Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tradition and Political Correctness in Bible Translations

     All English translations of the Bible have critics. Some of the critics are informed,
but most are uninformed, and appear to be agenda oriented. The NIV-2011 has its share
of  critics  like  all  other  modern  versions  of   the  Bible. One  of  the  insults  hurled
against the NIV-2011 that will not die is the allegation, "The publication of the NIV-2011
was motivated by political correctness." I  believe  most  English  translations, including
those the critics of the NIV-2011 prefer, display elements of political correctness. What
is "political correctness?" To put it in "plow boy" terms, political correctness is catering
to a "crowd;" seeking to please a "constituency."

     The King James Version contains politically correct renderings. One example will
suffice. Does  anyone  believe  the  KJV  scholars  who  were  on  the  New  Testament
translation committee were not aware that the Greek verb baptizo means to "immerse,
submerge, plunge, dip?" Then  why  did  they   use  the  word  "baptize"  to "translate"
baptizo ? As I have noted elsewhere, "baptize" is not a translation of baptizo. Baptizo
does not mean to "baptize." That's like saying, "Baptizo means baptizo." Baptize is a
transliteration of the Greek word. The "o" was dropped and the "e" added. Hence, from
"baptizo"  to  "baptize."  The   KJV  translators  used  "baptize"  to   represent baptizo
because one of the "general directions" that was given for the preparation of the KJV
was, "The old ecclesiastical words are to be kept..." (A General View of the History
of the English Bible, B.F. Westcott, page 115)  Baptize is an old ecclesiastical word.
Tradition and political correctness have kept it in the text of most English versions. 

     The  American  Standard  Version  contains  politically correct renderings. The
translators of the N.T. committee  were  Greek  scholars. They knew ekklesia means
"congregation, assembly, or community." Yet they used "church" to translate the word
ninety nine percent of the time. Why? One of the original directives given to the KJV
translators stated, "The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, viz. the word Church not
to be translated Congregation, &c." (A General View of the History of the English
Bible, B.F. Westcott, page 115) The ASV is not free from the influence of tradition
and political correctness.

     The English Standard Version contains politically correct renderings. One of the
most glaring is the way it translates "adelphoi." The ESV incorrectly uses the word
"brothers" to translate adelphoi in  places  where  a  congregation is being addressed.
When congregations are addressed, adelphoi means "brothers and sisters." Why?
Because it refers to the siblings in God's spiritual family! The footnotes in the ESV
acknowledge this fact. (Cf. ESV footnote in 1 Corinthians 1:10; et al) Why would a
group of translators acknowledge the truth in a footnote, and not place the correct
translation in the text? The ESV is not free from the influence of tradition and political

     The New American Standard Bible contains politically correct renderings. The
NASB translates the Greek adjective monogenes as "only begotten." The translators are
aware that the word means, "unique, only one of its kind," as indicated in the footnotes.
(Cf. John 1:14; 3:16, etc.) Monogenes has been traditionally rendered "only begotten,"
but that it not its meaning. The NASB also includes "Textus Receptus" readings in its
text, albeit in brackets, even though the oldest manuscripts do not contain them. (Cf.
Matthew 6:13;  17:21;  18:11;  Acts 8:37; etc. )  The  inclusion  of  Textus  Receptus
readings within the text of the NASB accomplishes at least two things: (1) it gives
a  degree  of  comfort  to  the KJV readers, (2) it (through the footnotes), informs the
readers  about the textual problems with the readings. The NASB is not free from the
influence of tradition and political correctness.

     Mere accusations of "political correctness" are not the proper basis to determine the
accuracy, validity, and usefulness of a version of the scriptures. It must be decided on
linguistic grounds.
                                                                                                                      R. Daly
Copyright, 2014

1 comment:

  1. It's really interesting how often in on-line fora the NIV is portrayed as less accurate in comparison with the ESV - touted as "literal" - as if it is on the opposite end of the spectrum of literality, while in reality it's just a bit further along on a continuum