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The Politics of Bible Translations

Just a rant here, but I can’t keep my peace any longer.

I track about 100 Bible blogs and I am observing a disturbing trend. It is acceptable, in fact even trendy, to crack on, complain about, or trash the ESV. But if someone suggests their disdain for the TNIV, then that person is part of the ESV propaganda machine. What? Why is it acceptable to blast the ESV, but no one can show problems with the TNIV and not be discounted as an out of the loop, ultra traditional fanatic?

Am I not allowed to like a translation without being lumped into some sort of group or pigeon holed into some sort of category? I like the NRSV, but I am not a liberal by anyone’s definition (well, maybe a couple people – LOL). I like the HCSB but I am certainly not a Baptist. I like the ESV but am definitely not a reformed evangelical. I just like these translations. I do not like the TNIV because I think it has some translation faults. The TNIV improves upon the faults of the NIV, but it still has some renderings that I think are just wrong. For example, compare the TNIV and NASB (or ESV, HCSB, etc) on Romans 1:17. I think the TNIV is wrong to read, “the righteousness that comes from God.” At least the TNIV fixed the NIV’s “a righteousness that comes from God.” But this reading not only does not make much sense in the context of Romans 1, in my opinion, but it removes the other interpretation possibility – that Paul is talking about God’s righteousness. I do not like the TNIV and  NIV’s “sinful nature.” I think that rendering creates more problems and more confusion than it solves.

I don’t hate the TNIV. I have a leather TNIV. I have preached from the TNIV on occasion. I have read with TNIV. But this does not make me an egalitarian revisionist. The reason I do not study from the TNIV often is NOT because of some blind loyalty to another translation. The reason I have not regularly used the TNIV is NOT because of some warfare with other translations. The reason I do not use the TNIV as my main translation is NOT because I think the TNIV/CBT has some sort of egalitarian agenda. The reason I do not use the TNIV every day is NOT because I think anthropos ought to be translated “man.” I simply think the TNIV has some bad renderings, so I don’t use it too often. Often I do not like how the TNIV reads. These renderings bother me far more than some clunky renderings that the ESV, NASB, NKJV, NRSV, or HCSB have from time to time. It is my great hope that the NIV 2011 will repair these problems and then I might use the NIV as my primary translation.

I guess I am part of an rare group that will use any translation for reading, preaching, and study as long as translation is accurate on a given passage and communicates that passage in a fairly clear way. I think God’s Word translation has some good readings, like 1 Peter 3:21.

Don’t forget that Peter said that Paul wrote some things that are difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:16). While we should not intentionally complicate English translations, we cannot oversimplify difficult texts or concepts with our Bible translations. Some stuff is hard, requires thought and study, and cannot be always be made “easy to read.”

God did not choose reveal his words like this:

“See Jesus. See Jesus come to earth. See Jesus die on earth for you. See Jesus raise from dead. Follow Jesus.”

God chose not to insult our intelligence but expected us to search the mind of God revealed to us through his Word.

By the way, if you are an adult and say that you cannot “understand” the ESV, HCSB, NASB, NKJV, or NRSV (just going in alphabetical order), then I think you need to go back to your high school and demand a refund from your teachers. They obviously did you a great disservice. All of these translations are considered to be at a high school reading level. Only the KJV demands a reading proficiency higher than high school.

Okay, my rant is done. Back to your regularly scheduled programming….