Thursday, May 15, 2008

John 14:23 & Genesis 3:16

I've been having a discussion in another place in the internet world with someone who called the TNIV heretical. I thought I'd share some of that here so you can see how to have a conversation with someone and attempt to bring light into the conversation without heat. This conversation is still going on. Sometimes it can be hard, if not impossible, to convince people. However, we need to conduct ourselves properly.

Heretical, the term this other individual used, is a strong term. It's not one I use often of anyone or anybody. I have a book that is out of print entitled Orthodox and Heresy by Robert Bowman. On page 50, Bowman presents a definition that I defer to:
A teaching which directly opposes the essentials of the Christian faith, so that true Christians must divide themselves from those who hold it.
I think that is fair and useful. For what I believe to be essential or non-essential check out this post at my personal blog. I don't think Bible translations is in that category.

When he stated that the TNIV is heretical, the first thing I did was ask how do you define heretical? He defined heresy as that which opposes traditional church doctrine and then he told me that the TNIV makes God gender neutral.

I could have made a declaration at this point, but often the best way is to proceed with questions. I asked him How did you come to the conclusion that the TNIV makes God gender neutral? Can you show me some verses where it does this?

He backed off that position at that point. He came back saying that in the original version it did but not in the current edition. Now Wayne and the guys can correct me, but usually translations have extra copyright dates when they do revisions. The TNIV I have has only two dates and it isn't due to revisions being made. One date is the New Testament and the other was the Old Testament. I have, to my knowledge, the first published edition. Anyway I let that point slide. Sometimes you have to pick and choose what points to discuss.

He held on to the heresy charge and brought up three verses: John 14:23; 1 Corinthians 14:28; Revelation 22:19. These are passages where the third person, singular, masculine terms in the NIV and other translation are changed to third person plurals (John 14:23 & 1 Corinthians 14:28) or second person singulars (Revelation 22:19). The point being as you all know to demonstrate that these verses in their application don't apply only to males, but to females also. For this he claims that the TNIV is heretical.

My counter has been to ask him if the KJV is heretical when it translates masculine terms in the original languages as gender neutral terms in English. I've been doing this by talking about John 14:23. The TNIV reads . . .
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

The Holy Bible : Today's New International Version.
2005 (Jn 14:23). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
The NIV reads . . .
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

The Holy Bible : New International Version
. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Jn 14:23). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The KJV is even more masculine by translating τις as a man rather than anyone at the beginning of the verse. Even the NASB and NKJV use anyone at that point.

I asked a couple questions. One was to ask him if females love Jesus and obey his teaching, will the Father love them and make his home with them? He said he was 99.99% sure that He would. His counter was to ask if I believe the Holy Spirit and if He needed correction from 21st century scholars. He claims it changes meaning.

I asked how he can possibly justify the KJV. In Genesis 3:16, the KJV tells us that in sorrow Eve would bear children. The Hebrew is masculine. I asked him if the Holy Spirit needed correction from 17th century scholars. By his own approach the KJV should read that in sorrow Eve would bring forth sons. If I used his approach, then the KJV changed the meaning. Maybe Eve would not bring forth daughters in sorrow. Yet, the KJV translators translated that masculine term as the gender neutral term children. I think the KJV translators made the correct choice and that the TNIV translators are just continuing by making careful choices as to whether a text is applicable only to males, or both males and females.

So how can he charge the TNIV with heresy but not the KJV? Now he claims it's the motive. At that point I asked him if he knows who the translators of the TNIV are, if he's tried corresponding with them, and how did he determine their motive. Judging motives is dangerous ground to cover. I can look at a finished product and judge the product. Judging motives is something I think we should leave to Jesus.

There is no heresy. I hope this helps illustrate how to counter someone who opposes the TNIV. When someone attacks the TNIV, step back and let them make the claims while you ask questions. It keeps the other person in the hot seat and keeps you out. It makes them do all the work. You can relax and enjoy yourself. The only time I brought data into the conversation was to use examples from the KJV to demonstrate that if he wants to be consistent then he must charge the KJV with heresy.