASB footnotes and side-margin references have been praised by many for being extremely helpful.
  2. 2. It is a readily available translation, offered at all Christian book stores and pretty much every Borders and Barnes and Noble bookstores I have visited.
  3. 3. It is quite readable.
  4. 4. It does not take the modern politically correct route of making all references to God, men, and women ‘gender-inclusive’ (as the NRSV is known for).
  5. 5. Compared to the other more popular translations, the NIV and the NRSV, the NASB time and time again offers the better translation. Please consider the following examples:
Matt. 25:31 NIV When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. (note: ‘heavenly’ is not in the Greek, but is certainly theologically suggestive from the perspective of the translator)
Matt. 25:31 NASB But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.

Phil. 3:14 NIV I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (note: ‘heavenward’ is certainly not the direction of believers, since Paul is talking about the future resurrection of the faithful)
Phil. 3:14 NASB I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

John 16:28 NIV “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (note: the Greek does not say ‘back’, which suggests preexistence when it is not in the text)
John 16:28 NASB “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”

John 20:17 NIV Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. (again, the Greek does not say ‘going back’ – pushing the preexistence issue)
John 20:17 NASB Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father”

Romans 10:16 NIV But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. (‘Israelites’ is not in the Greek)
Romans 10:16 NASB However, they did not all heed the good news.

Note also how the NIV translates sarx, the Greek word for ‘flesh’:

-by human effort (Gal 3:3 NIV)

-the sinful nature (Gal 5:13 NIV)

-in the body (Phi 1:22 NIV)

The NIV takes the liberty to allow its translators to flex their theological muscles in these renderings of the Greek, while the NASB is more consistent, allowing the reader to make up their own mind in interpretation.

NIV continually translates euangellion in the Gospels as ‘good news’ while translating the same word in Paul as ‘gospel’. Does this not feed the evangelical doctrine of dispensationalism? The NASB, on the other hand, is consistent in how it translates euangellion.

The NIV constantly, constantly leaves out the important word gar (‘for’) in the epistles of Paul while the NASB keeps them all.

The NIV translates dikaiousune theou (‘God’s righteousness’) as ‘the righteousness from God, and thus important a very narrow Lutheran perspective (Rom. 1:17, 3:22, 10:4).

The NIV brackets off Rom. 2:14-15 wrongly, again importing a narrow Lutheran perspective upon the text. The NASB does not.

Both the NRSV and the NIV add words to the Greek preposition ev in Rom. 2:17. The NASB keeps to the Greek.

The NIV omits the Greek nomos (‘law’) in Rom. 3:28 and the word ‘or’ in the very next verse! The NASB retains both.

Both the NRSV and the NIV make the choice for the reader about what the ‘love of God’ actually is in Rom. 5:5. The NASB leaves it for the reader to decide.

The NRSV and the NIV omit the first word in the Greek text in Rom. 7:1. Kept in the NASB.

Both the NRSV and the NIV completely ignore the Greek text in Rom. 9:31 and add their own rendering to the text. The NASB remains faithful.

Gal. 3:23 NIV Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.

Gal. 3:23 NRSV Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed.

Gal. 3:23 NASB But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. (Note how the law is given a negative function in the NIV and NRSV, while the Greek does not indicate a negative meaning (nor do any of Paul’s other usages of the same word)).

I’m sure that I have scribbled in my Greek New Testament a few other places where the NIV or NRSV have off-translations. But for now, this will have to do. I don’t claim that the NASB is without its flaws, or even that the NRSV doesn’t have some very good traits to it. I just feel that the NASB has been an enormous help in studying the Bible, both academically as well as spiritually. I highly recommend it =)

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