Monday, March 19, 2007

poll on TNIV Rom. 12:1

I have just put up a poll in the margin of this blog. It surveys how people react to the translation of Rom. 12:1 where the TNIV addresses the plea to "brothers and sisters" instead of "brothers", the traditional wording in many English versions. I invite you to take the poll. There is space for you to add comments to your poll answers if you wish.

5 comments:

Jeremy Pierce said...

I had to select "other". If they had given an option that allows for translating as either "brothers and sisters" or "brothers", then I might have had a choice I could endorse. I can't agree with any statement that takes one or the other as more accurate absolutely, since I think each is more accurate with respect to a different set of background conditions.

Jeremy Pierce said...

Sorry, I didn't intend the impersonal "they". That was supposed to say "If you had included an option". I wrote this as a comment for your BBB link to this post and then noticed it was your own post here. I then copied and pasted it to post here and accidentally hit the button for posting the comment before I'd had a chance to finish editing it.

On second thought, it's not background conditions that something is accurate with respect to. It's background information that the original audience would have understood that gets preserved in one case, and it's the syntactic form that gets accurately preserved in the other. The second isn't background information. It's right in front of your face in the original and in form-sensitive translations but not present at all in the TNIV and other form-masking translations.

Wayne Leman said...

Jeremy commented:

Sorry, I didn't intend the impersonal "they".

No problem, Jeremy. I assume that you have noticed how many typos I make. And I really do try to go back, find them, and correct them.

You wrote:

On second thought, it's not background conditions that something is accurate with respect to. It's background information that the original audience would have understood that gets preserved in one case, and it's the syntactic form that gets accurately preserved in the other. The second isn't background information. It's right in front of your face in the original and in form-sensitive translations but not present at all in the TNIV and other form-masking translations.

I don't understand yet what you are saying, but I would like to.

Maybe you can clarify if I ask questions like these:

1. Do you lean one way or the other about whom Rom. 12:1 was addressed to, only male Christians or both male and female Christians?

2. If you lean toward the exhortation being addressed to both genders, what English wording do you think most accurately conveys that meaning to the most number of English speakers?

3. If my previous two questions are inappropriately worded for you, or too limited, can you explain why you have trouble with their wording.

Kevin said...

I have a hard time believing that Paul would have been speaking to only men during his whole time in ministry to the early church. It must have included women in the audience. So I chose "brothers and sisters". The most important thing to consider is what was Paul's originally- intended audience. Then why should we continue using a male-only reference? It doesn't make sense. But if Paul was actually speaking only to men, then "brothers" would be more accurate. E.g., 1 Cor. 9:5 "Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas?"
It all depends on the context in which the speaker was speaking.

Jeremy Pierce said...

Wayne, I'm not sure why anyone might think Rom 12:1 doesn't include a mixed group. But two factors are worth considering. One is that English hasn't universally reached a point where "brothers" can only be heard as referring to an exclusively masculine group. It is that way for many speakers of English, probably most English speakers who are in the market for a new Bible. That's why I recommend something like the TNIV or NLT for many kinds of people who might be about to get a new Bible.

But there are people who can hear "brothers" as including women and/or girls. The term is already being used in a way that goes beyond biological brothers, and it's not that hard for many people to adjust to extending it not just to non-sibling males but also to non-sibling females. For some people this is an adjustment, just as it is when I see "the LORD" and think "that's the divine name". Others are accustomed to it.

This alone wouldn't be sufficient for translating it as "brothers", but there are other considerations. There are elements lost when you translate "adelphoi" as "brothers and sisters" that aren't lost when you translate it as "brothers". One is the sense that everyone is included in one word. There's a kind of solidarity in that, and you miss some of it with "brothers and sisters", which treats believers as having to fall under two groups. One element, then, of the original, is not as accurately presevered with "brothers and sisters". For those who can adjust or who can see "brothers" as gender-inclusive, it might be more accurate to the original for them to see "brothers".

Also, there might be times when brothers and sisters are explicitly separated out in the original. When I see "brothers and sisters" in the TNIV, I often wonder whether it actually specifically mentions sisters. Since Greek doesn't have to, it means the author might have wanted to emphasize their presence. There's also a consistency issue with instances when it's not clear if the reference class includes women and/or girls, e.g. when Jesus' "adelphoi" are mentioned, does that include his biological sisters? The practice of translating 'adelphoi' in places like Rom 12:1 as "brothers and sisters" can obscure a reference somewhere else because of those issues.

So overall my point is that these are two views on how to translate it, both of which have something going for them. Part of what determines it is the intended audience who will be reading the translation in question, and part of what determines it is how important the considerations in favor of each translation choice are. I think there is room for both translations, and I don't think it's inaccurate to translate either way, although I do think each has an imperfect accuracy in different respects.