Sunday, October 28, 2007

Spiritual gifts are not just for men

The NIV wording of Rom. 12:6-8 sounds like spiritual gifts are only given to men:
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
All other English versions that I am aware of, including KJV, RSV, ESV, NASB, TNIV, and HCSB do not insert the word "man", as the NIV translators did. There is nothing in the underlying Greek which corresponds to the word "man". The TNIV removes "man", creating greater accuracy:
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
There are several other places in the NIV text where the word "man" is used in a way that is not accurate, and other translations, including those conforming to complementarian standards such as the ESV, HCSB, and NASB, have an accurate translation of the Greek.

One of the points missed in debates over the TNIV is that it was necessary to revise the NIV to remove such inaccuracies. The ESV and HCSB, two recent versions which specifically follow the male-oriented Colorado Springs Guidelines, are more accurate than the NIV for those verses where the NIV translators used the word "man" when the Greek is not referring to a male adult.

HT: Christian Bible on Wikipedia Deletions blog

12 comments:

Joe Myzia said...

Very interesting, Wayne. I found it so interesting that I looked at it a bit this morning. Then I did a post linking to this one and made some comments myself. Let me know if you find any of my comments inaccurate as I'm not as knowledgeable in Greek as you, Rick, and Peter (I'm not sure on Ben's background in Greek - he probably can't have less background than I).

Gary Zimmerli said...

Why would they use the term "man" when the Greek is not referring to a male adult? Don't you suppose that a lot of that is simply due to the manner in which we were taught to speak for so many years? It was a generic "man" just as we see the generic "he".

Wayne Leman said...

Gary commented:

Why would they use the term "man" when the Greek is not referring to a male adult? Don't you suppose that a lot of that is simply due to the manner in which we were taught to speak for so many years? It was a generic "man" just as we see the generic "he".

Yes, Gary, I am quite sure that the NIV translators intended "man" to be an accurate way to refer to "anyone." Now their translation team recognizes that it is more accurate to translation now as do the ESV, HCSB, NASB, NET, etc. when no gender is involved. So that is why it has been necessary for the NIV to be revised, to make it more accurate. They would not want their use of "man" to be less accurate for those particular verses than the lack of "man" found in more recent translations such as ESV, HCSB, etc.

Gary Zimmerli said...

So Wayne, why do we now consider "man" to be less accurate? Why do we change "mankind" to "humankind" or "humanity", or even more generic terms such as "anybody"?

How much is due to sensitivity to women and feminists, and how much is due to the desire for accuracy?

Wayne Leman said...

Gary asked:

So Wayne, why do we now consider "man" to be less accurate?

Because words have meaning in people's brains and if we survey people today, most have the meaning of 'male adult' for "man."

Why do we change "mankind" to "humankind" or "humanity", or even more generic terms such as "anybody"?

I can't say for sure, since I don't know if I do this, so I can't tune in to what the motivation is. But I suspect that people make such a change because the morpheme "man" is part of the word and today, for a high majority of English speakers, the word "man" means 'male adult'. So they assume that "man" in "mankind" also has something to do with male adults. I suspect that their brains tell them that "humanity" sounds like it could include both males and females.

How much is due to sensitivity to women and feminists, and how much is due to the desire for accuracy?

Wow, that's an impossible question for me to answer. What was the motivation for changing from "thee" and "thou" to "you"?

All I know is that for current English Bible translators, including those of the ESV, HCSB, NASB, NLT, TNIV, etc. it is recognized that the Greek indefinite pronoun tis, meaning 'anyone' is not accurately translated by the word "man."

Translators can't change word meanings as they translate. They must word with languages as they are. Languages change for a variety of reasons. Sensitivity to the concerns of women who felt left out by the word "man" is surely one motivation for the semantic change that occurred where "man" no longer (if it ever) means 'anybody'. Perhaps NIV "man" for Greek tis (not aner) was inaccurate when the NIV was first published. The RSV was published before the NIV was and it accurately translated tis. So I don't know why the NIV translators translate tis as "man." I do applaud them as well as every other English Bible translator for accurately translating tis at whatever stage of the English language they have translated for.

Wayne Leman said...

Joe, I read your post and did not see anything wrong. You've got a good track record. Keep it up!

Peter Kirk said...

Gary asked: How much is due to sensitivity to women and feminists, and how much is due to the desire for accuracy?

Do I sense an implication here that it is wrong, in a translation, to be sensitive to women and feminists? Should we insist on being needlessly offensive in our translations so we can't be accused of being sensitive to anyone?

But of course here the basic issue is of accurate understanding. The NIV of this passage is certainly not accurately understood by most readers today.

Joe Myzia said...

Hey Wayne,

Thanks for responding to my concern.

Gary Zimmerli said...

Do I sense an implication here that it is wrong, in a translation, to be sensitive to women and feminists?

Peter, I came out of that kind of thinking; I find it very easy to lean back in that direction, though I'm not intending to do so.

My own desire is accuracy in the translation. I prefer that the scripture be allowed to say what it says, no matter who it offends. But I'm concerned that a poor translation might lead someone to be offended by something that should not offend them if it is translated properly.

But I've been hanging around with you guys long enough to know that it's a very difficult job, and translation cannot be done perfectly.

It's not my intention to put Wayne on the spot here. It simply occurred to me that the reason certain changes were being made may have been to not offend certain groups of people, and not in order to translate more accurately. And of course the changes could be made simply because the language is changing.

Kevin said...

Gary said: I came out of that kind of thinking; I find it very easy to lean back in that direction

I know Gary to be sensitive to the gender issue in bible translation. Hey Gary, I think I know where you're coming from.

Gary Zimmerli said...

Thank you, Kevin. Clarity is the issue, both in Bible translation and translation of my posts! I was having a rough day the day I posted that. Couldn't get my thoughts into words very well.

My point about people being offended by things they shouldn't be offended by, due to a poor translation, reminds me of a saying I heard, "Nowadays the Gospel isn't being proclaimed clearly enough for the non-elect to reject it!"

;-)

mike aubrey said...

Wayne, just to let you know, the Historical books are up for my NIV/TNIV comparison.

I hoped to get it up by Friday, but there was more to write than I expected. My plan is to do a collection of books each weekend (though I think the Psalms will be by themselves divided into the 5 Books within "Psalms).