Control over translation is key, Mohler says
July 12 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Control over translation is key, Mohler says | Friday, July 12, 2002

Friday, July 12, 2002

Control over translation is key, Mohler says

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

A continuing controversy over the Today's New International Version (TNIV) Bible translation came into focus last month when Albert Mohler told a gathering of pastors that it is important for Southern Baptists to have a Bible translation they can control.

Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was speaking to a pastors' breakfast on June 10 during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting in St. Louis. The breakfast was sponsored by the SBC's LifeWay Christian Resources.

LifeWay's trade publishing arm, Broadman & Holman, is promoting a new translation of its own, the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

Both the HCSB and TNIV are available only in the New Testament, with Old Testament translations scheduled to appear in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

The TNIV is published by Zondervan for the International Bible Society (IBS). It has come under fire from some conservative evangelicals, including a variety of Southern Baptists, who say its increased use of gender-neutral language pays homage to feminism and political correctness. Publishers and proponents of the TNIV deny the charge and insist the translation seeks to be "gender-accurate" in its translation of words that were intended to denote both men and women.

Mohler told the pastors that his first response to LifeWay's plans for the HCSB was lukewarm. "I think in many ways there are too many translations, and having one more translation is not necessarily a great thing," he said.

But the introduction of the TNIV led to a change of heart, he said. "Changes in the last several months have convinced me that in the end this is an important thing for Southern Baptists to do - if for no other reason than that we will have a major translation we can control."

Whether the HCSB becomes widely accepted as a "major translation" is uncertain, but it will have no competition from the TNIV in the 105 LifeWay Christian Stores. LifeWay president James Draper told the same gathering of pastors, "We will not be selling it in our bookstores."

Apparently not satisfied with Draper's pledge, messengers to the SBC did not approve a resolution decrying the TNIV until they had voted to append a specific directive that LifeWay should not carry the new translation.

The resolution says the TNIV "has gone beyond acceptable translation standards" and "alters the meaning of hundreds of verses" by translating some gender-specific terms in gender-neutral fashion.

Russell Moore, a member of the resolutions committee, presented the resolution. Moore teaches at Southern Seminary and writes a regular column for the "Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" (CBMW) Web site, The CBMW has close ties to Southern Seminary and has spearheaded opposition to the TNIV. Criticisms in the SBC resolution echo complaints published by CBMW on its Web site.

CBMW officials recently sought to publicize their critique of the TNIV in a two-page display ad in Christianity Today. Editors of the evangelical magazine rejected it, however, citing a policy of not including criticism of parties within evangelicalism in its ads.

Earlier, the CBMW published a list of 100 evangelicals who oppose the TNIV, including several well-known Southern Baptists among them. The ISB responded with a list of 64 prominent supporters, also featuring both evangelicals and some Southern Baptists.

More recently, the ISB released a statement from the "Forum of Bible Agencies" (FBA), a consortium of 18 Bible translation agencies responsible for 90 percent of all Bible translation work, according to the release. Members include longstanding organizations such as the American Bible Society, the United Bible Society and Wycliffe Bible Translators, along with newer, mission-focused groups like New Tribes Mission, Pioneer Bible Translators, Trans World Radio and the Jesus Film Project.

The FBA statement said, "It is the consensus of the FBA that the TNIV falls within the Forum's translation principles and procedures."

Scott Bolinder, executive vice president and publisher for Zondervan, said, "The FBA is a definitive source on Bible translation. We hope their announcement will help correct misinformation about Today's New International Version."

The FBA released a later statement saying its comments were a private communication and not intended as a public endorsement. The FBA does not endorse specific translations, the statement said.

The Zondervan release quoted John Kohlenberger, known to Greek students as author of The Exhaustive Concordance of the Greek New Testament. "Having spent nearly 30 years studying biblical language, translation theory and the history of Bible translation, I am amazed and disturbed by the campaign against the TNIV," Kohlenberger said.

"The claims made by CBMW reflect some lack of awareness for the fundamentals of translation and for what has been acceptable throughout the history of Bible translation. Assertions that the TNIV distorts Scripture or caters to a particular agenda are absolutely false," he said.

Craig Blomberg, professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, said, "The group that objects to the TNIV does not reflect a majority of evangelical, New Testament scholars. In fact, most of these individuals have no translation experience.

"I have read every verse of the TNIV," Blomberg said, "and, I believe the TNIV's treatment of gender-inclusive language with respect to humanity is in every case defensible."

Still, opponents of the TNIV maintain that the TNIV is, as Moore described it to reporters, "an inaccurate and misleading translation of God's Scripture."

The level of concern among detractors arises in part because the TNIV's predecessor, the New International Version (NIV), has become the preferred translation of many evangelical Christians. Critics of the TNIV fear that unwary shoppers will trust it as they did the NIV, and purchase it without being aware of the translational differences.

Mohler told the pastors about a recent visit to a bookstore, where he engaged in conversation with a customer who was having difficulty deciding which translation to buy. "Have some sympathy for the people who are trying to do this (choose a Bible)," Mohler said. "I want to encourage you to arm your people to know what they're doing when they walk into a bookstore and are choosing a translation.

"What they have in their hands is what they will have in their minds and what they will hide in their hearts."

(EDITOR'S NOTE - This article includes information from reporting by Baptist Press and the Religion News Service.)

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7/12/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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